37 – Revisited: When Lady Heather Comes to Call

Heather Kessler pays Grissom a surprise visit of her own.

Several weeks post episode 905, “Leave Out All the Rest,” circa late November 2008

*******

It was late autumn. But then autumn within the Las Vegas city limits wasn’t really all that markedly different from any other time of the year. There wasn’t, not even earlier in the season, the accompanying brilliant riot of color like there was to be found in other places, well not amongst the leaves in the trees at least. Although there were few leaves now to shiver and dance in the trees that afternoon in the predominately empty park.

For the most part, the mothers and fathers and children had all gone home. A few lone dog walkers crisscrossed the paths, the majority of them being the ones being walked than the other way around.

On the whole, it was quiet, just the rumble of tires from the road, a rustle of the breeze in the still green grass, the faint murmur of voices sounding more like whispers off in the distance than anything.

Gil Grissom sat there in the growing dimness rather oblivious to it all.

He peered down at his empty hands and sighed.

While he knew it was getting late and there was still the long walk home, he wasn’t quite sure he was ready for it just yet, nor for the accompanying return to absence rather than presence that returning home currently entailed.

It was a lot harder now, home. For ever since he had received her video message, Sara felt almost irrevocably gone, and the place so little like home at all.

At that moment, he wanted nothing more than if only for a few more minutes, to linger a little longer within the vain fantasy that when he walked through his front door, she would somehow be there to greet him. So he simply sat on the park bench with Hank settled obediently beside him.

That was all he really wanted to do, just sit there and welcome the darkness and not have to think or feel or be anything. Even if but for that one moment, for that one moment, to find stillness and comfort in the longing and the dreams of memory.

It seemed strangely apt, he supposed, how similar what had brought her to Vegas in the first place was to what had brought her back again, and despite the pain of those circumstances, it had been infinitely comforting to have her near once more. Just to be able to listen to the deep, even measure of her breathing when the long hours stretched out before him when he couldn’t sleep had been a solace.

Why was it, he wondered, still peering down at his fingers, that you only truly felt someone’s presence in their absence?

He was startled from his reverie by Hank’s low rumbling and yet not unfriendly bark and a little girl’s excited giggle of “Doggie!”

When he looked up, he couldn’t have been more surprised. He blinked and stared in bewilderment at Heather Kessler who stood there before him with a much bigger than he remembered Alison eagerly tugging on her hand.

It took him a few moments before Grissom could finally ask, “Aren’t you on the wrong side of town?”

“We were hoping to run into you, actually,” Heather replied with one of her trademark enigmatic smiles. “Outside of a professional capacity. Yours or mine.”

“Oh?” When further explanation did not seem to be forthcoming, he questioned, still slightly nonplussed at her sudden appearance, “How did you know I’d be here?”

“While your car was in the lot in front of your apartment, neither you nor Hank you were answering the door,” she explained. “So I imagined that you might have taken him for walk on your night off.”

He voice wavered between its now usual numbness and a slight hint of bemusement when he asked, “Does that mean you’ve been stalking me then?”

“Would you rather we met in our usual way?” she inquired in turn.

Remembering all too well that the usual way usually entailed a dead body or the at least the pretense of one, he answered, “Not particularly.”

Grissom was almost thankful that Alison’s sudden high-pitched giggling supplied a distraction. The little girl had managed to slip from her grandmother’s grasp and was currently lavishing affection on Hank. The dog seemed to be taking her eager petting in stride.

“He’s good with children,” Heather said appreciatively.

“I think he’s just enjoying the attention,” Grissom replied, trying not to recall just how little of that his dog had been getting of late.

Heather Kessler gave him a long searching look before saying, “From the looks of you, you still really haven’t been home much.”

“You know work is work,” he replied, trying but ultimately failing at being nonchalant.

She gave him a disbelieving raise of the eyebrow, but made no further comment. They both watched Hank and Alison for a few moments before Grissom peered up into Heather’s face and asked, still somewhat at a loss, “So why are you here?”

“I thought you could use a cup of tea. And a friend.”

“A friend?” he echoed in disbelief.

“Isn’t that what you told me we were. Friends?” she asked in return.

He nodded, indeed remembering saying as much that afternoon a year and a half earlier when she had greeted his presence at her front door with a scowl. At the time, it had been an attempt at extending an olive branch of sorts, for them to perhaps finally be able to put the past behind them and move forward beyond all the hurt and sadness. It appeared that Heather had accepted it as such.

“Then come on,” she insisted.

“But Hank –”

“Grissom, dog hair is nothing after Cheerios.”

*******

Hank happily bounded into the back of Heather’s Audi and proceeded to lay his head on the arm of Alison’s car seat.

“Seems someone’s made a friend,” Heather grinned as she peered at the dog and little girl both fast asleep in her rearview mirror.

Grissom nodded thoughtfully, but said nothing, and the rest of the ride to Heather’s was a fairly quiet one, apart from Hank’s soft snores and Alison’s deep, even breathing.

“Allow me,” he insisted, after they had pulled into the long driveway and Heather unfastened the harness to the car seat as carefully as she could so as to not wake her granddaughter. Grissom gingerly gathered the still slumbering girl into his arms. She snuffled slightly before burying her head into the crook of his neck. He carried her inside, a slightly sleepy Hank trotting dutifully along with them up the stairs. After Alison had been tucked in, the boxer curled up at the foot of the bed and was quickly snoring yet again.

As she half-closed the bedroom door, Heather sighed and gave Grissom another one of those penetrating glances he always thought saw right through him, before giving him a disarming smile and saying, “Come on. Why don’t you let me get you that tea.”

More than a little wearily, he sank into one of the chair she indicated and waited for her to return. When she did several minutes later, carrying in a tray of tea things, he said in what he hoped was a light tone, “You must get to see Alison fairly often then.”

“Thanks in part to you, yes,” she replied. “It’s never quite as much as I’d like. Then I don’t think it ever could be, but still.”

“It suits you. All the changes,” he said and meant it.

The haunted Heather who had stood on her front porch and told him to go away was long gone. Her face had softened and the slight lines at her eyes and mouth he could tell were more from smiling than sorrow. She seemed more at ease than he had ever seen her.

“I wish I could say the same,” she replied, beginning to pour out the tea. She handed him a plain mug. Seeming to sense that he had noticed the lack of the usual tea accoutrements, she said, “We both know that there are some times when the superficial trapping of civilization provide no comfort.”

“True,” he nodded and took a small sip of the steaming beverage. “Chamomile,” he murmured approvingly.

“It’s good for sleep,” Heather said simply. “Something you haven’t been getting very much of as of late.”

“You know work,” he replied almost automatically.

“But we both know that isn’t why you haven’t been sleeping,” she retorted, peering at him from over her cup as she blew on it.

Grissom pursed his lips and nodded numbly. They sat there in the quiet consumption of their tea for a while before she put down her cup and said, “You don’t look the least bit relieved.” It wasn’t a question.

At the inquiring look he was giving her, she explained, “It’s always your eyes that give you away.”

“They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

“Does it?” she asked.

“No,” he conceded, putting down his own empty cup.

“I guess some things never change,” Heather replied and then she said, “I found that Sara was certainly a refreshing change from the usual behavior of certain other members of the Las Vegas Police Department.”

For the first time, a grin twitched at the edge of Grissom’s lips. “Well, Jim has issues,” he supplied.

“With inadequacy?”

“With being overprotective at times,” he countered.

“I never thought of you as a man who needed protection, Grissom.”

“I suppose he wanted to make sure to save me from myself.”

Heather put down her cup and said, “You didn’t need any help with that.”

“No.”

“I never did get to thank her for her kindness and compassion,” she continued after a moment. “And for all that she did.”

At this, the hint of amusement that had briefly flashed upon Grissom’s face was replaced with a sad sort of smile for he was reminded rather painfully of all the times he had chastised Sara for her empathy, for her gentleness, for what he had mistakenly thought of as a lack of objectivity. “That sounds like Sara,” he whispered at last.

“Not for me,” Heather corrected. “For you.”

Grissom was taken a back for a moment.

Heather leaned forward in her seat, as if she had finally come to what she had really wanted to say. “Grissom, you need to stop being a human doing and allow yourself to be a human being again. Like you were with her before —

“Heather, please…” he stammered uncomfortably.

She sat back with a sigh and shook her head ruefully as she said after a while, “You always were the theater.”

“Is that why you sent me that mask?” Grissom asked.

“I thought it apropos.”

He nodded at this, before draining the last of the dregs from his mug. “Well, all the world’s stage and all the people merely players,” he quoted.

And one man in his time plays many parts,” she nodded. “You more so than most and always with your true self so carefully concealed.”

“Don’t you ever just get tired of words?” he practically bellowed in uncharacteristic impatience. Then his voice grew quiet and more confessional. “You really want the truth?” But before she could reply, he bowed his head and said, “Right now I really do feel like I am losing my sense of self. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

“You are still you,” Heather countered evenly. “Perhaps the what you are is changing, but who, no.”

Grissom looked like he wasn’t entirely sure whether to believe her assertions or not, but he hadn’t had long to consider it, before she cut into his thoughts with, “I wonder why is it that our fears are so often the mirror opposites of our deepest desires?”

“What about you?” he questioned. “Are you and I all that different?”

“Perhaps not,” she conceded.

“So what about your masks?” he continued to press. “What you fear and want?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she asked.

Grissom thought about it for a moment. “Control,” he finally answered. “You fear not having control. Not being in control. And yet, you still want not to have to be.”

Heather smiled, seemingly pleased as his perceptiveness. “Like I said, obvious. And no, we aren’t that different you and I.”

He nodded. Then as if he finally understood something, he said, “Was that why you had wanted to end your own life?”

“You can keep enduring the pain or you can put an end to it,” she replied without hesitation or reservation. “You may think that suicide is a cowardly act of the desperate, but really, it is in its own way, the ultimate form of self-determination.

“For we have no say in our beginnings, in the how or when or where or whys. In many ways, we have just as little in the rest of our lives. So who really doesn’t long to control the end? To at least be able to choose that how and when and where and why? Maybe that doesn’t make it right, or acceptable, but perhaps it makes it a bit more understandable.”

“And you would have done it,” he acknowledged sadly.

“Then? Yes. That was a choice I was ready to make. But I am glad I didn’t,” she replied. “It was so hard after Zoe died. She really was the only person I had ever freely allowed myself to love, however imperfectly.

“I know I can never have her back. I can never undo what was done, or have her forgiveness, but I can still love her. That’s all I ever really wanted to do. And while there will always be that hole, that ache with Zoe, there is now joy and hope and life, too.”

*******

In the morning, Grissom woke to the gleeful sounds of Alison’s giddy laughter and Hank’s playful barking. He wasn’t quite sure how or when he had actually fallen asleep, only that he had. He followed the noise out onto the patio to find Hank happily retrieving the bright red ball that Alison had just thrown.

“We didn’t mean to wake you,” Heather said softly, surprising him. He spun to find her in the midst of putting her plants out. She gestured for him to watch as Hank was slathering Alison in long, wet dog kisses, which caused the little girl to squeal in delight. “Dogs and children,” she smiled. “Their love is always so refreshingly unconditional.

“When we are young, it’s so easy,” she continued. “To love that way, whole-heartedly and without the questions or reservations or rules that love later in life seems to entail. By the time we’re adults, love is very seldom unconditional.

“Even more so the love we have for ourselves than the love we have for others,” she added, struggling a little with a plant as the hooks of the hanging basket had somehow managed to get tangled up. Grissom stepped forward to help her, coming closer to her than he had been since the night he had stopped her from killing Leon Sneller.

As he drew away, she said, “It’s a lot easier for you to get close when it doesn’t matter, but when it does you shy away. Why is that?”

When he didn’t answer, she ventured, “Because it is a whole lot easier to risk when you have nothing to loose?”

Grissom was saved from answering by the insistent jingle of his phone. He turned away from her and listened intently to the voice on the other line.

“I have to go,” he said after a few minutes.

She nodded. “I’ll get you a cab,” she said and when she returned, called for Alison while Grissom whistled for Hank.

While Alison was preoccupied in saying good-bye to dog, Heather turned to Grissom and said, “They say that it is never too late to apologize. Is the same true for the accepting of apologies?”

“I don’t see why not,” he answered. They both shared a smile for a moment before a sudden seriousness filled Heather’s face.

“Change is hard,” she began. “It’s scary. But I have never known you to be afraid of anything, except to let go of your mask.

“But, Grissom, at some point, your life has to be more than just your work. It can’t be your life, your whole life, all there is to your life. It isn’t the sum-total of who or even what you are. And you can’t hide behind it forever so you don’t have to live your own life.”

She took his face into her hands and he thought for a moment that she was going to kiss him and he tried to retreat, but her grasp held him fast as she said softly, but no less firmly, “Stop. Grissom, it’s time to stop.”

“I can’t.” What he didn’t say was I don’t know how.

“You have to stop.”

He nodded in assent, knowing she was right, as she so often was. But he was still not sure what to do about anything anymore, so when the cab finally came, he got in and after dropping Hank off at the dog sitter’s, went back to the only thing he really had left — work.

*******

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