Sara sees it, the moment it happens.
There's chaos all around her, Adam whispering in her ear about vibrations and frequencies with the desperation and longing of someone who knows they will never find what they are looking for.
Release. Answers. Escape. Hope.
She feels her heartbeat pounding reassuringly in her ears, the trickle of his tears down her neck and please, oh God, not her blood. She can't die in a place like this. Don't let everything rewind, come full circle and end up right back where she never wanted to be.
But through all this, the pressure, the pounding, the banging, the incessant whispers, she sees Grissom's face appear. Lips moving in a frozen face. He's demanding something, but all she sees is how the layers peel away (finally) and she's left with a truth she would have done anything, anything to have seen miles before.
Most people would yell out, pound fists against unyielding glass, but he just stares, stares so damn hard that she can feel it against her skin. So she stares back, watching how desperation cracks everything wide open, secrets and longing and feelings seeping out.
He thinks he's watching me die, she thinks, and maybe he is.
She feels pain in her side that has nothing to do with Adam or shards of ceramic. So much time, so many starts stalled out before they began. Is this gruesome moment really what it takes?
She hates him, just for a moment, and it hurts worse than everything else.
She finishes the job, just as she said she would while he stood the perfect careful distance away, cages and bars casting his face in shadow.
It's finished, puzzle worked out, and as she loads the Denali, she takes a moment to breathe, head lowered into the crook of her arm. She's not her mother. She's not her genes or her childhood. It makes it worse that she's so much stronger now, that he would choose this moment. Knocking out her foundations right when she's convinced herself to move forward.
His hand is on her arm before she registers his loping footsteps, but she turns without thought, turns to the man who is familiar, but shouldn't be.
In the dark of the parking garage, she can't quite make out his expression, but his fingers trace the phantom wound on her neck, unerringly finding the exact spot as if he has memorized those frenetic moments. Not that she expected him to forget. She lets her eyes slide shut when his hand shifts, palm pressing downward against the steady beat of her heart, thumb sliding into the hollow above her collarbone.
She waits, because she has no more moves to make. Always waiting (falling).
When he moves away abruptly, she tries not to feel bereft.
She moved on once, tried to get past this unhealthy, unnatural pull towards a man unable (unwilling) to reciprocate, but she'd ended up second fiddle to a woman worth framed photos and exotic vacations. She wonders sometimes if Hank is still with that other woman.
You were the other woman, she reminds herself, not her.
Sara let him get away with it, let the woman live in the dark. She doesn't think it was born of compassion or amnesty, no matter how often she told herself that. Had she really thought so little of herself not to consider it cheating?
But that's just an excuse and some days it feels like her whole life has been one big justification.
Have you ever gone a week without a rationalization?
She likes to think she's gotten past all that.
Over. Onward. Stronger. Forward.
That should have been the first sign that things were far from finished.
Things are different. The ease of friendship built on confidences slips away and she has no idea what it means.
But it's enough that she suspects, Grissom's unguarded moment of terror (honesty) burned into her skull.
At work, Grissom is openly agitated. Greg keeps his distance and only Sofia seems blissfully unaware that things are off. Even Catherine pops in occasionally with her penetrating stare, wondering if the man might have finally gone off the deep end.
As for Sara, she's torn between anger and the blinding breathlessness of hope. She wants to yell 'why now, damn you.' She wants to grab his hand just to see if he might not pull away for once. She wants to set herself up for another fall and she hates them both for it, this willingness to wait, to hope, to love.
She wants to ask, 'Am I worth the risk now?'
In the end, she chooses no action or words at all, stuck watching his orbit crumble like suddenly he's the test subject carefully cocooned in glass and formaldehyde and she's the detached observer. She waits to see where he'll be when gravity finally wins, to see if this is a stumble or a collision. She watches him crash like he watched her too many damn times to count.
It's not as easy as she always assumed it was.
He assigns her to cases with Greg as often as he can, which is nothing new, but now seems tainted with a trace of premeditation. She lets him have his space.
It's painfully familiar.
Sara is more than a little surprised one night when he hands her a slip with brisk casualness, his fingers careful not to touch hers.
"Sara, you're with me on a 419 in Henderson."
He seems settled, equilibrium regained, but her name is beginning to sound a little thin, sitting there on the edge of his tongue. She suspects he's testing himself, lining up all the variables before drawing any conclusions. It makes her want to scream.
She stays silent (complacent).
He lets her drive and doesn't comment when she speeds just a little too fast, though she sees his knuckles whiten on the dash out of the corner of her eye. Maybe she's trying to give him a little extra shove. Or get the adrenaline pumping to remind him that some things still work.
She wants him to say her name again, in that cautious, warning tone he used to use.
The accelerator edges towards the floor.
416 Pine Circle looks normal enough, white picket fence, lawn unnaturally green in the middle of the desert, little lights like toadstools lining the front walk.
They always look normal.
Inside everything edges towards chaos as if a tornado has been unleashed indoors. Cushions tossed, pictures laying face down, gaping holes where electronics once stood.
"B&E gone bad," Brass informs them, stepping between debris and pointing at a broken pane on the back door.
"The DB?" Sara asks when Grissom doesn't.
"In the back," he says, tossing a thumb over his shoulder.
Grissom follows her silently through the long hallway, plush carpet muffling their steps. The second door reveals David leaning over a body. It's a woman, face down in a thin cotton robe, long blond hair spread around her head, floating in a sea of red.
"Hey, guys," David says, sitting back on his heels. "I've got TOD at around 1:30."
Sara takes a few shots of the body, her eyes lingering on an empty glass on the floor near the vic's hand. "Must have gotten up for a drink of water."
Maybe if she'd just kept sleeping… Sara shoves the thought away. What ifs could drive a CSI insane.
"Help me roll her?" she says instead, kneeling down by David.
They heave together, the woman's head lifting to reveal a deep, quick gash across her neck. Probably from behind, Sara's mind registers. She never even saw her attacker. Maybe didn't even have time to be scared.
David's soft voice forces her back into motion and she takes a few shots, falling back into routine, procedure.
"I'll start processing the living room," Grissom says from behind her.
He sounds a little out of breath, but by the time she glances up, he's already gone.
Dawn crawls stubbornly across the carefully manicured backyard and streaks in through plantation shutters, painting rich colors on the carpet. Sara sits back on her heels, rolling her neck gently from side to side.
"Are you finished in here?" Grissom asks, causing her to jump at the unexpected noise. They've worked in near silence for hours now, absorbed in the evidence.
"Yeah," Sara says, brushing back a strand of hair. "I found the weapon next to the jewelry box. Clear prints in blood on the handle. You've got to love it when they make it this easy."
Grissom merely makes a vague noise at the back of his throat before helping her gather up the bags of evidence and carry them to the car. His lack of interest sets her nerves on edge.
"You look tired," Sara observes before she can stop herself. And it's true. He looks worn, all his edges frayed.
She's ready for silence, but he's stopped by the back of the SUV, one hand curled around the handle of her case, the other rubbing across his eyes.
"I have no idea what I'm doing anymore."
It's the last thing she expects to hear and it knocks her back a moment, the hoarseness of his voice, the way she's never heard him sound more lost.
"Griss…." She hears the warning in her voice even as her traitorous feet move her two steps closer.
"That could have been you," he says, barely more than a whisper.
You could be dead.
"Maybe," Sara says noncommittally, her fingers rising to her neck. It happens that way sometimes, in her dreams.
"That maniac had you by the throat and all I could think was that I had waited too long."
She wants him to stop talking. She wants him to never stop.
"I can't even remember anymore… Why was I waiting?"
She tries to dig up residual anger, resentment that she'd been the one to almost die and he's the one falling apart, but she finds nothing left but acceptance (relief).
It seems pushing past, getting over, moving on were just another set of self-delusions.
"I'm still here."
They're just words, but Grissom looks up at her, suddenly staring again and everything slips, sliding together.
"Yes," he says, voice tinged with awe. "Yes you are."
She reaches for his hand.
He doesn't pull away.