Seeing Red


Sara flinched. As she took a moment and sucked in a deep breath, she felt the old, familiar despair roll through her, compounded now by circumstance and inevitability. She’d known, and waited too long, and now it was too late.

 

The scene was hot, and far out of town. Nobody was left with her here but Grissom of course, and Sara felt that was inevitable too. The highest potential for personal embarrassment was always present in a scenario like this, always. She closed her eyes and willed herself to stop, but of course she didn’t, and with a low sigh, she rose up from her squat over the last piece of evidence to be photographed, wondering how she could avoid Grissom.

 

His awkwardness at any time was hard enough to take; he wasn’t the most comfortable man around normal bodily functions. Once, when Greg belched loudly in the break room, Grissom had shot the younger man an irritated glare even after the mumbled apology, and muttered something about the entire fall of western civilization due to the poor dietary habits of the Vikings. Greg had grumbled a bit, daring to point out that Grissom was as northern European a name as Sanders, but the point was moot since the supervisor had already walked out of the room.

 

And now, in the light of the early dawn, Sara didn’t want to think about how he was going to react to the news she had to share. She’d rather not share it at all, but her damned procrastination had made it inevitable right now. Grissom might be absent-minded at times, but even he would find her putting a trash bag over the passenger seat of the Denali a little noticeable. With a groan, she shifted, feeling the slow ache through her lower back.

 

It was still mild, but Sara could tell it was going to get worse. This would be a bad one all right. Along with her mother’s brown eyes and lanky frame, she’d had inherited a tendency for both menorrhagia and dysmenorrhea, neither of which thrilled her, although she liked the way the words rolled off her tongue. The proper names never failed to impress the various doctors she’d seen, although few of them offered anything more for her situation than the standard analgesics. One of them mentioned pregnancy would help lessen future cramps, but Sara had laughed. Saddling herself with an 18 year responsibility seemed a pretty drastic last resort. They were just cramps, after all—no woman had ever died of them.

 

Yet.

 

Sara gave herself one long moment to feel sorry for herself. Damn Grissom, and Warrick and Nick and every other Y chromosome being on the planet. They never felt the slow rise of hormones on a monthly basis. They never washed out underwear. They never fought bloat or nausea or the nagging three AM loneliness, wondering about life and death and why certain people never seemed to see you beyond the job--

 

“Sara?” Grissom called from the other side of the wrecked police car. She sighed, packing up her case.

 

“Grissom. I’ve, uh, got something to tell you.”

 

The slow crunch of his footsteps through the sandy shoulder of the road got louder. Sara kept her gaze firmly on the ground. She hated this, but given how damp her inner thighs were---

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I’ve . . . I’ve started my period and I’ve bled through my slacks.”

 

There. It was out, embarrassing and loud and right between them. Sara dimly prayed for an earthquake, a car speeding towards them, something, ANYTHING to take the horrible focus off this glaring moment of supreme personal humiliation.

 

“Did you cross-contaminate the scene?”

 

Sara looked up; Grissom was frowning, his eyes on the little marker near the bullet casings, seemingly unconcerned about anything else. A hot wave of fresh embarrassment rose up through her face, staining her cheeks bright pink. Trust Grissom to take a mortifying fraction of time and make it worse. The man had all the tact of a rhino, and about as much personal concern. Sara’s jaw tightened so hard her reply had to squeeze between her teeth.

 

“No.”

 

“Good. I’ve got some drop cloths in the wheel well in back. Are we done here?”

 

Sara fought the urge to swing her kit and catch him in the balls, just make Grissom gurgle, cross his eyes and fold up like a lawn chair.

 

“Yeah.” She gritted out. He gave a little nod towards the air right in front of his nose, never meeting Sara’s gaze, and turned away from her. Sara stood there for a moment longer.

 

She felt the pressure of tears building up behind her eyes, and horrified, Sara knuckled her lids hard, squeezing until the wetness trickled off the corners to be wiped away quickly. No extra leaking fluid, thank you, she scolded herself. All Grissom had done was reconfirm that men were assholes. She’d sit on his drop cloths and carry them into her apartment with her, then throw them out and buy him new ones without comment. She could DO this, Sara knew. If she just said nothing, just let time tick away in the painfully slow fashion she knew it would choose, she’d get THROUGH this.

 

Another aching twinge shot through her lower back, making her hiss a little. Unhappily, she turned and headed for the Denali. Grissom had already fished out a murky green cloth and stood smoothing it on the seat, as if it was some sort of special treat instead of a prophylactic measure. Sara gripped the handle of her kit so hard she could feel the plastic edge of it cutting into her skin.

 

“Thaaanks—“ she muttered in the tone of voice that said ‘stop it.’

 

“No problem. I’m sure the seat’s scotch-guarded, but a little extra security will help.”

 

She wanted to slug him. So help her, Sara wanted to send a haymaker flying and catch it against Grissom’s—

 

“—What else would help?” he broke into her evil thoughts, his voice low and strained. Sara made the mistake of glancing up at the same time he did, and their gazes finally met.

 

Grissom looked mortified. Hurt. Uncomfortably aware of himself as a big, awkward MAN, out of his league in offering succor, but making the attempt anyway, a bear in a tutu for the moment.

 

Sara bit her lips as a rush of exasperated tenderness hit her. The big dumb lug. Jesus! She squared her shoulders and drew herself up a bit.

 

“Look, just—drop me off at my place. You’ll be able to take the evidence in and I can . . . deal with this . . . problem, okay?”

 

She climbed into the car, wincing at the moistness in her actions. Grissom moved with alacrity, coming to the driver’s side and getting in. He started the car and pulled out onto the highway, carefully not looking at her again.

 

“It’s not a problem. It’s a natural phenomenon and a pretty amazing one at that,” came his soft pedantic observation after a moment. Sara turned to look at him, the full fruit of her skepticism evident in her arched eyebrow. Grissom flushed a bit.

 

“It’s not amazing, Grissom. Whatever the hell you think about periods, they are NOT amazing.”

 

“I beg to differ. The entire cycle of menstruation is amazing. The rise and fall of hormones, the monthly anticipation of the body to potentially accommodate birth, and the continuous ability of the system to regulate itself—“ he mused, warming to the topic. Sara shifted uncomfortably, her cynical snicker escaping in spite of herself.

 

“Jesus, you sound like one of those old Sex Ed films. Forget the propaganda, Grissom—it’s nothing LIKE that, okay? The whole damn business is painful, messy, annoying and unavoidable. None of those movies ever spent enough time talking about cramps or water retention, or how some days you’d like to claw the eyeballs out of every annoying asshole you have to deal with,” she grumbled, bracing one elbow on the window frame.

 

Now his sidelong glances were worried. Sara shook her head.

 

“Let me put it in perspective for you. Suppose you take a direct hit to your testicles—“

 

Grissom flinched, instinctively, but Sara ignored it, continuing on. “—And after the first flare of pain and the curling up moaning part, you’re left aching for a good long while, if what my brother told me is correct. Now move that ache to your lower back and have it there for about three days solid. Or in your abdomen, feeling like a ripe avocado getting scraped out with a rusty fork.”

 

The eloquent horror on Grissom’s face was worth it; Sara managed a grim smile. “And those are the easy cycles. Sometimes it’s worse. You can’t find a comfortable position to sleep, stand OR sit in. Nothing tastes good. You barf, and run a fever, and pretend everything’s fine when all you really want to do is go home, curl up and whimper as you rock with a heating pad on your gut. Oh, and once the marvel of nature’s done, your 28 day countdown for the next one’s on . . .”

 

The silence following this little speech left Sara feeling flushed. She hadn’t meant to rant, not really, but Grissom’s naïve comments pulled it out of her, and it felt good to actually say it. She’d bitched with Catherine about their periods before, but preaching to the choir was never as fun as shocking the congregation, so to speak.

 

Grissom cleared his throat.

 

“I’m sorry. I had no idea. I always thought—well, I always thought the concept was amazing. I guess the difference between knowing and experiencing is a lot wider than I’d previously thought.”

 

Sara sighed. She was still embarrassed, but something meek in Grissom’s tone made it easier for her to drop her gaze.

 

“Yeah, well it’s not your problem, in any sense. And I’m sorry for running on like that. I just hate . . . accidents. I always feel stupid and sort of—messy and vulnerable.”

 

Grissom nodded. He risked a glance at Sara and very softly added, “I’m glad you . . . trusted me enough to tell me. I know that can’t be easy.”

 

Sara gave a faint smile, and rubbed her forehead.

 

“Yeah well you’d have noticed the stain, and I wouldn’t embarrass you deliberately like that if I could help it.”

 

Grissom dredged up a ghost of a smile.  “I’d have worried you were wounded—at first.”

 

She laughed. “Not wounded, just . . hurting. Listen, not to cut this charming conversation short, but can we go a little faster?”

 

Grissom accelerated obligingly, and Sara sighed. For a while they drove in silence, and then out of the blue, he asked, “When did you start?”

 

Sara rubbed her nose with a palm. “About an hour ago. I shouldn’t have ignored it, but I really wanted to get the last of those photos done.”

 

“No, I meant at what age?” Grissom clarified softly. Sara swiveled her head to look at his profile, caught between amusement and embarrassment.

 

“Why do you want to know?” she blurted. Out of all the personal conversations she’d ever wanted to have with Grissom, this sure as hell wasn’t one of them. He gave a little shrug.

 

“Because no woman, including my own mother, has ever talked to me about her period and I’m curious. I suppose I could go ask Catherine but—“ he trailed off, shuddering a little, and Sara laughed.

 

“—But she’d probably over-dramatize it just to freak you out and you know it. As if my little avocado analogy didn’t curl your toes.”

 

“Coming from you it rings true. I’ve seen you in pain before, and now I know why. It’s in a context I can, in hindsight, understand.”

 

“Ah.” Sara mumbled, oddly touched that Grissom had been watching. And worrying, apparently. She leaned back, and closing her eyes, let memory wash over the filter of her thoughts.

 

“Age thirteen. I was . . . chubby. Save your skeptical thoughts, Grissom because it’s true. I had hit a growth spurt in the fall of my thirteenth year, and the word I remember hearing most often about myself was moody. I woke up on a Tuesday and right in the middle of World History I felt exactly like a do now. All . . . damp. Lucky for me Ms. Grenado let me go to the girl’s room and I had my quiet little freakout there before dropping a dime in the Kotex machine for the first of many times since then. I went home and told my mom, who told me to use pads so I’d stay a virgin.”

 

“Stay a . . . “ Bewildered, Grissom blinked as the car pulled into a nearly empty parking lot in front of a row of townhouses. Sara was impressed he knew where she lived, given that he’d only been there twice, once in circumstances she’d rather forget.

 

“Yeah, my mom was of a generation that thought using tampons broke the hymen and would rob my future husband of his marital duty.”

 

“Okaay . . .” Grissom was definitely pink around his ears, and Sara felt a tiny throb of amusement at his discomfort. She climbed out of the Denali quickly, and scooped up the dropcloths before he could see the telltale stains on them. He climbed out, though, startling her as she eyed him uneasily.

 

“Look, I’m fine, I can take it from here.”

 

“I’m sure you can, but I need to use your phone, if I may. My cell’s dead.”

 

Sara blinked a little, then gave a shoulder shrug of agreement and led the way towards the townhouse at the end of the row, hoping Grissom wasn’t staring at her or any part of her anatomy as she did so. She picked up the pace as she felt a definite shift between her thighs, quickened flow thanks to gravity and time.

 

Once in the front hall she scooted off to a doorway to the right, calling over her shoulder.

 

“Phone’s on the breakfast bar, and you if you’d just lock the door on your way out I’d appreciate it--“

 

Dropcloths, jeans, underwear into the washer, cold wash, lots of liquid soap, a little fabric softener—Sara wondered if Grissom would notice the springtime freshness on the dropcloths—and after a few minutes she listened carefully.

 

Silence. So he was gone then, and Sara breathed a sigh of relief, making her way to the bathroom and the shower within it, thinking back over the odd conversation she’d just had.

 

Definitely out of the ordinary, that was for certain. Sara couldn’t remember having to discuss her time of the month with any previous male acquaintance. Most of them took her explanations/excuses/comments with a nod or a grunt, barely willing to acknowledge the fact of nature. One or two offered her scant sympathy and made themselves scarce. A Boston boyfriend had told her sex was the best cure for cramps, but Sara failed to see how fellatio would lessen any pain on her part.

 

No, men in general were probably wise to avoid her at this point in time. She took her time scrubbing up, dried, slipped into her old flannel pajamas and wondered where her heating pad was. A quick trip to the fridge for some bottled water—

 

Grissom looked up at her with a mild expression, as if standing there in the middle of her kitchen was his given right. Sara flinched.

 

“I thought you were gone!”

 

“I was,” he admitted, pouring hot water from her brass teapot into to waiting mugs, she noticed. “Warrick took the evidence in for us.”

 

“Oh shit—what did you tell him?” Sara blurted, visions of the two of them chuckling in some misogynist male bonding joke about riding cotton broomsticks—

 

“Told him you had a touch of the flu and I was going to make sure you got some tea into you.”

 

Sara studied his profile as he looked into the depths of his mug. The pink was back along his ears, but his voice was soft and low. She spent a long moment looking at him, feeling little pangs around the edges of her chest.

 

“Grissom--“ she began, and he wrapped one hand around his mug and used the other to lean on the counter, his shoulders hunching against her words. He spoke, rapidly.

 

“I started having migraine headaches when I was fifteen years old. The first one was so bad I almost passed out before I could make it all the way home, Sara. I ended up crawling up the steps of my house and lying on the rug in the front hall, wanting to throw up but knowing how upset my mother would be if I did. I made it to my room and stayed there for nine hours before I could get up.”

 

“Jesus—“ Sara could almost see him, pale and hurting. Grissom continued.

 

“I didn’t tell my mother, and after a few months I thought it was just a one time thing, a bad headache that could have been from anything: food poisoning, reading in the dark, too much caffeine. And then several months later it happened again. Only this time was in the middle of my driving test for my learner’s permit.”

 

“Ohhh . . . “ Sara mumbled, eyes on him. Grissom looked up, his expression both grim and comic.

 

“I didn’t pass,” he confessed, and sipped his tea. Sara hesitated and picked up her mug, drinking in the rising steam sweetness of peppermint tea.

 

“I’m sorry.” was all she could think of to say. Grissom drew in a breath, as if the memory still caused him some inner pain.

 

“Me too. My mother took me in for a whole battery of tests and the end diagnosis was that I was suffering from migraines and that I could take something for them, but nothing to prevent them. So I got a prescription and a note in my medical records and that was that. Between having a widowed mother and pre-existing medical condition, I was rejected by the military when they sent my draft notice in ’73. I missed out on Viet Nam.”

 

Sara’s eyes widened, and she slid her hand over his as it rested on her kitchen counter. Grissom turned his head and shot her a soft little smile.

 

“I thought it was only fair for me to share something personal with you since you shared a part of yourself with me.”

 

“Thank you.” She replied, simply.

 

They stood and sipped tea in the soothing comfort of the kitchen, not talking much, but sharing a moment of intimacy much more compelling than words. Sara felt the tea settle into her stomach, and while the cramps were on their way, they didn’t seem nearly as daunting at the moment.

 

When she finally straightened up, rubbing her abdomen, Grissom gathered up the cups and carried them to the sink. Sara sensed the moment closing up, and was sorry to see it happen. Then Grissom shot her a glance; she noticed a slight bloodshot look in his left eye, and realization hit her. She took a step forward.

 

“So—it wasn’t just about me.”

 

He gave a weak little smile. “No.”

 

“Come here.” Carefully, Sara led him into her living room to the huge inviting confines of the deep green double Papasan dominating one corner. Grissom gazed at it, and Sara laughed at his ill at ease expression.

 

“It’s a lot more comfortable than it looks, trust me. I end up sleeping in it half the time. Take your shoes off and sit down. You’ll feel better for it.”

 

“Sara—“

 

“Look, I know you can’t drive, not with a migraine, so you’re going to be stuck here a while. Just relax. You took something for it, right?”

 

Grissom nodded, and slowly lowered himself into the chair. Sara watched him for a moment, then looked around the living room.

 

“I’ll be back. Just—kick back a moment, okay?”

 

She went down the hall and fished out her heating pad, grateful that it was still right where she’d put it away. When she returned, Grissom was already stretched out a bit, clearly more comfortable. Carefully she plugged the pad in setting it on low, and climbed into the chair beside him. Grissom didn’t even open his eyes as she curled up at his side.

 

“Sara?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I didn’t intend for this you know. I meant to take care of YOU.”

 

“Shhhhh. You did. And now I get to return the favor. Are you sleepy?”

 

“A little. The medication has that side effect,” he reluctantly confessed.

 

“Good. Then sleep.”

 

She pulled the heating pad up against her lower back, and settled in, feeling comfortable against Grissom. He was warm and big. She rested her head on his shoulder, amazed that such an action that only hours ago was as unthinkable and unlikely as stepping on the moon, seemed perfectly natural now. She gave a little laugh.

 

“I know what you mean,” Grissom replied, and startled, Sara shifted her head to look again at his profile. He hadn’t opened his eyes, but his smile had a hint of wonder in it.

 

“And this medication makes you a mind reader too?”

 

“Not the medication. The moment. It’s only through the confession of our vulnerabilities that we ever truly know someone, Sara.” came his gravely amused reply. She pondered that a moment, but the tea and the lateness of the morning were catching up with her, and really, Grissom was wonderfully comfortable.

 

“Mmm. Well if that’s the case, then I don’t suppose I could talk you into a monthly gig here—“

 

“Shhhh—“ he chided but softly, and within minutes, they were both sound asleep.

  

END

 

                                     
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