Summary: Sequel to Holidays. A few hours in the life of Sara Sidle.
Disclaimer: Let me see, nope, I still do not own CSI. Damn.
Sara tightened the hood of her coat and raised the coffee cup to her lips. Steam rose from the lid and mingled with the white breath from her mouth. The rich aroma of the mocha latte filled her nose and the heat from the cardboard cup warmed her gloveless hands.
She wandered aimlessly down the dirt path, listening and watching the chaotic scene unfold around her. Children on holidays owned the park this morning, forcing the usual morning joggers to take a different route if they wanted peace. Laughter rang all around her as she watched the bundled children run rampant across the grass and on the small playground. Parents occupied the benches, chatting with one another and casting a watchful eye.
Sara had planned on going straight home but once on the road could not bring herself to do so. All that awaited her at the apartment was left overs, forensic journals, a plant she was half ready to throw out the window and an unopened letter from the California State Penitentiary Board.
Coffee and a walk had sounded like a better idea. She had forgotten that the schools were on holidays but was pleasantly surprised. After Devon's case she needed to see children still able to be innocent and carefree. She needed to know that they did exist.
Sitting on an empty wooden bench, she watched a group of girls run across the open field. They fell to the ground in a fit of giggles. A wry smile graced Sara's face as she watched them. She wondered briefly if she had ever been that carefree and innocent. Her smile faded and she took another sip of the coffee, allowing the liquid to warm her. She knew she must have been like them at some point in her childhood.
She turned her attention to the children in the sandbox. A group of young boys tirelessly dug holes in it with their large mittens making the process harder than it had been in the summer. Images of sea shells flashed before her eyes. 'Listen, baby, you can hear the ocean,' her mother's voice rang in her ears.
Blinking away the tears that threatened to fall, she stood up and began her way back to the car. 'Maybe, I can just go home and sleep through the rest of this holiday,' she murmured as she fished the keys out of her coat pocket. She glanced back at the park and offered a silent prayer that the children there would never endure the tragedies she witnessed daily.
Sara wasn't sure how she ended up at her apartment. Her body had driven on autopilot. Parking in her usual space, she noticed that the lot was emptier than usual. Most of the complex's residents had left for the holidays.
Grabbing her purse, she exited the car and made her way to the apartment. She stopped briefly to pick up her mail and threw the junk mail into the trashcan in the hall. That left her only her water and electric bill. No holiday cards. 'Who did you expect to send you one?' she thought as she placed her key into the lock.
She took a step back as the door flew open, an angry Grissom on the other side of it. "Where the hell have you been?"
Sara looked bewilderedly at him. She looked at the number on the door and then the hallway outside the doorway. Yes, this was her apartment. She looked back at Grissom. His blue eyes were locked on her. A wave of relief passed through them before anger again clouded them.
"Why are you in my apartment?' she asked, confusion evident in her voice.
"Where were you?" he demanded.
Sara rolled her eyes. Typical, Grissom, she thought and pushed past him. It was her apartment. She placed her purse on the table by the door and wandered further into her inner sanctum. She heard the door close and felt his presence behind her. Sighing, she unbuttoned her coat and threw it on the couch. Her scarf followed.
"Where were you? I have been calling you for the past two hours," Grissom asked, following her into her kitchen.
"I got coffee and went to the park," Sara replied as she opened the fridge and looked at the shelves. Pasta or rice and veggies, hmmm. 'How did you get in here?" she asked and looked over her shoulder at him.
Grissom stood behind the kitchen counter, his expression one she couldn't quite read. He fumbled in his coat pocket before removing his hand. A familiar key dangled from his key chain. Damn, she had forgotten she had given him a spare when she first moved in. She turned and grabbed the Chinese food.
"Why did you feel the need to come into my apartment?" she asked as she popped the food into the microwave.
She turned to look at him. "I couldn't reach you," he murmured.
He was looking at her but she had a feeling he wasn't really looking at her. The microwave dinged and she turned again. "Well, I'm fine. My phone was off," she said as she removed the food.
Sara grabbed a fork from the drawer and settled down on a stool in front of the island. She placed the food down on the counter. Grissom was staring at her. It was beginning to unnerve her. This was her apartment, dammit. Shouldn't she have the upper hand? She was alright, there was no need for him to linger. He knew that his CSI wasn't missing; she would still be able to come into work next shift. Why wasn't he moving as fast as he could towards the door? Shouldn't he be at his town house? No doubt Sophia was impatiently waiting for him.
Sara scowled at the thought. What he couldn't risk his career for her but he could for Sophia? God, she didn't need to deal with this right now. "What do you want Grissom?" she asked before biting a piece of broccoli. Please just leave, she willed with her mind.
"I wanted to say thank you. I tried to get to you before you drove off but you were already gone," Grissom said as he removed something from his other coat pocket.
Sara nodded and looked down at the plate, spearing another piece of broccoli. "You could have left a voice message or told me at work tonight," she said. But then, you'd have to acknowledge my presence at work so that could never happen, she though bitterly.
When he didn't reply, Sara looked up. Grissom was staring at the glass object in his hand, turning it over and over again, mirroring her movement from earlier. "Lycaeides Argyrognomon Lotis," he finally said, tracing the butterfly's wingspan on the glass. "The blue lotis butterfly. They are endangered. I gather this was from someone else's collection?" She looked down and played with the broccoli. "They are quite valuable in collectors' circles."
He looked up at her, a frown creasing his mouth, his blue eyes clouded in grief. "It's too late, isn't it?" he whispered. "I never believed it would be too late."
Sara willed her mouth not to hang open in shock and gripped the fork tightly. What the hell was going on?
Grissom sighed and placed the butterfly on the table. "What happened to us?" he murmured as he looked at her.
Sara kept her gaze on him, her mouth unwilling to work. "I never see you smile anymore," he said looking down at his hands. "I can't seem to remember the last time you truly smiled. You only give half smiles now, shadows of your real smile. Bit none of your knock a guy to his knees smiles." His gaze shifted to her eyes. "I miss those."
"So do I," Sara replied and looked down at the vegetable medley.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"It's not you," she replied and poked at the veggies. "Well, it's not just you."
Grissom nodded and picked up the butterfly. "Thank you," he said and pushed himself away from the counter.
"You aren't too late," she whispered, unsure he would even be able to hear here. She could barely hear herself.
Sara felt a strong finger on her face, brushing her cheeks. "Oh, honey," she heard Grissom say.
Sara realized that she was crying. She felt strong arms envelope her and she buried her head into his chest. Her quiet sobs racked her body as she clung to Grissom. The floodgates that she had long kept at bay, breaking open.