Title: House Odds
Spoilers: Any aired episodes are fair game
Author's Note: I'm not sure what to say about this story except that I hope you enjoy it. Also, I didn't have anyone beta it, so if there are errors, I apologize. I gladly accept the blame.
X X X
She loved life.
If that fact hadn't been so surprising, Sara Sidle would currently be smiling. Instead, she mulled it over again and again in her mind. The time spent aboard the ocean liner packed with scientists studying the Galapagos Islands had been something she needed – to clear her mind and give her true perspective on life.
Rare instances of human interaction with the pristine place gave a glimpse to the past. The revelation that past, present, and future could contain so much purity had given her a sense of faith like no other. That wasn't to say her past was gone, but seen in a light that made it seem… irrelevant to her life today.
Mulling over the last few weeks, she poured tea into a waiting mug. It seemed a lifetime ago that she lay across her lover's chest, listening to the thud of his calming heartbeat.
Did she miss him? Of course. If anything, Sara figured she would miss him until the day she died. Yet over the course of the past year or so, she had discovered something truly remarkable.
She could do more than exist. She could truly live.
The fact that Gil would always be tied to her at least in memory warmed her, easing the sense of grief she knew she would always feel. That she could go on and truly experience all around her filled her with a wonder she had never realized existed. The time alone, seeking solace and answers from her childhood had led her to an initially uneasy acceptance.
Seeing him again and knowing he had to live his own life gave her the freedom to truly move forward; because she knew she couldn't answer his questions. The one lesson she had truly learned in her mission to discover herself was that only she could find peace. For too long she had allowed others to assure her and give her a sense of balance. She leaned long and hard.
Now she stood on her own two feet, secure in the knowledge that she still had much to learn.
"What do you think?" Scott Emery asked, and Sara refocused herself.
Ruefully, she replied, "I'm sorry. I wasn't paying attention."
"I was just wondering if you wanted to explore the landscape with me," Scott said and smiled. He seemed so young to her and she knew he had a bit of a crush going. In fact, he'd been flirting since they met aboard the ship. He reminded her so much of Gil, how could she resist?
Yet he was so impossibly young. Sara figured she might be only a couple of years older, but she'd lived too much, seen too much, to really see Scott as anything other than a kid. A hell of a smart kid at that.
It was nice to be flirted with, though – flattering in an amusing and ego-building kind of way.
"Thank you, but I think I'll stick with village life," Sara replied. Taking a sip of the herbal tea, she scanned the other tables of the outdoor café. Other shipmates occupied some tables overlooking the street below. The sound of chatter in Portuguese, English, and a multitude of other languages filled the air with a low, constant hum.
A barking laugh had Sara smiling and turning her head. An older man in his early sixties sat at a table not ten feet away, grinning.
"Hey, Oscar. Good joke?" she called out to the man, gracing him with a wide, happy smile.
"Why yes, it is," he replied, his Louisiana accent thick with humor. Sitting across from her, Sara listened as the man charmed her with a very smooth voice and very bad jokes.
By the time she left the small café, her stomach ached from laughing so hard.
Strolling down the wide-open street in the tropical village, Sara simply let herself drift in sensation. The sounds of two locals chatting in front of a small hut mingled with the brassy sound of an old-fashioned bicycle horn. And the colors… simply stunned her. Earthy tones of every shade blended in with the swampy fields of green and brown, and bright blooms sprouted almost as if by random on trees and bushes.
Taking a turn, Sara walked right into a cacophony of sounds. Vendors sold their goods – from cell phones to passion fruit – in bamboo carts lining the street of hotels. Tourists walked around with a look of awe on their faces. It was so easy to distinguish the clean-cut tourists from the people of this place.
She preferred the locals.
About half a block before her hotel, she turned and walked down a dimly lit side street, lined on both sides by two story buildings. In the shadow of modern age, she let go of everything tangible and stepped out of the dark, into the sun. Into the intangible.
She loved the clean breath that coursed through her when she left behind the alley and headed straight into the forest. The site never ceased to amaze her, and Sara moved slowly and lovingly, as if she were part of the earth itself.
He would love this place, she mused. Creatures scurried about as she moved deeper down the thinning dirt path under the canopy of trees.
Within minutes, Sara found herself settling onto a boulder and easing her feet up under to sit cross-legged. She knew the town lay just minutes away, yet the jungle prevented the pollution of its existence from penetrating such loveliness. The jungle found a way to protect itself from the creeping humanity that threatened its existence.
Inhaling deep, she let the rich scent of humidity and dirt swamp her lungs and sighed in satisfaction.
Life was simply too short to do otherwise.
Tilting her head back, Sara just existed – letting herself drift into a feeling of settled contentment that just a couple of years ago she never knew existed. Apparently, sometimes storybooks got it right. Peace and happiness really could be grasped.
Drifting off, she felt the afternoon sun work its way down through the trees, just a little stronger, caressing her face with heat. Ever so slowly, she ruefully admitted she'd never be fully calm, and fidgeted a little. As much as she might like to imagine herself as graceful and serene, she'd always be layered with a sheen of restlessness. She just needed to learn to clamp down on that desire. Determination took over and her muscles quivered in an attempt to continue holding still.
"I'm going to enjoy this, damn it," she muttered under her breath, when she felt the urge to get up and explore. "Just a few more minutes."
At the sound, though, she jumped, twirled, and nearly stumbled when the forest spoke back.
"How about I join you?"
That voice, so calm, with just a mild hint of wry humor made her smile and she trained her eyes to the shadowed canopy fifteen feet ahead on the trail.
"Actually, I've been waiting awhile to join you," Gil Grissom stated. "I heard a rumor you enjoyed your afternoons here."
Standing stock still, she admired the timbre of his voice – let it cascade down on her like a smooth touch. Smiling, she held out a hand and his large palm covered her fingers. As he slowly inched closer, she absorbed it all – the sensation of being near, the way he had shoved his other hand into the pocket of his slacks, and the way he so gracefully closed the gap between them.
It was the serene expression on his face that had her speaking.
"So fierce," she murmured, reaching a hand up to stroke his beard and watch his eyes slowly drift shut at the touch. "I remember the young man I met," she whispered. "So long ago, you used to look at me with the passion I see on your face now."
"Yes," he breathed in response. "I recall the way you used to look at me in adoration."
"You're happy," she stated, hoping it didn't come out as an accusation. And failing.
"Yes," he replied, and shouted once more, "YES!"
Birds flew out of tree branches above, rustling lush greenery, and animals skittered away from them. She didn't notice.
"Oh thank God," Sara breathed, and the let out a whoop when he lifted her off the ground.
"What are you doing?" she asked, gasping for air as he swung her. "Put me down before you hurt your back."
"No," he replied, and she watched his eyes turn cobalt. "Not now. Not ever." With her still in his arms, Sara watched Gil's smile turn serious, although the crooked grin lay hinting at the edges of his lips.
"I realized something, Sara. I can roll the dice and pull another case, hoping it didn't end as badly as all the others before, or I can go all in and hope my cards are good enough," he stated. "I went all in."
Frowning, she patted his shoulder and stared into his eyes, until he set Sara on her feet.
"You know the game was rigged, don't you?" she asked. "Vegas never held house odds. Not on me, not on you, not on us."
"It took me awhile, but yeah… I figured that out," he said, and let the grin creep up, until he looked at her with the look of an embarrassed little boy. "It only took me over fifty years to understand that we make our own odds. I wish I'd known it the day we met."
"But you know it now. I'm learning it, and accepting that I'm worth my own odds," she stated. "So you have a choice about our odds. If we're both in, we win. After all, the house holds the odds. Otherwise, I'll spend time with you now and look to my own future."
She'd long ago stopped clutching her arms around her stomach in defense. If nothing else, she knew she could be happy, and so Sara looked up into a much-adored face and studied him closely. Everything about him seemed so much lighter than when she'd left after Warrick's funeral, and she realized just how much she wanted him to be happy. Truly happy. Even if it wasn't with her.
"You know, I could probably go back to teaching or even forensics. I can do or be anything in the field of science," he quietly stated. "It took me awhile to realize that maybe what I wanted more than anything was to stop playing the game altogether."
"Maybe I want it to end, because I think I found that elusive something that I've never been able to pinpoint," he added.
"And what's that?" Sara asked, her voice thick with emotion, as she watched his face lighten with every word, every caress. Closing her eyes, she leaned into his hand when he ran the back of his fingers across her cheek.
"I think it's time I stop living my life vicariously through others," he stated.
Sara felt her face flush at the words and the implications. Was he really saying he was leaving Vegas behind?
"If you'll have me," Gil quietly qualified.
Twining her arms around his waist, Sara murmured, "If this is what you want, then yes."
"No more games," he murmured, as her head came to rest on his shoulder and her breath blew hot against his neck. "We're the house and the house wins."