by Alison Nixon
Category: Angst, Drama, UST/AST
Spoilers: References to nearly all episodes from Burden of Proof through Hunger Artist (i.e. through the end of season 2)
Archive: With permission. Please email me at email@example.com
Disclaimer: The usual. None of the characters are mine. They belong to Anthony Zuiker, Alliance-Atlantis, CBS, et al. No infringement intended.
Feedback: Definitely! I'd love to know what you think.
Author's Note: Hmm... Well, this story started as a suggestion from Eolivet for me to write a post-Anatomy of A Lye fic. The idea was to explain the notably (and newly) comfortable vibe between Grissom and Sara in that episode. But, as I sat down to do that, I found that the story concept just... grew. <G> I guess I decided that I couldn't adequately explain the subtle changes in how G/S relate to each other in AaoL unless I went further back in time--to right after PNN. I also think that the specific idea I had for how they get closer probably dictated that I start before AaoL. Now, why did I take the story through HA? Because I am a fool. <G> Sigh. Just call it the mother of all post-eps. Or something like that. Just to clarify, although I'm posting this a WIP, it is indeed a completed story. Because the thing is so unbelievably long, I figured that it would be easier to digest in periodic chunks, rather than all at once. My plan is to post subsequent chapters every two days until we get to the end. So that's about all I can say... I hope you like it. Final thoughts: a warm, sloppy thank you to Devanie for listening to my ramblings and nail-biting over the agonizingly long period it took to write this behemoth, and for giving me that awesome first read. Thanks for helping me keep the faith, girl. ;-)
Summary: "He had said and done enough to keep her for now. What more was there to want?".
Grissom crossed quickly over the threshold of his office, pushing back against the door until its lock tumbled into place. The cluttered privacy of the room extended its usual welcome, but he made no move to sit. He usually thought better on his feet, and right now he needed all the help he could get. Who was he, after all, to tempt fate? The problem was not merely philosophical-surely the pressing of one's luck was best left to men far more adventurous than he. Besides, what he said to her the other night had been fateful enough. The memory brought something close to a smile to his lips. No simple matter, talking to a woman about beauty. Telling her she was beautiful would have been simple. Telling her she had opened his eyes to the existence of beauty was... not. He scarcely knew what face he had presented to her as he spoke the words. The one thing he did know? Of all the things he might have imagined saying to a woman he truly cared for, those four words were not among them. That was Sara's effect.
Intuitively, he knew that it was the right thing to say. It had to be; it quieted her. Still, the anticipation of her silence and the reality of it were two different things. What was she thinking? The ice could not say, but her eyes might. He took a moment to compose his face and then turned his head towards her. She sat utterly still, watching him with dark, wary eyes that stood out against her paler than usual skin. Her lips never moved to question him, but her body used its own language, carrying queries in the pitch of her head, the angle of her torso, and the careful placement of her hands on her thighs, slim fingers outstretched. He let himself absorb the sight for a brief second before he dragged his eyes away; she would have to find her own answers. And, in the end, at some mysterious point between the moment her bewildered eyes met his, and their quiet talk of Zambonis, water and fire, she had. So much so that later, when their shoulders touched ever so slightly as they watched the piled ice melt, she was as content around him as she had been in weeks.
Yet, here he was now in this dim place, mere days later, hoping for even more. It was absurd. She had given him what he wanted; she was staying. He should be grateful, rather than greedy. Hadn't he learned by now that wanting more than he could have, more than he deserved, never brought him joy? He had said and done enough to keep her for now. What more was there to want?
He wished he knew.
He drew a deep, restless breath as his head drifted slowly down toward his chest. Even the mysterious knots and whorls in the hardwood beneath his feet seemed too much to contemplate. What, exactly, could he bring himself to do? Logically, he should take the next step. Tonight was as good a night as any; they were both about to leave the lab. It was the rational choice, and one that should come naturally to him, but still... the very idea of approaching her like some middle-aged Romeo was too mortifying for words. How would he even open such a conversation? He clenched his fists reflexively. If the stakes had not been his own heart, he might have laughed at the quandary: to have loved a woman so long that dating seems redundant, but to also not know her well enough to do anything else.
I'll just find her, say that I'm heading out for dinner, and ask if she wants to join me. I don't have to go down on bended knee; I just have to open my mouth and say a few ritualistic words. How hard can that be for a grown man? The key, he tutored himself, was to focus on the reward. How many times had he seen lab mice focus solely on the treat they could smell at the end of the maze, rather than on the existence of the maze itself? Animals mate successfully because they don't question what drives them; in fact, some avoid questions so well that they manage to mate for life. He knew that to be true. He did. But... animals don't have ugly memories and shadowy fears. Which was why he also knew that it would be easier to be one of them than to be the man he actually was.
This last thought made him sigh and shut his eyes. Perhaps the present moment was not the best time to catalog all of his failings. He stood quietly, trying to settle his mind. The large round clock over his desk ticked again and again; his body swayed gently in the disorienting darkness created by his closed lids. When he finally opened his eyes, he felt his shoulders rise and fall in an eloquent, fluid movement. It wasn't as if he really had a choice in the matter, anyway. As he had read long ago, "There's too much beauty upon this earth / for lonely men to bear." And he was perhaps the loneliest man of all.
He turned and opened the door. He nearly lost his balance after the first few teetering steps, but he did not stop. Where Sara was concerned, moments of clarity did not come as often as he would have liked.
Surprised, Sara looked up from the paperwork fanned out in front of her on the break room table.
"Hey Greg," she smiled briefly. Her eyes immediately returned to the forms she held in place with her slim fingers.
He came closer, bouncing across the floor on the balls of his feet.
"So, did you hear that the sports doc is pleading temporary mental defect? It must be the 'she blinded me with her bodacious bod' defense," he snickered. "What a wimp. A blind man could have told him that Amazon hockey chick didn't want him. I sure wouldn't be going to jail over her."
Sara continued to write. "You wouldn't, huh? I thought you were all into that sport-and-sex thing. I'd imagine Jane Gallagher is right up your alley." She spoke distantly, not bothering to look up. "I mean, she's probably some kind of gold medallist in the Sex-a-lympics, Greg. As I'm sure you recall, the vic nearly croaked the last time they were together. She must be good."
Greg's eyes lit up. Lucky for Sara, he had a new theory. He took a deep breath; maybe this one would grab her.
"Well, as you may or may not know, the French word for orgasm, le petit morte, does mean 'the little death.' Soooo, I think I got it wrong. Sex really isn't a sport. It's actually a masochistic, near-death ritual... a kind of sweaty, slippery sensual combat. We call it 'making love,' but what we ought to call it is... making war." He paused, waggling his brows.
"So then Sara, riddle me this: is your lover your enemy? Or, is your enemy your lover?"
When Sara's mouth fell open, Greg grinned like a man astounded at his ability to impress even himself.
"Who are you, Masters and Johnson on acid? Geez, Greg, you ought to write these little gems down somewhere.
Forget The Joy of Sex. It's The War of Sex."
"The war of what?" Warrick strolled into the room, already shaking his head. "Well, well. Who needs professional help now, Sparky?"
"Besides you, you mean? Well, it seems that Greggo here will be joining you and Nick in that therapy session from hell."
Warrick eyed the lab tech unenthusiastically. "Three's a crowd, man. You might want to reconsider the sex thing."
"HEL-LO Warrick, private conversation!" Crossing his forearms, Greg made a big X in the taller man's face.
"Sounds more like a sexual harassment conversation, if you ask me. You better not let Grissom hear you talking this crap."
Greg flinched, but tried to play it off.
"Oh, yeah? And what's he going to do about it?"
Sara leaned back in her chair and favored him with a slow smile.
"My, aren't we suddenly the brave boy?"
Greg snapped his mouth shut. Stupid Warrick, he cursed silently. He just had to bring up Mr. Wonderful.
"I thought you all would have gone home by now."
The others turned to the door, near which Grissom had suddenly materialized, looking vaguely annoyed. In truth, he was annoyed. If the others didn't leave soon, he would have to find some pretext for getting Sara alone. Given that he had not thought that far ahead, the prospect was disturbing.
"As a matter of fact, we were just leaving. So Sara, you coming?"
Greg immediately felt Grissom's eyes fasten onto his face. The effort made him queasy, but he refused to acknowledge the older man's stare. No way was he walking away with that pitiful "brave boy" lingering in the air.
"Uh... coming where?"
Sara spoke hesitantly, wondering if she'd forgotten something. Her smile dimmed considerably as she forced herself to turn her attention from the man in the doorway back to Greg. What was the boy babbling about now?
"Oh, you remember... Love is Here?"
That got her attention, Greg crowed. Of course, it got Mr. Wonderful's too, but that was just an unfortunate side effect.
"You were singing it the other day, and I mentioned that Starsailor's playing at the Double Down Saloon tonight. I asked you if you wanted to come. You said yeah." The rest of his little gamble came out in a rush. "Well, you know, if your shift ended on time and you weren't too bogged down, or too tired, or something..."
Figuring that the cute deer in the headlights look creeping across her face had to be a good sign, he played his last card.
"So, since it looks like you're all done here and Grissom is practically telling you to go home, why don't we... grab some dinner at that place you like on the Strip, and then head over?"
"Oh, uh... thanks Greg, for the thought. But I... I just have all this paperwork to do. You know, the kind that really can't wait."
She grabbed a lifeline.
"But hey, maybe you could go with Nick. He likes Starsailor, too."
"What is that, 'love is here'?" Grissom interrupted, frowning.
"Man, Grissom, she's only been singing that dopey song around here for at least a week. Where have you been?"
Warrick noted the nasty look Sara sent his way; apparently she didn't appreciate the "dopey" crack. He had thrown it in just to tweak her, but he was too puzzled by his boss at the moment to focus on teasing her further. The man couldn't be that oblivious, could he? Warrick rubbed his chin, thinking. Of course, Gris and Sara had been going through some weird thing lately. First he seemed to act weird around her, then she went out with Hank and he barely looked at her the rest of the night, then she filed that leave of absence, then she withdrew it. Warrick smiled and shook his head. Who knew what went on in the hearts of geeks? Something real scary, he'd bet. He tried not to laugh, but the low sound slipped out anyway.
Grissom's expression darkened. So now Warrick is laughing at me? I just came in here to ask a girl out. What's he doing here, besides busting my chops? And what's Greg doing here, besides getting in my damn way? It was strange, though... he didn't remember hearing Sara singing lately. It was hard to believe he had missed it, given that he had spent most of the previous week hovering as close to her as he could. How could he not have heard her humming things under her breath? Filing the thought away for later, he glanced over at Warrick.
"I've been right here, Warrick. I'm sure I heard Sara singing something or other, though I wouldn't have recognized it." His eyes flickered over in Sara's direction. "But naturally you would, having been suckled at the breast of MTV like Greg here."
Her mouth twitched. "Now there's an image."
"Oh, please. And that's not sexual harassment?"
"Excuse me?" Grissom's head swiveled towards Greg so quickly that had possessed the antennae of some of his precious bugs, they would have whipped around and slapped him in the face.
"Aww no, man, you didn't."
Warrick choked back his guffaws. For a smart boy, Sanders sure was stupid. Nah, he snorted, make that felony stupid. Where's Brass when you need him? And damn, where's Nick? This is going to be good.
"Do you care to elaborate on that remark, Greggo?"
The lab tech took a moment to reconsider. The waters were looking rather treacherous, but what was life without risk?
"Well... yeah... well, it so happens that Sara and I were having a private conversation, an intellectual discussion actually, about sex as a metaphor for thanatos, you know, the death concept that comes from the Greek god of the same name." He held up a chemical-stained finger. "Not to be mistaken for Hades, the God of the Dead, of course." That point clarified for his unwilling audience, he continued, "Then Warrick came in and took it upon himself to start preaching to me about sexual harassment. A subject totally irrelevant to that private conversation, I might add. Next thing I know, you show up and start talking about people being suckled at various kinds of breasts. I mean, Sara wanted to talk to me, but you just forced that little image on us. And hey, maybe that offended me--"
Greg jumped back as Grissom's right hand sliced through the air between them before he slammed it on the table.
"Stop. Just stop right there, right now. First, spare me your Cliff Notes guide to Greek mythology, Greg."
His voice became sharp. "Second, what the hell are you doing talking about sex, metaphorical or otherwise, with my CSI?"
"Hey, that's between Sara and me, man..."
Grissom took a step towards him. Sara stood up quickly to block his path, holding out her small hands.
"Whoa, whoa. Everybody relax, OK? Relax."
She waited until Grissom turned to look at her.
"No, it was definitely not a topic that I would have chosen myself, but he wasn't harassing me, Grissom. It was harmless, all right? Asinine, but harmless."
She offered him a pretty smile.
"I'm a big girl."
Who shouldn't be talking to this puppy about anything, far less sex, he shouted inwardly. What did you think I meant by "Say goodbye to Greg?" Exhaling slowly, he made sure he had control of his voice before he spoke again.
"My mistake." And my cue to get the hell out of here. Serves me right. Nothing related to her is ever simple.
"I just remembered. I was on my way out when I walked into... this."
He stared at her coldly, then turned on his heel and left.
Sara tossed her Biro on the table and stretched her long arms over her head. She had finally checked the last box on the last form. Getting through the stack had taken longer than she expected, but the happy prospect of not having to deal with paperwork the next day still made it worthwhile. Of course, she reflected, I would have been done much faster if I hadn't been thinking about what the hell happened in here earlier. Grissom had actually seemed angry. But what was the problem? Yeah, Greg made an ass of himself, but that was typical. Sara was sure that most of the ridiculous things he said were mainly for shock value, anyway. The real mystery was why he chose to share so much of that nuttiness with her. He had plenty of other friends, male friends, who might find his bizarre sexual theories far more amusing than she did. And if he thought he was flirting with her, he needed to think again.
Still, none of this really explained Grissom's reaction. She frowned as she remembered the look on his face when he said it was his "mistake." What was that? First he acts cranky, then he goes right back to being Mr. Enigmatic. Did I imagine that beauty remark a few days ago? She was pretty sure that cold air increases mental alertness. Maybe the cap warmed up my brain too much, she thought wryly. Note to self: ensure the equalization of head temperature under cap with air temperature of crime scene in advance of extravagant compliments. She smiled at her own silliness; Grissom would have been amused. Well, he would, if they were together right now. The smile faded from her face. He can talk about beauty all he wants; I'm still sitting here bymyself. Dropping her chin into her palm, she sighed deeply. There was no point in hanging around here, in any case. She pushed herself back from the table and stood. Moving with her usual swiftness, in three minutes she had retrieved her coat and bag from her locker, dropped the paperwork in the appropriate tray, and swung through the front door. Two minutes later, she had tucked herself into her car and turned out of the lot onto North Trop Boulevard. She stared straight ahead for a time, her mouth set. She blinked once, then twice. Reveries had never been her style. Before she could reconsider the impulse, she unclipped her cell phone from her belt and checked its programmed list. She hit the keys until she came to the right number and raised the phone to her ear.