Author's Note: This is my first attempt at a story with neither casefile nor angst. I've tried not to make it TOO fluffy, but... well... I'll leave that for you to judge. And, if you spot an awful lot of the fanfiction conventions that have been listed in the "Only in Fanfiction" thread on YTDAW, it wasn't totally deliberate - but it'll teach me not to read that thread and then try to write, since they were all in my mind as I wrote this, so some inevitably slipped in (although I did edit out a comment about Grissom's 'impossibly blue eyes' :lol: )
Spoilers: Some for season 6.
Ships: GSR (obviously) with N/G implied.
Disclaimer: I still own nothing, but Christmas is coming, so if you all chip in together, maybe...
Reviews: I'm stuck over here in Northern Ireland where we don't get to celebrate Thanksgiving, and I have to work tomorrow while you guys in the states get to have a huge dinner, so if you review, you'll be making up for all the turkey I won't be having tomorrow... just something to consider ;)
It was the last Thursday of November, 2005, and there was more than one thing to be thankful for.
It had been just five months since they had gotten Nicky back and the memory was still fresh in all their minds. The event had spurred them all into embracing their lives more fully, making the most of what they had and going after the things they wanted.
No one had experienced this spiritual metamorphosis more than Warrick Brown. The almost loss of his best friend and the terrifying realization that it could just as easily have been him in that box, had made him propose to his girlfriend and marry her in a drive-thru wedding chapel on a whim that, so far, seemed to have been kismet rather than folly. He was blissfully happy with his new bride and everything they learned about each other each day only served to bring them closer.
To give his workmates the opportunity to meet Tina, and in another attempt to fill life with memories worth having, the Browns decided to have Thanksgiving dinner for the entire night shift.
Yes, they had so much to be thankful for, Sara Sidle thought to herself as she glanced around the room at the people who, for all intents and purposes, made up her entire world. As her eyes traveled from face to face, they came to rest on Nick for a moment.
It was hard to image that this man had come so close to death such a short time ago. He looked healthy, happy, at peace. Sara saw no trace of the haunted look that still crossed his face from time to time when he thought no one was looking. It would be naïve of anyone to assume that he was back to normal, that he had moved on. The trauma he had suffered would linger with him for a long time to come. But he was making giant steps forward and that, Sara thought, was definitely something.
She noted, with a small inward smirk, that much of the relaxed, happy look on her friend's face was the result of the conversation he was having with Greg. They had been spending a lot of time together lately and Sara knew that a large part of Nick's recovery was down to the zany ex-lab tech.
She had heard the sound of Nick's laughter in work a few weeks before and as she rounded a corner in the corridor, she had spotted the pair standing together, smiling and laughing. Something about the way they stood together suggested a level of intimacy which made Sara smile, happy that they had both found someone that made life more complete for each of them. When Nick had gone off down the corridor into one of the labs, she had walked up to Greg, squeezing his shoulder and telling him, "You're a good man, Charlie Brown," before heading off in the opposite direction, leaving him utterly bewildered.
Her eyes began their journey around the room once more and alighted on Catherine, sitting a little apart from a conversation going on between Brass and Doc Robbins. As Sara watched her, she saw her eyes dart briefly to Warrick and his new wife, and a sadness settle over her.
As much as Sara's heart ached for what she now realized, she also acknowledged that this too, in a strange way, was another thing to be thankful for. She liked Cath, respected her – but she had never felt she had anything to connect with her over. They had nothing in common. Now, sadly, they had. Loving an unattainable man.
Lifting an open bottle of red wine from the dinning room table, she walked across the room and sat down next to the red head, refilling her glass and shooting her a warm smile which Catherine returned.
"They look happy, don't they?" Catherine nodded her head towards the newlyweds and Sara glanced in their direction once more. Warrick had his arm draped around Tina, who was laughing at a story Grissom was regaling them with – probably about bugs, Sara mused.
Sara found herself transfixed by him, as she often was, watching his lips as he spoke in his controlled, careful manner. He'd lost a little weight, she thought to herself. Not so much that she'd worry he wasn't eating, but enough to let her know that he was taking care of himself. He looked good in jeans and a casual shirt – blue, just a few shades darker than his eyes.
She didn't realize she was staring until Catherine's voice finally broke through her daze.
"Wow. You still have it bad."
Tearing her eyes away, she gave the other woman one of her sweetest smiles and lied through her teeth.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Cath."
The older woman smirked and shrugged. "Have it your way."
Across the room, Greg starred into his wine glass with disappointment. "Cranberry juice," he said with distain. "It just seems so wrong. I nice, full-bodied Merlot or a rich Cabernet Sauvignon or maybe even as sassy Rioja…"
"Man, you're getting me drunk just talking about it," Nick laughed in response.
"It just sucks. It's Thanksgiving. We should be partaking in some merriment that involves alcohol, you know?"
Nick shrugged. "Well, we drew the short straw – we're on duty tonight. Someone's got to do it. At least we can keep each other company in our sobriety."
Greg smiled at this.
"Hey, we're both off tomorrow," the Texan continued. "Maybe we can have a belated Thanksgiving then, complete with as much wine as you can handle."
The man beside him raised an eyebrow and chuckled. "I don't know. I can handle quite a lot…"
"Can I get you another cup of mulled wine, Griss?" Warrick asked, gesturing at the empty glass his boss was cradling.
Grissom shook his head. "Thanks, but one's my limit. I'm driving."
Tina smiled at her husband. "Sure."
Taking her glass with a loving smile, Warrick ambled off to the table which was still laden down with left-over cold cuts, salads and alcohol.
There was an uncomfortable silence as Grissom struggled to think of an appropriate topic of conversation. His gaze wandered across the room and he glimpsed Sara, sitting with Catherine at the opposite side of the room. He'd barely had a chance to talk to her since he arrived, although they had briefly exchanged pleasantries.
He couldn't help but let his gaze linger, taking in how relaxed and happy she looked right now. He realized how difficult the past few years had been for her – hindsight was always perceptive like that – but she had turned a corner and now seemed to be so much stronger and more content than she had been.
Always a beautiful woman, she was so much more beautiful when she smiled. And right now, he couldn't remember when she looked more stunning.
Tina's voice broke through his reverie and brought his thoughts back to his own side of the room.
"So, Dr. Grissom. Has there ever been a Mrs. Grissom?"
It took a moment for him to process the question, his brow knit in confusion. "Oh. Uh… no. I've never married."
That his gaze flickered back to the other side of the room was not lost on the young nurse.
"She's very beautiful," she remarked. "It's Sara, isn't it?"
He nodded, schooling his features to give none of his feelings away. Giving his companion a warm smile, he decided to side-step the subject.
"So, how are you finding married life?"
Her face lit up. "I have to admit, I'm sort of surprised how much I love it," she told him. "To be honest, I sort of had my doubts when we first talked about it. It all happened so fast. You know why we got married, don't you."
Grissom furrowed his brow. "Uh…"
She took that as a 'no'. "Well, after everything that happened with Nick, Warrick really started having this 'living for the day' attitude."
This was something Grissom understood. Nodding, he replied, "I think it affected us all in that way."
"Well, he figured 'why wait', you know?" she continued. "And, to be honest, I've always been of that opinion. I lost my sister a few years ago…"
"I'm very sorry."
She shrugged sadly. "She was like my best friend. She'd just graduated from college, her whole life in front of her. Life is just too damn short, Dr. Grissom. We have to grab hold of it while we have the chance."
"What did I miss?" Warrick asked as he returned with a fresh glass of wine for his wife.
"We were talking about life," Grissom replied, involuntarily glancing across at Sara once more.
A little later, their paths finally crossed in the kitchen, as they left their empty plates by the sink.
"Enjoying yourself?" he asked her.
"Very much," she replied. "You?"
He smiled and nodded on reply. He was smiling a lot more in recent months, she thought to herself. There had been a shift in his demeanor which she couldn't quite put her finger on. He was more outgoing, more available, and a lot happier that she'd seen him in a long time. She wondered if there a woman involved in this transformation and decided that she didn't want to know the answer to that.
"It looks like the party's starting to break up," he remarked as he watched Nick and Greg say their goodbyes to their hosts. Spotting Grissom and Sara in the kitchen, both men waved goodbye before heading out.
"Yeah, I guess so," she replied. "Guess I should call a cab."
"You didn't drive?"
She shook her head. "I knew I'd probably have a glass or two of wine with dinner so I took a cab here."
He did his best to suppress the grin that desperately wanted to form on his lips. An opportunity was presenting itself. "I can drive you home if you like," he offered, trying to sound casual.
The drive to her apartment was too brief for Grissom's liking, especially since he spent most of it trying to figure out something to say. He always did this, he berated himself angrily. He spent so long figuring out what to say, by the time he was actually ready to form the words, Sara was already out of the room and he was addressing a deserted doorway or an empty chair.
As he pulled into her building's parking lot, he took a deep breath and dove in.
"So, uh… what are you doing for the rest of the evening?"
She sighed. "Well, I should be working, but someone decided to make me take the night off." Her tone was accusatory, but he heard the playful teasing beneath it.
"Sara, it's Thanksgiving," he replied wearily. "And you haven't had a single one off since you came to Vegas."
She shrugged. "It's just another day. It's not like I have a family that I need to be home with. I'm surprised that Nick did go home to Texas to be with his."
"He wanted to work," he replied matter-of-factly. "Said the month he spent with them during his recovery was more than enough to last him until Christmas. Something about too much mothering being bad for him."
Sara laughed. "Well, if I get bored, I could probably always go in and give them a hand anyway."
He frowned. "No you can't," he told her sternly.
"Because, Miss Sidle, I'm fairly certain that you've maxed out on overtime again this month."
"Damn," she muttered under her breath. "Old movies and an early night for me then, I guess."
This is your chance, Gil, he told himself. Say it. Just say it!
"Well, I, uh…" he started, babbling like the fool he was. He cleared his throat and tried again. "I don't have any, uh, plans. If you'd… like some company?"
Sara's eyes widened in surprised. Grissom was offering to spend time with her. Outside of work. On a holiday, no less. She knew he'd changed, but damn…
"Sara?" He was slightly concerned when she didn't reply. Had he overstepped the mark? "It's okay if you don't want to. I understand…"
"No," her voice came out a little higher than normal. She swallowed. "It's not that I don't want to… I, uh… I don't want to put you out. If there's somewhere you'd rather be…"
He shook his head. "There's no where I'd rather be."
They were both stunned into silence by the profundity of that statement.
He settled himself on the couch as Sara made tea, and glanced around the room. Nothing about the décor had changed since the last time he was there, but the room seemed warmer, somehow. He figured it was more to do with the change in Sara, rather than the color of the walls. He could pinpoint the change in her to the day she sat in this very room and bared her soul to him. It clearly had been a cathartic experience, as from that moment on, she strove to move on with her life, to let go of the pain that had held her for so long.
It had been cathartic for him too. After too long a time of building barriers between them and pushing her away, he finally felt like they were rebuilding their damaged relationship, rediscovering the friendship they once had.
She handed him a mug and sat down, not curled in a semi-fetal position on the chair opposite this time, but on the other end of the couch from him, one foot tucked under her, relaxed and casual.
"Tina and Warrick put on quite a spread," she remarked, unable to think of any other topic that wouldn't lead to an awkward conversation. "We should make it an annual thing. Take turns or something."
"We really should do more together," he nodded in agreement. "The whole group."
Sara couldn't suppress a small laugh. "You're getting all social on me, Grissom. Rumor has it you're even going out with the boys on occasion now."
He smirked. "I'm trying out new things," he told her.
She shrugged. "Change is good, or so they tell me."
"What are we doing Sara?" he blurted out, suddenly fed up with dancing round the subject.
"Having tea." She smirked and he rolled his eyes, trying to feign annoyance.
"Oh, now you're a comedienne?"
"Now and then."
He sighed and sat forward, both arms resting on his knees, turning his head slightly so he could look at her.
He opened his mouth and closed it again, as though trying and failing to form the words. She was suspicious that, if he said anything at all, it would be a quote from Shakespeare or Emerson or Shaw. Instead he said, "How do you think Nick is doing?"
"A lot better," she replied, relieved and disappointed all at once. "He'll get through this. He's a fighter."
Grissom nodded, temporarily struck dumb by a lump in his throat. Clearing it away, he asked her, "Do you think having the team back together is helping?"
"Of course," she replied, and then smiled. "But not as much as it's helping you."
"Me?" he asked, genuinely surprised.
She laughed and shook her head in disbelief. The ever observant Gil Grissom. He could spot the tiniest piece of evidence from a mile away, but couldn't notice the huge changes that had taken place within himself. "Grissom, these past few months it's been like you're a different person. You're happier. You're more… open. You haven't noticed?"
He shrugged. "I've been re-evaluating my life. Figuring out what matters and what doesn't. Figuring out what makes me happy."
The intensity of his voice and in his gaze made Sara shudder inside. She was frightened of what he might say next but, at the same time, she desperately wanted to know. "And have you come to any conclusions?"
"Sitting around my office, filling out evaluation forms and mountains of administrative red-tape doesn't make me happy."
"I think you already knew that," she replied with a soft smile.
"Sitting around my house with nothing but my butterfly collection and the latest documentary on the Discovery channel for company doesn't make me happy."
She was starting to feel very uncomfortable. "Well, at least you've figured out what you don't want," she said, her light tone marred with a touch of bitterness. Sitting forward as if to get up, she continued lightly, "More tea?"
He reached out and put his hand on her arm, stopping her from going anywhere. Apprehensive, she looked at him, as his blue eyes searched her frightened brown ones.
"Sara, what are we doing?" he repeated his earlier question.
Her breath caught in her throat. The air between them was thick with so much unspoken. She wanted to play dumb, to ask him what he meant, to look anywhere but into his searching gaze. But she couldn't. "I don't know," she whispered finally, her voice shy and uncertain.
Tentatively, he reached out and brushed a strand of hair off her face, his hand lingering on her cheek.
"I've been such an idiot for so many years," he told her. His sudden honesty shocked her and she opened her mouth to reply but he placed a finger on her lips, silencing her as he continued. "I've lived a solitary existence for such a long time, Sara. I'm a man of science, but I've never been very rational when it comes to my personal life. I told myself that if I lived in side of my books and experiments, I would never be disappointed. I would never be hurt… I was wrong," he paused, closing his eyes at his own stupidity. "I wasn't really living at all."
"Grissom," she started, but found herself with no words. His honesty was overwhelming her.
"I'm deficient in a lot of ways, Sara," he continued. "I've spent god knows how long trying to figure out the right words to say to you. That's always been my problem – spending too much time thinking things out, living in my head rather that in the real world."
Despite herself, she chuckled. "You over-think and I over-talk," she told him. "We all have our faults."
"I have more than my fair share," he replied. "I'm difficult, Sara. I over-think. I work too much. I'm grumpy. I can be a selfish bastard sometimes. And I really don't know if I'd be any good at sharing my life with someone."
She laughed out loud. "You make yourself sound like such an attractive package," she told him. "And what makes you think that all that doesn't apply to me too. Only add to that the fact that I'm a stubborn pain-in-the-ass sometimes."
"Only sometimes?" he remarked, earning himself a punch on the arm.
When they finished laughing, he turned serious once more. "Sara, if these past few months have taught me anything, it's that life is too short for me to just sit around my office, afraid to take a risk. And you are potentially the most dangerous risk I've ever faced.
"I'm not that scary, am I?"
"You're terrifying," he told her. "In my whole life, you're the only one who's ever had the power to completely break my heart."
This new revelation brought tears to her eyes. "The feeling is very mutual."
"I want to change, Sara," he whispered, caressing her face gently. "I want to love you the way you deserve. I want to start living."
She nodded. "Then start," she told him, reaching up to cover his hand with her own.
He couldn't believe how lucky he was. He had wasted so much time. He had hurt her so much in the past. And still, she was here before him, her eyes telling him that he wasn't too late after all.
"You heard what I said, didn't you?" he asked, still not daring to believe that she was willing to move forward with him. "I really want this to work, Sara, but… I'm horribly flawed."
Cradling his face in both her hands, she shook her head and smiled. "I wouldn't have you any other way."
They smiled as their lips finally met. Oh, life was good indeed, he thought, now that he had decided to start living it.
It was the last Thursday of November, 2005, and there was so much to be thankful for.