Spoilers: YES! This story is complete conjecture based on the spoilers for the first two to three episodes of season 9. About 1/10 spoiler, 9/10 fantasy. If you are spoiler-free, turn back NOW. You have been warned. Do not hit me over the head with a frying pan if you choose not to read my scintillating notes.
Rating: T (a K, really, but I do want someone to read it)
Disclaimer: Alas, they are not mine. But I covet them anyway.
Summary: True knowledge comes with understanding. GSR, angst and a heaping, healthy dose of hope.
"I got the first flight out."
Even as he approached her steadily, never breaking eye contact lest she slip back into his imagination, he realized something he never admitted to himself before.
He realized he had never expected to see her again.
Grissom thought he understood.
He had known all the facts. She was suffering from a combination of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, burnout and depression. A pretty lethal combination, as far as psychological disorders were concerned. And, while leaving everything she called her life for the past decade was not the way he would handle things, no one knew Sara Sidle as well as Sara Sidle herself. And he had to respect her decision.
On an emotional level, though, she left him--not the job, or the town or the circumstances. Him.
He tried not to think of it that way. It seemed so…childish. Selfish. Irrational.
So, every day, in an effort to maintain his sanity, he dutifully reviewed the evidence.
When he asked, she dropped everything and came to Vegas.
She put up with him for years while he was figuring things out, even during those times when he knew it was a far from pleasant experience.
She told him how she felt first.
She (gleefully, happily) said yes to his proposal.
She made a life with him. She made a life for him.
When she left it, she still told him she loved him.
And repeated that sentiment over the phone, every single time they spoke to each other. And they did speak to each other—via phone, computer, text messages…
She wasn't with him.
And he supposed that was all that mattered, in his mind. In his heart.
Until this moment.
No one who left him before ever came back.
But as they stepped into a mutual embrace, he realized something else: this wasn't just anyone he was holding. This was Sara.
And he should have known better.
Grissom had believed in Warrick. And only Sara knew to what extent.
Yes, he had given him second chances—even against her advice. But he saw in him a man who could someday easily step into his own shoes. Warrick was talented, dedicated, and once he got past his own personal demons—he had the temperament to distance himself in just the right way. Enough to care. Not enough to burn out.
And Grissom believed in him as a person, as well. Whatever life handed him, he rose up again and again, until the ability for resurrection was totally beyond his own control.
Grissom looked around at the mourners gathered by the gravesite. Nearly all of them were members of the crime lab or LVPD. Mourning one of "their own," and—in many cases—mourning someone they had never known personally. He recognized the woman standing off to the side from a picture Warrick had shown him. She was Tina, Warrick's ex-wife.
Her lone isolation was a stark reminder of Warrick's greatest mistake. He was too much like Grissom. Too dedicated to the wrong thing. He sacrificed his personal life for his job.
Even though he didn't know Tina, he knew things had ended badly between them. And he suspected that it might have been unnecessary.
Tina took second place. And that shouldn't happen in a marriage.
She deserved more. And so did Warrick.
They had simply run out of chances.
Her first night back, Sara came to bed wearing a cute nightgown.
Cute. That was really the only way to describe it.
She called it a "lawn" nightgown because…he had no idea why. He'd have to look it up on the Internet someday. It was white and what made it cute were the tiny frills around the sleeves.
It was so…not Sara.
And, in the midst of grieving, he focused in on this wardrobe anomaly.
"My mother gave it to me," she said, as if that explained everything. And, in a way, it did. She went from not even wanting to speak with her mother for years, to accepting—and wearing—a gift purchased by the selfsame woman.
He smiled and told her it was lovely. Because it was.
She smiled and he told her she was lovely. Because she was.
And a small light flicked on in the darkness.
She came home and talked and talked about Pamela Adler's death. While he was at work, she had received the phone call. Her husband was finally pulling the plug in the morning, and he wanted a few people who meant something to his wife to be there at her side when he did.
Sara went, and remained, as Pamela took her last breath.
And two days later, they stood and watched as her husband released her ashes over Lake Meade.
Grissom finally understood it all.
"She's at peace now," Sara said, as she quietly went into the kitchen to make sandwiches.
"I suppose she is," Grissom responded, seating himself on one of the stools by the breakfast bar.
"What's wrong?" She asked, putting the bread on the counter, and then just staring at him. He forgot just how easily she could 'read' him.
"Remember the discussions we had when you took the case—years ago?"
"We had a few discussions. Which one are you referring to?"
"All of them had the same theme."
"Caring too much? Chasing rabbits? Diversions?"
"Burning out," he said.
"Well, that's not an issue anymore, is it? I'm not a working CSI."
"But you've been here less than two weeks and have already jumped right into the thick of things."
"Gris, this is … this was different. It was one case and it was someone I kept tabs on for years."
"That's not true, Sara."
"What do you mean?"
"Pamela Adler was not the only one. You knew exactly what Hannah West was up to in the years following your initial contact with her. It didn't concern me much at the time, but you have followed up on more than a couple of cases, haven't you?"
"So?" she said, shrugging her shoulders. "It's not like I'll be doing it anymore. I don't even have the resources."
He shook his head. "I don't know how you did it all those years. The way you were going, I thought you'd burn out within six months of the Adler case."
"And you didn't offer me much of a diversion," she said, with a small smile.
"No, I guess I didn't. And I suppose I must have seemed rather hypocritical--giving my all to the job, while telling you to step back. I just didn't want you to become a female version of me. Except worse—one with feelings."
"I didn't mean what I said back then," she said, looking at him with such warmth that he almost abandoned the rest of this very necessary conversation.
"I know that. Sara." He took a deep breath. "I don't know how to say this…"
"Nothing good ever came of a conversation that started that way, Gris."
"It's just that, I've been in your shoes a few times over the years. The way you approached almost every case was the way that I approached a handful, and it's exhausting and heartbreaking, and futile—most of the time."
"I know. We've had this discussion. I'm not going back to the lab. That hasn't changed just because I wanted this last moment with a victim I cared about."
"I didn't expect you to come back to me." He blurted out. He had committed himself. He had to tell her everything.
"What?" She asked, genuinely surprised. He leaned over the breakfast bar and tried to maintain eye contact. This was too important to risk miscommunication.
"On some level, I thought once you realized that life among death was not a life, you'd move on."
"I guess I have. But, not from you. Never from you."
"That's the point, Sara. On some level, I took it as a personal rejection. But, it wasn't. It was quite the opposite. I just didn't fully understand that. So, I threw myself into work because I thought that was all I had left. But, that wasn't the way you looked at it, was it?"
"I don't know what you mean, Gil."
"You thought I always put my work first—and you not only accepted that, you protected that priority list for me. Even if it meant finding your way through…finding your way back…alone. And that's my fault. I never made it clear that my priorities had changed way before I even kissed you that first time. And I didn't even make it crystal clear after you left."
"I know you love me," she said, simply, as she reached her hand out and ran it lightly over his beard. He caught it and held it in his own.
"I have one more thing to do at the lab. One. Solve this murder. For Warrick. And then I'm done."
"That's it for the lab. We'll go off and do something else. Together. Something in science but something where we'll never have to deal with decomp again."
"Wow," she said, and the surprise was clearly on her face. She let it soak in for a moment and quietly said, "If that's really what you want, I think I'd like that."
"Good. But here comes the part you won't like."
She was frowning already.
"I want you to go back."
"Back to San Francisco."
"Now. Soon. I don't want you here for this. No, let me rephrase that. I need you not to be here for this."
"Because, it will suck you in, Sara."
"Don't be silly. I'm not a CSI anymore. I can't even work the case."
"Sara…you'll be here every morning. You'll want to know what I've discovered. And I'll want to tell you. You can't tell your brain to stop working or your heart to stop bleeding when you see me worried or…"
"I'm not going."
"Then, I'm playing dirty. I respected your need to be by yourself, and I'm asking you to do the same for me."
The frown was joined by a slight sheen of tears in her eyes. "I can't believe you're kicking me out."
"I'm not kicking you out. I'm asking for a little time. A little time to finish things up while I know you are safe and not being dragged into this world again. And, believe me, it would be the easiest thing to happen. This job meant so much to you for so long, you'd be back in it before you even realized. You can't do that. I can't watch you do that. I will rejoin you. As soon as this is over. I promise."
A slow, tiny smile spread across her lips.
Her faith in him was immediate.
He should have known.
Two days later, he came home from walking the dog, and found her in her nightgown.
Her cute nightgown.
He lay on the bed, fully clothed, and she snuggled up next to him.
"I booked my flight back," she said, running her hand against his peach-colored polo shirt.
He said nothing, just put his hand on hers and lightly stroked his fingers against her skin.
He wanted to weep. He had experienced life without Sara and didn't like it.
But, weeping would get him nowhere. He had her now. He'd have her always.
He stroked her fingers over and over again. In the days and weeks to come, no matter what happened, he would know that she was safe from the darkness. And he would face his own with courage, feeling the imprint she left now, as she held her hand, gentle and sure, over his heart.
And, for once,
He truly understood what it meant to love someone so completely that you sacrificed a bit of yourself for their sake.
He understood it all. On every level.
A/N: Writing stories based on vague spoilers is somewhat of a throwaway. The spoilers usually don't pan out, or canon is so far from what is proposed in the story that it all seems like an exercise in futility.
But, all my exercising seems to be futile, so what the heck? It's much more harlequin-ey than I expected but I'm feeling the "years" and the DAL (deep abiding love) aspect of the GSR more than ever and wanted to explore that side in this story.
By the way, I hope this story is full of you-know-what and we have an angst-free Season 9. A girl can dream, can't she?