Authors: Mossley and Burked
Summary: It's a Thanksgiving to remember when an investigation into a brutal serial rapist becomes personal for Sara and Grissom.
A/N: Potential spoilers through the current episode. Thanks to Marlou for her beta services and support. Any remaining mistakes aren't her fault.
Disclaimer: We pooled our resources, and we still don't have enough to buy CSI, so we're just going to borrow some of their characters for a bit.
Chapter 7 - Bear Ye One Another's Burdens
Condensation from the long-forgotten glass of iced tea slowly seeped onto the breakfast bar, but Sara's attention was focused solely on the photographs spread before her. With a remorseful air, her fingers traced over the faded faces before moving to wipe the moisture from her cheek.
It had been one thing to vow to let go of her past and start living again, but Sara knew that first she had to come to terms with her troubled childhood. For years, she'd told herself it was over, that it had no impact on her present, but now she realized that was a myth.
Instead of dealing with the pain, she ran. First getting into college early, moving across the continent, physically distancing herself from the source of the torment. Later, she dove into her work, pushing a professional satisfaction to cover for her personal unhappiness.
But the abuse she had suffered formed the foundation of the life she built for herself, and the cracks were becoming more pronounced.
The damage had always been there, just below the surface. Trust was something rarely given; she had a drive to succeed, to be recognized, that bordered on obsessive; nagging questions about her self-worth, especially in personal matters, continually gnawed at her confidence.
Now Sara knew she had to address her demons. They were creeping out of her nightmares and into everyday life. Her ability to deal with cases was suffering, and her turn to alcohol had been a near-disaster.
The question was how to do it.
Was Heather right? There's no way in hell I'd take her up on her offer. I don't care if it's an act or not, there's no way I'd take a whip to someone. And I'll never let someone do that to me.
But I have to do something. Talking never helped, but it was always to the school counselor who Child Services made me see or my PEAP counselor. I had to tell them; it wasn't like they really cared about me. And I didn't trust them. That wasn't a recipe for success.
Is there anyone I trust enough to talk about this?
Grissom … I, I don't think so …
Nick and Warrick are cool, but this isn't something I want to share with them. We're friends and all, but it's not like we're that close. Greg – he'd treat it like a joke. Cath would probably understand, but I can't talk to her. Jim, maybe, but he can be so damn protective. He'd probably get me assigned to permanent lab duty or something so I won't have to deal with the victims.
Who else is left?
Okay, yeah, I guess I do trust him. More than anyone else, at least. I could tell him, but then what? He gets tongue-tied if you talk about anything outside of work. I don't know how much he could help.
Maybe he doesn't have to say anything. Maybe just talking, knowing there's someone I can trust, maybe that would help. My PEAP counselor seemed to think so.
I'm starting to think I should have paid more attention to her. I treated the whole thing as something I had to complete, not as something that could be helpful. I went through the motions, but I didn't listen.
When her cell phone rang, Sara swung her head slowly to the side to look at it. She briefly considered not answering it; work didn't seem that interesting – or important – at the moment. The second ring shattered her hesitation. Letting out a huff, she slid off the barstool to retrieve it.
"Hey, Sara. How are you?"
She raised an eyebrow automatically; Grissom sounded almost nervous. Considering her behavior the last time he called, Sara decided he probably expected her to snap his head off.
"Good. You sound tired. I didn't wake you, did I?"
"No. I was about to take a long soak in the tub."
"Uh, huh. Is that something that can wait?"
"Sure. Did something go wrong on the case?"
Her lips twitched involuntarily; he was definitely nervous. "Are there piranhas loose in the Las Vegas water system?"
"Not that I'm aware of," Grissom replied after a stunned silence.
"I might be going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing there's a reason you asked me to put off my bath."
"I, uh, well, I'm on my way up to your apartment now."
Sara pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it. She wrapped her sweater tighter around herself and slowly walked the few steps to the door. After opening it, she stepped into the hallway in time to see him emerge from the stairway, juggling both his phone and a pair of paper grocery bags.
"Hi," Grissom said, shifting a bag to allow him to put his cell phone away. His stride was cautious as he walked to the still-staring Sara. The longer she gawked at him, the more forced his smile became. "Can I come in?" he asked after an awkward silence.
"Yeah. Sorry," she replied, stepping aside to let him in. "What's up?"
Sara's expression caused Grissom's smile to regain some of its original luster. He lifted the packages in his hands. "Both of us worked all day yesterday, so I brought us a belated Thanksgiving dinner."
Sara stood there silently, watching as he headed into the kitchen. Giving her head a bewildered shake, she followed him. After setting the bags down in the small kitchen, Grissom pulled a container of ice cream out and handed it towards her.
"Could you put this in the freezer, please? They were out of pumpkin pie, so I picked up apple instead. Is that okay?"
"Wha? Yeah. Sure."
"Good. The only other choice they had was banana cream."
Sara eventually remembered to close her cell phone, setting it down on the breakfast bar while watching Grissom putter around her small kitchen like it was an everyday occurrence. She knew she was tired, but enough to be hallucinating?
"I do have a can opener," she managed to say, spotting the utensil he set next to a can of cranberry sauce.
Grissom gave a half-apologetic smile. The truth was he had no idea what type of kitchen supplies she possessed, knowing that she preferred carryout to cooking. He hadn't wanted to take the time to head home and risk her going to bed before he arrived.
"Do you have any aluminum foil?"
He pulled a box of foil from a bag, winking at Sara's annoyed glare. After quickly ripping off a sheet and placing some rolls inside of it, Grissom handed it to her. "Want to put the bread in the oven to warm up? Thanks."
As she took it, he felt his self-confidence wane. His intention had been to be there for Sara if she felt like talking. But that would involve trust, and things between them had been strained for too long for her to openly trust him. Grissom thought this would be a nice way to put them back on a more comfortable level.
The guarded way she was regarding him made him wonder if this had been a good idea. Grissom paused in his preparations to scratch his beard. He wanted to do something but was concerned about pushing Sara. The last thing he wanted to do was to make things worse.
"Is everything okay? I can leave if…"
Sara's hands reached up to rub her temples slowly. Of all the times to pick to show up, he chose the day she was at her emotional low point. Her life was complicated enough already without Grissom adding to her confusion. And she wasn't sure she'd be able to hold her temper if he unveiled some sort of meat product.
"No … it's … I'm sorry. I'm not in a great mood. You should have called first. Before you got here."
"You told me not to call you," Grissom pointed out, deliberately keeping his tone light as he moved to the other bag.
"I think it's safe to say that the same stipulations that go with calling me apply to showing up at my apartment. Sparkling cider?"
He didn't miss the sarcastic undertone to her question. Alcohol was a touchy subject, and he felt it safer not to bring any to the meal. Reaching around her to place it in the fridge, Grissom smiled weakly.
"I didn't know if red or white wine went with processed soybean curds."
Sara blinked at him slowly, her earlier irritability softening. "Tofu?"
"Tofurky," Grissom corrected, sounding out the name carefully as he pulled out the pre-packaged meal. As a scientist, he was curious how they made a vegan turkey giblet gravy, but his epicurean side overruled, deciding some questions were better left unanswered.
"You brought me tofu."
"The entire meal is vegan," he said, pointing out the dumplings and wild rice. "They sell them as a package."
Grissom doubted that was a fact he'd ever forget, given the reaction the last time it happened, but he was glad that he had remembered. Sara was clearly surprised that he'd taken her eating preferences into account.
"Of course," he said, turning back to prepare the dishes for heating. Placing the food into her oven, he leaned against the counter and crossed his arms over his chest lightly. Sara had moved to the other side of the breakfast bar, her elbows resting on its top. Grissom kept a calm smile as she continued to observe him.
"It'll be about forty minutes before it's ready. So," he exhaled, trying to sound nonchalant, "what do you want to talk about?"
"Oh, that was real smooth," Sara said, rolling her eyes in his direction.
"For me, it probably was."
Despite her moodiness, a faint smile graced her lips. Her fingers found a loose thread in her sweater and they plucked at it distractedly. After a beat, she cocked her head to the side and gave him a quizzical look.
"Grissom, this was, uh, nice of you. Really. So, please, don't take this the wrong way, but what the hell are you doing here?"
Mentally, he considered potential answers. The truth was he wasn't entirely sure why he was here. Repairing their friendship was part of it, but he was also concerned about Sara's well being. Heather's statements had forced him to re-evaluate her reactions to cases, and his own treatment of her, but he doubted Sara would appreciate his pointing that out.
Despite her assurances at the station, he knew she was upset. Watching her now, it was clear that something was deeply troubling her. Something more than their case. And that was unsettling to him. It had been an interesting revelation to learn that he couldn't bear the thought of her in pain.
Even now, Grissom was trying to decide if his prior inattention had been an act of self-preservation; if he ignored Sara's growing distance, he wouldn't have to face whatever was causing her pain.
He settled on, "I didn't want you to skip the holiday."
Sara seemed to consider that answer for a long moment before tilting her head in his direction. "You skip them. All the time."
He nodded in silent concession before dropping his eyes to the floor. His face scrunched slightly; he needed to get Sara talking, but that would probably work better if he broke the ice.
"Mother doesn't like Vegas," he answered, looking up to see her giving him a slacked-jaw stare. "What?"
Sara gave her head a slight shake. "Nothing. You've never mentioned your mother before. I didn't realize she was still alive."
"She's semi-retired from her gallery. She's still in California. We e-mail each other several times a week."
"You could go back home to see her."
"I could. But when I go home, Mother insists on fixing a huge dinner herself. With her arthritis, that's too much work for her, but she refuses to let me cook. If I don't go, she's content to eat at my cousin's house."
Grissom watched as Sara idly played with her half-empty glass of tea. She didn't volunteer any information, so he took a deep breath before giving a self-deprecating sigh.
"And then there are the lectures."
He openly smiled at the astounded look Sara gave him.
"Your mother lectures you?"
"I think all mothers lecture their children. I'm sure you had them."
"They arrested Larry because of you! You're always causing problems, you ungrateful bitch! What lies did you tell them?"
"Mommy, no! The school nurse …"
"God, you're nothing but trouble. You're worthless! No wonder no one can stand you. I wish you'd never been born."
"I doubt we had the same type of lectures," Sara snapped, setting her glass down hard enough to rattle the remnants of the ice cubes inside.
Grissom pushed off the counter, slowly crossing over to the breakfast bar as he tried to figure out what he'd said wrong. By the time he reached the barrier, Sara had let out a long breath.
"Sorry," she said softly.
"Did I say something wrong?"
Grissom watched as she shook her head, his frown deepening as he recalled her earlier outburst when he mentioned her childhood. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place, but he desperately hoped the picture that was emerging was wrong.
"One disadvantage of being an only child – your mother never truly accepts you're grown up," he added with a bit of a shrug. Grissom waited patiently, hoping for her to respond. His tongue ran over his dried lips during the continued silence.
"Mother never understood the job or what I see in it. She doesn't think it's healthy dealing with so much death. She's worried that it affects me." A hint of sadness made its way into his voice. "I'm a professor; she thinks I should be in a university."
Grissom didn't add that his mother also continued to ask when he was going to settle down and start a family. Sara was already treating him like he had grown an extra head; that piece of information could really complicate things.
Sara cocked her head as she pulled her sweater closer. She recognized what Grissom was doing, and she understood the significance of it. After a long evaluation, she gave him a half-smirk. "You didn't have to do this."
"I wanted to."
The simple question startled Grissom. There had been a catch in Sara's voice, but when he looked up, she'd composed herself. He took a moment to think, walking over to the oven to check on the food as a cover.
"Like I said, I thought we could … talk," he answered.
Turning back around, Grissom lifted his eyebrows pointedly. "It's not a dirty word. You do seem intent to avoid it."
"I know something is bothering you," he said, trying to keep the exasperation from his voice. "Why do you avoid talking about whatever it is?"
"The last time I talked about 'it', I lost what was left of my family," Sara whispered sadly. Seeing his distressed look, she mentally winced and decided against adding more. "Besides, you're the one who's always warning us to avoid personal stuff."
"When it comes to work. We're not at work now."
Sara's eyebrow went up slowly. He was offering, but could he handle it? His earlier reaction concerned her. And in spite of his gestures, she had lingering doubts about how serious he was.
"Are you here because you want to be, or because what Lady Heather said at the station made you feel … guilty?"
Grissom dropped his head, huffing out a breath as he did so. Looking up, he held her gaze, despite his sheepish expression. His eyes were dark with emotion when he replied.
"Her words may have pushed me, but the concern is real. It always has been, regardless of how poorly I may have shown it."
It was Sara's turn to break eye contact. His openness was promising, but she'd been hurt by him before; it was hard to work up the courage to trust him with something so personal.
"You're not exactly known for your conversation skills," she quipped, trying to lighten the tense atmosphere.
"Then maybe it's something I should work on."
"Well, maybe you need a better partner to practice with. I'm not a great talker, either."
"No, then I'd be out of my league. I have a chance of holding my own with you," Grissom teased, pleased to see a brief smile.
Sara considered her options carefully. This was dangerous ground. Willingly exposing herself went against every lesson that life had cruelly taught her. There would be no going back if she told him; there was no way of knowing how it would affect their relationship, both personal and professional.
Steeling herself, Sara finally gave him a half-hearted shrug and rolled her eyes.
"It's funny. I was thinking about this before you showed up," she told him reluctantly.
"That I'm out of my league?"
"Not exactly," Sara chuckled, staring at her interlocked fingers. "My PEAP counselor had suggested I talk to you when I got back from my vacation."
"But you never did," he pointed out.
"No. It was only a suggestion, and I wasn't sure I agreed with it. The timing never seemed right. Something always came up at the lab."
"I'm here now," Grissom said, his voice soft.
"Yeah, well, it's not exactly the type of thing you want to talk about over dinner."
Sensing her hesitation, he didn't push. After taking a moment to check on the meal, Grissom saw that Sara had begun to clear off the breakfast bar. She'd paused at a group of photographs, handling them almost reverently. Her gaze lingered on one in particular; from his current position, he could see it was of two children.
"You and your brother?" he ventured.
His smile faded as he moved closer. Originally, Grissom thought Sara's brother shared her naturally lean frame, but his improved view showed two children that were far too thin. The picture also captured the natural energy of youth, but both of them looked more likely to run, or flinch, than to play.
"Where's your brother now?" he asked gently.
"I don't know."
Sara walked towards a bookcase, carefully putting the pictures away. On the way back to the counter, she gave Grissom a sharp look as he eyed her cautiously.
It's now or never.
"We were split up when we were put into foster care."
She waited for him to pull back, but he didn't. After his initial surprise, Grissom's eyes held nothing but compassion. Sara swallowed the lump that formed in her throat.
"I saw him once after that. He showed up at the home I was in and gave me a couple grand in cash. Pete said he'd be back soon to take me away. He said he'd take care of me."
"You don't know what happened to him?"
"I think he found a nice girl and is living on a beach somewhere in Mexico."
"And he abandoned you?" Grissom asked harshly, leaning back when Sara flashed an angry glare at him.
"Think about it, Grissom! He was barely eighteen. Where the hell do you think he got that type of money?"
He rubbed a hand over his face. "Drugs?"
"I don't know what else it could have been," she said wearily, resting her arms on the breakfast bar. "I checked. Pete's not in the system anywhere. He didn't get arrested, and if he died, his body was never found."
"I … I'm sorry for your loss."
Sara darted her eyes around the room before tentatively facing Grissom. She took a deep breath before continuing. "I want him to be living somewhere, anywhere, being happy. He deserves it after the shit we lived through."
Grissom mimicked Sara's position on his side of the breakfast bar. His hand didn't take hers, but it rested beside it, gently brushing up against it.
"What about you?"
"I'm pretty sure I'm alive," Sara said, smiling at her weak attempt at humor.
"Are you happy?"
"No. Not really," she admitted, blinking back the tears that threatened to start.
Grissom's mind raced through the implications of her statement. Despite the clues, he hadn't wanted to believe she'd suffered. Slowly, his hand moved to rest on top of hers, tenderly squeezing it in support.
"I … I spent years telling myself that it was all over, but I ignored what it did to me. I still have … issues. I hate to admit it, but Heather was right," she said, rolling her eyes in mock-defeat. "And don't even think of suggesting I go to her domain."
"I wouldn't. I know what you think about it."
"I don't understand that lifestyle. I don't. I get that it's consensual, and it's theater and all that, but it's something I could never do," Sara said.
"It wasn't the only suggestion Heather made," Grissom noted.
"Yeah. We're talking."
He nodded, letting his thumb slightly caress her hand. "Do you want to talk some more?"
"Uh, no, I don't want to, but I think I should. This is your chance to remember your bugs or something."
"My bugs are fine."
"This is very awkward. I told you I wasn't a great talker."
"Can I help?" Grissom asked.
"I think you're doing enough. It's … I, I'm finally realizing how right Heather was. It is eating at me."
"What, exactly, is 'it'?" he asked, his voice strained from forcing it to remain steady.
"Are you certain you want to know?"
"I think not knowing is worse."
Sara shrugged. "Maybe not. You know what they say. 'Ignorance is bliss.'"
"I may be ignorant in many ways, but I can tell you I'm not blissful," Grissom stated. That earned him a weak smile, but Sara still seemed hesitant. "Where are your parents?"
"Dad died years ago."
"Were you close?"
"Yeah. I guess. Dad was a bit … distracted. He was lost in thought a lot. Pete used to say he was flaky. Half the time we wondered if he heard what we said to him, but deep down, we always knew he cared, even if he wasn't very good at showing it."
"What about your mother?"
"I haven't seen her in years."
Grissom's eyes narrowed slightly. The wistful quality that had been present when Sara talked about her father and brother had been replaced by a harsher tone.
"Was she taking care of you when you were put in foster care?"
"Yeah. If you want to call it 'taking care'."
"Damned if I know," Sara said, pulling away and standing up quickly. She walked across the room, stopping in front of her window. Hearing Grissom's steps, she looked around to see him move to her side.
"I don't know what happened. After Dad died, she … changed."
"Was she depressed?"
"That was probably part of it," Sara admitted. "But … it's like she was a totally different person."
"And not in a good way," he guessed.
"No. Then she met Larry."
The vicious way she said the name startled Grissom. He swallowed uneasily. "Tell me about him."
"He was a bastard," she spat out, turning on her heel to return to the breakfast bar.
"Did he hurt your mother?" When she nodded without facing him, Grissom moved closer. "Did he hurt you and your brother?"
"Yeah," Sara whispered. She wrapped her arms tighter around herself as the memories coursed through her mind. Part of her wanted to pull back, to stop talking about it, but the floodgates had opened.
"He was a drunk. A mean drunk. He'd beat whichever of us he'd find first. Mom, God! She never tried to protect us. It's like she didn't care what he did."
"Abuse victims live in a world of fear…"
She turned around rapidly, her eyes flashing angrily. "Don't try to justify what she did!"
"I'm sorry, Sara. I'm not," Grissom apologized. "I was trying to put it in perspective. There's no excuse for what happened."
"No, there wasn't. I, I'm sorry. It's not easy to talk about."
"I can only imagine."
"Hell, I didn't tell anyone," she snorted heatedly.
"You weren't the adult," Grissom pointed out.
"I was one of the ones being hurt."
"But you did tell someone?"
"My PE teacher saw my back one day when I was changing after class. I tried to say I fell down, but she sent me to the school nurse. She told me that they could make whoever was hurting me stop, so I told her Larry beat me."
Her strained voice made Grissom uneasy, as was the frantic way she was pacing around the apartment. "Sara?"
"God, I thought they'd make Larry go away, but the next thing I know, I'm in the hospital having a SAE kit done," she said hoarsely. "When they got the results back from that, they took Mom away, too."
Grissom felt his heart racing. Her words struck him like a punch in the stomach. He'd suspected, even feared, that it was true, but his mind screamed against the acknowledgement.
"How old were you?" he asked, tensely waiting when she stopped to tightly grab the back of a barstool, her breath coming in ragged gulps.
Sara lifted her head cautiously, but Grissom's expression cut through her. He was staring at her with an unmistakable look of disbelief. She spun around quickly, her fists clutching painfully as she cursed herself for thinking he'd be there for her.
I knew he didn't really want to know. Why did I think he would? God, how many times am I going to set myself up like this? I know what the result's going to be.
I will not cry. I won't do that, not in front of him. Not now.
The hand that landed on her shoulder startled Sara. Turning around, she unconsciously stepped backwards when their eyes met; Grissom's earlier doubts had been replaced by pure rage.
Seeing her fear, he closed his eyes briefly, and the depth of pain present when he reopened them made Sara regret having told him. Her concerns that he wouldn't be able to handle the truth seemed to be true. Some hidden demon of his own prevented Grissom from being able to deal with emotional issues.
"Hey, no. You know what? I shouldn't have said anything. This doesn't involve you. Forget all this, okay? Look, why don't you…"
"Sara," he groaned.
She stood still as he tentatively moved to her, his hands moving with deliberate slowness to rest on her shoulders. When she didn't pull back, Grissom slid them down her arms and then around her back, pulling her into a clumsy hug.
Her arms went around his waist when his head dropped beside hers. She could feel his muscles quivering as he tried to control his reaction. The silent gesture touched her more deeply than anything he could say.
"It's okay," she whispered.
Grissom tasted blood as he bit his lip, but the pain was lost amid his mental anguish. Closing his eyes tightly, he nestled his head closer to hers and tried to make some sense of the gamut of emotions coursing through is body.
Sadness, fear and pain alternately stabbed his heart. There was disgust at a parent who allowed her children to be hurt, and a fury unlike anything he'd ever experienced directed towards this Larry that had stolen Sara's innocence and ruined her childhood.
And there was the self-loathing.
Grissom's mind replayed every instance where he'd purposefully drove a wedge between them in an effort to protect himself, thinking that she was the stronger one. He'd been right about that; his own fears paled in comparison to what she'd been through, yet Sara was the one brave enough to risk trying.
He'd been a coward.
Even faced with the truth, he couldn't find the words to comfort her. Instead, she was trying to make him feel better.
They both felt the moisture at the same time. Sara started to step away as she wiped at her tears, but Grissom shook his head. He pulled her back, cradling her body gingerly against his.
"Let it out," he insisted, one hand wrapping around her protectively while the other buried in her hair. "Just let it out."
Sara tried to fight the tears, but Grissom continued his urgings. The feel of his whiskers against her neck as he whispered soft encouragements, the heat from his body, the strength of his muscles reassured her, and she finally broke down.
"God, I hate him. I hate him," she sobbed repeatedly into the material of his shirt, the anger morphing into sadness.
Grissom continued to hold her, running his hand in soothing circles over her back, letting her release the years of built-up anger and pain. As the tears eventually slowed, she began to shake her head.
"Why didn't my mother care?"
"Shh, Sara, shh."
"No. How screwed up do you have to be that your own mother doesn't love you? I tried to be good. I…"
"Stop it! You did nothing wrong. You know that," Grissom said, instinctively pulling her even closer when he felt her trembling.
"Is it wrong to want to be loved?"
"No," he whispered, his self-loathing multiplying. "Sara, I…"
"Don't," she said forcefully, pushing away from him. "Don't say anything."
Grissom stood there hopelessly, unsure of what to do next. He wanted to try to explain, but her statement had been adamant.
"Don't say anything now," Sara repeated, her tone gentler.
"I," he stammered, running his hand through his hair impatiently.
"Trust me, it won't help. There is no 'right' thing to say now. I've heard it all. Pity makes it worse, and people trying to say something supportive gets old fast."
"Sara, I'm not … I," he exhaled sadly, his eyes looking at her imploringly. "I'm not trying to make small talk. I do…"
She shook her head, her mind racing at his reaction. "No! Look, nothing's changed. Don't say something now that isn't … going to happen. It'll only be worse in the long run – for both of us."
He dropped his head, breathing out heavily through his nose. Glancing up, he started to move towards her, but Sara held up her hands and stepped away.
"Look, you better check on the food. I'll be out in a minute," she said, embarrassedly disappearing into the bathroom.
Grissom sighed and dropped his head in dejection. What could he have said? Sara may have been correct that nothing would have helped, but he felt inadequate. Heading into the kitchen, he distracted himself by finishing the dinner preparations. He was looking for her dishes when Sara returned.
Her face was washed, but the evidence of her tears was still there. He could see that she was timid. It was easy to understand. It had been hard for him to open up about his mother. Sara had bared her soul to him.
He tried to smile reassuringly as she approached. She gave a brief nod in acknowledgment before licking her lips. With a sigh, she reached out and rested a hand on his arm.
"You don't have to say anything. This, being here, it meant so much to me. Thank you."
"Sara, come here, please."
Pausing outside Grissom's office, she closed her eyes briefly. Dinner had been an awkward affair, neither of them entirely comfortable with so much left unsaid between them. While Sara planned on thanking him again, she has also been dreading this.
"Hey," she said, leaning against his doorframe.
"Come on in. Close the door."
She complied after a moment's hesitation, trying to decipher what would happen next. Sara attempted to emotionally brace herself before taking a seat in front of his desk and forcing a smile. "Thanks, again. For dinner. And everything."
"I wish I could have done something more helpful."
"You did more than you think."
His lips pursed thoughtfully, and he took a long time to study Sara. He wiped a hand over his face before continuing.
"I thought you should hear this from me. I talked to Jim. Grey is trying to cut a deal with the D.A."
"What? We nailed him."
"His attorney is pressing for diminished capacity."
Grissom shrugged. "And Grey claims to have information on a number of other crimes. He's willing to talk. Brass doubts the D.A. will go beyond dropping the death penalty."
"It was calculated. It wasn't in the heat of the moment. That's murder."
"Grey's lawyer thinks he can convince a jury otherwise."
"I don't believe it," she said, shaking her head in disgust.
"Juries don't always rely solely on the evidence. That was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn with this job," Grissom said, dropping his eyes to his desk. "And I think they could sell it. Anybody who had someone they cared about hurt like that – I can see where they would understand that type of rage."
Sara stared at him bewilderedly for a moment, then sank further into the chair. At best, she'd expected him to act like they had never talked, or at worst, to completely withdraw. This disclosure was totally unexpected.
"Do you really think that would work?" she asked, more to break the silence than out of curiosity.
"Apparently, they have psychologists ready to testify."
"Clients of Heather's?" Sara snorted. "Money really does have advantages. Honestly, I'm a little surprised. I wouldn't think she'd want someone who could be that violent around Zoe."
"They're family," he explained.
"Sorry, I can't relate to that. No pun intended."
Grissom put down the form he'd been studying and leaned back in his chair. After a long moment, he gave a shrug.
"I'm guessing you won't be asking for time off around Christmas."
"That would be a safe bet," she answered.
"Hmm. Do you like lasagna?"
"It's a layered pasta dish. Garfield is exceptionally fond of it."
"I know what it is. Why are you asking?"
"So I know what to fix for Christmas dinner."
Sara stared incomprehensively at him for a long time. He finally picked up a pen from his desk and began twirling it nervously in his fingers.
"I didn't care for the tofurky," he admitted.
"It was overcooked," she agreed.
Grissom frowned in perplexity. "But you ate two helpings of it."
Sara blushed, turning her head away. She had an abashed expression when she looked back.
"It was the least I could do. It was my fault it was overcooked. I kept crying on your shoulder. Probably ruined your shirt."
"I have plenty of other shirts."
His implication was clear and Sara eventually gave him a wan smile. It didn't last long, and she averted her eyes to study something on the floor.
Grissom took a deep breath, tapping the pen on his desk. "The other option is to be alone, and that is to be in bad company. Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary," he added when she gazed at him in surprise.
"Well, I've spent enough holidays alone," Sara said quietly.
"So have I. Too many."
His admission surprised her, not only that Grissom said it, but because the simple phrase managed to carry an emotional depth that moved her deeply.
"'Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family; whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.' Jane Howard. A friend is like a family that you choose."
"I haven't had very much luck with either friends or family. That causes … trust issues."
"I, uh, I may not have the answers, Sara, and I don't express myself well," he said, in what seemed to be a practiced speech. "But I'm willing to listen. You can trust me."
For what felt like an indeterminate time, Sara sat there, blinking occasionally as she processed Grissom's statement. He was trying. It had been obvious that he'd been uncomfortable during their talk, but here he was ready for more. A small spark of hope warmed her more than she thought possible.
Sara eventually leaned back in her chair, her arms crossing in front of her as her lips curled upward. "Okay, but only if I bring the dessert."
"Oh? You didn't like the one I picked out?"
"For Christmas, I think we need an actual homemade dessert."
"You? Cook?" Grissom raised a doubtful eyebrow. "No banana cream?" he intoned seriously.
"Fine. We have a deal?"
"I don't know," he said, rubbing his beard thoughtfully while his eyes betrayed an internal dialogue. "Christmas is a major holiday. I'm not sure we can take a chance on not having a real dessert. No, I think we need a practice run."
"What?" Sara asked, leaning forward as if she hadn't heard him properly.
"A practice run, at my house. To see if your dessert is good enough for such a major holiday. Maybe one day next week?" he suggested, resuming his nervous fidgeting with the pen. "We can talk some more, if you want."
Sara's jaw dropped suddenly. She could feel a blush creeping up her cheeks as she shook her head. "I, uh, I don't think so."
Grissom looked up and tried to mask the hurt in his eyes. Sara immediately began to shake her head more vigorously.
"No! I mean, I meant the talking. I don't think I'm up for that again. Yet. Dinner. That would be nice," she clarified.
Grissom let out a relieved breath, giving her a gentle smile. "When you are ready to talk again, let me know."
"Are you sure?"
Sara felt a toothy grin forming, and she ducked her head down bashfully. When she looked up, Grissom was coming around the corner of his desk. He paused in front of her, leaning against his desk.
"Are you okay?" he asked tenderly, his hand reaching out to brush her shoulder lightly.
"I don't know," she admitted. "But I think I'm going to be."
"You'll let me know if I can help?"
Her gaze drifted to the hand still lingering on her shoulder. The sense of renewed friendship, and the possibility of more, revitalized her. The road ahead was still rough, but Sara drew strength from knowing she wouldn't have to face it alone.
"You already are," Sara told him truthfully and smiled.