A/N: I first wrote this oneshot in French earlier this week, and I decided to translate it in order to share it with you :) Thanks so so much to Lisa , aka Mingsmommy, for the marvellous beta work she's done on it –I can tell you it was quite a hard work lol- and for letting me steal her beautiful sentences. You rock, girl.
It's angsty, but there's fluff, too, so don't run away
Hope you'll enjoy ;)
Spoilers: Through 7x11, and slightly spoilerish through 7x14 I guess (I'm supposed to be spoiler free ')
Rating: TeenDisclaimer /b : 'CSI' and all its characters belong to Anthony Zuiker, CBS and Alliance Atlantis. No copyright infringement is intended.
He loves the texture of her skin.
Some say that she's too pale. He doesn't listen.
She lives during the night, and sleeps through the day. Her body is rarely seen by the sun. Her skin is soft and milky, and her white complexion makes her numerous beauty spots more visible, for the joy of his eyes. He loves to follow them, using a finger to trace patterns on her back, hip or stomach; patterns that have meaning only for him. When it's no longer one but ten fingers that run all over her skin, he loves to feel her shuddering, to hear her sighing, to see her wriggling; quickly, she's not silky anymore, her body covered with goose-bumps. Amazed, he watches the change, noticing how the white finally turns into pink; by the time the pink converts into red, he's way too busy to notice, but what his eyes cannot see anymore, his body feels, and the sensations are engraved in his soul.
Her skin is never pale very long.
He loves to watch her when she's sleeping.
Well, actually, he loves to watch her, whatever she's doing.
When she's cozily sitting on her couch, foot on the coffee table, absent-mindedly nibbling her pen, eyes focused on the paper she's reading. When she's concentrating deeply, processing evidence, frowning slightly. When she pulls her hair up in a ponytail. When she writhes with pleasure beneath him, panting. When she brushes her teeth, shooting amused looks at him in the mirror. When she fights her demons, pretending that everything's okay, but her body tells another story.
No, he can't get enough of those simple images; he can't take his eyes off of the paint they're making when they're mixed. The colors of kisses, work and rest. She gives his life color and he watches as she paints.
But he particularly loves to watch her when she's asleep.
He can tell how she feels just by the way she positions her body.
Naturally, she likes to sleep on her stomach. When she's upset by something, or when she's not feeling well, she unconsciously curls up in the fetal position. It doesn't take him long before finding his own place on the bed, according to her mood. When she's okay, she often uses his torso or the curve of his shoulder as a pillow.
When she curls up, he knows that he can't touch her. Somehow he understands, her reactions are the direct results of her past, and he knows that she sometimes needs to take refuge in her protective bubble. He doesn't say anything then, and gives her the space she needs. And most of the time, if he wakes up during the day, she has moved to his side of the bed; then he gets to hold her close.
He watches her when she sleeps peacefully on her stomach.
One of her arms slipped under the pillow, a cheek buried in it. Not really on purpose, he takes the same position, and quietly, he watches. He loves the way her face relaxes in her dreams; she looks so calm, so serene. He loves the way her hairs tangle and scatter all around her face, a lock dropped in front of her eyes. With every slow and deep breath she takes, the lock quivers, but does not move. The tips of his fingers itch every time; he always wants to take it away, to clear her face, giving him the best view. But he never does. He doesn't want to move, he doesn't want to change anything. She's adorable and beautiful, and he watches her, quietly.
Usually, a powerful wave of feelings goes through his body at that very moment, as he can't take his eyes off of the woman he loves.
But today, like too many days before, his stomach is aching. Squeezed by anticipation, and by something else, too. This something else that makes him feels so tired. So exhausted…
He has to tell her.
He knows that he has to. The days go by, one after the other. His exhaustion and his discouragement grow deeper day after day, night after night. And his decision seems to be the right one, now more than ever.
He's going to leave. He'll come back, of course. But he's leaving without her. He has to tell her.
He has tried to hide his uneasiness. He has tried to protect her. She already has so many fears and demons to deal with; he can't bring himself to add the weight of his own to her heavily burdened shoulders. A voice, somewhere in his head, whispers that he's wrong, that it's not the best thing to do, and that something is wrong with his reasoning. It warns him that she won't see it the way he does when he lets her know about his decision without giving her any choice. But he can't tell her.
She looks so peaceful.
And yet he knows that she suspects something.
He's always been a master for masking a part of him when he had to. But when you share your life for more than a year with someone you're deeply in love with, the mask is not so easy to wear anymore. And it is not as strong or effective as it used to be. It's just more painful to put on again.
But she doesn't say anything. Though, he knows she feels it. He can see it in her eyes, when she's looking at him; he catches the gleam of worry and confusion in her gaze. He feels it, painfully, when he realises that she smiles less often, now.
Above all, he notices it by the way she lays today. Her upper body is turned toward the mattress, her face buried in the pillow; but her legs are bent against her chest.
He knows that he has to tell her. Soon.
"I've been asked to teach at Williams College for a month. I took the job."
The water stops as Sara shuts the tap with a sharp move of her hand. She turns to face him, and he forces himself to look up at her, and not at the plate he's drying. He has told himself all the night long that it was time. He has to tell her now. Now. Now! The voice was insistent, angrily irresistible.
Maybe telling her as they're washing the dishes is not the best way to do it. He's never had a gift for revelation.
Her expression is clearly astonished. Not upset, but surprised, yes.
"'Williams College' like in 'Williamstown, Massachusetts'?" she asks.
He nods, before turning his eyes back to the dish. She has yet to move, and he can feel her confusion.
"When?" she finally asks.
He glances at her, holding back the urge to take a deep breath, before letting out, with a voice that's steadier than his gut: "Two days from now."
"Two…What??" She seems pretty stunned now, and he can't blame her. She shakes her head, as if it would help her to clear her mind. "I mean…Wow…hum…Okay." She laughs, and it sounds really wrong and forced. "Fortunately, I've never been one of those women who need half a month for packing, because two days is really short-"
"Sara," he stops her, before he even thought of what he's going to say, and above all, about the way he's going to say it, as he realises that she didn't understand what he meant. "You're not coming with me."
Again the shock; it's more visible this time. Her cheeks grow red within a second, and her mouth hangs open a moment, as if she's trying to say something. When she quickly folds her arms across her chest and something suddenly shows in her eyes, he realises that she feels like an idiot, having believed for a second that she was coming. The guilt comes running back and acid burns his stomach.
But the mask is in place, nothing is showing.
"Wow…okay." She says again, lowering her eyes, before unfolding her arms, taking a few steps away from the sink; away from him.
"Sara…" he tries. He knows that he has to explain the reasons for his choice, but as always, words just seem to have forsaken his brain.
She stays still for a few second, her back to him, and by the way her shoulders rise and fall, he can tell that she's taking deep breaths. When she turns to face him, her eyes are dry, and her expression is shuttered. But he knows better, he's used to reading her features. Her jaw is clenched, her gaze darkened, and he can tell that she's biting the inside of her cheek, which is a bad thing.
"Okay…" she starts again, her voice too steady to be credible. "So, you're leaving in…two days, for Williamstown. For a month. Alone."
"Yes." Where the hell had all the useful, poetic words –not the tactless, bald ones- gone??
She slowly nods, clearly (at least to him) enduring a violent inner conflict.
"And could you tell me why I-" but she stops herself, closing her eyes for a second. When they open again, she obstinately stares at an invisible spot on the left wall. "Okay, I assume you've got a lot of really good reasons, for having made the choice to leave. I'm just gonna…"
She briefly turns her gaze to his, and he watches with a wave of dread and horror as her eyes grow wetter and wetter.
"I'm just going to bed, I'm tired. You can finish alone?" Her tone is an attempt to be casual, but her lie is palpable. Before he has the time to reply or to explain himself, she's gone.
And then, he realises this time he has the time he needs to explain; more than he needed, actually. But as always, he didn't use it.
And he hurt her.
When he comes into the room, after finishing cleaning the kitchen, she lays quietly in the dark, sleeping, or pretending to.
Curled up on the bed.
When Sara Sidle is angry, it shows. But this time, she seems to have decided not to let her emotions come out verbally. So, she's using her body language.
And he feels that it's as bad, if not worse than her angry words.
The time that she could spend with him before he left, she spends away from him.
She casually tells him that she spoke to Ecklie, and that the AD agreed to gave her the night off today, in order to work a case for the day shift tomorrow.
The message couldn't be clearer. He chose to stay away from her for a whole month…
…abstinence begins now.
He spends his last night in the lab, finishing some formal paper works, saying goodbye to his friends and co-workers. He is by turns quite troubled and sometimes amused by the way they all react to his leaving.
And he doesn't know how he should feel. Because, on one hand, he can't help but feel relieved, just knowing that soon, he'll be away from here, away from the lab, away from Vegas.
But he'll be away from her, too. And he can't believe that he didn't have the chance to tell her goodbye decently.
On his way out, as his cab's waiting outside, he walks past the locker room. She's here.
Vainly, he tries to speak, but the result is not really great, again. When he tells her that he's going to miss her, he hoped she would at least return the sentiment, even if she'd not put her heart into it.
But the only thing she gives to him is the shadow of her smile.
No, she's not going to speak. He wonders if maybe she has decided to make him understand what it felt like to be ignored by the one you love, the one who is supposed to love you.
Because she's succeeded.
The days go by.
As he had hoped when he had decided to take the job, this breath of fresh air does work.
Day after day, his migraines start to vanish. His fatigue, too. When he wakes up, his first thoughts are no longer for the horrific world that's surrounding him, nor for himself or his feelings of just being an old entomologist, trying to change the world with his bugs and evidence. No, he doesn't think about that anymore.
Because when he wakes up, the first thing that comes to his mind is Sara.
And as the days turn into a week, then into weeks, he realises how stupid he's been. He desperately tried to protect her by leaving her out of his problems and out of his doubts. Now he understands that it led them to exactly what he'd feared. She's hurt. She's angry. And she's far away from 'emotionally safe'. He can hear it every time he talks to her.
When he can reach her.
He tries to call her at least three times a day. If he's lucky, she picks up her phone every two or three days. Twice already, she didn't talk to him for five days.
He has left a lot of messages on her voice mail. But he knows she erased them without listening to what he has to say. Because if she did, he's sure she wouldn't be so…pissed.
When she sometimes decides to talk to him, she doesn't really say that she doesn't want to. So, he speaks. And he speaks, he speaks, he speaks, trying vainly to make up for the non-speaking part of their relationship during the last two months. He tells her about his days, about his students, their experiments, their expeditions. When she speaks and she tells him about her day, too, but he can hear perfectly the complete lack of enthusiasm.
He feels stuck. He doesn't know what to do.
He wants to beg her to come to him, or to jump the first plane to Vegas. But he knows it doesn't work that way.
Leaving Las Vegas was his choice. Leaving her out of his decision was his choice, too. And now, he has to deal with the consequences of those choices.
But, sometimes, he misses her so badly that it feels like his heart is bleeding beneath his chest. Sex aside –because it's not necessary to admit that he's sexually frustrated- he's missing everything; her voice, her scent, her smile, her face…her.
Today, it's snowing. And he thinks of Sara.
He has decided to take a walk, to enjoy the view, and to try to find a solution to his problems. And it starts to snow.
Standing still, he watches it as it as it falls.
Snowflakes softly swirl in the air, slowly making their way towards the ground. The volume of the world seems to be shut down, and he no longer hears anything.
And suddenly, it feels like he's back to three and half years ago. Locked up in a world of silence.
The difference is that, today, the world he's watching is white, pure, and immaculate. Three years ago, the one that was surrounding him was dark, dirty, and vicious. Las Vegas.
The other difference remains in the fact that, three and so years ago, he wouldn't have heard the deep sigh that's escaping his lips. He would have felt it, of course; the breath coming up along his windpipe, his lungs emptying their air, his insides vibrating…But he wouldn't have heard it, this sharp breath piercing the silence.
He hears it today. And he sees the cloud of steam that forms in front of him with every breath he takes.
He looks down at his hands, and watches as the snowflakes lay on his skin, reddened by the cold. It doesn't take them a second to melt and change into water, maybe two for the thickest ones. And he thinks of Sara. Of Sara and her immaculate skin.
Sara, who is no longer purely innocent, that was taken from her against her will long ago.
Sara, who always seems able to give him this quiet place he needs so badly, without depriving him of his hearing, for that matter.
Within the minute, he has taken his phone, and dialled her number. This time, she picks up.
The conversation is deeper than the previous ones.
She's tired; he can hear it in her voice. When he tells her again that he misses her, she can't deny it anymore, she doesn't have the strength for lies. She admits, almost reluctantly, that she misses him, too. Even if he knows that it doesn't mean she has forgiven him -far from that- his aching heart silently thanks her. And he tells her about his day. Again. He tells her about what he's seeing right now.
She remains quiet.
"The landscape is beautiful, Sara…Everything is covered with a white cloak. The snow seems able to change the world within a few hours…"
She doesn't answer, first. Then, her voice rises at the other end of the line, weak and quivering, "I don't know about that, Griss…It never snows in Vegas."
He doesn't imagine the wobble of a sob in her voice. But again, she doesn't give him the time –it always takes him too damn long- that he always needs, before she whispers: "I've got to go…" and hangs up.
Slowly, he puts his phone back into his pocket, but doesn't allow his hand to stay in the warmth of the coat.
His nose and cheeks are freezing, and it hurts. The tip of his fingers twinge and burn. Every breath he's taking traces an icy path in his throat. And it hurts.
And he knows that somewhere in the middle of the desert, lost in the city called Las Vegas, Sara is cold too.
He waited for her all night, sat in his car, parked in front of her building.
The night changes into a gloomy and grey day. A rainy day. Time goes by, slowly, and he waits.
He didn't even go back to his townhouse. He's too afraid of what he's going to find when he goes through the door. Or rather of what he's not going to find; like her belongings. He behaves like a coward. Again. But is it really surprising?
Gil Grissom has never been a brave man. And before he met Sara Sidle, he'd never been a man in love.
When he sees a Denali entering the parking lot, his heartbeat hastens, and his stomach painfully tightens. He wants to touch her so badly that it hurts, and yet, he dreads this moment more than anything else. What if she tells him to go to Hell? What if she refuses to even talk to him? What if she simply doesn't-
But all his fears seem to suddenly vanish as he watches her getting out of her car, twenty feet away. From that moment, his eyes are drawn to her, and he can't see anything but her slender, tired silhouette. Even from here, he notices that her skin is paler, if it's possible. She looks exhausted. His heart widens at the simple sight of her, and yet he feels it die in his chest too, knowing that he's the one to blame for her looking bad.
With no hesitation, he gets out of his car, loudly closing the door, and she starts, before turning around quickly.
They stay still for a moment, staring at each other without saying a word; the situation seems almost surreal. His body screams to him to reach her, but something else keeps his feet glued to the ground. He's waiting. Waiting for her to give him a sign. For her to show him that he's still welcome in her life.
"I didn't think you'd be back before tonight…" she says softly, and despite the weakness of her tone when she speaks, surely in order to hide her emotions, he can hear that she's far from indifferent to his return.
He takes a few steps forward, slowly coming closer. He keeps going when he sees that she's not moving away. And his heart aches at the sight of the dark circles that lay under her tired eyes. He can picture her perfectly, curled up on her bed day after day, trying to sleep, and failing most of the time. He's sure that she drank more coffee in the last month than in the last year.
And yet, despite her exhaustion, Sara remains Sara. Fiercely standing on her feet, ready to hear everything, ready to protect herself from anything, a small breeze gently moving her hair. He is hypnotized by this image.
He finally stops less than two feet away from her, knowing that if he moves closer, he couldn't refrain from touching her, he couldn't help but need to feel her in his arms.
"Sara…" he starts, his voice tightens before being stopped by thunder as it rumbles somewhere in the distance.
Sara lowers her eyes and swallows hard, as if she thinks of the thunder is a bad portent. Because now, it's like he's watching her shield breaking down in front of him.
"Whatever you decided when you were away Griss…make it quick. Don't beat around the bush." Her voice is trembling.
And suddenly, he realises with a mixed feeling of shock, guilt and shame that the doubts he has repeated again and again in his head all the night –about her still wanting him in her life or not- she has endured the whole month.
"Sara, I'm sorry." He says at once, speaking with his heart, and her head rises, connecting her slightly watering eyes to his.
He takes another step closer, the distance between them fading away, and takes a deep breath.
"I'm sorry for hurting you…" he goes on, his voice painfully fighting the lump of emotions stuck in his throat. "If you had listened to my voice messages, I would be repeating myself for the hundredth time but…actually, saying it directly to you is more appropriate." He stops, taking a new breath, and then goes on, looking in her eyes: "Sara, I've been an idiot. I was feeling…wrong, I was lost. Everything that had made my life for years seemed to have lost its meaning. It wasn't exciting anymore, I was suffocating and- I'm talking about my job." He adds before she takes his words for herself.
She remains quiet, but the tears in her eyes look thicker. And then, he can't restrain himself anymore; he reaches out, and gently lays his right hand on her cheek. She closes her eyes, allowing a single tear to escape from beneath her eyelids, and soon her gloved hand covers his.
"I'm sorry…" he whispers again, as she opens her eyes to look at him. "I love you more than anything else, Sara. The egocentric and anti-social part of me still doesn't allow me to behave with you like I should, most of the time. But I can promise you that I'm going to do my best to shut it down."
She lets out a mixed sound of laugh and tears. Then, without saying a word, she wraps her arms around his neck, and he pulls her in his arms, holding her close to his heart as she snuggles against him.
He knows he's far from being forgiven, that the problems are there, and that despite all the work he is willing to do, they will always be there. But he's ready to face them. And right now, they're just enjoying the moment.
As he deeply inhales the scent of her hair, drops start to fall.
"It's raining…" she says softly after a moment, her voice muffled as her face is still hidden in the crook of his neck.
He slightly moves his head to gently kiss her cheek, tasting a drop that's too salty for coming from the sky.
Then, he slides his lips close to her ear, and murmurs:
"Let's pretend it's snowing."