A/N: Thanks for reading my story! This is the beginning of the second part of the "series" that I began with Fairytales; I'd suggest reading that story before starting on this one.
Thanks as always for reading, and for reviewing. I love to read your thoughts on what I write!
I don't own CSI.
Gil Grissom loved the beach. He was sure that he always had loved it, even though his mother insisted that as a baby he had been terrified of the crashing waves. He doubted that; but if it were true, it didn't matter. What did babies know, anyway?
The beach had always provided him with an entertaining escape from the real world. While only nine years old, he could recognize the value of leaving one's worries behind even for a few hours. During the past few weeks, he had grown to appreciate his escape more than ever.
He went to the beach to escape from the neighbors and family members who came bearing dishes of food and boxes of Kleenexes. He went to the beach to escape the flowers and plants. He went to the beach to escape the sad smiles and tears.
More than anything else, he went to the beach to escape her sad smiles and tears.
Two months ago, he had been sure that he had never seen his mother cry. He had seen her laugh, he had seen her smile, he had seen her frown and he had heard her yell, but he had never seen her cry. But, now … During the past few weeks, it was all he had seen.
He reached the boardwalk that separated the beach from the road and kicked off his shoes. He bent down to pick them up before starting across the sand toward the water's edge.
He reached his destination and stood still, letting the waves run up across his bare feet and back again, returning to the sea. He stared across the water, wondering why everything had to change.
They had always been so happy together, Gil and his parents. Then, things had started to change.
At first, it had been small. His mother had started talking a bit louder. She didn't seem to hear when he first called her. But, she was always smiling, always happy, so he didn't think anything of it. He knew that his father was worried, but he tried to hide it. "Mom will see a doctor soon," he had told Gil. "She'll be fine, beetle bug. We don't have anything to worry about."
But, Gil did worry. He couldn't stop worrying. He didn't want anything to happen to his mother. She was hardly ever sick, and visits to the doctor were never a good sign.
As it turned out, he had been worried about the wrong parent.
It was still like something out of a movie or a tv show. One minute he had been sleeping peacefully, the next, he was jerked awake by his father's shouts and his mother's screams. He had run into the hallway to see his father lying facedown on the floor outside his parents' bedroom. His mother was on her knees beside him, begging him to look at her. Gil had run forward to help, but she had shooed him away. "Go back to bed, Gil. Don't worry. Dad will be fine."
He had gone back to bed, but he had been unable to sleep. He had huddled under the covers, listening as a neighbor came to help, as the paramedics came and took his parents to the hospital.
It was the last time he had seen his father alive.
He shook his head, trying to banish the memories. He came to the beach to forget that it had happened, not to relive it.
He started walking down the beach, searching for a distraction. He found his distraction – though perhaps not the one he would have chosen to find – in the form of a group of teenagers laughing as they threw big seashells and pieces of driftwood at the sand. He stepped closer to see what was going on, then stopped in horror at the sight before him.
The teenagers weren't throwing the shells and wood at the sand. They were throwing them at a seagull. The poor bird was too injured to fight back; it flapped its wings wildly as it struggled to get up from the ground.
Finally, it stopped struggling. The teenagers, losing interest, walked away. Finally breaking free of his horror-induced trance, Gil stepped forward.
He looked down at the motionless seagull, sighing. Even the seagull had to die.
Then, to his utter amazement, it tried to move. He gasped, realizing that its eyes were still open and bright. It was alive – it just needed someone to help it.
Temporarily forgetting the number of times that his parents had told him not to touch wounded animals, Gil stroked the seagull's feathers. It turned to look at him; he was sure that it was begging for his help.
"Don't worry," he whispered. "I'll take you to my house. My mom will help me make you better."
He slowly walked home, trying not to injure the bird even more. He walked through the front door, letting it bang shut behind him. A year ago, his mother would have scolded him for slamming the door. More recently, she didn't seem to notice.
"Mom!" he yelled. "Mom, where are you?"
Silence was his only response. He frowned slightly; she had told him when he left for the beach that she wasn't going anywhere.
"Mom!" he yelled again.
He wandered through the house, finally making his way into the kitchen, where she was sitting at the table, reading the paper.
"Mom," he said, relieved to have found her at last.
She didn't look up from her paper. He frowned again.
"Mom," he said louder. "Mom!"
She finally looked up and gave him one of her sad smiles. "Hi, Gil," she said loudly. She frowned slightly as she noticed the animal he was carrying. "What do you have?"
"A seagull," he said, looking down at the bird. "I found him on the beach. Some big kids were throwing things at him. He's hurt."
His mother grabbed his chin, forcing it up so that he was looking her in the eyes. "What?" she asked.
He repeated his statement, watching the way her eyes focused on his lips, almost as if she were reading them. But why would she …?
"Okay," she said at last. She sighed. "How many times have I told you not to touch wild animals?"
"But, he's hurt, Mom," he said, this time making sure that he didn't look away from her. "I couldn't just leave him all alone to die."
"Darling," she sighed, "I don't think there's anything we can do for him."
"But …" Gil protested, his lower lip beginning to tremble.
"All right," his mother said, getting up from the table. "We can try."
She found a box and an old blanket, which they used to make a bed for the bird. Gil tenderly laid him in his new nest, hoping that it would make him more comfortable.
"What else can we do?"
His mother shook her head. "Nothing, really. We can just make him comfortable and stay with him until he dies."
Tears filled Gil's eyes. "It's not fair!" he yelled. "Just because those stupid kids were throwing things at some defenseless bird, he has to die! He didn't do anything to deserve it!"
"No one deserves to die," his mother said, her own eyes filling with tears. "But, it's part of life. Everyone has to die at some point."
"But, those kids should be punished for what they did," he said, his tears escaping.
"They probably won't be."
"That's not fair, either!"
"No, it's not. But, in order for someone to be punished, someone else has to care enough to punish him or her."
"I care," Gil said empathetically.
His mother smiled sadly again. "I know you do, darling. But, in this case, I don't think that a nine-year-old is going to be able to make much of a difference."
"I know," she stopped him. "It's not fair. But, Gil, you have to understand that life isn't always fair. People do terrible things and no one cares enough for them to be punished. People – people die and leave us. We just have to care enough, to love enough, to make a difference, and to make the good times the best part of life."
Gil nodded, and she hugged him close.
"I'm glad you care so much," she said. "Just – just don't let it consume you, okay?"
He nodded against her shoulder. "I love you, Mom," he whispered.
She didn't respond. He knew that it was because she couldn't hear him. He pulled back from her embrace, remembering the one thing that his grandmother had taught him before she had died when he was just a little boy. He looked down at his hand as he forced his fingers into the positions she had shown him. Thumb, index and pinky fingers extended, middle and ring fingers tucked down.
He looked up from his fingers to see the tears rolling down his mother's cheeks as she mirrored his gesture.