A/N – This was written for Wallace and Brasslefrat. I hope you like the scenario.
Disclaimer – CBS/Paramount own and make profit from CSI. I do not
The misting gray evening lay heavy, like a shroud over Las Vegas. An uncommon smell of coming rain swamped down on the desert town, leaving residents waiting for an impending storm. Even the bright neon of casinos seemed drab, their light attempting to burst forth, only to be hit with a wall of gloom.
Watching him across the parking lot, she saw the man in the dark jacket blending into the dingy dim like every other man and woman scurrying from store to car, pushing a cart or carrying a bag. No one wanted to be out at that moment. Yet she stood at the rear of her car, lost in contemplation.
Something is off, she though, watching him make his way to his car.
Those who did not know him would never see it – he looked like an average middle-aged man performing a necessary chore. He often appeared detached, contemplative. Yet she knew the part of him that relaxed into civilized ritual, reveling in the tradition of gentlemanly pursuits. Always, he moved with resolution towards his goal or endeavor, with a grace of a man born in the wrong century. Watching him approach the vehicle, he appeared almost rigid.
The Gil Grissom that Heather Kessler did not know was the man marching slowly, as if the thickness of the coming night weighed down his movements.
Approaching quietly, she called his name, touching him lightly on the shoulder.
"Hello, Gil," she greeted, smiling mildly. When the breeze sent wisps of brown hair streaking across her face, his hand reached out and brushed it back, and for a fraction of a second his eyes cleared, before returning to a dull blue.
"How are you doing, Heather? How is your granddaughter?" he queried, politely and perhaps a touch hopefully.
"We are both quite fine, Gil," she smiled. Looking toward the grocery store, the smile grew wider and she added, "I'm here for ice cream for our girls' night."
"Good for you," he replied, "It sounds like things are working out for you."
Dropping the last bag into the trunk, he slammed the lid down and leaned against the car. Looking out against the cast steel clouds stomping their way across the horizon, he caught her gaze, "I'll leave you to it, then."
Standing near the automated doors, she watched him drive away, concern etched on her face and worry in her eyes. While he sounded and even smelled like the man she knew, something was wrong with the core – his essence.
Surprising Jim Brass was a difficult thing to do. Having seen and experienced everything from being tackled by a five hundred pound hooker to getting shot, not much fazed him. The fact that Heather Kessler sat across his desk, voluntarily, didn't surprise Jim. It shocked him.
"He is not well," she quietly stated.
Jim didn't even bother to try and feign ignorance. Over the course of the last months, he had watched a man he highly respected slowly withdraw. Grissom's work was completed efficiently and with his usual level of brilliance. Yet still, the CSI supervisor would maintain his position at his desk long after shift ended, and while enthusiasm may burst forth on occasion, it was short lived and temporary.
Instead, Jim watched his friend become something he used to be, only this time with a ghostly ache always wavering around him like an unwanted guest. To the aged detective, his CSI counter-part was becoming the emotionless workaholic he'd been in younger days. The difference was that the older, more experienced Grissom no longer felt his job was his life. Grissom's working habits take a tiring toll.
Staring at Heather unblinkingly for a moment, Jim finally asked, "Why should I tell you anything?"
"I'm his friend," she said, only to have a snarling smirk appear on his lips.
"Is that what you call it now? Back in my day, we had other names for friends like you," he retorted sharply, and then unintentionally and perhaps a little too angrily asked, "Haven't you done enough damage?"
At her questioning look, Jim barked a mirthless laugh, "You don't realize the damage you've done?"
"If you're talking about Gil's career, I can assure you his involvement with me will not be a factor," she mildly stated, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah? What about hurting his home life," he retorted, "Or does that not matter?"
At her surprised look, Jim sat back and couldn't contain the surprise in his voice when he stated, "You didn't know – about his girlfriend – when he spent the night with you."
Taking a moment to calm her nerves, Heather contemplated the man in front of her. While she abhorred his rough manners, she grudgingly admired the loyalty he felt toward Gil. A slight smile played on her face when she said, "You have no idea what you are talking about."
"If you expect me to believe that, you're out of your mind, lady," Jim angrily stated. "Grissom spent the night at your house. Everyone knows that. How the hell do you think she would have felt?"
"I wasn't aware Gil was involved with a woman," she casually stated. "Had I known that, he would have still spent the night. He wasn't there as a lover, but a friend. It was something I desperately needed at the time."
"What? You couldn't find someone else to fill this desperate need? You couldn't open up your little black book of clients?" Jim casually threw in her face.
He had the wind knocked from his sails when she replied, "I was trying to die. Gil wouldn't let me. I'd stopped taking my medication. My child was dead. I had nothing left for which to live."
"Well, damn," he muttered.
"He saved my life."
"Well, double damn."
Seeking and finding his eyes, Heather quietly asked, "What is her name? I'd like to meet her – straighten up any misunderstanding."
"She's gone," he murmured. "She left months ago."
"Her name," Heather demanded, her voice low and forceful.
"Sara Sidle," he murmured, dropping his gaze to the desk with a heavy sigh. What does it matter now, anyway?
Heathers, "Oh my God," had his head snapping up.
"Yeah," he smirked, "the one on the news."
"No!" she interjected. Smiling softly, she said, "I liked her. She processed me in the hospital, and was so very gentle, and… un-judgmental." Frowning slightly, she added, "That would explain the change in the room when Gil arrived. She rapidly finished and left. I assumed it was because he is her supervisor."
Shaking her head slightly, she sighed, "I'm usually good at reading people. I missed the signs. Yet, it makes sense in hindsight. The young woman suddenly seemed aggravated, and maybe hurt."
"Yeah, well, that night with you threw a wrench into things," he muttered, watching her stand.
Standing in his doorway, Heather looked at the man in front of her and said, "Sara struck me as an honest, tolerant woman. It's too bad the rest of the LVPD can't be like her."
Many thought he should hate the rain, or maybe curse it. Grissom felt the point of neither. On the one hand, she could have drowned; she would have been buried had the downpour not shifted the car. He didn't particularly hate anything, instead choosing acceptance of whatever scenario lay in front of him, and dealing as he must.
"Well, Hank, how about Godzilla tonight?" he asked, flipping over to the classic movie channel. Laying against his pillow, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt – extremely relaxed clothing for him – he laid his hand on the dog, absently petting.
The sound of the ringing doorbell had him frowning. Making his way to his home's entrance, he prepared for the force of the howling wind, wondering who would be begging his audience. For half a heartbeat, his mind turned and a single step quickened, before he dampened it down.
Slowly opening the door a crack, fighting a gust, Grissom asked, "Heather? What are you doing here? I thought you had an evening planned with your granddaughter."
"Her grandfather is with her for the evening," she explained, then asked, "May I come in?"
Holding the door wide, he offered entry and quietly took her coat, hanging it in the closet..
"Would you care for some tea? I have an excellent Earl Gray," he invited.
"That would be lovely," she murmured, walking deeper into the recesses of his home.
The collection of butterflies spanning a wall made her smile, as the beauty of their natural grace would most definitely grab his attention. However, what drew Heather's gaze was the feminine touches she could never associate with Gil – the soft woven blanket made to match across the back of the couch, the whimsical vase on his antique coffee table, the pictures of friends and family splayed across a shelf, and so many other details.
A pang of envy accompanied the observation of a lone female tennis shoe that lay neglected under a side table, as she sat in one of the arm chairs.
Setting the china cup next to Heather, Grissom sat on the couch and straightened up a stack of journals he'd been reading. "How can I help you?" he asked. Instead of answering, she studied him.
Heather had truly believed she knew the man before her, and smiled a bit sadly at the thought that she did not. Around the room lay pieces of his life, as well as Sara's blended in the most charmingly eclectic manner. Yet, there seemed to be no warmth in the cozy room designed just for that.
Staleness lay about Heather as she watched him sip his tea and watch her with curious eyes. The circulating air seemed to disturb nothing, not even the dust, except to deposit more. What had Brass said? she wondered, Gil is living and breathing his work, opting to stay away from home?
The single sharp bark from another room pulled her from her reverie, and she looked at him questioningly.
"Hank," he murmured, standing. "Please wait."
The resulting crash a moment later, followed by an oversized dog bounding through the room had her holding back a grin.
Grabbing his collar, Grissom shot her an apologetic look, only to be met with her amused eyes.
While he was distracted, she finally stated, "You shouldn't be here."
Shooting her a look, he muttered, "I'll be right back. Hold on," and managed to get to dog to accompany him back to the bedroom. Once he returned, he sat heavily on the couch, tired and resigned.
"Hank gets restless in the bedroom alone," he explained.
"Or is he waiting on her return?" she quipped back. Before he could say anything, she added, "You shouldn't be here," again.
Frustrated, he ran his hand through his hair and angrily asked, "Where should I be?"
Instead of answering, she said, "Dogs are amazing creatures. They can be beaten, tortured, taught to fight, and generally treated like nothing, yet always return to their masters. I've always found it to be amazingly sad, because many in this world should never have dogs."
"It's an alpha response," Grissom murmured. "The master is the alpha, and dogs feel the need to remain with the alpha, even if the perception of safety is false."
"What about those dogs that run away?" she asked quietly.
"The alpha cannot keep them there, as he or she is not strong enough," he replied.
"Sometimes that can be true," she conceded, "and other times the animal has a need so great, they simply must seek out a way to fill that need."
Staring into his teacup, he murmured, "She's not an animal, and I'm not her alpha," only to hear a sharp laugh.
Smiling, Heather replied, "Gil, she is an alpha female, and you are her alpha male – her equal."
When his frown became more intense, she smiled wider, and murmured, "The question would be, does the experience and protection of one creature enhance or hurt another?"
Catching her eyes, he felt the sigh escape with, "She told me she needed to do this alone."
Outright laughing, tilting her head back, and staring up at the ceiling, Heather finally said, "You believed her? Of course she would say that – women hate to admit weakness as much as men."
Slowly standing, Heather held out her hand and waited for the gentleman Grissom to grasp it. Stepping into him, she laid her head across his shoulder and inhaled his scent for the last time.
"I may not know Sara," she murmured, "but I know you. How much of you is being held back because you are unsure or frightened by the multitude of outcomes you have running through your mind?"
Stepping back, she glanced around the room for the first and last time, finding grudging admiration for the woman who could grasp and hold such a complex man. Meeting his eyes once more, she said, "Thank you for the tea," and headed home to an ex-husband and granddaughter she knew would be rolling on the floor in front of a movie, giggling over ice cream.
As a child, Sara visited the library frequently, particularly after moving into foster care. She loved the very smell of musty old books, and took solace and peace from their bindings.
This particular library had become her salvation upon moving to San Francisco all those years ago to work for SFPD.
It was common every afternoon for Joe, an elderly librarian she'd known from her time in this same place a decade ago, to rest quietly in an arm chair next to hers. Tucked back in the dim corner with a yard sale lamp someone snuck in, Sara built a nest and sought refuge almost daily.
Engrossed in T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, she barely registered when Joe sat heavily on the chair next to her. She relished times like this. Joe's comforting silence would give balance, and his outstretched hand offered comfort.
It had become their ritual – she would sit and read, he would sit and wait, and when he proffered a hand, hers would blindly seek and clasp. Today was no different. She heard the hand slide across the coffee table between the antiquated, yet comfortable chairs. Without tearing her gaze from the page, she reached out, and clasped a hand, but not Joe's.
Looking up, she found those beautiful blue eyes, and her lover's voice whispered, "You're my alpha female. I belong with you."
A/N – Thank you for reading. Please review.