Rating: R for subject matter
Spoilers: No real spoilers.
Archive: Please ask first!
Disclaimer: Obviously, I don't own anything related to CSI. If I did, I'd be on a tropical beach right now.
Author's Note: Thanks to Burked and all the others who previewed this for me.
Summary: After viewing a horrific accident, Sara makes some hard decisions about her life. Obviously, a Sara-centered story, but with lots of friendship and a little bit of G/S at the end.
Looking over the top of his crossword puzzle, Grissom shot Nick and Warrick an irritated look as they hollered over some event in their video game, but bit back his reprimand. They had as much right to be here as he did and he knew he'd been unfairly terse with his team over the weekend. His encounter with Sara had left him unsettled and he had taken it out on the others.
After leaving the hotel, he had returned home and for the first time it seemed empty. It was another feeling he was having trouble understanding. He had tried to process his earlier conversation with Sara, but found he didn't even know where to start. Grissom realized he had spent too much time avoiding even simple emotional encounters to be able to understand something this complex.
Sitting alone on his couch, he had replayed their conversation, trying to comprehend the conflicting emotions. Her adamant statements for him to back off had stung, but the tenderness with which she said she just needed time made his pulse race.
Not knowing what else to do, Grissom had eventually decided to just trust Sara.
Finally heading off to bed, he tried unsuccessfully to stop replaying one bit of the conversation: 'I can't live with it'. Staring at the ceiling, he tried to ignore the fear, knowing it was just a figure of speech. Still, he had been on edge ever since Warrick had raised the specter of suicide. Now, he found himself analyzing every word, every action she took. Her use of that phrase made him nervous.
After spending the weekend worrying about her, Grissom found himself anxious to see Sara.
At the sound of approaching footsteps, he peered over the top of his puzzle, disappointed that it was Catherine.
"You're in early."
"Stolen car was found. Bag in the trunk was covered in spiders. No one else would go near it," he said, not pointing out the obvious: the entire team was in early. Apparently, he wasn't the only one eager to see Sara. Tonight would be her first night back since the ceremony.
"Uh, huh. And you just decided to hang around," Catherine said, smiling as she went to pour some coffee. She gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze as she passed, understanding that he was concerned.
Her amusement vanished when Sara did arrive. Instead of a friendly greeting, he pointedly checked his watch when she walked in. "Shift doesn't start for another 45 minutes."
"Yeah, I know. I'm early. Just dropped my parents off. Figured I'd read some before starting," she said calmly. Grissom merely nodded before returning to his puzzle. Catherine shared a shocked look with the guys, before turning to Sara, who had grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. She didn't appear to be bothered by his snub.
"Have a good time with your folks?" Nick asked softly, moving over to take a seat across from her.
"Yeah, actually I did," she said honestly, reaching into her bag to pull out a book and notepad. Expecting a forensics textbook or some light reading on quantum mechanics, Catherine did a double-take when she saw the title.
"'Bonsai for Beginners'?"
"It's my new ... hobby," she said between gritted teeth.
"When did you ever have an old hobby?" Nick teased.
"I used to chase rabbits," she said softly. While the others exchanged confused looks, Grissom glanced up from behind his puzzle, but Sara wouldn't meet his eyes. He was glad she would be giving up that 'hobby', but regretted the reasons responsible.
"Bonsai, huh? Now I know you're a control freak," Warrick muttered.
Nick laughed. "What's up, Sar? First you become a vegetarian, now you're going to torture trees? Got something against plants?"
"No," she said firmly, giving each of her colleagues a knowing look. "You have to stop psycho-analyzing everything I do, guys."
Grissom nodded minutely. He could take a hint. Despite appearances, he had followed the entire conversation and thought bonsai suited her. It was detail-oriented and required patience. It also wouldn't take up too much of her time, nor would it take up much room in her small apartment.
"Why bonsai?" Catherine asked, darting her eyes between the two. She had caught the subtle interplay. Something was going on.
Sara shrugged. "My parents suggested it, actually. One of their neighbors does it. She has some really beautiful trees. I thought about re-starting an aquarium, but my lease has a 20-gallon limit. You really can't do much with a tank that small."
Grissom filed that fact away: she liked fish, at least living ones. He didn't intend to make another mistake like he had with the hamburger.
"You got the stuff yet? You know Jensen's Nursery over by Henderson?" Nick asked. Sara shook her head. "They carry the supplies. Manager's a friend of mine. I can take you over, later."
Grissom flashed Nick an angry glare before catching himself. There were better stores to get the supplies, but he hadn't had a chance to mention it. Now he was worried he'd be 'pushing' if he contradicted the younger man. Abruptly leaving the room, he headed to his office, surprised by the spark of jealousy he had felt. He knew it was irrational; they were practically siblings and that there was nothing romantic about a shopping trip.
Still, Grissom wished she would let him at least do that much for her.
Sighing, he sank into his desk chair. He tried to push down his pain, knowing this was what Sara needed.
Shifting through the night's assignments, he tried to slow his pulse rate down. Sara hadn't looked well. She was pale and it looked like she may have lost a little weight. He wanted desperately to ask how she was doing, but was afraid she'd consider that intrusive. Rubbing his temple, he waited alone until it was closer to start of the shift.
"Cath, DB at Brookside Nursing Home. Brass said it looks suspicious. Nick, hit-and-run. Warrick, O'Riley's going to be interviewing the neighbors in the Wang murder. Go join him. Sara, when you start, grab Greg or Archie. There's a stack of boxes in my office with the files you wanted."
She nodded, but the others glared as he stalked out of the break room. Grissom knew they were angry, but ignored it. He'd rather have them think he was a jerk than telling them Sara had rejected him.
"Hey, there," Sara looked up when Catherine staggered into her office later that morning, carrying two cups of coffee. "You okay?"
"Sure," she answered in confusion.
"Look, Grissom's an idiot, okay. He's under a lot of stress and I think his migraine's been bothering him. He probably doesn't even know he was being an ass earlier," the blonde said without preamble.
Sara mentally growled at her colleague's timing. Catherine's decision to play referee now, while considerate, was a problem. She had expected Grissom to be distant at first, knowing he would still be hurt and uncertain how to behave.
"It's okay, Cath. One of the conditions of my being allowed to work was that I only work 40 hours. Grissom's responsible for keeping tabs on it. Don't worry about it."
She swore silently when she realized the older CSI wasn't going to drop it. Sara briefly considered asking Catherine to keep an eye on Grissom, but realized there was no way of doing so without explaining what had happened. She didn't think he'd appreciate if she shared that story. But she was worried about him; she could read the tension in his body language.
All weekend, she had fought the temptation to call him to see if he was okay. Sara already knew that he wasn't and calling would only throw him off balance. After insisting he back off, her initiating contact would be confusing.
"Cath, really, everything's okay. Don't give him a hard time," she said, hoping her friend would get the hint.
"Hey, if you see David, could you ask him to stop by?"
"David. Shy guy. Glasses. Works with dead people. I need to talk to him."
"Okay. I need to run by the morgue anyway," she said.
"Thanks. Appreciate it," Sara said, turning back to her paperwork. If Catherine wouldn't drop the subject, then she'd change it. Judging by the startled look on the blonde's face, it had worked.
Wondering whether he had been set up for some sort of practical joke, David approached Sara's office cautiously. Coughing nervously, he knocked softly.
"Hey. Come on in."
"Hello, Sara. Uhm, Catherine said you wanted to see me," he squeaked.
They exchanged shy grins. Sara fiddled with her pencil before finally speaking.
"Yeah. Uhm. Are you, uh, free, uh, to take a break? Want to grab some coffee?"
He blinked in confusion. Sara was nervous talking to him. Sara wanted to have coffee with him.
"Sure! Uhm, I mean that would be nice." He blushed and they shared embarrassed grins.
He suspected he knew why Sara asked to talk and his suspicions were confirmed when she finally broke the silence later at the diner.
"You said you had nightmares," she said softly, staring at the coffee cup in her hands. He could tell she was unusually tense. He wasn't surprised; even after all these years, he could remember what it felt like waking up night-after-night in a cold sweat, screaming in horror.
"After Tommy's accident, yes."
"How long? Before they went away?" Her voice was so low he could barely hear her.
"Completely? Nearly a year. But they weren't too common after the first month or two."
Sara nodded her head slightly and remained silent for several minutes.
"Did anything help?"
"Nothing that would help you, I'm afraid," he said softly.
Sara set down her coffee and cocked her head curiously.
"I used to climb into bed with my parents. While I'm sure my father would be flattered if you tried it, my mother would be certain to object."
Dropping her head into her hands, she chuckled softly. "David, why hasn't some woman snatched you up yet?"
He blushed deeply, before laughing. "Why don't you tell me?"
Giving him a grin, she shook her head and joined in the laughter.
Nick found Sara leaving the locker room at the end of shift. "You ready to go?"
"Sure. Want to get some breakfast first? My treat?"
"Don't have to ask me twice! Let's go."
Grissom watched the exchange from his office doorway and ignored them as they walked by him. He realized he probably gone too far when he heard Nick muttering and giving him a harsh look.
"What?" both of the younger CSIs asked in unison, turning to look at him.
"Azaleas. They're easy to grow and to train. Plus, they'll be pretty when they bloom," he said kindly, as he passed them to head into the DNA lab, enjoying the smile Sara had flashed him as he walked by.
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