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. 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.
Spoilers: Time of Your Death. More post-ep fluff.
For JesSickUh, who sparked my muse.
She stayed late, of course. Grissom really expected no less; the shift that Sara Sidle left the lab on time was a shift that had been so slow as to have everyone not only caught up on paperwork but Sara herself having exhausted the limits of whatever cold case she'd plucked from his fish board.
He could only remember it happening twice, in fact.
He leaned in the locker room doorway, arms folded and one shoulder braced against the frame, and watched her; for once she seemed unaware of his presence. The day shift had already clattered through the room and scattered to their assignments; in the echoing hush left behind, Sara frowned faintly, staring at the small mirror hanging inside the door of her locker. Her expression was one of puzzlement, as though she couldn't understand what she saw, though it was her own familiar reflection.
"Is it Psyche, whose fairness charmed a god indeed? No, 'tis one lovelier still," Grissom quoted softly.
Sara's brows snapped together, and she turned to give him one of her distant looks, which he knew meant that she was embarrassed. He ignored the pounding at the base of his throat and stepped into the room, letting the heavy door swing shut behind him. "You are beautiful, Sara."
She shook her head, a slight negating motion, and closed the locker. "Beauty's subjective, Grissom."
Her voice had a final quality to it that made him even more nervous, and he stepped closer, blocking her most obvious route to the door. Earlier, alone in the conference room, they'd exchanged a glance that gave him hope, that made him think perhaps he still had a chance. But after a moment of silence Sara had stood and walked out with her folder, and Grissom had looked at the empty chair across from him and cursed himself for the thousandth time. Not that the middle of the lab was the most appropriate place, but he was caring less and less these days about propriety.
"True," he replied, not certain just what question he was answering. "But it has power nonetheless." Another step closer.
Sara snorted and looked away. "That's not your only excuse, though."
He was caught flat, without words. When he didn't fill the silence, she glanced at him, wary and a little sad. "Did you really think I would reject you?" she asked quietly. "I've been waiting for years--you're the expert in rejection here."
That hurt, but he knew he deserved it. "I never had your courage."
Her narrowed eyes told him she considered that far too glib to be convincing, and he grimaced, because she was right. "Sara...fear is irrational. I guess a better way to put it is that I don't have your strength in confronting my fears."
"Then they'll always be there, Grissom. Eventually whatever you're afraid of will...be gone, and you'll still be in the same place."
He winced. Sara was still, but he knew she was waiting, that the coiled tension of her would soon move, taking her out of his reach.
Hope was as blurry a magnifier as fear, Grissom realized; he'd come looking for her without any real plan, coasting on the euphoria of an exchange of glances and stupidly trusting in that to carry him through. His throat positively ached now, a subtle pain radiating up past his jaw and towards his temples. He couldn't think of anything, any words to make her pause, to give him more time...
"Sara, help me," he blurted out at last. "Please, I..."
Terror expected her to raise her chin and walk away; self-loathing whispered dire hints of cold laughter and mockery. But the words puffed out anyway, thin and uncertain, a shaky platter for his soul. "Help me."
She did laugh, just a breath's worth, but it was full of humor and rue, not ice. "All you had to do was ask."
One long hand reached out to his own clenched fist, her cool fingers gently prying his apart. His heartbeat sang in his ears as her palm met his, and then her other hand was on his shoulder, almost as though they were dancing.
Except no one got this close in a waltz.
It was so easy to tip his head and meet her kiss that he instantly felt a moron for thinking it difficult. But maintaining that light, caressing touch was far too important, and it absorbed all his attention.
The rush of astonishing ecstasy buoyed his heart and gave him the confidence to kiss her again, to press his mouth more firmly against hers, to draw in the tiny sound she made when her lips parted just enough to admit him. Fear evaporated in that heat, and they made of themselves one silhouette, Grissom realizing vaguely that her hair was as soft to the touch as he remembered. Then she pulled away to plant a tiny kiss on his jawline, and Grissom, resenting the loss of her mouth, realigned them properly.
When they calmed, it seemed ridiculous that fear could have taken such hold on him, but a wiser part of Grissom whispered warnings; nothing so tenacious could be banished with just one victory. Still, at the moment he had his arms full of Sara, and that was what mattered.
She let out a long shaky sigh against his throat, and Grissom tightened his grip, feeling the slight tickle of moisture below his ear and regretting the cause. "I was right about your courage," he murmured.
Sara shrugged a little, and her voice was husky and lazy as she pulled her head back. "I had less to lose."
At last he could meet her gaze without trying to hide, and envy the clarity there. "I don't know about that." A gentle pressure, and her head went back to rest on his shoulder; he felt a shudder ripple through her, a shedding of tension. "Will you let me apologize?"
She chuckled, a rich sound. "How about we take it as read?"
"...All right." It should have dismayed him, but it didn't.
They were fortunate, Grissom knew, that no one came through the door and found them. Eventually Sara stirred again. "Griss?"
"Mm?" He pressed his lips to the soft spot just in front of her ear, delicately drawing in her taste.
"I'm going to ask you something, and I don't want you to panic, because you've done it before, okay?"
"Okay." She didn't seem to realize that she could ask anything of him at the moment, and he would accede without hesitation.
Sara kissed his nose, an unexpected light smack that made him blink. "Will you take me home?"
Grissom regarded her, smiling the way she always should, and knew she would always be ready to help him, whether he asked or not. "Of course."
And it was.