of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance
Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have
permission to borrow them. All others belong to me, and if you want
to play with them, you have to ask me first. No infringement is
intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are
mine, all mine, no you can't have any. This is in response to
a challenge at the YTDAW forums.
This is in response to a challenge at the YTDAW forums.
Spoilers: general fifth season through "4x4".
Grateful acknowledgement is hereby made to SSG K. Wolfskill, Sam&Alan, and Cincoflex, divers all, who made sure that what I was describing was possible. So much of a writer's strength lies in the people one knows!
The memory was a vile one. Choking, coughing, spitting, her head ballooning with agony, flashing lights and shouting voices and the nastiness of wet sand all over her skin. Sara pushed it away for the nth time and tried to savor the hush of the anonymous little chapel.
It was just as well that she couldn't remember much, she decided, running a hand gingerly over the tender spot on the back of her skull. Nothing about surfacing or expelling the water from her lungs had been pleasant, and when she'd lost her tenuous grip on consciousness in the ambulance she'd been relieved.
Her throat and lungs were still a little sore, partly from the dry gas in her tank and partly from nearly drowning, but aside from that and a bumped head she'd come out fairly well.
Sara sighed, and checked her watch. It was almost time; she might as well.
She pushed to her feet, still a little stiff, and walked out into the corridor. She'd never been to the room, but she knew the number by heart.
Reluctance dogged Sara's steps as she neared the door. This was not going to be easy. But she lifted her chin and turned the knob.
Grissom looked asleep, eyes with their long lashes shut, face serene. Sara slipped into the room and shut the door quietly behind her, never looking away from him. She paced silently up to his still form, hands clenching with the desire to smack him, shake him, do something to break that stillness.
Unable to bear it, Sara whirled away at last, feeling her nails denting the skin of her palms. She stared at the corner of the room, hearing the rush of rain outside the small window, trying to get herself under control. Screaming was frowned upon here.
His voice was hoarse and raspy, but the word was clear. "Sara."
She turned back, watching as Grissom fumbled for the controls to his bed and moved himself into a sitting position. One hand was encumbered by an IV line, and his face was pale and drawn from pain and pneumonia, but his eyes were bright. "I'm glad you're here."
That did it. One simple comment, a phrase she'd never heard from him before, overflowed the brimming cup of her rage.
Grissom's eyes widened, but she could barely focus on him through the haze of fury. "What the hell were you thinking? Was that some kind of stupid nobility, trying to kill yourself? Did you really think it would make me leave you down there?" She sucked in air. "You didn't even know how much air was left in the tank! You--you--"
She choked on rage and tears, and covered her face with her hands, angrier still that she had lost control. "You almost died," she spat, not caring that the words were muffled by her palms. "If you'd waited just one more minute, you would have been fine! Where do you get off thinking--you--"
She ran out of invective, and swiped viciously at her eyes, struggling to push back the tears. Humiliation burned in her chest; she'd meant to be cool and distant and polite, but once again she'd given him control. It never fails. You are such a wimp, Sidle.
Grissom sighed, and Sara made herself look at him, expecting either that infuriating patience or his blank expression. But instead his face was soft, wistful. "You're right."
She twitched, not quite certain she'd heard correctly. "What?"
"You're right," Grissom repeated. He cocked his head a little. "Come here."
Sara all but choked again. "I--" she said, and stopped, her tangle of emotions robbing her of words.
"Come here." He gestured at the chair next to the hospital bed. "Sara, please."
If he'd spoken in that gentle tone at almost any time before, she would not have been able to deny him, but now Sara eyed him, suspicious and still stinging with embarrassment and anger.
Grissom arched a brow when she didn't move. "I will," he said more firmly, "get out of this bed and come over there if you don't come here, Sara. And I'm told it wouldn't be medically advisable."
Oh, you bastard. She glared at him, but he'd chosen the one ploy that would work, because Sara had no doubt that he would do just that if she didn't comply.
Slowly, stiff with reluctance, she took the chair, trying to push it back from the bed without being obvious, but it stuck on an uneven bit of tile and she chose to preserve her shredded dignity and leave it.
Grissom looked down at her hands, tightly folded together and placed precisely in her lap, and then glanced away, pursing his lips the way he did when he was searching for words. Sara said nothing. He gets two minutes. Then I am so out of here.
"I'm not going to apologize for trying to get you to leave me, Sara," he said eventually, looking back to her face. "Under the same circumstances, I'd make the same decision. But I do apologize for trying to...to force you to leave. That was wrong." He let out a breath, shrugging a little. "I should have trusted you."
"Yes, you should have," Sara replied stonily, though her anger was melting at his words even as she tried to shore it up.
For the first time since she'd walked in, she really looked at him. The returning divers had managed to keep Grissom from drowning and had freed him from the wreck, but it had been a close thing; the collapsing boat had cracked three of his ribs. Sara's lungs had filled with water when an overzealous diver had pulled her back too hard and knocked her out against the wreck, but she'd been whisked topside and the water had been pushed out in short order. Grissom's heart had stopped twice on the way to the hospital thanks to shock and water in his lungs.
He looked...still sick, she had to admit. Injury and illness had made him lose weight, and his cheeks were hollow. His beard was fuller than usual, since he still wasn't up to trimming it himself, but in Sara's eyes it suited him.
His jaw shifted. "I just...I couldn't stand the thought of seeing you drown right along with me," he said quietly.
Sara's throat constricted, and she turned her head to look blindly out the window of the little private room. Rain streaked the glass. "I wasn't going to let you drown," she said, berating herself for the childishness of her words even as she said them.
She heard the mattress creak, and then his hand was surrounding hers, gently prying one free of the other when she did not move. "I know. I should have trusted your stubbornness."
Oh, her heart was squeezing at his touch, even though she kept her fingers from lacing with his. "It was almost...like a dream," he said thoughtfully, and when she looked back to him he was staring at the blanket covering his legs. "Like getting caught in the jaws of some leviathan. It's not often a man gets to contemplate his own mortality so suddenly--and live to tell the tale."
His thumb stroked over the back of her hand, which had somehow migrated to the edge of his bed without Sara's noticing. "I couldn't move at all. The light was gone, my air was gone."
Grissom's voice was calm, if still hoarse, but she noticed suddenly that his fingers were trembling slightly, and with that realization her turmoil eased somewhat. Trying to soothe, she let her fingers slip between his, and felt him grip a little tighter.
"I thought I was dead, Sara, and then you appeared, and gave me back my life. Over and over again."
That did it. Sara closed her eyes briefly and swallowed hard, her anger dissolving into nothing despite her attempt to keep it. "I couldn't do anything else. You know that," she said, her own voice a little rough.
He nodded. "And you would have done it for anyone. I know that too." His fingers tightened more, and she didn't speak the protest on her lips. "It was when I saw your face--"
The words choked off, but she knew when he meant--those last horrifying seconds when he'd let his air go. Grissom's face was stark as he turned to her again. "I should have trusted you," he repeated.
Her traitorous fingers wanted to touch his face again, to relearn the curve of his chin and the softness of his throat, so Sara curled them tightly on themselves. "It's over," she forced herself to say. "You're safe. You survived."
Grissom nodded reluctantly, and for a few minutes they were silent. The only movement was his thumb still rubbing her hand, as though he couldn't help himself, as though he wanted to make sure every second that she was real.
"I survived," he agreed at last, "but it was because of you." A hint of a smile touched his mouth, strained and shy. "In some cultures, the saving of a person's life means that the life then belongs to the one who saved it."
"Mm," Sara acknowledged, slightly baffled by this trivia tangent. Must be his way of pushing away the topic--
Grissom looked down at their joined hands, and turned them over, releasing hers and spreading out her fingers so that her open palm lay in his. His lips pursed a little. "It's a delicate thing, a life," he remarked, eyes still lowered. "But I trust you."
The meaning of his words crashed in on her all at once, and Sara's head snapped up, their gazes locking. He can't be serious.
But she saw a reflection of her own wild speculation, her own...need. Years' worth of denial was ricocheting through her head, but she flashed back to the cold and the dark and the pressure, and their fragile little miracle. We've already done the impossible this week, a silent voice said with crazy humor. What's one more?
The enormity of choice suddenly wasn't enormous, it was just right. Sara wrapped her fingers around his and tugged the slightest bit, and Grissom leaned forward. His lips were a little chapped and his breath still bore the tang of illness, but it didn't matter in the slightest, because his kiss was what should have been all along, a caress and a promise and a giving. Sara's heart squeezed so tightly that it hurt, and then the bands loosened and warmth took over everything, and she put her free hand to his cheek and kissed him back, back, back.
After a while they were looking at each other again, breath coming fast, neither of them paying attention to the awkward seating arrangements. "That's one I owe you," Grissom said, and Sara felt her brows go up.
He--smirked, was the only word for it, and leaned forward once more until his lips brushed her ear. The number he whispered into it made her pull back in surprise. "I counted," he said simply, and a sob and a laugh fought it out in her throat.
"Only you," she managed at last, and his smile softened.
"That's only the beginning," he promised, and took another one off the tally.
"Grissom," she murmured at last, seeing how the lines of his face were deepening again, "you need to rest."
He sat back a little, his smile fading, his fingers tightening on hers. "Don't go yet."
As if she could. "I'll stay," Sara promised. Grissom nodded, but she could see the uncertainty there, and with sudden confidence she stood.
Her shoes went on the floor as he watched, and then she slid onto the bed, leaning back against the headboard. Discussion wasn't needed; without words, Grissom lay down, resting his head in her lap. It was a rather bony lap, she thought, but that didn't seem to bother him.
He captured her hand in his once more, tucked them both under his chin, and let out a sigh that combined weariness and contentment and made her eyes prickle. Sara let herself touch him, buried her fingers in his hair and stroked, and he sighed again and fell asleep almost at once, his weight going limp against her.
She settled her shoulders more comfortably against the headboard, letting the stillness spread, and listened to the rain.