Author's Note: This story takes place towards the end of Season Five. Probably after "Nesting Dolls," although I do not allude to the emotional events of that episode in this piece. Definitely before "Committed," because events like those could not be easily kept out of a GSR story, in my opinion. No real spoilers, unless you somehow missed that Grissom likes rollercoasters.
Disclaimer: You all know the truth. If I owned Grissom and Sara, it would be a dream come true. But I work in retail, and thus cannot afford them. Sadly, I own nothing, except in my dreams.
He lowered the chest restraint over his shoulders, clamped it firmly down over his chest. His feet pressed hard against the metal and rubber floor of the small car. He handed a bill to the attendant, who was very familiar with "Dr. G" and would run the ride at any hour of the day or night, as many times as he requested, for a couple of twenties. He had partners in crime like this all over town, young kids working the amusements parks who were savvy and world-wise enough to recognize that this was not simply something he wanted, but something he needed; and like compassionate but practical therapists, they always provided him with an outlet, for a fee. He was grateful.
The catalyst tonight had been the face of a little girl, only eight or nine, brutally raped by her stepfather and left for dead on a railroad track. No trains had come by to dismember the tiny form, but she had been discovered when a teenager, high on pills given to him by his best friend's brother, crashed through the guard rails of a highway above the track and landed, bloodied in a grave of twisted metal, not twenty yards from her abandoned body. They had solved both crimes in a matter of days to the satisfaction of the team and the sheriff, but Grissom was haunted by the little girl's eyes, and infuriated by the callous indifference displayed by the drug dealer who had indirectly killed his little brother's best friend. Two of his three sticking points in separate but entwined cases. It had been a rough week.
So he sat in the car now, the money warm and safe in young Jake's pocket, waiting for the slow climb that would lead to the plummet and the violent twists and turns that would suck away his breath and let him stop thinking, just for a little while. The car lurched into motion, and he studied the neon lights and blinking signs below him as he rose into the sky, letting the numbing haze that slipped over him as he rode descend on his weary brain. He was not the sort to scream, or lift his hands, even when riding for entertainment instead of oblivion. Roller coasters had become his religion, and he remained reverent during the experience, truly feeling every roll and jolt and dive to his very core. He did not seek the adrenaline rush, or even the quieting effect it would have on his mind—though that was a very important part of this hazardous faith; he sought the physicality of it, the way it made him feel in his body, not in his head. It was the only way to find peace: to ground himself completely in the sensations in his hands and his back and his neck, the feel of wind rushing past his face and into his hair.
He reached the top, and there was the very pregnant pause that always wormed its way into his blood and released him from the worries and the grief and the hate that secretly consumed him. He inhaled, and the car plummeted.
Down, across, over, twist, turn, up, down. It was a beautiful prayer; it was a cleansing confession. He held his neck taut against the g-forces ripping at his body, and felt the tears spring to his eyes. It was the wind.
Too soon it was over, and Jake was leaning carelessly against the wall, a too-knowing look on his face—an expression far too wise for his young years. He took a drag on the cigarette clutched between his fingers and let it stream from his nose, raising an eyebrow at the older man alone on the roller coaster. "Again, Dr. G?"
Grissom sighed and hoped his eyes were not glistening in the garish light. "Again, Jake," he said quietly, and the switch was flipped.
She tentatively lowered the bar from its raised position, snugly fitting it over her lap. He had mentioned once how much he loved roller coasters, and she had seen the odd camaraderie he had developed with that ride repairman during the case they had worked with the flying coaster cars. Ever since then, she had been determined to conquer her minor fear of heights and try out a roller coaster, something she had never done in years of foster homes stretched thin on money and love. But she had no idea what she was doing in this little park at midnight on her night off, sitting alone in the small train, pale and terrified. She should have gone during the day, with a friend. A bitter smile touched her lips. What friend?
You could have asked him to go with you.
She mentally shushed her belligerent inner brat and smiled faintly at the young woman whose hand rested idly on the control panel for the ride. When she had shown up in the middle of the night, some money clutched in her palm, the girl had asked knowingly, "Friend of Dr. Grissom's?" Startled, she had only nodded, and the ride had been opened to her without another question. Clearly, Grissom had cohorts all over town providing him with secret access to his thrill.
"Ready, Sara Sue?" She winced at the nickname but nodded, hoping her abject terror was not obvious to the blonde, gum-snapping ride attendant half her age. She should not have mentioned her name. What if the girl said something about her the next time Grissom rode here? That could be awkward. No matter. She would try this once, and be done with it. At least then, she could say she had done it.
The girl pushed a button, and the ride lurched into motion, Sara's stomach a few seconds behind. She closed her eyes, feeling the slow, jerking movement of the train climbing high into the sky. She decided she would not watch the world sink and rise and spin beneath her; she would simply experience the speed and disorienting drops and turns blindly, and that would be enough. There was a moment at the top of the first climb when she felt light, so very light that she almost forgot she was hundreds of feet in the air, and that this should be terrifying her. It felt as if all the bad memories and gruesome crime scenes floated away from her on the warm air, and she was free.
Down, across, over, twist, turn, up, down. She had expected to feel sick, but she felt exhilarated. Faint cries slipped from her lips as a movement of the coaster surprised her, but she did not scream, did not clutch the lap bar with white-knuckled hands. She flew. It was glorious.
Before she would have expected, the train was hurtling back into its starting point, the ride attendant snapping her gum and flicking strands of blonde hair away from her face. The girl moved closer, studied her face. Sara returned the stare, feeling the flush of fast-moving air and delight on her cheeks. The girl smiled.
"Want to go again?" she asked, blowing a bubble with her bright pink gum. Sara swallowed, nodded and reached in her pocket for another bill. She had only slipped the attendant ten dollars. With a small smile, the blonde shook her head.
"For a friend of Dr. Grissom's, you can have more than one ride for ten bucks," she said easily, and pressed the button again.
Grissom trudged across the parking lot of the deserted park, his hands buried deep in the pockets of his black slacks, the wind tugging at the black suede jacket zipped nearly all the way up. January in Vegas was not winter anywhere else in the world, but he still found the forty-degree temperatures a bit nippy when contrasted with the scorching summer days in the desert. He wished he had put on something a little warmer than the white dress shirt he had worn to work that day, but it was too late now. He climbed the steps to the ride slowly, seeing Megan's freckled face and blousy red curls peeking over the side, looking for him. He supposed he should find it odd that ten of the numbers in his cell phone belonged to the closing crew of his favorite coasters all over town, but it was what it was. Her face lit up upon spotting him, and she waved. He forced himself to lift his hand in return.
Tonight it was not a case or a bad memory that was driving him to ride, but instead an encounter with Sara. Their relationship was in a rockier place than he could ever remember, and that was saying a lot. Knowing Sara was a lot like riding a coaster—he never knew what emotions she would express to him, about a case, about a victim, about herself…or him. She was unpredictable and occasionally wildly moody, but he could not quite bring himself to dismiss her even when she was at her most stubborn or emotional.
She had paused in his office doorway tonight, leaning against it in a fashion that reminded him entirely too much of the night almost two years ago when she had asked him to dinner. He had been so startled that he had refused almost condescendingly, his tone implying that she should know better than to ask him something like that. And he had felt that way—after all, he was her supervisor—but another part of him had wanted very badly to say yes. But he could not. She was too much for him, and he was not prepared for the feelings she was awakening in him that he had buried peacefully years before. She was not just appealing to him sexually—although she was certainly doing that—she was appealing to his mind, to his heart, and that was very dangerous.
"Sara. Heading home?"
"Yeah," she replied, her face drawn with exhaustion. "When doubles turn into triples, even I need to disappear for a while and go unconscious." Her tone had taken on the slight lilt he found so endearing. "Will I see you later?"
"I'm sure. Are you off tonight then?"
"Definitely," she murmured, stifling a yawn. "I'll be back in in—" she glanced at her watch—"twenty-five hours. Think you can survive without me?"
"I'll certainly try," he said with a touch of humor. He had pulled a double too, from the night before, but had taken eight hours to nap and eat something before coming back in, while Sara elected to work nearly twenty-four straight hours before taking her day off. He admired her dedication, but worried for her. Since her relationship with that paramedic had deteriorated and he had subsequently rebuffed her, he had watched her bury herself in her work again the way she had when she had first arrived in Vegas, and he hoped she was not approaching burnout.
She pursed her lips slightly, a gesture he thought she might have unconsciously adopted from him, and studied him with a frank look in her dark eyes. Unsettled, he knitted his brows together. "What?"
She laughed darkly. "Oh, just having morbid thoughts. Definitely time to take a break." She rolled her shoulders, probably to loosen some tension.
"Morbid thoughts?" He could not quite restrain his curiosity.
"Yeah…" She forced a smile. "Nothing to worry about."
"How about you let me decide that?"
She stepped into the room, slipped into one of the chairs in front of his desk. "Do you ever wonder who's going to process your death scene?" she asked slowly.
He removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, finally returning his eyes to hers solemnly. "I suppose to wonder that, I would have to assume that I'll be murdered, or die under suspicious circumstances."
She nodded, her eyes far away. "The girl whose body we found tonight—she looked a little like Lindsey. Cath couldn't take it; I had to switch cases with her. Guess she had a big fight with Lindsey recently and can't stop having nightmares about finding her body somewhere, and the dead teenager was just the last straw. And it got me thinking, I guess. Who would process my crime scene, my body, if someone found me?" She focused her eyes on his face. "Would you do it?"
He swallowed hard, averted his eyes. "Sara—"
"I just want to know," she said softly. "If someone killed me tomorrow—and we both know it could happen—would you be the one to take pictures of it? To watch as Doc Robbins cut me open? Could you do it?"
"Do you want me to?" The words came out harsher than he intended, but he could not stop the horrific images swimming before his mind's eye. Sara beaten; Sara shot, her blood staining the ground; Sara raped and strangled, her limp body sprawled across cold pavement. He shuddered, and hoped she did not see it.
"I don't know," she murmured, her voice ringing with honesty. "A part of me would feel relieved, I suppose, to know that you cared enough to do it. And a part of me might wonder how you could do it, if you really cared." She shrugged lightly, the corners of her mouth twitching. "Quite a conundrum." Rising, she adjusted her jacket over her slim body and shot him a small smile. "I promise not to dwell on it. Night."
He could not even bid her goodnight, only watch as she walked out of the room, his body cold, his mind reeling.
Now the siren call of the roller coasters sang in his blood, and he climbed the sturdy metal stairs to Megan, too emotionally drained to smile at her. The night had proved a slow one, and even though he knew he should be processing paperwork in his office, every time he looked up he saw Sara sitting across from him, talking about her death. He had excused himself with a headache, and Catherine had accepted the unusual and flimsy explanation with a compassionate smile. He so rarely played hooky these days that he thought she might be a little relieved that he was escaping work for once, hoping probably that he had somehow acquired a social life. A wry smile touched his lips at the thought as he pressed a few bills into Megan's hand. A social life—right.
"Doc, you're going to have to wait a minute," Megan said, drawing a clove cigarette from the small crumpled pack in her pocket and lighting it carefully, shielding it against the wind. "I got another secret late-night rider cruising the track."
Grissom raised an eyebrow, but nodded with a small sigh. It was not like he owned the right to ride the coasters after the parks closed. If he was willing to pay to have the ride all to himself, someone else probably was too.
The roar of the cars rushing back into the station made him turn, and his jaw dropped a little at the sight of Sara Sidle in the front seat, her hands loosely draped over the lap bar. Her dark hair had taken on a faint curl in the humid night air, and it was windblown, wisping around her face. Her cheeks were pink and her lips slightly parted, her eyes closed tightly. Sometime between when she had left the lab and he had, she had changed clothes. A pale blue tee shirt stretched tightly across her chest, a faded sunburst logo splashed across it, and light blue jeans with holes in both knees made her look like a carefree teenager instead of a thirty-something forensic scientist. He saw shoes just to the side of the car as it came to a stop, and realized she was even riding barefoot. He folded his arms over his chest, watching her, waiting for her to open her eyes.
She did not. "Again," she said, her voice a little breathless. Megan shot a glance at him, questioning. He moved forward, stepped over the track to the opposite side, and reached over to press down on the lap bar in Sara's car and raise it. At this, her eyes flew open, expecting to see Megan shooing her out for some reason. Her eyes widened when she saw Grissom.
"Grissom!" she exclaimed, shifting slightly. "What are you doing here?"
"Same thing you are, apparently," he said coolly, and without further explanation he slid into the car next to her, the space allowing only enough room for them to sit comfortably, hips pressed against one another. He took a brief moment to appreciate her warmth as he pushed the bar down over their bodies again, and nodded to Megan. With a confused shrug and a grin, Megan started the ride.
"Grissom, I didn't think you'd be here tonight," Sara began, but he turned to her with intensity in his eyes.
"Sara, what do you do when you ride roller coasters?"
She looked a little confused. "Nothing. I close my eyes and just—ride."
"Good." He gripped the bar tightly. "Then do that." With a deep inhalation, he added, "You might try opening your eyes one of these times."
She was silent beside him, but in the periphery of his vision he saw her press her lips together, and her eyes remained open. They climbed the final feet in a matter of seconds, and he reached eagerly for the sensation of peace the pause at the top would bring.
They hung for a moment, brief and endless, and just before they plummeted, Sara's hand moved to cover his on the lap bar. He closed his eyes, and they fell.