07 – Aftermath

Grissom and Sara are left feeling raw and exposed After Nick’s kidnapping. In the end, they both discover that only within each other can respite be found. 

post episodes 524/5 “Grave Danger,” circa May 2005

*******

Sara

I suppose I should have known when you didn’t protest when I asked you for the keys.

You always want to be the one to drive.

Really you should be happy I didn’t ask Greg to do it. You do realize that when you tell Greg to take the keys you are asking for trouble.

In actuality, you probably don’t, as you never have anyone telling you that Greg is going to drive this time.

I suppose sometimes it is good to be boss.

Perhaps it is a good thing I didn’t ask Greg, as trying to focus even halfheartedly on the road is all that is keeping me from reaching over and taking your hand, partially to give you comfort, but also to be given it.

I am worried about you.

That look is back.

The one that haunts your eyes. The one that makes my heart ache for you.

I can do nothing until we get back to the lab and perhaps not even then.

Will you let me take you home?

Will you let me take care of you as you’ve taken care of me?

You are sitting there so still and quiet I almost wonder if you have finally succumbed to sleep.

It has been a very long 24 hours. Or longer.

In the midst of recusing Nick, I’ve lost track of time.

All I do know is that the supposedly thirty-minute drive back to lab feels like its taking thirty hours.

When I look over at you, slumped as you are in the passenger seat, your eyes might be closed, but your face and neck are both too fixed and rigid for you to be sleeping and your hands are still clenched tight; I can see the tension in your white knuckles.

Greg must realize something is wrong, because he, too, is silent, sitting behind me, his eyes alternating between you and mine in the mirror.

It feels as if we three are keeping a quiet vigil.

Until Greg’s phone rings, which startles me, but does not rouse you.

He speaks softly into it at first, but as the conversation progresses, his voice grows in both pitch and volume. By the time he clicks his phone shut, the customary Greg grin is back in place.

“That was Catherine. She says Nick is going to be fine, although not up for visitors for a while.”

He seems slightly disappointed when you say nothing to this.

And I am growing more and more alarmed, but I try to hide it as I beam back at Greg and mutter some sort of pleasantry which I hope helps placate him for the moment.

I almost miss the turn off Industrial.

But even the sharp right I end up making doesn’t invoke a response from you.

Part of me doesn’t care that Greg is watching both of us now.

Part of me wants to say screw the lab and policy and stupid rules.

I just don’t care.

None of that matters.

But I am saved from doing something you would probably be irritated at me for doing by the welcome sight and lights of the lab’s parking lot.

Greg hesitates for a minute before getting out. I think he is worried, but he still goes when I lie in telling him that everything is fine.

Fine?

I don’t feel fine. Nothing feels fine right now.

And you are certainly not fine.

I watch Greg slump his weary way back to his car.

Finally, after giving the parking lot a quick once over to make sure no one is around, I unfasten my seat belt and turn to you.

When I call your name nothing happens.

Even when I call you Gil, something I am not quite used to doing yet, you still sit there.

I reach over and take your hand, threading my fingers between yours. Very slowly, I can feel your grip tighten on mine. Then even more slowly, your eyes open and you look at me as if suddenly confused at where you are and what is going on.

It is all beyond explaining at this point, so I merely give your hand a gentle squeeze and say, just as you said to me a year ago, Come on. I’ll take you home.

*******

We take your car, although I don’t take you to your place, but rather to mine.

It’s not that I don’t know the way. I guess I just feel that if I take you to my apartment, I can keep a better eye on you.

But you barely notice, even after I slip my hand under your elbow to help steady the two of us as we tackle the stairs. For we are both stumbling slightly as if invalids or horribly drunk.

There are sometimes when I must admit that being sober feels overrated.

Once we get inside, I take your coat and drape it along with mine over the back of the desk chair.

You simply stand there, just barely in the doorway, your eyes seemingly fixed on your hands, although I know your mind is somewhere else entirely.

Now that we are alone, away from prying eyes and ears, I slip both hands around your face and caress your cheeks lightly with my thumbs.

At this, you seem to revive.

At least now there is a glimmer of recognition in your eyes when you look at me.

That look is still there, too.

I blink back the tears I have been holding back for most of the day.

All I really want to do is have you hold me close and let me sob into your shoulder.

But I can’t.

Because right now you need me to be the strong one. You need me to take care of you.

You need me.

This fact still surprises me.

Whatever this thing is between us is still so novel and tentative. I don’t think either of us have dared to name it yet.

Has it only been only a little over a week since you were here last?

Do you know how I always know when it’s you at the door?

You’re the only person I know who knocks instead of using the bell.

I have to admit it, that when I looked up to see you standing there that night, lingering as you always do in the space between the door and the end of my kitchen counter, I honestly thought I had forgotten how to breathe.

I’m pretty sure your vanity doesn’t extend to your appearance, despite the fact that you always show up, no matter what the hour, ready for work neatly groomed and carefully composed.

You have no idea how handsome you are.

Your age suits you, and no, I don’t think you are old though you keep maintaining you are. For a rational man, you can be irrational about some things. The years have added, rather than subtracted from your appeal.

Although the attraction is beyond merely the physical.

There is just something about you. Something irrepressibly arresting.

Perhaps the word for it is presence — you have this inexplicable presence.

Right now, however, it seems as if the light has gone from your eyes.

They are yet that blue I know so well, but they are more clouded than clear, darker than bright; two unlit voids set into a still mask.

I have never been good at reading your face.

It always seems as though you conceal so much, or perhaps I have too long been afraid to really look at you, that I have hazarded too few long looks.

Though I do not need to know all your smiles and frowns, all your joys and sorrows to know that the face you have currently on display conceals little.

You look so terribly lost.

Will you help me find you? I wonder.

You haven’t spoken since you turned to Ecklie and told him in a hollow sounding voice I barely registered as yours, that you wanted Nick and Warrick back.

We stood there, you and me and poor Greg, waiting until nearly everyone had left, until the night and the quiet had returned.

Tomorrow, or I suppose it is rather later today, Day Shift will roll out and begin to process everything, although I’m fairly certain there is precious little to find after the explosion.

Besides, the perpetrator is dead. There is no one to prosecute for the crime.

I wonder if many victims’ families feel as cheated out of justice as I do right now.

For Nick is family.

They are all, for better or worse, family.

Really, the only family I’ve had.

True, I had twelve years with my parents and brothers, but we weren’t a family, not a real family, just a group of people who happened through the blind machinations of genetics to be linked together.

But the Lab, its people — even Hodges, but don’t you ever tell him I said so — and especially you, are my true family.

Maybe that is why it hurt so much to almost loose Nick.

To almost loose you.

You don’t know how much I wanted to walk up to you and start yelling after I found out that Walter Gordon had almost took you with him.

You know what they say about hell hath no fury

All right, maybe I wasn’t that pissed.

Relieved.

Yes, that would be a better word for it. Achingly relieved.

If Nicky hadn’t still been missing, I would have liked nothing better than at the first moment I caught sight of you, to hold you until I knew I wasn’t just dreaming. The team and Ecklie and Catherine and the rest of them be damned.

But Nick needed us.

And we found him, Grissom. We found him.

And he’s going to be all right.

And we’re going to be all right.

I hope.

What I wouldn’t give to hear your voice, for you to tell me it’s all going to be okay.

You’re surprisingly good at that — being reassuring.

I am not.

At this moment, I just don’t know the right words.

You’re the one good with words, not me. Remember?

I only wish it was as easy to wash the weariness from your face as it was the blood.

Or that smell of earth.

I never thought of the smell of freshly turned soil as being fetid, but it is.

Or perhaps it is merely the lingering scent of fear.

I don’t know. I do know that it reeks worse than decomp.

You seem to register the loss of my hands on your face as I reach for the fingers that hang limply at your sides in way that is almost as if they aren’t a part of you, as if they are in some ways foreign.

They seem as such to me. They are still grimy and your fingernails are caked with silt.

Your hands are never dirty.

For the first time, I notice your clothes are grubby, too.

Maybe if I could just wash the detritus away, if I could just peel that paralyzing layer away from you, you’d be the man I know.

The man I love.

God, you could have died and I would never have told you.

Hints and teasing don’t count.

I never said the actual words.

I never said, I love you.

I can’t seem to say them now either. I can’t seem to say anything.

Neither can you.

I choke on your name as I try to rub warmth back into your cold fingers, feeling anxious for any signs of life.

I think I now know how you must have felt that day you came to me after Adam Trent…

We don’t really talk about that, do we?

You looked even more lost then than you do now. You needed that afternoon what I need now.

Evidence.

Proof of life.

To feel the warmth of your skin. To hear the rhythm of in- and ex-piration. To breathe in deep that reassuring comfort of you. To see you. To pull you close and not let go.

So I do.

After a few moments, your arms fasten around me and I can feel the tickle of your beard and breath against my neck.

At long last, I begin to breathe again.

I’m not sure which of us begins to cry first. I only know that sometime later, we could both be found on the floor clinging to each other.

You kissed me then, very faintly on the cheek and even more softly on the lips. I could taste the saltiness and couldn’t tell if they were my tears or yours.

It doesn’t matter.

When you hoarsely whispered my name and smoothed my hair, I felt all the tension, all the worry and concern melt away.

There was just you and me.

Just us.

Brought back to life again.

*******

Judging by the pale quality of the thread of sunlight peeking through the curtains, it must be late afternoon. A realization that startles me slightly, as I am fairly sure it was barely light when we stumbled into bed.

We both must have slept like the dead, because neither of us has seemed to have moved during the intervening hours. I am still snuggled into your side; your fingers still linger at my hip.

After the reluctant look you gave me when I tugged you towards the bed, I assumed that we would both just roll over and retreat to our own safe corners to sleep. Instead, you migrated to the middle and pulled me towards you.

As snug and safe and warm as I feel right now, I am a little worried that your arm’s fallen asleep, but you are slumbering so soundly I don’t think you are even aware of where you are.

I suppose I need to revise that assumption, because when I sit up slightly, I hear my name softly whispered and your grasp tightens.

Both actions make me smile.

Although I am relieved when it appears that you have merely stirred and not woken.

You look so peaceful, probably the first time I have ever seen you look that at ease in the entire time I’ve known you. The dark shadows and lines about your eyes are softened. You look younger.

I wonder why sleep is like that, transforming our faces back into our once youthful selves, returning us to a state of innocence if only for the brief hours between sleep and waking.

At least when the nightmares stay at bay.

I have seen my own reflection — pale and wide eyed — after waking drenched in sweat from the night terrors.

Suddenly, I am struck by the realization that I have just woken from one of few nightmare-free sleeps I’ve had in weeks. A fact which surprises me, as stressful cases always bring the nightmares back with a vengeance.

Though lately, the nightmares have been better, more shadows and noise than the usual cinematic clarity.

Sometimes, I do not know which is worse, the phantoms or the fear.

You should be proud of me, at least I have been trying to sleep. Although work lately hasn’t been altogether cooperative in assisting me in that endeavor.

Some things never change.

While some things seem to be in a state of perpetual flux.

Like us, I guess.

I meant it when I said our relationship was complicated.

Was that really only five months ago?

To some degree, our relationship has gotten more convoluted since then, rather than less.

And, yet so much clearer.

Lying here beside you, watching you sleep, I feel content.

Contentment is not a state of mind, or perhaps more accurately, a state of being, that I am altogether used to.

Although as I move to smooth a few errant strands of yours that are rakishly standing on end, I think I could easily get used to it.

I have had my share of sexual encounters in my life, but sex is sex.

Sleeping with someone is entirely different.

Between my chronic insomnia and perpetual nightmares, spending the whole night with someone was hardly ever really an option.

Besides, falling asleep with someone is a far more intimate act than sex.

You don’t just sleep with anyone. People are at their most vulnerable when asleep, so sleeping with someone else implies a certain measure of deep trust.

I would trust you with my life. I always have.

I am learning that I can entrust you with my heart, too.

I only ask that you tender it with care. Broken hearts are hard to mend.

If they ever do.

People always talk about love as being this great, grand and wonderful thing. You know, a heart fluttering, bird singing, light on your feet, master of the universe sort of thing.

The reality of it is, love is never easy.

It is trust and hope and fear and longing and joy and sorrow and a million other emotions all at once.

Why anyone ever thought love was a choice, I’ll never understand.

Who would voluntarily choose to put themselves through the insanity of love?

Life is insane enough as it is, you don’t even have to be a CSI to come to that conclusion.

This, this thing with you, I don’t think it was ever rational. Then again, when is love ever rational?

Perhaps that is why everything has always been so problematic between us. We have both been operating under the assumption that this could be resolved rationally.

For two fairly intelligent people, we can be both be monumentally stupid about some things.

This thought almost makes me laugh, but you are still sleeping, so I quickly try to stifle it; it still emerges as a grin.

And I don’t care.

Before Nick was taken, I was smiling more.

That’s your fault you know.

Now that he’s safe, I am hoping your smile will return, too.

It looks good on you.

As does sleep.

You needed it.

We both needed it.

I glance over at the clock. Its after five now.

We both must have been exhausted, as I haven’t slept for almost 11 hours since I can remember.

It is yet a few hours before we have to get up. I know you’ll want to go in early to find out what’s going on.

For now, you are asleep and softly snoring in the same way you did when you fell asleep on my couch that afternoon.

As I watch you, I am torn between two conflicting desires. I want nothing more than to lay back down and listen your heart beat in that reassuring two-part rhythm of life, and yet, I so want to lean down and kiss you awake.

For all of this seems like a dream.

Although if I am dreaming, I hope I never wake.

*******

I must have dozed off, because the next thing I know is it is now dark and you are kissing me awake, which must easily be my new favorite way to be woken up. Beats the phone or the alarm. 

When I think about it, it is odd that neither of our phones have rung, but right now I don’t really care.

All I care about is the fact that you are kissing me. You are kissing me; nothing else matters.

People say a picture’s worth a thousand words. A kiss must be worth at least twice that.

Yet, all I know is that your lips are soft and warm and lingering and though slightly insistent, still tender.

My eyes drift close again as I sigh and snuggle closer to the reassuring heat of you.

The caress along my cheek is feather-light, while the hold around my waist is more imploring.

I desire nothing more or less at that moment than to yield.

I do, relinquishing the last of my doubts and fears and finally completely letting go.

Later, when the world finally returns I muse —

Sometimes surrender can be sweet.

*******

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