Title: The Happiest Place On Earth
Author: Klee Wyck
Spoilers: Season 9
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Summary: And she did look kind of happy, after all. Even he had to admit it.
A/N: Happy (early) Birthday to the delectable, delightful and deliriously decadent ckofshadows; the only person capable of yanking this disillusioned and dormant fanfiction writer out of semi-retirement.
Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.
And she did look kind of happy, after all. Even he had to admit it as he studied, for the 67th time, the slightly distorted images of her beaming face, her gently windblown hair, her easy smile.
She didn't look tense or suspicious or forlorn or wary. She didn't look angry or wan or exhausted or sad. She just looked really, really happy. Gone were the haunted, hunted hollows from beneath her eyes, the hunched shoulders, the bowed head, the angry lines framing her mouth. He tried to remember the last time she looked this carefree.
It might have been the first day she came to Vegas, young and eager and untouched by…him.
No, it couldn't be that long ago. There were other times, had to be. She'd looked happy that one Christmas when he'd given her the iPod. And she'd looked happy when they lay together in bed just…doing whatever they used to do when they lay in bed together. Rubbing Hank's ears had made her happy. She'd been happy a lot, hadn't she? She must have been, over the years. Life with him couldn't have been all doom and gloom and unrelenting misery.
So, maybe it was all a ruse, this supposed happiness shtick she was hitting him with. Maybe he was missing something, something that his tired eyes, too bedazzled by her pixilated features, could catch. She simply couldn't be as joyful as she declared. Trick of the eyes, he decided, skewered by these new-age fandangled electronics.
He watched again.
If only he could see her, see how she was doing with his own eyes, just to be certain. Just to make absolutely sure she was truly happy and moving on. But seeing her would mean, well…going to where she was and well…that just wasn't possible, what with work and…stuff and everything else he had going on in his very busy and important life.
He watched again.
It was on the edge of sleep that he always saw her most vividly: Bright and vibrant and alive, he could almost smell her, hear her, reach across the smooth expanse of lonely bed sheet and almost touch her. He would hover there, halfway between sleep and wake and miss her most keenly then, with an ache so jagged it threatened to rip him in two.
And just when he was most relaxed, when he was just beginning to drift away into the world where he was happiest, it would come: the horrifying sensation of falling, plummeting and the wild jerk at the bottom. He would clutch the blankets, his chest, Hank, whatever was handy, feel his heart kick and hammer in his chest, realize he was still alive, still in his bed. Then he'd roll over, start again.
Close your eyes. Good. Relax. Think of Sara. Sara. Only Sara. Did I feed Hank? Yes. Okay. Sara. Breathe deeply. Asleep, but not quite. Is the front door locked? Yes. Stop. Now. Concentrate. Hovering. On the edge. Waiting. Sara. Where are you? I want to see you, touch you.
Where are you?
She was in bed, asleep. She was curled on her right side, knees pulled up to her chest, arm tucked neatly beneath her head. She was in a small, shadowed room, alone (thank god) and it was dark and quiet. Well, not completely quiet. There was a thrum, a steady underlying drone that he was sure would become like background music after a time.
He knew all this because suddenly he was right there beside her, watching her. It was all so real and immediate he could even smell it. He could smell sea salt and sunscreen and Sara. He could smell her and the remembrance of her scent suddenly overwhelmed him, made him double over, grab his knees, close his eyes.
"Sara," he said. "Oh god Sara—"
She stirred then, rolled over, lifted her head to peer into the darkness—
He stood up, startled—
Then he was gone. Then he was back. Then he was awake.
"You look like hell," Catherine said in her blunt Catherine way. Grissom grunted in his uncommunicative Grissom way. "I mean, even more than usual. You've looked exhausted for weeks, but today you look—"
"I get it Catherine. Thank you. I didn't sleep well."
He hadn't slept at all after the dream, try as he might. He'd attempted for hours to recapture it, to slip away, slip back into the world he'd inhabited for no less than a minute. It had been so…real. He could find no other way to describe it. He'd been there, he'd felt it. He'd been with her in that room and, more importantly, he knew she'd felt it, too, just for a second, before he'd vanished.
Silly. Stupid. Impossible. A dream. A very vivid one to be sure, but just a dream. He'd had them before, usually in nightmare form, though. He'd awaken with a pounding heart, sure of imminent death or dismemberment. But this experience had been the complete opposite and he wanted more than anything, wanted desperately, to return.
Return to her.
Alone in his office, after several furtive glances down the hallway, he pulled the encyclopedia A off the shelf, flipped idly through the pages as if he hadn't a care in the world.
Astral travel is an esoteric interpretation of aspects of out-of-body experience perceived as unfolding in environments other than the everyday world, that assumes the existence of an astral body separate from the physical body and one or more astral plane to which it can travel. Astral projection is experienced as being "out of the body." Unlike dreaming or near death experiences, astral projection may be practiced deliberately.
May be practiced deliberately. He read it again. Again. And again.
Commonly in the astral projection experience, the experiencers describe themselves as being in a domain which often has no parallel to any physical setting, although they say they can visit different times and/or physical settings. In many of these accounts, the experiencers correlate the astral world with the world of dreams. Some also state that "falling" dreams are brought about by projection.
Falling dreams. He closed his eyes, let his thoughts drift.
"Hey!" Catherine's bray brought him to a screeching halt. She slapped a folder down on his desk. "You have nothing up after shift, right?"
"How about breakfast? Catching up? Shooting the shit?"
"Well, as enticing as that sounds—"
"No." He closed his tome, slid it under his desk, gathered his belongings together. "I have things to do. See you tomorrow, Catherine."
She put her hands on his desk, watched him carefully for signs of psychosis.
"Fine, fine. I won't take it personally…this time." She sighed. "Get some sleep though, all right?"
"I plan to."
You TOO Can Learn to Astral Project!!
For projection to work properly, the body must be fully relaxed. One of the best ways to do this is through meditation. This requires eliminating all outside influences, and complete focus on your chosen phrase that you repeat over and over. This prepares you for projection because essentially your spirit gets bored and wants to move around and do something else.
Once you have practice with meditation, you are ready to move on to the next state. This state of mind is basically the body being asleep, while the mind is still awake. This occurs through the repeated meditative phrase, and by physically relaxing each part of the body one at a time. Eventually you will reach the altered conscious state.
Once you have reached the altered conscious state you are ready to project. This can happen differently for each person, so it can be hard to describe. Some people "look for the light" while others focus on their meditative phrase. Whatever way it happens for you, the important thing is to not think about it too much. This will cause a break in the projecting, sending you back to your body.
Going back to your body can be a painful experience if it happens too suddenly, so it is important to focus on going back slowly. Again, this is something that is different for everyone, so over time you will find the way that is best for you.
"Sea Shepherd Sara. Sea Shepherd Sara. Sea Shepherd Sara. Sea—"
He tried it again that day when he got home, and the next and the next. Sometimes it worked and he found himself there, with her, watching her, listening to the ship's thrum and her steady breaths and he was in the happiest place on earth. More often it didn't work and all he was left with was the triple-hammer heartbeats and cold sweats and an unspeakable pain he would carry with him until the day he died.
The break room was ominously quiet, all eyes on Grissom who stared only at the table. He sighed, raised his head, fixed them all in his bleary gaze.
"How's that…case coming?" he said to Nick.
Grissom peered at his notes. He pushed his glasses up and pressed on his eyes, hard.
"Uh…which one are you working on?"
Nick shuffled his files. "Well, there's the double murder at the Belagio, but it's almost wrapped up and—"
"Good." He paused. "Greg…how 'bout you?"
"Uh…well, you assigned me to that possible murder/suicide at the Francisco home, but right now it's looking pretty much like—"
"Grissom?" Nick said suddenly. He glanced at Riley, who shrugged.
"Hey...Grissom?" Greg stood up, moved closer. He waved his hand in front of Grissom's face. Nothing.
His eyes were closed.
His bed had become his best friend, his constant companion. Sleep, or the twilight state found just before it, was all he thought about now. As soon as his shift finished he was gone with hardly a word to anyone. He drove home as fast as he could. Once there he threw some food and fresh water in Hank's bowls, shoved some cereal in his own mouth and raced to his room, where the ritual began. Curtains closed. Teeth brushed. Clothes loosened. He lay on his back on his side of the bed, a photo of Sara clasped in his hands. He closed his eyes, repeated his meditative phrase, let himself drift.
And he fell asleep.
He fell asleep often, which just wouldn't do at all.
She was only three hours ahead of him, so reaching out to her when she was actually asleep, alone in her room, meant waiting until later, much later, but he could rarely wait that long, because he was too impatient to get to her. And his body was worn out, begging for decent sleep. So, he slept. And when he awoke, hours later, he'd try again, and again, becoming more desperate if the attempts failed.
Then finally he'd fall asleep again, or he'd realize it was time to get ready for work and he'd give up for the time being, resign himself to the inevatibility of another shift before he could try again.
"Ten minutes," Nick said eyeing Grissom from across the room.
"Seven," said Riley, leaning so close he could smell her shampoo. Strawberry. "And I don't even know the guy."
Nick considered, weighed his options. He held out his hand. She shook it.
Grissom sipped his coffee, sniffed his sandwich, took one tentative bite. He leaned back in his chair, sighed, closed his eyes. Then…he nodded off.
"Yes!" Riley shouted.
"Shit," Nick said, slapping a bill into her hand.
He cursed the day he gave Catherine a key to his house. He cursed her now as she pushed open the door to his room, called his name, saw him lying on the bed, kept walking towards him.
"What are you doing here?" he murmured.
"I've been trying to call for hours."
"I turned my cell off."
She sat down on the edge of his bed. He resisted the urge to push her off.
"Is something up?"
"Well, yeah. Work. Life. Stuff like that."
"I just needed to sleep for a bit. I felt a migraine coming on."
"You're sleeping a lot," she said.
"We've…noticed." She stopped, tried to choose her words carefully, gently. He hated careful, gentle Catherine. "Look, I don't mean to intrude, but I really think you should go see your doctor, you know? Just to make sure—"
He overrode her. He could do that when he really needed to.
"I don't mean to be rude, Catherine, but would you mind leaving now? I have someplace I need to be."
So, Sara was happy, was she? Well now he was happy, too. Happier than he'd been in weeks, months.
One year, two months and 14 days, to be precise.
He was getting better, stronger, faster. Where it once took hours to reach her, now it took only minutes. And almost every time he appeared in her room he disturbed her in some way, which pleased him immensely. She shifted or turned, mumbled something, awoke and groped in the darkness.
And finally, a breakthrough: She sat bolt upright one night, switched on the bedside light, squinted in the sudden brightness and spoke.
"Yes. Yes! It's me. It's me, Sara. I'm here. I'm here!" He stood in front of her, waved his hands, yelled as loud as he could. She rubbed her eyes, pushed her hair back from her face, shook her head impatiently.
She lay down, pulled her sheets up tight around her shoulders.
"I have to stop drinking green tea before bed."
"I'm telling you, there's something not right about him," Catherine said the following shift.
"Something not right about Grissom. Huh." Nick grinned at Robbins who was ripping a corpse apart with grim glee.
"I think he's really, seriously depressed."
"Well of course he's depressed. Sara's gone." Robbins dropped something wet into a bowl.
"God. Even I'm depressed about that."
"He's been depressed before. This…this is different. All he does is sleep, holding her photo." Catherine wrinkled her nose.
"Holding her photo?" Nick looked at Robbins. "And you know this how?"
"I have a key to his place. I…check in from time to time."
"While he's…asleep?" asked Robbins.
"On occasion. Just to, you know, make sure he's still alive." She glared at them. "What?" She turned and left.
"Now that's depressing," said Nick as Robbins spread the chest cavity, stuck his arms in up to his elbows.
"You're telling me."
He could do this.
He could do his job and still visit her. He could do it. Yes, he was exhausted, barely functioning, but he was still managing to keep it all together, for the most part. Plus, he was happy! As long as he could keep seeing her, he could do make it work.
He had to.
Then one night he tried touching her.
For weeks now he'd been content with simply sitting by her bed, watching the slow and steady rise and fall of her chest, the dark sheaf of hair across her cheek. The funny little noises she made as she dreamed.
He wondered what she was dreaming.
He moved closer to her. He reached out a tentative hand, let his fingers brush against the bare skin of her shoulder. He could feel her. Well, almost. He could almost feel the smooth, warm skin there, alive and sun-burnished and he let his fingers linger, then move again. She twitched in her sleep, mumbled something, rolled over. He moved closer still, reached out and smoothed stray hairs from her forehead. Almost.
How long, how long had it been since he'd touched her like that, since she'd—
She opened her eyes. She stared straight at him. She sucked in her breath.
"Gil? Is that you?" She sat up quickly. She reached out her hand hesitantly. He could feel himself fading. She shook her head, smiled and closed her eyes. "Of course not. God, Sara." But she opened her eyes again and stared at the spot where he'd been.
"I'm here, Sara, I'm here." He said it, or thought he did and her eyes widened and he knew in a flash that she'd heard him. She'd heard him.
Then he disappeared.
"Have you ever heard of…astral projection?"
Catherine had finally dragged him out for breakfast on the threat that she'd follow him home and make him eat with her in his kitchen, in his own bed, if she had to. He decided to get it over with because he was tired and he was curious and he actually wanted her opinion.
"Astral what?" Catherine licked ketchup off her finger. "Is that some kind of yoga? Is that what you've been up to? Because you've definitely lost some weight and you don't seem nearly as…uptight as usual."
"Not yoga, no. Astral projection, or astral travel, denotes the astral body or double leaving the physical body to travel in the astral plane."
"Okay. You've lost me there."
"I've been…leaving my body, my physical body, and doing some traveling."
"Uh huh." Catherine stared at him. "Without your…body."
"Okay." She put down her fork. "Humour me. Where have you been…going?"
Grissom cleared his throat. "To see Sara."
"You don't believe me."
"Uh…Gil. Come on."
"What? You think I'm…crazy?"
"I think," she regarded him, spoke slowly and very seriously. "I think you want to see her so fucking badly and yet you are so fucking stubborn that your poor mind is taking you on so-called travels that your body knows it should take. On a plane. Or, a boat."
"I can't…just leave. I can't do that. I'm not like her."
She snorted. "You're not like anyone."
"Look," he lowered his voice. "…I just…I think about her. I just lie there and relax and envision her and I'm there. I'm there, Catherine, with her. I swear. You know me. I wouldn't make something like this up."
She looked at him, shook her head. She laughed then, pushed away her coffee cup, shrugged. "Well, I guess it's saving you airfare, anyway."
Someone was watching him. It was very annoying. He looked up. Greg, standing in the doorway, watching.
"What?" Grissom said, annoyed.
"Are you sure you're not doing etheric projection?"
Grissom's mouth dropped. He stared. "Pardon?"
"Office scuttlebutt," he said.
"Catherine," Grissom said.
"In contrast to astral projection, etheric projection is the ability to move about in the material world in an etheric body which is usually, though not always, invisible to people who are presently 'in their bodies.'"
Greg sat across from him, leaned forward, fixed him in his gaze.
"Robert Monroe described this type of projection as a projection to 'Locale I' or the 'Here-Now,' and described it as containing people and places that he felt actually existed in the material world."
"According to Max Heindel, though, the etheric 'double' served as a medium between the astral and physical realms. In his system, the ether, also called prana, was the 'vital force' that empowered the physical forms in order for that change to take place."
"Wait a minute—"
"From his descriptions it can be assumed that when one views the physical during an out-of-body experience, they are not technically 'in' the astral realm at all."
Grissom removed his glasses. The world was just getting stranger and stranger. He could hardly keep up.
"How, may I ask, do you—"
Greg leaned back, shrugged casually.
"I tried it a few times in college. Wanted to spy on a cheating girlfriend. A suspected cheating girlfriend, that is."
"So you … think it works?"
"I know it works. I caught her. Doing the deed. She could never figure out how I did it, either."
"Anyway," Greg rose, moved to the door, "good luck and all. Just be careful. You can, you know, get stuck if you don't know what you're doing."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you stay away for too long, or find a place you like too much, you may not be able to get back into your body for, like, forever."
Grissom raised an eyebrow.
"You are…full of surprises."
Greg raised his own eyebrow.
"Sara," he said in the darkness. She sat up, stared at him. He smiled. She did not.
"I keep seeing you."
"It's starting to freak me out."
"Are you really here?"
"Sort of. What does that mean? Am I…dreaming again?"
"No. I'm here…spiritually, but not corporeally."
"Spiritually. Right." She shifted, pulled her sheet closer. She looked wary. "You…taught yourself to do this? Just…for kicks?"
"I didn't mean to. It kind of just happened."
"Right. A happy accident."
"Yes! That's a good way to describe it."
"Aren't you surprised?"
"Nothing you do surprises me much anymore." She studied him. "I mean, this kind of thing actually suits you perfectly. Stay there, come here, go back again. Commit to no one person, no one place."
This wasn't going quite how he'd planned.
"That's not what I'm doing—"
"Really? Then why not get on a damn plane and bring your body along for the trip next time? It could probably use some sunshine and fresh air."
"My body is just fine, thank you. It's getting a lot of rest these days."
"Does it feel rested?"
"I mean, I imagine what you're doing here is actually using up as much energy as if you were running a marathon every day."
"I don't think that's the case."
She shrugged. "You look tired. You look thin."
"You look beautiful."
"I'm relaxed. I'm having a great time. I'm really very, very—"
"Happy. I know."
"You should try it some time."
"I am happy."
"Well, when I'm here I am."
She looked right at him and he was sure he saw a gleam of something in her eyes, something brighter than ambient light.
She shook it away, lay back down.
"Nothing. Just…tell me about everyone. Tell me what I've missed."
"I like it here," he said another night.
"I like it, too. That's why I'm here."
"Yeah. Except for the ghosts."
"I'm not a ghost."
She looked at him.
"Then what are you?"
And another time:
"Why don't you just make a decision?
She was sitting on her end of her small bed, legs crossed, hands resting in her lap. Even in the near darkness she looked long and tanned and rested. And sort of happy.
"I mean, wouldn't it be…easier…than this?"
"I'm getting really good at this, though."
"And it works for you, right?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you must admit you've got the perfect setup here. No real commitment, come and go as you please. We start to argue and you can just—" She wiggled her fingers at him. "Go poof."
"I've never gone poof in my life," he said indignantly.
"I mean, the sex thing could pose some problems, what with you having no body."
"So, is this it? Are you just going to follow me around for the rest of my life, popping in from time to time to watch me sleep?"
"Would that bother you?"
She laughed. He smiled.
"I don't know. What if I…get a boyfriend or something? Would that bother you?"
"Don't you already have a boyfriend?" he countered.
"I thought so," she said.
"Could have fooled me," she said.
They stared at each other.
"I'm going now," he said.
"Poof," she said.
Then one night he went to see her and she was gone. The room was empty. No sound of her breathing, no scent of sunscreen, body wash, shampoo. No Sara.
He sat in his chair, stared at her empty, neatly made bed.
Since he had absolutely no clue where else to go, or how to go about going anywhere else, he sat very, very still and waited.
And sat. And waited.
Sometime after midnight she banged into the room, face flushed, hair mussed. She slammed the door, turned and stopped.
"Oh. It's you."
"Been waiting long?"
He shrugged, tried to look casual.
She was slightly drunk.
"Are you all right?"
"You don't look fine."
She was crying.
"He wanted to kiss me. I let him, because I wanted him to. It was…a celebration. We were all celebrating and he wanted to kiss me but then I made him stop because it didn't feel right because of you. I made him stop because of you and you aren't really even here but you keep showing up. You won't leave me alone. Why the hell won't you just leave me alone?"
"Do you want me to leave you alone?"
He stood up. He tried to put his arms around her. Nothing happened. She shivered, as if cold. He tried again. She sat down. She kept crying, tears forming, running down her cheeks, plopping onto the sheets.
She kept crying.
"I just want you here," she said. "Here. I want you to hold me."
He tried again. Nothing.
"I miss you," she said. "I miss you."
"I miss you, too. I … I want to be with you, more than anything."
"No you don't! That's the problem!"
"Just leave, okay? Really leave. I don't want to see you anymore. I don't want you showing up, watching me…sleep or whatever it is you do. Don't come back, unless you really come back."
"But…I like coming here. It makes me—"
"No! I've had enough. Sit down! Listen!"
He sat. He listened.
He didn't go "poof."
"I can't wake him up!"
Catherine shook him again, then again. Greg watched from the bedroom doorway as Catherine attempted to move dead weight.
"Is he breathing?"
She leaned down close to his mouth, felt the faint, warm whisper of breath against her cheek.
"He is. He is!"
Catherine gripped his shoulders tightly, got down close to his ear and yelled. "Wake up!"
Nothing. Greg moved closer, studied his peaceful face.
"Maybe…he doesn't want to wake up."
Catherine started to cry.
"What's wrong with him? Gil, Gil…please…" She shook him again, and again. Greg stepped closer, leaned down, whispered.
"Hey, Grissom. Come back, man." He paused. "This is no way to live. Believe me."
Then he was there again, sitting next to her, watching her sleep, counting her breaths. It was dark, but he could follow her outline, the oh-so-sweet curve of her shoulder, the dark tumble of hair. Everything. He waited some more. Then it was time.
"Sara," he said.
And she was awake, half-smiling.
"You really don't listen very well," she said. Then, "How are you?"
"Fine," he said. "Did I wake you?"
"Don't you always?"
She reached out to turn on the bedside lamp, then gasped and pulled back as if she'd been burned.
"What is it?"
"I…I touched you."
"Yes. I think so…I felt something…solid. Something warm."
She got up on her knees, peered at him, wary, suspicious. Frown lines formed around her mouth.
"I hear you breathing. I can smell you."
He said nothing.
"You're here? You're actually here? Like…your body is here, too?"
He held out his hands. "I made a decision."
"A decision. Like, an actual decision?"
"I'm here, aren't I?"
"I really don't know. Are you?"
She stood up then, wary, hesitant. He remained sitting, watching her watching him.
She reached out, touched his arm. He felt her fingers, warm on his skin. He reached up then, finally, took her hand, pulled her to him. She came, sat on his lap. He put his arms around her, pressed his face to her chest, her neck. She was warm, solid. He could feel her heart racing under his cheek. He kissed her skin, just above her shirt. Then her chin, then her mouth, softly, then not so soft.
"This is so much better—" he said against her lips.
She put her hands on his shoulders.
"How did you get here?"
"A more...conventional means of transportation."
"I am, too. It's a long story."
She touched his cheek, his neck, ran her thumb along his collarbone under his loose Hawaiian shirt.
"I have time."