The room was dark and quiet, disturbed only by the muted sounds of pleasure, gasps and moans by both lovers. No please for faster or slower, everything was just right, perfectly in tandem.
Sara urged Grissom to roll over with a polite push and she straddled him, continuing the exact same pace and cadence. Grissom bit his lip and she watched him for a moment in awe of the unbridled emotions on his face. Feeling suddenly modest under his gaze, her eyelids slid closed and she bent over. Slowly and methodically, she kissed him, and ran her hand through his damp hair. Unexpectedly, he tensed up underneath her and climaxed powerfully, letting loose a forceful grunt into her mouth. He pulled her closer and she rose and fell with his heaving chest.
Sweat beaded on his chest underneath her and she ran her hand lightly over the hair there. She was still hunched over against him when his breathing normalized and he ran his right hand through her soft brown locks, then down her naked back.
"What are you doing to me?" he asked, his voice husky, low and soft. If there hadn't been so much adoration in the question, so much tenderness, she may have felt offended.
But, she understood him.
They had been intimate for several months, but she often caught him looking at her with unguarded desire. His darkened eyes would land on her at seemingly random and innocuous times: when she was fingerprinting a door frame, stirring creamer into her coffee, or tying her shoes. The Gil Grissom she knew, pensive, private, and sometimes a little funny, suddenly took on new and surprising attributes. He was bold, zestful, and amorous. Though she had never been blind to his attraction to her, she hadn't expected affection to the degree he was providing it and she sensed that he was just as bewildered.
She picked her head up, pressing her lips together, and a wry grin formed. Locking eyes with him she breathed out, "You tell me."
Putting actual words to his emotions was not a skill Grissom had ever been adept at and Sara suspected it may even be an impossibility for him. Sometimes, he would say something revealing to her offhandedly, eyes landing anywhere but her direction, as if pleading her not to acknowledge it. She rarely did, happy to comply.
Things had been getting so much better between them. She felt like she had a friend in Grissom, rather than a moody boss that avoided her. After the sessions with her PEAP counselor, she had come to the conclusion that perhaps she was doing a lot of things for a lot of wrong reasons. When she realized just how out of reach Gil Grissom had always been, she had left her counselors office wincing internally at her past behavior. It eventually led her to his office where she admitted to him that while she came to Vegas for him, she undoubtedly did it for the wrong reason. The slightly tortured and hesitant look he had given her, followed by a moment of searching for the right words, had caused her to retreat.
The fear of disappointment won out, always.
Since sharing her past with him, he had been uncharacteristically attentive. Not long after Nick's abduction and subsequent rescue, he began pairing himself with her constantly. She thought little of it beyond the fact that they worked quite well together, often needing few words to communicate.
Amidst a clutter of evidence at a crime scene, he had addressed her randomly. "Hey, Sara?"
"Uh huh?" she replied absentmindedly.
He was quiet, unmoving, which caused her to look up. She expected him to be staring at something significant to their case and prepared herself to follow his eye line. Instead, he was looking straight at her.
"How've you been?" he asked.
The unexpected question gave her pause and she briefly knit her brow together in confusion. But when she searched his face, she found that his eyes were kind and relaxed, which softened her.
"I'm good. Really good," she replied, "Why do you ask?"
"You seem good."
Sara gave a halfway smile and bent down to place an evidence marker on the ground. After a moment of thick silence, Grissom spoke again.
"Why do you think that is?" She saw the flash of his camera in her peripheral vision and was thankful he was no longer looking at her. She thought for a moment.
If it were anyone else asking the question, another boss from another job, maybe she'd lie and say something casual. But, she knew these moments were rare and she had been trying so hard to be honest with herself.
"I guess..." she sighed and paused, careful to word her thoughts correctly. "I don't know, I guess I'm trying to stop seeing myself as a problem that needs fixing."
She risked a glance at him and his head snapped up. His brow was furrowed in concern and he asked, his voice bewildered, "That's how you see yourself?"
She shrugged. "Isn't that how you see me?" She thought back to all the times he had covered for her. The near DUI and the insubordination, among other incidences.
"Never," he said firmly. His camera flash went off again as she looked down, a ghost of a smile on her lips.
"Yeah, how do you see me?" she asked, pulling her fingerprinting supplies out of her kit. She'd meant it playfully, something to lighten the mood. The moment it fell from her lips, however, she cursed herself. It sounded heavy and it hung between them for what felt like minutes. Just as she was about to backpedal, offer an apology or make some sort of joke, he answered.
"Many different ways. Not all of them entirely appropriate." The camera flashed again.
The words slammed into her, sent a shiver down her spine. Trying not to react, she began dusting for prints. The silence between them was louder than anything she could have said. She hated how easily he could rattle her. Finally, she looked up at him to find that he was staring blankly at nothing. His expression was of shock at first, but it changed suddenly to resignation. He turned to look at her, shrugged and resumed taking photos.
Although Sara was a humble person by nature, the fact that he thought about her in any sense — inappropriate or not — was not lost on her. She had heard him admit it himself during his interrogation of Dr. Lurie. But to admit it outright to her was bizarre. It was a white hot flash of honesty that she could barely grasp onto.
"Well," she stated, returning to her work, "that's honest."
For the rest of the shift, it was as if nothing happened.
But, only a few days later, he managed to catch her off guard again.
"You're making me nervous hovering like that," she told him, the humor evident in her voice. Her eyes were focused on the partial print she was attempting to recover from a socket wrench.
"You always make me nervous," he replied, not missing a beat.
She slowly pulled the tape upward and folded it against the white background paper, trying not to think about what he had just said.
"Well done," he said to her softly.
Sara turned to look at him and he was closer than she had thought he was. The glow of the layout table reflected against his face and his eyes looked heavy. A surge of confidence overcame her. She locked eyes with him and asked, "I make you nervous? Come on."
"You always have." He sat back down and began flipping through the case file. It occurred to her that he had no real excuse to be in here with her. He could have, and normally would have been, in his office awaiting her results. But he kept doing this. Finding ways to be close to her. She wondered if he even realized he was doing it.
"You hide it well," she said after a moment and he looked up at her.
The silence was comfortable but laden with tension. Suddenly, Brass appeared in the doorway, updating them both on their case. He disappeared as quickly as he had came, taking their moment with him. Sadness crept over her briefly, but it dissipated when she looked at him. He was smiling softly at her and she returned it in kind.
A week later in the end of July, Sara was browsing a kitschy novelty store with Greg while waiting for their movie to start. Funny little things lined the shelves, like journals with pictures of unicycles on them and coffee table books about collaborative art. She thumbed idly through greeting cards and happened upon a birthday card with dancing insects. Their whimsical party hats encouraged a smile from her and she immediately thought of Grissom. The inside was blank, the front housing the only sentiment. She had never given him a birthday card before, or even acknowledged his birthday really. She hesitated and pulled it out with every intention on buying it until Greg appeared beside her asking if she was ready to go. She slipped the card back into its holder and left.
After the movie, she went back to the store and bought the card. A few weeks later, she found herself sitting at her desk, unable to write in it. It was a simple thing, really. Giving a friend a birthday card. As with all things Grissom, it felt infinitely more complicated than it should. Finally, she wrote a simple but friendly note, Happy Birthday Grissom - don't let it bug you, and signed her first name. She put it in its stark white envelope and left it on his desk a few days later, as she was leaving.
She was at home, relaxing on her couch and reading some obscure book about hiking in Alaska, when her cell phone trilled. She looked over to see Grissom lighting up on the outside screen. Flipping open her phone, she answered a polite hello and waited to be told about a crime scene she needed to head to.
"Hey," Grissom said, his voice good-natured, "I hope you weren't sleeping."
"No, no just reading."
"I wanted to thank you for the birthday card. It's the first birthday card I've gotten in years."
Sara smiled into her phone. "You're welcome. Just saw it and thought of you."
There was a pause and she heard him clear his throat lightly. "I like that."
"You like what?"
"That you were thinking of me."
She wanted to tell him that she always thought of him, more often than she was comfortable with. She had no real response though, just a lump forming in her throat. It was more his tone that affected her, rather than the comment itself. He sounded different somehow, almost intimate.
Luckily, he filled the silence. "Do you have any plans this evening?"
"Uh, no, I'm free."
"I have a sort of tradition that I do every year for my birthday. I was hoping you'd join me."
The lump in her throat grew bigger, the fluttering in her stomach increased drastically. She fidgeted with the pages of her book, unable to speak.
"Yes. Yeah, I'd love to. What-what are we doing?"
"I think you'll like it." She heard him smiling.
A few hours later, she found herself in the middle of a state park, sitting on a blanket while Grissom set up a rather impressive telescope. She watched him lovingly, straightening her face a bit when he looked back at her.
"Just a few more minutes. You'll like this." She could hear the boyish glee in his voice.
As he worked, he babbled on about stargazing in general and how ineffective it usually is in Las Vegas.
"You know, I did read that NASA named the strip as the brightest spot on Earth," Sara remarked.
"Dubious, but yes I read that too," Grissom responded with a grin, "but nonetheless. It's pretty difficult to get a good view without driving at least eight hours outside of town. This is a pretty good spot, though. There, done. Come take a look at this."
Sara hopped up from the blanket and settled beside him, looking into the telescope.
"Wow..." she said, a breath caught in her throat. "It's beautiful."
"Yes, it is," Grissom whispered. She turned to look at him and he was looking right at her. He cleared his throat and looked up at the sky. "It's the swan nebula. Five thousand light years away. Made up of hydrogen gas, it usually emits a reddish light but this telescope is limited. The light pollution from the strip doesn't help, either."
Sara bent down to look again. "Amazing. I can kinda see the swan now that you said that." A few moments passed and she looked up at him. He was standing closer. "You do this every year for your birthday?"
"When I can."
Grissom bent down and looked into the telescope. "Well, not anymore. You're here."
It was undoubtedly a challenge for him to share this with her, she knew enough about him to know that, and her heart swelled at the thought that he wanted her here with him, in this moment. Perhaps there was more to it, a reason he stargazed on his birthday, but she didn't ask. It was the most touching thing she'd ever experienced from him. She sat back down on the blanket and gazed upward. He settled next to her after a moment and a sideways glanced showed him looking upward too. He was sitting close to her, close enough that she could smell the suede of his jacket.
"Well Happy Birthday," Sara said softly and turned to offer him a sweet smile.
He looked at her, his expression unreadable. The moment became suddenly heavy, weighed down by years of sexual tension suddenly coming to an undeniable point. He reached over and tucked a stray curl behind her ear and she felt her eyes water a bit. With a gentle tug, he pulled her toward him and kissed her gently. It was a light kiss but held more promise than she could comprehend so when he pulled away, she was still. Her eyes were still closed when she felt his lips sliding against hers again, this time more urgently. He used enough force that she had to lean back on her hands, her right hand grasping the blanket, her left hand somehow clutching his jacket.
There she was in the dead of August, making out with Gil Grissom underneath a blanket of stars. None of it felt real, really, but that was no surprise to her. She had imagined this moment a million different ways, none of them half as remarkable.
When he finally pulled away, his eyes were aflame with lust and she had never felt so desired. She found herself searching for words that would end the evening just as it was, with no possibility of disaster. As if on cue, his phone vibrated in his pocket between them. She felt him jump. Shaking his head, he reached in and pulled it out. He took a quick glance at the screen and put it back in his pocket, his face revealing nothing.
"Not important," he said.
"I'm sure." He got up and held his hand out to her. "Let's go," he said quietly.
They drove back to her apartment in relative silence, but she could feel him thinking. When he pulled into the parking space beside her car, he let out a gruff sigh. She sensed the all too familiar feelings of rejection approaching and promised herself she would remain unruffled by his inability to communicate. When he finally spoke, she was floored.
"That was the best birthday present a man could ask for."
She gave a sudden, quick laugh. He grinned at her bashfully, the low light of the parking lot barely concealing the red that was creeping up his neck.
"Are you going into work?" she asked.
"No. I'm here with you."
There was a question in the statement that she didn't quite grasp at first, but when she did, a warmth spread throughout her body. He had left the park not as a response to the phone call, but to continue their evening in private. She always thought that if it happened, it would happen wordlessly and without preamble. But here he was, delicately asking permission.
She must have been staring at him dumbfounded for too long because his face fell. "Am I out of line?"
He was decidedly not out of line, but he was shocking her at every turn. She could barely keep up, but ultimately it didn't matter. She'd realized long ago that even one careless night of sex with Gil Grissom was worth whatever heartache that followed.
She shook her head slowly and whispered, "Come in."
They were barely through the door when he pounced on her, his mouth on hers and his hands in her hair . She pushed him back against the door, matching his zeal. She reached behind him to click the deadbolt into place, the soft click echoing throughout the room.
Suddenly, she found herself being pushed toward her bedroom. His hands were in places that made her blush and he was laying her down gazing at her like a hungry predator. Everything about it was hasty and slightly desperate, but not unpleasantly so. Several years of frustration melted away in an instant. When he slid into her, he gave a sigh that sounded like relief.
Never in her life had she climaxed so quickly. The euphoria increased when, only a moment later, she took him with her.
His shirt wasn't even off.
She was still shuddering when Grissom had fetched her a glass of water and asked if he could stay. Her heart hammered against her chest as she nodded. "I'd like that."
Instead of spending the night beating her feather pillow into submission, she laid her head on his chest where he had guided her.
A few hours later, feeling remarkably refreshed, she had retreated quietly to the shower to decompress. Warm water fell on her bare skin, trickling down her shoulders and spine. Leaning against the cool white tile, she tried hard to suppress the grin that continued to form. The evening's events replayed in her mind like a film reel, some parts grainy, some perfectly sharp. It made it difficult to pull the shower curtain back and step into reality.
It had been the most intense, most visceral sexual experience that she had ever had — a fact that she was trying to avoid at the moment. With an inward sigh, she decided not to overthink it. She would treat the whole thing like a thrilling novel and not read ahead. Just before she was about to turn off the faucet, she felt his presence in the bathroom.
Knowing the answer, she asked, "Are you in here, Grissom?"
A few seconds passed before he answered, "Yes."
She pulled the curtain just enough to poke her head out and smiled brightly at him. He was adorably ruffled, leaning against her sink in boxers and a t-shirt. His hands gripped the formica countertop behind him.
"How'd you sleep?" she asked him.
"Best nap I've ever had, I think," he said with a grin, cocking his head to the side and regarding her.
They held each other's gaze for a moment and she pointed to the olive-colored towel behind him. "Can you hand me my towel?"
He acquiesced and she took it from him, sliding her hand against his. In a fluid motion, she pulled the curtain back and intentionally gave him barely a millisecond to take in her naked form before wrapping the towel around her. His eyes lit up and he bit his lip so slightly she almost didn't notice.
They stood there and she felt the intensity building again, in her throat, in her stomach, between her legs. After a moment, she stepped out. Swallowing hard, Grissom reached out and pulled her close into him. She followed his lead, thankful for the brief loss of control.
"You smell good," he said, his voice gravelly.
They held each other comfortably, her hair dripping onto his shirt. He didn't seem to mind. Despite his calm demeanor, she could feel his heart thumping wildly under her right hand. It hadn't occurred to her how nervous he might be, but the idea thrilled her for a reason she couldn't identify. If he was nervous, he was in fact hiding it expertly.
Her eyes fixed on the condensation sliding down the bathroom window, she broke the silence, "Are you worried that I'm going to make you talk about this?"
He gave a sort of chuckle and his chest rumbled against her ear. "Maybe."
She pulled back and grinned knowingly at him. "Don't worry," she said softly.
He searched her face, his expression suddenly serious. "I'm not very good at it. I don't know why."
Sara nodded slowly, taking in the details of his face in the early morning light. His gray curls were wild and his facial hair untamed. His eyes were a lighter blue than usual, the lids still sleepy and heavy. She felt thankful to have this moment, if nothing else. If something had ripped apart between them over the past few years, he was slowly and intentionally stitching it back together. Their relationship was a patchwork quilt made up of moments like this one.
He leaned in and kissed her slowly and the pads of his fingers trailed down her moist arms, sending a quiver through her entire body. When he pulled back, he looked her in the eye more directly than he ever had.
"I can show you, though," he said, taking her hand and leading her back into her bedroom.
She had fought hard to never put words to her feelings for him, but if there was one thing that was clear to her now it was that she had been deeply in love with him. It had been an unrequited love, a stinging sensation dulled to a manageable ache through years of careful practice.
Now, he showed her how he felt as often as he could and sometimes it was too much to take. He was lighting candles inside her, illuminating parts of her that she didn't even know were in darkness. It was honestly scarier than she thought it would be and she hated to admit that she was still waiting to be disappointed.
You tell me, she had said to him, but she knew he wouldn't. It was possible, she resigned, that he would never actually tell her how she made him feel. She couldn't decide if it mattered or not.
She slid off of him and retreated to the bathroom. When she returned, he had straightened the bedcovers and her side was folded down neatly. She smiled at his thoughtfulness and slid into the covers, pressing herself against his warm body.
They were quiet and she felt herself drifting off when he spoke. "You're lighting a fire inside of me."
Her eyes widened and her heart fluttered.
"That's what you're doing to me," he said simply.
She smiled against him and sighed. Something flickered inside of her. "I know what you mean."