Author: Michmak

Summary: What happened after the preliminary hearing? Spoilers for TAIE

Disclaimer: The only characters I own are the ones I create for the purpose of this story. All the rest? Not mine.


If he had known they were going to be there, he never would have walked into the bar in the first place.

At least that's what he told himself, even as he removed his suit jacket, letting it hang awkwardly over his arm. He had seen them within seconds of walking into the packed pub, and even though his mind was screaming at him to get out before they spotted him and called him over to their table, a more elemental urge forced his feet inexorably forward - towards them.

"Grissom!" Nick was the first one to spot him, a huge smile spreading across his face even as his eyes belayed their shock at seeing him, "What are you doing here?"

Grissom looked slightly embarrassed. "I thought maybe I would join you guys after all," he mumbled, "but your table looks pretty full. I didn't realize Sara and - Hank - Hank, right? - were going to be here as well."

"The more the merrier," Catherine, already drinking a celebratory OJ with vodka, toasted him cheerily. "Pull up a chair and scootch in here. Sara, push over."

Sara tried not to glare at Catherine balefully as she slid her chair to the left, closer to Hank, making a tiny space for Grissom to squeeze in at the table. He shot her a perfunctionary look as he caught a whiff of lemon- scented shampoo, keeping his expression carefully neutral as he saw Hank slide his hand possessively from the table to her knee.

"Hey Grissom," her voice was strained, "Glad you decided to come after all."

Grissom sighed, "Nick and Warrick invited me. I thought after our big victory in court, maybe I should be here celebrating with my team." He placed just the slightest emphasis on the words 'my team', noticing her slight wince and immediate slanted glance at Hank. 'Bullseye,' he thought to himself, 'Hank most definitely is NOT on my team.'

"Better than going to your lonely townhouse, with only your dead butterflies for company!" Catherine smiled at him, rolling her eyes. Grissom merely cocked an eyebrow at her and didn't respond.

A waitress appeared at the head of the table, smiling when Warrick effusively ordered another round for everyone, along with a plate of nachos. Grissom ordered a Guinness beer, and sighed in relief when she returned moments later with an icy cold draft.

Around him, conversation was swirling but he didn't hear any of it. His universe was currently focused on the small bead of sweat on his beer glass, his eyes fixed on that single droplet of water being compelled by gravity to slide to its unceremonial demise on the table. By keeping his eyes locked on the drink in front of him, he could avoid accidentally catching another glimpse of Hank touching Sara.

"Grissom. Earth to Grissom!"

Grissom's head shot up, his startled gaze colliding with Greg's amused one. "You were zoned, man. What were you thinking of?"

Grissom shrugged, "Compulsion."

"Typically cryptic," Catherine snorted. "Care to elucidate?"

"I was watching the sweat on my beer glass," he picked it up and pointed at the wet circle it left behind on the table, "and marveling at compulsion."

He slanted his eyes briefly at Sara, and noticed her intent gaze was focused on the water ring. "Of course you are," she said. "If only the bead of water could remain on the glass, isolated and perfect in every way, instead of being forced by gravity to slide to the table and meld with the rest."

His blue eyes clashed briefly with her brown ones when she glanced at him just as quickly, and smiled at him slightly. He smiled back, just a slight twist of his lips. Of course Sara understood him - she always did.

Greg sighed, "But don't you think the drop is happier mixing with the rest of the water than it is all by itself at the top of the glass?"

Nick nudged Greg in the ribs, "I didn't know water drops could be lonely," he teased. "What else did you learn in all those chemistry courses you took?"

"Shut up, Nick," Greg grinned, before turning back to Grissom, "I heard you rocked on the stand, Grissom. Built the suspense by making that defense attorney repeat her question three times before blowing her out of the water with the scar testimony! Wish I could have been there."

"Grissom, I have to say - that Gerard guy? Creepy." Nick added, loosening his tie with one hand as he looked at Grissom and grinned.

Beside him Warrick muttered, "Amen to that. I can't believe he was your mentor."

Grissom sighed, "I can't believe it either. All I can say is that in the 17 years since I last saw him, he's changed a lot. He should never have attacked you on a personal level the way he did. You did well - all of you."

He smiled at Greg's slightly hopeful expression, "You too, Greg. As well as being proficient in the lab, your dubious choices in reading material at the lab gave us what we needed to nail that bastard. I guess those gossip- rags can be informative after all."

Greg cocked an eyebrow at Grissom, before turning to Nick and mock whispering, "Who is this guy, and what has he done with Grissom?"

"No kidding. You feeling all right, Griss?" At Grissom's slight nod, Nick grinned. "Well, then - this is a first. Not only do you finally agree to come out and celebrate with us, you tell us we did a good job and you also compliment Greg. Has the world stopped turning?"

Grissom shrugged, "Call it compulsion."

* * * * *

Grissom was the first to leave. Despite the protests from the rest of the team, he made his excuses and left within the hour. While he had been enjoying the conversations ebbing and flowing around him, he had still felt strangely isolated. Sara hadn't relaxed at all since he had arrived, and Grissom was still unable to bring himself to even look at Hank.

Finishing off his third beer, he rose to his feet and left for home.

And now, here he sat. He was watching - if that's what you could call it - some forensics show on TV hosted by the actor from the Kevin Costner movie, Dances with Wolves. That was one of the last movies he had actually seen on the big screen. He had taken his mother to see it about two years before she had died of a heart attack.

He could still remember sitting in the theatre, his mother beside him watching the screen raptly - reading the subtitles for the Lakota speech. He had only needed to sign for her when the characters actually spoke English, his hands floating over the words in the near-darkness of the cinema, illuminated only by the faint glow of the blue aisle lights, the smell of movie popcorn redolent in the air. Seeing Graham Greene on this show had sent his mind back to a time when he had still thought of Gerard as a friend, and his mother had been alive.

Thinking of his mother hurt, for obvious reasons. She had been a wonderful woman, and Grissom had learned to appreciate silence from her. Thinking of Gerard, strangely enough, hurt more. His mother had never disappointed him - Gerard had. And the question about his mother had been the straw that had damaged their relationship irretrievably. Grissom had always thought Gerard was an honest-to-goodness friend, one of the few he had, and it hurt to realize he had been wrong. His mother had never been overly fond of his mentor, and had never had dinner with them again after that first time, which just went to prove the old adage - your mother is always right.

He wondered what his mother would think of the life he had built for himself in the years since her death; thought she might be vaguely disappointed at the lack of grandchildren. In the ways of all mothers, she had always wanted him to settle down and have a family. Just a couple of days before her death, she had told him she was worried if he didn't find a nice girl and settle down soon he would spend the rest of his life alone.

"I won't live forever," she had signed, to which he had replied, "You'll be around long enough to see your grandchildren." It was one of the last conversations they had shared.

What had Catherine told him once? He lived in a hermetically sealed townhouse, living a life devoid of 'personal stuff'. Or something to that effect. He supposed she was right. It was hard to have personal stuff when the person you wanted was with someone else.

Hank. Hank stank. Grissom smiled grimly, trying to ignore the sudden ache in the general vicinity of his heart as his thoughts drifted to Sara. He had told her she deserved a life, and of course she did. It wasn't her fault that in recent months, in the depths of his soul, he was beginning to imagine her life was with him.

Had he expected her to stick around forever? On some level, he supposed the answer was yes. After all, she had come to Las Vegas because he asked her to. Even though they hadn't seen each other or talked to each other in almost five years, she had dropped everything to come to him when he needed her.

If was odd to think of someone else maybe needing her more.

How long ago had it been since he had acknowledged to himself that he loved her? It seemed he had always known; had always recognized on some plane that he only ever felt connected to anything was when he was with her. Things just felt different when she was around him - the world was more vibrant; his focus sharper. Colors were brighter. And Grissom felt alive. Without Sara, the world was muted and hazy, and Grissom felt as though he was sleep-walking through life.

Grissom had felt pole-axed when Gerard had brought up Sara's relationship with Hank. He had seen Hank around, of course. Grissom had just assumed that Hank knew Sara from dealing with CSI at various crime scenes, in the same casual 'say hi' way he appeared to know Warrick and probably Nick as well. No big deal, just another admirer fallen victim to Sara's considerable charms.

He still remembered the sudden panicked look on Sara's face when Gerard had mentioned Hank; the guilty flush that had stained her cheeks when she had denied there even was a relationship. Grissom hadn't believed it, of course. He had seen Hank - briefly - when they were investigating the poker player's death. Hank was a young guy - younger than him - and good- looking in that buff way that Grissom had lost long ago. He wasn't surprised that Sara would choose someone like Hank over someone like him - not that she knew he was even a choice. It was not like he had ever responded to her subtle advances. Although he would have. Eventually. If given more time to convince himself she was really interested.

It was too late now. His procrastination had cost him Sara. Just like his mother had feared, he would spend the rest of his life alone. And now that he knew what it felt like to be not-so-alone, the prospect of being alone seemed somehow worse than it had before he knew what he was missing.

With a barely audible sigh, Grissom pushed himself out of the chair and walked over to his stereo system, flicking off Graham Greene as he walked by. Quickly scanning his discs, he found the one he wanted to listen to and popped it into his CD player, replacing the Pink Floyd that normally resided there. He turned up the volume as he headed into his kitchen. He thought a little wine was in order.

~ One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do

Two can be as bad as one

It's the loneliest number since the number one

No is the saddest experience you'll ever know

Yes, it's the saddest experience you'll ever know

'Cause one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do

One is the loneliest number, whoa-oh, worse than two

It's just no good anymore since you went away

Now I spend my time just making rhymes of yesterday

One is the loneliest number

One is the loneliest number

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do

One is the loneliest

One is the loneliest

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do

It's just no good anymore since you went away


One is the loneliest (number)

One is the loneliest (number)

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do~

Grissom barely heard his doorbell over the music, thinking for a moment that the sound was just a ringing in his ears. Walking by his stereo on the way to the front door, he pushed replay, humming to himself as the music started again, his smile sardonic. Three Dog Night had it right - one is the loneliest number.

Opening his door he was surprised to see Sara standing there, smile cautious and eyes overly bright when she looked at him.

~'Cause one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do

One is the loneliest number, whoa-oh, worse than two

It's just no good anymore since you went away

Now I spend my time just making rhymes of yesterday

One is the loneliest number~

"This song seems strangely appropriate, somehow," she muttered wryly after she greeted him.

"Sara," he said rather lamely, stepping hastily to the side to let her in, "what are you doing here?"

Sara shrugged, "Call it compulsion." Her voice was shaky as she stepped into his small lobby, sliding off her shoes as she stepped towards him.

"Where's Hank?" Grissom was amazed he could even say that name without choking on it, and was even more amazed when Sara flinched at his question.

"He's not here," she muttered wryly, "he's not with me. And he never has been." This last statement was offered baldly, and Sara looked at him suddenly - eyes daring him to contradict her. When Grissom just looked at her in blank confusion, she sighed. "This was a bad idea."


"My coming here." Despite her words, she walked down the hallway and into his living room. She saw the full glass of wine he had set on a small end table before he answered the door and picked it up, taking a careful sip before handing it to him.

Grissom accepted it without thought, taking a sip himself, smiling when she smiled. "I don't really know why I'm here, Grissom."

Her slim hand reached out for the wine glass again, tapered fingers wrapping around the stem and brushing against his fingers in the process. He felt the jolt all the way to his toes. "Nice wine," she commented as she took another sip. She looked at him over the edge of the glass, and Grissom almost gasped at the emotion he saw swimming in them.

"I ran into Gerard just before I left the pub," her voice was soft. "I didn't really have much to say to him, but he wanted to talk to me."

Grissom was suddenly nervous. "About what?"

"He apologized to me for feeding the defense attorney the questions to ask me at the preliminary hearing."

"Oh." Grissom looked at her questioningly, "what were the questions?"

"She asked about Hank. And she asked about you. Specifically, she said she had an eyewitness who saw me touching your cheek during the Renteria investigation."

Grissom said nothing.

"She wanted to know if I developed attachments to all the men I worked with, and how far I would go on evidence to make you happy. Whether you returned my feelings or not."

"You were wiping chalk."

"No. No, Grissom. I wasn't. I was reaching out. I wanted to touch you, and the chalk was just an excuse."

Grissom tried to control the sudden stampeding of his heart as he stepped towards her, a bemused expression on his face and a slight smile lingering on the corners of his mouth. He reached his hands up to her shoulders, feeling the firm collarbones beneath his palms through the thin cotton of her T-shirt.

"What else did Gerard tell you?"

"He told me I reminded him of you when you first started working for him. He said you were very intense, a bit of a loner. He said you had a hard time opening up to anyone. He told me I was the same way. And he told me if I didn't open myself up to getting hurt, I would never be happy and neither would you."

Sara inched even closer to him. Her arms still hung loosely at her sides, but Grissom could feel the heat of her scorching the air around him. She blinked slowly and tilted her head to the side, allowing his left hand access to the smooth column of her throat. Grissom watched in fascination as his fingers slid across her shoulder and up her neck to trace her jawbone.

"I want you to be happy, Grissom. I want to be the one that makes you happy."

"What about Hank?"

Sara grinned suddenly, even as a hectic flush tinged her face, "I don't think he could make you happy."

Grissom laughed softly, "No, he couldn't. As a matter of fact, for the last few days just the thought of Hank has made me downright miserable."

"We were only ever friends, Grissom. Nothing more than that. Ever. Do you believe me?" They were standing so close now, Grissom could feel her breath on his face, the warm moistness of it caressing his skin with each exhalation. Her chest was pressed firmly against his, her heart pounding against him. Her hands reached slowly around him, her palms splaying against his back just above the waist of his pants. He felt as if she was branding him with her touch. "Do you believe me, Grissom?"

"Yes," he breathed, "yes."

Sara's smile was worth it all. With the gentlest of touches, she leaned forward and kissed him, lips nibbling his so softly Grissom would almost be able to convince himself if was just his imagination if he couldn't taste the wine on her lips. His hands slid into her hair and he pulled her in for a deeper kiss, reveling in the feel of her teeth against his tongue, the slight gap between the two front ones an enticing mystery before he gained full entry into her mouth.

Kissing Sara was like kissing life.

Pulling away from her with effort he managed to rasp out, "Is there anything else you need to tell me?"

"Gerard told me to tell you to teach me sign language. And he's sorry for the loss of your mother." Sara's brown eyes were intense as she stared into his blue ones; love and caring, concern and understanding shining in their glossy depths. "How long before your hearing goes completely?"

Grissom shrugged, strangely relieved that Sara knew, oddly thankful that Gerard had told her. "I don't know."

Sara leaned forward and kissed him again, "It doesn't matter, you know. It won't affect how I feel. You once asked me what my interests were outside work. My interest is you. And the life I deserve? Also with you. You will have me, right?"

Grissom smiled suddenly against her lips, "Sara, you are my compulsion."


Author's Note: Hey all! Now that I have this out of my system, expect to get updates on Learning to Fly and Tin Man within the next two days. And thanks for your patience.