A/N: And so begins the next part of Grissom and Sara's journey! I'd like to thank you for joining me for the trip. If you're new to my work, please know that this is the fourth story in a series I began with "Fairytales," and followed with "Chasing the Rainbow's End" and "And They Lived Happily." I'm going to suggest, but not insist, that you read them in order.
Thank you for reading and reviewing. I hope you enjoy this story!
I don't own CSI.
Gil, age 8
"Gil? Mom's looking for you, little man."
Gil dropped the worms that were wriggling in his hand back into the garden soil. "I'm right here," he said.
"Yeah, I can see that," his father replied with a smile. "But, Mom can't. Go inside and see what she wants. She's in our bedroom."
Gil nodded and jumped up to go inside, wiping his hands on his jeans as he walked. As his father had promised, his mother was in the master bedroom, searching through her jewelry box. He put a hand on her arm to alert her to his presence. She turned to him with worried eyes and immediately began signing.
"Gil, there you are! I can't find Grandma's ring. Have you seen it?"
Gil frowned. "The diamond one?"
"Yes, the diamond one."
"I've seen it."
"I gave it to Nicole."
"Nicole? Your friend Nicole?"
Mrs. Grissom's expression was somewhere between bewildered and murderous. "Gil. Why?"
"Because I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. I had to give her a ring, and you always said that I could give Grandma's ring to the girl I marry."
Mrs. Grissom closed her eyes and counted to ten. "Gilbert Grissom, you are eight years old! You are not getting married for at least twenty years – thirty, if I have anything to say about it! Go get that ring back from Nicole!"
"Mom! It's her engagement ring!"
"Not yet, it's not. Get it back, Gilbert. NOW."
Shoulders slumping in defeat, Gil turned from his mother. He had only taken two steps when her hand was on his shoulder, turning him back. She gave him a gentle smile.
"You'll get married someday, Gil. Just not yet."
"When you're older."
"But, I don't want to wait. Nicole is fun, and she likes bugs. She'd be a good wife."
Amusement danced in his mother's eyes. "I'm sure she would be, honey. When you're older."
Gil sighed. Why did adults always have to say that? He didn't want to wait to do things. It wasn't fair.
"I'll get the ring back, Mom. But, can I give it back to her someday?"
"If she is the girl you marry – yes. If not, you'll save it for the one who is."
Sara, age 6
"Okay, Sara, are you ready to help me get ready?"
Sara nodded as her aunt came into the bedroom wearing a bathrobe. "Where is Dave taking you tonight?"
"To the symphony," Liz replied, sitting down at her vanity.
"What's that?" Sara asked, getting up off the bed to stand closer to watch her aunt put on her makeup.
"It's a fancy concert. You have to get very dressed up to go, and you watch people play instruments. They make beautiful music." She picked up a bottle of foundation.
"Oh," Sara said, watching her aunt shake the bottle and pour a little onto the back of her hand. "Why are you using that?"
"It evens out my skin tone."
"Oh." Sara frowned, watching her apply the makeup.
"You look confused, sweetie."
"It's just … Mommy only uses that when she's covering up black and blue marks. You don't have any."
Liz put the bottle down so fast it nearly fell over. She turned to look at Sara, grabbing her by the shoulders. "Sara. What are you talking about?"
Sara's eyes widened in fear. "I'm sorry, Aunt Liz! I didn't mean – please don't –"
"Sara!" Liz exclaimed, releasing her, realizing she had nearly scared her to death. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you. I just … Sara, honey, do you watch Mommy put on makeup?"
"All the time," Sara said in a little voice. "When Daddy makes her black and blue, she uses foundation. When he doesn't, she doesn't need it."
Liz bit her lip. "Daddy shouldn't make her black and blue, Sara. He shouldn't hit her. Dave doesn't hit me."
Sara frowned, thinking about what she had said, trying to make sense of it. "That's because you're not married," she said at last. "Only husbands make their wives black and blue. Boyfriends don't do that to their girlfriends."
"I'm not going to get married," Sara said as Liz's voice trailed off. "Not ever. I don't want to have a husband. I'd rather just have a boyfriend. That way I won't ever have to put on foundation to cover black and blue marks."
Tears filled Liz's eyes and she grabbed Sara again, crushing her to her.
"Hey, girls," Laura said as she walked into Liz's bedroom. "Sara, we need to get home and let Aunt Liz get ready for her date with Dave."
"Laura," Liz said, releasing her niece, "why don't you and Sara stay here?"
"Why?" Laura asked, frowning in confusion. "You have plans. We'll see you another time."
"No, I just …" She looked at Sara. "Sweetie, can you go get my red purse from the hall closet?"
"Sure." Sara skipped off.
"What's going on, Lizzie?"
"Sara knows," Liz said. "She knows Malcolm hits you, and she knows what you do to cover the bruises."
"Yeah," Laura said, pain creeping into her eyes. "I know."
"Laura! You've got to get her out of there! You can't let her grow up like that!"
"I can't just take her and leave," Laura said. "It would kill Malcolm to lose her! He loves that little girl … and, he loves me. He's a good man, Liz. He just has a temper, that's all."
"Laura, she just told me she's never going to get married because husbands hit wives. Do you really think this is a good environment for her?"
"She's fine, Liz," Laura said, a closed expression coming over her face. "She's fine, and I'm fine, and we're going to go home now to let you get ready for your date. Have fun with Dave."
"Here it is, Aunt Liz."
"Thanks, sweetie," Liz said, taking the purse from Sara. She looked up at Laura. "So, that's it, then?"
"We'll see you later, Lizzie. Tell Dave we said hello."
Liz watched as her sister took her niece by the hand and walked out of her bedroom. She had never been so afraid.
Gil, age 30
"How are you feeling?"
"Nervous as hell," Carl said, pausing his pacing steps from one side of the room to the other. He looked at his watch. "How can we possibly still have fifteen minutes to wait?"
Gil grinned. "Because it is impossible to control time."
"Some best man you are! Aren't you supposed to be distracting me right now?"
"Okay. Fine. What do you want me to do, recite the periodic table?"
"No. I'm the chemist, not you."
Gil sighed. "Carl, why are you so nervous? You've been in love with Amy since you met her. You've been engaged for a year. You're supposed to be excited right now."
"I know," Carl said. "And, I am excited. Really, really excited. I just … I can't believe this is really happening. God, I feel like such a girl."
Gil laughed. "You're getting married in ten minutes, Carl. You're allowed to feel like a girl."
Carl laughed with him. "Promise me something."
"Amy must never find out that we both just called me a girl."
Gil laughed again. "You've got it."
"Ah, thanks, Gil," Carl said, slapping him on the back. "Not just for that, but for everything. I can't wait to do this all for you someday."
"Be your best man."
Gil shook his head. "I'm not getting married, Carl."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that I'm not getting married."
A pained expression crossed his face. "After what happened with Rebecca, I just don't think I'm cut out for marriage. I'm too devoted to science and my work. I can't ask a woman to take second place to that, but I'm not sure I'd be able to offer her more."
Carl shook his head. "You need to realign your priorities, my friend."
"I just don't think I can." He smiled. "Carl, today is about you and Amy. Don't think about me."
"Gentlemen?" The wedding coordinator stuck her head into the room. "It's time."
Gil grinned at his friend. "Come on, Carl. Let's go let Amy make an honest man out of you."
Carl grinned back. "Yeah. I'm ready to get married."
Sara, age 13
"Do you want to look in this store, Sara?"
Sara looked at her watch. It was dangerously close to six o'clock. "Do we have time?"
Nancy glanced at her own watch. "Sure. Steve won't mind if we're a little late, and I'd love to see you in that top. I think it would be great for picture day."
When Nancy, her new foster mother, had proposed a back to school shopping expedition, Sara had never anticipated that it would take their entire Saturday. But, Steve, her foster father, had already planned to go fishing with his friends, and had told them to have fun. He had promised to be home by six, which, in Sara's experience, meant that dinner needed to be ready by six.
"But, what, honey?" Nancy asked. "Really, I think that the green top would be very pretty on you."
Sara knew better than to argue with an adult. "Okay."
Nancy was right; the top was very pretty. Sara liked it, Nancy liked it, and even the salesgirl said she had to have it. So, they bought the top and added it to the collection of clothes Sara was amassing for school. She was sure she had never had so many new things for the beginning of the year before.
"Are you sure I need this many clothes?" she asked as they walked back to the car.
"Yes, I'm sure," Nancy said firmly. "We already got you everything you'll need for your classes, so we know you'll be well-prepared to learn. With your new clothes, you'll look so pretty, too."
Sara nodded. "It wasn't too much, was it?"
"Not at all. Don't worry about the money for a minute."
Sara nodded, but couldn't stop worrying. She remembered the day her mother had taken her shopping for a new pair of shoes. They had decided to get two pairs because the store was having a "buy one, get one half off" sale. Her father had been so angry when they had come home with more than intended. Her mother had had to wear a sling while her dislocated shoulder healed.
It was nearly seven o'clock by the time they pulled into the driveway, and Sara was terrified. Steve's car was already there, as she had anticipated. Nancy, sensing the tension in Sara, turned to look at her.
"Are you okay, Sara?"
"Fine," she squeaked.
Nancy frowned. "Are you sure?"
"It's just … I thought we'd be home earlier, that's all."
"Oh," Nancy said. "Well, don't worry about it. It's not a school night yet. We don't need to get you to bed early."
Sara nodded and followed her into the house. Steve heard them coming in and came out of the living room to meet them in the foyer. Sara held her breath.
"Hi, ladies," he said with a smile. "How was your shopping trip?"
"Great," Nancy said enthusiastically. "We got Sara an entire fall wardrobe."
Steve grinned. "Did you have fun, Sara?"
"Good. Do you have more in the car?"
"Just a couple bags."
"I'll get them for you."
Steve disappeared into the driveway, and Sara slowly released her breath. He didn't seem angry… She was so confused.
"Well," Nancy said, "I suppose we should think about dinner."
"How about we order a pizza?" Steve suggested as he came in the door with the last of the bags. "You've had a busy day, and I'm sure you're tired."
Nancy smiled at Sara, then looked at Steve. "I don't see you volunteering to cook. Shouldn't we have some fresh fish?"
"We could, if anything had been biting," he replied. "I'll order the pizza."
"Okay. Sara, let me help you put all these things away."
Sara nodded and followed Nancy to her bedroom. They each took a bag and began pulling clothes out of it.
"What's wrong, Sara?" Nancy asked. "You were so animated this morning, but now …"
Sara bit her lip, then asked her question in a rush. "Is he always like that?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Steve. Is he always so … understanding?"
"Sara, honey, I'm confused. What do you mean? Understanding about what?"
"We were late," Sara said. "He said he'd be home at six, but we weren't here and we didn't have dinner on the table and we spent more than we had said and –"
"Sara," Nancy said, holding up her hands to stop the flow of words as she realized what had Sara so scared. "Come here."
Sara sat down next to her on the bed and looked at her.
"Steve is a wonderful husband," Nancy said. "He'd never get angry at me for being out later than I said or not getting his dinner for him or spending more than I said I would. And, even if he did get angry with me, he'd never hit me. Or you. Never."
"Never?" Sara repeated.
"No," Nancy affirmed. "Honey, I've been married to that man for twenty years, and never once has he raised a hand to me. We love each other like crazy, and we work together to keep our marriage strong. We're partners, Sara. Equals. No one has the upper hand, no one is in control, and no one gets violent. Violence doesn't have any place in a good marriage."
"I thought …"
"I know you love your parents," she said. "And, I hope that one day, you'll be able to live with your mother again. But, Sara, you need to understand that theirs was not a good or a healthy marriage. It's no way for anyone to live, and it's no life for a little girl to see like you did. I know your mother wouldn't want you to have a marriage like hers."
"I'm not getting married," Sara said. "I don't want …"
"If you don't get married, that's fine," Nancy said gently. "But, if you do … I hope it can be to a man like Steve. I know you'd be happy with a good husband, Sara."
Sara nodded slowly, processing all Nancy was saying. Maybe …
"Nancy! Sara! The pizza's here!"
"Come on, honey," Nancy said, standing up and pulling Sara to her feet. "Let's go have some pizza. We can finish putting your clothes away later."
Slightly dazed by all she had learned, Sara followed Nancy to the kitchen. Maybe Nancy was right. Maybe there were other men like Steve. Maybe the way she had lived wasn't the norm. Maybe …