Disclaimer: Sadly, neither Grissom nor Sara belong to me. Fortunatally, Sara's father does not belong to me. Really, all I can claim is the made up LA amusment park, including the fictional roller coaster 'The Beast.'

Spoilers: None

A/N: The idea for this fic comes from a challenge I read on YTDAW. It's based on the episode Evaluation Day, where Grissom says something about sharing his roller coaster every 9 years and 34 days. The challege asks for Pre-Vegas Grissom and Sara on a Roller coaster ride. Sara has to sing or hum, whatever, Blondie's One way or Another. (I fudged this last one a little)

I don't know what I would do without my lj friends. Thank you so much, lj user"csishewolf" , lj user"dragonflyqueen" , and lj user"phdelicious" for your help on this story.

xxxxxxx

Los Angeles, California 1977

Grissom's fingers rested lightly on the railing that separated him from the roller coaster. Anticipation mounting, he watched as it came to a halt and the passengers climbed out of the seats. In just another minute it would be his turn to slide into the brightly painted car of his favorite coaster. For the past few months, he had been too busy with work and school to indulge in this pastime, but as of nine thirty this morning, Gil Grissom was done with his finals. More than that, with dual degrees in forensics and biology, he had completed his education as an undergraduate. To celebrate, he was spending the day at the amusement park, riding on as many roller coasters as he could.

He had been in line for 'The Beast' for the last hour, letting numerous people cut in front of him in his quest to get the seat in the very front of the coaster; the best seat. Just as he was walking to the front car, someone ran in front of him and jumped into his coveted spot. A brunette, four foot tall someone. He highly doubted whoever it was met the height requirement of the four star ride. She looked to be no more then six or seven years old.

"Excuse me," he said, addressing her the same way he would any adult, "but that's my seat. You need to wait your turn."

"Don't wanna."

"Where are your parents?" he asked, trying a different tact.

The little girl scowled at him, her lips pressed together in an obvious refusal to answer his question. She deliberately reached down and fastened the seat belt around her waist, watching him as she did so. Grissom sighed and stepped into the car, resigned to sharing his ride with this trespasser.

He expected her to be scared, or perhaps excited. Small children always seemed to be one of the two, in his limited experience. Instead she was as calm as he was, leaning back in the seat with her hands resting on her lap. She didn't even move when the ride started, simply following the roller coaster's motion with her eyes. As the ride reached the top of the first hill, the only indication of pleasure she gave was a smile that revealed a row of white teeth, a small gap between the front two.

Around sharp corners, diving into dark tunnels and flying upside down in corkscrews they flew before reaching the loading platform again. The girl next to him waited patently for the signal before releasing her seat belt and climbing out of the car. She gave a slight nod, mostly to herself, as if to say 'yes, that was worth the time' before turning to leave.

Grissom hurried to catch up to her, not comfortable with the idea of the girl wandering the theme park alone. Thanks to his job, he was all too aware of the many things that could happen to a child left unattended. Since she had refused to answer his question earlier, he decided to try talking to her in hopes that she might reveal some personal information in the conversation.

"Hi," he said. "My name is Gil, but most people call me Grissom." She stopped just outside the ride, and he approached her slowly.

"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," she informed him.

Oh, that was a tricky issue. He didn't want to convince her that it was okay to talk to strangers. At the same time, he didn't feel right leaving her alone.

"That's a good rule. Who taught you that?" he asked.

"My mom." She was scanning the crowd around her as she talked.

"Did she say anything about strangers you are allowed to talk to?"

"Uh huh. Police men and fire men."

"I'm kind of a police man." That was stretching the truth a bit. "I work for the police."

"Where's your uniform?" She narrowed her eyes at him.

Grissom raised a single eyebrow. This was one sharp kid.

"I don't wear my uniform when I'm not working. I have my name badge, though." Reaching into the pocket of his jacket, he pulled out the laminated tag that read Gil Grissom, assistant coroner. He handed it to the girl, who inspected it carefully.

"What's a coroner?"

How was he going to explain his job to a child?

"When something bad happens to people, I help by telling the police what happened, so they can find out who did it." It was his job in the broadest sense, leaving out any details about cutting open and examining dead bodies.

"Oh." She watched him carefully, as if judging whether he was telling the truth or not. She must have been satisfied with his answer, because she smiled up at him as she returned his badge. However, she still refused to give him her name.

"Do you like roller coasters?" he asked.

"I think so. That was my first one. My mom doesn't let me ride them."

There was the opening he was looking for.

"Is your mom here with you today, or did someone else bring you?" He turned away from her for a moment, hoping that if he seemed blasé about her answer she might be more willing to speak. As he waited he ordered two sodas from a vendor. Wordlessly he handed one to her. She accepted the drink, and as she took a sip muttered something he couldn't make out.

"What?"

"My parents. I'm here with my parents and my brother." she sullenly repeated.

Grissom was about to ask her where her parent were when a tall, well muscled man stormed up to them and grabbed the young girl roughly by the arm. The soda she had been holding went flying, landing with a splash on the hot pavement.

"You little bitch. What do you mean, running away like that?" His hold tightened on her arm as he spoke. The hand not holding her was clenched in a fist. A few feet behind him stood a thin, almost fragile looking woman and a boy of about eleven.

Grissom stood frozen in shock, his own soda slipping from his fingers and falling to the ground. He stared at the man, and then the girl. It was expression on her face that moved him to action. She wore a look of calm acceptance, and in that moment he knew that this was not the first time she had been confronted with violence. Considering that they were in public, and assuming the man before him was using even a modicum of control, this was probably not the worst she had experienced.

Heart pounding, Grissom reached down and pried the meaty fingers off the child's thin arm. As soon as she was free he placed himself between the girl and the man. His action placed them scant inches apart. Almost the same height, but at least fifty pounds lighter, Grissom faced the man.

"What do you think your doing?" the man said. "You got no call coming between me and what's mine." The angry man used the hand that had been holding the girl to try and shove Grissom to the side, but he refused to budge.

"You have no right to treat a child the way I just saw you treat this one." He reached behind him and felt a small hand clasp his larger one.

"She's my kid, and no know-it-all college boy is going to tell me how to deal with her. Now step aside while you still can."

"I can't do that." Shaking his head, Grissom refused. In the next moment he found himself reeling backwards, the direct result of a fist connecting with his cheek. The pain of the punch was almost superseded by the jostling pain of landing on the ground as he twisted to the side to avoid pulling the girl down with him.

By now they had drawn a crowd of curious onlookers. One of them approached Grissom, and he was relived to see it was not another park visitor, but a security guard.

"Are you all right, sir?"

"I'm fine." Grissom rubbed the tender area with the fingertips of his hand. Another guard was talking to the girl's father, and the man loudly refused whatever the guard said.

"I'm sorry, sir, but we are going to need you to come to the security office." Grissom simply nodded, not wanting to move his jaw anymore then necessary.

xxx

He had decided not to press charges. The security officer had offered to call the local police if he wanted to file a report for the assault. Knowing that the charge wouldn't be enough to hold the man for long, and worried about what he would do to his family when he got out, Grissom had said no. Now, walking away from the office, he wasn't sure it had been the right decision.

There was no point in staying at the park now. He walked under the arched entrance without getting his hand stamped and headed towards his car. As he was getting his keys out of his pocket, Grissom heard a sound. Turning to find the source, he found that the little girl was no more then twenty feet away from him. Head down, she was humming a song as she walked behind the rest of her family. Grissom cringed when the man turned around and yelled at her to shut up.

He watched as they got into an old station wagon; watched as the car backed out of its parking spot. As the car shifted into drive, the little girl turned around and looked out the back window. She raised her hand in a half hearted wave, and Grissom found himself copying the gesture. He didn't lower his hand until the car was out of sight.