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Fic Post: Integrity

Title: Integrity
Author: vegawriters
Fandom: CSI: Sleeps with Butterflies/The Crow and the Butterfly
Pairing: GSR (With hints of Greg/Sara, Doug/Sara)
Rating: PG-15
Timeframe: Just post Girls Gone Wild
Disclaimer: Really, not mine. I know they can’t be because it’s fic and the writers can’t participate in this. But just in case they’re curious, I’d love a chance to write a script or seven. Until that point, all of these characters belong to people who aren’t me. They make the money. I get my heart ripped out.

Summary: I could never take a life.


I


A wild patience has taken me this far – Adrienne Rich

The beep of the hospital monitors haunted her and Sara sat, losing herself in the hypnotic rhythm of the proof of life that a woman had been saved. A woman. A friend. How many friends did she have? How many women had crawled past the walls built up so high that even all these years later Sara had trouble seeing over the top, had trouble reaching up, placing her hands on the top, and pushing, pulling, scraping her toes against rock just to see over the edge. So few had ever found the weaknesses in her fortress. Greg had wormed in through the crack near her left arm, appearing from a magical mist that promised her the desires of real men. Doug had slipped up through the drainage ditch, swimming past the messes her heart flushed aside. It had been Gil, though, with his mischievous blue eyes and the dimple in his chin and the way his walls jutted right up against hers and they were able to build a drawbridge to cover the moat between. He’d been the one to throw the bomb over the wall and when it exploded, they’d stood face to face, no longer able to hide.

I don’t care what you say, she’d challenged all those years ago, her shoulders squaring as she took the moral high road in a fight where a woman was defending the life of her daughter, I could never take a life. What had she meant then, sitting in the break room, trying to prove herself as more human than any of them? What had she been reacting to other than secret not even Gil had known then, speaking as the frightened twelve-year-old who had screamed to drown out the sounds of the knife plunging into her father’s chest.

In almost twenty years in law enforcement, she’d drawn her gun countless times. Fired only a handful. Killed once. And for all the times that memory failed, for all the haze littered with emotion, she could remember every second from the moment when her phone had caught her attention. The cool of the screen as she tapped it off and slipped it back into her pocket, her mind somehow reminding her that she needed a new scratch protector. The feel of the safety on her holster, the snap that was suddenly so hard to undo, the way her jaw clenched and unclenched, how her hair felt in the wind as she spun around and leveled the heavy weapon at a fellow officer. She’d wanted it to be the older, misogynistic sheriff. Instead she was not surprised to realize that her gut had known it was his younger deputy the whole time. Men like the sheriff did not waste their time with rape and murder. And so she leveled the gun and felt each and every weight of each and every second and how her clammy hands felt against the butt of her department issue nine millimeter. Her finger on the trigger. The single strand of hair in her mouth. The heat of the sun on her glasses. The smell of gun powder. The feel of the residue on her hands.

The pink mist that exploded from the body of the deputy.

The way he turned and crumpled and the slow motion process as his body fell like nothing more than dirty laundry. The smell of his body as death released it. The sound, the piercing sound, of the sirens as they grew closer and closer and closer.

I don’t care what you say, she’d said, haughty and right about all things, I could never take a life.

The monitor checking Finn’s vitals continued on, steady. Sara stared at the bath salts in the basket. Finn had pulled them from the present, cradling them, a promise to herself to use them the minute she could, Sara realized. They never made it to drinks and massages and long, lingering baths after enjoying beautiful men.

A confession she’d never made.

Doug was going to meet her in Reno.

A quick drive from San Francisco and he’d promised to have a room and wine waiting and she’d been ready for that she had been denying herself in the ten months (ten months already) since the phone call that had ripped her soul from her body and left her scrambling to glue the smithereens of her walls back together.

She’d had her phone in hand before she even stepped through the door. Dropping her bag down on the table, Sara hit the familiar key and waited for the low, gravelly voice to pick up. This was bad. This was stupid. He always showed up in her life when things were falling apart and this was no different but dammit she wanted it. She was a grown woman and she could make her own stupidass decisions and if this decision meant that she fucked her heart over a bit, she’d do it.

“Hey, you.” He came on and she could hear noise in the background. She didn’t care.

“What are you doing this weekend?” Sara collapsed onto her bed and kicked off her boots.

“Why?” She heard the hopeful tone in his voice. “What are you offering?”

“Me and a hotel room in Reno. I’m going up with a couple of women from work but I think we all have the same ideas about extracurricular activities.”

“When are you leaving?”

“In about an hour.”

“I’ll get the room.” His voice hitched and she let out her own breath. “Don’t pack much.”

She laughed. “Doug, this is a really bad idea.”

“Sara, I don’t give a fuck.”

She clicked off the phone without saying goodbye. He’d be there and she was going to let herself fall right into his arms and she didn’t care with the girls thought. Yes, she’d be there for massages and drinks, but she was going to take advantage of the kiss she’d confessed to her husband. Gil wasn’t coming home any time soon and even though she knew he wanted to work on things, she wasn’t there yet. She wasn’t ready. There was a part of her that needed to know that who she wanted really was that man she’d given up everything for, or if she was in love with the ghost of him, the idea of what they could have built together. She didn’t need her husband to be happy.

She’d never been one for lace and the few pieces she did own she’d bought for Gil because he loved the softer side she didn’t show to many people. Still, she tossed in a satin negligee she’d never had the chance to wear for Gil. What would it feel like to have Doug take it off of her? Changing into a pair of comfortable pants and a loose red shirt, she opted for beads bought in Peru. Some part of her conscience reminded her that she was still legally married. That the papers that sat in her desk drawer still bound her to a man halfway around the world. Today, she didn’t care. She hoped he was banging his research assistant or some beautiful girl in the local tavern. He deserved to be happy as much as she did and maybe, just maybe this was a sign that they really were healthier apart.

That realization stabbed her through the heart and Sara sank down onto the stool in front of her small vanity. She opened the box where she now kept the golden symbol of the vows she’d taken and turned it over and over in her hand.

“I’ve loved you forever, Sara … and I’ll love you for the rest of my life …”

Fuck him. Fuck him and his logic and his passion and the idea that she could be happy with anyone but him. Fuck him. Fuck the pain every time they clicked off the phone and the way he’d texted her on her birthday and how he always seemed to call every time she was ready to move on. Fuck the life they’d planned and the way it had all turned out. She was sobbing before her conscious mind kicked her in the back of the head and told her to wash her face because she had to get back to the lab. The girls would be waiting on her.

One weekend of lying naked next to Doug and feeling beautiful again was going to be good for her. She hadn’t felt beautiful since that day back in February. Since those words across the phone line and she’d felt him rip out her guts from thousands of miles away.

For good measure, she threw her favorite black lace bra and matching panties into her bag. There were two sets of things that Doug could take off her body.

It wasn’t until she reached the lab and parked her car in its usual spot that she realized she’d slipped her wedding ring into her pocket. She pulled it free, placed it into a tiny zip pocket in her duffel, and walked over to where Finn and Morgan were already waiting.

“You okay?” Morgan peered at her and she wondered if her eyes were still red.

“Yeah …” she took a breath. “Yeah, I’m fine.” Was she? Finn gave her a sympathetic look and not for the first time Sara was grateful for the other woman’s presence in her life. Having Julie Finn there as a reminder that there was in fact life after soul mates.

“All right,” they tossed their bags into the trunk and climbed in. Sara took the back, glad to give up shotgun to Morgan. “Let’s get this party on the road!” Finn roared her engine to life and they spun forth toward the interstate. Sara glanced at the clock on her phone. Seven hours. Doug would be there. She needed this.

So lost in the hilarity of Morgan’s free flowing party girl and Finn’s ability to push the speed limit without being noticed through the traps, Sara jumped when the car suddenly stopped moving. “Fuck.” Finn glided the car to the shoulder and got out, popping the steaming hood. Fuck was right. Sara sighed and climbed out without even opening the convertible door. This didn’t look good.

“Let me take a look,” she said, poking her head down into the mess. She was the mechanic in the family. She kept the cars running. This … needed a water pump. “It needs a water pump,” she said with a groan. “Call a tow. We’re not going anywhere until this is looked at.”

Forty five minutes later, a mechanic who gave Sara the chills confirmed her diagnosis. An hour and a half later she was checking into a motel with minimal thread count sheets on the bed. At least there had been enough rooms for them to get their own. Would Doug even be able to stay another day in Reno? Was the trip worth it?

“Fuck really?” He groaned through the phone and she could see him sitting on the bed in the hotel room. “Larkston? Where the hell is that?”

“It’s like the Redneck Brigadoon,” Sara said with a sigh. “I’m not sure it even exists on the map.”

“You can’t just … find your way through the mists and get here?”

“Tomorrow. I promise.”

“Better not. The universe keeps throwing stuff at us, Sara. I’ll sit tight but if you can’t make it, don’t beat yourself up. I’ve got a couple of days coming up soon, provided no planes go careening out of the skies. I’ll come see you.”

“I’ll take the time when you come down.” She sighed, feeling like he did that it just wasn’t going to happen this weekend. They sat in silence for a minute before there was pounding on her door. Morgan. Dinner. “I should go.”

“Sara …”

“What?”

“I never should have let you go. I mean that.”

“Doug, what would have happened?”

“We don’t know. That’s the point. But there’s an NTSB field office in Vegas you know.”

“Don’t make suggestions we aren’t ready to even think about.”

“You said we.”

“I know I did. I just wanted to get naked with you this weekend.”

“You have to go to dinner.”

“Yeah.”

“Call me later.”

“I will.”

“Sara …”

“I know.”

She sighed and hung up the phone. She’d changed into a fresh pair of jeans and a shirt that sparkled more than she was used to, but she was about to be divorced. It was time she lit it up. Morgan was in a dress. Finn a skirt. She smiled and followed the women out to the restaurant next to the bar. This wasn’t all bad. They could hang out with each other. This could still be fun.

I don’t care what you say …

Her phone buzzed and she glanced down, ignoring yet another message from her ex-husband. What no one knew was that he wanted to reconcile and she just couldn’t yet because she still had to be angry at him and she hadn’t been able to be anything but sad until he’d said he was wrong and wanted to ix things and …

How did Finn handle being divorced twice? Sara stared at the woman. Her friend. Sara knew she wasn’t one to take vows lightly so how had she survived not one divorce but two? Had she held on for months with the first, clinging to every hope that perhaps if one thing shifted in the alignment of the planets it would all work out? Had she wondered if her life was written not by her own actions but a sadistic writer with a persecution complex who just couldn’t accept that people could be happy on their terms? What had gone through her mind when those papers arrived? What questions had she asked herself? Or had it been marriage number two she’d held tight to, praying that this time she hadn’t screwed it up, this time she could make her heart sit better. She’d stayed with him, spent that extra time, had there been any real reconciliation or had it been the sex of partners who knew each other better than most? The touches of lovers who knew not only the perfect way to caress but the painful buttons to push.

When did she give herself permission to move on?

Did it matter now?

She’d shot to kill. She wasn’t the woman Gil Grissom had married.

She’d taken a life.

II

Anger and tenderness: the spider’s genius
to spin and weave in the same action
from her own body, anywhere –
even from a broken web. – Adrienne Rich


Through the haze of a haunting dream that his subconscious couldn’t quite decipher, the buzz of his phone woke him. Grissom groaned and reached for the object, contemplating throwing it against the wall of his flat. Instead, the number on the ID made his heart stop. Vegas, but not Sara’s. The lab, possibly. Either way, the 555 let him know the caller was law enforcement.

Sara.

Sara.

A manila envelope of unsigned papers reminded him he was still her emergency contact. He was still her husband.

“Hello?” He sat up, trying to regain his equilibrium. The papers mocked him. If he had signed, if Greg or Nick had become her contact, he wouldn’t now be begging his heart to slow the blood that beat through his veins so he could hear the voice on the other end of the line.

“Dr. Grissom, I presume.”

Any other time he’d have laughed. Today, tonight, he choked out his breath. “Yes.” His heart stopped beating as the next words were uttered.

“I’m DB Russell. I’m Sara’s supervisor here in Vegas.” A pause. “There’s been a shooting.”

A shooting.

The conscious part of his brain was glad that Russell had waited until he knew the details to call and as he listened to the rather small extent of Sara’s injuries his heart slowed back to a normal pace and he was able to shake the image of her reaching out to stroke his cheek, brushing dust from his face. But with the return of logical thought, his brain still couldn’t move past the word “Shooting.” It stopped when Russell said other words such as “IA investigation. Officer involved. Death.”

Sara had shot to kill.

Sara. Had shot to kill.

Sara. Had shot. To kill.

He sank back into the bed and looked for breath. Looked for anything that would give him clarity. Looked for that light that had suddenly flickered and died. She had sat there, young and full of an anger that no one on the team could understand, full still of the ghostly memories of bruises heaped upon her by more than he’d known then and more than he knew now.

“I don’t care what you say. I could never take a life.”

While Catherine lorded the mother card and Warrick defended the right to his own safety, Sara had sat there in her morality, angry at the questions posed. To her, always, it had been simple. It was part of what inspired her vegetarianism, part of why she hunted high and low for pleather jackets that looked like the real thing and why her work boots were usually hard-shell canvass instead of leather. Her dreams were haunted not by abusive boyfriends but the sound of the knife as her mother sunk it into her father’s chest. She couldn’t take a life not just because she believed, deeply, that all life was connected but because it would make her that much more like her mother.

But Sara had been forced to shoot to kill.

Sara.

What had triggered the decision? What, other than the life of another?

Somehow he ended the phone conversation and managed to sit at a computer and order tickets to Vegas. He didn’t even process the price tag for the next day flight. Still in a daze, he called Sara, left a message. Called again, left another message. Texted her. No response. He knew she was giving her statement but he needed to talk to her, needed to hear her voice. That was the thing. He knew his wife, knew her voice, knew that blank way she flattened out when things weren’t right. He knew her better than anyone, even with the distance between them.

He could see the set of her jaw, the panic in her eyes, even as she’d held the gun steady to fire. Sara would never shoot to miss. Missing meant her own death and she had survived far too much.

Trapped in his flat until his plane the next day, he made arrangements with his research assistant to look after Hank.

He paced.

Four hours later, when he’d turned to counting the dead flies on the outside windowsill, his phone rang.

“Sara …”

“Don’t, Gil. I’m fine.”

“I’m coming back.”

“No.” For a moment, his heart stopped. This wasn’t her trying to be strong. She … she didn’t want him to see her. Didn’t want … He knew that voice. Knew that question she was asking of herself. He knew. Because they’d sat on a beach after he’d joined her in Costa Rica and he’d told her about Natalie’s final threat and how he wasn’t sure if even his intervention could keep her from hanging herself and he asked if in that moment, in the car, when she was fighting for her life, if she’d have been able to kill.

“Killing someone changes you, Gil. You love me as I am. I’m terrified of what could happen to me if I ever...”

“It was self-defense, Sara.”

“And I could have aimed anywhere but his heart.”

“We are trained to …”

“Sit back. And wait for backup.”

“You have the right …”

“No.” He heard the hitch in her voice. “I don’t.”

The line went dead. He called back. It went straight to voicemail. He didn’t bother leaving a message. All he could do was wait until he could wrap her in his arms and tell her it was going to be okay but he had to get there before the internalization moved from a spiraling destruction to cold acceptance. With Sara, that could happen in a matter of moments. Given the tone of her voice, he was most likely already too late.

III

and they have worked the vacuum aspirator
and stroked the sweated temples
and steered the board here through this hot
misblotted sunlight, critical light
imperceptibly scalding
the skin these hands will also salve. – Adrienne Rich


The sound that caught his attention was not the knocking on the door but instead the misplaced scrape of a key in an incorrect lock. Greg had expected this moment, he and Nick were the ones with the new keys to her place and the new alarm codes memorized. Sara had let it slip in the bright of their mid-day night that Grissom did not have a key. It was taped, she said, to the divorce papers. Should they ever reconcile, she would burn the envelope and give him the key.

Feeling somehow like the interloper he’d always hoped to be and yet also the man he’d once promised Sara he was, Greg stepped to the door and opened it, knowing who he would find and not expecting the stress and worry that rested on the older man’s shoulders. Greg knew that in some ways, he was angrier at Grissom than Sara because she only loved him but to Greg, he was the man who kept them apart. Greg knew her secrets. Now, he knew them better than the man who still could legally claim the title of husband.

Did the legal matter? Was the emotion still there?

Looking at Grissom, he could only wonder why they had filed in the first place. To love like Grissom did, with the panic on his face and the weight of two worlds on aging shoulders, Greg felt for the man who cared for the woman they both loved and for a moment, the protectiveness fell away. But the emotion was reclaimed by anger. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“I’m here to see Sara.”

She is visiting her mother. She is under a car. She is the only woman I’ve ever loved.

“I don’t think she wants to see you.”

“He’s coming, Greg. I don’t know what to do. I can’t face him.”

“Let me in, Greg.”

Compelled by a bravery he hadn’t possessed in the years he’d worked for the man, Greg stepped outside, blocking the entrance in. “No. Sara’s got to say yes or no and she’s in the shower right now and I’m not about to walk in and interrupt her.” Yes, he wanted to walk in and interrupt her but not with the shadow of her ex-husband looming.

“It’s different …”

“Greg, don’t do this.”

“You don’t get to swoop in here and play knight in shining armor, Grissom.” Was that what the man was doing, swooping in to protect a princess who had never once needed protection? Protection, after all, was so much sexier than holding hands during nightmares.

Why had she married him?

“She’s my wife, Greg.”

“Since when, exactly?” A cone of silence descended over the stoop. Grissom stared at him. Greg, refused to back down. “I get that you two have a marriage that doesn’t make sense to anyone but you. But you walked away from her, Grissom. You took something …” for the first time, Greg wavered.

No one understood them but them.

Panic set in. “You see, she’s going to let you in because she loves you. She’ll send me home and talk things out with you. But you see something, for the past nine months, it hasn’t been you who has been here. It’s been me. It’s been Nick. It’s been Doug. It’s been people who want to make time for her. And that’s the thing, Grissom. You want her to make time for you.”

Grissom looked kicked in the stomach. Greg turned to go inside. A voice stopped him.

“Let me inside, Greg. This is Sara’s home. She’s got to be the one to kick me out.”

Greg swallowed past the bad taste in his mouth. He stepped inside. Grissom followed. Greg made his way to the bedroom. Grissom stood still.

The shower wasn’t running anymore and Greg made his way through the house up to the bedroom. She stood in the center of the room, wrapped in a dark purple towel, staring at her hands.

How long had she spent washing the blood off of them?

Nothing moved.

~fin

Continued in Checkmate.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Dec. 19th, 2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
OMG
I want more!
great chapter
vegawriters
Mar. 23rd, 2014 05:06 am (UTC)
Thank you :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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