DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything associated with the show… I just like playing with the characters in it from time to time. Dance Monkeys! Dance!
RATING: T for Teen (Mild language)
SPOILERS: Through the US Aired Episodes
SUMMARY: From the glimmers of grief, Grissom begins to see a possible light in the worst darkness of his life.
A/N: I'm pretty sure I've got the plague at this point. At least, that's what it sounds like when I start hacking up organs. Hence this chapter taking me so long to write. Deepest apologies to all my betas (even the pinch hitter with a wicked right THWACK!), but you will no doubt notice that the rating has changed on this story. The original plan included some mild smut, but once it was finished, there was just no way to get it done. I will now crawl back into my hole and hope to see the sun tomorrow. Thank you all for reading!
GRATITUDE: With everyone writing or busy with life (including myself), I have gone back to read-only beta requests. And thankfully neither of them has killed me for the way I keep leaving the story when I send it to them in a fit of writer's neuroses. Oh, there have been death threats, questions about my parentage, and exclamations about my temperament, but so far the Grim Reaper has not darkened my door. Heaps of thanks and cyber-hugs to these lovely ladies for keeping me as sane as possible while the bunnies nibble on my gray matter!
REVIEWS: Reviews are the way I know if people are enjoying the work or not. So, if you leave one, THANKS! And if not, I hope you found at least a little something to brighten your day, and thanks for taking the time to read.
Time seemed to stand still, and it took several intensely silent moments before he was able to process that Sara had spoken. Eventually, he managed to get his mouth and his vocal chords to function again. "Hello."
He watched her head turn slightly to the side, but her eyes never left his as she tried to gesture at the door. "How'd you-"
With the presence of something tangible to apply his thoughts to his faculties quickly returned. "Front desk. I ah, took care of the bill and the clerk gave me a key card."
Sara's brow furrowed and he could tell she was not entirely happy with the situation, but he was fairly certain he knew why. "It's not what you think… I showed him my badge and the note you left for me at the bar, told him I was your fiancé and waited for him to verify who I was before he would give me the key." She was still looking at him with some confusion, and he began to question his actions. "I hope I wasn't being presumptu-"
"No, it's not that." He could see that she was trying to relax her posture, but there was still an unease that worried him enough to keep him fixed to his spot at the window. "It just worries me that it could happen to anyone. Someone should probably talk to the manager abou-" She stopped herself and shook her head, as though she was attempting to clear the thought physically. "Sorry…didn't mean to go off on a tangent." Her smile returned and she said, "I'm glad you came."
He basked in the warmth from her smile for a moment, letting it soothe his haggard soul. Wanting the moment to last as long as possible, he simply nodded his head. However, the spell seemed to have been broken as he watched Sara nervously glance around the room.
For some unknown reason his brain chose curiosity to break the painful stalemate. "Though I'm not really sure why I'm here." He knew the instant he saw her hurt expression that it had come out wrong. "Why we're here, at this hotel, and not at home?"
Sara seemed to accept his qualifying questions as she slumped her shoulders "That was my plan." Dropping her purse to the floor in a heap, she went on, "But I had shoved my purse into my carryon after paying the cabbie, because I didn't want any trouble getting through screening since I was already late getting to the airport. And when I got to the gate the jackass flight attendant told me the overhead bins were full so I'd have to check my bag. There just wasn't time to pull everything out again, and I assumed they would load it straight onto the plane from there."
She paused for a moment, trying to get a handle on her obvious irritation, so he gave her a chance to regroup. "And I take it that was not the case?"
"Hardly! Moron left it on the gangway, and didn't even tag it so they could figure out where it belonged. The only reason they found it at all was because someone registered the serial numbers he had put on the case in some travelers' database for me." He knew exactly which someone she was referring to and it provided him with a tiny feeling of pride.
However, he was still confused by her actions. "But the notes…why didn't you just call me? I could have taken care of all of this last night."
Sara began to fidget as she spoke, "The only thing I had was my ID and some cash. How was I supposed to call you?"
"Go to a pay phone and dial the number?" It seemed like a logical process to him, so it eluded him as to why she failed to make the connection.
Sara shook her head and chuckled anxiously, "I didn't have my cellphone or my day planner. And while I realize that in all other situations relating to numbers that I am extremely proficient, I haven't actually seen your phone number in the last ten years, so there's no chance I'd remember what it is."
He could see Sara's frustration in the way she chewed on her finger, and the gawky gestures she made while talking. He wanted nothing more than to go to her and end all of this talking with a kiss, but the part of him that was hurt would not allow him to move.
The hurt made him spit out, "But you knew the number to that bar?" It was not his intention to sound defensive, but that was exactly how it came out.
"No… But I could look it up in the phone book."
"And you couldn't find the lab's number that way?"
She laughed outright with that question. "Right! Like I didn't create enough of a scene when I left, I'm gonna call the lab so that the entire department knows about it before the receptionist even gets the transfer call from PD? No way. I think I've done enough damage already, Gil. I certainly don't want to screw things up anymore than I have. I never want to do that to you again."
"They don't list the lab's direct number?" He was surprised by that piece of information.
"No, and I double checked, just in case, because I do actually remember your extension."
"Okay…" He was still trying to process everything, and the best way to accomplish that was to ask questions. "Then why didn't you just wait at the house?"
"On the front step? With the dog barking at me? In the middle of the night? I didn't have my keys either. If I had tried that, I'd have gotten picked up by patrol for sure, and that sure as hell would've created a huge stink. Brass is pissed at me enough as it is." As she explained, it all started to make sense, even if he had not been able to see it upon first inspection. But her last comment puzzled him and once again he was frozen by doubt and confusion.
"Why is Brass upset?"
"Besides the obvious?" She seemed to try and shrug off his question, nervously pacing back and forth, but he held firm. "He's not happy with the way I left. And he thinks I've been unfair to you."
"I don't understand… Why would he say that?'
"He's your friend, and I guess he thinks it's his place to defend you." Despite the uncertainty he felt with her revelation, Gil decided it was best to discuss that business with the source than to continue questioning Sara about it. There were other questions he needed answered.
Forcing his trembling hands into his pockets, he took a steeling breath. "What was your plan?"
Stopped dead in her tracks by his question, he watched her whole body tense up before she turned to look at him. In her eyes, he was positive that he saw proof of her infinite sorrow. "My plan?"
More from fear than any other emotion, he remained as stoic as possible in the face of such sorrow. "You said that going to the house was in your plans… What plans?"
When she failed to answer him right away, his nerves got the better of him and he clumsily asked, "Was I in any of those plans?"
As he watched the hurt filling her eyes, he cursed himself for letting his anger and doubt lash out in that way. He could see her burying that pain as she tried to answer him, and it only made him feel worse.
Her response was like a dagger in his heart. "I deserved that." He was about to step forward and apologize, but she held up her hand and stopped him. "It's okay. I know what I did hurt you, and you have every right to be angry with me."
"I'm not angry at you…" He choked on his words, almost questioning if he believed them. "I'm angry with this whole screwed up situation. And I hate what it's done to us."
There was a solemn silence that followed his admission; he with his head bowed in sorrow, and Sara with her arms wrapped tightly around her middle. It was as though they both needed some time to grieve for all that they had lost.
Eventually, the silence became too much to bear, and with more pain than he had ever felt before he asked, "Is this it? Are we really done?"
There was no answer, and so he finally worked up the courage to raise his head and look for one. What he saw would stay with him for the rest of his days.
Sara quietly wiped the streams of tears from her face and fought to put on a brave face when she softly offered, "If that's what you want." Before the façade could break, she turned and went to retrieve her bags from the floor.
His mind was reeling from her magnitude of her words. He was practically destroyed by her hushed acceptance of a fate he was sure neither of them wanted, and before he could return to his senses she was preparing to walk out the door. "I'll make all the arrangements, so you won't have to." He watched her hand rest on the door handle as she said, "I'll be at my mother's if anything comes up in the meantime… Just keep whatever you want-"
In an instant he had crossed the room to cover Sara's hand with his and stopped her from going any further. "What if what I want is…you?"
She leaned forward with a sigh and rested her head against the door. Her voice seemed so much smaller when she cautiously whispered, "Then don't let go."
If he had not been so close to her, he might not have heard the words. He gently took her hand from the door and turned her around to face him. Any lingering doubt he might have had was washed away in the glassy pools of her eyes.
Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved a handkerchief and tenderly wiped the tears from her face. Her eyes closed with the feeling of his touch on her face, and he was able to catch a few more of those tears as they escaped.
When his hand cupped the side of her head, as his thumb absently stroked her face, Sara finally opened her eyes again to see him staring into her soul. "I don't want to let go. I never did."
"But…" There was a crack in her voice as she spoke. "I messed up, didn't I?"
He wanted to wish it all away, pretend like nothing else mattered, but he knew in his heart that doing just that was probably what had gotten them to this point in the first place. With a gentle shake of his head he spoke the truth of the matter for the first time, "In this case, I think we've both messed up."
Her confusion was plainly shown in her puzzled brow. "But I'm the one who left."
Smoothing out the expression with his thumb, he simply offered, "And I'm the one who let you." He ended the statement with a gentle touch of his lips to her forehead. "How about we call it a draw…go home and start over?"
Sara looked up with a start. "Really?" She quickly put a damper on her rising tide of hope, and he could see that she was struggling with his request, but then she asked, "Is that really what you want?"
Shaking his head he admitted, "What I really want is irrelevant, because it would only end us up right back in the same place again. But what I need is for you and I to make this thing work, together. Because I don't know about you, but I am completely miserable without you around, and I hate the person I become when you aren't there to pester me. I hate the fact that I can't smell your strange feminine concoctions in the bathroom. I hate that I don't find your slippers under the coffee table, or that my dog doesn't seem to think my coming home every day is enough anymore. But most of all, do you know what I really hate?" Without even trying, he had managed to ramp himself up into furious frenzy with his explanation.
As though she knew the answer to his question, Sara dropped her bags to the floor once more and wrapped her arms around his middle as she buried her face in his chest. He felt her warm moist tears staining his shirt as she held onto him for dear life. At first he was caught off-guard by her choice of action, but thankfully his subconscious mind took over and brought his own arms up to wrap around her, holding her even closer to his body.
After several minutes of just enjoying the feeling of her in his arms again, he finally finished his list. "I hated that you weren't right here when I needed you, or vice versa."
Without letting go, she turned her head so that she could speak. "I'm sorry. I know that doesn't fix anything, and I've got a long way to go before making any of this up to you, but I need you to know how very sorry I am for the hurt I've caused you."
A long held gush of air escaped his lungs as he sighed. He was again filled with a desire to just forget everything and walk into the sunset, but to her credit, even Sara seemed to understand the flaw in that logic. "I know we won't solve anything today, and there's still so much we need to talk about, but do you think-"
When she stopped in the middle of her sentence, he looked down to find her chewing on her bottom lip. At another time he would have passed it off as merely an endearing habit, but he knew that she was struggling to find the strength to ask for help. It was her greatest weakness in life, and one that they shared. However, both were always very willing to offer it to another, and so he did. "I'm not terribly fond of life altering conversations in hotel rooms…so how about we get out of here and go home?" As she looked up at him, there were the beginnings of a smile at the edges of her mouth. "Besides, we'll only have the house to ourselves until five, and I know I won't be allowed to get this close once the master of the house returns."
Showing him once again that she willing to sacrifice herself for him, she tried one last time to give him an out. "Are you su-"
"Of nothing in my life more than this. Come home with me, Sara?"
With a genuine smile, she nodded her head before bringing it to rest on his shoulder. After a few more moments of quiet comfort, she pulled away from him and bent down to get the bags.
He stopped her by clearing his throat and reached for the bags himself. Handing her the purse he said, "Some things won't be changing, I'm afraid." Taking her suitcase in one hand, he opened the hotel room door with the other and gestured for her to precede him.
The blush on her cheeks was a welcome sight. Once in the hallway, she took his arm and softly said, "Yes, dear." And it was his turn to smile, as he enjoyed the warmth of her touch.
In the elevator down to the lobby, Sara looked restlessly around the confined space. At first he was concerned the claustrophobia had returned, but then he noticed that she kept fishing her cellphone out of her pocket.
He was puzzled by her dilemma. "What's wrong?"
As the doors opened up she asked, "Did you bring the Mercedes or the Denali?"
"The Mercedes, why?" Walking through the lobby, he was growing more confused by the moment.
"Oh… I'll just have to deal with it later." Sara shoved the phone into her purse as they exited onto the street.
Not willing to walk any further until he understood what the problem was Gil stopped in his tracks and asked, "Deal with what? What's going on?"
Shaking his head, he asked, "What about her?"
"She's been freaking out all night because I didn't call her when I landed."
He failed to see what the concern was about. "Freaking out how?"
"Oh, after I charged my phone enough to get it turned on, it popped up with like fifty messages. The last of which she was threatening to have me reported missing or abducted." Shaking her head, she went on, "And then I couldn't get her off the phone once I did call back. Tell me again why it's a good thing we're talking now?"
As understanding finally came over him, he reached out and put his arm around her shoulders, holding her to his side for comfort.
"All I wanted to do was get home and talk to you, and nothing worked the way I planned. What I ended up with was an hysterical mother, a nightmare with my luggage, my wallet and my camera stolen, and a pain in the ass desk clerk that probably wasn't even born before I finished high school." Her head immediately found a soft spot to rest on as the last of her rant began. "I'm tired, I look like hell, and I can only imagine how bad I smell right now. And a dollar to a nickel my mother is about to call the National Guard to come looking for me." Sara wrapped her arms around him and pitifully asked, "Can this day get much worse?"
Nudging her forward along the walk, he casually offered another scenario, "I could've been out of town and not gotten your note."
She swatted his belly and exclaimed, "Bite your tongue!"
On the drive home, Sara used his phone to call her mother, and the National Guard was placed on a stand down. With the midday traffic, it was a long drive. When he noticed she was quiet for far too long, Gil turned to find her head lolled to the side and sleeping soundly.
With the relative peace in the car, Gil's thoughts turned inward. He would never be able to adequately express his intense and boundless relief at Sara's return, but he also knew that it would not be without its problems. They still had a great deal of work to do, and a lot of pain to heal, but he was certain that they could survive anything, just so long as they were together.
He doubted that he could ever understand why Sara felt she had to leave the way she did, but he honestly believed it was not important to their relationship. The fact that she came home, the fact that he was waiting for her when she did, and their ability to find humor and comfort even in the bleakest of times, those were the things that were important now.
As he waited for the garage door to open, he looked over at Sara once more and saw a peace in her expression that had been missing for some time. It was not until that very moment that he realized just how much he had missed that little comfort; that when they were together, she felt safe and at peace. It was a mutual feeling, because at his darkest moments, she was always in his thoughts. She truly was the light that guided his life. And now he wanted to be that light for her.
Once the car was shut off, he turned in his seat and leaned over into the passenger side. He pulled a strand of hair out of her eyes and laid a gentle kiss on her forehead. Watching her eyelids softly flutter open, he felt an ache in his chest as her eyes came to life before him.
Such a simple word, or not even a real word, but hearing it in her voice was greater than any symphony he had ever enjoyed.
"I fell asleep, huh?" There was a shyness in her words that touched him. He knew that she was still unsure about her status in this grand scheme, and it was to be his pleasure to wipe away any and all lingering doubt for her.
He stroked his thumb along her cheekbone and nodded. Before she could say anything else, Gil leaned down and delicately kissed her barely trembling lips. As he pulled back to see her closed eyes, he felt Sara's relieved and contented sigh pass from her lips to his and he simply said, "Welcome home."