Author's Note: This is myfirst everresponse toan Improv Challenge - and I'm quite pleased with myself that I stayed within the word limit (only just...). It sprang out of a few lines I wrote on the 'add on to your favorite line...' thread on YTDAW, which someone liked and said it'd make a good fic. So I took them at their word, took a break from writing my GSR epic, and wrote it down. Hope you enjoy...

Disclaimer: I own nothing except my mind, my body and my PC. CSI belongs to luckier people than I...

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Set during Season 4's 'No More Bets', references to 'Butterflied'.

Summary: (GSR - obviously...) Alternative to the Sara/Grissom confrontation in 'No More Bets' - What would have happened if Sara had gotten mad rather than sad over the promotion? Response to the YTDAW Improv Challenge, first and last lines provided, 2000 word limit


'I don't want to know,' Brass sighed.

'That's probably safer, Jim,' Catherine replied giving the homicide detective an exasperated look.

'It's my fault,' Nick said, his tone thick with guilt. 'I didn't think. I just opened my stupid mouth and…'

'This isn't you're fault, man,' Warrick told him.

Catherine nodded in agreement. 'The only stupid one around here is the guy getting his ass kicked in the garage right now. He should have had the courtesy to tell her he wasn't recommending her for the promotion. If it were me, I'd have killed him by now…'

'Wouldn't want to be in Gris's shoes right now…'

'Come on, children. Let's get back to work.'

No one moved.

'Gil wouldn't appreciate us watching his humiliation. Come on, people. Don't you have jobs to get back to?'

Eventually, he herded them away. Taking one last glimpse at the warring pair in the garage, he shook his head. 'Try not to say anything too stupid, Gil.'

---

'You said you didn't have a problem with me,' she sad angrily, having lost the battle within herself to stay calm and professional. Her anger was exacerbated by the fact that Grissom continued to remain obtuse.

'I don't,' he still insisted. 'I thought that Nick was the best candidate for the position.'

'You keep saying that,' she replied, frustrated beyond belief. 'But what you won't tell me is why?'

Grissom sighed, taking a moment to try and find the words. His brain always overworked around her. He would rack his supposedly substantial grey matter for the appropriate words to say, but somehow he always seemed to get it wrong. But when he said nothing at all, that usually made things worse. So he settled for a half-truth.

'Because he didn't care whether he got the job or not.'

Sara couldn't believe her ears. For a man who prized logic above all things, he was proving to be the world's biggest idiot. 'That's a stupid reason,' she told him.

Grissom continued to work on, collecting evidence, doggedly avoiding further discussion. Sara's anger built within her as she tried to slip back into her professional frame of mind, tried to get on with her work, which usually wasn't a problem for her. But this time, his betrayal had run too deep. He had been deliberately avoiding her, shutting her out for months. She had felt the trust that had once existed between them ebbing away until - at this point in time - she had no idea if there was even a shred of it left.

And then there was the confession she had overheard him make to a suspect. He had bared his soul to a murderer rather than tell her anything. She had to listen in to find out that he would never act on his feelings for her. His beloved work was too important to him.

So Sara had gone on with her life - working, trying to get ahead, if only to fill the aching hole in her heart where any shred of hope had resided. If he could stop the loneliness and the longing with work, then so could she. But he wouldn't even allow her that. He wouldn't even let her progress professionally. And - worse than that again - he hadn't had the guts to tell her himself.

The anger built up until there was nowhere left for it to go. And so she vented.

'You know, you could at least have had the manners to tell me to my face. I had to hear about it from Nick. Have you any idea how that made me feel?'

He said nothing for a moment, but a look of deep regret passed over his face. Head hung low; he struggled within himself for the strength to speak.

His voice was quiet and full of shame when he finally spoke. 'I'm sorry. I made a mistake.'

Sara could hardly dare believe her ears. Grissom was apologizing? She didn't reply, afraid that she'd misheard him, or worse, that he wouldn't continue if she spoke up. So she waited.

'Sometimes I don't... I don't think rationally when it comes to you.'

Sara couldn't suppress a snort at this, which she made a poor attempt at covering with a cough. 'That's for damn sure,' she muttered to herself.

Grissom heard her comment, and for a moment struggled with his own anger. He was angry with himself for pushing her further and further away. But in that moment, he found himself angry with her too. She always expected too much of him. She had placed him on a pedestal long ago, and now she was pissed with him for falling off of it.

'Damn it, Sara, I don't know what you want from me!'

'I don't…' she tried to reply, but he cut her off.

'I'm an idiot, okay! I'm fallible. I make mistakes!'

Sara couldn't believe it. Now he was mad at her for being mad. They were never going to get anywhere. He would never be able to give her what she wanted, or even tell her what she needed to hear. It was time to throw in the towel.

'It's fine, Grissom. It doesn't matter,' she told him, forcing all her anger back down inside herself once more.

She moved to the desk where they had left the evidence bindles they had already collected.

'I'm just going to take these to trace.'

She had almost made it to the door when his voice stopped her.

'I made my biggest mistake turning you down.'

She turned back towards him, once again frustrated by his lack of understanding.

'Gris, it's not the job. It's that fact that you didn't tell me...'

'Not the job... When you asked me to have dinner... I shouldn't have said "no"...'

There was no reply to that. She turned on her heal and left the room.

---

She had struggled with her decision all day until she was certain there was no alternative.

Fearing that she'd change her mind given half a chance, she walked quickly to his office and knocked politely on the open door frame. He looked up and tried to smile.

'Hey. Have you got a minute?'

'Of course,' he replied, taking off his glasses and setting them on top of the file he'd been distracting himself with all night. In truth, he hadn't been able to concentrate on anything since their argument in the garage.

'It won't take long,' she said as she walked forwards and put the folded piece of paper she'd been carrying on his desk.

'What's this?'

'An application for a leave of absence.'

'Again?'

She shot him daggers with her eyes. 'Yes. Again. And don't dare ask me why. You know why.'

'Sara…'

'The problem has been building for a long while now, and I can't take it anymore, Grissom. You don't respect me. You proved that when you didn't tell me about the promotion. And…' She almost made it personal. She almost said something about his comment to Lurie. But she stopped herself just in time. Remain professional, she told herself. 'I need time off to pursue my options. If I decide to come back, I'll let you know.'

She turned and left the office, ignoring him as he repeatedly called her name.

---

She'd been staring at the bottle of Jack Daniels on her counter top for 30 minutes. She'd had a beer when she got home, but it hadn't made a dent in her mood and she longed for something stronger. It was this longing that stopped her pouring a glass of bourbon immediately.

She had witness first-hand the effect of alcoholism in her family, and she was determined not to follow that same path. But sometimes she felt the need to take the edge off, to ignore her pain or frustration at the bottom of a bottle for just a little while. One glass won't hurt, she finally told herself.

She had just poured herself a large shot when there was a knock at the door. When she opened it, she was stunned to find Grissom at other side. In all her time in Vegas, he had never come by her apartment.

He said nothing, just looked at her, his eyes full of clouded emotion that she dared not name.

'What are you doing here?'

'We need to talk,' he said simply, seemingly unaware of the irony of his statement. They had needed to talk for years, but he had doggedly avoided doing so. Now, when it was too late – now he wanted to talk.

'Grissom…'

'You had your say. I'm here to have mine.'

He stood there, waiting for her to grant him access to her home. Finally, with a sigh, she stood back to let him in.

He walked to the middle of her living room, and slowly turned to face her. 'I meant what I said earlier.'

'Which part?' She couldn't keep the sarcastic edge out of her voice.

'You're determined not to make this easy for me, aren't you?'

'Why should I?'

The look on his face pained her, but she would be damned if she'd make this easy for him. He'd put her through too much. He gave a small nod, a reluctant assent that he had lost any rights he may have once had to her tolerance.

'You told me once that you over-talk around me,' he told. 'Well… I tend to over-think around you.'

She said not a word, almost holding her breath, listening, waiting.

'You fluster me, Sara. I don't know how you manage to do it, but when things get remotely personal between us… I lose any power I once had over the English language… I… didn't know how to tell you about the promotion. And, when it got cut, I figured I no longer had too.'

'Coward.'

He shrugged. 'I guess I am. My life is… more or less the way I always wanted it. It's neat, predictable, safe…'

'I know. You can't risk all that,' she said quietly. He looked at her then, eyes questioning. 'I heard what you said. To Dr. Lurie. I get it. I do. That isn't the issue anymore.'

'Isn't it? I spent all this time pushing you away because of it. It's why you're leaving.'

'That's not why I'm going,' she said, her anger flaring once more. 'You think I'm some stupid girl with a crush who needs to run away now that she can't get the guy she wants? I've coped with working beside you all these years. I've lived with the fact that you don't want to be with me. What I can't live with is that you've lost all respect for me. That you don't trust me professionally…'

'I do respect you, Sara,' he insisted. 'And I trust you. More than anyone… I'm sorry that I didn't make that clearer to you. I've been running scared for a while now and its… it's impaired my judgment.'

'What have you got to be scared about? You've got your neat little life. Predictable, safe, remember?'

'I don't need predictable and safe anymore,' he said, taking a hesitant step towards her. 'I need you.'

'You mean the lab needs me.'

He shook his head, his eyes not leaving hers. 'No. I need you.'

'Bullshit,' she whispered.

'My life? It's predictable, safe… and incredibly lonely. I spend every day wanting to be near you and pushing you away because, you're right, I'm a coward.'

He took her leave of absence request out of his pocket.

'I don't want to be afraid anymore. And… I can't let you go.'

Slowly, with deliberation, he tore the letter into tiny pieces.

Blinking back tears, she finally smiled and nodded - a silent agreement that she was going nowhere. Tears in his own eyes, he returned her smile as allowed the fragments of the letter drop from his hands.

They watched as the pieces fluttered through the air.


THE END.