Genre: Crime Procedural
Word Count: 9600
Chapter 1 – Now, what happened?
“You’ve got Kotex all over you. Somehow I’m thinking that’s not going to look good on the paperwork.”
Jim Brass’s snide comments blew into Gil Grissom’s ears and forced him to pay attention again. Blinking, he hadn’t realized his eyes had closed or his head had started to drift toward Brass’s shoulder, his blurry mind consumed with the plans he’d had for this evening.
He’d been working on them for awhile, these plans that included an expensive dinner in an exclusive restaurant with sweet words of love and hand holding. He’d even put on that suit that had a tendency to change color from blue to charcoal gray as he moved that Sara said made him look hot.
But it was the fuzzy box that’d been tucked in his pocket that made him forget what he’d planned and center instead on that punk-ass robber who’d taken it from him, pulling out the object inside then tossing the box to the floor as if it meant nothing. He’d not expected the intense rage that consumed him in an instant nor could he believe what he was doing as he’d found himself stepping toward the robber.
“Hot diggity!” the robber exclaimed as he popped open the box. “Hit me a jackpot!”
“Excuse me,” Grissom began not able to keep still after watching those green teeth bite down on the most important thing in his life, vaguely noting the trembling finger on the robber’s hand that held tightly to the trigger of his shaking gun, wide eyes darting toward him.
“Shut up, man!” came the response.
“That’s mine and I want it back,” Grissom explained.
The robber smirked and moved his weapon closer to Grissom’s face. “I got the gun, mister. You ain’t got nothin’.”
Grissom shook his head. “I don’t care if you rob the store just let me have that back.”
One part of his brain was yelling at him to stop but the other kept pushing on. He was finally ready, was finally able to take the next step. He wasn’t about to give it up so easily.
“It means a great deal to me and it means nothing to you. Please, let me have it back.”
The robber smiled. “Oh, it means at least a hundred bucks to me,” he answered. “Now step back or I’ll havta shoot you.”
Grissom’s eyes narrowed as he tilted his head, hearing the muscles in his neck creak. This guy had just stepped on his last nerve.
He took another step.
“I mean it, mister!” the robber slobbered. “I’ll shoot!”
“Don’t do it, Dr. Grissom,” came a whispered call from behind him, a part of his brain recognizing Roland Foluca’s voice, the owner of the store.
“Better listen to the man, Doc,” the robber said.
“Just give back what’s mine.”
The robber began to laugh, dropped the object into his pocket and clasped both hands around the gun to still the shaking, the smile leaving his sweaty face.
“Ain’t yours no more, Doc.”
The world seemed to slow for Grissom as he watched the robber’s eyes cease their restless darting and center solely on him. It was only then he thought he may have made a mistake and knew, without a doubt, he was about to be killed.
Damn. Sara was going to kill him!
But fate, as it’s wont to do, stepped in and the bell over the front door began to ring. Without thinking, all three men turned to look at the unsuspecting soul who’d ventured into the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Shit!” the robber blurted out, swinging the gun toward this new visitor as Mr. Foluca yelled for the man to duck, the bullet shattering the glass door behind him as he dropped to the floor.
Recovering faster than the robber, Grissom leaped, toppling them both to the floor, hands searching and finding the gun still clasped in the robber’s hands. Trying to pry it away while rolling about the floor was proving fruitless but he refused to give up. Nothing would keep him from retrieving what was his.
“Let go of me!” shouted the robber as he valiantly fought to be free of this madman who refused to let go.
“Give me what’s mine!” Grissom gasped out through gritted teeth, wondering at the strength of this skinny man; a loud bang raked across his left ear followed by an instant stab of pain just before his back plowed into something solid not once but twice.
It was then the sound of breaking glass was followed by a heavy weight descending upon them both, succeeding in doing what Grissom couldn’t – tossing the gun from the robber’s hand.
Feeling as if an elephant was sitting on him, Grissom still had one coherent thought pushing its way to the forefront and, with great effort, he forced his hand toward the pocket that housed that very important item. Rifling through a partially used Kleenex, a stick of gum and something he wasn’t sure he could identify even if his eyes weren’t swirling about his head, he felt it. A partial smile tugged at him as he pulled it free of the dirty pocket and clasped it tightly in his hand.
Now everything was right with the world and he could relax and wonder what exactly he was laying in, why was Mr. Foluca yelling “get your ass down you scumbag!”, and how very late he was going to be for his date with Sara.
“She’s gonna . . . be . . . mad,” he mumbled just before the lights went out.
That had been, what, hours ago?
No, just about forty five minutes. Then why did he feel as if he’d been sitting on this cold floor for a year?
“You in there?” Brass’s voice came to him on a wave rumbling in between his ears until it finally settled.
Brass smiled. “Still here.”
Frowning, Grissom tried to look around, a hissing sound coming from him as pain lanced through his shoulder then his head.
“Don’t move too much. You’re bleeding enough as it is. Where’s the damn ambulance?” Brass called out to Mr. Foluca.
“I called. Must be traffic,” he gave the Captain.
“What . . . happened?” Grissom asked in a slurred voice, his words difficult to push out.
Brass cast his friend a worried look. He’d already told him the story once as relayed by Mr. Foluca upon his arrival.
“It seems you were trying to play hero without your cape and theme song. Because of that, you’ve lost a nice chunk of your shoulder, we’re sitting on Mr. Foluca’s floor and you’re covered in Kotex.”
“Oh,” came the whispered answered as he flinched around a jagged twinge in his head just before catching a whiff of something making him grimace. “What’s that smell?”
Grissom frowned again. Is that what that was? Oh, man. That was it. He smelled like a brewery.
God, not only did he smell but he felt awful.
“And that’s where your head got caved in. Slammed right into Mr. Foluca’s two tier display of 32 oz glass bottles of Budweiser. Bang, right on top of the both of you. He’ll probably sue the county for glass in his eyes,” Brass said, nodding toward the robber neatly cuffed to the front counter; Mr. Foluca was standing guard with a well-worn bat in his hand.
It was then it all came back to Grissom and he slowly raised his right hand.
It was empty!
I thought I’d gotten it back!
Trying to sit up only caused him to flop back against the shelf, knocking boxes of Kotex to the floor and pulling a harsh gasp from him.
“Steady, Gil,” Brass intoned putting a restraining hand against him, not that it was necessary.
“He has something that’s . . . that’s mine,” Grissom fumed through clenched teeth, glaring at the robber who refused to look at him.
“I’ve got it right here,” Brass quickly stated, showing him the fuzzy box and what it held before snapping shut the lid. “You’ve got a mighty solid grip there, buddy. I had to pry it out of your hands.”
“. . . need that,” Grissom whispered as he began to relax, glancing toward Brass.
“It’s not going anywhere and neither are you,” Brass reminded him, watching his friend digest this information, then turn his attention to the robber.
Cursing the fact that he didn’t have enough energy to get up and slam that bastard into the watermelon display then follow it up with a grapefruit pummel until he cried uncle, Grissom gave himself a smile instead.
“What?” Brass asked adding more Kotex to Grissom’s shoulder wound before buttoning up his jacket again to keep the makeshift padding in place.
“. . . thinking,” came his breathy response around another wince.
“This is no time to be thinking of Sara,” Brass admonished, trying to keep a smile from tugging at his lips.
“Wasn’t. Thinking of . . . grapefruit.”
Brass’s brows rose steadily then he shook his head, plastering a hand across Grissom’s sweaty blood and beer drenched forehead. “I’m not even going to ask,” he answered, wiping his hand on another Kotex. “Oh, Gil, how do we get into these situations?”
“Forgot the flowers,” he answered trying once again to sit up straight and failing to do so. A short gasp followed. “Knew Mr. Foluca . . . had some.”
Brass tapped his chin. “Hmm. Flowers, fancy suit and this lovely little thing,” he said, holding up the fuzzy box, “you almost got yourself killed over. My detective senses are working overtime here. Going to ask her weren’t you?”
A bit of a smile tugged at Grissom’s split lip. “Finally got the nerve.” Then that smile stopped. “And now . . . now I smell like beer and there’s a hole in my suit,” he whined. “Not very . . . presentable now.”
Brass smiled and clapped Grissom’s leg. “Somehow I don’t think Sara would care if you were covered in mold as long as you were breathing,” Brass quipped looking at his watch.
“What’s . . . the time?” Grissom vaguely asked thinking everything looked a bit hazy.
“Damn,” he muttered. “. . . in trouble now.”
“You could say that again.”
Grissom gave a slight shake of his head before remembering that hurt and quickly stopped. “Probably thinks I . . . I stood her up. Tonight’s important.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“No, no,” he said getting agitated. “Second . . . anniversary. I wanted . . . wanted to surprise her.”
Brass put a hand on his friend’s arm. “Calm down, Gil. There’s nothing you can do about it now.”
“But it was . . . was all planned.”
“Mr. Foluca can always corroborate your story.”
Grissom leaned his head back and sighed thinking a nap would be really good right about now. “. . . think all the . . . the blood might convince her.”
Brass cast worried eyes over Grissom’s pale face, noticing the quick breaths he’d begun to take, and wondered why it was taking so damn long for the ambulance to get here. “So tell me about this priceless object,” he asked, hoping to keep Grissom talking, noticing the glazed look that had fallen about his blue eyes.
A slight smile appeared. “It’s perfect. Took forever to find it but she’ll . . . she’ll love it.”
“If she says yes,” Brass reminded his friend.
The smile quickly left and eyes narrowed as he managed to cast a hard look his way. “. . . such a downer.”
That made Brass smile. “Don’t worry, my friend. I’ve never seen anyone so in love with another person. It’s quite disgusting, you know. I’ve never had a woman look at me the way Sara looks at you. You’re one lucky bastard.”
“. . . yeah,” Grissom answered, thinking the lights must be going out in the store. Everything seemed to be getting darker but decided it took too much effort to ask.
“I hope I get to give her away,” Brass mused. “I’ve always thought of Sara like a daughter. That would make my year.”
“. . . make sure she . . . she . . .”
Grissom’s voice drifted off as his attention strayed to the darkness that slowly descended about him. He squinted, seeing Brass’s mouth move but unable to hear any words that made any sense. It was as if he was in a tunnel, a tunnel with only dark at the other end.
“Gil? Come on, stay with me here. You know I hate sitting alone on a grungy floor.”
A vague idea of someone’s hands on him muddled into his consciousness and he tried to respond but his body had other ideas as lovely brown eyes that filled his soul with love obliterated anything else.
Her soft gentle touch that sent him over the edge with each caress drifted across his skin, comforting him, easing him away from the pain.
A smile graced his split lip just before the lights went out and his head fell toward Brass who easily caught it.
Fingers immediately trailed along Grissom’s neck until what was sought was found and Brass closed his eyes, the distant sound of a siren penetrating their space.
“Ambulance coming, Captain,” Mr. Foluca said, hurrying out the door to wave them down, leaving Brass to stare at the back of the robber’s head until he turned to face the Captain’s burning gaze.
“I don’t want any trouble from you,” Brass began, his intensity making him squirm, “or I’ll let Mr. Foluca use you for batting practice.”
The robber gulped and turned away, scrunching up his shoulders and wondering why he thought it was a good idea to rob this particular store.
Chapter 2 – I think I’m overdressed
Brass saw her sitting forlornly in one of the waiting room chairs, her slinky dress a bit out of place in the crowded room, and he sucked in a shaky breath.
Of all the things he did in life, calling a loved one to tell them that something had happened was the worst part of his job. And friend or no, this was no different. Standing in Mr. Foluca’s store and watching the EMT’s do their work made him antsy and he had to do something, so, before he knew it, the phone was in his hand and he had her on the line. She shouldn’t have to sit somewhere wondering what happened when he had all the answers.
Calming her the best he could, he told her to meet them at Desert Palms. The last word was barely out of his mouth when the line went dead.
Ah, to have someone that devoted. He could only hope.
Bringing thoughts back to the present, he pushed himself forward, thinking she looked like a lost little girl and his heart went out to her. She needed to be rescued. That was something he could do.
“Sara,” he called and her head shot up, followed by herself as she practically leaped out of the chair and hurried toward him, only to stop at the sight of dark blotches on his jacket.
“Oh,” came her shaky voice as he quickly pulled her cold hands into his warm grasp.
“It’s not as bad as it looks.”
“But that’s . . . that’s his blood,” she said, not able to take her eyes from him.
Brass cupped her chin and gently pulled up, nearly caving at the glistening eyes that met his. “He’s here and the doctor’s are giving him the once over.”
Seeming to take strength from his strong voice, Sara stood a bit straighter and gave him a determined look. “I need to see him.”
Brass smiled. “That’s why I’m here. Come on,” he said, wrapping her in his arm, feeling her tremble against him.
They made their way through the double doors then into the ER; Brass stopped her outside one of the curtained rooms, sliding it back to allow entry. A young man in scrubs and white coat looked up as they entered, noting the woman’s eyes never leaving the man on the gurney.
“Doc, this is Grissom’s other half, Sara,” Brass stated, watching her grab onto her man’s feet sticking out from under the thin sheet draped over him.
The young man smiled at her. “I’m Doctor Aussman.”
“Sara Sidle,” she answered, not bothering to return the look. “Is he going to be okay?” she asked in a soft voice, her eyes devouring the beat up landscape of Grissom’s face.
Blossoming bruises were forming in various sections of his face; blood trailed down his neck to coat his collar while multiple cuts and lacerations made up the rest. Her eyes settled on the large bloodstain that had soaked through his light blue shirt at the shoulder causing her to raise a hand to her mouth to still the emotions welling up.
“Well, it looks a lot worse than it probably is,” Aussman answered.
“I can’t be any more definitive than that I’m afraid. Right now we’re waiting for him to wake up and tell us if anything else hurts besides what we can see.”
“Okay,” Sara mumbled, reaching for Grissom’s still hand and holding tightly.
“And what can we see?” Brass asked.
“The gunshot wound took a piece out of him but nothing vital was damaged. We do need to watch for infection. Now there may be some worries that unseen injuries to his head may have been sustained when the bottles fell on him but his pulse is strong and his breathing is good.”
Sara’s brow crinkled. “Bottles?”
“I’ll explain everything later, Sara,” Brass quickly interjected as the doctor pulled up the sheet.
“We’re optimistic he’ll be coming around shortly,” Aussman supplied with a smile, then picked up his clipboard and headed toward the curtain. “One of the nurses will be back to clean him up a bit. By the way, whose idea was it to use Kotex?”
“That would be the store owner, Mr. Foluca,” Brass answered.
“Ingenious. Well, I’ve got some paperwork to fill out. Good luck.”
“Thank you, Doctor, for all your help,” Brass said shaking the man’s hand.
“That’s why I’m here,” Aussman answered then disappeared through the curtain.
“Kotex?” came next from Sara leveling a look at Brass.
“We had to stop the bleeding,” he nonchalantly answered as she turned back to Grissom, noticing the familiar objects stuck under his shirt.
Leaning in close, she spied more cuts and bruises across his forehead and into his hair just as an oddly familiar odor reached her.
“He smells funny,” Sara stated, wrinkling her nose.
“Ah, that would be beer,” Brass answered with a bit of throat clearing.
She raised a brow at that. “Beer?”
Sara waited but that was all she was going to get at the moment so returned her gaze to Grissom. “So he was at Mr. Foluca’s store and what happened?”
“Seems he stopped there for something and a robbery ensued,” Brass gave her, trying to be as vague as possible, not wanting to give up his friend’s surprise. “He managed to wrestle the gun from the robber then plowed into a display of beer just before Mr. Foluca took over with his trusty bat.”
Sara smiled at that. She’d seen that bat sitting proudly behind the counter, lines cut into the wood signifying how many times it had saved a life. She would have to thank him come morning.
A groan brought her back and she leaned back in, shutting off the smell, watching his eyelids flicker then slowly open, moving back to slits as the overhead lighting beat on his eyes.
“Hey,” she said with a half smile, seeing him attempt one just before his split lip reminded him that wasn’t such a good idea.
“Hey,” Grissom gave her back in a hoarse voice.
“You look like hell,” she said, gently running fingers across his swollen cheek.
Grissom lazily blinked. “You should see the other guy.” He got a light laugh for that. He loved her laugh. “Sorry.”
She frowned. “For what?”
A puzzled look descended. “Missed our date.”
“Well, it looks like you had a good excuse.”
Sara was slightly confused at the sheepish look that replaced the puzzlement of moments before but sloughed it off. The man had been shot. He deserved to be a bit befuddled.
“Well, Dr. Grissom,” came at them from a loud redheaded nurse as she bustled into the room. “I hear tell ya got yerself into a wee bit o’ trouble with bullets and bottles.”
Grissom’s gaze followed her as she neared. “Just a bit,” came his answer as she pulled on some gloves then patted his good shoulder.
“Well, don’t fret now. Jackie’s here and I’ll take good care o’ you ’til they wheel ya upstairs.” She smiled down at him then cast a glance at the other two in the room. “And you would be?”
“Sara Sidle. His . . .”
“. . . life,” Grissom interjected, catching Sara off-guard. The loud blush that filled her cheeks made him feel warm and fuzzy. He squeezed her hand tighter.
Jackie smiled. “Always good ta have a woman around when yer hurtin’,” she said, pushing Brass out of the way. “Small quarters in here, young man.”
Before Brass could respond, his phone sounded. “That’s my cue to leave,” he said, giving Sara a quick kiss on the cheek. “Keep me informed and call if you need anything.”
“I will.” She quickly hugged him. “Thanks, Jim.”
“Take care of our boy.”
She smiled at him and he waved at Grissom before disappearing through the curtain phone in hand.
“Now, yer not squeamish around blood, are ya, deary?” she asked.
“All righty then. Let’s get to work.”
Chapter 3 – Never tick off a woman in love
“Hey, Sar,” Nick Stokes called as he poked his head out of Trace, surprise etching his face. “What are you doing here?”
Sara turned and graced him with a smile. “Thought I’d come in and see how things were going,” she answered, stopping next to him.
Nick looked at her then grinned. “You just want to read Mr. Foluca’s statement, don’t you?”
A slight blush crept into her cheeks and she looked to the floor. “I just want to know what happened is all,” she finally answered. “Gris isn’t communicating very well at the moment. Doesn’t remember a lot.
Nick nodded. “Well, that’s what happens when beer bottles fall on you from a great distance. How’s he doing otherwise?”
“Grumpy,” she said with a snicker. “They kept waking him up all night to see if he was okay, and there’s nothing worse than Grissom on two minutes sleep.”
“Poor thing,” Nick said with a shake of his head.
“Now they’ve got him on good drugs and my last sight of him was sound asleep with a great big smile on his broken face.”
“Yeah, Brass said he looked like one big bruise.”
“Bruised, bloody and smelly,” she said wrinkling her noise at the memory. She smiled then yawned as they started off down the hall.
“Sara, reading Mr. Foluca’s statement can wait. Why don’t you head home? Get some sleep.”
“Already been. As soon as he fell asleep, I went home, checked on Hank, took a thirty minute nap, showered and changed my clothes then decided to come here.”
She looked expectantly at Nick and he debated with letting her read the document. Technically she wasn’t supposed to and he believed that she wouldn’t get out of it whatever she was looking for anyway. But she had that look – the one that said ‘I’m going to chase down the last lead if it kills me’.
“You know,” he began, drawing out the words, “it’s almost 6:00 am. I’m guessing Mr. Foluca might be at his store about now and I’m sure he’ll want to show off his bat.”
“The one he keeps behind the counter?” she asked as he nodded.
“He’s got a nice new mark on it. I’m sure he’ll want to tell you the story.”
She narrowed her eyes at him then grinned. “Well, I should go over there and give him our thanks.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
He watched her move quickly down the hall, debated with himself for about half a second on whether or not he should’ve done that then shook his head. Sara was a first rate investigator. She would’ve thought about it on her own.
With that decided he continued down toward Hodges’ area and ducked inside.
“What was so damned important that you almost got yourself killed over?” Sara wanted to know as she stalked into Grissom’s hospital room, not bothering to modulate her voice.
Startled out of a soft and fluffy drug-induced zone out, his head shot up from the pillow, making the room shift into a dramatic dip, causing his only available hand to fly to the side of the bed making sure he stayed in said bed. Eyes slammed shut just as a quick set of swallows worked on keeping his stomach where it was supposed to be, which impeded the rapid breaths that suddenly claimed him making him cough.
And then her hands were holding the sides of his face, the coolness of her skin against his, easing the rushing whoosh that passed through him followed by her soft voice filling him with comfort and peace. “Shh, shh, it’s all right,” she quietly said, feeling him tremble beneath her touch. Cooing tenderly to him, he slowly relaxed and his breaths slowed. “Better?” she asked, watching his death grip on the bed ease off and over to her arm.
It was then he gave her a slight nod and she released his face, then brushed through his mussed up hair, careful of the deep cuts to his scalp.
Even with bed head, Grissom is a sexy man.
“Water, please,” he whispered, barely opening his eyes to see her blurry form reach for his cup then return with a bendy straw at the ready. Emptying the cup, he thought his tongue felt a bit less furry than before. “Neat things,” he muttered as she came back into his line of vision.
“What?” she asked.
“Bendy straws. We should get some when I get home.”
Cocking an eyebrow, Sara just looked at him and remembered the man was on drugs. She then remembered why she was there.
Grissom blinked again, finally bringing Sara’s face into focus. My, she was pretty, pretty and all his. And her eyes, they were like melted chocolate that took him to… The satisfying thought that had almost completed itself flew from his head as he watched those soft brown eyes harden right before him. Next her hands left him, then she sat back, stiff and formal, and crossed arms over her chest. It was as if fire was shooting from her eyes. He couldn’t help but wince.
“I spoke with Mr. Foluca today who, by the way, thinks you’re a hero,” she began, her voice flat and sharp.
“I’m no hero,” he responded cautiously, suddenly afraid where this was going.
“That’s right,” she said with a nod. “You’re more like a fool because that robber took something from you and you tackled him. He had a gun, Gil.”
“Y-you knew that,” he tried, wondering if he could pull the ‘didn’t you see all the blood’ ploy. Her narrowed eyes and pursed lips put a stop to that thought.
“I knew he had a gun,” she continued. “I knew you tackled him. But I didn’t know that you went after him before the other man came into the store.”
“I, ah . . .”
“What did he take, Gil? What did he take that was so important?”
He saw her mouth move, heard the words but they were drifting a bit, getting caught in the rising web of anxiety that suddenly appeared within his chest. He knew those words were important and forced himself to gather enough of them together to respond intelligently.
But it was difficult. Morphine had left his tongue desperate to wag and he had to lock it down before something of great importance spewed forth, for to let the cat out of the bag now would just be, well, wrong.
“Happy Anniversary,” he said, knowing the moment it left his mouth that that was wide off the mark of what he should’ve said when he saw hurt overtake the anger in her eyes.
Quickly, he grabbed her hands as she began to rise, forcing her back down on the bed.
“Honey, I’m sorry. I…I lost my head. What he took was extremely important to me and I couldn’t stand the thought of his slimy hands all over it. It made me forget that he could’ve killed me.”
She stared him in the eyes. “There couldn’t be anything worth your life, Gil.”
“You’re worth my life,” he answered, pulling up her hands to kiss the back hoping to divert her. It didn’t work. Her eyes never left his. He cleared his throat. “He took something I wanted back.”
Seemed like a good explanation to him but, apparently, not for her.
“Okay,” she said slowly. “Was it something that could’ve been replaced like your watch or your credit cards?”
“No, it was something more . . . personal.”
He was being evasive and he knew she knew it.
He had plans, damnit!
The arrangements for the ‘big evening’ had been going on for months. He couldn’t just spill it here while he was incapacitated and dancing on the end of a morphine trip. If the truth be told, he wanted the ability to walk away if she said no. He was trapped here and it made him nervous.
Sara stared at him until he looked away. She knew he was hiding something. Watching him pick at his blanket, she thought he was adorable but that wouldn’t stop her from finding out what he was hiding.
She needed to know.
Kissing his hand, she smiled at him.
I’m in the clear!
But then she let go and stood, all traces of that smile gone.
“Okay, then, I’ll just have to do what you taught me – follow the evidence,” she stated, moving stiff legged toward the door.
“Sara . . . Sara, wait,” he called after her, struggling to raise himself to a sitting position, ignoring the renewed spinning of the room.
“Nope. If you won’t answer me, it will,” she called over her shoulder, never looking back.
And then she was gone and panic stepped in.
Slipping a leg out from under the covers, he held onto the idea of going after her despite the fact that he was incapable of collecting enough breath to even muster sitting upright, let alone walking. Sweat made an appearance and dripped into his eyes, and his spurt of adrenaline quickly faded, allowing him only enough strength to ease back onto his pillow, huff a few times to catch his breath then rub carefully at his forehead to hopefully curtail the beginnings of another headache.
This could not be happening. It was in the evidence box! She’d find it and she’d know!
Everything would be ruined!
Turning carefully onto his side, a heavy sigh erupted around whiny thoughts traveling through his brain, making him question why he got himself into these situations.
Why didn’t he just tell her?
Because this is really important.
So why make her think something else was going on?
Because I’m an idiot.
He sighed again. Berating himself wasn’t getting him anywhere and the fact that he felt as if Hulk Hogan had done a number on him didn’t help him think any straighter either. Maybe if he just closed his eyes and wished everything away, time would reset itself and it would all go off without a hitch.
He snorted then. Like that was ever going to happen.
One last sigh left him as he continued to scold himself, eyes moving from the window, to the IV attached to his arm, to the side table next to his bed, to the phone sitting there, and the . . .
All extraneous thought quickly left the building as his gaze swiftly returned to the object sitting innocently within reach.
A brow lifted and a slight sparkle returned to tired eyes.
Perhaps all was not lost.
Carefully maneuvering himself closer to this divine object, he grabbed the receiver and quickly dialed.
“What are you doing?” Brass asked as he snuck up behind Sara, making her jump. A perturbed look crossed her face as she turned.
“I’m pulling the evidence from the Foluca case, then I was coming to see you.”
“You mean the one where Grissom nearly got his head shot off?”
“That’s the one.”
“And you would be doing that because?” he asked with narrowed brows as she stared at him.
“Because I’d like to see the evidence,” she responded calmly.
“As I seem to recall,” Brass began, “the perp confessed, and with all of the eye witness accounts, it’s an open and shut case. No need for CSI to get involved.”
He smiled at her then, a small, snarky smile that made her lips purse as she wondered even more what Grissom was hiding. Was it Lady Heather’s personal phone number, edible underwear or something inane like a whoopee cushion?
This was getting ridiculous.
She exhaled noisily. “Okay, I’ll level with you,” she began in a low conspiratorial voice. “Grissom’s hiding something and I want . . . no, I need to know.”
“Why?” he asked with an unblinking stare.
She swallowed, feeling like she was about to step into a load of something she shouldn’t. But confession is good for the soul, or so everyone keeps saying.
“He’s not telling me everything that happened at Mr. Foluca’s.”
“That’s because he can’t remember.”
“Yeah but . . .”
“But what?” Brass asked with raised brows. “Beer bottles fell on his head. I had to remind him twice about what happened while we waited for the ambulance.”
“Then what else is there?”
“He won’t tell me what the robber took from him. And he’s been . . . preoccupied lately; secretive even. I’m getting nervous and worried that . . .” She trailed off and looked down at her hands, trying to tamp down the urge to cry.
“What? Nervous about what?” he asked.
“Well, that . . . that there’s someone else.” That sounded so awful when said aloud but that’s what she felt. She started a bit when Brass chuckled and her head shot up.
“Oh, Sara, you are a silly girl.”
Smiling, he grabbed her arm and led her back down the hall toward the exit, shaking his head all the way.
“If there was ever a man more deeply devoted to one woman, Grissom’s your guy. Let him have this little secret. It’ll be all the sweeter when he comes out with it, believe me.” She gave him a perplexed look and he laughed again. “Trust me, Sara. It’s all right.”
“But . . .”
“Don’t worry so much,” he said leaving her at the door and disappearing around a corner.
Vexed, she just stood there.
What were those two up too?
Chapter 4 – Confession is good for the soul . . . supposedly
Brass’s confirmation that he’d stopped Sara from finding out his secret should’ve given Grissom sweet dreams. Instead, they were vivid recreations of nearly getting killed and they sent his heart to racing every time. More than once he’d been awakened with a hand on his arm and a nurse calling his name, those memories fading back behind the real world as he realized where he was.
He could’ve been killed. That dirty floor could’ve been where he took his last breath and Sara would’ve never known the depth of his love for her.
He couldn’t wait any longer. He had to tell her.
Flinging back the covers, he hesitated, remembering not so long ago his inability to even sit upright without passing out. But he was determined. He’d refused the last morphine shot, thinking that was the cause of his inability to function and hoped he’d be a bit more on the ball when Sara came back. However, she hadn’t come back. Brass had called three hours ago and still she hadn’t shown.
What if she never came back?
What if she’d finally had enough?
I can’t let that happen!
Gritting his teeth, Grissom very cautiously righted himself, ignoring the itchy burn moving through his shoulder and down his left arm and the thudding in his chest which seemed to escalate the headache that was hiding in his skull.
Maybe foregoing that shot wasn’t such a good idea.
Urging that thought aside, he held fast to the side of the bed as the pounding eased soon to be replaced with a bout of lightheadedness.
Things seemed to be going from bad to worse but he rode it out, forcing calming air in through his nose and out his mouth. He had to be steady, strong, able to tell Sara all the things that were in his heart before it really was too late.
And he had to be able to walk away with some dignity intact in case she said no.
She won’t say no.
With that thought in mind, he grasped the IV pole and maneuvered himself to his feet, only to sit back down a half second later, breaths bunched together making him gasp. Eyes squeezed shut to keep a vision of the floor dropping into an abyss at bay as sweat popped out of every pore, followed by a tingle that reached from the ends of his hair to the tips of his toes. Smacking himself with a hammer would feel better than what he felt now and it was then he was pretty sure this wasn’t one of his better ideas. But love makes a person do foolish things.
Foolish, foolish things.
So, counting to ten, then twenty, he captured enough air in his lungs to continue, stupid or not. This time the floor stayed where it should and he was on his feet.
A shaky smile came to him. He was standing, more or less upright, and found it funny that he thought that was a big thing. If he actually made it to the closet and back still upright, he figured he’d be shouting toward the heavens.
One can dream.
Keeping eyes drilled on the closet handle, he took a step, then another and was immensely pleased with himself when he managed to unclasp his hand from the IV pole, open the closet door and grab the backpack sitting inside without falling over. The return journey went by in a blur and he once again found himself sitting on the side of the bed sucking in as much air as he could to keep himself alert. As the tumult within his lungs evened out, he gave himself a satisfied grin, swiped at the sweat on his forehead and opened the backpack.
Managing to pull out then on the pair of sweats Sara had brought from home, his eyes surveyed the remains: a Shakespeare t-shirt, blue socks and . . . sneakers.
She’d brought sneakers.
That involved tying laces.
Barely bending to pick up the backpack very nearly brought him to his knees so there was no way in hell he’d be able to handle sneakers. Glaring up at the ceiling, his mind raced.
Many things came to mind, like it didn’t matter if he tied the laces or not, or if he even had shoes on. He could just go barefoot. Shoes were not a requirement to call a cab. But then he knew the nurse wouldn’t call for him especially if he couldn’t stand upright without hanging onto something. And there was that thing about no shirt or shoes.
What about that divine object that sat behind him on the side table? It had helped him already, but would it again? Sara wasn’t at work and she wasn’t here, which led to the inevitable thought of if he called would she answer? He didn’t want to face that. No, it had to be face-to-face. It was the only way to go. It was what she deserved.
Of course, he could have Brass . . .
“No,” he said aloud, frowning at the notion that he was too much of a coward to face what might happen. “Man up,” he declared, slapping a hand on his leg. “If she says no, she says no. You can curl up into a ball when she leaves.”
Course of action decided, he felt determination flaring within again and seized the IV pole. To hell with his shoes or his shirt, for that matter. He was going to walk out of this room, demand that a cab be called, rip the IV out of his arm and stand firm. It was his right to leave, if that was his wish. He would meet Sara in the flesh if it killed him. He had to tell her everything and he had to do it now!
Hauling himself back to his feet, resolute in what he was planning, he took one step, just one measly step and thought he’d fallen into a fiery pit as a shattering arc of agony rammed into him centering on his shoulder then rocketing into his head. Arms and legs began to wobble and that annoying thundering roar was back in his ears.
In an instant of clarity he knew this really wasn’t one of his better ideas.
“GRISSOM!” came a yell from the door.
Swiftly glazing eyes rose to view a wavering form rapidly approaching. Panting breaths hitched in his throat around a name, her name, just as the room sort of leaned and took him right along with it.
Hands grabbed him and held on tightly, barely registering in the thick soup of fading awareness until he heard a thumping against his ear. Hints of recognition came at him even though the pattern was off – faster, rough, scared.
She’d come back.
A touch of a smile creased his lips.
“Crazy fool,” came her sweet voice filled with a tremor he’d put there with his try at manning up and all he could do was melt into her and hope she overlooked this latest attempt at killing himself as he followed after the dimming lights.
Muted sounds punctured the gloom allowing some light to slowly change his world from dark thick black to shades of gray to pale white. They were all a jumble, those sounds, bits and pieces floating above his head slowly beginning to coalesce into a whole until meaning actually began to attach itself.
Someone was speaking.
It sounded like they said . . . bugs.
Fluttering eyes came next as heavy lids struggled to open taking in a shadowy rendition of an IV bag dropping precious liquid into his arm. He needed to find that voice and tried to move only to groan at the effort. Gentle hands soon cradled his face and he squinted up to see who it was. A tender smile came to him at the sight.
She was here. She had come back.
“Hey,” came out on a croak.
“Hey yourself,” she smiled back, leaning in to kiss his forehead.
“That’s nice,” he whispered.
“You’re lucky I don’t smack you upside the head, mister,” she gave him, her smile disappearing followed by his. “You scared me.”
Frowning, he searched her eyes then grimaced as a perfect rendition of what happened trooped through his memory.
“Sorry,” was all he could think to say.
“You tore your stitches and bled all over the place. And then I couldn’t wake you. They gave you another morphine shot and you’ve been out for a couple of hours. I just . . . just wanted you to wake up and tell me what you were thinking.”
He could feel her trembling and reached up to pull one of her hands from his cheek, holding it tightly. “I needed to see you.”
“There are easier ways to get my attention, Gil,” she scolded, forcing her quivering lips into a scowl. “They have this little thing called a t-e-l-e-p-h-o-n-e,” she stated enunciating each letter. “All you had to do was call me. I would’ve been here in a flash.”
“Thought you were mad,” he answered, blinking slowly as her face began to lose that fuzziness. “You were gone so long. Thought you were mad. Thought you wouldn’t come.”
Oh, he’d done it now, he could tell. Her eyes began to glisten and he’d put those tears there. But he had to forge on. He had to finish what he set out to do.
“I wanted to tell you,” he continued.
“Tell me what?” she asked stroking his bruised cheek.
“Why. Wanted to tell you why I did something stupid,” tumbled out.
Closing his eyes, he fought to ignore the questions firing rapidly in his brain.
What if she said no?
What if this isn’t what she wants?
What if all of this was for nothing except to make him feel, well, more stupid than he already did?
“I don’t need to know, baby,” she answered watching him open those blue eyes again and center on her. “I’m just glad you’re here, with me, breathing and alive.”
Grissom took in a breath. It was now or never.
“I love you, Sara, with all my heart and, after years of denying it, I wanted to give you something to remind you day after day what I feel, and that man . . . that man in the store took it from me.” He stopped to collect himself and kissed her hand. “All I felt was panic that if I didn’t give it to you, you’d never know that I need you and want you by my side forever.
“But now, now that I’m holding you, looking at your beautiful face, I realize what I could’ve lost in a split second and it scares me that I took such a risk.”
“It’s all right, Gil,” she softly said, noting a tear making its way down his face. Carefully brushing it away, she kept her hand there as her own tears welled when he leaned into her palm.
“I should just be able to tell you how much I love you, show you without worrying whether you’ll think it’s silly. I want to let everyone know that you’re mine and I’m yours. It shouldn’t be that difficult.
“I’ve always been yours,” she gave him.
“I thank you for that every day,” he gave her. “You are all I need, Sara, and I’m so very grateful you stuck with me, even after all these years of me being a dumbass.”
She smiled at him. “I plan on sticking with you until the end, whether you like it or not.”
“I like it,” he gave her with a smile of his own.
Caressing her face with his eyes, he drank in the love he found there and began to relax. Maybe he didn’t have to worry so much after all.
She kissed him then and he returned the favor, grimacing at the pull on his split lips.
“Sorry,” she whispered, pulling back to stare into those lovely eyes, only to crinkle her forehead then cock a brow. He’d seen that look countless times before, the one that sometimes got him into trouble.
“What?” he voiced suddenly uncomfortable.
“Thoughts are funny things,” she began, tilting her head and narrowing her eyes. “They pop up at the weirdest times.”
“Thoughts? W-what thoughts?” he stammered, wondering if he should be worried about what was coming.
“You know like when I saw you in the ER, you were wearing that suit, the one that makes me crazy. And we were going to a fancy place for dinner.”
“It was our second anniversary,” he reminded her then swallowed.
“Yeah, Mr. Foluca told me you were at his store for flowers.”
“Y-you spoke to Mr. Foluca?” he weakly asked, swallowing harder this time.
“He was very forthcoming in his tale of Dr. Grissom the hero.”
What else could he say? That single word barely covered it but it was better than ‘the jig was up’.
She stared at him and waited and he knew he couldn’t put it off any longer. He was just going to have to lay it on the line, tell it like it is; take it like a man.
It was now or never.
Grissom’s mouth opened, prepared to say everything in his heart, when someone sounding suspiciously like Jim Brass filled the void instead, drawing both their attentions to the door.
“Don’t get started without me,” he said as he quickly approached, placing a small fancy box on his friend’s chest. “I believe you will need this.”
Surprised etched Grissom’s face. “How?” he asked, extracting his hand from Sara’s and taking hold of the box.
“Turns out they don’t need it for a conviction,” he answered with smug look and a wink for Sara. “Carry on.”
And with that, he was gone, leaving an open-mouthed Sara turning her attention back to Grissom, who just stared at the box like he’d been caught in headlights.
Her voice gave him a start and eyes darted toward her then back to the box.
Clearing his throat, he took a deep breath, his mouth desert dry. “Ah . . .”
He gave her an embarrassed look before turning back to the box, suddenly shy. She snaked out a hand and lifted his chin.
“If you’d rather wait…”
“No!” came out too loudly and he chastised himself at his nervousness. This was not going well. He took another breath. “Ah, I mean, well, I’m trying to figure out how to do this lying down. I had plans, Sara,” he blurted, wanting her to know. “Everything was arranged and now I have to…. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen and you know how I get stuck when things change.”
Closing his eyes, he tried to still his runaway mouth, taking in a lungful of air to force himself to stop acting like a goof and spit it out. She had to know what was in the box and she hadn’t run away at the first sight of it.
If she was going to break his heart, wouldn’t she have done it by now?
That thought seemed to still the worrywart inside and turned on the confident man he knew he could be.
She was going to say yes!
What a great word.
Stop being a weenie and just say it.
Clearing his throat again, he gave her a bashful smile and opened his mouth once again.
“Yes,” she said before a single syllable passed his lips.
Brows flew up his forehead and her eyes widened in shock. “What?”
“Ah . . .” she stammered then cleared her throat. “Yes, ah, I’m . . . I’m ready to hear what you have to say.” A half-smile tugged at her as she tried to replace the startled look on her face with an innocent one. “You were saying?”
Grissom stared at her, both brows set shockingly high on his forehead, lips pursed as he tried to process what had just occurred.
Had she just . . .
Was that . . .
A smile slowly broke across those split lips and developed into a hearty laugh. He couldn’t help it. It was as if all the emotions he’d experienced over the last month simply ganged up on him and let loose – getting up the nerve, making all the arrangements, the robber, the beer and now, well, this.
Sara clutched his hand wondering if her man had just gone off the deep end.
“Gil? Gil, you’re scaring me again,” she said hoping he’d hear her. “Gil!”
The tone was harsh and he felt the hilarity drain away as if someone had unclogged a toilet. With a nod of his head to remove that image, he pulled his hand from hers and wiped at his tearing eyes, the smile still constant on his face. Reaching back out, he settled his hand in hers and stared her straight in the eyes.
“Sara Sidle, will you marry me?”
There was no flair, no finesse in the delivery. There’d been so much more to say, so much more flowery nonsense he’d been thinking of for a long time, but as long as the pertinent words were out, that’s really all that mattered. And by the look on her face, he figured she didn’t much care either.
“Yes,” she gave him with big smile. “I will marry you, Gil Grissom.”
Both of their smiles lit up the room, quickly covered as Sara leaned in and gave him a passionate kiss, reminding him once again of his bruised and split lips. He winced and she broke contact.
“Careful,” he said. “I’m in a weakened condition.”
She gave him a sultry look. “Just wait until you regain your strength, mister.”
“Can’t wait,” he said with a waggle of his brows.
She smiled and caressed his cheek, plopping a chaste kiss on his forehead, then sat back, raising a brow at the sudden twinkling in his eyes. “What?”
“That’s what the yes was for wasn’t it?” he asked. “Come on admit it.” Her mouth opened then closed then she started to giggle. “I knew it.” He beamed then and brought her hand to his mouth kissing the back of it. “I love you, Sara, more than you’ll ever know.”
“Then you need to keep telling me so I won’t forget,” she answered.
“I will never let you forget.”
“And I’ll never let you forget that you are the love of my life.”
Grissom tugged her toward him, Sara careful of his lips this time, retreating when he grunted in pain.
“Sorry,” she whispered blushing at his intense gaze.
“It’s worth it,” he answered. “You are worth it.”
Laying her head on his chest, she fiddled with his gown, her gaze falling on the fuzzy box still in his hand.
“What’s in the box?” she grinned.
“Oh, crap,” he muttered. He nearly got himself killed over this damn thing and now he’d forgotten to give it to her.
Working open the lid, Grissom eased the object out of the box, watching her eyes begin to twinkle at the gold band with a recessed diamond in the shape of a heart surrounded on each side by two hands clasping the gem.
“A Claddagh1,” she said with a smile.
“An Irish token of love,” he responded, “that can also be a wedding ring.”
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered, waiting for him to slip it on her finger.
But nothing happened.
In fact his smile had disappeared and now his brow was wrinkled, newly focused eyes centering in on a rough patch where once it had been smooth. He demanded an explanation.
Perhaps it had been jostled about in the evidence box or reacted harshly to the beer that coated him as he’d lain on the floor. Or perhaps it was that damn robber’s green teeth!
Sara watched his frown increase as he continued to study the ring and promptly held up her hand and wiggled her fingers. The movement caught his eyes that moved from the ring to her hand and back again. It was the glistening of those blue eyes that made her begin to worry.
“What’s the matter, baby?” she softly asked.
“I wanted it to be perfect,” he whispered as she touched his hand.
Sara had to do something to regain the momentum, to keep him from getting tied up in knots again.
“You know what makes this perfect?” she began lifting his chin until he could do nothing else but look at her. “You make it perfect.”
Sara smiled at him. “You are all I ever wanted, Gil, and now I have you. To me there’s nothing more perfect than that.”
Warmth filled him starting in his chest and spreading outward. It didn’t matter if the ring wasn’t perfect; it didn’t matter that he was lying in a hospital bed. All that mattered was what was before him right now.
“Now let me have that thing already,” she ordered, wiggling her fingers again.
Taking the object that nearly got him killed, he made sure that the tip of the heart faced outward as he slipped it onto her finger, enveloping her hand in his.
“To wear it this way means you are taken,” he began never losing sight of her big brown eyes. “Once the day comes when we take our vows, we’ll turn it around so the heart faces inward and everyone will know that you are mine forever.
“Always remember, with these hands I offer my service. With this heart, I give you mine. Let love and friendship reign forever. I love you, Sara Sidle.”
“And I love you, Gil Grissom, and trust that I will keep your love close to my heart.”
He grinned. “As I will yours. Please accept my apology now if I don’t say and show you how much I love you every day and also please forgive me for nearly getting myself killed.”
“At least you’d have been killed for love,” she answered with a half smile.
“Oh, that makes me feel so much better,” he smirked as she kissed him again and again.
And it didn’t matter that his headache was back full-blown or that his shoulder was on fire or that her soft lips were cracking his split ones.
No, all that mattered was that she’d said yes and now they were one – one life, one soul – and each held the other’s heart in their hands. Robbers and bottles of beer were best left to the attic where memories collected to resurface when they were safely in each other’s arms and out of harm’s way.
Life was good and all was right with the world.
1 A Claddagh is a traditional Irish ring given as a token of love or worn as a wedding ring.