A/N: And thus, we've reached the end of season four. Thanks for sticking with me, guys. It means the world to me.
Depending on whether or not I have to work today, the next story will be started either tonight or tomorrow. I'll see you there :)
Spoilers for episode 4x23, Bloodlines.
It was the quietest car ride of my life.
I wanted to say something, anything, to break the silence, but I knew as soon as my mouth opened, words would get choked up in my throat, and tears would fall instead, because I was mad, so mad, for being stupid, so stupid. There wasn't anything I could say, no explanation I could offer, that would make this okay. This had to be the final straw. If I wasn't a disappointment to Gil Grissom before, this surely sealed the deal.
But for some reason, the longer we drove, it seemed like the silence in the car wasn't an oppressive one. Grissom didn't seem angry or upset, and he wasn't demanding an explanation or expecting me to talk. He wasn't avoiding my gaze, but he wasn't starting straight at me, either. Instead, he was actually providing me with exactly what I wanted, company, without being overbearing. He was actually being nice to me.
Well, this was new.
Too bad it had to take something as drastic as an almost-DUI to get him to notice me.
The words ran through my mind and my body filled with shame. This wasn't me. It was a stupid, horrible decision, but it now, whenever Grissom looked at me, it'd probably be all he'd see. Jesus. Not only was I worthless and pathetic, I was a worthless and pathetic drunk.
And all of a sudden, we were in my drive. I swallowed hard, willed the tears not to come out, and was able to mutter a solitary word.
"Come on," he said, tilting his head slightly.
He said if softly, but not nearly quietly enough for me not hear him. Still, it took me several moments to figure out what he meant. He was coming in with me.
We walked to my door, and he followed me in. If the car ride hadn't been uncomfortable, this certainly was. I couldn't remember the lat time we'd been along together in a private space. I tossed my purse onto the countertop and pressed my palms into the fake marble. I stared at the countertop as I spoke.
"Why are you here?"
He was still by the door, I could tell by the soft sounds of his movements. He was unsure of what to do, how to act, being alone with me in my apartment, but I wasn't offering him any clues.
"I-I want to make sure you're okay."
"Yeah, Grissom," I said venomously. "I'm great."
I turned to face him.
"I don't need to be taken care of," I said. "Not even tonight."
He continued to stare at me with those unblinking, unbelievably blue eyes, and I could only shake my head.
"What are you doing here?" I repeated, a pleading tone in my voice this time.
"Can I… can I sit?" he asked hesitantly.
I nodded and he sat on the edge of my couch, waiting expectantly for me to join him. I wrapped my arms tightly around my middle and reluctantly sat in the chair facing the coffee table. I waited for him to begin, as I wasn't ready to talk quite yet.
"Speaking as your supervisor, I need to tell you that this will go in your file and on your record," he said eventually. "But if you do the mandatory PEAP counseling, it'll only be there for a year, and then it's gone. And I know this won't happen again."
I nodded and he sighed.
"Good," he said.
He reached out to take my hand, like he did back at P.D., but this time the contact startled me.
"Now, speaking as your friend, I'm worried about you," he continued. "This isn't the woman that I met in San Francisco five years ago. Or the one who joined my lab. What's going on?"
"I don't know," I sighed.
"You're going to have to do better than that, honey," he said.
"Don't do that!" I exclaimed, hurt and upset by his use of the endearment.
"Don't do what?" he asked, obviously confused. "Sara. Please. Just tell me what's going on, so I can help you."
"I'm not a drunk," I said quietly.
"It's just… these cases, dealing with them… it's been harder and harder on me lately," I said. "I guess I just turned to the wrong thing to help me deal."
"The Linley Parker case was hard on you," he said softly.
"So was Suzanna Kirkwood," I added. "So has a lot of other things. It's all been too much to handle, and it's left me feeling… alone."
Our hands were still lightly touching, but through our gentle contact, I could feel that his worry and anxiety were not tapered just yet.
"Is that all, Sara?"
I swallowed hard and took deep breaths, not wanting to go down the road we were heading, but knowing it had to be traveled.
"No," I breathed, trying to summon the courage to say what had to be said. "Lately, I… I've been…"
He gave my fingers the slightest squeeze. I wished he'd stop touching me. Then maybe it'd be easier to think.
"You can tell me, Sara," he said encouragingly.
"I've been feeling… worthless," I said finally.
"Worthless?" he repeated, stunned. "Sara—"
"It's been one thing after the other, Grissom," I said, cutting him off and feeling a lot better now that I'd finally said the words aloud. "I'm worthless in relationships…"
He flinched just a little, and I knew he realized I was referring to Hank.
"I'm worthless at work…
"Please listen to me," I pleaded as he tried to interrupt again. I continued, but my voice began to shake. "I could have done that case. Julie Waters. I couldn't believe you didn't trust me enough to handle it. I lost faith in myself after that."
Finally, he was silent, and though I felt a little guilty for being so in-your-face, the time had come. And I wasn't about to stop then.
"You passed me up for the promotion," I said softly, and a little hesitantly. I knew it was a moot point, because Nick hadn't technically received the promotion either, but the humiliation of it still hurt. "I thought I deserved it. Apparently, you didn't."
"I don't know what to say," he said quietly.
His repetition of the words from our talk in his office made anger flush through me.
"I'm tired of being brushed aside," I said angrily. "I'm tired of feeling incapable and distrusted. That's mostly what drove me to tonight, Grissom. And I can't do it any more."
I came close, so close, to telling him I'd been in the room for his confession to Dr. Lurie. Because while that was another contributing factor to my worthlessness, and while I now knew exactly why he could never admit he felt the same way about me as I felt for him, I couldn't go down that road right then. It was too painful.
He removed his hand from mine, but only to put it to his face and rub his temples. His fingers slid from forehead to chin and back a few times, and he breathed out deeply. I was proud of myself for what I'd said, and for saying it without crying. I wasn't looking for pity or apologies or even friendship, but I had needed to get everything off my chest, and now, it was gone.
"How do I fix this?" he said eventually.
"I don't know if you can."
"I can't leave here tonight knowing you're upset, Sara," he said.
"I don't want your pity."
"I don't pity you, Sara," he said. "Just tell me what to do about this."
"Look, you wanted to know what was bothering me, and I've told you," I said curtly. "We've established that this won't happen again. I'll do my sessions. You've fulfilled your role as a supervisor. I'm fine."
"But, as your friend—"
I didn't say anything to stop him, but the oh-so subtle shaking of my head and the pain in my eyes was enough to leave him speechless. We both knew what I was saying. We weren't friends. Not right now, anyways. Too much had passed between us to make it all okay with a simple touch of my hand.
There was so much left to say, but no way to say it. We both sat for moments, silent, both staring at each other and trying hard not to look the other in the eye. I didn't mean to be rude, didn't mean to be curt, but there was nothing that Gil Grissom could offer me right now. I needed to heal on my own, and I would, eventually. I always did.
He rose from the couch, went to the door and paused with his fingers on the handle. He turned towards me, and looked back at me with such a wistful, melancholy expression that I almost changed my mind right then and there. But of course, I didn't.
"I'm sorry, Sara," he said.
And he left. The door pressed closed behind him, and I was left alone with a headache that hand nothing to do with alcohol.
And that's when the tears began to flow.