Title: Sweet Painted Lady
Summary: Many have used her and many still do, there's a place in the world for a woman like you.
Disclaimer: I own nothing; CSI: and all of its affiliates belong to CBS, Anthony Zuiker and Jerry Bruckheimer. I also do not own the song 'Sweet Painted Lady' by Elton John.
Author's Notes: This is a one-shot that I wanted to try and write. It's sort of a risk, as I'm sure I'll get many flames saying that it is dreadfully OOC and that it would never happen, but I wanted to attempt to write it, and really, that's all that matters to me ;) But I hope that some of you guys enjoy it!
Gil Grissom had officially met his limits for the night. It had been another long shift, yet, then again, it was always a long shift, and he was feeling a migraine coming on, those of which granted their presence in Mr. Grissom's sinuses about once a year. He really wasn't surprised that he was getting another migraine as Ecklie and the Sheriff had been barking orders at him the entire day, calling him once every hour preventing him from actually getting any work done ("You have to feed the press, Gil," or "Give me something probative to run on."). This was one of those nights where Gil Grissom was not ashamed to admit that he had reached the end of his rope and that he was exhausted. He was a man in his fifties, after all.
After bidding adieu to the rest of his team that remained at the lab to try and forward the case a bit more, the entomologist/CSI supervisor anxiously headed out the double glass doors to his Tahoe. He just wanted to go home to his condo- as Catherine called it- take one of the pills in the orange prescription bottle his doctor had given him, maybe eat something and collapse in his bed on top of the covers (if he even made it that far before collapsing). Getting inside his Tahoe, he closed the door and buckled himself in, turning the key in the ignition to start the car up. Backing out of the parking lot of the Las Vegas Crime Lab Metro Police Department (a name much too long if Gil did say so himself), he turned the radio on in attempt to try and keep himself awake and alert enough to make the drive home.
Grissom didn't know how many tape lifts and DNA swabs he had looked at today, but it was too many if you asked him. His eyes were burning and the stinging pain he felt in his head that traveled down the sides of his forehead and ventured into his nasal area wasn't helping any. They were running short on help today as Nicky was out in court for the preliminary hearing of a murder case he handled solo and Sara had taken the day off. Grissom didn't call Sara in as he knew that she most likely needed her rest, perhaps more so than any of other CSIs, so he made it his priority to try and handle the case as best he could with his limited help as the day shift didn't seem to be offering their services. He didn't know why, but for some reason it was a bit strange coming into work and not being greeted by the tall lively brunette sitting in the break room with a mug of Greg's secret stash of coffee in-hand.
And in this Grissom could not help but ponder how peculiar a creature Sara Sidle was. She was beautiful and intelligent- perhaps even more intelligent than he himself was- and was one of the only women he had ever come across that was able to make him question everything he believed in and ever known. Sometimes Grissom just wished he could watch her for one day… just to see maybe if he could figure out what was going on in her mind. Yet, then again, no one ever knew what was going on in Sara Sidle's mind; she was a 1,000-piece puzzle where the box with the picture of what it made was lost, a Rubik's Cube that no one could solve.
Grissom came to question himself when he first set eyes on her; there she was, this perfect, beautiful woman that he could have a life with- that he could be happy with. But in order to do so he had to risk everything- his job, his years of staying up late at night nose-deep in a piece of forensic literature. He had to risk everything that he had worked for to come to this point in his successful life in order to have a relationship- the one that she wanted and the one he knew he strongly desired- with this woman. He was trying to convince himself that risking everything was not worth it.
But deep down inside he knew that was not the truth.
Grissom sighed, rubbing his right temple with his fingers resting on the steering wheel as he turned onto the Vegas Strip on his route home. Why did Vegas have to have all of these bright lights, all of these loud street attractions that went on and on 24/7? It was only adding to the pounding that he felt in his head and he knew that the traffic along the Strip wasn't going to hurry up on his account. Finally having quite enough of this, he pulled out of the stopped line of cars and turned onto a different street- a street empty yet a street that he knew would probably not take him to where he needed to go.
Pulling onto the street Grissom's eyes and sinuses were granted a break as most of the streetlights were either broken or not turned on in this particular street. There wasn't much sound other than some muffled music blaring from inside one of the clubs on the left side of the road. Grissom didn't spend much time along the Strip unless someone died, so he had never really been around this part of the town before. About to stop at a stop sign, he saw something that made him stop dead in his tracks.
A car, but not just any car, he noted the LVPD sticker positioned in the right bottom corner of the windshield. No members of his team had a case along this part of town, so why would their car be parked here? Catherine and Warrick were still at the lab, he knew that for a fact as they were going over crime-scene photos when he left… and it was early in the morning so he doubted that any of the day-shift was out and about at this hour. Looking at the license plate numbers, Grissom practically broke the brakes pedal on his car as he slammed his foot down.
What would she be doing here…? Grissom didn't think Sara Sidle was the type of person who wandered around late at night along the Strip to go to clubs, and this was her day off so she shouldn't even be out at this hour! She should be home in bed sleeping soundly until the shrill shrieking sound of her pager going off awoke her from her glorious slumber. Curious, Grissom decided to go investigate. If she was here, there was actually a good chance that she could be drinking… and he didn't mean to sound like a parental figure, but he wasn't going to let her start drinking again, even if it was 'just one beer'. Even though he denied it, he worried about her on a daily-basis.
Pulling his car over on the side of the road across the street from the club her car was parked in front of, Grissom turned the car off and got out, almost forgetting to lock all of the doors as he made his way across the street. Looking at the sign to the club, Grissom felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach; this was a strip club, a place along the Vegas Strip that was definitely not in moderation where the sexual desires of both men and women were portrayed and fulfilled in more of a… public manner. Why the hell would Sara be here…?
Grissom swallowed, almost afraid to find out what it was that he would see behind the doors leading inside as he inched closer to the building. The building looked disgusting from the outside; pictures of half-naked women, miss pelt signs along the gated windows. The pictures on the outside of the building were enough to tell Grissom that Sara didn't belong here; he knew for a fact that she despised degradation such as this among the female race. She was a strong woman and she wouldn't be caught dead in such a place on her own time.
Shaking thoughts of Sara… naked… out of his mind, Grissom wrapped his fingers around the brass doorknob leading inside that was barely still attached to the door. Cracking it open he was immediately assaulted by the musky heavy smell of alcohol and cigarettes. Up until this point he had forgotten momentarily about his hideous migraine until the blaring music that had been muffled from the outside became even louder as he ventured inside. The walls were a light white color that had scuff marks and smudges and smears of… well, Grissom didn't want to know, all over it.
Broken glass and cigarette butts littered the carpet around the bar area and Grissom immediately looked up from the floor to see if he could spot Sara among any of the people sitting around the bar. No luck- the other people that were sitting at the bar were the guys who didn't have enough money left for a lap dance, but had enough left for another shot or two. Swallowing hard at what he had already seen Grissom walked further into the club trying to look out for any indication that Sara was here. This wasn't the sort of place that a woman like her should be, he thought, it was dangerous… because he was pretty sure that she wouldn't be doing any of the things the people who worked here did of her own accord.
Suddenly the music in the club became even louder as lights flashed on and off in a strobe-effect. Grissom had absolutely no idea what was going on, but he noted that everyone else in the club seemed to become increasingly excited as the lights continued to flash. Maybe they were high as a kite and the lights were like watching The Wall by Pink Floyd while on a trip, Grissom thought. He didn't know.
But Grissom did not have to wallow in his oblivious state for long as almost immediately after the thought crossed his mind a door in the far back corner of the building opened and some people walked out. These were the strippers, he assumed, and he swallowed as they poured out onto the stage that looked more like a fire station than anything else. Sara wouldn't… no, she couldn't be doing what these people were doing. She would never do something like this. At that moment Grissom mentally cursed himself for not paying as much attention to her as he should have.
After Debbie Marlin Grissom really started to question his feelings for the younger woman, but he had been afraid of what he would discover about him if he ventured too far into his own soul. He knew that once he had crossed that line with someone there was no going back, and he didn't want to make a mistake.
God, Gil, he thought to himself, a mistake?
The cheers of the pathetic drunken men sitting along the stage brought him back to reality as he averted his attention back to the people coming out of the back. Grissom was beginning to relax a little as he didn't recognize any of the women coming out of the door, let alone recognizing them as Sara. About to move onto a different part of the club to continue his search, Grissom felt something catch in his throat as the last woman came out of the door. His heart dropped deep into his gut and he felt sick to his stomach. What many of the men in this building saw as arousing he saw as sickening.
He watched as her long brown hair hung just below her shoulder blades as she emerged, her long legs wrapping around one of the poles positioned in the middle of the stage. Her perfectly-tanned skin was left almost completely gloriously bare to the crowd of people huddled around the stage to watch. It was Sara, wearing something that didn't even classify as clothing or degrading; it was so much more than that. Why would she stoop to such a level, Grissom thought? She was a respected member of the police department; she most certainly did not belong in a place like this.
Grissom watched, his breath still caught in his throat as the drunken men fixed their eyes on the uncovered parts of her body with much amusement. She was obviously the crowd favorite. Grissom felt some sort of anger building inside of him as the men watched her, mentally doing things- things that only a lover should do- with her in their minds. Sick sons of bitches, Grissom thought, get your eyes off of her! Grissom knew, though, that his thoughts would not stop any of the men from looking at her if he did not make them vocal.
Grissom knew that Sara had done reckless things before- putting herself in the line of a psychotic rapist as bait, trying to remove the door of a closet filled with pipe bombs, running into an uncleared apartment after almost being blown up, but this… was just stupid. He knew for a fact that Sara was not stupid, so why the hell was she doing something like this? Grissom could tell that there were tons of men in this building that would love to take her home and do whatever they wanted with her, as judging by the bulges visible in their pants, and Sara was so insecure about this sort of thing, so why was she bringing herself out of her comfort zone so…?
Grissom didn't know exactly why she was doing what she was doing, but he did know one thing- he wasn't going to just stand there and not do anything about it. He was not going to let her continue to flaunt herself in front of a bunch of possibly dangerous men.
As Sara made her way down the steps of the stage leading to the back, which immediately made all of them in the building groan with pent-up arousal and disappointment to see her go, Grissom swiftly made his way around the stage to meet up with her once she was on the ground. He didn't even notice the bartender telling him that he couldn't go back there as he made his way toward her; he didn't care about anything else right now. All he cared about was Sara and getting to the bottom of this act of… what, exactly? Rebellion?
Walking over to the back of the building, a dark area only lit up by a few lights in the dressing and changing rooms, Grissom saw Sara with her back turned to him in the far corner of one of the rooms, leaning down to get something. Without another thought about it Grissom walked over to her and stopped just beside her, waiting to see if she noticed his presence. Maybe… maybe he should just go, he thought. She could take care of herself, right? Grissom shook his head; no, he had to make sure that she stopped this and that she got home safely. He would not handle a case with her name on the victim's profile.
As she stood up straight and turned around, Grissom wasn't so sure who was more surprised- Sara or himself. She looked absolutely mortified that he had seen her.
Oh dear god, what's he doing here? Sara thought to herself, looking around as if searching for some way to get out of there. "…Grissom…" she managed to whisper, backing up slowly toward the door. Now she was cold, and it wasn't just because of her limited clothing. She felt sick to her stomach, just like Grissom had when he first noticed what she was doing in this place.
"…What the hell are you doing?" Grissom asked, not bothering to greet her. He was furious; why would she do something like this? It was idiotic and humiliating. Look at her, he told himself, immediately regretting it as he felt himself getting a little warm. No, don't look at her. Don't you dare look at her, Gil. His mind told him something, but his eyes were telling him something else. His eyes slowly traveled down her body, looking at her flat stomach and her firm legs, meeting up at her sweat-slicked chest. Quickly shaking his head, he remembered why he was there. This is not the way I want to see you, Sara. Not like this. I want it to be special.
"I…." Sara froze, feeling the words catch in her throat. She felt like she had to explain herself to a teacher for being late to class one morning. "…What are you doing here…?" she whispered.
"What the hell are you doing, Sara?" Grissom repeated firmly, taking a step toward her. He smelt her breath to check if she was drunk. She wasn't. He wasn't going to let her run away from him; he needed answers and he needed them now.
"…I… I'm…" Sara stuttered, choking on her words once again. Why did you do this? Why?
"Sara, I need answers!" Grissom said, much louder than he intended to. "Why… why would you do something like this? Something so stupid?" he asked her. "This… this isn't right, honey…" he whispered.
"I… I'm… a whore," she whispered.
"What…?" Grissom asked, eyes widening. "Oh, honey… no you're not, why would you think something like that?" he asked her, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Honey, that's ridiculous…"
"It's ridiculous?" Sara repeated, scoffing, a bitter smile crossing her face. Her eyes were tear-stained with shame and embarrassment. "If I'm not a whore, then why was I my father's sex kitten at six?" she asked. The words made Grissom's heart skip a beat. They just weren't sinking in.
"…Sara…" Grissom whispered, taking a step closer to her. God, Sara… "Honey, that doesn't—"
"I thought it was normal," Sara said, trying to keep a straight face. Angry tears threatened to fall down her face as she continued to speak. "I thought what he was doing to me was normal, Grissom, and I could've said no, but I didn't!" she whispered. "He said we were going to play a game, so I told him I'd play with him."
"Sara…" Grissom swallowed. Honey, that wasn't your fault… you were a little kid, for god's sake! You had no clue what was going on! You must've looked so excited when he said it was a game… you must've thought that you were going to play something like hide and seek or catch.
"He told me that I was a whore and that no one else would ever love me the way he did," Sara whispered. "And my mother…?" she asked, laughing dryly. "She didn't do a damn thing. So who cares if I do this?"
Grissom narrowed his eyes, gritting his teeth as the anger built inside of him once again.
"So just leave me alone, Grissom," Sara said, moving to walk away.
Grissom did not know what overcame him at that moment; it was like adrenaline on overdrive. As she made a move to go back on the stage, everything Grissom had ever doubted, everything he had ever thought was too good or too impossible to happen was now clear to him. He stepped in front of her like a brick wall and grabbed her arms, pushing her up against the wall so she couldn't go anywhere. "I care," he whispered. "And you know damn well that whatever your father did to you, and what he made you do is not your fault," Grissom said firmly.
Sara looked at him with tear-stained eyes, a look of fear, innocence, pain and sadness etched on her face. "If I knew that…" she whispered. "We wouldn't be having this conversation," she whispered, finally letting the tears she had tried so hard to hold back fall down her face as her bottom lip started to quiver.
"Oh honey…" Grissom whispered, loosening the grip he had around her wrists as she sunk against his body, burying her face against his chest as she sobbed. "Honey…" he whispered, wrapping his arms tightly around her shoulders. "Sara, that wasn't your fault, sweetheart…" he whispered to her, resting is head on her shoulder.
"How is it not my fault?" Sara whispered between sobs.
"Honey, how is it your fault?" Grissom asked, throwing the question out to her. "Honey, you were only a little girl… you thought that you were going to be playing a fun game with your father, not that he was going to do… that," he whispered.
"N-No, but… he said…" Sara whispered, shaking her head in disbelief. "He said that—" Sara raised her head up to look at Grissom and that was when she saw it. He was crying. Not for himself, and not because he was mad at her… he was crying for her. He was crying for how much pain and suffering she had to endure at such a young age. The streaks of tears running down her face were all for her.
"No, honey," Grissom whispered. "He was lying to you," he told her. "He wanted you to think that it was your fault so that you would do what he wanted," he whispered, the words digging into him like daggers. He couldn't even begin to imagine how terrified she must've felt.
Sara let out another sob, burying her face against his chest even tighter, clinging to the loose ends of his shirt. "Oh my god, Grissom," she whispered. "Oh my god…"
"Shh…" Grissom told her, gently rubbing her back with his hand. "Shh… it's okay…"
"I'm so sorry," Sara whispered. "I'm so sorry…"
"Shh…" Grissom told her once again. "Shh… it's okay, Sara…"
"No one cares…" she whispered. "Why… why should—"
"I care, honey," Grissom whispered again, gently lifting her chin up with his thumb to look into her eyes. "Sara, I care," he told her. "I love you, sweetheart, and I don't want you to do this."
Sara fought back another wave of tears, her bottom lip quivering again until she gave in and let her grief and embarrassment overtake her. "I love you, too," she whispered into his chest. "So much…" she whispered.
"Honey, I'm going to take you to my apartment, okay…?" Grissom told her. He didn't want to leave her alone, and he was pretty sure she didn't want to be alone, either. "I'm going to pick you up…" he said, taking his jacket off and wrapping it around her shoulders. He didn't want any more of those sick bastards sneaking peeks at her on their way out, and he was sure she must be freezing.
"Okay," Sara whispered, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. Grissom scooped her up into his arms, letting her rest her head against his chest as she clung to his jacket, slowly closing her eyes. Once she was in his arms, he headed out of the club, ignoring the glances the drunken men gave him on his way out. The bartender said something to him, but he could not hear him. Nothing else mattered.
"I'm so sorry, Grissom," Sara whispered again once they were outside.
"It's okay, honey," Grissom told her. "You have nothing to be sorry for," he whispered, planting a kiss on her forehead as he walked toward his car, opening up the passenger's side door and setting her down inside. Once she was inside, he buckled her in and tucked the jacket tightly around her, making sure she was warm before closing the door and jogging around to the driver's side. Opening his own door, he got inside and turned the key in the ignition, turning the heater on low just incase she was still cold.
As they started off toward Grissom's home, he noticed that she was starting to drift off to sleep. Good, she needed it, he was sure of that. Reaching over with his free hand, he brushed a strand of hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ear as she slowly fell asleep. He couldn't help but smile a little as he turned his attention back toward the road, just then noticing that the radio was on.
"So she lays down beside me again…My sweet painted lady, the one with no name…"
Grissom listened to the song for a minute.
"Many have used her and many still do…"
Not anymore, Grissom thought, looking back over at Sara.
"There's a place in the world for a woman like you."
Yes there is, Grissom thought, pulling the car over to the side of the road for a moment, despite the fact that they were only about a block or two from his home. Turning the car off, Grissom reached over and unbuckled Sara, scooping her up into his arms and setting her down in his lap, tightly holding her and never wanting to let go. "Right here," he whispered, leaning his head against hers.
"Uhve ooh…" Sara mumbled, on the brink of a deep slumber.
Grissom smiled a little, wiping away a tear from his eye. "I love you, too."