Author's Notes: Many thanks to Shana and Adrienne for unending support, ridiculous enthusiasm and flawless betaing. I love you both.


Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.

Albert Einstein


Brain cells can die if deprived of oxygen for more than three minutes. Muscle cells live on for several hours. Bone and skin cells can stay alive for several days.

It takes around 12 hours for a human body to be cool to the touch and 24 hours to cool to the core.

Rigor mortis commences after three hours and lasts until 36 hours after death.

Forensic scientists use clues such as these for estimating the time of death.

Excerpt from "When We Die," by Frances Keeler, Garamond Press, 1983.


Gil?

Yes.

You okay?

Gil?

No.

Silence.

Gil? You don't have to do this.

I know. But I do. I do.

Gil?

Yes.

It's time.

Yes. It's time.

Grissom stands. His legs somehow hold him upright but only just. He feels … heavy, like he might sink right through the floor. He might dissolve. He might disappear. Vanish. Yes. He just might. His body also might just belong to someone else because it doesn't seem to be obeying his commands.

Walk. Left. Right. Feet. Move.

Move.

Now.

No. Go back. Back. Go.

Gil?

Yes.

A hand, large, firm, steady, on his elbow.

Brass.

We're here. Are you ready?

Yes.

No. Nononononononononono.

I will never be.

Ready.

But, Robbins is. Ready. He has done this a hundred times. A thousand. Millions of times, maybe, even though Grissom knows, logically, that is, well, not logical. Robbins nods at him with a terrible look in his eyes. Grissom tries to decipher this look but fails. Robbins grips the top of the sheet with both hands. Grissom waits. He sees Robbins' hands are trembling, but only just. Grissom notes this fact, files it away for later under: Interesting Things I Remember About the Day After the Night She Disappeared. Robbins' hands trembled ever so slightly as he gripped the top of the white autopsy sheet and pulled it back slowly—

Brunette. Pale, pale skin. Eyes. Nose. Mouth. Mouth. Lips. Neck. Shoulders, all angles and bones. Grissom grips the edge of the table, his fingers slipping slightly on the slick, metallic surface. Unyielding. Cold cold cold, under his skin. Why was everything in this room so cold? How had he never noticed this before?

Metallic.

Metal.

Sara.

Yes.

And No.

Sara.

Sara.

There you are.

She must be cold, lying there, covered only in a thin, white sheet. She must be cold. She's so thin and she gets cold so easily. He moves forward to cover her up, left, right, to make her comfortable, make her warm again. His hands large and clumsy brush her skin by accident, the paleness, the whiteness. The terrible, ultimate coldness. This is what finally undoes him. He feels something fluttering and rising in his chest and it could be tears and it could be screams but it's not it's vomit and he turns and heaves one two three times before he finally rids himself of whatever is inside him.

But it doesn't help.

Gil?

Gil?

Gil?

Silence.


Sara,

Our parting was awkward. I don't know why I find it so difficult to express my feelings for you... Even though we're far apart, I can see you as vividly as if you were here with me... I said I'll miss you, and I do.


She first becomes aware of pain, but is unable to discern its exact location. Being a scientist by nature and by training, this inability to pinpoint her distress annoys her.

It also hurts. A lot.

Her back?

Yes.

Legs?

Yes. Definitely the right, possibly the left.

Good. Now she was getting somewhere.

What else?

Chest. Hips. Ribs. Neck.

Back of the head. Eye sockets. Wrists. Pelvis.

Ankles.

Toes.

Arms.

So, pretty much her entire fucking body.

Great.

Her right arm is extended above her head, which she finds absurdly interesting. She is lying face down in mud. No, her head is turned to the side, but just slightly. She is cold. Wet. It is raining. She is aware of the sensation of rain falling on her arm, her hand. It is also falling on whatever the hell she is pinned beneath.

That sound. What is it? An actual pitter-patter.

Metallic.

Metal.

Steady.

Hard.

Unyielding.

Fingers. Her fingers, icy-cold, numb, dig and flex. She feels sand and mud and cold and rain and wet.

Where the hell am I?

And then she wonders, although the thought has been fluttering and rising within her all along, unbidden, obligatory, inevitable:

Where are you?

Grissom, where are you?


Many kinds of organisms live by feeding on dead bodies. In the process, their activities result in the decomposition of the body and the recycling of nutrients. The dominant groups of organisms involved in decomposition are bacteria, flies, beetles, mites and moths. Other animals, mainly parasitoid wasps, predatory beetles and predatory flies, feed on the animals that feed on the corpse. A dead body is therefore an ecosystem of its own, in which different fauna arrive and depart from the corpse at different times. The arrival time and growth rates of insects inhabiting corpses are used by forensic scientists to determine the circumstances surrounding suspicious deaths.

Excerpt from "Beyond the Grave: The Effects of Predatory Insects on the Decomposing Body and their Uses in Forensic Pathology," a senior thesis by Gilbert Grissom, University of California, 1983.


Gil?

Gil?

His left foot slams down hard on the floor and he awakes from the nightmarish fog to find himself on a couch with a violent headache and a mouth full of sand. He swallows several times and drags a trembling hand over his eyes. For one long horrible moment he remembers the morgue and metal and Robbins and Brass with a hand on his elbow and the white sheet—

And then he sees he's not in the morgue. He's in his office and according to the clock it's 4:17 a.m. and Sara has been missing for seven hours and time keeps moving forward because it doesn't care.

And then he sees Catherine, framed in the doorway. She is backlit by harsh fluorescent lights from the lab, her golden hair a halo of fire. A beautiful death angel. She crosses to him in three long strides and crouches beside him. One hand grips his wrist tightly.

"Gil. Listen. They found the car. Out Highway 160. Less than an hour from here. Paramedics are already on their way."

Grissom closes his eyes and pushes his hand hard against them, to keep them shut. "Is she…?"

He can sense Catherine shaking her head brusquely. "They don't know. Yet." She takes a breath. "Listen. Listen."

He opens his eyes finally. They are hard, tired, shiny.

"I'll take you to her, all right? All right?"

He sighs.

"Yes."


Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took,

And each doth good turns now unto the other:


She sings to herself, in her head, as she waits for him to come.

Rain, rain falling down,

Falling on the ground.

Pitter, patter, pitter, patter,

What a lovely sound.

She turns her head as far as she can and opens her mouth to let the water drip in. She doesn't want to dehydrate. She is already so cold she doesn't know how cold she really is. She tries not to dwell on this thought. Or the pain, which has driven out thoughts of almost everything else, except how cold she is not.

And Grissom.

She doesn't think anything could make her stop thinking of him.

But, to pass the time, and to soothe herself, she closes her eyes and sings every song about rain she can recall from grade school.

Rain on the green grass

And rain on the tree,

And rain on the housetop,

But not on me.

She breathes and focuses on each breath in out in out because she needs to know she is still alive, at least for now. She tries not to think about the red hot sensation of poking sticks inside her chest, which is most likely her ribs, bone rubbing against bone and flesh and organs.

Little drops of water,

Little grains of sand,

Make the mighty ocean,

And the pleasant land.

It's very dark and wet and cold and she can feel panic starting to rise and flutter inside her and she desperately pushes it back down, because if she allows panic to visit her here, here, wherever she is, she doesn't think she'll have the strength to ultimately send it packing.

Rain, rain, go away,

Come again some other day.

She laughs a bit, then cries a bit because Oh God it hurts so fucking much.

Grissom Grissom Grissom Grissom.

Gil.

Come get me.

Please.

Take me home.


1. Heart stops beating and/or lungs stop breathing.

2. Body cells no longer receive supplies of blood and oxygen. Blood drains from capillaries in the upper surfaces and collects in the blood vessels in the lower surfaces. Upper surfaces of the body become pale and the lower surfaces become dark.

3. Cells cease aerobic respiration, and are unable to generate the energy molecules needed to maintain normal muscle biochemistry. Calcium ions leak into muscle cells preventing muscle relaxation. Muscles stiffen and remain stiff (rigor mortis) until they begin to decompose.

4. Cells eventually die and the body loses its capacity to fight off bacteria.

5. The cell's own enzymes and bacterial activity cause the body to decompose - muscles lose their stiffness.

Excerpt from, "When We Die," by Frances Keeler, Garamond Press, 1983.


Catherine drives.

Grissom, her lone passenger, watches, but doesn't see, a barren, wrecked Nevada landscape trip and tumble by his window.

He's trying to feel hopeful. He's trying to feel anything but utter bleakness and despair, but the heaviness has returned and he wonders if this vehicle is actually capable of holding his incredible weight.

He notices a particularly large, viscous smear on the windshield. He wonders idly what genus of bug met its demise there.

He then realizes, just as idly, that he doesn't care.

The rain has slowed and finally stopped by the time the first slender needles of red light shoot across the sands.

He glances at Catherine, blonde and brazen, hands knuckle-white on the steering wheel.

Will she miss Sara? he thinks. Maybe, for awhile. The way someone misses its faithful and yet emotionally removed pet cat, perhaps. The way someone misses a distant cousin, or an inattentive ex-boyfriend.

It's wrong, he realizes mournfully, that old saying, Life is Too Short. It's not. It's not. He thinks of Sara, his Sara, gone, dead, decaying, bugs and bones and all, and then he thinks of his Life, stretching out for seconds and minutes and hours. Days and days and days and days becoming months and years and decades and the fluttering and rising comes again and he heaves violently at his feet because Life, fucking Life without her is unbearably, interminably, horribly long.


When that mine eye is famish'd for a look,

Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother,


She's dreaming about The Girl.

At least, she thinks it's a dream. It's so hard to tell now. She is waking and sleeping and something in between and sometimes she sees things and hears things in the darkness but she cannot move and she cannot speak. So, she dreams.

Sara, a voice says, and the voice is surprisingly strong and surprisingly serious. Sara turns, alert, questioning. She starts to smile, but stops, suddenly, inexplicably frightened.

The Girl. Small and seemingly harmless. Barely there, really. Pale eyes, pale skin, pale sheaf of hair obscuring her face. A gust of warm, evening wind pushes it back to reveal an expression of anger. Hate. Vengeance. And something else.

I know who you are, she says

She never wavers. She comes at Sara with purpose, intent. A flash of slim silver in her hand.

What the fuck is that? Sara thinks. A needle?

Sara reels back, off guard, arms up in the classic defensive position. Then there is a sudden flash of pain that runs warm and limpid into darkness.

There is motion for awhile. How long, she doesn't know. It could be five minutes, five hours, five days. She has lost all sense of time.

So, this is how I got here.

Then more darkness. Coldness. Wetness.

More pain.

I'm so tired, she thinks.

I know who you are, The Girl had said.

Sara has sand in her mouth and her hair and a dull pain deep inside that she doubts will ever heal now.

Who am I? she thinks. I'm just Sara. What did I ever do to you?


The environment provided by a dead body changes with time. This change is a result of drying, and the activities and by-products of the corpse fauna. Different groups of animals find the corpse attractive at different stages of decomposition and the resultant change in the animal community is called a succession.

Many bacteria respire anaerobically (without oxygen) and so they can consume the body from the inside. They are also tolerant of the acidic conditions of the muscles shortly after death, caused by the build up of lactic acid. Because of these attributes and the fact that they are already present in the body before death, bacteria are the first colonisers and they continue to feed on a dead body until it dries out.

Excerpt from "Beyond the Grave: The Effects of Predatory Insects on the Decomposing Body and their Uses in Forensic Pathology," a senior thesis by Gilbert Grissom, University of California, 1983.


Gil Grissom thought he'd seen it all. In his 22 years as a CSI, he had, he thought, witnessed every indignity one human being could possibly perpetrate upon another: suffocation, exsanguination, decapitation, evisceration, strangulation, poisoning, rape, stabbing, gunshot, neglect. And as difficult as some of those sights had been at the time, in an odd way he felt grateful. He felt grateful for the fact that nothing in this incredibly crazy and messed up world could ever shock him.

He was detached. Impervious.

He thought.

But when Natalie's crime scene, her final miniature work of art, rises out of the wet sand like some bizarre sculpture in front of his exhausted, disbelieving eyes, for the first time in his work life, he feels his knees tremble. He feels in serious danger of passing out.

He is also in serious danger of realizing what he's feared all along, ever since allowing Sara Sidle into his life and his encapsulated, insulated heart.

Loving someone, being loved by someone, could only ever end in pain.

This isn't just any crime scene. He's already seen this one. Twice. The first time, with Sara. Sara. The second time, at the lab.

The flipped, battered car. The lonely stretch of desert highway. A few scattered cacti. Catherine, sensing his intense distress, grips his arm.

"You're shaking," she says.

It is, in a word, surreal.

Paramedics. Overlapping shouts. Lights, red and blue, blinding him.

Sara.

The thought of her finally shatters his immobility. He shakes Catherine off and breaks into a ragged, stumbling run. The ground is still wet from the night's rain and he can't find his footing and just like the surreal state of a dream, he can't seem to get any closer to the car. He runs and runs and—

"We got her!"

"She's out…she's out…"

He stops, several feet away. He sees the board, and the body being lifted and placed, strapped down. Dark, limp.

"Is she…is she…" Grissom's voice is ragged and quiet, but someone hears him because someone grabs his shoulder and the pressure of the grip almost pushes him over backwards.

"She's alive."


With my love's picture then my eye doth feast

And to the painted banquet bids my heart;


She's gathering all her happiest thoughts together.

She doesn't have many at her disposal, so it's pretty easy.

Walking one summer in the long grass by the roadside. Wearing new sandals, white, fake rhinestones across the strap. Sliding her feet and singing. Then falling, crying out in pain because a bee hiding low in the grass has slid beneath her foot and stung her. But her parents are there, both of them for once, and they comfort her and her father carries her home and her mother washes the sting with baking soda. She also gets ice cream.

Then Jimmy Latham, blonde and freckled, kissing her behind the school in fourth grade. She made him wipe his nose first.

Then a dog, Rufus, only for a week before her father sent him away. But still, a happy week.

Then a long stretch of nothing happy.

At all.

Then, getting accepted to Harvard and graduating, with honors.

Then moving to Las Vegas.

Then, Grissom, pretty much completely after that.

The glances, the touches, the jokes, the concern, the admiration, the attraction, the frustration. Push and pull, up and down, around and around.

Then a homemade knife at her throat and the look in his eyes from across the room and she knew then, she knew without a doubt, after all that time of chasing and wondering and feeling like a stupid lovesick fool, she knew how he really felt about her.

And then, that night, the touching, the grasping, the gasping, the kissing and kissing, every part of her face, her shoulders, every bit of skin he could reach because he'd seen her with a homemade knife pressed hard to her neck so he pressed his lips there harder.

Then, she must be dreaming again, because the immense weight is being lifted and she can finally breathe and she's hearing voices, shouts overlapping. She sees light and she pushes her face into the sand because it's blinding her.

Hands on her, tentative, probing. Push, poke.

"You're okay now," someone says.

I am? she thinks.

Then she's being pulled and lifted and she tries to cry out but can't even do that. She thinks she might be dead after all.

Then she hears his hoarse, wavering voice:

"Is she…is she…"

She struggles to move her head, to see him, but hands hold her down, strap her down.

"She's alive," someone says.

I am? she thinks.


Eventually, the corpse becomes too dry for the mouth hooks of maggots to operate effectively. The hide beetles, ham beetles and carcass beetles, with their chewing mouthparts, devour the dry flesh, skin and ligaments. Finally, moth larvae and mites consume the hair, leaving only the bones to slowly disintegrate.

Excerpt from "Beyond the Grave: The Effects of Predatory Insects on the Decomposing Body and their Uses in Forensic Pathology," a senior thesis by Gilbert Grissom, University of California, 1983.


Two paramedics calmly and efficiently hoist the backboard and move towards the ambulance because they do this sort of thing every day.

Except today they are carrying Sara.

And she's alive.

All right. All right.

He wants to scream. He wants to weep. He wants to wrap his arms around her and push his face blindly into the hollow between her neck and collarbone and sleep for days.

Because he can do none of these things he forces his legs to move, to catch up, because he is determined to never lose sight of her again. He hobbles along beside them, an awkward accessory. Her hair is dark and matted. Her eyes are closed. Her lips the same colour as her skin. She still has not moved. He wants to ask if they're sure, how they know she's --

She opens her eyes.

"Sara," he whispers. "Sara."

She watches him watching her as if she's not sure he's really there, trying to keep up.

"You're here?" she says.

"Yes," he says. He wants to shout it, if that would make it more believable. She smiles a little and Grissom's heart breaks a little more.

"Good."

She closes her eyes.


Another time mine eye is my heart's guest

And in his thoughts of love doth share a part:


For awhile she doesn't remember anything except how tired she is. And how much she hurts. The pain radiates from the inside out and back in again and all she wants to do is sleep. Or sink.

She does remember Grissom's face, hovering above her, eyes wild and burning. He'd looked pretty much like she felt and she'd wanted nothing more than to take him to bed and wrap her arms and legs around him and kiss him there between his shoulder blades and fan her fingers across his chest.

So, he had found her after all.

They all come to see her, of course, and for that she is both grateful and resentful. Their faces display an odd mixture of relief and love and something she can't quite pinpoint: Annoyance? Glee? Warrick leans down, his breath hot on her cheek, whispers, "Rest, get better. We all miss you." Nick, ever jovial, squeezes her hand very gently and tells her not to worry them like that again. "Don't think our tickers could take it," he says. She frowns because she knows suddenly exactly whose ticker he is referring to. Greg brings her flowers but seems nervous about actually giving them to her. "These don't, you know, mean anything," he stammers. Catherine and Brass watch this awkward tableau play out from across the room and Sara can see in their faces, in their little smiles, what she's suspected all along.

They know.

They all know.

Well, of course they do.

Shit.

Sara sighs and thanks them all for coming with as much of a Sara smile as she can muster and curves into herself, cradling her chest – fractured ribs, three of them – and lets the medication drag her down and down.

He had found her, after all.

Now he just has to come take her home.


So, either by thy picture or my love,

Thyself away art resent still with me;


On the seventh day he comes to take her home.

He hovers in her doorway, on edge, unsure. Her doctor is listening to her breathe, the stethoscope sliding across the curve of her back.

"You're doing well," the doctor says, and smiles. Sara doesn't smile in return, which makes Grissom bite down hard on the inside of his cheek. He scrubs his palms on his pants and gathers his strength for the brewing storm. He can see pain etched into her features and he wonders if it's the kind of pain either medication or time will ease. Or if nothing will.

"You need to rest," the doctor says and Sara crosses her arms reflexively and Grissom almost laughs because he's seen her do that so many times over the years he's lost count but then she winces and sucks in her breath and Grissom's heart breaks yet again. "No returning to work for at least six weeks."

Sara scowls and is about to say something along the lines of Like hell I won't, when Grissom steps into the room and wraps his fingers around the top of her arm. She looks up at him with eyes flashing anger and frustration and sadness and utter helplessness and he leans down impulsively and kisses her, once.

"I'll see that she doesn't," he says.


They don't speak on the way home.

Sara looks out the window and wonders why everything looks the same. How could nothing have changed while she was gone? Nothing.

Grissom drives and wonders why everything feels different. Out there. In here. Everything is different.


She wanders aimlessly around the apartment, touching things, looking at things as if she's never been here before. Grissom watches her and says nothing.

He wants to say: Welcome home, and I'm glad you're back, and I missed you, and I cleaned the bathroom and changed the sheets, and I would have died if you'd died, but he says nothing. He just watches.

"I need a shower," she says finally, her head and voice low.

"Ok," he says. She doesn't even look at him. She just walks away very slowly and closes the door and for a long while there is no sound at all except the occasional whoosh of passing vehicles four stories down. Grissom sits and fidgets, then stands and follows the path she took around the room, looking at and touching the same things she did. It doesn't help. It reveals nothing. Then he hears the shower door open and the water roar to life and the door slams shut.

He sits heavily and drops his head into his hands, rubbing his temples with trembling fingers.

I should have…he thinks. I shouldn't have

He makes a mental checklist of all the things he should and shouldn't have said and did and done and felt and as it gets longer he rubs his temples harder.

He waits for the water to stop.

And waits.

It doesn't.

Finally he rises and goes to the door. He presses his ear close but hears nothing but running water.

"Sara?" he calls. "Do you need any help?"

Nothing.

Louder. "Sara?"

He sighs around the tightness in his chest and opens the door. The small room is thick with steam and the heat is oppressive.

Because she was so cold that night, he thinks suddenly and looks towards the shower. He can see her figure, vague, shapeless, behind the glass. She's standing, but not moving. He pulls on the door and it pops open releasing a fine mist of water over his face. Her forehead is pressed to the tile wall, the spray of water beating down on her back. Her eyes are closed. She's crying.

No, she's sobbing.

"Sara…" he murmurs. He realizes he's about to ask her if she's all right. His mental checklist grows longer. She doesn't move. He removes his clothes without taking his eyes off her and steps in behind her. He doesn't touch her. The water beats down on him instead and splashes around her.

What do I do? he thinks, panicked. What do I do now?

He picks up a bottle of shampoo, mango something, and pours some into his hands. He gently places his palms on her head. He starts to move them, rubbing, making a lather. His fingers stretch and flex, massaging her scalp. He can feel her shaking but she doesn't tell him to stop. He moves his hands down the length of her hair, squeezing and sculpting.

Gently, gently.

Ok.

There are at least six bottles of varicoloured liquids and lotions at his feet. He grabs one and pours something bluish into his hand. It smells like flowers. It smells like … her. Neck first, he thinks, then shoulders. Work your way down. Ok. He begins and as he progresses he becomes immersed in the job. He studies her body, the shape, the texture. Not entirely detached, because he will never be detached from her again, but he observes her. A mole at the base of her hairline, freckles dotted across her shoulders. Not the first time he's seen her naked body, no. But he's never done this, touched her like this and so it feels like the first time. Remember this, he thinks. Remember all of this. He is half hard just standing this close to her but he doesn't want this to be about sex, not now, so he concentrates on her bones, counts the vertebrae down her back, the indentation at the base of her spine, the curve of her waist, the flare of her hip. He crouches to wash the length of her legs, the hollows behind her knees, her calves, ankles. She has gradually stopped shaking as his hands rub and stroke, make small circles here and there. He stands up and his hands slide up her thighs and over her hip bones, across her stomach, up ever so lightly across her ribs. He hears a slight intake of breath and he imagines those curved bones in there, cracked, perhaps starting to heal, slowly. His hands find the weight of her breasts, but if he lingers too long there he will be lost, so he moves on to her collarbone, back to her neck.

Still, she says nothing.

"Sara," he says. The water is starting to cool. He wants to dry her and put her to bed. "Honey…"

It's that word that finally undoes her. She turns and wavers then falls against him, but she's no longer crying. Her head tucks beneath his chin and her arms slide around him, pulling him closer. He puts his hands on her back lightly.

"No," she says. "Not like that. Like you used to. Before."

"I don't want to hurt you," he says.

"You won't," she says. "You can't."

So he pulls her to him for the first time in eight days. He pulls her to him as hard as he dares and lets the water grow cold against his skin.


She has had insomnia most of her adult life and only slept in the hospital because of the drugs. Tonight she lies on her side, away from him. She's wearing her oldest sleepshirt, pink, worn and frayed, but even that feels unfamiliar against her skin. She listens to Grissom breathing behind her, slow and steady, but she doubts he's asleep. And she doesn't ask. She watches shadows on the wall and the red glow of her alarm clock and wishes someone would tell her what she's feeling because she can't figure it out.

When she awakes from a dream about The Girl and the needle, she's alone in the bed. She panics for a moment, then sees him sitting in the chair in the corner, watching her.

"What are you doing?" she says.

He says nothing for so long she thinks he might not have heard, or maybe he just doesn't want to say. Then he sighs, rises and comes to her. He kneels beside the bed and takes her hand.

"What is it?" she says. He only shakes his head and places his lips on her palm, hard.

"Sorry," he finally says, quietly.

"For what?"

But this time he doesn't answer.


The next night it happens again. And the night after that.

She props herself up on one elbow, biting back pain, and looks at him, half in shadow, half out.

"Ok," she says. "This is getting weird, even for you."

He presses his hands together. "I just…can't sleep."

"Gris…" She lays back down, struggling to find a comfortable position. She can't.

"You're hurting," he says.

"Yeah. A bit." She closes her eyes, tries to breathe. "Come lie with me, ok?"

He stands and moves to her. He crawls onto the bed and they lie facing each other, knees touching. She thinks of all the things she wants to say to him and all the words she doesn't have.

"I didn't protect you," he says finally with a funny catch in his voice. She crosses her arms.

"Since when have I needed anyone's protection?" she says, angry.

"Never," he lies, because he can immediately think of at least four times she has. "Doesn't mean I don't want to, though."

Later, he sleeps behind her, his arm on her hip, his face in her hair. For the first time in a long time she feels almost safe.

"Do you love me?" she says into the darkness. He shifts behind her, his head lifting slightly, his hand gripping her shirt.

"Sara." His voice catches in his throat and for the first time in as long as she can remember it sounds like he's crying. Maybe. "God. Sara. Yes. Yes."

His lips find the nape of her neck and she thinks, for the first time in a long time, that things will be ok. Maybe.


Brass and his sandwich corner him in the lunch room one day.

"So?" he says.

Grissom raises one eyebrow and waits.

"Yes?"

"The question, you dog, is can you still do your job?"

"I've been doing it just fine for the past two years, thanks," he says.

Brass considers, finishes chewing and then swallows.

"All right, then."


Catherine corners him in his office, one night, late, just before he heads home.

"So?" she says.

Grissom sighs, pulls off his glasses.

"Yes?"

"Can I ask if Sara's ok?" She's smirking.

"You can," he says. "And you may. She's fine."

Catherine shakes her head in disbelief. "Were you planning on sharing this, uh, relationship with any of us? Ever?"

Grissom slides some papers into a folder, places his glasses in their case. He thinks.

"No," he says.

Catherine opens her mouth to say something, then closes it. She shakes her head again and turns to leave.

"Hey, Cath?" he calls. She turns. "If it makes you feel better, I would have told you first."


Greg either completely avoids him or studies him intently from a great distance, as if trying to figure out how he ended up with the girl after all.

"Hey, Grissom?" He corners Grissom by his car one morning, before Grissom has even completely emerged from the vehicle. "Hey. I, uh, just wanted to say, yeah, I hope that Sara's feeling better, you know? And that, uh, you know…I think what you're doing…you and her…it's ok."

For one horrifying moment it seems as though Greg is going to pat him on the back. Then he sees the look in Grissom's eyes.

"I mean, no! I mean, you know. I'm happy for you and for her. Sara. I'm happy that, you know, you're happy and I don't care what people are saying—"

"Greg," Grissom breaks in, puts them out of their misery.

"Yeah?"

"Thank-you."


For thou not farther than my thoughts canst move,

And I am still with them and they with thee;


The healing process takes much longer than she anticipates.

She is exhausted and aching and irritable and picks fights when he comes home from work.

"How was your day?" she asks. "Listen to what I did: I vacuumed, did laundry, dusted, rearranged some knickknacks and then I made dinner."

He merely smiles. "That's nice, but you really should be resting."

"I'm not going to get any sympathy here, am I?" she says. "I'm sore, Gris. I'm tired. I'm bored."

He stands in the doorway of the bedroom and watches her for a moment, an odd expression on his face.

"Actually, I'm glad you're bored," he says lightly, but his eyes are very dark. "And sore. And tired. Because it means you're alive. And you're here, with me."

She turns to hide her smile, but he's already walked away.


They sit side by side on the couch. He's reading a textbook. She's drinking a Diet Coke with raspberry vodka and flipping aimlessly through the TV channels.

"So, what are they saying about us?" she says.

"Pardon?" he looks up with a confused expression, but he heard her, and he's been waiting for this question.

"The office scuttlebutt. The whispers. The jokes. The nudge nudge wink wink stuff. Come on. Dish."

"Uh…"

"I mean, you must have heard the 'Talk about sucking up to the boss,' one by now."

He has, actually. Several times, as he's passed open doorways. Followed by, God almighty, giggles.

She smirks, never taking her eyes off the screen. "Yeah. That's a good one."


Or, if they sleep, thy picture in my sight

Awakes my heart to heart's and eye's delight.


She lies behind him, breathing onto his bare skin. It is late and she can't sleep, but now instead of puttering around a lonely apartment or eating cereal from the box or reading forensic journals, she breathes onto his bare back and draws pictures on his skin with her finger.

She draws a circle with lines extending outward on his shoulder.

"A sun," he says drowsily. She smiles.

She draws a heart on the other shoulder.

"I've always wondered how that particular shape is supposed to represent one of our most vital organs," he says. She shakes her head.

She draws two long swirls above his boxers.

"Double helix," he says. They've played this game before.

She draws letters.

I.

L. o. v. e.

She stops.

He waits.

Y. o. u.

"Sara," he whispers.

She presses her lips there, in the space between his shoulders, hot, hard, insistent. Her hand moves to his chest, fingers fanned. She can feel his heart pounding. She kisses again and again, wanting to cover every inch of his skin. She pushes herself up and it doesn't hurt quite as much as it did yesterday and she kisses his neck, his ear, the back of his head. Remember this, she thinks. Remember all of this. She pulls him over to face her and her hands cup the sides of his face, tight, and she kisses his eyelids, cheeks, nose, before she finds his mouth and lips and tongue and his hands find her waist and hips and breasts. She may be crying but if she is it's still ok.

Remember.


The beauty of the world has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.

Virginia Woolf


She returns to work on a cloudless, hot morning in mid-July. Grissom rises early, makes her breakfast and coffee, kisses her cheek as she eats, then leaves, all without saying one word. Sara feels an odd nervous fluttering start in her stomach as she dresses, brushes her hair and teeth, applies sunscreen and lip balm.

Just another day. Right?

Right.

She drives slowly, on autopilot, willing her heartbeat to slow down. There's a sharp twinge in her chest as she climbs out of the car and she panics for just a moment. Am I ready? she thinks. Can I handle this? Then she pictures yet another day of laundry and puttering and planning dinner and laughs out loud.

Oh yeah. Shit. I'm ready.

She makes her way to the locker room trying to look both confident and inconspicuous, smiling at everyone who smiles at her, saying things like Thanks, nice to be back, and One hundred and ten percent, thanks. She shoves her bag in her locker, attaches her ID badge, looks in her magnetic mirror, sticks out her tongue, and slams the door shut.

They're all in the breakroom when she makes her grand entrance. Well, everyone except Grissom. They look up as she walks in and there is a second – a nanosecond, she thinks – of silence before they rise and smile and come to her. Warrick and Nick kiss her and Greg punches her shoulder – very lightly – and makes a joke she doesn't get. Catherine hugs her. Catherine doesn't hug. Then Grissom walks in.

Utter and complete silence.

He clears his throat. Everyone sits down. Sara sits at the end of the table, as far away from him as possible. They don't look at one another. Everyone else looks at both of them. More silence.

Grissom shuffles some papers and clears his throat again.

"Sara's back," he says.

Greg snickers. Sara tries to kick him under the table but misses and makes contact with Catherine instead, who yelps. Grissom makes a mental note to give Greg the worst assignment of the day.

"All right," Grissom says, giving everyone but Sara the evil eye. He looks down at the notes clenched so tightly in his hands they are starting to ripple, the ones he has spent the better part of the past two weeks attempting to finalize. Who to pair Sara with on her first day back? Catherine was definitely out. Two females together? No way. Greg? That wasn't even in the realm of possibility, even if Sara was 100 percent. So, Warrick, Nick…or himself. He wanted nothing more than to pair her with him; in fact, he would have liked to make her his partner permanently, but he knew she'd never forgive him if he did that to her on her first assignment. So. Nick. Strong, quick reactions, but tended to be a bit absent-minded, a bit unobservant. Could he protect her if something happened? Would he notice if she was tired, in pain? It wasn't worth chancing. Warrick. Physically strong, experienced in the field. Quick-minded. Attentive. Suspicious of everyone. Perfect.

"Catherine. You and Nick are finishing up the Walden case. We have a meeting with Ecklie at 3 today. No mistakes." He takes a breath and tries to keep his fingers from shaking. "Warrick, you and … Sara are at the Cote Building. Apparent murder-suicide."

The Cote Building is exactly seven minutes away, if he drives just over the speed limit.

"Greg…"

Greg looks up, eyes wide and innocent.

"You're with me."


He leaves Greg to load up approximately 100 tons of equipment into the truck and catches up with Sara in the parking lot as she's putting her case in the back of the Denali. She and Warrick look up as he approaches and he can swear Warrick rolls his eyes before he moves to the front of the truck and makes himself scarce.

"Hey," Grissom says, slightly out of breath.

Sara wipes her hands on her pants, her eyes unreadable behind her sunglasses.

"Hey," she says. "What's up?"

"Uh, nothing. Nothing." What am I doing? he thinks. Say something…professional. Quick. "I just…just wanted to see how you're doing."

Perfect.

"I'm, uh, doing my job, actually." But she smiles, just a bit. She leans toward him. "Grissom, I'm fine. Really. Saw the doctor yesterday."

He stares at her.

"Remember?"

"Yes. Yes." He nods stupidly. "I remember." He glances nervously at the truck's cab. He can see Warrick slumped in the passenger side, trying not to look at anything, especially them. Grissom leans over and kisses her cheek, fast. "Just…be careful, all right?" He swallows past a large lump in his throat and waits for her to let him have it.

She grins, openly. "I will." She touches the peak of his cap. "See you tonight. And, you're making dinner."

Warrick slides down further in his seat and shakes his head, muttering something like Ahhhh shit.

Sara climbs into the driver's side and slams the door. Grissom appears in the window.

"Why are you driving?" he asks, a little too loudly. "Why is she driving?" he asks Warrick.

"Because working with the boss's girlfriend should afford me a few perks, right?" Warrick says just as loudly. The two men stare at each other for a moment.

Sara laughs outright. "Yeah. It should." She starts the engine and puts it in gear. "Later," she says to Grissom, who takes a step back, reluctantly.

He stands in the dusty parking lot, watches the Denali peel out – slow down, Sara – and drive away. He sees her hand appear out the driver's side window. She waves. He stands there, sun beating down on his shoulders, breathing in dust, until the truck disappears.

He smiles.

Sara's back.


Fin.