Title: Ode to Sara Author: Summer Reign Rating: T Spoilers: Season 6ish. Summary: Running, rolling and revealing…all with a Valentine's Day backdrop (I hate summaries so much). Disclaimer: Not mine, but I like the characters probably more than is natural and/or normal.
A/N 1: I'm such a rule-follower in real life. But, in fan fic, not so much. I saw the GeekFiction challenge using Valentine's day and a box as the elements. I wrote about 75 percent of the story and realized it was a smut-fiction challenge. Well, this just isn't a smut fic. So, there went that idea (and I never signed up for it anyway, so I guess that was another rule broken). Also, I swear the Shakespeare quote was written weeks before Law of Gravity aired (well, technically, it was written centuries before….but, you know what I mean.) I know you won't believe that, but I just wanted to state it for the record.
The course of true love never did run smooth.
"Ain't that the fucking truth, Billy," was the first thought that ran through the teenaged Gil Grissom's mind. He gave The Bard his heartfelt, though irreverent, seal of approval. The old guy had a way with words: pithy, poetic and truthful.
Well, maybe not pithy enough. "Love sucks" would say it all in only two words.
While he was sitting there nodding at Lysander's line and watching the characters of A Midsummer Night's Dream scamper about the stage, his heart was with the lovely Veronica Winters. He didn't even know why he bothered asking her out. Maybe because he heard rumors that a few girls thought he was rather "cute," and they found his silence intriguing. Maybe because he thought taking a shot at the stars was worth it.
It wasn't. She found him "creepy" and dumped him mid-date, first date.
His mom, bless her, could have told him all kinds of things to try and get him over his first real heartbreak. But he would have rolled his eyes as she simultaneously signed and spoke. And she would have told him to knock it off while he would have used cuss words in his head--not at her; never at her. But at life in general. Swearing helped still his world when it suddenly spun out of control. Real men swore; they were in full control of their lives, their loves and their language.
But Gil Grissom knew he was stuck in that boy-man phase. The swearing was just his ego putting on a show for itself. The reality was, he was siting with his mom at a romantic play. His mom! But he knew his mom was on a mission. She wanted the play to show him what she could only tell him. And she was right.
Yup, people made real asses of themselves when they were in love. He wasn't the only one. Maybe he had joined the ranks of grownup MEN, after all.
Though many years had passed since that evening at the theater, the quote was still among the top ten in his massive repertoire of words of wisdom from dead guys.
It had developed from a mantra he pulled out every time his heart was broken (Veronica had been only the first of many), to a simple statement of irony. For Gil Grissom, boy-man, had taken up running late in high school and early in his college years. It helped him use up energy, was a solitary pursuit (his favorite kind) and, with each pounding of foot against pavement, he thought how smooth the run was when he was alone. Throw a girl in the equation, and he'd probably trip over his own sneakers.
So, literal running met the figurative course of love and Grissom now had a multi-dimensional quote to pull out of his bag of tricks. And the bonus was, it allowed him to find a loophole that outsmarted old Bill Shakespeare: if you didn't actually run the course, it ran just fine around you. After his college years, he had stopped strapping on his running shoes—again, literally and figuratively. He had given up on the idea of love. Sex was fine, on occasion, if no strings were attached. Flirting was acceptable, dinner dates were nice as a diversion. But love…no.
And it wasn't a poor choice. In fact, there was a kind of peripheral enjoyment in the observation of those willing to participate that was, oftentimes, quite…pleasant.
Of course, you needed a willing second player. One who was content with very little herself, while she surrounded the non-runner with unconditional love, brightening his lonely existence with her wit, her smile, her laugh, her…self.
But, on one disheartening moment in early February, he discovered—quite by accident—a loophole to his loophole. If you didn't run the course, there were consequences that were far from pleasant. Not so much for him, but for his designated runner.
It's not like he meant to eavesdrop on the rather heated discussion between Sara, Catherine and Greg. No, he had just gone into the break-room for a cup of coffee. He seemed to be in ghost mode again because no one acknowledged his presence.
"You have a bug up your ass, Sara." Catherine said.
Of course that got his attention. What kind of a forensic entomologist wouldn't perk up at the combination of bugs and body parts?
"No. I don't," Sara said through clenched teeth.
"Sara, my love, you know I think the world of you, but I think you definitely have an…attitude that really is out of line for such an innocent little holiday."
"Well, I'm so glad you were full of the spirit of love last year when you weren't seeing…Candy…and went through, cover to cover, not only your little black book, but Nick's, looking for a date. And then had the nerve to beg Tina to look for Warrick's old one."
Greg blushed slightly and looked down.
"You're jealous," Catherine said, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning back in her chair, a rather smug look gracing her face.
Grissom watched Sara and knew it was taking every ounce of self-restraint for her not to launch herself at the blond sitting across the table.
"Ecklie made it very clear to me, a couple of months ago, that you are my superior, Catherine. So, I'm not going to give you some knee-jerk response to that statement. All I'm saying is, Valentine's day is great for the people who it was created for…lovers. Just as Mother's day is great for mothers and Father's day is great for fathers. But if you don't 'qualify' as a celebrant, it's not fun. And it can make you feel downright…inadequate…even if you know, intellectually, you aren't." She stood up, crushed the paper her sandwich had been wrapped in and walked to the door, dumping her trash in the bin. "So, don't ask me to wear red that day and sprinkle little heart-shaped glitter in my hair. It's not happening. You both enjoy your day with your significant…what-evers. Just leave me out of it."
And with that, she walked out.
And he knew just how he had cheated in the game of love. And cheated her.
On Valentine's Day morning, the day he planned to start running (or at least, briskly walking) the course, Grissom's main exercise consisted of wrapping his hands around Sara's ankles and pulling her out from under the car.
Not even a hack poet would ever consider the gesture to be a symbol of profound love and affection, but she seemed fairly grateful.
"Thanks," she said, not opening her eyes and throwing her arm over her damp forehead. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I tried to roll myself out but just couldn't get enough momentum going."
"You're sick," he stated, matter-of-factly, crouched on his knees, staring down at her. She continued to lie on the rolling cart she used to slide under the vehicle but found useless when the time came to slide out. If he hadn't been passing by the processing garage and if he hadn't heard her moans…
He had scrapped his original intentions of listening to her quasi-porn-soundtrack when he realized the moans were of pain, not pleasure.
"What hurts, Sara?"
He didn't even try to curb his annoyance. "Why didn't you go home if you were feeling ill? Do you know how long you could have been stuck under that car?"
"I didn't feel that bad when the car came in. I just thought I could process the evidence and leave. But the GPS unit is rusted to the undercarriage and I couldn't remove it, and then…well, I couldn't seem to find the strength to slide out."
"You're so stubborn," he put his hand to her forehead. It was burning hot. He moved his hand to her cheek and gently rubbed her skin. She moved her arm from her forehead to look at him with half-closed eyes. "Chalk?" she said, trying to give him a weak smile.
He showed her his fingertips. They had a smear of motor oil on them. He wiped them off against his pants.
She closed her eyes again. "Of course."
"Sara, I think you have the flu. Almost everyone in the lab has had it in the last two weeks. I'm going to take you home."
"No. I'm all right. Just give me a minute."
He leaned forward and slid his arm under her back. He managed to lift her into a sitting position and nearly pulled back in surprise when she flopped forward, with her head on his shoulder. She moved her arms up to lightly brace themselves against his back. "I'm sorry, " she said, "I'm just so lightheaded."
Grissom felt her breath on his neck and her lips move against his skin. He stopped the urge he had to ask her to recite the Declaration of Independence so he could feel it again. She was sick and needed to get out of there and into a warm, comfortable home.
He carefully moved her away from him and steadied her in a seated position.
"Okay?" he asked. She gave a half-nod.
He stood up, grabbed her hands and yanked her up, right into his arms. He could do this for a moment. Even if someone walked in, no one could deny the facts. She was sick. She could barely stand on her own. The fact that his hands were slowly sliding up and down her back as she held onto him for dear life was beside the point.
After a few moments, he looked at her face. Her eyes were glazed, her cheeks were flushed and the rest of her skin was a kind of deathly pale green shade. But he lo…liked her a whole lot anyway. He didn't have the right to use the other L-word. Not yet.
"One step at a time, Sara. I've got you," he said, as he slid his arm around her waist.
And they made their way out of the lab.
Grissom walked down the aisles of a local CVS store like a man on a mission. Which he was.
After Doc Robbins called in a favor from a doctor better acquainted with live bodies, Grissom was left to pick up Sara's antibiotics, Tylenol, and a hot water bottle.
He had his cash out before the gum-snapping teen manning the cash register could even scan the first item. Without looking up, she pointed in the direction of a motley display of battered heart shaped boxes.
"Half-off," she said.
Valentine's day. In all the excitement, he almost forgot. He was finally spending Valentine's day with someone he lo…liked a whole lot.
"No thank you. I've got it covered."
Gum Snapper looked at him then and smiled. "I bet you go in for the good stuff. Godiva, truffles, crap like that. Diamonds are good. Flowers, too. Like roses and stuff. Red means love, you know."
"Passionate, romantic love. Yes, I know."
"My boyfriend got me a bear. He doesn't make much money but I think it's Build-a-Bear. They're not cheap, you know. I think he'll be coming in for one of those," she nodded toward the display, "near closing time. They mark them down to 75 percent off then, and with my employee discount, he'll get them for like a dollar fifty."
Grissom smiled. He didn't want to be rude but he really wanted to get home. Get to Sara's home to make sure she was still alive, and give her medicine and…care for her.
He wanted to do that.
When he had left Sara a half hour earlier, he had managed to get her shoes off and watched as she plopped, head-first, on her bed.
That's where he expected to find her upon his return.
He had lifted her keys before he left, and let himself in the apartment, only to be surprised by the sight of her sprawled half-way across her breakfast bar, fast asleep. During the time he left her, she had managed to change into strange pajamas consisting of a purple tank top with purple flannel pants that had… bears—yes, they looked like teddy bears—on them. He wondered, momentarily, if they were Build-a-Bears, whatever they were. Probably something like those Teddy Ruxpin things he got for his cousin's kid…oh, ten years ago, he supposed. Whatever kind of bear they were, they were damned lucky. And so was he. In her sprawl, her tank and her pajama bottoms had parted company, leaving a small amount of lower back exposed to his view.
Of course he was there to care for her. But he wasn't about to scoff at life's small rewards for his humanitarian act.
He put the bag on the counter and came around to her side.
"Sara?" he whispered, in the eerily quiet room. There was no response. He reached out a hand to touch the side of her face. Still so hot. She needed her medications and needed to sleep in a place that would not give her back spasms for the next month.
"Sara, wake up," he said, awkwardly shaking her shoulder a bit.
She woke up and lifted her head a few inches, only to plop it back down on the counter with a bit of a smacking sound.
He went into action then and lifted her to her feet and walked her over to her bedroom and her bed. She fell back against the mattress, only to quickly assume a fetal position and start shivering.
"I'm cold, Griss."
"I know. Sitting half-naked in your kitchen will do that to you. Especially if you have a fever and chills," he stopped himself, realizing that a lecture was not something she wanted or needed. "I'm going to take care of it," he said, draping an afghan over her and going into her bathroom to run the hot water. He ran back to her breakfast bar, grabbed his purchases and filled the new hot water bottle.
She opened an eye as he tried to slide it under her back.
"I don't have cramps," she muttered.
"Well, I'm glad. That would have been overkill."
He smiled as she moaned, clearly too sick to even be embarrassed over her TMI moment.
He slid the rubber 'bottle' under her shoulder blades, adjusted the blankets and brought back some drinking water and her medication.
"Gris," she stretched out his name in nothing short of a whine. "I don't want to get up. Don't make me get up. I feel sick. It hurts."
He pulled her up into a sitting position and handed her the glass. She didn't take it, but leaned her hot head against his shoulder.
"What hurts?" he asked again, knowing the answer but knowing she needed to voice her pain. He switched the glass to his other hand and put his arm around her shoulder, hugging her to him softly.
"Everything. Everything hurts."
"I know, Sara. The flu will do that to you, unfortunately."
"I haven't had one in such a long time. I forgot how much it hurts."
"Come on. Just take this and you can go back to sleep." She sighed and he felt her breath searing his skin. She took the pill he offered and drank from the glass he held to her lips. She took a few sips and he encouraged her to drink the whole thing. At the end, she sputtered and he relented.
He lay her against the pillows. "Now, I'm gonna throw up," she stated.
"No, you won't. But if you do, we'll deal with it."
She closed her eyes. "Happy fucking Valentine's Day, Gris."
"Uh, same to you?" What was the proper reply for such an endearing wish?
"You know," she said between soft moans, "I lied to Catherine the other day. I am jealous. Not of her and her dopey-boyfriend-of the week but of people who really, really celebrate their love. I've always, always wanted to spend Valentine's day with you. And I know I have, but…not in the right way. I didn't want the hearts and flowers thing. I just wanted to…be with you because it would seem so…right. But I didn't mean for me to be laying here dying, while you wait to either clean up my vomit or clear away my cold, dead corpse."
Grissom smiled. She was cute when she was half-delirious.
"You will not vomit and you will not die, Sara."
"But if I do…"
"I will be very upset."
"That's sweet," she said, a small smile gracing her flushed face. He moved a damp tendril of hair away from her cheek. "This hot water thing is nice. It is warming me up a little."
"Just a little?"
"I'm still…I'd kind of like to crawl into that hot water bottle," she said on a sigh, closing her eyes again.
And I'd like to crawl into that bed with you…
Sara's eyes flew open.
He didn't just say that. He absolutely couldn't have. Could he? "What?" he asked her in complete mock-innocence.
"Uh, nothing. Nothing," Good. Crisis averted. "Gris, you have been great, but you can go home now. I'll be okay."
He raised one eyebrow and she closed her eyes. "Fine, you can call Doc Robbins in the morning. Tell him I want a new body bag, please."
He smirked and stood up to go to the living room, when Sara started channeling Janis Ian and started singing "At 17."
"To those of us who knew the pain of valentines that never came, And those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball. It was long ago and far away; the world was younger than today And dreams were all they gave away for free to ugly duckling girls like me."
Her voice was pretty. The song was pretty. The message was … so not Sara.
"Shit. I'm getting the thermometer," he said, but she was in her own little fever fueled pity-party.
103.2 and Sara was still humming the damned song.
Doc Robbins was going to have to call in another favor.
Grissom settled his now bone-weary self on the couch after showing Doctor Plunkett to the door.
It hadn't been a long house call. Sara sulked, in between humming and occasionally doctoring the song to sing the words "at 35" out loud.
The doctor took her temperature, looked in her eyes, ears and throat, listened to her heart and came up with a diagnosis.
"It's the flu. Continue with the meds I prescribed and give her a few days of bed rest," he said to Grissom, and Sara opened her eyes and poked a finger at the doctor's shoulder.
"You're a little slow, Doc," she pointed at Grissom and smiled her loopiest smile, "He told me I had the flu hours ago. He's so smart. He knows everything."
The doctor chuckled and muttered to Grissom, "Somebody's either been in the cooking sherry or has a massive crush. Unless, of course, you really do know everything."
Grissom switched on Sara's tv. He didn't know everything.
He didn't know how sad he would feel over the thought of Sara's last bout with the flu. When she was by herself, not taking her medication, shivering and cold and in pain. When she didn't have to be. And wouldn't have been—if he had come to his senses when he should have.
No, he didn't know everything. He never wanted to. In a few areas of his life, he had made the choice to be a dope.
A few hours later, Grissom came into her bedroom with her medication and found her sitting up. Her eyes were a bit vacant, her hair wild, and she was completely wet.
He touched her forehead. It was much cooler.
"I think your fever went down quite a bit," he said.
"Yeah," she said, a bit dazed. "I don't hurt so much."
"We need to get you changed out of these wet things. Why don't you get new nightclothes and I'll get a damp washcloth? Sound good?"
When he returned to the room, she was asleep and the room was dark and so very, very quiet. He should leave. Having a sweat-soaked pajama hadn't kept her from falling asleep. She was comfortable enough.
But he didn't want to go. The way he saw it, this was the first test of his resolve. It would be easy to view her getting sick on the very day he planned to make a move as a sign from up above and change his mind about The Plan. But, where would that get him? Back to observing Sara love him from afar? Seeing her try and try, and get more and more disappointed? Watch her give up some day, knowing that she willingly wasted years of her life on a useless dream?
He kicked off his shoes and got on the bed, softly gathering her into his arms. Her head rested against his cheek and he slid his arms around her back, lifting up the wet tank top to about where her bra would fasten—if she were wearing one. He ran the damp washcloth over her skin. Small circular patterns.
Sara gave a soft sigh in her sleep and his heart clenched just a bit.
God, he loved the woman in his arms. So much.
And no words or thoughts—even from a long-dead poet--could ever quite capture exactly why.
It wasn't important. It just…was what it was.
He drifted off to sleep for awhile, and woke up only to resume his slow caresses. This time, with his fingers instead of the now cold washcloth. The skin of her back was slightly warmer than it had been. He looked at the alarm clock on her nightstand. It was almost time for another round of medication. Until then, it was important for her to rest. And it was important for him to acquaint himself with the feel of Sara's skin.
It was so smooth. So lovely. He smiled to himself and pressed a kiss to her temple. Smooth…the course of true love….maybe it didn't always run smooth…but maybe it was more important to accept that truth and move on and live, instead of bemoaning what could happen. Stop and revel in the moments along the way and fight like hell to smooth out the rough spots.
And maybe it was time for his mind to quiet itself and pull her body just the slightest bit closer to his own.
He pressed a kiss against her temple.
"Gris?" her voice broke through the absolute stillness in the room.
"Am I dreaming?"
"Am I dead?"
"Good," she muttered against his neck, planting what he assumed she intended as a kiss but was more just a weak movement of her lips against his flesh.
She moved her head back a bit and looked him in the eyes. A slight glassiness was back again. She was definitely becoming feverish. "Do you love me?"
"I think it's time for your medication," he said, kicking himself for choosing that moment to be practical.
"In a minute. It's really time for you to…just answer me," he knew she was feverish but he also knew she was not the least bit delirious this time. She just wanted an answer…and she deserved nothing but the truth.
"Yes," he said, feeling his heart lift after his confession.
"I thought you might," she said, with a soft sigh, "you didn't seem all that relieved when I talked about my imminent demise before. You kind of even looked like you might miss me."
He reached out and pushed her hair off her face and behind her ears.
"You are a complete goofball when you're sick."
"What kind of a word is that, Gris?"
"Apparently something before your time but it fits," he said, running his hand across her cheek. She smiled and sighed again. The sound felt like a strange sort of music in the silent room.
"This has been one weird Valentine's day, huh?" she asked.
"I hate to break it to you, Sara, but it's officially February 15th."
"When did that happen?"
"While you were sleeping."
"Why aren't you at work?"
"I took a couple of days off."
"Wow. You do love me."
"I told you so," he said, reluctantly releasing his hold on her. "Now, I have something for you."
"I know, time for my antibiotics."
He didn't say anything but went into the living room and picked up the box he had brought up from the trunk of his car.
"Happy any-day but Valentine's Day, Sara."
She lay back on the pillows and just stared at him. He held out the gift. "Here, open it."
She took the gift-wrapped red box and tore off the paper, then gently lifted out the medium-sized cherry wood music box. On the entire top portion of the box, spilling slightly over the side, were etched flowers of every variety she could think of. She opened it to reveal the interior where cream colored satin was blocked off in sections, except for the middle one. That one contained a kind of raised pillow on which a tiny porcelain rose, in the deepest shade of red, rested on top. Fur Elise played in the background.
A piece of paper, folded many, many times over, was in one of the compartments and when she opened it, there was a handwritten note with the name of each flower depicted on the top of the box along with the flower's "meaning."
"You see," Grissom said, pointing at the paper, "I was going to tell you how I felt anyway."
Sara lay back against the pillows again and her eyes were even glassier than before, but he had a feeling it wasn't fever related.
"You bought me a Valentine's present," she stated.
"And this couldn't have been something you just conveniently picked up."
"No, I had it custom-made. I had to or I might have ended up with something that had inlaid Bachelor's Buttons on it," he gave her a mock-shudder and a smile. "It was kind of a rush job, but I think it's what I had in mind. Do you like it?"
She put the music box down and threw herself into his arms. "I love it. I love you," she said against his shoulder. "If you thought there was even a chance I didn't, you're a goofball, too."
He smiled and held her away from him for a moment. Then he moved his head down slightly and kissed her on the lips. It was a warm, but chaste kiss. A promise. A bond.
"Gris, you are so going to get sick."
"I've had the flu shot. Besides, I can think of worse things than having you take care of me."
"Will you sit around half naked or whole?" she asked.
"Your choice." Even flirting felt more natural now that the truth was "out there."
"Gris, I feel a little warm. I'm pretty sure it's you but, if it's not…could I have some of that nasty medicine now?"
He got off the bed and went toward the door to her kitchen to get her water.
"Sara?" he said, turning around and looking at her. She had taken the box on her lap again, and was humming along with the music. It was much more appropriate than "At 17."
"Yes?" she asked, looking up.
"You never should have run the course alone."
She smiled slightly, with a serene expression on her face, one of acceptance. And she didn't really even know what he was talking about. She would wait until he explained himself—or live with it, if he didn't.
That was one of the many things he loved about her.
Wait. Didn't Old Bill have a quote about counting the ways?
Aw, fuck it.
It was time to stop idealizing High Romance and start living it.
From now on, he'd be quoting a very live poet: Gil Grissom, from his never-ending 'Ode to Sara.'
A/N #2: Man, the ending of this puppy was a bitch. I wrote about five different versions and was totally unhappy with each one.
I have so much to say about this story but I won't because author's notes that run longer than the story are kind of tacky (so: Let the Tackiness Begin!)
First: I just wanted to acknowledge Janis Ian's fabulous "At 17," a teenaged angst-fest, if ever there was one. I still love that song. And, for the record, Bachelor's Buttons, according to the Victorian Language of Flowers (well- the mid-1800s version) mean "celibacy." You can now fully understand why Grissom didn't want them on his music box!
Finally, in case you didn't pick up on the oh-so-subtle clues left throughout this story, I want to dedicate this one to William Petersen.
For making movies like Hard Promises and The Staircase.
For continuing with CSI and believing in GSR.
For doing a play in Providence that gave his main character warmth and life and dignity.
And, mostly, for being a true gentleman. I think it's easy for Hollywood folk to become disassociated with their fans, in some ways, and I can assure you, he hasn't.
It was a beautiful thing to see;-)
And, for the record, I love Jorja equally but I haven't seen her in a play (yet!) Bring it on!