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.
I want to thank everyone who has stuck with me as this story spun itself out. The thoughts you have so generously shared with me for each chapter mean a great deal to me. I do not know what it is about these characters...whether it is the characters themselves or the composite portraits William Petersen and Jorja Fox have created...whatever it is, they are compelling. Such subtley, so much left unsaid. I actually feel driven sometimes to fill in the blanks.
Of the stories I have written, this is my favorite. Every compliment, every thought, every wish for more touched my heart. I hope you all enjoyed the ending (and let me tell you how difficult it is to end a story like this). If I must end it, though, it is good to end it among friends who like it as much as I do.
"Son of a bitch!" Dropping the book on the couch, she got up to pace around the room. "I can't wait to hear his explanation for this," she thought, remembering what he'd said about being over Halyn. Her pacing carried her into the kitchen where she slammed around the makings for another cup of tea. She turned the gas on under the kettle then walked back to the couch and stood, hands on hips, staring down at the journal. As her agitation waned, she realized the answer was right in front of her…Grissom would have made at least one entry about a call from Halyn.
Going backward from the time they'd gotten together, page by page, she finally found what she was looking for.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005 – Halyn called today. I haven't seen or heard from her in more than 20 years. I was so shocked, all I could say was, 'How did you find me?' Like an echo from the past, she told me she looked me up in the book…or rather, called to apologize for having hurt me so all those years ago.
I was speechless. In a daze, I mumbled something socially acceptable like, 'You don't have to apologize,' and immediately felt like an idiot.
The purpose of her call was to try to make amends for what she did to me. She said, 'Gil, even though I know there is no way to take it back, I'm trying to heal the damage I have done…make things right. I'm not asking for forgiveness.'
I still didn't know what to say. And then I did. I asked her why.
She said she'd married Hank to get away from home and then landed herself in a worse mess with a baby to raise. Back when she left Hank she hadn't meant to run to me…she just wanted someone to talk to. Even with her mom sober things at home were a trial, on top of the demands of being a mother. She had no one until she found me that day. In the beginning, she said, it was as if no time had passed since the summer we met. Once we made love, she said, she put all her troubles in a box and tried to start a new life.
As time went on she realized there was a dead place inside her. Every time she thought about it, though, it pulled her away from me. I loved her so much, she said…and she was safe and we were good together…she was scared to risk the only comfort she'd ever known. When she was stressed from trying to make it on her own, from dealing with her crazy mother or feeling alone raising Jeffrey, she could count on me – her island of peace.
I didn't demand much from her, she said. I was so busy with school and the Coroner's office, it was like an extended honeymoon…stolen moments, really. It was easy for her to just enjoy what we had and deny that dead place, but it would creep up on her, she said, every time I talked about the future. She'd look at me and realize she could never give back the love I gave her. But she was selfish, she said, and couldn't bear to give it up if that meant being alone again.
When she met Frank, something happened. They didn't mean to get involved but they couldn't help it. With him, she said, she felt fully alive for the first time since her divorce. She told herself, 'you can't help who you love,' until she realized I was going to be the one to pay for it.
I didn't say anything for awhile. Finally, I said, 'Halyn, I hated you for a long time – blamed you for ruining what we had. I shut down when you left me…I decided to keep everyone out so no one else could hurt me. And no one has, but it's cost me,' and even as I said that I was thinking of Sara. How many years have I wasted with Sara because of this?
We chatted a bit after that. She and Frank broke up years ago, she said, not long after they lost a child – a little girl. Jeffrey is in the music business, fronting a band that's having some success in Europe. He's in Germany, married with two kids that Halyn doesn't get to see as often as she'd like. Professionally, she's analyzing subsonic vocalizations large mammals make during mating, like elephants and rhinoceroses. She laughed and said she works for Jim Fowler, the guy Marlin Perkins on Wild Kingdom used to send unarmed into the field to face large angry animals. She finally got married again a few years ago to Jack Masters, a guy she works with at the St. Louis Zoo. She still does photography on the side, portraits mostly. When I asked if she'd ridden the Boss at Six Flags St. Louis, she surprised me and said she hadn't ridden a roller coaster in years.
Conversation wound down after that. She said she'd seen me in the news from time to time, clearly doing well, a star in my field. I told her I was fine and thanked her for calling.
Then it was over. I was shocked to realize I wasn't angry anymore. I find myself hoping she and her husband are happy together. Imagine that.
You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well – .Lewis B. Smedes
Norman Cousins said, 'Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.' A choice I made in pain over 25 years ago has rendered my life empty except for my work. Can my heart have been sleeping and not dead?
I feel as if a stone has been lifted off my chest…how have I ignored it all these years? I guess I decided it didn't exist right along with Halyn, even though I put it there myself.
The screaming kettle finally got her attention as she read the last line. Leaving the journal face down on the couch to keep her place, Sara got up to fix another cup of tea. "So, Halyn called to apologize. I'd have given a lot to be a fly on the wall for that one." she thought. Tea in hand, she settled back into the cushions and read the entry again, thinking, "Grissom, you are a forgiving soul. I still hate her and I don't even know the woman."
She flipped back to the January entry she hadn't finished.
Friday, January 27, 2006 – Sara and I walked into Trace last night and caught Hodges touching up his gray with a magic marker. Sara said something like, didn't he know gray hair can be very attractive? Maybe she was talking about me.
I've been twisting in my own wind since we began, avoiding her until I find myself on her doorstep…is it possible she doesn't hate me? Or that she might forgive me?
I am a wreck, ever since Halyn called I have been unsettled. I talked about my father's death with Catherine at a scene a few weeks ago…I never do that. It's like I'm being pulled back in time…re-evaluating…re-evaluating.
Sara. What can I do to fix this mess I've made? I want to make different choices…open myself to her. But I'm still afraid. Christ, I've stared down the barrel of a gun but I can't manage to talk to the woman I love? I need help to bury the past, I think. How can I ask her to help me when I've used her like this?
Thursday, February 9, 2006 – Watched Heather unravel before my eyes over the last few days. Such strength, undone by a mad man. She would take no comfort from me but I did manage to save her from herself. I feel as though I've paid my debt to her, as if that is of any consequence now.
Dropped by Sara's place after shift. She told me this morning she can't go on like we've been. I was relieved when I thought it was finally over, but she wouldn't let me go. She wants to know why.
How am I going to explain 30 years of mistakes? She's left a door open…if I can somehow explain myself… She said she loved me. Is there that much forgiveness in her?
To state the facts frankly is not to despair the future nor indict the past. The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies and gives a faithful accounting to those whom he owes an obligation of trust – John F. Kennedy
Sunday, February 12, 2006 – I've decided to tell Sara the entire story…about Mom and Dad, about Halyn, about deciding to live a closed life. I got out my old journals over the weekend. I'm going to let her read them…the events were fresh when I made those entries…I'm hoping she'll see the gesture as a sign that I am opening myself to her, not just spinning some tale to get myself off the hook. I have abused her trust. It's going to take a lot for her to believe me.
I don't know what I have to offer her. I've lived entirely through my work for many years. If I can change – if she lets me back into her life – I will have to relearn things I abandoned 25 years ago. I will have to relearn how to love. Maybe she can teach me. Maybe we can learn together. Maybe.
The final entry was the day before he'd left that note in her locker. "I've got to hand it to you, Grissom. You've surprised me," she thought, smiling. "I don't know what I expected as an explanation from you, but this wasn't it."
Sara flipped back to the beginning of the journal, skipping around, sampling entries here and there. Apart from observations about work, many were a continuing argument with himself over whether or not he should follow his heart and start something with her. Much like the conversation she'd overheard between Grissom and Vincent Lurie several years ago, he was conscious that he'd purposely limited himself – turned away from his desire and his feelings for her. His resolve was weakening. He'd noted again and again how she'd grown, how proud he was of her for facing her past, and how his reasons for staying away had more to do with fear than any real risk to his career. If she had to guess, she'd say Halyn's call had stirred the pot, pushing him to act before he was ready.
Sara closed the book and set it on the coffee table in front of her. This was a lot to process. What Grissom had shared in his journals explained much about him. He was right when he said the new journal wouldn't explain why he'd left her every time they'd made love. How could it? He didn't know why he'd done it himself. He'd known it was wrong from the start but that hadn't stopped him and she had paid the price, just as he had when Halyn left him for Frank. Apparently he'd not seen the parallels, or if he did, he hadn't written about them.
Sara toyed briefly with the idea of making Grissom wait – a little payback would certainly be fair – but starting a new relationship like that wouldn't be any better than the mess Grissom had made. Whatever happened between them, now was the time to be straight with each other.
She pulled out her phone and punched in Grissom's number.
Grissom stood at Sara's door with a feeling of déjà vu. How many times had he come here this winter, waiting for her to let him in and take him to her bed? For those hours he'd been free, on holiday from the strict life of the mind he'd chosen for himself. "I wonder if I'll ever have that freedom again," he thought as he lifted his hand to knock.
Inside the apartment, Sara closed the book she'd been reading and answered the soft knock on her door. She opened it to find Grissom standing there looking uncertain.
"Hey, Griss. Come in," she said, stepping out of the way to let him pass.
Grissom mumbled something, probably a greeting, and entered. He stood before her, hands shoved in his pockets, not sure what to do.
Sara crossed to the kitchen and turned a burner on under her kettle. "I'm going to fix myself some tea. Want some?" she said, getting out tea bags, spoons and mugs.
Grissom followed her to the kitchen, pausing at the counter. "Yes, please," he said.
Sara pushed a basket in front of him. "Take your pick. Besides the standard I have Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, and some herb blends. I think I have some Constant Comment in the cupboard…oh, and I have chamomile, too," she said, leaning against the island across from him. Seeing him with just his fingertips resting on the counter, looking sort of lost and certainly uncomfortable, she smiled. "Relax, Grissom. It's OK."
He looked up and asked, "It is?"
"Yeah, it is."
Relieved, he fumbled through the basket, choosing a packet of Irish Breakfast. While Sara tended to the whistling kettle, he unwrapped the tea bag and wondered what to do with the trash. Pouring for both of them, Sara chose chamomile and dropped the bag in her cup. She plucked the empty wrapper from Grissom's fingers as she slid a mug in front of him and handed him a spoon, disposing of the trash in a can out of sight under the counter. "Lemon? Sugar?"
"No, thanks," he said, swirling her tea bag in the hot water.
They tended their cups in companionable silence.
As Sara took her first sip, she said, "Let's sit."
Once they were both comfortable on her couch, Sara picked up Grissom's journal and handed it to him. "Thank you for sharing this with me. I never expected you to do anything like this."
Setting the book on the couch next to him, covering it with his hand, he said, "I didn't know how else to explain…"
Sara interrupted, "Look, Grissom. We got off to a bad start. I still think we can have something together, but we need to figure out how to be with each other…because if we can't find a way that doesn't hurt so much, it'll never last and…
"I want it to last, Sara," he said, interrupting her this time.
"OK," she smiled. Pointing to his journal with her chin, Sara said, "So, Halyn called last fall…to apologize."
Grissom looked down at the book under his fingers. "Yeah, she did."
"Why do you suppose she did that? You didn't say anything in your journal."
"I think she's in a Twelve Step program…are you familiar with the Twelve Steps?" he asked.
Sara thought a moment, "I know about AA and that it uses the Twelve Steps, but I don't know what they are."
"The Twelve Steps are a kind of road map to freeing yourself from an addiction. The first steps deal with surrender, accepting a Higher Power, and reevaluating your life.
"Step 8 is making a list of all the people you have harmed in your life with a willingness to make amends to each of them. Step 9 is actually making amends where you can, except where to do so would cause more harm. I think I was on Halyn's list," he said.
Sara considered this, "So you think she's in AA?"
"No, though I don't have any data to back that up. If I had to guess, I say she's in CoDA…Co-dependents Anonymous. Al-Anon is another possibility…you know, because of her mother."
"I was shocked when I read that she'd called you, Griss. After all these years…"
"Sara, I was stunned. I…erased her …years ago. Talking with her brought it all back. Then after she said she was sorry…and she was sincerely trying to make amends…I can't explain it, but the hate was gone," he said thoughtfully.
"You're a better person than I am…I'm still mad at her."
Glancing at her, frowning and serious, he smiled, "Thank you, Sara."
"We got together just about a month after she called…" Sara said, her tone not quite a question.
"Yes. I asked if I could take you home that morning after breakfast," he said, remembering.
"What happened, Grissom? I read your journal. I know you'd been debating the issue for a long time, and once we got together you couldn't face me though you clearly wanted me. This wasn't what you wanted to do…why did you make love to me and then shut me out?"
Grissom looked at her and wanted nothing more than to run. He was embarrassed to have acted like such an ass and ashamed to have hurt her. Even though he'd thought of little else for weeks, he still had no good explanation for what he'd done.
When he didn't speak right away, Sara said, "Look, Griss, I don't expect you to have all the answers. I've done things I regret and can't explain. And I'm honored you would share your journals with me…I know you've never let anyone else in this far."
She looked over at him, guarded and uneasy, so she got up from the couch and sat on the coffee table directly in front of him, taking his hands in hers. "It's important that I know you have some understanding of what happened between us. I can't trust you otherwise. It's not your character I worry about…I trust you with my life if it's about honor or justice or safety…but I can't trust you with my heart unless I believe you can be with me, with all the give and take that requires."
Grissom caressed Sara's fingers with his thumbs, studying the movement. After a moment, he looked up at her and said, "When I seriously started to consider a relationship with you…about a year ago…I was afraid. I hadn't been with anyone since Halyn – not seriously – I couldn't bear to open the door I shut so many years ago. Even though my feelings for you wouldn't leave me alone, Sara, I couldn't make myself take the leap. I thought it was too late.
"The night Halyn called, everything changed. She freed me, in a sense. My thoughts turned immediately to you…maybe now I could do it…open up and let you in.
"I thought I could that day I took you home. Making love with you was like coming home. We fit, like I always knew we would. It was wonderful and intoxicating... And then you said you loved me. I was terrified.
"I felt all the doors slamming shut again, leaving me in your arms still hungry for you but with nothing to give…and so I took more love from you and left.
"Actually letting someone in is a lot different in practice than theory, Sara. So there I was, half in and half out of something with you. There was no going back. Finally, when I came to you that last morning, I was relieved you were going to end it. I thought, 'Now I can stop,' but you wouldn't let me go. You wanted to know why.
"I've got no good answers, Sara. What happened…I am so sorry to have hurt you. It sounds lame to say I was afraid, but I can't come up with a reason that makes better sense."
Sara nodded as Grissom spoke…she'd come to the same conclusion herself. He'd been paralyzed by the past until Halyn called, then he'd let himself move before he was ready only to be overwhelmed by fear. "What do see happening now, Griss…for us?"
"I want to be with you, Sara," he said simply.
"Are we different than you and Halyn?" she asked.
Surprised, Grissom was quiet for awhile, sorting his thoughts. Finally, he said, "Halyn and I were great as friends. Neither of us had any idea what being in love meant, though the words were said. We were together for a long time but the relationship never grew…it was comfortable and easy. If I'd paid more attention…well, I naïvely thought comfortable was the same as good. Now I know the difference. My work is comfortable…but it's not enough.
"You know, as much of a mess as I've made of our relationship, we have more right now than I ever had with Halyn. Even before we made love it was more…once we were together, Sara, the floodgates were opened. I was swept along for a few hours at a time, content, until I started to think. In my journal I said I felt filled up…once the fear settled in my chest 'filled up' turned to 'pulled under' and I had to get away from you.
"I kept coming back to feel it again…full and what? sated…and every single time I fought like mad as soon as I felt the undertow. I felt like I was drowning…lost.
"What I didn't understand was that I've been lost…and that the current I've been fighting has been bringing us together since I met you. All I have to do is surrender.
"If you're willing," he said, hopefully.
"It'll be hard sometimes. I don't think either of us has ever done this right before," she said.
"Are you afraid now?" she asked softly.
He pulled in a deep breath. "Yes."
"Me, too," she said, smiling slightly.
He nodded and smiled in answer. "OK."
"I have something for you," she said, getting up and going to her desk to retrieve a package. Sitting down on the couch next to him, she placed it in his hands. "Go ahead, open it."
Inside the box lay a large book bound in handmade paper. Dragonflies were embossed on the amber dyed cover. A length of braided twine was wrapped around a wooden button set on the front to keep the book closed. Grissom lifted it out of the box, running his fingers over the raised design. "This is beautiful, Sara."
She reached over, released the closure and flipped open the cover: a quote was written on the first page in Sara's hand:
When you follow your bliss... doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else – Joseph Campbell
No words were spoken. Their kiss was soft…tentative at first. They'd been frantic with need for one another in the past – now was a time for gentleness. Their hearts and spirits needed a chance to flow together as their bodies had in weeks past.
When they made love it was not about losing themselves but finding each other. The passion that flared between them was not a consuming fire – it was the flame of a forge. Tempered now by sorrow, the love they shared was the anvil upon which they built something new.
For the first time, Grissom looked into her eyes afterward.
In later years Sara thought back to that moment, to the look of utter love that flooded his face, as the day they committed to one another. The look so matched her heart, enfolded her with such tenderness, she knew that for better or worse, Grissom was her future.
For people who were bad at relationships, they did remarkably well.