Disclaimer/Author's Note – See Chapter One
Chapter Nine – The Long Overdue Conversation
He watched her walk out of sight and his heart sank. He had truly thought that tonight would be the night. That he would finally be able to take the risk he had longed to take. But, as ever, when faced with the prospect of getting everything he had ever wanted, he choked. Why did Sara always have this effect on him? Why, when he had so much he needed to say to her, he could never actually say any of it? And why did he feel the need to sit here and rationalise, instead of going after what he wanted?
Without pausing to think any more about it, Grissom threw some cash on the table for the bill, grabbed his jacket and followed her. Sara had walked quickly and he didn't catch up with her until she was at her car.
Sara paused at her car door. 'I don't want to hear it, Grissom. You've disappointed me for the last time.'
Don't think, he told himself. Just spit it out.
'Damn it Sara! You expect too much of me. Why do you feel the need to place me on this pedestal, only to be surprised when I topple off?'
'What? I don't…'
'Come on, Sara. What else can you call it? Why else do you get so upset when I show my human failings? I screw up, just like everyone else at some point or another. I have a tendency to choke up when you confront me about… about our personal relationship. I don't always say what needs to be said. But that doesn't mean that I don't care about you.'
Not trusting herself to turn around, she waited.
Grissom sighed. 'It's never been about you not being worth the risk.'
He paused. When he didn't continue, Sara spoke up.
'So, what is it about, then?'
'There's just so much at stake,' he told her quietly. 'For both of us. And it frightens me. I'm scared of how much I might hurt you,' he took a breath before continuing; 'and of how much you might hurt me.'
Sara turned. Her eyes were bright with emotion. She didn't say a word, afraid that saying something now might break the spell. Grissom opening up to her was something she had never imagined she'd experience. She wanted to see how much more he might reveal.
'Do you know how many people in the lab have suggested that I am unfeeling?' he asked her. She shook her head lightly in response. 'Everyone. More or less. Even Greg has said it at one time or another. But when you say it… that's the only time it actually hurts.'
'I'm sorry,' she whispered.
'No,' he said, 'it's true. Well, the way I act most of the time, you'd be forgiven for thinking it. I have to be like that. I don't know why. I don't know how to be open with my feelings like the rest of you. I… I don't have the vocabulary. But I do feel things.'
'I know, Grissom. We all know that. It's just… sometimes you hide your feelings too well.'
'Have you any idea how many first dates I've been on in my life?' he surprised her by changing the subject so rapidly. 'I worked it out once. At least 10 times more than the number of second dates I've had…'
Sara didn't reply, but continued to watch him, now with a mildly confused expression on her face as he went on.
'Only one in ten becomes a second date. And of those, hardly any become a third. None, in fact, in the last 5 years.' He paused, running a hand through his thick, greying hair. 'I've put it down to a number of factors over the years. The job, mostly. Getting called away half-way through dinner to collect bugs at a murder scene does not impress most ladies. Then there's the fact that I'm not the most social creature in the world.'
'We have that in common,' Sara retorted quietly.
'I'm really bad at this, Sara,' he told her. 'I'm not used to opening up, sharing my feelings. And that's what relationships are, right? Sharing feelings. I don't even share my feelings with myself half the time.'
He moved beside her, leaning his back against the car so they were standing side by side.
'On some level, I've always known there was an attraction between us. If I'm completely honest with myself, it was probably a contributing factor in asking you to come to Las Vegas in the first place. But I never allowed myself to think about it, for the most part. Too many complications. The age difference. The fact that I'm your supervisor. I suppressed everything I felt for you, until the Debbie Marlin case.'
Sara nodded gently. 'You avoided me the whole time were we working on that case,' she said. 'I always wondered why.'
'I had to, Sara,' he replied, a hint of pain in his voice from the memory. 'Every time I looked at her, I saw you. And that made me shrivel up inside. The idea of losing you…' he trailed off, unable to verbalise the pain he felt at that time. 'When I interviewed Dr. Lurie, and figured out why he killed her, I… I think I kind of knew how he felt. In a way.'
He glanced at her. Sara was staring at him intently, taking in his every word. He had to look away before he could continue.
'It was my worst nightmare of how things would go if anything ever happened between us.'
'You thought you would kill me?' Sara asked in a slightly sceptical voice. 'Grissom, uptight you may be, but I don't think you're really the homicidal type.'
He glanced sideways at her again and shot her a chastising look.
'Not the murder, Sara,' he told her, 'the events that led to it. Debbie broke Lurie's heart…'
'By leaving him for a younger man,' Sara finished the statement, finally realising.
Grissom silently assented.
'Gris, do you know how many dates I've been on since I moved here?'
Grissom though about it. He didn't know and told her as much.
'Very few,' Sara told him. 'I've only been involved with one person since I moved here, four plus years ago. Do you know why that is?'
'Is it something to do with the fact that you max out on overtime every month?' Grissom shot her one of his half-smiles.
Sara smiled back. 'That's one reason. But the main reason is there's only one man I'm actually interested in becoming involved with.'
Grissom was silent.
'This is usually the point where you clear your throat, get awkward, I tell you to forget I said anything, and you come up with an excuse to change the subject or leave the room,' she teased him gently.
Grissom reached out and took her hand.
'Don't expect too much of me, Sara,' he told her, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. 'I grew up with the expectation that all relationships fail. I'm worried that I won't be able to change that conditioning.'
'Grissom,' Sara took his hand in both of hers. 'Nothing comes with a guarantee. But… unless we want to end up totally alone, we eventually have to let our guards down and take a risk.'
He drew her to him then, wrapping his arms around her in a tender embrace. She buried her face in his neck, taking in the wonderful scent that was Grissom.
'I just need some time,' he muttered into her hair, his voice full of emotion. 'I don't want to mess this up. You're too important to me.'
They lost track of how long they held each other, but it felt like the most natural thing in the world to them both. When they reluctantly drew apart, Grissom tucked a strand of Sara's hair behind her ear and smiled.
'So, this weekend, how about I pick you up, take you out to dinner? Maybe out by Lake Mead? Somewhere special for our first date.'
Sara's brows knit in confusion. 'Uh, Grissom? Wasn't this our first date?'
Grissom smiled and shook his head. 'Oh no. Our first date is going to be perfect.'