04 – Evidence of Life

 

Sometimes even Gil Grissom, a man who works — and lives — by the mantra follow the evidence, has to be reminded to do just that, especially after he almost looses the one person he’s ever truly cared about. 

What he learns surprises even himself. 

Post episode 521, “Committed,” circa late April 2005

*******

I should have just called, Gil Grissom thought as he continued to hover on her doorstep.

An act he had been engaged in for at least the last five minutes, despite the rain and the inexplicable inattentiveness that led him to leave his perfectly good umbrella in the car below.

But if she hadn’t answered the phone he would have only become more worried.

Hearing the not quite cold, yet completely business-like, greeting of her answering service would have only fed into the almost sheer panic that had plagued him ever since the night Adam Trent had taken Sara hostage and almost taken her life.

After they had wrapped up the case, something she had insisted on doing and a decision he knew better than to argue with her about, he had insisted she take a few paid days off. Sara hadn’t been pleased by the suggestion (actually, it had been more of a dictate than a suggestion), but sometimes she, too, knew better than to argue with him about certain things.

So she had been absent from his life for four very long days now, four days that if he were honest with himself, had felt like forty, despite the mountains of paperwork and the unending stream of evidence needing to be processed.

He had pulled an extra double or two and might have even stayed through part of a triple, if Catherine had not chased him out of the lab with the threat to rat him out to Ecklie if he didn’t at least leave the lab for a few hours and get some sleep.

Ah, sleep.

That was the prime reasons he had been frequenting the lab even more often than usual.

To sleep per chance to dream –

The famous line floated across his mind and then its fellow –

Aye, there’s the rub.

Sleeping meant risking dreaming, and dreaming, at least these past few days almost always meant yet another replay of nightmares.

Or at least of that singular nightmare that had haunted him since he saw that look in Trent’s eyes as he pressed the pottery shard deeper into a struggling Sara’s neck.

Of course that moment and the horror that his mind kept imaging happening afterwards did not need the diminished defenses of sleep to torment him.

The visions were there in the day time, too, just barely kept at bay by the work that was providing less and less comfort by the day.

After four days of living with the anxiety, the images, the dread, he knew he had to see her. Physically see her, to know that the nightmares and all their daytime minions were but phantoms of fear, helplessness and guilt.

Over and over, he saw himself just standing there on the other side of the glass, unable to do anything but stare and beg over and over for the guard to open the door while Sara…

Sara —

Sara died.

No matter how many times he had told himself she had not, that she had escaped her imprisonment with Adam with little more physical harm inflicted upon her than a scratch, he could still see her dying over and over again.

So he stood that afternoon on her doorstep in the rain fighting the fear; trying to summon up the courage to knock.

*******

On the other side of the door, away from the cold wetness of the rain that simply kept insisting it fall for days — even in the middle of the desert — Sara Sidle sat curled up beneath a blanket in her favorite chair, not feeling particularly rested or at ease herself at the moment.

She had not protested when Grissom had insisted she take the time off. Now four days in and a completely scoured and reorganized apartment later, she was regretting giving in to his “request.”

She was weary of time off, having had more of it foisted upon her in the last twelve months than she had probably taken of her own accord in the last twelve years.

Work was better. Work kept you occupied. Work left you with little time to think.

These four days at home and left her with little else but time to think.

She had not, as some people might have expected her to, spent the time musing about her own mortality, nor had she suddenly gained a new lease on life, having nearly lost her own only few days before.

No, its was primarily one thought, a moment, an image really, that preoccupied her.

It wasn’t Adam Trent’s half-mad words, nor the almost strangling stench of his fear and anger, or the piercing feeling of something sharp being pressed into her skin.

No, it was the look on his face, in his eyes that troubled her.

Grissom.

In all the years she’s known him, in all the situations they’d been in, in everything they had been through, she had never seen that look and she would gladly go another lifetime without seeing that look again.

A look of…

What exactly?

Fear?

Despair?

Desperation?

Helplessness?

Loss?

Regret?

She didn’t know; wasn’t sure.

The only thing she was sure of was that none of those things, those feelings, were of the kind she associated with Gil Grissom.

The thought that he would think or feel such things seemed foreign to her.

Emotionally unavailable.

She had called him that once, probably more than once, but had known the words were borne more out of her own fury and frustration than the truth.

Part of her wished she could take those words back, those words and the cruel inditement they conferred. It had been an unkindness to utter them, an unkindness doubly so because she knew that practically everyone in lab had at one time or another voiced to Grissom a strikingly similar opinion.

That he felt nothing.

That he was no more than the sum of his intellect.

That he was cold and uncaring.

Detached.

Insensitive.

Heartless.

When nothing could have been further from the truth.

Yet, that fact still did little to diminish the pervasive view, even to Sara who in someways knew him best…

… And least.

She tossed the journal she had been absently thumbing through aside and got up to make some tea.

*******

When she initially heard the tentative rap on the door, she thought she had imagined it, or had made the noise herself, puttering noisily about the kitchen the way she always did when restless.

But when the second knock, a bit more firm and insistent than the first, rattled on the wood, she put down the kettle and went to answer it.

Even after all the years she’d spent in Vegas, she had few friends and even fewer visitors, or at least visitors who weren’t of the paid to deliver your meal variety.

As she peered through the spy hole, her bewilderment increased as she caught sight of her company.

She could count the number of times he had visited her at her apartment on one hand and still have had fingers left over. And the last several calls had not been meetings of the relaxed, casual variety.

Still, she opened the door to Gil Grissom anyway.

Her rather confused greeting barely got past the first syllable of “hello” once she had gotten a good glimpse of him.

Or at least his eyes.

They still had that look.

Or at least for a moment, until the rigidness in his face softened slightly and the darkness in his eyes took on a somewhat brighter hue.

Yet, there was no smile there or about his lips.

It was a strange expression, so unlike the mask of confidence and surety he usually wore.

The presence of that look had caught her so off guard she had taken little note of the rest of his appearance, until her eyes shifted and she exclaimed without thinking:

“Grissom, you’re sopping wet!”

Sara cringed at her first choice of words.

She hated the fact that she sounded more like a scolding mother chastising a child for tracking mud onto her newly mopped floor than a concerned…

… friend.

She tried to soften her voice and asked, “How long have you been standing out there?”

He merely shrugged dismissively, as if how long he had waited outside her door was of no consequence, despite the fact another ten minutes had passed before he had brought his fist to the door.

He was still standing there, unprotesting, out in the rain, for several more moments before Sara realized she was still standing in the middle of the doorway. She hurriedly retreated a few paces and gestured for him to enter.

He took a few silent steps, just barely inside enough for her to close the door behind him. His eyes never left her figure.

A sense of relief, almost overwhelmingly powerful relief, swept over him as he watched her.

She was real.

Alive.

The nightmares had been just that.

Nightmares.

Not memories.

Not real.

She was real.

And yet, he wasn’t so sure that he wasn’t caught up in yet another dream, albeit this one of his own making, his own design, where she was there merely because he wished it so, wished for it more than anything he had ever wished for in perhaps all his life, except for that never to be fulfilled childhood fantasy that his father would walk back through the front door as if he had only just been gone on some great expedition or other and not been dead and destined never to return.

The sudden warmth of her hands on the back of his neck roused him; she was saying something about taking his coat (which he obediently shrugged off) and then about taking a seat on sofa (which he did). She draped the blanket she had so recently been curled up in around his shoulders and went on about getting him something hot to drink.

Sara hurried in the kitchen, thankful that she had already been in the act of making tea when he had arrived.

He had said nothing, not a sound, a word since he had stepped inside, besides the two half-muttered and probably automatic thank yous — the first when she had peeled off his sopping coat and the second, when she had drawn the edges of a blanket tighter around him.

She had just placed the tea bags in their respective cups when she felt something cold and damp bush the right side of her neck.

Startled, Sara jumped and spun to see an equally alarmed Grissom staring back her, one hand drawn back almost as if he’d just been burned.

She tried to give him a reassuring smile, to indicate that his touch had not been unwanted, to convey that he had just surprised her, that was all.

But she did not know what words to say.

He looked so lost, so pale except for the dark smudges under his eyes that belied the fact that Sara had not been the only one not sleeping well.

That’s when she understood.

She knew only too well the wear of the unending nights, or days for them, of nightmares, the potent power of dreams to damage and destroy.

At that moment, all Sara wanted to do was bury him her arms, hold him close and say, even if she could not with honest certainty make the claim, that everything was going to be okay.

However, that sort of display was not the kind suited for a man like Gil Grissom, a man who lived by intellect in world of the mind, in a world directed by and dictated to by evidence.

Evidence.

She knew why he had come; he need not tell her.

He had come and stood out in the rain for who knew how long in search of the evidence that his nightmares were naught but errant dreams.

And only in that evidence could true comfort be found.

Sara turned off the stove, wanting there to be no distractions, no interruptions.

She closed her eyes for little more than a heartbeat and took a deep breath, trying a find a measure of stillness, a moment of peace from which to begin.

Her voice was soft, but sure, when she started, “When we first began working together, do you remember what you told me? You told me that the only thing I could trust was the evidence. That I had to follow the evidence if I wanted to find the truth.”

He nodded at this.

“Do you trust me?” she asked. Another nod. “Then close your eyes,” she instructed.

He hesitated, an unasked question flashing across his face, before wordlessly acquiescing.

“Evidence lies in more than what can just be seen with the eyes. You have to use your other senses, too — touch, taste, hearing, smell.”

“Touch is one we don’t use as much, encumbered as we often are by the barrier of our latex gloves” she said, encircling his wrist with her fingers and drawing his hand to her chest, pressing his palm just above her heart. “What do you feel?” she inquired, but when his lips moved to speak, she placed her other hand against them to silence him.

For an instant, Grissom felt a bit taken aback by both gestures.

Then he realized that she had wanted him — a man of many words — not to speak, but to think about what she was asking him.

So he did.

He thought about what his sense of touch was telling him. There was the smoothness in the thin cotton of her t-shirt beneath his palm, the hint of heat beneath his cool fingertips where the scooped neckline of her shirt ended and that of skin began.

Then he felt it — through the fabric and the flesh — the rhythmic thumping of her heart.

Evidence.

Sara felt his hand relax a little against her, some of the tautness leave the tension in his fingers. She left hers there, too, covering his as she took a step closer to him.

“Our sense of hearing, we use far more often. But not always well. For there is a difference between hearing and listening,” she explained. “Listening requires stillness, silence, focus. Only through listening can be we truly begin to hear,” she paused and then, “What do you hear?” Sara asked as she slid her cheek against his, her lips just stopping before his ear.

So he listened.

To the lingering sound of her voice, the last few syllables of her question heightened by their close proximity.

He waited, waited for her to speak again.

When she didn’t, he began to hear something else entirely.

The deep measure of her breathing, the wisp of air being inhaled only to be quickly followed by the rush of expiration.

Evidence.

Sara stood there until she could feel his breathing settle into her own steady cadence before she spoke again.

“It doesn’t take long for a good CSI to realize that things like perfume and scented lotions, even the shampoos we use, can get in the way of collecting evidence. That’s why we never wear them at work. But away from work, at home…”

She drew even closer to him, not once breaking the contact of her hand or her cheek on his. With her free hand, she slowly guided his face so that his nose settled in the hollow of her neck.

“What do you smell?”

He inhaled deeply.

Today, there was something more to the scent he thought of as Sara’s natural freshness.

A hint of…

Lavender.

Evidence.

Sara let him linger there, his full weight resting against her, until she felt his shoulders relax.

“Of course, there’s one sense we hardly use at all in the field or in the lab. And rightly so, as no one can quite be sure if what you’ll find is palatable or poison. But that doesn’t make your sense of taste any less important.”

This time, she didn’t ask him what he tasted. She merely lifted his chin and kissed him.

The first time was brief, merely the light brush of her lips against his. Grissom barely had time to register the contact, let alone return it.

“Don’t,” she whispered as his eyes began to flutter open.

So he didn’t.

The second kiss was longer and one he had the chance to reciprocate.

It was only with the third, when the kiss deepened and her lips parted, that he could taste her –

The trace of her toothpaste, the spiciness of cinnamon.

Evidence.

Sara pulled away, and whispered, “You can open your eyes now.”

He did.

She didn’t need to tell him how to see, to look. She knew that he knew better than anyone how to see. So Sara let him look, taking the moment to get a better look at him herself.

Something quite different crinkled at the edges of his eyes. His lips were less the thin pale, drawn lines he had worn when he arrived. His face had lost that haunted quality or at least was haunted by something else entirely.

Grissom for his part saw a woman who some would neither label as particularly young nor conventionally pretty, but one whom he had always seen as vibrant and beautiful.

“Except,” she smiled and he couldn’t help but follow suit. “As you always say, evidence without context has no meaning. The thing is where do you find that context? This is where you and I differ. To you, it’s always here,” she explained, touching his forehead. “But to me, you need to use your last sense. This one.”

Her hand slid down his face until her open palm rested against his chest, just above his heart, the same as his still did on hers.

He thought for a moment of correcting her, of reminding her that both intellect and sentiment resided in the head and that the whole notion of the heart as the seat of emotion was just an archaic anachronism, but this didn’t seem to be the time or place. So he said nothing and waited for her to continue.

“Close your eyes.”

His eyebrow rose in question, but he obeyed.

“Now place your other senses in context.”

She pressed his hand, the one that rested on her chest.

And Grissom felt again, but this time not the fabric or the skin or the heartbeat beneath his fingers, but the warmth, the steadiness, the surety and reassurance.

This time, he was the one to pull her closer so they once again stood cheek-to-cheek.

“Grissom,” she whispered.

He heard in those two syllables the warmth again, but also tenderness and something in the way she said his name that he had never heard from anyone else.

He almost asked her to say it again.

Instead, he listened to the meter in her respiration and found almost a form of poetry in its constancy.

When he buried his face in the nape of her neck and drew in breath, the scent of lavender overwhelmed him and he felt as though he had been transported to the first of many a sunny summer day, full of hope and joy and promise.

He initiated the kiss this time and was the first one to deepen it. She tasted not just of cinnamon, but that warmth again and possibilities, surrender and desire.

When he opened his eyes, he saw himself reflected in her gaze and something else he did not expect.

*******

They were silent, merely standing there together in her kitchen for a long while before Sara asked, “So when you followed the evidence, what did you find?”

He did not hesitate:

“Life,” he replied simply.

The other word, not unfelt, but yet unspoken, hung between them –

Love.

*******

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