Disclaimer: Characters contained within do not belong to me.

Author's Notes: Thank you everyone for stopping by. I'm going to miss these post-episode writing frenzies:) Take care until next time!

The Solution

by Kristen Elizabeth

When you have to make a choice and you don't make it, that is in itself a choice. - William James

The townhouse was empty when Grissom got back from Heather's. He was just a little bit relieved by this fact. His last conversation with Sara had ended awkwardly to say the least. Surely by now she must have found out what Heather's alibi that night had been.

He wasn't looking forward to their next conversation.

The dog greeted him at the door, licking his palm as if forgiving his master for leaving him alone for a whole night. "Come on, boy."

Grissom opened the door to the back patio, and the dog gratefully ran outside to take care of his business.

With the dog out in the yard, he went about his usual routine. Checked the answering machine…one telemarketing message. Nothing from Sara. Poured a glass of orange juice…he was almost out. Sara inhaled the stuff. Turned on the radio…had to put the volume back at a reasonable level. Sara was determined to blow out her eardrums.

Standing in the middle of his living room, he was surrounded by the woman. And she wasn't even there.

After calling the dog back inside, Grissom wandered into the bedroom to change clothes. He contemplated a shower, but decided it could wait. When he lay down on the bed without even bothering to turn down the sheets, the dog jumped up, circled once, and plopped down beside him.

There was still room. Space that was usually occupied by a much sweeter bedmate.

He had no idea how long he managed to doze, but the sound of the front door opening roused him. He knew the footsteps that followed; there was no reason to get up. Any second now he would feel the mattress move beneath him as she crawled into bed.

Maybe he would think of something to say to her by then.

But that moment never came. Grissom cracked an eye open just in time to see her disappear into the bathroom. When she came out a second later, she had her shampoo and conditioner bottles tucked under her arm as she wrapped up the electrical cord of her hair straightener. It was a little puzzling, but maybe she was just on a cleaning kick.

But then she opened up the drawer she kept her things in and began removing items. Alarms started going off in his head. Grissom sat up, waking the dog who looked around, sniffing the air.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

Sara haphazardly shoved bras and shirts into a duffel bag that she must have carried in with her. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

He swung his legs off the bed and stood up. "I think we should talk."

"There's nothing to talk about." She zipped up the bag and slung it onto her shoulder. "I just figured that if you're not going to be spending your nights here, I shouldn't either." She looked at him for the first time, a steely gaze that could have wounded stronger men than him. "I'll see you at work."

"Sara." Grissom followed her out of the bedroom, and the dog followed him. "Just…stop." On her way through the living room, she paused at the coffee table long enough to grab the book she'd been reading for the past couple of weeks. She still hadn't gotten very far into it. Most of their time together was spent engaged in more physical activities. "Sara…"

She reached the door and he lost his patience. "You're acting like a child!"

Grissom watched her slowly turn. He expected to see narrowed eyes, thinned lips, a furred brow….all the signs that he'd successfully pissed her off.

So when he saw resignation, acceptance and utter defeat…his heart dropped down into his stomach.

His mouth was dry, but he pressed on. "You have no reason to be jealous of Heather."

Sara tilted her head to the side. "Is that what I am? Thanks for clearing that up, Grissom." He flinched at the use of his last name, here in the place where she only ever called him 'Gil.'

"She's my friend!" he called out desperately when she opened the door.

With her hand still on the knob, she glanced back at him. "If you need to find me, I'll be at Hank Peddigrew's house. Don't worry." She shook her head, a faintly sad smile on her face. "He's just my friend."

It was only knowing that she hadn't spoken to Hank in years that kept Grissom grounded in that moment. He hadn't realized until right then that his own jealousy was retroactive. "Nothing happened, Sara. We just talked. And drank tea."

"What did you talk about?"

She asked the question wistfully, without accusation, like she was morbidly curious. "Things," he replied as vaguely as possible. "

"What kind of things?" When he said nothing, Sara folded her arms over her chest. "The kind of things you and I talk about?"

"Sure," he replied, hoping that was the right answer.

The sudden quiver in her chin told him it wasn't. "What do we talk about except cases, what we're having for breakfast, and what position we'd like that night?"

"That's massively unfair," he said a second later.

"No more unfair than finding out about not just one, but two of your former flames in the space of five minutes. And from Catherine, no less. Who, by the way, thinks Lady Heather is more of a challenge than Terri Miller was." Instead of rising, her voice stayed flat and calm. "I wonder what she'd say about me if she knew. Not much of a challenge here. I was very easily conquered."

Grissom slipped his hands into his pockets. "Catherine likes the sound of her own voice."

"Maybe," Sara agreed. "But was she wrong when she told me Heather is intelligent…beautiful…charming? And that she rattles you?" He looked down at his shoes for a brief second, but it was long enough to cause damage. "I thought so," she whispered.

"It's not that simple."

"And I think it is. She's in a whole other league than me, Grissom. And…I can't compete." Her shoulders lifted, highlighting her slender collarbones. "A child wouldn't recognize that. So at least give me some credit for avoiding a battle I know I can't win."

Grissom frowned. "I'm no prize, Sara."

"You are to me."

Silence cloaked the room, worrying the dog. He padded over to Sara and pressed up against her legs. She broke eye contact with him long enough to bend down and scratch behind his ears.

While she stroked the dog's fur, Grissom struggled to come up with the right words. But how did you tell the woman you loved that there was another woman who fascinated you? That fate…coincidence…life, whatever you wanted to call it, kept throwing you in that woman's path. And that you had to wonder why.

But before he could say anything, Sara spoke. "You know, sometimes I think I imagined all of this. The past two years. Just a really great dream."

"It wasn't a dream," he said softly. "It's real, honey."

"I know. Trust me, I have…pretty solid proof." She gave the dog a final pat and stood up, touching her belly for a second. "I know I make you happy. But she keeps you guessing. And you're a scientist. You like to solve puzzles." She shrugged again. "And I've already been solved."

Grissom shook his head. "No, Sara. You have to know…" He paused. "You fascinate me, too."

He regretted that final word the moment he heard himself say it. Whatever light was left in her eyes faded out.

All he could do at that point was beg for his life not to walk out the door.

Sara sidestepped the dog and approached him until they were only a few inches apart. "Maybe I am a child," she said, looking back and forth between his eyes. "I don't want to share you with a dominatrix."

"I didn't…" Grissom let it go. It didn't really matter what he had or hadn't done at Heather's house all night long. The fact was, he'd been there while Sara was here, alone except for a boxer who snored. And he hadn't even thought about her until it was too late, and he needed to contemplate damage control.

Heather had gotten into his head. He'd allowed her to block out everything else. He'd given her his time and attention. And just like a client of hers, he was paying dearly for it. They broke their bank accounts.

He'd broken someone's heart.

"Please don't leave me." Grissom's fingers glanced against her cheek. Instead of drawing back, she let them linger on her skin. "You're not a puzzle, Sara. You're…" He stopped, suddenly realizing what he'd felt all along. "You're the solution."

Her lips were warm against his own. It took a second of her kissing him before he returned the kisses. No one kissed like Sara. No one made love to his mouth with quite as much innocent abandon.

When she pulled back, he found himself straining for more. But she put her hands on his shoulders to keep him at bay.

"I think we need to spend a few days apart," she said with a touch of regret. "Clear both our heads."

But his head would never be clear. She'd taken over every part of his life. And he liked it. He didn't want it to go away.

"Just…" He took a breath. "Promise me this isn't the end."

Even the smallest and weakest of her smiles yanked his breath away again. "It's the end of something, Gil." Sara backed up to the door. "But not of us."

Then she was gone. And it was him who was left alone with the dog and a house full of her shadows.