Disclaimer: You know, we're supposed to be kind of humble about all this but I think TPTB should be thrilled that so many people are taking the characters they created and treating them with such tender loving care. Uh, yeah. So, in conclusion, they are still not mine.
Summary: Which is stronger, trauma or love?
She woke up from a very fitful sleep to a just-waking Grissom. He had part of her nightshirt bunched in his hand, and was sporting rather impressive morning wood. She always considered it a rather stupid term, but used it anyway. It was a stupid world, sometimes.
Sara tried to relax as she felt him behind her. Maybe she had been sending out the wrong signals over the past week. Maybe that's why Grissom was leaving their bed as quietly as possible and 'servicing himself' in the shower.
She moved her fanny closer to his erection; he disentangled his fingers from her nightshirt and scooted away from her to move off the bed from his side. Sara kept her eyes closed, but knew the routine. He went around the California king-sized contraption, out the door, down the hall and into the shower.
She wondered if they'd ever make love again.
Twelve days. Since they became lovers, they had gone longer without physical intimacy. The all-time record was set during the four weeks of his sabbatical. And she initially expected it to last longer since she was determined to hold off on resuming their normal relationship until she had her say about certain things that had disturbed her. But that one goofy look he gave her in the hallway, when she reeked of all kinds of nasty things and he obviously didn't care, melted her resolve and had her tumbling into his bed within hours.
But, there was a difference now. Lack of sex was just a symptom of what seemed to be a multitude of much larger issues. Eleven days ago, their world had turned upside down. She had very nearly died, struggling to remove herself from her prison under a car, only to find herself in a very different kind of prison. One with wide-open spaces, no shelter, no food or water and no place to go, on foot, that would lead her home. In the meantime, Gil Grissom lost the part of his life he valued almost above all others: his peace of mind.
Her first memory after passing out on one of her endless walks to nowhere was waking, briefly, in an ambulance. Grissom was with her. She could hear his voice on an endless loop, telling her he loved her. Just a quiet "I love you, Sara, I love you," over and over. She knew she must have been in very bad shape. The man had never really used those exact words before. Did she know he loved her? Yes. Kind of. Yes. She did. His actions proved it. But it was nice to hear. The way he was saying it then, however, was a little scary because she thought either she was facing imminent death or he was facing imminent institutionalization. Or both.
She had spent four days in the hospital. Her injuries were not as bad as they could have been, perhaps as they should have been, given the circumstances. She had a broken left ankle, which had been set with a walking cast. There were probably more bruises, cuts and scrapes than clear patches of skin on her body and she had been severely dehydrated, which was the real cause of the extended stay. They were giving her IV fluids and taking dozens of blood tests to make sure her internal organs were running smoothly before releasing her. All Grissom and Sara both wanted, during that stay, was for her to "go home." But, in many ways, the time they spent at the hospital was the most normal time they had in the past week and a half. He rarely left her side, she let him stay without complaint. She asked questions, he dodged them. He held her hand and gave her brief kisses while she spoke of her ordeal; she spent a lot of time, afterwards, just staring at him. Coworkers came and went, walking on imaginary eggshells. Apparently, the cat was well and truly out of the bag. She asked him about it and received a shrug in response.
Sara didn't push. She would find out, eventually. Besides, if situations had been reversed, there was nothing she wouldn't have said or done to get him back. Nothing.
But when they got home, Sara felt as if she walked into the middle of a wake. There was a hush that ran through the house. If the television was on, it was on low. Grissom spoke in quiet, measured tones and shushed their dog when he dared to bark at the mailman.
Grissom timed the administration of her antibiotics to the minute. And he made her a lot of tea.
And an awful lot of oatmeal.
Physically, he kissed her chastely, and spooned behind her after (he thought) she had dozed off. Sleep became somewhat of a joke for both of them. It was sporadic and punctuated by violent jerks that woke one or the other of them. But, still, they stayed in their places and listened to the silence, until the morning when Sara could no longer stand it.
She slipped out of bed and went down the hall toward the bathroom. Bruno was lying in front of the door, waiting for Grissom to come out. The dog was a joy. He seemed to know exactly who needed him more at any given moment. Sara bent down to pet his head, then entered the bathroom and closed the door behind her.
Grissom and Sara were a couple who respected bathroom boundaries. For one thing, Grissom's townhouse had two. And, for another, both were used to being alone. There were times to be together, and times to…not. And bathroom time, in general, fell into the latter category. Still, Sara had to play dirty. It was the only way.
She sat on the closed toilet seat and waited. He was already in the middle of doing what he needed to do. She knew that from the muffled sounds coming from the shower stall. They were not especially erotic. As a matter of fact, they sounded like a man in the throes of some sort of pain. The sound stopped, the shower remained on, and she could see the shadow of Grissom's body through the shower curtain. He was supporting himself against the tiled wall.
Sara's stomach tightened in pain: pain that went beyond herself and what she experienced. She didn't remember much about her abduction. She had heard someone call her name in the parking garage, remembered a brief moment of wondering who that woman was, and then she was waking in the desert, under an overturned car, scared and panicked. Somewhere along the line, confusion and anger were added to the mix. And then deep, deep fear. But the one thing that helped, in some way, was not knowing exactly how she got there. If she had known her abductor, all those emotions would have been ratcheted up about two hundred percent. Natalie had been that successful, that precise as a killing machine. Grissom, on the other hand, knew exactly who took Sara. And why.
Sara's trauma began and ended in the desert. By the time she was rescued, Natalie was in custody. The abduction, the motives, the search, Natalie herself—none of it was real to her. She wasn't sure it would ever crystallize into something tangible enough to cause her to reach full blown paralyzing trauma.
But, for Grissom, there was layer upon layer of guilt, grief and horror.
And he was retreating. That's what scared her.
They had just come too far for it all to be ruined because of…this.
Finally, the water stopped.
"Gris?" she called out, just to avoid scaring him to death.
She knew he heard her but said nothing. Processing. The man was always processing new bits of information.
He moved the curtain aside just enough to reach for a towel.
A second later, he emerged, with the towel wrapped around his waist.
She frowned. Sara thought they were well beyond the modesty stage.
"Sorry I took so long. Did you need to use the bathroom?" she shook her head and a look of pure panic crossed his face. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Well, I just want to…" she took a deep breath. She could do this. "I thought you said I made you happy," she spit out, nodding toward the shower stall.
He sighed and his cheeks turned a slightly pinker shade than his recent exposure to hot water justified. He shrugged his shoulders. "I did. This is…biological. Nothing more."
And he left the room.
He did that every once in a while. And she let him. She understood the need to be alone; she felt it herself. You didn't spend decades by yourself and suddenly leap into couple-hood with complete ease. Their relationship included lots of downtime. Sara knew, on some levels, she was probably more comfortable with extended periods of togetherness than he was, but he wasn't doing too badly. And part of the reason was she knew when to pick her battles, and she knew when to give him, to use another stupid expression, a very long leash.
She leaned back a little. All these days of nothing but her company must be killing him. Especially since their togetherness was accompanied by Issues.
He was back, dressed in sweat pants and a t-shirt. He looked casual enough but his body language told her he was anything but relaxed. "Sara?"
"I knew you'd have to come back sooner or later."
She reached out and grabbed a couple of towels from the towel rack. She opened one up and laid it on the floor by her feet.
"Come here," she said. "Sit."
She resisted the urge to tell him he was wearing out her name. "Humor me," she said, instead.
He sat on the towel by her feet and she took the other one and began drying his hair. After a few moments, he chanced a sideways glance at her. "I'm supposed to be taking care of you," he said.
"You are. And I'm a little tired of being pampered. It's your turn."
"I…" he finished his sentence with an audible exhalation of air.
"Tell me about her, Grissom."
"Who?" he said, his voice tinged with a sharpness she had never heard outside of work.
She took a deep breath. "Natalie."
"I don't want to talk about her."
"I do," she said. "I barely remember her at all. I'm not even sure I remember what she looked like. I just remember a really brief flash of a woman and then…nothing. The guys told me a little bit about what those days were like but, they didn't want to talk about it, either."
"Good," he said, bracing his palms against the floor, ready to make his getaway. She put her hand on his shoulder.
"I don't want you to go. Let me do this." She rubbed the towel against his scalp, then moved it away and played with the damp strands. Sara loved his hair. Loved the way the short curls coiled around her fingers and then slipped away.
She could feel him relaxing a little. And she knew he'd tense up again in a moment, but that couldn't really be avoided.
"She wanted to take me away from you. But you didn't let her. And I'm damned well not going to let her take you away from me. We worked too hard for what we have."
He did tense up under her fingers. He took the towel from her hand and threw it into the bathtub, then lifted himself up to his knees. She knew they gave him pain at times, but he just winced slightly and kept his position.
"You're giving me too much credit, Sara. If she wanted you dead, you'd be dead before I even knew you were missing. Don't make me into some kind of hero just because I figured out where you were before it was too late. You should never have been taken to begin with."
He stood up and left the bathroom again.
This was progress. One Issue, out in the open.
She sat for a few moments more and then made her way to the living room. Bruno was curled up on the couch and she joined him, wrapping her arms around the dog's thick neck. He immediately responded by resting his head against her forearm. Sara smiled, even though she knew Grissom didn't approve. He felt she should be resting against velvet cushions—while wrapped in gossamer—until her ankle mended itself.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him reaching into the cupboard and…no, not that. Not again.
"Gris? Can I have a bagel or something this morning? Anything but oatmeal."
"You don't like oatmeal? Why didn't you say something before?"
"I like oatmeal just fine. I just don't want it every day."
She was ready to kick herself. She just turned him into a breakfast failure, too.
He worked in silence for awhile and then brought their breakfasts over and placed them on the coffee table. He shooed Bruno off the couch and sat next to Sara, dropping a quick kiss on the top of her head. Full of fake good cheer.
"Tell me what you want to eat for the rest of the day, and I'll have the groceries delivered."
"Why don't you go out and get them, Gris? I'll be fine."
"No," he picked up his bagel and bit into it. After washing it down with one sip of coffee, he seemed to abandon both.
"On second thought, maybe I don't need to know about her," Sara said. She heard Grissom sigh in relief.
"Because I kind of know enough about her. Nick told me that she was almost completely incoherent when they took her in for questioning."
"And he said that Brass wanted to pour bleach on her to get her to talk," she smiled a bit. "That's one way of doing things."
"Stop it," he said, still avoiding her gaze.
"I don't want to. I want you to get it through your head that she was sick. I'm not excusing her. Lots of people in this world are sick and they don't go around killing people. But, she was sick enough to be extremely unpredictable. It was impossible for you to know what she was about to do. It's not your fault. And it's not mine, either."
He looked at her sharply. "Of course it isn't your fault. Did I ever give you any reason to think that I felt that way?"
"No. But you do blame me. It's one of the stages of grief."
"I'm not grieving. You're not dead," he said and winced slightly.
"No, but something has changed, hasn't it? And you could easily blame me. I'm the one who pushed so hard for this relationship. Upset your nice, quiet life. Now, you're stuck with a woman you think is completely broken—or will be when she has the sense to fully embrace her post-traumatic stress, and the dog she wanted, and nothing but quiet time to have to deal with them both."
He closed his eyes and the look of pain on his face was so acute, she almost apologized for everything she said, just to get it to go away. But then he stared at her, and a look of realization came over his face.
He reached out and put his arms around her, pulling her close, "Nothing can make this better, Sara. Not even getting me to argue with you," she heard his short, mirthless laugh, before he buried his face against her neck and tightened his grip around her. She felt him relax just the tiniest bit.
"I know that, Gris. But I need you. And you need me. If we worry about saying something because of how the other person will feel—we will never say the things that need to be brought into the open."
He laughed again, this time a little more genuinely.
"We're not always very good at talking, in case you haven't noticed."
He pulled back and cupped his hands around her face. "No one in my entire life has believed in me the way you do. You think I'm protecting you by not talking about…her? I'm protecting myself. I'm…I don't know. There was no objectivity. I couldn't think straight. I never came as close to wanting to kill someone with my bare hands as I did with her," he shook his head, "I didn't care if she was sick and 'not responsible' for her actions. I thought, if I didn't get you back, I'd come back, kill her and then die in prison. The sooner the better."
Sara smiled a bit. He would do nothing of the kind. She knew him too well. But, if the fantasy made him feel better, that was enough for her.
"Did you think that would scare me? I'd think less of you for having very real emotions? I love you. Nothing else really matters," she said and then leaned forward and kissed him. A firm press of her lips to his. He leaned into the kiss for a moment, and then tried backing away but she wrapped her arms around his neck and opened her mouth, inviting him to join her in something a bit more passionate than the chaste kisses they had shared over the past week.
"Sara, your ankle…" he said, against her mouth.
"Is way below all the good stuff," she muttered, and heard a sound she hadn't heard in a while: his first genuine laugh. She pulled back and smiled at him. "We'll work around the cast. I just…want this so much. Okay?"
He nodded, taking her hand as he walked and she hobbled, into the bedroom. Grissom made sure Bruno was on the other side of the door, and then closed it. Sara was already on the bed, waiting. He undressed quickly and slid in, moving across the wide expanse of bed to meet her in the middle. He put his hand on the side of her neck. She knew he was going to continue sharing bits of what he experienced and smiled softly as encouragement.
"I swore, if you were found and made it out alive, I would never miss the chance to tell you I love you. But I haven't done it at all, have I?"
She looked him straight in the eye. "You have. In the ambulance. In the hospital. In every time you've held my hand. In every bowl of nasty oatmeal you served me… I know. I've always known."
He pulled her toward him, "I love you, Sara. So much," he whispered in her ear.
More progress. And then she stopped thinking about mini-breakthroughs and milestones, as she felt her nightshirt go over the top of her head and felt the softness of his lips on her neck, breasts and abdomen. His fingers grazed over each and every bruise he encountered, and his lips followed. When he kissed her highly discolored thighs, she writhed against the sheets and he slid over her as gently as possible, but suddenly stopped.
"Are you comfortable in this position? I mean…"
Some things would be hard to talk about. For a very long time. She had flashbacks of that car on top of her. But, surprisingly, having the soft weight of his body resting on hers felt safe, not scary.
"I'm fine, Grissom," she said, and he closed his eyes in relief and slid inside her warmth.
Sara had never been one for hearts and flowers. Her love for Grissom was one thing, and sex with him definitely included love, but there was part of her that was extremely clinical in her thinking about it all. A fits into B and there are a lot of erogenous zones in between that can be stimulated into making the actual joining quite pleasant, if not downright mind-blowing.
Every once in a while, though, she had found herself getting almost as bad as Grissom in the "Thinking in Terms of High Romance' department. And this was one of those times. They were no longer two solitary souls. Not at this exact moment in time. They were one. With the potential of not only sharing bodies, but everything that had gone on during the past two weeks.
If he fully participated, that is. She looked up at him. He was intently setting up a rhythm he knew she liked, but his eyes remained closed. She lifted her hands and cupped his face.
"Look at me," she said, and, reluctantly, he opened his eyes. He stopped for a moment and just stared at her, and then tried looking away when he knew she had spotted the tears in his eyes. She kept his head in position until she knew he saw the matching tears in her own. There, in that moment, the complete connection was made.
And when he started to move again, faster and rougher, she responded in kind. Fear, terror, pain, loneliness, grief, relief and a thousand other emotion reached the surface for a microsecond, collided, then burst forth in brightly colored sparks, eventually leaving them in a place of comfort, safety, and love.
Grissom tried to move off her, but she clung to him. "Not yet," she said, and, instead he rolled them both so they were on their sides. They weren't looking at each other. Instead, they snuggled close and Sara knew that this moment, probably more than any other, was the one he had been dreading ever since she fully regained consciousness. This unprotected moment when love was so real, so raw, that his emotions could not be restrained. She felt his tears against her neck and let him do things in his own way. She had no need to see them shed, and she felt no need to stop her own tears from falling. They needed this type of release as much, if not more, than the other they had just shared..
Later, Sara woke from a half-dozing state to watch Grissom leave the bed, no towel around his waist this time, to let a whimpering Bruno into the room. The dog jumped on the bed and immediately spread out against their feet. Grissom turned on the television. In the past, the "white noise' helped them quiet their own thoughts and rest. He did not set the volume on low.
He lay back and gathered Sara against his chest.
"I just want things to feel normal again," he said.
"Me, too. We took a few steps in the right direction, though, don't you think?"
He looked at her and gave her a bittersweet smile. "Yeah, I do. I'll…uh, go and pick up the groceries tonight."
"Good. No invalid food, though. Okay?"
"Are you going to be timing me or is it all right if I hurry back home?"
"You hurry on back," she said, running her hand along his chest. "I'll be waiting."
She felt the shuddery breath he took and watched as he squeezed his eyes shut, and nodded quietly.
It was a start.
A/N: I wasn't planning on doing an 8X01 story. But the story sprung forth from the weird-ass title and that was that.
I read my stories over a lot before posting and sometimes second-guess things. Do I think Sara will experience more post-traumatic stress than she does in the story? Sure I do. But this is the direction my mind was telling me to go in.