A Breaking Point
By Jess aka willowaus
Disclaimer: I do not own CSI and I am in no way making any money from writing this, alas.
A/N: Thanks to AussiRayne for the beta and to the girls of SSFAS for putting up with my endless questions and outlining havoc I ensued upon them. :)
"Nicky," Sara said, raising the flute of champagne to her lips. "You don't have to baby-sit me all night."
He turned to look at her and raised an eyebrow in question. "You've been watching that bridesmaid all night," she continued. "Go!"
His cheeks were red and he glared at her. "I have not been watching her all night," he replied.
She laughed at his petulant expression and rolled her eyes as his wandered towards the bridesmaid in the light blue gown. "Just go, Nicky!" she cried, pushing him gently with her hand.
He still hadn't moved and she sighed. "Well, I'm going to see Doc Robbins and his wife, so hopefully she'll make a move," Sara said and stood, walking away before he could protest.
Sara turned to look over his shoulder, chuckling at his flustered look as the young woman walked towards him. She maneuvered herself through the crowded reception hall, making sure she was smiling as she passed the various guests. David nodded towards her as he and his new bride moved towards the floor to dance and she grinned at him, glad that he had been able to find someone to love.
Looking back towards Doc Robbins table she faltered, scanning the room for where the doctor and his wife had gone. She spotted them on the dance floor and sighed. She scouted the room and finally found Archie involved in a deep conversation with one of the bride's friends. 'And now everyone I know here is occupied,' she thought and inwardly groaned, turning around to locate a new place to sit and observe the festivities.
The sound of her name being yelled caused her to cringe and she turned, watching as a drunken groomsman made his way towards her. She forced the smile to remain on her face, inwardly rolling her eyes. "May I have this dance?" the young man asked.
She opened her mouth to protest as he unceremoniously grabbed her hand and started leading her towards the floor. She fought back the urge to drop kick him to the floor, not wanting to cause a scene, and allowed herself to be lead to the dance floor. Her smile was gone, a stony expression set on it, as the man's hand moved to touch her hip. 'If it moves, proper etiquette be damned,' she thought, gritting her teeth as they moved to the Van Morrison's Have I told you lately.
"Excuse me," came a gruff voice that she wasn't expecting to hear.
Her partner stopped dancing and looked behind her, Sara following suit, surprised to see Grissom standing behind her in a tuxedo. "May I?" he asked the groomsman.
"I dunno," the man replied. "Sara and I were having a good time, weren't we?"
She pulled back as he leaned towards her, the alcohol on his breath filling her nose. "As that may be," Grissom said, startling Sara with the touch of anger in his voice. "I don't think your girlfriend appreciates it."
He motioned to the young woman standing on the side of the dance floor, glaring daggers at them before turning and walking angrily away. The groomsman let go of Sara and started after the young woman. Sara turned towards Grissom. "Thanks," she said. "I was trying to find a nice way to get away from him."
She moved to walk off of the dance floor, his hand touching her arm stopping her. She looked back at him, raising an eyebrow as his hand moved to her hip, his other taking her hand gently in his and leading them in a slow dance to the music playing.
"When did you get here?" Sara asked, trying to shake the nervousness that she was feeling. "You missed the wedding and the speeches."
"I got held up," he replied. "With Ecklie away at the conference in D.C. I've been overrun with supervisory duties."
"You love it," she said with a smirk.
It faltered as she looked at his face, trying to decipher the look he gave her and failing miserably. "How was the ceremony?" Grissom asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence between them.
"I don't know if I'm the one you want to ask for that opinion," she remarked. "I'm not a big fan of these things."
"Weddings?" he asked, his hand sliding lower down her hip.
"Uh, yeah," she replied, her mouth dry. She forced back a sigh. 'He probably doesn't even realize he did it.'
A slight tug on her dress caused her to look down and smile at the five year old flower girl standing beside them. "Hi Leila," Sara said, acknowledging the little girl.
"Ms. Sara," she pouted. "You were gonna help me make a crane."
"Yes I was," Sara replied and turned to her supervisor. "Uh, this is Leila, David's new niece. Leila this is Mr. Grissom, he works with your uncle and me."
"Hi," Leila said, looking up at him, her face scrunching in thought. "You have hair on your face."
Grissom raised an eyebrow at the remark. "It's called a beard," Sara told her.
"Why do you have a…beard?" the five-year-old asked.
He looked at the little girl, not quite sure what to say. "What does it feel like?" she asked.
"Scratchy?" Sara replied and suppressed a laugh at the girl's disgusted look.
"Can we make a crane?" Leila asked, looking away from Grissom and back to Sara.
"Sure," the CSI replied and allowed the little girl to grab her hand, tugging her through the crowd.
Sara was surprised to see Grissom was following close behind them. They arrived at one of the tables and Leila handed Sara a napkin. Grissom watched as she took the napkin and folded it, creating a crane with the paper. "Is he your boyfriend?" Leila asked, looking inquisitively at Grissom from her chair.
"No," Sara said, handing the crane to the little girl, refusing to look at the man behind her. "He's my boss."
Leila nodded and smiled at the crane in her hands. "Thanks, Ms. Sara," she said before bounding away into the crowd of guests.
"Your boss?" Grissom asked, looking down at her.
She turned to look at him, again unable to read the expression on his face. "Well, you are," she replied.
A flicker of an emotion swept across his face before it became unreadable again. "I believe I need to greet the happy couple," he told her and walked away.
Sara watched him go; troubled by the chill he left behind.
'A ghost.' Grissom placed the flute of champagne to his lips and smiled wryly at the thought. He leaned against the wall, observing the various wedding guests, setting himself apart from them but blending in with the surroundings at the same time. It was a gift perfected in high school and one he used throughout his life, allowing him to observe without being observed himself.
Scanning the room, he sought out those he knew. David and his new wife were happily chatting with others he did not recognize. Archie and a young woman with bright pink hair were happily dancing on the floor, laughing and talking as they moved, while Nick sat nervously talking with a brunette that he assumed was part of the wedding party based on her dress. And Sara…he sighed as he focused on her.
She hadn't moved from the table he had left her at. Her shoulders were slightly drooped as she played with a napkin on the table, alternating between tearing edges of it and tracing the creases. He forced himself to look away, his mouth tightening as he remembered her comment to the little girl.
'He's my boss.'
Was that really all she saw him as now? Was he simply her boss and nothing more? He looked at the champagne in his hand and frowned, walking from his spot and depositing it at the bar, before finding another place he could stand back and hide in. For a few moments he was able to avoid looking in her direction, but eventually he gave in and allowed himself to focus his attention back on her.
His throat constricted as he watched a man conversing with her before extending a hand to her. She looked at it for a few seconds before shrugging and taking it with one of her own. He watched her stand and walk with the stranger towards the dance floor, mesmerized by the way her navy blue dress swayed at her ankles as she walked further away from him.
They were dancing now and he couldn't help but think how perfect she looked in the younger man's arms, dancing to the slow beat that wafted through the air. A silent curse left his mouth as he saw her watching him, her face full of longing before looking away from him.
There was a slight tugging on his pants and he looked down, finding the little girl from earlier looking up at him. He gazed curiously at her and she reciprocated a similar look. "No one dances with me," she finally said, turning so that her dress twirled around her.
He continued to look at her, unsure what she wanted. She sighed and the look she gave him reminded him of one he had seen on Sara many times before. Her small hand grabbed his and started pulling him towards the dance floor. His mouth opened to protest but he closed it, sighing as he allowed himself to be dragged.
The little girl placed her feet on top of his and he gave her another look. "It's how you're supposed to dance," she told him, rolling her eyes.
Grissom decided it was best to simply nod and looked up, ignoring the laughter from Doctor Robbins and his wife. He spotted Sara who was watching him as she danced a small smile on her face and an emotion he couldn't name in her eyes. She quickly looked away when she saw that he was watching her, focusing her attention back on the man she was dancing with.
Grissom looked back at the little girl unsure if he was supposed to talk to her and what one would say. His experience with Lindsey Willows had not prepared him for interactions with children. "I can read," she told him simply.
"That is…good," he replied.
"Robbie tried to put a spider on me," she said.
"Robbie?" he asked.
"The little boy over there," she said, pointing towards a group of children that were at a table playing games.
"Why are you not with the other children?" he asked.
"Because Robbie tried to put a spider on me!" she said exasperatedly.
The song ended and she released her grip on his hands and leapt off his feet. Grissom shook his head and watched her walk towards Sara, tugging on her dress as she had done earlier. He walked away from the dance floor and found another spot he would be comfortable standing in. His eyes sought out Sara again.
He smiled as he watched her spin the little brown haired girl on the dance floor, large smiles on their faces. They looked like mother and daughter, dancing happily without a care in the world. A deep sorrow passed trough him and he forced himself to look away, moving towards Archie and his date in order to focus himself on something besides Sara Sidle.
'It's amazing how the one person you try to avoid is the person you always end up bumping into,' Sara mentally groaned, forcing a smile on her face as she bumped into the night shift supervisor. "Sorry," she murmured and started to move past him, intent on finding Nick.
"He's not there."
She turned at the sound of Grissom's voice, giving him a questioning look. "Nick and the bridesmaid went outside to get some…uh, air," he continued.
"Oh. Thanks for telling me," she replied, turning to find another place to sit and mull over her thoughts.
"Sara," he called softly.
She cursed herself as she turned; hating that she always came when he called. He looked at her, his mouth opening slightly before closing, a sad smile settling on his lips. Forcing another smile on her face, she shrugged before turning away from him and walked away, moving as fast as she could from him without running.
'I need to stop letting him have this power over me,' she told herself as she sat down in an empty seat, watching the people on the dance floor. An older couple moved across the floor, smiles spread wide on their faces as they swayed from side to side. Shaking her head she looked away, pushing her self-loathing thoughts away and forcing the melancholy that threatened to envelop her to disperse. 'This is supposed to be a happy engagement.' She stood, intent on allowing herself to have some form of fun, and decided to find the gentlemen she had been dancing with before.
A faint beeping sound reached her ears and she looked at the small handbag she was carrying. She quickly removed her beeper and sighed as she read the message. '419—call in.' Putting the beeper back in the bag, she removed her cell phone, cringing that the lab was number 2 on her speed dial, her supervisor and colleagues the other numbers she was able to reach at the touch of a button. 'Has my life become just about work?'
"We've been paged," Grissom said and she looked away from her phone to see her supervisor standing in front of her.
"419," she replied and looked down at her dress. It was not conducive to examining a scene.
"Change of clothes?" he asked, thinking the same thing.
"I came with Nick," she told him.
"I have a jumpsuit you can wear in the Denali," he informed her and started towards the door.
Sara sighed and followed him through the crowd, mouthing to Nick 419 before she left the banquet room. Following Grissom out of the hotel she forced herself to exude her professional demeanor.
The CSIs exited the Denali and started towards the scene. Brass and two officers stood guarding a blocked off crime scene located on the side of Boulder Highway. Sara squirmed in the blue jumpsuit, not used to the course fabric touching the amount of bare skin that it was today.
"This is a gruesome one," Brass informed them, walking over to them. "Coroner pronounced and is waiting for your okay to get the body."
Moving under the crime scene tape, Sara gasped in horror at the sight before them. "Oh god," she whispered.
Lying on the cold desert floor was the lifeless body of a five-year-old girl, her eyes open, a look of horror on her face, a cloth tied around her mouth. Her throat was cut and there were multiple burns and smaller cuts along the rest of her naked body.
Sara shook her head, wondering if any of the evidence they would discover would help them understand why. There was never a justification for killing a child and nothing could prepare you for the horror of seeing one taken in the manner displayed before them. Stepping towards the body, Sara shook her head. "Life sucks," she said, putting her kit down and opening it up to remove gloves.
"So long as little children are allowed to suffer, there is no true love in this world," Grissom whispered, his gaze focused on her.
"There is no such thing as true love," Sara replied pointedly, ignoring the icy chill that had taken up residence between Grissom and her, focusing her attention on the child in front of them. 'We'll find out what happened to you. I promise.'