Author's Note: This was originally written for the LJ community, summerbits. Each author had to write seven fics, ranging from 500-1000 words, about the various characters in the CSI verse. This is set the summer after "Pirates of the Third Reich." Thanks to Prin for telling me I could get this in the word limit.

Reviews are always welcome.

Unfettered
By Duckie Nicks

His hand – not at all like Zoe's, she notes – is clamped around one of her own. His touch is gentle and warm, but it does nothing to ease the chill inside her. As Grissom leads her to the rollercoaster, a wave of fear courses through her, makes her fingers twitch slightly against his palm. Her pace slows, and he looks at her, waits for her to say it.

But Heather keeps moving. She wants to finish this, knows she didn't make it this far to run away. The rest of her may be hesitant, but her face is set, her eyes stubbornly eyeing the rollercoaster. So when she says nothing, he pulls her along.

They hadn't planned this, but Heather is grateful for the chance meeting, nonetheless. As they pass a group of children eating cotton candy, she vaguely recalls comparing Grissom to her child. This seemed to be another similarity, she thinks. He had come here because he enjoyed rollercoasters.

Just as Zoe always had.

Her daughter loved carnivals, the past tense giving her pause. Her pace slows once more at the thought, but she does not say the word.

Does not want to say it because she came here to remember. Though her memories now tainted, the mother hadn't been able to resist their pull. And maybe she had come here thinking – hoping – her child would come running towards her.

But the only one to appear out of the crowd was Grissom. He spotted her first, and now Heather realizes that she probably stands out in this group. Everyone else is filled with laughter and happiness, their sun-kissed faces filled with excitement. She, by contrast, is pale and radiates the cool misery she always feels.

Given that, she's not surprised he found her. But Heather is grateful for his presence, not resentful of it. At the time, she was sure that he'd drown her in pleasantries, but he hadn't. Perhaps he understood that she had spent too many years in the world's underbelly to tolerate the notion of goodness. Whatever the reason, he placed her needs before his own.

She remembered telling Zoe to never give away her power. But maybe this was what it felt like to do just that. Only Heather was sure Grissom wouldn't use this against her; she could trust him. So when they stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, looking out at the world, Heather told him the truth.

"I've never liked carnivals," she said.

"I wouldn't think so." Her eyes slid over to his, and she could see the smile playing on his lips. She could easily read his thoughts: we both know you get your thrills elsewhere. And she knew he wasn't judging her, and it made her smile – a little.

The light mood didn't last. It never did; Zoe's death was always on her mind. But she continued.

"I don't know why I came." She didn't let her voice hitch at the admission. "Zoe loved them, and I guess…" Heather didn't finish the thought, and Grissom didn't push her to do so. After a few minutes of silence, he suggested they go on a ride. She agreed. Agreed despite knowing the danger of memory laying ahead.

Now, Heather isn't sure she made a mistake, but she does feel uneasy. Grissom leads her past a mother applying sunscreen onto her daughter's porcelain cheeks. Ever so briefly, the recognizable smell of banana and coconut wafts through the summer air. A memory playing in her mind, Heather feels a smile tugging at her lips; she doesn't try to hide the emotion from Grissom.

Years had passed since she last brought Zoe here, but the mother can still remember rubbing sunscreen on her squirming daughter. Can remember sharing a corndog with the little girl before cooling off on one of the slower rides.

There is a lightness to the memories, Heather feels. The worst thing that could happen was taking a sudden turn on a coaster or dropping fifty feet.

She does not notice that Grissom has come to a halt, instinctively stands still next to him instead. She pays no mind to the way he intently watches her as they stand in line for one of the rides; Heather is too wrapped up in memories to be in the present.

There was a lightness then, and it's still here now, but it's different. She is unfettered, unleashed – and what is there to hold her back now? There is no child to keep her grounded, no one to look out for but herself. The childless mother looks up into the bright sky, looks at the rickety ride, and has no desire to get on.

She hadn't ever envisioned dying on a rollercoaster, but then again, she never thought Zoe would – and Heather, unable to finish the thought, has to use all of her effort to crush the sob threatening to break in her throat.

She came to remember her little girl. Maybe even thought that Zoe would burst through the crowd. But the truth is: Grissom is here; Zoe is not, and that makes all the difference in the world.

The line moves forward inch by inch, but Heather isn't ready. She doesn't want the weightless feeling of being feet in the air on a shoddily made ride. She wants the weight of Zoe sleeping as Heather carries her to the car, wants to feel her daughter's smooth skin – not Grissom's rough hand. And she cannot move forward once the realization – this is wrong – sets in.

"Heather?" His voice is harsh to her ears, though he says her name in kindness, confusion.

"I…" her thought feels dry. "I can't," she lamely explains. "I can't."

He looks her over but tightens his grip on her hand. She hasn't said the word so… he tries to pull her along, tries to do what he thinks she wants.

She doesn't move. "Stop." And he drops her hand, and she runs, tetherless from the world.

End 1/1