Spoilers: Some details about Sara's history, and vague references to season 7 up through 7.12
Disclaimer: All I own are my crushes on most of the characters on this show, and the dream that someday Brass will move into the townhouse next door. Everything else, alas, is not mine.
Author's Note: "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date." This was meant to be a birthday present for belismakr. Sorry, my love. I threw in an extra dose of angst to make up for it.
I'm very thankful to daphne dangerlove for her beta'ing and thought provoking comments.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Sara groaned, pulling a pillow over her head to block out the incessant buzzing coming from the other room. The layers of fabric and feathers muffled the sound, but not enough that she could fall back to sleep. Throwing off the covers and shuffling across the darkened apartment in a tank top and pajama pants Sara made her way to the door.
"What do you want?" she growled through the thick oak of her front door. The buzzing stopped, the only response to her query. She silently counted to sixty in her head before asking again. "Damn it, if you're going to drag me out of bed at seven on a Saturday the least you can do is announce yourself."
"Sara." The reply was pitched so low that she could barely hear it, but the skin at the back of her neck prickled and she reached for the safety chain. She wasn't ready to face the man on the other side of the door, but it would be pointless to ignore him now that he knew she was in the apartment. He was persistent, and wouldn't go away until she spoke to him.
"What do you want, Griss?" she asked as she pulled open the door, grimacing at how easy the shortened form of his name fell from her lips. Though she had never expected to make herself forget him, she had hoped that time would take away her familiarity of him. If anything she was even more aware of him than she had been. Even when she took a step backwards the smell of him was inescapable, filling her nose and lungs with the light musk of his shampoo, a hint of lemon, and the distinct aroma that was his alone.
"I... I was... I thought..." Speech, so often his ally, fled him as he took in her unwelcoming posture.
"You can do better than that, Grissom. I'm sure you have a whole speech prepared, meticulously planned out during the flight from Vegas to San Francisco." The words were harsh even to her own ear, but she didn't apologize.
"No speech, Sara. I just... wanted to see you," he said softly. "Needed to see you."
"Wish I could say the same." She turned back to the apartment but didn't insist that he leave and Grissom took advantage of the fact. Stepping into the space he closed the door behind him, found the light switch and turned it on. Sara didn't even blink as the glaring overhead lights flooded the room.
"I'd offer you coffee, but I don't have any. Do you want tea?" she asked as she walked into the kitchen and filled a teapot with water. Grissom nodded vaguely, distracted by the curve of her neck and the sway of her hips. She still moved the same, and he found a small measure of comfort in the fact.
"Yes please," he said, watching as she carefully placed the kettle in the middle of a burner and then turned it on before reaching up to remove two mugs from a cabinet just to the right of the stove. It was something he had watched her do so many times before and it was one of the thousand little things that he missed. He often found himself making a mug of tea after a long shift but it was never the same. Usually he ended up starring at the mug until the tea went cold, then emptied it into the sink.
"Herbal or black?" she asked, a tea box in each hand. As she spoke one of them slipped from her grasp, scattering tea-bags everywhere.
"Here, let me help." He rushed to fill the space that separated them, kneeling down on the cold linoleum floor less than a foot away from her.
"I'm more then capable." She pulled back when his arm grazed hers. "Go sit down or something. You're making me nervous."
"I'll have whatever kind you're having," he said as he stood up, placing the bag in his hand on the edge of the counter. "And I'll just sit at your table if that's alright."
"Fine." Sara picked up the rest of the tea bags and tossed them in the trash can, then prepared two cups of herbal tea. With one in each hand she carried them across the room and placed one in front of Grissom.
"How did you find me?" Always direct, she looked right at him. Grissom forced himself to look back at her, taking in the pattern of raised white scars and the unfocused brown eyes. The last time he had seen her, her damaged eyes were still swathed in bandages. The bandages were gone now, but her world was still dark.
"Lucky guess," he lied, thinking of the hours of work; the phone calls, the internet searches, and the misappropriation of lab resources.
"I've seen you play poker; you don't make guesses, Grissom. Even when you play games you have the odds worked out in your head."
"Educated guess then. I figured you'd go someplace familiar, and when I factored in job possibilities and the resources you might find necessary for your condition, San Francisco seemed to be the most likely place." It had taken him a week to narrow his focus to the Bay Area, and three times as long to find her address.
"So Brass didn't tell you?"
"Jim knows where you are?" There was enough shock in his voice for Sara to be sure it was authentic. She didn't think Brass would have said anything, but there had been a lingering doubt. He and Grissom had been friends for years before she even arrived in Vegas.
"Someone had to drive me to the airport. He wasn't happy about it, but he knew that if he said no I'd just call a cab." Sara wrapped her hands around the mug, grateful for the warmth. She had forgotten just how cold the city on the bay always was. Grissom's presence was a reminder of hot desert nights, and served to make her feel even colder by comparison.
"I asked him. I asked everyone, and none of them seemed to know why you had left, let alone where you had disappeared to." He was angry that his friend had lied to him, but at the same time relieved that Sara hadn't been completely alone when she fled Vegas.
"I came to Vegas to do a job. It seemed pointless to stay any longer." It was more about pain then pointlessness, but she wasn't about to admit that.
"Was the job really the only thing keeping you there?" He laced his fingers together, squeezing tightly enough that his knuckles turned white. It was all he could do to keep from reaching across the table and touching her, forcibly reminding her that work wasn't the only thing she'd had in Vegas.
"It was the most important thing," she said emotionlessly. A month ago he would have been able to tell that she was lying by reading the truth in her eyes, but now they gave nothing away.
"Damn it, Sara." Fury filled his voice.
Sara jerked, more from surprise then from the hot tea that sloshed over the edge of her mug when he slammed his hands against the table. She'd only felt this level of anger from him when they worked cases involving dead babies.
"You shouldn't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer."
"I'm sorry you had to waste a trip, but we've already said all that we needed to say." She rose from the table, taking her mug over to the sink. In cautious motions that spoke of a recently learned skill, she washed it and placed it on the drying rack to the right of the sink.
"You might have said what you needed to say, but I still have questions." He joined her at the sink, standing a little too close, leaving her with little room to escape his presence. She smelled of lavender and vanilla, and he knew that if he looked in the bathroom he would find the familiar bottles of shampoo and body-wash.
"Everything is in the medical reports and the case file. I'm sure you've read through them." Reaching for his mug Sara brushed against his hand, the contact sending a tingle of energy through his skin. She pulled away as if burned, taking the mug with her, washing it with the same efficiency she had the other one. When she was done she took a deliberate step backwards, separating them by an arm's length.
"I'm not talking about the explosion, or even your physical recovery. I'm talking about us." It was a lie, but a small one. He did want to know about her recovery, wanted to know every word the doctors had said, every step she had taken, every emotion she had felt, everything she'd shut him out of. But there would be time for that later, when they were together again. First he had to find out what drove her away.
"There is no us." Sara crossed her arms, willing away the tide of emotions unlocked by the single word 'us.' Those two little letters carried with them a heavy burden, a history that ranged from pain of rejection and betrayal to the ecstasy of gentle kisses and a confession of love made in a hospital waiting room.
"There is, and always has been, an us. You knew it long before I would admit it. You never gave up on me, even when I thought I wanted you to, and look what happened. God, Sara, we were talking about moving in together. Can you tell me that doesn't mean anything?" She had been the one to bring up the idea of living together, and he had put her off by saying that they would talk about it when he got back. In Massachusetts, he had realized that he was miserable without her, wanted to live with her forever, but by the time he got back to Vegas everything had changed.
"That was before, Grissom. Everything is different now." She fought to keep her voice even, to keep the distress she was feeling from creeping out. Why did he have to show up here and make her remember what had been? She was just starting to get used to this new existence without him in it.
"We're still the same people we've always been." He reached out drawing his palm against her cheek, unable to keep from touching her any longer. Beneath his fingers her pulse leapt. "Who you are hasn't changed just because..."
"Just because I'm blind? Because my corneas were destroyed by toxic chemicals when some bastard decided to build a meth lab in his kitchen? Everything I am has changed, down to the cellular level." She shivered as the memories of her last moments of sight assailed her, but decided to blame the trembling on the temperature of the room. "I need to get a sweatshirt," she muttered, tearing away from his touch and fleeing to the safely of her bedroom.
Grissom started to follow her, but stopped in the middle of the living room. He watched as she moved with confidence through the apartment, hesitating only slightly when she felt for the threshold into the bedroom. The limited furniture and lack of clutter helped, he was sure. This was nothing like her old apartment, lacking both color and personality. There were no photographs on the walls, no obj de art tastefully arranged on shelves. It was the lack of books that jarred him, physical proof of Sara's loss that hit him at a visceral level. He remembered the fear he had felt when he had begun to lose his hearing, and knew it was only a shadow of what Sara was dealing with now.
"So how does it look?" Sara reentered the room in jeans and a worn blue sweatshirt emblazoned with the letters SFPD. When there was no immediate reply she gestured vaguely with one hand. "The apartment. If you're going to invade my space the least you can do is tell me what it looks like."
"Like a hermetically sealed condo," he said, even though he knew she wouldn't understand the reference. Then he remembered the package he had wrapped so carefully and sent to her his first week of sabbatical. "It's like a cocoon."
"I'm not a butterfly, Grissom. I'm never going to emerge from this darkness." She moved to the window, pressing her hand against the cool glass.
"I understand that you're angry, Sara. I'm angry too. Angry at whoever left the stove turned on next to a counter full of chemicals. I'm angry that the cops who cleared the scene didn't notice something was wrong. I'm mad at myself because I was two thousand miles away when you needed me. And I'm mad at God because he let this happen."
"I'm not angry, not anymore." She was still turned towards the window, her reflection ghostly in the shine of the glass. "And you forgot to add me to that list of yours. You're angry at me."
"I am," he said, for the first time daring to admit it to himself or anyone else. "You disappeared. I came to see you in the hospital and the doctor told me that you had signed yourself out against orders. I went to your apartment and you weren't there, nor were you at the townhouse. For a week I slept with my cellphone in my hand, sure you would call. You never called."
"I didn't know what to say." The first week after she had fled from Vegas she had picked up the phone a hundred times, desperate to hear his voice. She knew that he would demand answers, though, and even after all this time she didn't know how to give them.
"If nothing else you could have said that you were alive and safe, not lying in a morgue drawer." More than once he had woken from a restless sleep with the fear that she really was dead and with no one to claim her body she would end up a Jane Doe.
"And you would have been content with that?" she asked, knowing that if said yes it would be a lie.
"Content? No, but at least I would have had hope." i I hope and hoping feeds my pain. /i The line of a half forgotten poem came to him, but he pushed it away. He would have carried twice as much pain if it meant he could have heard her voice once in the last month.
"False hope. It would be better for you if you forgot me, forgot us." After leaving her third foster family in two years she had come to the decision that it was easier to forget. Keeping in touch, playing the games of 'do you remember' and 'what if' hurt too much. After twenty years she was pretty good at moving on. Vegas was the longest she had ever stayed in one place since her childhood had been ended by a bloody butcher knife. "I speak from experience. The tighter you hold onto the memories the more they hurt."
"I've never known you to give up so easily." His anger receded slightly, as he recognized the story behind her words. It was still there, wrapped tightly with grief and confusion, but now it was muted by empathy for the woman who still held his heart. "You fight for what is right, even when it means working for days on end, facing killers, or flaunting authority. Why did you give up so easily on us?"
"That fighting you talk about is for victims, not me. And when I left..." She took a deep breath, not sure exactly what to say that wouldn't hurt even more than it already did; she had never wanted to hurt him. "When I left it wasn't about giving up on us, it was about doing the best thing I could for myself."
"I don't understand. You left behind a place that was familiar, where you had the support of friends, people who would do what ever you needed to help you. How was that for the best?"
"I don't think there is anything I can say to make you understand. I didn't just loose my sight; I lost so much more. I lost my job, the ability to read, the freedom to move around on my own. I'll never see another sunset, never go for a drive for the hell of it, solve another case because I saw something out of place at a crime scene. That morning in the locker room when you said goodbye? That was the last time I ever saw your face and it wasn't even a smile."
"Oh Sara." The remains of anger fled, replaced by anguish. He still didn't understand why she left, but for the breath of time he saw through her eyes, and it was enough.
"Damn it, Grissom, why did you have to come here? I was finally starting to be okay on my own, why did you have to remind me of what I had?" She spun away from him, but the coffee table was closer than she thought and her foot smashed into one of the legs. With a hiss of pain she took her weight off the foot, faltering as she tried to balance on the remaining leg. Warmth wrapped around her as a hand on each of her arms kept her from falling.
"Let me help," Grissom murmured. She might have resisted but he whispered the word please against her skin and she allowed herself to lean against him. He led her to the couch and helped her to sit down. "It's not bleeding," he said, examining her toes.
"It's just a stubbed toe. I'm sure it's fine." The pain was subsiding now, and she pulled her foot from his light grasp.
"I'm sure it will be, but will you?" His finger brushed against her cheek where a single tear dampened the skin.
"I can take care of myself." She said it more to herself than to him, needing the reminder.
"I've never doubted that. You are the strongest and most capable woman I have ever met." He cupped her cheek with one hand, the other moving to the side of her neck. "Letting other people help you is not a sign of weakness."
"Griss..." Lips pressed gently against her mouth, silencing her. It was a simple kiss, not of passion but steadfast love.
"I want to help you, Sara. I want to be at your side when you learn to read in a new way, I want to give you back sunsets by painting them with my voice, and I want you to know that even though you can't see my smile it is still here." Lifting her hand he guided her fingers to his mouth and traced a smile for her.
"You grew the beard back," she commented. In was the only coherent thing she could think to say. She let her hand stroke the course hairs, and wondered if it was the same mix of salt and pepper coloring it had been a year ago.
"It seem to be the thing to do when I was the eccentric professor. I was going to shave when I got back to Vegas but..." he shrugged, knowing he didn't need to explain.
"If you had come here a few weeks ago I wouldn't have even considered your offer to help me."
"And now?" He held his breath, everything resting on her next words.
"Now I'm not sure." She felt for his hand, wrapping it in both of hers and resting their entangled fingers in her lap. "I'm not ready to go back to Vegas yet. Part of the reason I chose to come back to San Francisco is that the school for the blind is one of the best in the country, and I have many things to learn."
"You don't have to come back, not until you want to. And if you decided to stay here..."
"Don't." She tightened her grasp on his hand until she realized her finger nails were digging into his skin, and loosened. "Don't say that you'll give it all up, move here to be with me, take care of me. That's exactly what I don't want."
"You're more important than anything in Vegas," he insisted.
"Not five minutes ago you said that I shouldn't have turned away from my friends and home. Now you're saying that you'd give all that up, plus a job that you love?"
"I've spent too many years devoting everything to my job, and it's taken me this long to learn that it's not everything. I could work for the SFPD or teach at SFU, or retire and write a book. What matters more than anything is being with you."
"Stop, Griss." Sara freed her hand and held it up in front of her face. Normally she got frustrated because he moved too slowly; now her head was spinning. "You're moving too fast. I haven't even decided if I'm ready to be in a relationship again."
"We've been in a relationship for years, Sara. This was..." he fumbled for the right word. "This past month has been a sabbatical, of sorts."
"We can move as slowly as you want. Just please let us move together." He reclaimed her hand, folding her two middle fingers against her palm, leaving the thumb, pointer, and pinky outstretched. i I love you /i in the language his mother had taught him.
"I love you too," she said, her voice breaking. "No matter what it might have looked like I've always loved you."
"I know." He kissed her again, this time with all the emotion he had been holding onto. Lips and tongues made love, the sweetness of coming together mixing with the salty bitterness of tears.
"Later. We'll sort this all out later, okay?" She leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder. "Right now I just want to..."
"Me too." And they sat together on the couch, eyes closed, breathing in cadence with each other. No matter what tomorrow might bring, for now it was enough.
A/N2: Credit for the line "I hope, and hoping feed my pain" goes to Niccolo Machiavelli, from an untitled poem. Also, because I spent hours of research on learning things that never made it into the fic- the backstory is that Sara was blinded while investigating a meth lab run out of someone's home.