Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. All others belong to us, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask us first. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
Spoilers: through "Law of Gravity" A birthday present for Jenbachand. Happy Birthday!
"You never did tell me what made you decide to go," Sara said into the dimness, her voice as soft as the cotton sheets he'd chosen with such care.
Grissom let out a long breath, staring up at the ceiling fan. Their reunion had been all that her eyes had teased him with when he'd caught her in the lab, but he'd known this was coming--the explanation he'd promised before he had left her, and Vegas.
Now the scent of their lovemaking permeated those sheets, and Sara's head was pressed up against his ribcage in the awkward, endearing cuddle that she'd adopted with him. He let his fingers drift over the soft curve of her shoulder. "I know."
She didn't answer, but he could feel her waiting. One of the things he loved about Sara was that she didn't let anyone walk over her--not even him, any more. And she might not be pushing just then, but an answer was required.
And it wasn't as though he didn't want to answer. Finding the words was the hard part.
"Things had been piling up for a while," Grissom began finally, starting with what she already knew. "A lot of tough cases."
More than usual, it seemed, between desperate pedophiles and taunting serial killers, and if there was one thing he really hated it was a criminal who was smarter than he was, but that was only part of it. He'd almost lost his old friend twice, first in the accidental shooting and then when Jim himself had been shot.
Grissom still wondered sometimes if Brass had been reaching for redemption when he'd called for that kill--
It had been seeing Catherine betray him to cozy up to Ecklie. Nick struggling to find his footing after more trauma than any one person should endure. Warrick, usually the most thoughtful of men, making reckless decisions.
Greg, beaten almost literally to a pulp.
He'd gotten tired of nearly losing his people to grim chance. Each time they survived he had to wonder if someone wouldn't, the next time. If, after seven lucky years, there would be another CSI funeral, only this time worse, because they all meant so much.
Even Holly still showed up in his dreams now and then.
Sara's hand was resting on his stomach; not stroking, just maintaining the touch. It had taken Grissom a while to get comfortable with Sara's appreciation of his body, but she'd managed to get it through his head eventually, and now her palm on his skin wasn't an uncomfortable reminder that the muscles beneath weren't as firm as they used to be. "It's been a rough year," she acknowledged.
Grissom resisted the urge to gather her up into a tight embrace. Her love had kept him sane, letting her in finally had been the best thing he'd ever done, but in a way he definitely wasn't going to tell her about, their relationship had been another stressor. Neither of them were practiced at such things, and while the sex was great--
No, the sex was mindblowing. But Grissom was well aware that his last successful relationship had taken place when Sara was still in college, and he didn't quite trust her to be patient as he relearned the delicate dance of interaction. Yes, some things about loving her were wonderful, amazing, exquisite. But struggling with his doubts and fears, and hers, didn't make things any easier.
It was the reason he'd chosen to leave not only Las Vegas but Sara herself. As hard as it was, the move was necessary. He needed to be sure that he could, in fact, maintain his end of their union, be all that she deserved...hold it together.
Grissom hadn't expected her to understand, so he hadn't explained. And despite the doubts he'd seen in her eyes, despite his inarticulate efforts to communicate, despite all the pain he'd put her through already, she trusted him.
After all, she was still there when he came back.
"There was one case, though," he went on, watching the blades twirl overhead, a silent spin in the dim. "It just seemed to...crystallize things."
A sunny day...
"Mm?" Sara had a collection of small sounds, shorthand that he'd taken pleasure in learning. This one was encouraging.
"I don't think you'd remember it, it was a day shift case, and you had court the next day."
A mountain meadow...
"That one where you didn't say a word for almost twenty-four hours afterwards? Sure, I'd forget that." The dry tone was still somehow loving, and Grissom felt a fragile bubble of amusement rising against the gluey pull of memory.
It had been another demonstration of her patience, really; she'd let him have his silence, accepting the grunt of "Bad case" with just a nod, though afterwards he'd wondered if she would have pushed him to open up if she'd felt more secure.
And whether it would have offered the relief he couldn't find at the time.
"I did read the case notes," Sara added belatedly, a touch sheepish.
Grissom snorted faintly, and figured that he was supposed to be upset, but deciding not to bother. It saved a lot of painful explanation.
"Then you know what we found."
Four children. The oldest not yet eight, the youngest a mere month or two. Flung carelessly among the blooms like discarded toys. Arterial spray a red so bright that it rivaled the pink of seablush and the purple of vetch, spattering in vivid banners across yellow hawk's beard and the startling blue of lupine.
It had crossed his mind in absent cool logic that the flowers would grow all the stronger for the rich crimson soaking into the soil.
"Kids are always tough." Her voice held gentleness, commiseration, the echo of righteous outrage they all carried.
"Babies," he corrected, the scarlet-edged grass spreading out in his mind's eye, one tiny perfect fist laid over the bowing blades. Fingers made to reach and grasp and create, forever stilled.
Sara said nothing, but even without looking Grissom knew she was listening. He swallowed old grief, old pain.
"It was nothing that we hadn't seen before, really. They'd called me in more as a precaution than anything else, the bodies had hardly been there more than a day."
And by some miracle the scavengers had passed them by. Grissom had speculated that the killer or killers had lingered to drive them off, fox and buzzard, raccoon and raven, with scent or sound or even buckshot.
But Nature's smaller custodians took no notice of such deterrents. By the time the CSIs had arrived, the insects were already at the feast.
"Part of me wanted to find it obscene, Sara," Grissom said, seeing wings flutter and colors flash. "But I knew it was just the natural order of things."
The scene was undisturbed, spotted from the air. Their feet crushing the meadow grass seemed almost an intrusion. White skin, red blood, brilliant flowers...and a whispered oath from behind him as the butterflies rose in a gorgeous cloud from the bodies.
"I'd never observed it before." His voice was almost gone, but Sara's arm had snaked around his waist and he knew his words were soaking into her. "It's not a common phenomenon, but it does happen."
Delicate legs, fragile wings...slender proboscides sipping nourishment from decay. To the butterflies, it is all the same.
Beauty feeding on slaughtered innocence.
"In the Christian faith, the butterfly is a symbol of resurrection, of the triumph of Easter morning. In some cultures, they are seen as personifications of the soul."
But any souls freed in that meadow were gone long since.
"It was beautiful, Sara."
And that was the anguish of it. Not only that he could appreciate the efficiency of nothing wasted, but that for even an instant he could thrill to the shout of color and grace of wings.
For a long while there was only the whisper of their breathing. Grissom felt hollow, but cleaner; speaking of that scene had provided some absolution that even weeks of distance could not. He wondered what Sara thought of it, whether she was even now naming him gently crazy, or puzzling over the fuss he'd made--
"Nature does not beauty love/Nor honor law, nor thrones," she quoted softly, the words whispering across his chest.
Grissom looked down to meet her eyes, wide and calm and without a hint of condemnation. And, marveling, called himself a fool for doubting.
"She profligates her treasure's trove/To serve but Life alone," he finished. Sara was right. The beauty in that meadow was accidental, not an affront or a desecration. And while it was terrible to find it there, it was also forgivable.
Sighing, Grissom gave in and tugged Sara up and over him, a bony, velvety weight. Sometimes he loved her best when he could hold her so and pretend that he could protect her from any threat. Her arms went around his chest and her head fell naturally into the space between his jaw and his shoulder, and Grissom blew away an errant strand of her hair and relaxed.
"Everybody needs a break some time, Gil," she said against his skin, practicality in tiny puffs of air. "Just...next time, maybe explain ahead of time?"
Grissom settled his hands on the small of her back and pulled up the sheet, feeling contentment seep back into his soul. "Next time, we go together," he promised.
"We'd better," Sara mumbled threateningly, wrapping him in warmth as her legs slid along his.
Grissom smiled, and closed his eyes. "I promise."