Title: Flying Free
Author: Summer Reign
Category: GSR, Angst
Summary: Sometimes, even extremely disciplined people need to let go.
Disclaimer: Don't look at me. I'm just playing. They belong to TPTB at CBS and such.
Sara still looked as fresh and lovely as the star of one of those douche commercials from the 80s. What was the name of that stuff? Oh, yeah. Summer's Eve. That was it. The woman usually dressed the way Sara was dressed now: sleeveless blouse, flowing skirt. The only thing missing was the pretty scenery—usually an open meadow with a swing appearing out of nowhere—seemingly suspended in mid-air. Sara opened her locker and looked in the mirror. She could use that swing now. Flying free. Her momentum taking her higher and higher-until she could launch herself into…what? Oblivion might be nice.
She took a good look at herself in the mirror. On second thought, she was nothing like those fresher than fresh women. Sara was tired. And she was done.
She leaned against the cold metal and tried to will away the tears. But she knew she didn't have to. She was four hours early for her shift and if anyone from the swing shift was around, they probably wouldn't be making an appearance in the locker room until it was time to pick up their things and go home. Besides, who really cared anyway? She needed a few minutes for her breakdown and she'd damned well take it.
The secret to being a relatively quiet crier was in the breathing. It was a delicate balance. Breathing through the nose wasn't entirely practical once the tear ducts started sharing moisture with the sinus region. And trying to breathe shallowly usually resulted in an escaped, and very loud, sob. Once that happened…all hell would break loose.
No, the secret was, a few deep breaths through the mouth in between discreet sniffs. The only problem with the intellectual approach was it was not as satisfying as a blubberfest. For a moment, Sara thought about going home until it was time for her shift to begin and really letting it all out. But impulse had taken her here and she needed to be exactly where she was. It was this place and the person in it that had convinced her to make her decision. In some ways, it was a comfort, even if it hurt like hell.
Sara slowed her breathing, pulled out a tissue, blew her nose and wiped the moisture off her face. She took a few more shaky breaths and put her hand on the locker door to fully hold it open so she could dig in the back where she kept a few spare outfits folded neatly in a duffel bag.
"Feel better? Said the soft, melodic voice she knew so well. Sara instinctively pulled the locker door towards herself as a protective measure. Unfortunately, the movement was more abrupt than it should have been and she didn't move her face out of harm's way until the door connected with her forehead.
"Shit!" she said, putting her hand up to the injured area. She was expecting blood but didn't feel the sticky warmth. In a moment, a larger hand moved hers aside and gently ran his fingers over her skin.
"I'm sorry, Sara. I didn't mean to startle you," Grissom had one hand gently brushing the very painful right side of her forehead while the other held on to her left shoulder.
"God, I didn't even hear the door opening. What kind of shoes are you wearing?"
"The usual. I guess you were…preoccupied. I've been in the room a couple of minutes. Wait here—I'll be right back."
She took a look in the mirror while he was gone. No cut but there would probably be a nice lump, and discoloration was already taking place. Great. So much for looking fresh as a daisy. Although battered did seem to better fit her mood.
He returned with an ice pack and held it out to her. Sara snatched it away before he could touch her face. Emotions still felt too raw for any kind of physical contact.
"Thanks," she muttered.
He sat on the bench. "So, do you want to talk about it?"
"What's there to talk about? You scared the hell out of me and I zigged instead of zagged."
"That's not what I'm talking about."
She resisted the temptation to give him a great big 'duh.'
"There's nothing to talk about," she said. He arched an eyebrow in response. Grissom wasn't giving up so she had no alternative but to play dirty. "Maybe I'm hormonal."
Resorting to sexual stereotypes was perfectly acceptable in times when it saved one from further embarrassment. But, of course, Grissom wasn't the type of man who let bodily functions disturb him.
"Don't you know if you're hormonal? I've never particularly noticed a 'time of month' for you, Sara."
"Grissom." She pulled out the duffel bag she had been looking for and closed her locker for the moment. "What do you want me to say? I felt a little teary. I gave in to it. Yes, I'm at work but I'm not on the clock yet, so what's the problem? This room was empty when I got here. It's not like I issued front row tickets to my dramatic performance this evening."
"Did it have anything to do with…your date?"
"How do you know I had one?"
He didn't say anything, just looked her up and down. Slowly. Great. Catherine's exposed cleavage entered a room before she did 85 of the time, while Sara wore something a bit more feminine just once and Grissom was filling in all the blanks in response. Not that he wasn't right, but still…
"So, I assume it didn't go as planned?" He prompted.
She sighed. "He was perfect. The date was…perfect."
Grissom's eyes opened wider in response and there was a sudden and definite droop to his shoulders. He ran his tongue over his lower lip and swallowed hard.
"So, why were you crying?" He asked softly.
"You're very talkative today, Grissom. What are you doing here anyway? It's four hours before shift."
"Paperwork. I came in here because I forgot my reading glasses in my jacket. And it's four hours before your shift, too. Four hours you could have spent continuing your 'perfect' date."
"Yeah, well," she said, placing the ice pack on the bench. "It was perfect on paper. Nice guy. Good looking, good manners, good profession. Attentive."
"But…you can't make things happen simply because they look good on paper," she said, softly. "I tried that once and it was a disaster. I kind of thought maybe time would have changed things and I would feel differently once I put myself 'out there,' but it hasn't. Trying to force myself to believe in something that doesn't exist is just not how I want to live my life. "
"Okay. I still don't understand the crying."
"Grissom, what does it matter?"
"I don't like seeing you cry."
"Well, you don't have to. The door swings two ways, you know."
He pressed his lips together in the way he did when he was trying to gather strength. She was being unnecessarily rough with him and knew it.
"I'm sorry," she said, giving in. "I was crying because I'm not doing this anymore."
Again, his eyes widened in semi-surprise and, if she was not mistaken, a bit of fear.
"Dating. I'm not dating anymore."
"Why not? If you didn't feel anything for this guy, it doesn't mean the next one…"
"Grissom. You really don't want me to continue this conversation. You don't. Just drop it. Some people are just destined to be…single…married to their jobs, for lack of a better term. I can accept that. I can even embrace it. I've done it in the past. I just needed to mourn a bit, okay?"
He stood up. "Put your things back in the locker, Sara."
"Come on. We're going out."
It was her turn to use the bug-eyed expression. "What?"
He looked at her. "You're all dressed up. You look…really…nice. Beautiful, even. And you're here four hours early. And it occurred to me that it's a little strange that I would spend four hours of my private time choosing to do something I detest. So, come on. Let's go."
"Grissom. Come on. I…" How could she possibly tell him she didn't need him to hold her hand every time she cried, when it was something she wanted more than almost anything?
"I am NOT feeling sorry for you, if that's what you're thinking. I'm being spontaneous. Did Warrick ever tell you about the last time this happened?"
"Well, lock up, meet me in the parking lot, and I'll tell you all about it."
He turned and left her. She did the only thing she could do. Threw the bag back in her locker, touched up her makeup to hide the forming bruise and the tear-streaked cheeks, and gave herself another long look. Whatever might be motivating Grissom's spontaneity, she was going to go with it and enjoy the hell out of the moment. Her eyes suddenly looked alive and interested and that was slightly frightening to her.
Her intellect told her to put the brakes on that very second, but since when did she listen to the smart side of herself when it really mattered?
"So, are we going to go on a roller coaster?" she asked him in the car, after his story of Warrick's introduction to Grissom's obsession.
"Okay. What are we going to do?" She asked as she looked out into the Vegas night.
"Don't know yet."
"You dragged me out of work but you don't know where you're taking me?"
"Well, there are several possibilities but I haven't decided which one yet."
"I see. I don't get a say in the matter?"
"No. You've already been on one perfect date tonight. Remember?"
She would not ask him what he meant by that. She didn't want to burst her own bubble. "Why not a roller coaster, Grissom?"
"You like them?"
He gave her a genuine smile. "Someday, you'll learn to appreciate them."
"Really?" She said, her voice laced with skepticism.
Sara couldn't help it. She started softly humming the theme to the X-files. This time, Grissom laughed outright and Sara knew if that damned song had words, she'd be singing them loudly in an effort to quell the semi-freaked out feeling she was getting. Perhaps Grissom hadn't turned away from the light…
"Hmm," she wasn't sure exactly what to say. It was an…unusual choice.
Grissom smirked and gave his keys to the valet. "Come," he said, taking her hand. Perhaps the Twilight Zone would be a more appropriate theme for the evening.
They walked over to the canal portion of the Venetian and she stood as he had a word with one of the gondoliers. Within a few seconds, one of them yelled out his name and apologized to the few people on the line before them. "Sorry, this gentleman has had a reservation for days."
When they were settled into the gondola, Sara turned to him, "Reservations?"
He shrugged. "I tip well. If I didn't, we'd still be waiting as our shift was ready to begin. I don't normally resort to bribery but… special circumstances."
She smiled to herself. Special. She wasn't sure what he considered special about this moment. The fact that he was feeling a little hopped up on the endorphins released during his burst of spontaneity or that he did his good deed for the year by taking out the reclusive, weepy CSI Sidle. She let out a soft sigh and just decided to put herself on auto-pilot, taking this moment for whatever it was worth.
For a while, they rode in relative silence. Very relative. They were silent; the gondolier was not. He was singing "That's Amore" at the top of his lungs as they passed through the scenic "canal" lined with shops and a multitude of tourists. It was kind of romantic in spite of the more commercial elements. The dark water, narrow pathways, stars…and sappy love song all added traces of something not normally seen in their everyday existence. Sara didn't look at Grissom but smiled to herself. He put his hand on the side of her face and turned her cheek to face him.
Grissom ran his fingers across the bruise on her forehead. As lightly as his fingers were touching her skin, it hurt and she knew she didn't control the wince of pain. It was probably a pretty nasty looking bruise by now.
"We should have left the ice pack on longer," he said, moving his fingers away from her face.
He smiled. "You."
"I'm surprised I didn't knock myself unconscious."
"I'm glad you didn't. You already scared the hell out of me."
"No, that's not why we're here. Well, maybe it is. Partially."
"Signore, the Kissing Bridge is coming up," Mr. Gondola said, nodding at the bridge about a city block away.
"I see it," Grissom said.
Kissing Bridge? "You've been here before," she stated.
"Just passing through. I've never taken the gondola before, if that's what you're inferring. And I had no idea that thing is called a Kissing Bridge."
"Oh." They passed under the 'thing' called the Kissing Bridge without incident or melding of mouths. Big surprise.
The gondolier didn't seem happy about it. After an even louder version of moons hitting skies like big pizza pies, he leaned over, grabbed Grissom's arm and physically draped it over Sara's shoulder. Sara could see the grimace on his face and a decided set to his jaw that told her he was controlling his temper.
He looked at her and she felt the tension in his arm ease a bit. "No, he's right. There's no reason we can't relax, is there?" He took a deep breath, trying to force himself into a calmer state, if Sara was reading his body language correctly. "It's nice, isn't it? The last time I was here, I thought it would be…nice to do this some day. But it's not the type of thing you do alone, is it?"
"I guess not." She looked at him. God, he was gorgeous. He was thoroughly uncomfortable, out of his element and totally stiff but he was still gorgeous.
Forget his motivations. Go on auto-pilot. This was a once in a lifetime moment.
She couldn't live with herself if she didn't take one last chance. It was such a small thing she wanted. Maybe he would let her get away with it. Just this one time.
"Don't freak out, Gris," she said, leaning closer to him and putting her arm around his waist, cuddling closer. She couldn't see his face anymore. All she could see was his jacket, all she could smell was his soap. She could feel his heart beating and the warmth of his body through his clothes.
It was pure heaven. It was momentary. It was fleeting and…gone.
"I wasn't expecting such an audience," he said, his arm still formally around her shoulders but definitely not participating in the snuggling portion of the program.
She stiffened for a few seconds, then pulled away. She wouldn't apologize for giving in to her moment of spontaneity. For that one moment, she knew what it felt like to be in his arms and that might have to last her a lifetime. But she never meant for him to feel threatened or embarrassed in any way and hugging him in front of a bunch of tourists in a very public place seemed to accomplish both.
"I wasn't thinking. Possible concussion from a wayward locker door," she joked and straightened up, looking straight in front of her for the rest of the ride.
Maybe she was hormonal. Those damned tears were flooding her eyes again. Sara looked up at the sky. She heard that was a way to stop them, but it wasn't working. One slid down her cheek. She turned her head in the opposite direction and quickly wiped it away. It didn't matter. She was pretty sure he, too, was staring straight ahead and no longer looking at her. And, even if he was, maybe this time, he learned from his mistakes and knew enough to ignore any emotional outbursts.
She was up and heading out of the gondola almost the minute it stopped. Grissom caught up with her and grabbed onto her elbow, leading her away from the canal and into a quiet courtyard toward the back of the hotel. She didn't want to be there. She just wanted to go home. Not even work-home. Home-home. She walked with him over to a small fountain and sat on the side, looking at the cherub spewing water from its chubby cheeks. She was still engaging in her own, sporadic waterworks with a few errant tears that would not be denied their moment in the moonlight.
"You're crying again," he said.
"No, I'm not. Forget it. Nothing happened. I mean, yeah, you took me somewhere and we spent some time together and I got carried away because…well, I hit my head. And you were watching out for me because of my injury and because I was upset. And that's it. Just…that's it."
"Sara, that's not it. I just…"
There was that long pause again. She couldn't stand it. She felt a need to save him from himself whenever he did it.
"I know you care about me, Grissom. I know that. But not in the same way. It's okay. You don't have to say anything. Do anything. I…it's okay."
He stared at her for a moment. "Please don't tell me how I feel. You have no idea what I feel or how deep those feelings are."
"No, I guess I don't. All I do know is it shouldn't be so hard or painful for you to speak with me about anything."
"Why? Because it's easy for you? I'm a different person, Sara. And I'm trying. Unfortunately, you have this protective streak in you—either for me or yourself—and you never give me a chance to finish a sentence."
"You want to finish a sentence?" She asked, finally annoyed. She leaned back a little against the marble of the fountain. "I don't think there's time. We only have, oh…" she looked at her watch," an hour and a half before shift."
He stared at her. Not angry. Just neutral. Everything, unfortunately, came off as just neutral. But that was Grissom and he was just being himself.
"I'm sorry," she said. "You didn't deserve that."
"I'm still sorry. Maybe you're right. Maybe I am protecting myself. Maybe it's easier hearing my version of a possible truth than hearing you say it. 'Sara…I don't love you. Never have, never will. You intrigued me at one point, but now you're just one hell of a CSI and that makes me put up with all your crap.'" She angrily brushed one last stray tear that had fallen down her cheek. She was done with the crying bit, too. She'd be damned if she'd let another one escape.
"You're feeding me dialog now?"
"Well, I think you could come up with something more realistic."
She took a deep breath to steel herself. "Like what?"
"Like…you're a excellent CSI with a little too much heart for your own good, but that's what makes you…you. And I'm a man who is used to tamping down my feelings. They are there but they've been schooled to behave. You've intrigued me from day one and still do. Every single day. And you're wrong. Something did happen today. When I walked into the locker room and saw you in that outfit, I knew you had gone out. With a guy. Someone who probably could offer you everything I feel you'd miss out on with me. And, instead of being stoic, I was going to treat you to the worst day of your working life to help me deal with my jealousy. Nice, huh? But then I saw you crying and thought…if I had been the one on that date with you…I never would have made you cry," he smirked. "Ironic, isn't it?"
"You didn't make me cry, Grissom. Circumstances made me cry. It's just…so very sad to be this close to having everything and knowing that nothing will ever happen to push you that one extra inch."
"You're wrong about that, too. Sara, I have been trying. I messed up. Obviously. We should have gone on that roller coaster but I thought it would be something I would enjoy more than you would. But this…was wrong, too. It's not us. I don't want to share you with some Three Tenors wannabe and a bunch of tourists. But I never meant to pull back in such a way that would make you feel rejected or insulted."
His eyes looked right into hers and he had that little crease in his forehead that he seemed to get when he was in concerned-mode. She believed him. He was trying. She took a small, uneven breath.
"Don't freak out, Sara," he said and unceremoniously leaned down and kissed her. She wasn't sure what she expected but it wasn't this. This…being enveloped in the warmth of his arms. This…absolutely hot mouth demanding entrance and effectively depleting her small supply of air. It was heady and glorious. She slipped her fingers into his curls and drew him even closer. Breathing, in this case, was overrated.
He pulled back finally and held her close. "I'm sorry, Sara. I meant our first kiss to be a little…less exuberant but I think I just needed to get all of that out of my system."
She snaked her arm around his waist and laughed against his chest for a moment. "I'm not complaining." She lifted her head to look at him. "But it's a good thing there wasn't a bed around or I have a feeling I'd be walking funny until sometime next week."
She wasn't embarrassed over the blush that rose to her face because it was met by a matching flush to Grissom's cheeks.
"I'd give it my best shot," he said, with a smirk.
She tentatively reached out her hand and ran it over his beard. This time, he didn't flinch but leaned into her touch.
"Sara, I'm not doing this anymore, either."
"What?" She said, her eyes widening in alarm.
"Not this. I mean, I'm not fighting this anymore. I just think, if you can put up with what I'm sure will be really awkward, clumsy moments…I'd like us to find out…just what we can have."
Sara stared at him for a moment. It was difficult, this switching gears. She wondered if she really had belted herself with the locker door a little harder than she initially thought. Unconsciously, she touched her head. Grissom noticed and pressed his lips lightly against the bruise.
"I'm actually saying what you think I'm saying, Sara. You don't have to answer now, if you're not ready to."
"I've always wanted to try, Grissom. You know that."
She smiled and ran her finger lightly over his lower lip.
"That was some kiss, Grissom."
He leaned forward and kissed her gently this time, lightly. "Does that mean you're thinking of this proposal in a favorable light?"
"No, it means I definitely approve yours and officially discard mine."
He smiled and kissed her again. In a few moments, they both checked their watches and decided it was time to get back to work. As they walked back toward the valet, Grissom swung their entwined hands a little. She looked at him and he gave her a semi-goofy grin in response.
A woman dressed in a flowing skirt, a swing…of sorts, appearing out of nowhere. No meadow in sight, but Sara wasn't going to be picky.
Life felt new and fresh. And the reason was a lot more interesting than the one in the commercial.
She and Grissom with the possibility of flying free. Finally. Together.