Summary: How can a relationship with Grissom be worse than longing for one? Sara insists on an answer. When Grissom complies, the words 'Be careful what you wish for,' prove true.
Timeline: Takes place during CSI Season Six. Minor spoilers for Still Life, Daddy's Little Girl, Kiss Kiss Bye Bye, and Pirates of the Third Reich.
Disclaimer: Nope, not mine. No silver has crossed my palm, either.
A/N: Sincere thanks to csishewolf, brandie, dirtyvirgin, and csinut214 for their thoughtful comments during the writing of this story. Your suggestions made this story richer, when you could get me to take your advice…BWAHahahahaha. Officially unbetaed. Many eyes have sifted through these words, but mistakes are my own.
He didn't call. He promised he would call.
Once upon a time, her fantasy was that she and Grissom would get together, make love, and the way before them would be clear. All the waiting would be over. No more longing for his touch, his voice, his tender attention. It would be better…it would be wonderful. How could it be worse?
It all started on a not-quite-date in late winter. The gang had planned to meet at Franks Coffee Shop for breakfast: one by one everyone but Grissom and Sara dropped out. They sat in the little booth – tiny even, meant for two – making brittle conversation about work. Eventually talk dribbled down to nothing and they were left in uncomfortable silence. Somewhere around their third cups of coffee Grissom shook himself mentally and relaxed, taking Sara in for the first time. He looked into her eyes and smiled, "Let's get out of here, shall we?"
There was such presence to the man. Sara could hold her own with anyone, yet with him she practically struggled for breath. Was it love that stole her clarity? The feelings that burned through her at his slightest touch? Years of longing stirred the mix until she lost her ability to focus, her brain fogged and floundering. He caught her completely unaware when he kissed her in the parking lot, "May I take you home?"
After that, time spun out as years of tension exploded in flying clothes and seeking mouths.
She hadn't meant to, but she'd said she loved him. As soon as the words left her lips something shifted in his eyes. The mood was broken. Even though they'd made love again that morning, he'd left while she was sleeping. Sara woke wondering if she could live with getting her heart's desire.
He'd always arrive on her doorstep unannounced. She would invite him in, unable to resist him standing there looking faintly sheepish. They would make small talk for five, maybe ten minutes, and then his eyes would shift into the hungry expression that melted her insides. Things would get hazy after that as they came together, devouring one another. Sometimes they'd nap a little afterwards, but usually he would withdraw once his breathing slowed, muttering something about why he had to leave or that he'd call her later. He'd kiss her forehead and then be gone.
In the weeks since they'd been together, she'd fought to explain his behavior and failing that, excuse it. This was Grissom, an enigma wrapped in the skin of a man. Part of her knew she would never understand the whys of him. She thought she could handle it – could have if only he'd given her something. How could he still be holding her at arm's length when they shared a bed four or five times a week? Some days she felt like a sponge, aching to absorb even the tiniest bit of him – years of thirst took a long time to quench. When she caught herself crying into her pillow each time he left, she realized the dream was broken. Having him but not having him…even she could not wait this out.
Sara thought of herself as a 'glass half full' person. When she finally let herself look at the cup he'd given her, it was half full all right…full of dust. She had to let go, let him go. It was the only way she'd survive.
Sara had just gotten home when she heard a soft knock on her door. She turned and frowned.
Grissom. Had to be.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door. Grissom looked up at the movement, meeting her gaze with a questioning look. He smiled slightly. "Hey," he said.
"Hi, Grissom…come on in."
He knew something was up. For a man so bad at relationships, his antennae were long sometimes. Sara watched him cross to the couch and sit down, sighing when he looked at her again. Her eyes widened; it had almost sounded like a sigh of relief.
Shoving some magazines and journals out of her way, she sat directly across from him on the coffee table.
When she didn't speak right away, he did. "You need to talk to me, don't you, Sara?"
After a startled pause, she said, "Yes."
All he said was, "OK."
He retreated into himself then. She realized this was going to be like climbing a mountain of glass – long and hard, with no places to rest. "Oh, Grissom," she thought, "How am I ever going to say goodbye to you?" All her rehearsed speeches flew out of her head, leaving only the reason she needed them: this hurt too much…it hurt more than she loved him.
"What am I going to say, Griss?" she asked.
There was no guardrail on her heart yet, so when his ocean eyes pierced her she nearly fell, but she managed to pull herself back this time.
"You're going to tell me you can't do this anymore," he said quietly.
Words failed her utterly. All she could do was nod.
He stood suddenly, nearly knocking her off her perch on the coffee table. "Forgive me, Sara. I was weak. I didn't mean to hurt you."
His hand was on the doorknob, turning it to free himself, when he heard her voice behind him, "Why did you?"
Tension in the room was off the scale with all the unsaid words and unexpressed feelings. He stopped where he was, turning to look at her over his shoulder.
"Why did you hurt me? You're not that kind of man."
"Sara…I…I have to go. I do love you."
She managed to cross the few steps to the door, placing her hand on his shoulder. "You love me? You're kidding, right? This is how you treat someone you love? Take what you want, giving nothing in return?"
He bent his head to brush his cheek lightly against her hand, then turned to face her wrath. "Yes."
Sara looked at him in disbelief. What was he saying?
"Look, I don't know what else to say. I should go," he said, but his eyes were unguarded…waiting.
"So that's it? You're just going to run?"
He didn't speak. He looked away and waited for her to release him.
"This isn't you, Grissom. You're not a coward. What is it?"
"Leave it alone, Sara."
Just over a year ago he'd been the one pushing her to let go. She'd managed to do it, why couldn't he? How long could he stand on the edge like this?
"Don't do this," she said. "Don't make it all for nothing."
"Why, Sara? Give it up," he whispered.
"Well, I think you owe me. You said you loved me. Explain to me why two people who love each other can't share more than a bed, and why something we both seem to want should hurt so much."
He was quiet a long time. "I don't know if I can," he said finally.
She stopped herself from caressing his cheek. "When you can, I will listen."
He disappeared down the hall leaving a tiny bit of hope between them.
Grissom listened to the same song over and over. He knew his neighbors must be sick of it but he needed to hear it more than they needed relief. The tune had caught him by chance on the radio one day many years ago. Sort of upbeat…snappy even…but toward the end, the lyrics grabbed him so hard he had to pull his car over:
That's when it hit me
It's the things you love the most
You end up pushing away
And it ain't the times you lose
It's the dreams coming true
That make you most afraid.
After work he'd gone out and found the album: Larry John McNally. "Never heard of him," he'd thought. In the years since those words had risen in his mind a hundred times, almost always when he wanted something badly and was terrified of losing it. The truth in them gave him courage in the face of fear. Now they came to mind when he thought of Sara and what a tangled up mess he'd made of that.
He was past the precipice, at least – he was in free fall, having made his choice. Taking a sip of his drink, Grissom looked down at the journal in his lap, scanning the handwritten text for clues…this all seemed so far away…yet he could remember writing these entries and the events that prompted them. The details were clear, it was the meaning he was having trouble with.
Days passed and Sara wondered if Grissom would ever mention their last conversation. She was sure he wanted to tell her something…several times he'd looked about to speak before turning abruptly and retreating to his office. She was curious, certainly, but the freedom she felt from the weight of their non-relationship was sweet; she had no desire to pursue it or him. Grissom knew what he had to do – he would either do it or not. Sara still felt sad, but she could go on now. Smiling a little at that new understanding she pushed through the door into the locker room.
It wasn't until she closed the locker, adjusting her jacket to sit properly, that she saw the envelope on the floor. Her name was written on the front in Grissom's firm hand. Staring at it like it was some exotic thing instead of a simple #10 envelope, Sara sat on the bench between the lockers. "I can't do this here," she thought, letting her fingertips glide over the smooth paper. She folded the note quickly and stuffed it into her back pocket.
Once in her car, she ripped it open and took out the paper inside.
If you are still willing to listen, call me.
She pulled out her phone and speed dialed his number.
"Grissom," he answered.
"I'm still willing to listen," she said.
"Can you meet me tonight? We both have the night off."
"OK," she answered. "Where?"
"My place? 7 o'clock?"
"OK. I'll see you then," she said and hung up.
Grissom closed his phone and let out a breath.
The hours crawled for both of them. Sara debated whether she really needed to put herself through this, deciding to scrap the meeting a dozen times before getting in her car and driving to his townhouse. Grissom tried to distract himself by reading a new journal, but his old ones, the ones stacked neatly on the coffee table, kept whispering his name – forcing him to pick them up to reread marked passages. The understanding that had made him leave that note for Sara didn't seem quite so clear now.
As it had so often over the past several days, a little Wild Turkey helped take the edge off. Settling on the couch, wrapped in words from the past, he sipped and reflected until soft knocking on the door interrupted his reading.
"Hi, Sara," he said, stepping back to let her in.
He indicated she should sit on the love seat under the window. As she made herself comfortable, he asked, "Can I get you anything?"
"No thanks," she said, looking up at him uneasily.
He went to the kitchen island and fixed himself another drink. Turning back to her, he wondered how to start this. No answers were revealed as he swirled the liquid around in his glass. "Are you sure I can't get you something?" he said, vamping for time.
"No, Grissom…I'm good."
Crossing to the love seat, he sat at the far end and set his glass down on the coffee table. "I don't have people in my house that often."
Sara watched him search for words and wondered if he was going to be able to do this. The man she knew at work was confidently able to deal with complete strangers: suspects, law enforcement personnel, witnesses; that was the trouble – he moved easily on that stage but not this one, with her.
"You know, I don't usually examine my motivations…my path has been set for a long time, Sara," he said heavily. "But, I've made some terrible mistakes with you…and you were right when you said I'm not that kind of man. I'm thoughtless sometimes but I'm not cruel."
Sara said, "I know that."
He looked at her, questioning, "Do you? I did take what I needed from you. The things I said to you the other day were heartless."
"I still want to know why, Grissom. I get that you have regrets…help me understand why you did all that."
He took a deep breath and tried to order his thoughts. "Why do you think it's so unusual for me to have people here?"
Sara thought a moment and said, "Well, I always assumed you were very private."
"Good guess, but wrong. I've always spent a lot of time alone. I like it...I read, I study. I don't think about it much…it's just the way I am. But I do keep people out purposely, Sara, and that isn't how I am, it's how I've chosen to be. There's a difference."
"OK," she said.
"Why did I make that choice? That's what I want to explain to you."
Grissom leaned forward and took a journal from the stack in front of Sara. It was a hard bound composition book, the type school children used to use. "I started keeping a journal when I was nine years old. Mom had done it when she was a girl. The summer my dad died she encouraged me to write about it…to write down my memories of him."
"I'm sorry, Grissom," she said, a little shocked at this revelation.
"Thanks," he said, absently. "I should also tell you my mom is deaf…lost her hearing when she was eight. That's why I know how to sign."
Sara now had two important pieces of information about Grissom. "This explains a lot," she thought, looking at him there, cradling the book in his hands. She noticed the muscles in his jaw were knotting and unknotting.
"Do you want to stop?" she asked.
He glanced at her thankfully, but said, "No…I want to do this, Sara. This is my new choice."
Opening the journal, he rifled through several pages until he found the one he wanted. She could see it was filled edge to edge with penciled text and diagrams. "That was the same year I started doing necropsies on animals and birds I found on the beach. When Dad died, I tried to learn about death. He'd taught me about science…he was a botanist…and I was trying to understand what happened," he said, passing the book to her, indicating a passage she should read.
"Sister Mary Patrick talked about souls in religion class today. She said you can't see somebody's soul when they're alive. It goes to Heaven when you die. I asked do animals have souls. She said not. I asked her what keeps animals alive then. She got kind of mad and wouldn't answer me. Dad told me about the scientific method. He said you use it to prove things with experiments, even things you can't see. Like that time he showed me about balloons and air and how you can't see air but it's there and you can prove it's there when you blow up a balloon. I don't know about souls, though. I don't know how to make experiments to prove where souls go or if animals have them. I really miss Dad."
"Asking the big questions, even then," she said, handing the book back to him.
"I started to rely on myself more when Dad died. It wasn't a conscious choice. I kept trying to get people to explain what happened to him, but no one would tell me. Mom wouldn't talk about it, the nuns at school wouldn't say anything other than he was in Heaven…there wasn't anyone else. I figured the best way to find out what I wanted to know was to read science books and do experiments. Like Dad showed me."
"To follow the evidence," she smiled.
"Yeah. It just so happened I was really good at it…the science. There was always some fact or theory just around the corner…"
Sara said, "I felt that way in high school…I filled up my life with it."
Grissom looked up at that, a whiff of their old camaraderie filling the space between them, draining the anxiety he'd been struggling with.
"Exactly. I had a few friends I still played ball with, but I spent more and more time chasing science. Eventually, science was all there was."
"High school must have been rough," she said.
"I was a ghost. I went because I had to. All my other time was spent hanging out at the L.A. Coroner's office. I was sort of an unofficial intern…I helped them out whenever they had a case that involved animals. I'd dissected so many, I'd taught myself a lot by this time. That's where I met Phillip Gerard."
Sara frowned, "So you said."
"He wasn't always like that, Sara. In those days he spent a lot of time with me, showed me things…let me help out around the lab. He was a good guy. I don't know what happened to him after I left L.A."
Grissom got up then to freshen his drink and give himself time to think about the next journal, "Want anything?"
"Water?" she asked.
Once he'd poured himself another bourbon, he got a bottle of water out of the fridge and handed it to her. He sat back down on the couch and picked up the next journal on the stack.
"I wrote this the summer I turned sixteen. I've marked some passages…it'll make more sense if you read the entries and ask questions after, OK?" he said, handing her the spiral bound notebook.
She took it gingerly. Remembering her own diaries and hoping it wasn't about a violent trauma, she asked, "What am I going to be reading about, Grissom?"
"A girl," he said simply.
She looked at him curiously, "A girl?"
"Yeah…a girl. Read."
Lyrics to 'Just Like Paradise' – ©1981 by Larry John McNally
To Be Continued… Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 to follow shortly.