Taking the Rap


(Author's note--this is the bookend to the earlier story Seeing Red, and all descriptions within are thanks to my patient and unintimidated husband.  Thanks go to VR too, for the right words at the right time.)

 

It was a mistake, he realized. As with so many of the wrong decisions in his life, Grissom came to this conclusion too late to avoid the consequences. Some of these misgivings came slowly, days or months after the mistake, like that long-held regret of NOT accepting that full scholarship to Purdue, with their fabulous Department of Entomology. There were times he was seriously remorseful about not taking their offer.

 

There were other missteps in his life too, some financial, a few in the romance department, but those were all things he’d shouldered and accepted, moving forward with only the occasional brooding memory to rise up in his mind once in a while. THOSE mistakes he accepted as part of the human condition. Unavoidable and necessary, the legacy of free will and the learning experience.

 

But this misstep was going to cost him dearly, he knew.

 

Let the suffering begin.

 

It had started innocently, with a crime scene late at the end of the shift, a suicide in suspicious circumstances. The case was pretty much open and shut, but given the familial connections of the victim, a thorough investigation was deemed wise, so Grissom and Sara took it, driving an hour out to the edge of the suburbs to a boarded-up amusement park that had been taken over by a few homeless and a lot of rats and coyotes. Fun Land was no longer fun; just sad and depressing, the billboards peeling, the buildings decrepit and falling down. Everywhere, the sidewalks were cracked, the handrails rusting in the exposed air of the desert.

 

The victim had shot himself right in the middle of the Tilt-a-whirl, which now tilted in ways not intended by the designers. It sat near the entrance of the amusement park, surrounded by rails and decay, the odd tumbleweed caught here and there in the handlebars of the cars. Sara had helped David lift the gurney over the barriers so the body was gone now, leaving a gory spatter across the backs and fronts of three of the cars. Grissom watched her processing muddy prints that would most likely match the sneakers the victim had been wearing. He noticed her hands, long and slender, moving quickly and efficiently in their work. He’d often fantasized about them in other contexts, daydreams that had them out of the latex gloves, but just as graceful.

 

Sara looked over at him, her brows drawing into a small frown.

 

“Grissom? Why here?” She gestured around the park with one arm. He glanced at the boarded up hot dog stands, the graffiti-covered buildings. The sun was coming up, casting long shadows everywhere.

 

“Maybe it was the last place he felt happy. Some suicides kill themselves in places that are part of their pasts.”

 

Sara glanced around dubiously. Grissom waited for her to make a comment, but she didn’t. He wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Around Sara these days he wasn’t sure of anything anymore, except she still got under his skin and into his private thoughts as much as ever. Clearing his throat, he turned his glance to her kit, checking to see what she’d already processed, and impressed as usual with her efficiency and speed.

 

Brass materialized at his shoulder, sighing softly.

 

“This looks pretty cut and dried, frankly, and we just got a call on a major bust happening on a meth lab out by the lake. How much longer will this one take?”

 

“We can wrap it in twenty. If the site’s been secured, you can take off, Jim—“ Grissom offered lightly. Brass hesitated for a moment, and the wispy memory of Holly flickered in his eyes. Grissom sighed.

 

“It’s pretty conclusively a suicide, and I don’t think anyone’s going to be returning to the scene,” he told Brass gently. The other man nodded, grateful for the comment, and scanned the park before speaking up again.

 

“Okay, but make it quick, and check in if you see the slightest bit of trouble.”

 

Grissom nodded, and turned to Sara, who was so engrossed in processing that she hadn’t even noticed Brass take off. He moved to check each tilt-a-whirl car carefully, and twenty minutes later when he’d finished that, Sara was packing up her kit. She flashed him a brief smile, tossing her hair back.

 

“Pretty much done here.” She told him. Grissom nodded. He watched her duck under the metal handrail, absently admiring her agility. He doubted he could bend that easily or that low anymore, and anything that required it would have to be worth the effort. Something like—

 

Giving himself a mental shake to dislodge the lascivious thought, He picked up his case and the bags of evidence. Carefully shifting the material, he lifted his kit in his right hand and the three evidence bags in his left and walked over to where Sara stood waiting. Underfoot the loose boards of the Tilt-a-whirl creaked.

 

“How long do you think it’s been since this place was condemned?” Sara asked, glancing around once more. Grissom began to straddle the rail, composing a reply to her question when

 

it--

 

--happened.

 

Just as his foot came down on the other side of the railing, the wood underneath him snapped, breaking with a dry, loud crack, and Grissom dropped hard onto the rusted metal railing, which slammed between his legs as his full body weight swiftly fell the six inches onto it.

 

For a brief, unreal nanosecond, Grissom gawped, fingers tightening around the handle of his kit, clenching on the evidence bags in a death grip. His torso folded forward swiftly, protectively but it was too late, and as he felt the veins in his nostrils flare, KNEW in that sickening instant that the pain was about to rise, immediate and terrible even as his arms flew to his groin and he swayed, all the breath forced out of his lungs in one hard, low wheeze.

 

The kit dropped, the evidence dropped. Sara lurched forward, her eyes wide as she reached for him, but Grissom already saw the edges of his perception softly grey out, felt the bright remorseless thrum of agony sear through his testicles as he slumped forward and tried to grip the rail. Nerveless fingers grabbed, missed the rail and he tumbled forward, sliding away from the metal barrier and falling onto the splintered wood of the decking.

 

 He had no air left to gasp as he fell; Grissom dimly felt his shoulder hit the corner of the evidence kit, and the rail batter his inner right thigh, smacking the side of his kneecap in his graceless collapse. It didn’t matter, not when the hard lurch of nausea rose up, boiling bile surging through his throat in a flood of primitive panic. He turned his cheek, felt the rush of coffee-tinged acid gush out to spill from his helpless grimace. More followed, another steaming surge splashing down his cheek and wetting his chin, glopping onto the boards under his face.

 

Sara flinched, moving quickly, fear pounding through her thin frame as she darted over to him. The puke momentarily stunned her, but the ashy pallor on Grissom’s anguished face was enough to make her grab his shoulder and try to roll him to his side. It was hard to do; Grissom was heavy. Sara pushed and he slowly turned from her as her adrenaline kicked in, giving her extra strength.

 

“Grissom!” she blurted, horrified at the surge of out of place giggles that threatened to bubble out of her constricting throat. The unreality of the situation hit her just as the stench of his vomit did, and Sara fought to keep her own stomach down as she leaned over him. Grissom was curled in a fetal position, hands cupping his crotch, moaning in a low ongoing rumble that made her ache herself. Somewhere within herself she fought hard against the instinct to laugh; that unkind all too human response to this awkward scenario. She crouched down, resting a hand on his shoulder, the muscles rock hard with tension under her palm. “Breathe! Do it slow, breathe—“ she urged him.

 

He tried. Sara’s voice was echoing in his ear, audible between throbs of acid racing through his head, eating the nerves raw from his groin upward. Nothing mattered but the pain, thick and relentless. Grissom felt as if it would go on forever, this tense cocoon of perception. His jaw ached; the tendons in his neck standing out as sweat bubbled up to roll down his face and drip into the vomit.

 

Forever.

 

The grey moved in on his vision, closing like an iris lens, and Grissom faded into it.

 

She felt him slacken in unconsciousness, and was grateful. At least it meant some respite from the pain, Sara hoped, but now that Grissom was out, she hesitated. Quickly she fumbled at her waist for her cell phone, trying to flip it open while still keeping one hand on Grissom’s shoulder, then jabbed the buttons with her thumb. Hearing nothing, she looked down at the blank screen and realized the thing had died. With a sharp oath, Sara snapped it shut again and shoved it in her pocket, then shifted her glance to the unconscious man next to her.

 

Crap. What to do?

 

Grissom was sure to have a cell phone—but considering where it probably was, Sara didn’t think she’d be able to reach it; not with his hands clamped tightly between his legs. Feeling frustrated, she reached for the nearest evidence kit (his) and pulled out some wipes. Carefully she mopped the vomit from his face, trying not to let the fearful hilarity well up in her own throat.

 

God, he’d racked himself, and damn hard, if Sara understood it. She’d heard her brother talk about it; had various male friends and lovers share their own experiences, and to a man they’d all indicated it was THE most profoundly horrible thing that could happen to a guy.

 

“Ya wanna die—it’s the kinda pain that paints your whole fuckin’ world black, Sare. You hang on to your nuts because you know if you let go, the hurt’s gonna triple on ya. Ya get a migraine from your nose to the top of your skull, and moving ain’t an option for a long, LONG time.” Came her brother’s low cynical ones in the voice of memory.

 

Great. She didn’t know if she could play the waiting game, especially if Grissom was more seriously hurt than she thought. Carefully she leaned over him again and bent down, shaking his shoulder.

 

“Grissom? Wake up. I need you to wake up!”

 

“Don’ttouchme!” came the moaned gasp, low and urgent. Startled, Sara leaned back as his eyes fluttered open, bloodshot and unfocused. His shoulders hunched a bit more, but he was aware now. Sara felt relief and frustration again.

 

“I’m going to clean your face a little bit more. You can lie there as long as you need, but I’m NOT going to watch you roll in vomit.” She tried to sound matter of fact, but her voice quavered, and once again the giggles pushed in her throat. Carefully she gripped his shoulders and pulled, angling his upper torso away from his recycled coffee. It was tough; he was dead weight but she managed, and then fished in his kit for more wipes.

 

Coming around again, she mopped up his face, working as gently as she could. Grissom flinched at every stroke of contact, and Sara found her throat aching as she watched him struggle against the pain. He looked vaguely better after the cleaning, and she sealed the wipes up in a spare baggie.

 

“Should I call someone?”

 

“Nnno. Justgivemmesometime.” He gritted out in a hoarse tone, not looking at her. Sara nodded, moving around again so that she was kneeling behind his back, instinctively giving him some privacy. She longed to rest a hand on his ribs, just for the contact, but sensed even that would hurt him.

 

Grissom tried to think between the throbs, which was neither easy nor effective. The nausea bubbled through his stomach again, but he fought it, his grip around his groin tightening.

 

This had to be THE worst. Scenario. Ever. Lying here on battered boards, clutching himself with no chance of regaining his dignity or respect. Why Sara? Grissom moaned inwardly, blinking hard. Out of all the people on the planet for this to happen in front of, why HER? Warrick, Nick, Brass would understand and let him get through his suffering with a soft commiserating comment. Even Catherine through her choked snickering would have a modicum of sympathetic support and give him time.

 

But Sara. The one woman he strived so hard to impress. The one woman he was never sure he consistently succeeded in impressing. And now, this. Brought low by stupid, avoidable accident. He gritted his teeth more tightly, feeling a hot trickle in his nose. Blood, probably.

 

Nothing to do but wait. Ride it out and let the agonizing minutes crawl by, each one an eon of embarrassment, eroding poise. He squeezed his eyes shut and listened to his own labored breathing. God it was bad. It hadn’t been this bad since he’d taken an elbow in the jewels during baseball practice senior year in high school. Miguel Avila had collided with him at second base, and while he’d been called safe, Grissom remembered dropping into the grass, barfing noisily. The game had been called and he’d been carried out amid a few sympathetic moans from both teams. Miguel had apologized later, Grissom recalled, bringing homemade tamales from his grandmother.

 

“I’m serious. Should I call somebody?” Sara’s husky voice broke into his dazed reverie; Grissom sucked a breath in between his teeth.

 

“No.” he repeated, a little more strongly this time. “I’lllive.”

 

“Not by the sound of it,” he caught her unconvinced mutter, and a flicker of amusement swirled through his aching brain. Good. She wasn’t going hysterical. He wished she’d laugh and get THAT over with. Everyone did; fact of life. Guys winced then laughed; women laughed; older people and younger people did too. Whenever a male took a hit to the testicles anyone witnessing it laughed.

 

Not Sara, apparently.

 

He wondered about that a little, then shifted. The agony was dulling a bit, but still pulsing through his crotch in time with his heartbeat, leaving the deep muscles aching each time. Grissom gingerly started to let go, steeling himself for the throbs to deepen.

 

Sara waited. She hated waiting for anything but in this case it really seemed the only thing to do. Grissom wasn’t in any condition to walk, and she sure as hell wasn’t strong enough to carry him. Even if she could roll him onto a tarp, dragging him would be one hell of a daunting task too, not to mention painful given the terrain of the amusement park. Then she thought of something.

 

“Grissom. I’m going to move the car closer. I know you’re not getting up anytime soon, but I can make the walk a lot shorter when you’re ready, okay?”

 

“’Kay.” No argument from him in that strangled little gasp. She reached into his evidence box, for the little tray where he kept the spare keys for whichever vehicle he was using, and scooped them up. Gently she patted his hip, then strode off. Grissom listened to her go, and for a brief moment felt a flare of panic at being abandoned. The logical part of his brain fought it, and when he heard the comforting rumble of the engine coming closer he unclenched a tiny bit more.

 

***   ***   ***

 

Grissom didn’t give a damn about dignity anymore. He shifted in the seat, squeezing his already tired thighs together and kept his eyes closed as Sara drove. It was a bright morning now, and traffic was relatively light, but it wasn’t the speed that he was focusing on; rather it was the road.

 

Potholes and speed bumps were going to kill him.

 

“I have to go slow, Grissom. You’re not wearing a belt, and if we get pulled over—“ Sara reminded him. He nodded, feeling cold    sick sweat along his hairline. He was still trying to recover from the agony of just getting into the Denali. His guts felt like they were being stirred with a stick, and Grissom tiredly wondered if he still had anything left for vomit. His mouth tasted vile, and all he wanted now was to get an ice pack and lie down.

 

They reached the townhouse, and Sara parked as close as she could. Carefully she opened the door and helped him out, slipping her arm under his shoulder and supporting Grissom as he painfully clambered out. His skin was still ashy pale, and she watched him swallow hard before blinking.

 

“Keys?” she asked gently, fighting a wave of interest flooding through her own body in response to the proximity of his. She’d never been this close to him, hugged him this way before, and it was pretty—intense. Apparently under his jackets and shirts he had a pretty solid chest, and even through the fear sweat, the rest of him smelled nice. She hoped he didn’t notice her nipples were hard. She steered him towards his front door after he handed her a heavy ring from his pocket.

 

Slowly, carefully she got him into his house and to his bedroom, which she studied surreptitiously as she took off his boots. Queen-sized bed, stacks of books on the nightstand and dresser, several overstuffed bookcases all around the room, and an interesting seascape on the wall. She set the boots down at the foot of the bed.

 

“Okay, need ice, Sara, please. Wrap it in one of the kitchen towels hanging off the oven handle. After that you’ll probably have to take the evidence in to keep the chain intact,” Grissom rasped. Sara nodded.

 

“Sure.”

 

She went out to the kitchen, marveling at the tidiness, and remembering this was Grissom, so of course it would be this way. One rooster towel loaded with ice—she liked the little moon-shaped pieces his icemaker created—and she returned to his bedside, shifting the makeshift pack from one hand to the other, blushing as she hesitated. Put it on him herself or not?

 

“Um—“

 

“Thanks,” he snapped, reaching up for it, his eyes strained. Sara looked down at him, feeling a twisted surge of frustration and tenderness. Grissom lay there on his own bed, an image straight out of her fantasies, and despite his pain was still looked so sweetly handsome that she wanted to bend down and kiss him.

 

Instead, she turned on her heel and headed out, but he called, “Sara—“ She stopped but didn’t face him. “I’m sorry--thank you.”

 

She managed a smile.

 

The phone call was brief and to the point; Sara felt glad she’d done it when the calming voice on the other end responded to her questions. She hung up, then feeling a little restless, she wandered back to Grissom’s bedroom, poking her head in and gasping a little as she realized he’d failed in his efforts to get his jeans off. They were around his knees now, which she couldn’t help noticing where somewhat cute in all their muscular bow-leggedness. His boxers--what she could see of them under the towel wrapped ice pack--were pinstriped blue and red.

 

“Sara—!“ Grissom looked mortified and accusing. Sara pretended to cough to cover her laugh.

 

“Sorry, just wanted to make sure you were okay. Let me help you get those off and get you a blanket, all right?”

 

Resigned, Grissom gave a tiny nod, and at that, Sara squatted at the end of the bed, gripping one leg cuff in each hand. She tugged, sliding the jeans off him in one smooth gesture. His socks were white, she noted, with blue and red bands around the tops at mid-calf. Carefully Sara folded the jeans and set them on the trunk at the foot of the bed, on the quilt there. She tried not to stare at Grissom, poor wounded, Grissom, but her mouth hurt from tightening her lips for so long.

 

“Laugh. Please. Just—get it out of your system. I won’t take it personally, Sara,” Grissom muttered, his eyes closed, his face red. Sara half-turned to face him, and he opened his eyes, caught her gaze, sharing a moment of connection so tangible Sara felt it like a squeeze to her shoulder.

 

And then very deliberately, he crossed his eyes in dramatic comic relief.

 

That did it; the peals erupted out of her in a rush of hilarity. Sara bent forward, laughing in husky giggles that echoed in the bedroom, staggering a bit as she did so. Grissom grinned a little himself, pleased to have tapped into her repression, and relieved to finally hear the sound of her response. If she could let go enough to laugh, then there WAS a chance to regain some dignity. Maybe.

 

“S-s—sorryGrissom, but  . . . honesttoGOD you looked just LIKE that when . . . when  . . . “ Sara wheezed, her eyes watering, her nose red. Grissom gave a tight nod.

 

“When I racked myself? Took one to the nuts? Cracked my eggs?” he rattled off, each remark making Sara choke harder and clutch her stomach. It was perversely satisfying to send her into further paroxysms, and he waited until she gripped the headboard to support herself before adding, “Severely Tilt-a-Whirled my testes?”

 

“Gr-Gr-Gri—“ she choked, bright red, tears running down her face. And just like that, the tears become real ones; Sara’s face twisted with pain of her own as she began to sob. Alarmed, Grissom tried to sit up, but she swayed a little and her legs gave out letting her slowly drop down to the side of his bed. He hooked an arm around her shoulders, feeling the wet heat of her tears on his neck, startled at how hot they were. Scalding.

 

“Sara honey—“ he began gruffly, and stopped, utterly at a loss as to what to say next. The sweet warm scent of her hair, so familiarly intoxicating washed over him as she pressed her nose harder into his shoulder. She cried silently, choking off the sounds she couldn’t avoid. Grissom ached in a new way. It hit him like an arrow of painful insight that Sara had probably taught herself not to grieve loudly for anything in her life.

 

Somehow that hurt worse than his body did.

 

He tightened the arm around her slender back, worrying about how bony it was, how thin, and took his other hand off the icepack to grip her farther shoulder.

 

“Sara . . . “

 

“Sorry, sorry—“ came her muffled voice, already regaining a forced steadiness, “I know you’re going to be okay, for a while there . . . “

 

“Nobody ever died of a kick in the balls,” Grissom assured her gravely. “That I know of, anyway.”

 

“It wasn’t the cause,” Sara snuffled a little, raising her head and running the back of her hand over her eyes. “It was the effect, Grissom, the end result. You at my feet in agony. I mean, God, it could have been a gunshot, or a stabbing or a hit and run—it doesn’t matter, okay? The POINT is that seeing you hurt and not being able to do a damn THING about it is not something I’m prepared to deal with.”

 

“Me either,” he muttered, trying to lighten the mood, but Sara scowled at him, her lashes dark with drying tears. She tried to pull away. Grissom tightened his hold on her for a moment. “Sara—accidents happen. I can’t promise I’ll always be able to avoid them, but I’ll try.”

 

He wondered why he was telling her this, but her fierce smile breathlessly wiped that thought away.

 

“Try harder, Grissom.”

 

The doorbell rang, and Sara rose, smoothing down her shirt. Grissom’s brows drew together in consternation. “Who--?”

 

“Robbins. You need to be checked out.”

 

***   ***   ***

 

The coroner let the blanket drop back into place and straightened up, adjusting his glasses to hide his twinkly smirk. “Personal reaction: Ow. Did quite a number on yourself here, Gil. Despite the ice, you’ve got serious swelling, and they’ll be some heavy bruising tomorrow.”

 

“Really?” came the sarcastic mutter. Robbins turned to look over the top of his glasses at Grissom, who lay propped up on his pillows, looking annoyed.

 

“Sorry if the exam was less than gentle—I’m not used to my patients moving or swearing you know. Severe hematoma to the scrotum, edema resulting from blunt force trauma. I recommend ice, rest and analgesics. I can write up a workman’s comp report and get you some time off too—“

 

“No thanks, Al. Considering how many desks that paperwork would cross, I’d rather not have Conrad snickering over my on-the-job emasculation.” Grissom growled, making Robbins chuckle softly. The coroner leaned on his cane and sighed.

 

“Fair enough, but you WILL be limping a while. As far as I’m concerned, you fell—maybe in the shower. Need a cane? I’ve got a spare in the car.”

 

“Thanks, but I’ll manage.”

 

Robbins nodded, then shook his head a little. Grissom immediately understood the gesture and sighed as the other man snorted a little.

 

“She saw the whole thing, huh?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Then you’re lucky. Sara will stick to whatever story you want to go with. Anyway, I’ll take the evidence in while you chill your cojones. Last bit of advice—next time you see a metal handrail, go under, or around.”

 

The only reply Robbins got for this sage advice was the patented Grissom glare; shifting his crutch, the coroner swung his way out of the bedroom catching sight of Sara leaning on the breakfast bar, waiting.

 

“Hey Sara. Grissom’s probably going to be fine. Embarrassed as hell; but fine. Keep the ice up, but don’t let it sit longer than fifteen, twenty minutes at time, otherwise he’ll risk more damage. Probably wouldn’t hurt to get something into his stomach too, to buffer whatever pain-reliever you can get him to take.”

 

Sara nodded, rubbing her nose and shifting a little; taking pity on her, Robbins cocked his head, his smile gentle.

 

“Did you laugh?” Nervously she looked up at him, big brown eyes startled. Robbins pursed his mouth. “It’s okay, Sara—everyone does. The majority of second-rate comedies thrive on that universal constant. Well, I’m going to go. Feed Gil some chicken broth and don’t let him fall asleep with the icepack.”

 

“From soup to nuts?” Sara blurted, and Robbins broke into a deep chuckle.

 

“See what I mean? Oy.”

 

He left, toting the bags with him.

 

***   ***   ***

 

“ . . . And sweets grown common lose their dear delight. Therefore like her I sometime hold my tongue, Because I would not dull you with my song.” Sara read softly. The book was small, and old, the leather covers sweet-smelling. She lay on her stomach next to Grissom on the bed; bare feet in the air, ankles languidly crossed. He looked over at her propped in a typical schoolgirl pose and smiled a little.

“Sonnet 102. Not one of his more familiar ones, but it makes a point.”

“Which is?” Sara asked, aware that literary analysis wasn’t her strong suit. Grissom’s mouth twitched at her little frown.

“Which is, just because other poets are louder and more frequently published doesn’t make the love the writer feels any less important.”

“Don’t ask, don’t tell?” she saucily responded, closing the book. She’d seen the inscription along the fly leaf of the volume, the elegant ink beginning to fade, but the words still clear: Spring, 1903. To my dearest Lily, With deep love and affection from Your Benjamin. The image of Grissom browsing in a used bookstore and picking this book up, choosing it over other, newer editions of Shakespeare made Sara smile.

“Not quite, but close. Sometimes the most deeply felt emotions are the ones least visible. Or least heard.” He added. Sara blinked at that, and she lowered her feet. For a moment they lay there together on the bed, not moving, existing with that keen edge of awareness between them. She kept her gaze on the cover of the book. Grissom cleared his throat.

“Sara,” he spoke softly, “Did you ever stop to consider that one of the reasons I quote things so much is that I don’t have much confidence in my own ability to articulate?”

“No.”

“Oh. Well, maybe you ought to.” He muttered, feeling as he usually did around Sara; confused and slightly thrilled. At this proximity it was good he had an icepack, he thought dimly.

“I always thought you quoted things because you were well-read and just a little bit smug about it.”

“Ow.” He replied, shooting her a dry look. Sara snickered, and for a moment the bed was a cozy raft adrift in the bedroom. She shifted into a graceful cross-legged position, still toying with the book of sonnets.

“At least you’re honest enough to cite your source,” she conceded. Grissom shifted a little himself and reached under the blanket, pulling the icepack out and setting it down off the end of the bed. “How are they? You? I mean YOU?”

“I’m fine. My testicles are fine. Sore, but intact. At this point I have two choices. I can limp in tomorrow and lie about my injury, or I can limp in and be completely honest. Both options have benefits and disadvantages.”

Sara looked skeptical, so Grissom folded his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling, speaking slowly.

“If I lie, I’ll get scant sympathy, but scant notice as well. I can catch up on paperwork and no one will think much of it. Not a bad choice in a lot of ways.”

“So why even consider the other one? The truth?” Sara persisted, wishing she had the confidence to reach over and touch the rim of his ear, so temptingly close.

Grissom’s grin was small and knowing; he shot her a sideways glance. “Because the macho factor would be so high. To take a serious hit and still come into work ranks up there as manly.”

“Okaay—“ came Sara’s bewildered reply. Grissom’s dimples flashed a little at the sound of her mystification.

“I know, I know—on the face of it, the whole concept seems stupid. To limp around, proud of an injury that by its very nature emasculates you seems contradictory, but human behavior hinges a lot on those dichotomies.”

Sara’s shoulders shifted, and he realized she was laughing silently, so he demanded, “what?”

“After you got hurt, I was so mad that—I wanted to shoot the railing.” Came her husky laugh. “Blast away at it with my weapon—is that a charming response or what?”

Grissom pictured it; Sara drawing her gun and calmly blasting away at the rusty barricade, one hand braced in the other, and blinked, aware of how that idea left him feeling alarmingly close to breathless again.

“Well, it tells me you feel pretty protective of me.”

“I—“ she began, and stopped, her face flushing. Seeing it, Grissom felt a surge of courage.

“--You take good care of me, which I’m just starting to appreciate. So if this accident had to happen, then I’m glad it was YOU there over anybody else.”

His hand shyly sought out hers, sliding along the top of his blanket, and Sara silently wove her own fingers, cool and strong, with his, her grip tight. She shifted closer.

“You know, Grissom, the REALLY macho thing would be—“

“Yes?”

“To re-enact it for Greg and the guys. Now THAT would take--”

“—Stupidity, and a bigger pair than I’ve got, even now. Sleep, Sara.”

And they did, holding hands as they drifted off in the later afternoon light.

 

END

 

                                       
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