Defining Moments

Sara's Story

Disclaimer: Not Mine. That's all.

A/N: Thanks to Cropper for the beta. And to Doris and Kaye for the encouragement.

In everyone's life there are defining moments, snippets of time that change a person's view of the world. Life is divided into segments by these milestones. I hear it every day, people saying things like, "Before the accident", "Before I was laid off", "Before my surgery", "After my mother killed my father". One of these moments occurred for me the minute, the very second, I met Dr. Gil Grissom.

It was a day made unremarkable by its resemblance to the one before. The sun was shining, birds chirping, people laughing and talking. Little did I know when I rolled out of bed and stumbled to the coffee pot this day would mark the beginning of a new direction for me. My plan for the day, after classes, was to attend the first in a series of lectures on forensics. I'd heard the speaker, while top in his field, was old and boring. So when I took a seat in the front row I figured the guy setting up must be some sort of assistant. I mean he was older than the typical grad student but he wasn't old. And considering his colorful use of the English language as he fumbled with notes and slides, he was most certainly not boring. Imagine my surprise when this curly-haired, broad-shouldered 'assistant' stepped behind the lectern and introduced himself as Dr. Grissom. I must have looked as shocked as I felt because suddenly the bluest eyes I'd ever seen landed on me and his eyebrow rose in a gesture I would eventually come to love.

He started out by telling the most awful joke I had ever heard. I've been to plenty of lectures, seminars and training sessions and every one has started with a bad joke. Still, in my long and varied history of being subjected to bad jokes, his was the worst. I vaguely remember polite laughter and nervous shuffling all around me but the thing I'll never forget is the way his gaze sought mine. He gave me a wink that was definitely flirtatious. I returned his amused gaze with a smile – like we were sharing a private joke which was much funnier than his public one. It was in that moment, that single breath, I knew this man would change my life.

When he started speaking I was entranced, captivated. His accent was something I couldn't place. The vowels slid off his tongue like syrup, his lips caressing the letters into a sweet cadence. His eyes sparkled and a smile would occasionally curve his lips up at the corners. He was brilliant and so obviously excited about his subject that I was sucked in. I'd long been accepting of the fact that I was smarter than a lot of people. To find someone who could challenge me on an intellectual level was a rarity. But this man intimidated me with his knowledge. My mind was racing in an effort to keep up with all the information; my pen scratching across the paper in a continuous scrawl. I still have the notes I took that day. When he asked if anyone had questions I was didn't know where to begin so I waited.

I sat patiently until he dismissed the group, remaining in my seat until everyone had left. When the door had clanged shut behind the last of the stragglers, I stood and walked over to where he was placing papers in his briefcase. I stood there with my notes in one hand and my purse slung over my shoulder. I could feel my body vibrating with the urge to speak, to ask the questions I'd listed on the paper in my hand. Finally, when I was just beginning to think he was ignoring me, he looked up. Again, I was struck by the blue of his eyes. They were the color and clarity of the Caribbean and I was lost. Definitely not something I'd experienced before, a weightless, giddy feeling washing over me in waves.

Belatedly, I realized he was speaking when I saw his eyes narrow just a bit in confusion. I could feel the blush heat my face and mentally cursed my fair skin. I stuck out my empty hand and introduced myself. My eyes stayed on his until I felt his big, warm hand clasp my slender one. When his skin came into contact with mine something happened. I felt a tingling that went from my hand to my breasts and further south to settle at the juncture of my thighs. I remember sucking in a breath, my eyes flitting from his baby blues to our hands and back. That's when I noticed the widening of his eyes. He looked surprised. And then his irises darkened, the pupils dilating. I would have sworn the man was aroused. Suddenly, there was not enough air in the room.

We stood there uncomfortably for a just a few seconds before I pulled my hand away and cleared my throat. Determined to get past the awkwardness I pressed on. I placed my list on the desk and began asking questions. Why, why, why? No matter what I asked he had an answer. Again, I was amazed by his mind. When his stomach growled I realized how long we must have been standing there. Another blush heated my cheeks and I began to apologize profusely. Gushing in my attempt to thank him for his time, I gathered my things. When I had shoved my notes into my bag and turned to walk toward the door, he called my name. I stopped and looked back. He asked if I was hungry. I don't make it a habit to go out with strangers but he was different. I think I said yes. I may have only nodded. Regardless, I found myself sitting across from him at a small diner about two blocks away, talking about dead bodies and insects and literature and life while we ate cheeseburgers and fries. The longer we talked the more animated he became and the more attractive I found him.

I've never needed much sleep, particularly when I'm in learning mode. Even as a teenager I was too driven to allow myself to sleep for more than four or five hours at a time. It wasn't until Grissom (that's what he asked to be called) stifled a yawn that I realized it was almost midnight. Again, a blush lit up my face and I began to rummage through my purse for money to pay my bill. He gave me the strangest look, picked up the ticket and walked away. I hurried after him, a ten dollar bill clasped in my hand. When I slapped it down on the counter beside the register he merely smirked and shook his head. I decided not to argue about it and politely thanked him while returning the crumpled bill to my purse. He held the door for me and I remember thinking he was such a gentleman.

We walked the couple of blocks to his car in silence. I was feeling a little awkward. I was so attracted to him. I kept hoping he would kiss me, hoping he found me attractive too. We reached his car and I stuck out my hand. He said he'd drive me home. I protested. After all, I had been here for a while. I felt safe. He merely gave me his enigmatic look and waited me out. I sank down in the seat of the rental car and sighed. I gave him directions and a few short minutes later we were pulling up in front of my apartment. I reached to open the door and felt his hand on my arm. He instructed me to wait and then he got out, came around and opened the door for me. I'm sure I looked like a total goof. I was smiling so hard my face hurt. He walked me to the front door, shook my hand and wished me a goodnight.

I stood in the lobby and watched him drive away. Who was this man with the beautiful eyes, the football player's body and the brain of a Mensan? I was half in awe, half in love and totally, one hundred percent curious. I know he fueled my private thoughts that night; my mind undressing him while my hands slid over my body. I came with his name on my lips and the blood pounding in my veins. I didn't recognize the beginning of a long and frustrating pattern.

I could hardly wait until the next afternoon so I could see him again. I was the first to arrive at the lecture hall and the last to leave. Again, he invited me to join him for dinner. The same diner, the same table, a laughing comment about our spot and I was flying. The same silent walk to his car. The same drive to my apartment. This time he didn't have to tell me to wait. I sat, feeling a little silly, until he came around and opened the door, extending his hand to help me out of the car. Tonight he kept his hand hovering just at the base of my spine. Not touching me, just a whisper of feeling along my nerve endings. Again, he shook my hand, lingering a little longer than was polite. I almost invited him in. I really wanted to invite him in. Just as my mouth opened he released me and the spell was broken.

The third and final lecture and again I showed up first. I greeted Grissom with a smile and a hello. He grinned at me in this crooked way he has and my heart stuttered in my chest. Dropping my eyes, lest he read something in my gaze, I settled into my seat. He continued to set up for the lecture while I doodled in my notebook. I jumped in surprise when a slip of paper slid across the surface in front of me. I looked up to see his broad back, narrow waist and tight behind as he walked away. I let my eyes linger, appreciating the view. I unfolded the paper and found an email address and several telephone numbers. This time when I raised my eyes it was to find him watching me with a hint of male confidence tempered by an abundance of hesitance. A smile slid slowly across my face and he gave me one in return. Before I had a chance to say anything a group of undergrads came in. The room filled quickly and the lecture started and ended before I realized what was happening. For the final time, I waited until everyone else had left.

While we were sitting at the diner drinking coffee and eating apple pie that he asked me out. He gestured around us and mumbled something about taking me someplace a little more upscale. Even knowing he was leaving, I agreed. Later that night we repeated the ritual of walking to his car and him driving me home. Tonight his hand rested firmly on my back as we made our way to the door. He lingered there, holding both my hands, his eyes searching my face. My heart was racing. I could feel it pounding in my chest. I wanted him to kiss me, wanted to feel his hands on me. When he leaned forward my breath caught in my throat. Then I felt his lips brush my cheek and his fingers tighten around mine. I sighed. He pulled back, looking like he had done something wrong. I shook my head, smiling to let him know it was alright.

The next evening, at six-thirty on the dot, the buzzer sounded. I unlocked the door and let him in. When I opened my apartment door I couldn't breathe. There stood the most handsome man I'd ever seen wearing a charcoal grey suit that screamed custom made. His shirt was crisp and white and his tie a bright red. I stared, unable to take my eyes off him, until he blushed. With an answering blush rising on my cheeks I began babbling in an attempt to fill the awkward silence. When I saw a smile flit over his lips I started to grin. And then we were laughing and the nerves were gone.

Dinner was wonderful. I'd never met a man I enjoyed talking to as much as I did Grissom. We had so much to say and so little time to say it. I finally understood the word bittersweet. When he asked me to take a walk after dinner I couldn't say no. I wasn't ready to let him go. Bypassing the bars filled with drunken students, we stopped at a tiny coffee shop just off campus. A cup of coffee later and we were on the way back to my apartment. I was quiet during the drive, a sense of melancholy settling over me. This time he didn't stop at the lobby. He walked me to my front door. We stood in the hallway, neither really knowing what to say, smiling and trying to pretend his leaving was what we both wanted. I asked him in and he declined. I thought I saw regret in his eyes but it was just a flash. I could've been wrong. Just as I started to feel weird he reached up and cupped my cheek with his hand. He mumbled something about wanting to kiss me but knowing his limits. Instead he brushed his lips over my cheek and, with admonitions to call or email, he was gone.

Four days is all it took. I'd been alive for eight thousand seven hundred and thirty days without ever feeling what he made me feel. I fell in love with him in four days. And in the three thousand six hundred and fifty days since nothing - and everything - has changed.