DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. Not even my car.
A/N: I have two obsessions when it comes to GSR fanfics: how they got together, and how everyone finds out. Whilst TPTB have answered (sort of) the second of these, the first is still open to interpretation. This story outlines yet another of my many theories.
Nothing has been beta'd. All mistakes are my own.
WARNING: There is a description of a crime scene in the final third of the piece that some people may find disturbing.
Dragging herself gracelessly up the three flights of stairs that led to her apartment, Sara willed herself forward with thoughts of hot showers and cool sheets. It had not been a particularly long or arduous shift, but it had been grating. For some reason, Grissom had been wandering the halls like a lion with a thorn in his paw, snapping at everyone for everything and nothing. Too tired to know when to back down and just walk away, she had challenged him when he was handing out assignments and they had ended up embroiled in a screaming fight in the middle of the breakroom.
He didn't trust her anymore. Not after the psychiatric hospital. Not after she had made herself a victim, after she had disappointed him once again. Normally, the thought that she had let him down, that she had disgraced herself in his eyes, would eat away at her soul until she broke down and succumbed to a flood of hot tears, but right now she was just too tired to care.
Sleep was a rare commodity in the best of times, and lately it had been particularly elusive. It had been four days since the 'incident' with Adam Trent, and the feel of his hands against her skin and the shard against her neck still haunted her.
Finally reaching her door, she was frustrated in her attempt to get inside the door and collapse on the nearest soft surface by the sing-song call of her neighbour, Mrs Thatcher. Gwendolyn Thatcher was an elderly woman with a kind face, soft hands and eyes to rival the mythical proportions of Bette Davis. If it had been anyone else, Sara may very well have just continued on her way, pretending not to have heard the call, but the unwaivering kindness the woman had shown to her from the moment that she had moved into the building meant that Sara just could not bring herself to ignore her.
"Hello, Mrs Thatcher. How are you today?"
"I'm quite well, thankyou, dear. Certainly a far sight better than that young man of yours. I know that it is none of my business, but surely whatever it was that he did can't have been bad enough to warrant making him sleep out here in the hallway. Really, Sara, you are a lovely girl, but I fear that you are not quite old enough yet to truly appreciate what you have got. That man loves you. That is a precious thing. Think carefully before you throw it away."
Completely confused, Sara came to the conclusion that she must just be too tired to properly process what her neighbour was saying, because what she just heard made absolutely no sense.
"I'm sorry, Mrs Thatcher. I don't quite understand what you mean."
"Your boyfriend, dear."
"I think there has been some sort of misunderstanding. I don't have a boyfriend."
"Oh…" The elderly woman's face first registered surprise, then confusion, then fear. "In that case, I think that maybe you should call the police."
Leaning heavily against her door, Sara allowed herself to close her eyes for a moment before she replied. "I am the police, Mrs Thatcher. There is nothing to worry about." Smiling as brightly as she could in her condition, she said goodnight and turned the key in the lock. Once inside, she dropped her bag and keys, letting them fall where they may, and melted into the cushions of her couch.
Two hours later, the insistent trilling of her phone woke her. Groggily, she reached for her cell, only to realise that it was her home phone that was ringing. Deciding that it could only be telemarketers or a wrong numbers, she drew herself up from the couch and walked straight past the phone towards her bedroom. When, after she had changed out of her work clothes and into her favourite pair of grey faded cotton pyjama shorts and a Harvard sweatshirt, the phone had not stopped ringing, she stalked out into the living room ready to make her displeasure known to whatever villain was at the other end of the line.
Groaning quietly, Sara began to seriously consider moving, just so that she could stop feeling badly about ignoring her neighbours.
"Mrs Thatcher. Look, I appreciate your concern, but I really am very tired."
"I know, and I'm sorry dear, but I thought that you should know that he is back!"
Wondering if the poor woman had any family that would come and look after her, now that she had gone completely senile, Sara carried the cordless phone with her back to her bedroom.
"Uh huh. Okay."
During the pause that came from the other end of the line, Sara realised that she had not done a very good job disguising her disbelief, and out of guilt decided to humour the woman for a little longer.
"If you are not going to take this seriously I guess I will just have to call the police myself."
"No, no. I'm sorry. I really am just very tired… So you are saying that he is outside my door right now?"
"Yes, he is just sitting there, the same way he has been for the last couple of days. Since Monday, in fact."
Alarm bells started sounding in Sara's head. Monday was the day she was attacked. But Adam Trent was dead… wasn't he? Lowering her voice and speaking with renewed urgency, Sara asked, "Can you describe him for me? How old is he?"
"Oh, I'm not sure. I'm not good with ages."
Frustration and fear chipping away at her patience, Sara struggled to keep her voice level. "Well, can you describe his face at all? Or his clothes? What is he wearing?"
"Um, he is wearing dark dress trousers and a button-down shirt, either dark blue or black, with the sleeves rolled up. Nice, but nothing too fancy. And they are crumpled, as though he has been wearing them for a while. As far as his face goes… well, he is very handsome, really. Slightly curly hair that you can see used to be dark but is now flecked with a generous amount of grey, and a dark beard. Very neat. I can't see the colour of his eyes from back here, but he looks… tired."
As the shock set in, Sara found herself unable to speak. After a moment, the elderly woman became concerned. "Sara? Sara, are you still there? Should I call the police?"
Assaulted by images of police swarming her building in response to a call of a fellow officer in trouble, Sara rushed to reassure her. "No, Mrs Thatcher, it's okay. I think I know who it is… I have to go now. Goodnight." Moving to set down the phone, she didn't get very far before quickly snatching it back to her ear. "Mrs Thatcher?"
"Of course. What are neighbours for?"
Ending the call, and setting the phone back into its cradle, Sara cautiously made her way towards the door. It had to be Grissom waiting for her on the other side. Why was he here? If indeed it was true that he had been sitting outside her door all day every day since Monday… The thought hit her with such force that it physically knocked her off balance, leaving her desperately grabbing for the bench before her to keep herself from falling to the floor. Perhaps he had come to tell her that he no longer felt comfortable having her on his team, that he had no confidence in her ability to handle herself in the field? Perhaps he had come to ask her to leave?
After a moment she was able to compose herself, and deciding that the best way to deal with whatever it was he was here to say to her was face it head on, she walked to the door, released the locks and flung the door open, head held high and eyes defiant.
Her confidence evaporated, however, the moment she saw the look of complete and utter shock on his face, and the vulnerability shining unguarded in his eyes as he looked up at her from the floor.
"Sara? What are you doing?"
"What am I doing? Grissom, my neighbour just called to tell me that a strange man was sitting outside my door. And apparently it's not the first time. So I think the more pressing question is what are you doing?"
Looking away, he bent his outstretched legs up towards his chest, and drew and hand over his face. Focussing his attention on the blank wall across from him, he answered quietly, "I don't really know, Sara."
Slowly, she moved to sit beside him in the doorway, matching his pose exactly, but facing the opposite direction.
"Grissom, my neighbour says that you have been here every day since Monday. Is that true?"
Speaking automatically, and with no emotion, he replied, "Yes."
"Monday was the day we worked the case in the psych hospital."
Fighting to make sure that her fear didn't shine through in her voice, she braced herself for his answer to her next question.
"Are you here to ask me to leave? Because you don't trust me anymore?"
Shocked out of his trance, Grissom turned to her quickly and wrapped a thick, warm hand around her arm. "What?! No. I don't want you to leave. Do you want to… Wait, you think I don't trust you?"
The smile that fluttered across her face when her immediate fears were dispelled faded quickly as his question brought back memories of earlier that day.
"Well, the last couple of days you have paired consistently me up with either Nick or Warrick to work strictly rookie assignments, assignments that you would usually give to Greg as a solo, and then when we hit a shift with some more serious cases, you stick me on desk duty, and ban me from leaving the lab. Given the evidence, the only conclusion I can reach is that you don't trust me in the field anymore."
Throughout her little speech, Sara had stubbornly refused to look at him, fixing her attention instead on the lamp by her couch. When he removed his hand from her arm, she immediately mourned its loss, and took it as a sign that she had been right.
And then she heard him laugh. It was neither loud nor boisterous, but it was definitely unmistakable. Gil Grissom was laughing at her. And now she was angry.
"You think this is funny? You find me entertaining? I gave up everything for you! I had a life in San Francisco, friends and a job that I loved, and I gave it all up in an instant because you said that you needed me. And now you are sitting here laughing at me? You really are a son of a bitch, you know that?"
Jumping up, she was inside her apartment so quickly that he had little time to do anything more than shove his foot in the door as it slammed shut.
Not so smart.
"Oh my God, Grissom. Your foot!" Her guilt quickly vanished as her anger returned. "Why the hell did you do that? What is your problem?!"
Still on the floor, Grissom stopped ministering to his injured foot long enough to look up at her and gape. "My problem? You just slammed a door shut on my foot! What is your problem?"
"No, I didn't slam 'a' door on your foot, I slammed 'my' door on your foot! Big difference! You and your foot have every right to be near 'a' door, but none whatsoever to be near 'my' door. So I ask again, what is your problem?!"
With anger disguising his pain, he pulled himself up from the floor with more speed and grace than either knew he possessed, he took a step towards her and yelled his response before his brain had a chance to censor it.
"My problem is that I can't sleep unless I know that you are safe! Happy?"
Silence surrounded them as both attempted to process what had just been said. Sara was the first to speak.
Standing before her, drained of all fight, he could hear that ever-present voice in his head telling him to turn tail and go straight home, to avoid both her and this conversation at all costs until this whole situation was nothing but a painful and embarrassing memory.
Exhaustion had stripped him of his defences, and Sara found that she was able to read his normally inscrutable face as easily as she would a small child not yet damaged enough to know how to protect itself from the world.
"Don't even think about it, Grissom. You and your foot aren't going anywhere. Come inside. I think my building has probably had enough of us for now."
It was clear that her attempt at humour had fallen flat, yet somehow she had managed to convince him to stay, and as he moved past her and into her apartment, she shut and locked the door behind him.
When she turned to face him, she saw him slumped against a wall, head in hands.
"Grissom? Are you okay?"
"Not really, Sara. No. I'm not okay."
When he finally raised his head and opened his eyes, she noticed for the first time how shattered he looked. His skin, naturally tan, was pale and sallow, the lines around is eyes deeper than she had ever seen them before. Still, she expected him to deny everything, to tell her that he was fine and close himself off from her all over again. When he didn't, she didn't quite know what to do.
"Um… okay… here, sit down. You don't look great."
As he sluggishly moved towards the couch, he again began to laugh, and she froze.
"Why are you laughing, Grissom?"
"Honey, I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at us. We're a strange pair."
Knowing that it was likely that she would never find him so unguarded again, she decided to press a little further.
"Is there an 'us', Grissom?"
Suddenly the laughter stopped and his face fell, he turned to where she sat a few feet to his left and smiled sadly.
"No, there's not."
"Then why are you here?"
"I couldn't sleep." Shrugging his shoulders, he turned away from her and began scrutinising her coffee table.
"That doesn't really answer my question, you know. All that tells me is why you are awake. I want to know why you are here."
With his eyes still fixed firmly before him, he sighed and began to talk, his voice thick with sincerity and more than a little sorrow.
"I couldn't sleep, Sara, because every time I shut my eyes I would see you there, with that man's hand all over you, with that shard to you neck. You always look so lost, so scared, so… helpless. The first night, Monday, I went through half a bottle of whiskey before I figured out that it wasn't going to work. I was never going to be able to sleep until I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that you were okay, that you were safe. So I called a cab and had it drop me here. It wasn't until I was actually standing outside your door that I realised what time it was, and I didn't want to wake you, so I turned to leave…"
As she felt the tears build up behind her eyes, she urged him to continue.
"Why didn't you?"
At the sound of her voice, he finally turned to look at her, and when he saw the first salty drop fall down her cheek, he reached a gentle hand up and wiped it away with his thumb.
"I started to, but then I heard you drop something – a cup, I think – and I realised that you were awake. The relief I felt knowing that you were okay… I decided to just listen for a moment, to make sure that you went back to bed and got some sleep. After a few minutes, I pulled out my cell to call a cab. When they told me that it might be a while, I decided to wait inside, to listen just a little more, so I sat down by your door. The next thing I knew it was four in the afternoon. I had fallen asleep."
"You weren't there when I left for my run at six."
"I left. I could just imagine what your face would have looked like had you opened your door and found me there. You had already been confronted by one crazy man, you didn't need another."
Relaxing a little once it was clear that she was not about to throw him out of her house and demand a transfer to days, he leaned back into the couch and shut his eyes.
"I'm so tired, Sara…"
Shifting a little closer to him, she took his hand in her own.
"So, why don't you go home and sleep?"
"I can't. I tried on Tuesday. I really did. I left work and went straight home to bed. But again, I couldn't shut my eyes without… So I came back here. I figured it worked the day before, so why not again. And this time I had my car, so that as soon as I had proof that you were safely at home, I could go. But somehow I managed to fall asleep by your door again. Only for a few hours, though. Not all day. And when I woke up, I drove home and lay down, and there you were again, held hostage behind glass, just out of reach. Only this time he went through with it, Sara. He killed you. He…"
Taking a moment to get his agitation under control, he grounded himself with the feeling of her hand on his.
"Anyway, it soon became clear to me that the only way I was going to get any sleep was if I was out there, in your hallway, where I could hear that you were okay, and where I could get to you if you weren't. So I stopped going home after work, and just started coming straight here."
Speaking quietly, she began piecing everything together in her mind.
"So, partnering me up on all the rookie assignments, and then restricting me to the lab today…?"
"As for all the burglaries and trick rolls, I couldn't bring myself to send you to any violent scenes at all, and I certainly wasn't going to send you into the field alone, not matter what the case. Today the assignments were all homicides. Ecklie has been all over me lately about budgets and requisitions and god knows what else, so I knew that my day was going to have to be spent at my desk, and there was no way that I was going to send you to a potentially dangerous scene if I wasn't there to protect you."
In any other circumstances, his reasoning would have infuriated her, but as he sat there on her couch, drawing slow circles on the palm of her hand with his thumb, eyes drifting shut, she couldn't bring herself to feel anything other than love for him.
Standing, she tugged on his hand and pulled him up. Without a word, she turned and led him towards her bedroom. As soon as he realised where they were heading, he stopped in his tracks.
"Sara, what are you doing?"
"Relax. You have nothing to worry about. Please, just trust me."
Warily, he allowed her to lead him forward again. Once they were in her bedroom, she relinquished her hold on his hand and began rooting around in her dresser, eventually emerging with an old pair of sweat pants, the elastic in which had clearly died some time ago, and an oversized shirt.
"Here, go into the bathroom and put these on."
"You'll be uncomfortable sleeping in what you are wearing now."
"Grissom, you are exhausted. Clearly sleeping in my hallway didn't agree with you, and if you really can't sleep without knowing that I am safe, what more restful place is there than right here beside me?"
"You want me to sleep with you?"
"Don't worry. Just sleep. I promise that you will leave here with your honour intact."
With a quiet chuckle, he turned and stepped into the bathroom to change. By the time he came out again, she was already beneath the sheets. Walking over to the bed, he only hesitated a minute before climbing in beside her.
As she felt the mattress shift beneath his weight, she couldn't help but smile. If nothing else, at least I can say I slept with the man, she thought. Rolling over, she caught him looking at her with a perplexed expression. Fearing that he may be moments away from running for the door, she reached a hand out and laid it on his chest, as if to hold him in place.
"What is it, Griss?"
Slowly, he reached up and covered the hand that rested on his chest with his own. Gently tracing patterns on the skin, he answered quietly, "I could get used to this, is all."
The breath caught in her throat as he pulled her towards him, her head coming to rest on his shoulder, the length of her body pressed against his side.
And with that, they both drifted into a peaceful slumber.
Sara was the first to wake that afternoon, and was shocked to discover that she had slept for over nine hours. For a workaholic insomniac like herself, it was unprecedented, and she found herself wondering what had changed. It was only then that she registered the feeling of the hand on her hip, and the warm breath tickling her neck every few seconds, and the memory came flooding back.
Sometime during the night they had shifted so that he was spooning her back gently, his head buried in her hair, his knees bent so that their legs folded together perfectly. Not wanting to wake him, she tried to extricate herself as delicately as possible, but as soon as he felt her move, his hand shifted from her hip to her stomach, and his arm tightened around her, locking her to him.
Sighing, she surrendered to her fate, and relaxed back into his strong frame just as he began to wake.
"Good morning," he said into her hair.
"Good morning," she replied with bated breath. She was waiting for the moment when he would realise where he was and what he was doing, and make a dash for the door.
And there it was.
She could feel the tension flood his frame, and hear his quick intake of breath and reality dawned. And then... he relaxed. His body loosened, and he let go of the breath he was holding, prompting her to do the same. Pulling her a little closer, he asked into her shoulder, "What time is it?"
Too bewildered to do anything but reply, she said simply, "It's almost seven."
He pulled his hand away and raised himself up on an elbow. "What? Seven? In the evening? That means we slept for, what…?"
Sara rolled onto her back to look at him as she answered, noting silently that the colour had returned to his cheeks and that the lines around his eyes had filled in.
"About nine hours."
"You know, I can't remember the last time I slept for that long."
"Me either. Did you dream?"
Face clouding slightly as he registered what she was asking, he moved to brush the hair out of her face with his free hand.
"Only good things… I think you might be good for me, Grissom."
He smiled down at her for a moment before rolling onto his back to examine her ceiling.
"I should go home, you know. I still have a mountain of paperwork to tackle before shift, and I still have to shower and don some clean clothes."
"That's okay. You can go. And I'm sorry if you feel… uncomfortable." Smiling sadly at the ceiling, she didn't see his face as he turned towards her, opening and closing his mouth several times in silence before finally finding the words he was searching for.
"I don't feel uncomfortable, Sara. And I'm not running away."
Waiting in silence until she was forced to look at him, he caught her eye and whispered, "I promise." Finding her hand under the sheets, he squeezed it briefly, to reassure himself as much as to reassure her, before peeling back the sheets, and going to retrieve his clothes from the bathroom.
A few minutes later he emerged fully dressed and made his way back over to the bed, where Sara still lay.
"See you at work?"
When she saw his gentle smile, she was filled with warmth. "Yes, boss. I'll see you at work."
Chuckling lightly, he winked at her playfully before making his way back through her living room, and down her hallway into the open air. Turning his face towards the setting sun, he basked for a moment in the memory of the feel of her skin, the smell of her hair, and grinned with all his might. It's going to be a good day, he thought.
Thirteen hours, half a forest and three corpses later, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was wrong. It was not a good day. It was a bad day. And he wanted nothing more for it to all just be over. He wanted to go home to Sara and climb into-
Catching himself mid-thought, he rocked forward in his chair and exclaimed loudly, "Whoa! Where did that come from?"
"Where did what come from?", came the unbidden reply.
Looking up he saw her leaning heavily against his doorframe, and felt the tension ease from his body. Relaxing back into his chair, he joked quietly, "Careful, now. That is not your door, that is my door, and those shoes don't look as though they would offer much protection should it decide to attack you unprovoked."
Biting her lip to keep from laughing openly, she satisfied herself with a cheeky smirk and replied sarcastically, "Ha ha, very funny."
Pushing away from the frame to stand upright, she casually crossed her arms over her chest and said, "I just wanted to say goodnight. I'm done for the day and am heading home."
After a moment of silence in which they were both deafened by words unspoken, he replied simply, "Okay."
Turning to leave, she paused in the doorway for only a moment and said softly over her shoulder, "If you have trouble sleeping, Grissom, you know where to find me."
For the next fifty minutes he sat behind his desk unmoving, staring into the distance and considering her offer. His first response was to grab his jacket and head for the car, with the aim of being outside her door as soon as humanly possible. But then that little voice in the back of his head started up again. What if she was only joking? What if she only made the offer out of pity, or a sense of guilt or obligation, however ill-founded? What if it was a genuine offer, and you go over there, and you climb into bed beside her again to fall asleep with her cheek on your shoulder and her breath caressing your neck, and then discover that you will never, ever be able to sleep without her again?
Of all three possibilities, the last was the most terrifying.
After waging war with himself for the better part of an hour, he decided to discard both options and ask her to a strictly platonic breakfast in a very public place instead. That way he could enjoy the pleasure of her company, and hopefully assure himself that she was safe and well sufficiently to allow him to sleep at in his own big, empty bed, alone, without risking too much. After all, if he found that he could no longer eat breakfast without her, he still had lunch and dinner to fall back on.
As he rose to leave, he pulled the cell from his belt and dialled her number. When, after the third ring, she answered with a smile in her voice, "Hello, Grissom," he was lost.
"Hello. What do you want for breakfast? I'll bring it with me to your place."
Laughing giddily down the line, she asked for waffles with extra syrup, and promised to have some fresh juice and fruit salad ready for his arrival.
And so it went for the next two weeks. Every day after work he would call her and ask her what she wanted for breakfast, and then after they had finished their meal, they would get changed and climb into bed, falling asleep in each others arms. After the third day he even brought his own pyjamas.
In those two weeks they talked about everything and nothing, topics ranging from new print powders and trajectory mapping techniques, to the first days they shared together back in San Francisco. They talked about everything, except what was going on between them. She would kiss him on the cheek every morning and every afternoon, but never on the lips. He would draw lazy patterns on her skin, his hands roaming all over her body, but never anywhere that mattered. They slept together every day, but it was only ever sleep.
Until one day the cycle was broken.
A call had come in just as the shifts changed, and Grissom offered to have graveyard cover it. The report was a straight death with suspicious circumstances, with no special notes or addendums, nothing to warn him about what he was about to face.
Catherine was at home sleeping after spending a day in court, Nick and Sara were both still working an active case from the day before, and he had a couple of petty burglaries that Greg could handle solo, leaving Warrick free to help him with the 419.
As the two men drove they made small talk and listened to the radio, each commenting as they got nearer to the scene on the size and majesty of the homes they were passing. Clearly, this was a prosperous neighbourhood. And each knew from bitter experience that prosperous neighbourhoods were often hot-beds for fiery jealousies and suburban betrayal.
"So, when swing handed over the call they gave you nothing but they address?"
"Well, Warrick, I don't think they were holding anything back. I just don't think they had any more information."
As Grissom slowed slightly, scanning the street signs for their destination, Warrick asked the question that hangs over almost every murder in Vegas. "What do you think, money or sex?"
At last finding the street and rounding the corner, Grissom was confronted by more than half a dozen squad cars, all with lights flashing, some sheltering officers with nothing less than shell-shocked expressions on their faces. "I don't know, Warrick. I don't know."
Exiting the Denali and with Grissom in the lead, they made their way under the police tape and towards Brass, who was waiting for them at the front door.
"Hey Jim. What can you tell us?"
"Hey guys. It's not pretty in there. The details aren't all that clear – that's what you guys are for – but so far what we know is that Thomas Nolan, founder of one of those online poker sites, and his wife Elizabeth, grade school teacher, left around seven pm to go out to dinner to celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary, leaving their eighteen month old daughter, Theresa, with the nanny, one Miss Erica Spruce, exchange student from New Zealand. When they got home shortly before eleven, they found…"
In fourteen years of working with Jim Brass, the entomologist had never once seen him so much as flinch, so when the man actually had to stop to compose himself, Grissom knew that he had to prepare himself.
Clearing his throat, Brass continued. "So, they arrived home shortly before eleven and found their nanny with her throat cut in the kitchen and their daughter cut open down the middle in her crib. Both parents have been sedated, so we can't get any official statements for a while, but preliminary checks indicate that they were actually at the restaurant when they said they were, so we can safely rule them out as suspects." Quickly, he turned away from the house and towards the mass of squad cars, as if he could not get away from the place fast enough. "All your, guys."
The scene was just as brutal as Brass had said, and Grissom pushed himself to the edge, desperately scanning every inch of the house for the tiniest clue, and then insisting on processing the most salient pieces himself. When Warrick gave in to his need for sleep, Grissom just refilled his coffee and went back to stalking the halls outside trace and DNA, willing the machines to work faster, praying that they would give him something to work with.
Nineteen hours in, the case broke, and so did he. A migraine more devastating than any he had ever experienced before struck with enough force to literally bring him to his knees. He collapsed just inside the door of his office, completely unable to move for the pain pulsing through his head and down his spine. He had shut the door behind him when he came into the room, so he knew that there was little chance that anyone would find him. He resigned himself to the inevitable and just lay still, waiting for it to pass.
But, as he was lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling and watching the flashes of light dance before his eyes in sync with the waves of agony crashing through his head, he had forgotten that the world had shifted in the last two weeks, and that there was now somebody who waited for him on the other side of every shift.
Over the course of the night before, she had heard people talking about his scene, and knew that there was no way that he was going to just leave at the end of shift. No stranger to overtime herself, she understood completely. After a few hours the Discovery Channel lost its appeal, and she decided to go to bed without him.
And then the most terrible of the three maybes that Grissom had agonised over after their very first night together reared its ugly head. She had become so used to falling asleep in his arms, listening to his heart beat in his chest and feeling his fingers flutter across her back and over her hip that she couldn't sleep without him. Eventually she gave up even trying, and after vacuuming her entire house twice, re-alphabetising her bookshelves and sorting through her closet to identify items for Goodwill, decided to call him. It's not like I'm checking up on him, or anything. We're not a couple. He's a criminalist and I am a criminalist. I'm just going to call and see if there is anything I can do to help.
After trying all three of his numbers and getting no reply, she started to worry. Not trusting her voice, she sent a text message to Brass, hoping that as lead detective on the case he would fill her in.
Quickly, she typed out her message: 'You need any help on the baby case from last night?'
Time seemed to slow as she waited, and though the clock on her phone told her that only a couple of minutes passed, it felt like hours. 'Nope. Gil cracked it. Suspect in custody.', came the reply.
That crack in her soul that had disappeared from view over the last two weeks made itself known again with renewed vigour. What if this is it? What if he doesn't need me anymore? What if he never comes back? I didn't pay enough attention, she thought. I have forgotten what he smells like, what his beard feels like against my shoulder, how the callouses on his fingers feel as they trace constellations between my shoulder blades. Grief wrapped itself around her chest and left her gasping for air. That can't be all I get!
Pulling herself together, she grabbed her keys from table by the door and headed for her car, barely pausing to lock the apartment door behind her.
Fifteen minutes later she was sitting outside his townhouse thoroughly confused. She had come here fully prepared to confront him, to demand and explanation for his behaviour. She had begun to rely on him. She had changed her life to accommodate his presence, to fit in around his being there beside her. How could he just abandon her? She was ready, but he wasn't here. So where was he?
Satisfied after checking her phone that she hadn't missed his call, she made her way to the lab. And there it was, his car sitting empty in the lot. Her heart rate began to slow and her grip on the steering wheel loosened. He hadn't abandoned her, he just hadn't left work yet.
Parking her car three spaces down, she made her way past reception and through the labyrinth of glass walls until she was outside his office. The lights were off and the door closed, but if his car was outside, he must still be here. Knocking softly, she tried the handle and gingerly pushed on the door, finding that she was able to open it about six inches before it stuck on something. Peering her head through, she felt her greeting catch in her throat as she saw him lying on the floor, arms thrown haphazardly over his eyes to block out the light.
As quietly as she could, she bent down and reached her hand around the door, delicately shifting his leg to allow her to open the door a little wider and get inside. Kneeling by his chest, she ran a gentle hand across the arm covering his eyes, and whispered, "Grissom. It's me. It's Sara."
"Sara…", came his groggy reply.
"How bad is it? Can you move?"
"Bad… Bad… The worst has passed though." Cautiously he lifted his arm from over his eyes, testing the light. When he was sure that it was safe, he opened his eyes and sought her out. "Hey. What are you doing here? Has shift started already?"
"No. Shift doesn't start for another couple of hours. I came looking for you."
He turned her head towards her, coming to rest with his nose a few inches away from her left knee. She lifted a hand and started delicately running her fingers through his hair in an attempt to ease the pained expression on his face.
"You came looking for me? Why?"
"Well, it seems that you have done a real number on me. I can't seem to sleep without you."
A gentle sigh was her only reply.
"Grissom? Can you stand? Let's go home. You should get some sleep."
The tiniest of smiles broke across his face. "So should you if you couldn't sleep without me."
"Yes, so should I." Helping him stand, she lifted his arm around her shoulder and tested how much of his weight she could carry. As they slowly made their way out to the car, she could feel his grip on her tighten in response to the shifting sunlight. Realising that he was in pain, she did her best to hurry their journey along. Half-carrying, half-dragging him the last few yards, she finally managed to pile him into her car.
They were half-way back to her apartment when it dawned on her that not only did she not have any of his migraine medication there, but that there was no way that she was going to be able to carrying up three flights of stairs. She had only ever been to his house once, and she had not been invited back. He was an extremely private man, and even after everything they had shared in the last two weeks, she was not sure that he would want her there. Unable to bring herself to wake him and ask, she made the decision to take him home, and then, once he was settled, she would leave.
Pulling up as close as she could to the front door, she gently woke him.
"Grissom, you're home. We have to get you inside now."
After a brief moment of silence in which she thought he must still be asleep, he replied. Sighing deeply, he said, "Okay, my Sara. Let's go inside."
Too preoccupied with the logistics of getting him inside the front door and into bed to process what he had just said, she filed it away for later.
After a minor struggle, she finally got him inside. She had to leave him leaning against a wall for a minute whilst she frantically rushed around trying to find his bedroom, but soon had him in bed. After pulling off his shoes and socks, and steeling herself for departure, she asked quietly, "Is there anything you need? Your medication, maybe, or a glass of water?"
"I need you."
With the warmth that spread through her body at his words, her mouth formed a reply before her brain had a chance to act.
"You have me."
Slowly, he rolled to his side and passed a hand over the empty sheet beside him.
"Come to bed, Sara. We need to get some sleep."
Without another word, she took off her shoes and socks and, after sending a message to Catherine from his cell pretending to be him, and explaining that he had a migraine and was not coming to work, she shut off both their phones. As she settled into place, her head on his shoulder, she thanked every god she could name that tonight was her night off.
Six hours later she awoke to find him staring at her, studying her almost, as though she was some great treasure.
Lifting a hand to brush the hair from her face, as had become their custom, he asked tenderly, "Hey there, stranger. What are you doing here?"
She felt as though a lead balloon had just dropped through the floor of her stomach. No matter how tender the tone, the message, she felt, was clear. She was in his house, uninvited and unwelcome. Shrinking away from his touch, she hurried to try and extricate herself from his sheets.
"I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't be here. I'll go."
Sitting up, he reached for her and pulled her back onto the bed and against his chest.
"Where are you going? You have as much right to be here as I do."
Turning slowly to look him in the eye, she asked in a voice so quiet he struggled to hear her, "Really? You don't want me to leave?"
"Of course not, Sara."
As he lay back down, she let him take her with him, revelling in the fact that she was welcome in his home.
After a few moments of comfortable silence, she felt his arm tighten around her. "Sara? Can I ask you something?"
Sensing the solemn air that descended around them, she attempted to lighten things up by replying playfully, "That depends on the something." She realised as soon as she felt his arm loosen around her waist that perhaps that wasn't the best idea.
"I'm serious, Sara."
"Okay, then. You can ask me anything you like."
"And you'll answer me honestly, even if it's not what you think I want to hear?"
As the tension flooded her frame, she answered slowly and deliberately, "You are starting to scare me, Grissom. What exactly do you want to know?"
"Why you are here."
"You had a migraine, I didn't have any medication at my apartment, not to mention the fact that I live in a third floor walk-up, so this was the only option. And then you asked me to stay."
"No, I don't mean why are you here in my house. I mean, why are you here, with me."
"Because I want to be, Grissom. And also because I have to be, I guess. I was serious when I said I couldn't sleep without you. Believe me, I tried, but I… well, I missed you."
In a tone of complete confidence, laced with bitter defeat, he said, "I don't think that we should do this anymore."
Feeling the panic rise in her throat, she did he best to remain calm. "Do what?"
"This. Sleeping together. I think maybe this should be it."
"Why? I just told you that I can't sleep without you? Did I do something wrong? Is this some kind of sick punishment?"
"Sara, you didn't miss me, you missed a warm body lying beside you. And I know for a fact that there are any number of men falling all over themselves who would be willing to be that for you."
Rolling away from him, she hurried to wipe the tears from her eyes as she gathered her shoes from the foot of the bed. As she hurried out of his bedroom and down the hallway towards the front door, she felt the tide of her emotions changing. With her hand on the deadbolt, she changed her mind and stalked back into his bedroom, where she found him lying just as she had left him, a hand covering his face and his shoulders gently shaking. She was too angry to realise that he, too, was crying.
"You bastard! You have the audacity to tell me what I am thinking, what I am feeling? If I say that I missed you, it's because I missed you. Not just your shoulder as my pillow, but you. You know I was actually stupid enough to think this might mean something to you. Talk about your slow learner. I've been in Vegas over five years, and all but the first few months have been a complete disaster. You pull me in just to push me away again. I should have seen it coming. All along, this was just another round in your sick little game. And I actually thought that it meant something. Five years of hell and two weeks of happiness and I actually thought that it meant something…"
Blindsided by her anger, Grissom discreetly wiped away the tears that had fallen down his face and sat up to stare at her as she paced at the foot of his bed.
"Sara – "
"Don't 'Sara' me. I'm sick of you 'Sara-ing' me. Half the time it's all you seem to be able to say. Well, I don't want to hear it anymore, okay?"
Stopping abruptly in her stride, she dropped her head in her hands and sat heavily on the end of the bed, staring at the floor between her feet. As her tiny frame shook and the tears fell, she again began to speak, only this time without an ounce of venom in her tone, and only the faintest remnant of strength.
"Two weeks and already I was picturing what a life with you would be like. When I was asleep beside you, with your hands on my skin and your breath in my hair, I would dream about what it would be like to go grocery shopping with you, or do laundry with you, or just talk to you as we were making dinner together. And I was so happy thinking that maybe you would want me after all. That all these years that I have followed you around, pining after you, after all I have given up for you… That maybe it all might be worth it. But you will never want me, will you? Not enough… I was there you know. I was there in the observation room when you were interrogating Dr Lurie. I heard every word you said to him. You told him that I wasn't worth the risk. And now I know for sure that I never will be." As her sobs grew stronger, her voice faded away, strangled by her grief.
After almost five minutes of silence, once the shock had passed and he once again felt able to trust in his voice, he spoke. "You misunderstood."
Without turning around or lifting her head in the slightest, she asked, "What?"
"You misunderstood. I didn't mean that I couldn't risk everything I worked for, my life, my career, to be with you. I meant that I couldn't risk it all to be with you only to wake up one day and find you gone. That is the difference between us, Sara. You picture what it would be like to live your life with me, and I picture what it would be like to live my life after you left me. And you would leave me, Sara. You are so young and so very, very beautiful, and I am just a selfish, stubborn old man, firmly set in his ways after a life lived alone. I've had my share of relationships, Sara – not all of them fleeting, either – but I had never actually fallen in love until I met you. And I can't do it. I can't have you and then lose you, Sara. I just can't. It would kill me."
Of all the reactions he was expecting, laughter was not among them. But that was what he got. It started off small, a quiet chuckle at the base of her throat, before it moved to her chest and got louder and louder and more and more boisterous with every passing moment.
Finally, shaking her head and wearing one of her most brilliant smiles, she turned and made her way up the mattress to sit beside him against the headboard. Turning to face his confusion, she said simply, "You are kidding me, right?"
"Uh… what do you mean?"
"All this time, this torture you have put me through, was because you thought that one day I was going to wake up and say to myself, 'Been There, Done That'?"
"Pretty much… Though I'm not quite seeing why this is funny."
"Grissom, how long have we known one another?"
"Nine years come July."
"And since you seem to be so intensely interested all the many and varied implications of my date of birth I'm sure you'll get this one right. How old am I?"
As she was attacked with another fit of laughter, she laid her head on his shoulder and brought her knees up to her chest. When she was calm once again she lifted her head from his shoulder to look him in the eye, close enough now to feel his warm breath on her face.
"So… what, Grissom, is that I have spent over a quarter of my life chasing after you, surviving on tiniest hint of affection that would slip past your internal censors every couple of months. Why on earth would you think that, after all of that, if I were ever actually lucky enough to have you, I would leave?"
"Because you deserve so much better, Sara."
"I know that." Seeing first the surprise and then the pain register on his face, she hurried to continue. "I know that, but I want you. When I was sitting down there, convinced that you would never want me the way I wanted you, that you would never feel for me the way I feel for you, I never once considered leaving. If I couldn't have you as a lover, I would settle for having you as a friend, and if even that was too much, I would stay as your employee, your faithful CSI, and I would at least get to see you every day when you were handing out assignments. You are the love of my life, Grissom. I'm here and I'm permanent. You are stuck with me, one way or the other."
For what seemed like an eternity they just sat and stared into each other's eyes, reading unhindered for once all of the emotion that lived there. Slowly, reverently, he leaned forward and brushed his lips against hers.
"You promise, Sara?"
He kissed her again, and again, and again, until they melted fully into one another, their tongues dancing together with such ease that it was as if they had done this every day for all of their lives.
Pulling her over to straddle his lap, her chest flush against his, he broke away to gasp for air. As he studied her face, cheeks flushed and lips full from kissing him, her taste still lingering in his mouth, he finally allowed himself to believe that he would never have to sleep without her again.