After the Noise and Bother (by Calim11)

Summary: What Happened Next for the episode “For Warrick”
Category:  CSI
Genre:   Crime Procedural
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  12,400


 

Acknowledgment: “For Warrick” was written by Carol Mendelsohn, Allen MacDonald, Richard J. Lewis. Some dialogue is used from that episode.

Author’s Note: This is my personal take on what I think would’ve been a better ending for these two characters instead of Sara leaving Grissom in Paris to work a job she doesn’t like. Once she had him, why would she leave him???!!!! I’m still trying to figure that out.

*****

Gil Grissom’s notorious calm façade was cracking like a piece of glass. He could feel it, each tendril crossing his face until he was sure it would shatter before all who’d gathered here. And that was the worst part – it was cracking in front of his team, in front of Sara, and all he could do was forge ahead and try and get through this horrible, horrible day.

He shouldn’t be worrying about such things, not here, not now. A young man was dead, killed by one of their own. Thoughts should be for him and what the world would be missing now that he was gone. Grabbing the side of the pulpit, his knuckles turned white as his vision blurred.

“Warrick was . . . He was . . .”

Looking down at the paper in his hand, Grissom desperately tried to keep the rising emotions at bay, emotions that were normally locked away. He’d written specific things down, not knowing if he would remember all that Warrick Brown was to him, to the team, to the world in general. He had to remember. He had things to say, to let everyone know that Warrick was back on track, had jumped over this latest hurdle and was ready to move on.

And he wanted them to know how much he loved him. Yes, loved him. That little piece of knowledge had surprised him, coming at him as he’d held the man’s bloody body close to his own in that alley, knowing he was losing him.

Shaking his head slightly, he tightened his grip even more. Now was not the time to come apart. He had to be strong for his team, for himself. It was his place to say these words to those gathered. But he couldn’t look up, couldn’t see the sad faces before him. It would be the end of him if he saw their faces.

But he had to say something, anything. It was his heart that finally spoke.

“I’m gonna miss him so much.”

His voice broke on those words and he took a step back trying to stop the trembling that was slowly overtaking him. There was so much more to say about Warrick Brown, so much more, but it just hurt too much. So he lowered his head, trying to stop the feeling that he was going to drop to his knees and sob, when he felt a hand on his arm. Glancing up, he was never more grateful than to see Sara’s sad but welcomed face offering him whatever she could.

“I can’t . . .” he faltered tears rolling down his face.

“I know, baby,” she gave him. “Let’s go outside.”

Not able to do much of anything but nod, he let her led him from the dais and toward the side door, both hearing the preacher ask the choir for a hymn, their voices rising upward as the door slid shut behind them.

*****
The service under the bright Vegas sun was peaceful and fitting, the mourners passing by Tina Brown with little Eli and the team stopping lastly in front of Grissom and Sara, receiving only forced smiles and small nods before they returned to their cars.

No words came from him as they drove home; the team was gathering at his house to reminisce about their friend. Sara couldn’t keep her eyes from him as he sat on the couch staring at his cold coffee in a bug mug Warrick had given him for his birthday the previous year.

He didn’t even notice when everyone left.

“Gil?” came drifting through his fuzzy head, clearing enough of a path to catch some of his attention. He turned toward Sara’s worried face near his own.

“I’m sorry,” was the first thing out of his mouth.

A perplexed look crossed her face. “For what?”

Looking away, he flinched at the memory. “I, ah, couldn’t finish what I wanted to say,” he tried to explain. “There was so much more to say and I . . . I just . . .”

“It’s all right, Gil,” she said rubbing his back. “Everyone understood.”

He shook his head. “I don’t understand. I don’t understand why things are the way they are. Warrick was a good man and yet he’s . . . he’s gone and McKean . . .”

“He’ll rot in jail for what he did, Gil. Maybe we’ll get lucky and someone’ll off him on the inside.”

“We can only hope,” Grissom whispered, surprising Sara as she watched him run a shaky hand through his hair. “I loved him, Sara. He was just getting his life back together. Everything was falling back into place and then this . . .”

Pausing to still the anger running rampant through him and having no luck, he pushed himself to his feet and stalked toward the window. “It’s so damned unfair!” came his shout, making her jump. “First Nick, then you, now him! What else is coming?!”

With a howl, Grissom’s hand darted out and whisked items off the long bookshelf under the window, the crash echoing about the room followed by Hank’s excited barks. Sara was immediately by his side, pulling at his arm to stop him when he spun and grabbed her, wrapping his arms about her. She held on tightly as violent sobs broke from him and they slid to the floor.

“Don’t leave. Please don’t leave me again,” he begged through his tears, not caring if he was asking too much, not caring if she didn’t want to stay. He just needed somebody so badly to get him through and he wanted it to be Sara.

Her heart broke for him. Warrick loved him like a father and she knew Grissom loved him like a son. To have that taken from you, and so violently, by someone you knew was just too much to bear for her stoic man. She wasn’t sure if he’d ever recover from both Warrick’s death and her leaving again, and vowed she’d stay as long as she could, as long as he would let her.

Burying a hand in his hair and running the other along his back, she closed her eyes to those sad sounds emanating from him, hoping that this would be the elixir needed to right himself and move on.

Grissom was a man of deep emotion although few would’ve guessed it. She’d seen it in his face when they made love and in his eyes when he’d found her in the desert; she saw it when he would figure out who the killer was or when the victim was a child. They were glimpses of the man inside the wall he’d built to protect himself from his job and all the horrible things he was forced to look at day in and day out.

But today those walls were gone, having started to crumble when he’d pulled a dying Warrick from his car, becoming driven to find out who’d killed his friend, then bounced right into shock when he did — a shock that was still working its way through him this day as he shuddered in her arms.

“Baby, let’s go lie down for a bit,” she whispered when his cries slowed. “Come on,” she coaxed, helping him to his feet. Hank was offering his support as they moved toward the bedroom.

Gently lowering him to the bed, she found he wouldn’t let go of her as she tried to push him back. She gave him a soft smile and ran a hand down his damp face.

“Just lay back. I’m going to get a washcloth and some water. I’ll be right back.”

Forcing himself to let go, he watched her move toward the bathroom, unable to raise his head or even think straight. Hank leaped onto the bed and leaned against his master’s legs but Grissom’s eyes never strayed from Sara, needing her to come back and hold him. That’s all he wanted – someone to hold and tell him everything was going to be all right. He couldn’t stop the walls from caving in but she could. Sara always could.

Moving onto the bed, she tenderly wiped his face then handed him the water cup, helping him to steady a trembling hand, then brushed the hair from his forehead as he lay back, all the while gracing him with a warm smile. Without a word she spread a blanket over him then lay down, letting him pull her into an embrace. Her hand strayed to his cheek, feeling more tears making their way down his face as she kissed his forehead then nestled his head into the crook of her neck.

“Rest easy, baby,” she whispered. “I’m here.”

His response was to hold her tighter. He was so tired of seeing his people hurt, tired of the job, tired of living without Sara.

He was just tired.

Closing his eyes, he gave in to what his body needed, hoping she would be there when he woke up. If she wasn’t, he didn’t know what he’d do. But now he didn’t have enough energy to worry about such things. It had all just gotten so much harder for him and all he wanted to do was bury his head and disappear.

He held on tighter.

*****

“How’s our boy?” came Catherine Willow’s voice over Sara’s phone.

“Not good, Cath,” came the whispered response from the bathroom, thanking herself for having the forethought to activate the vibration on her phone and turn the ringer off before falling asleep next to Grissom.

“How so?”

Sighing, she rubbed her eyes. “After all of you left, he fell apart. I’m glad I was here but I may be part of the problem as well.”

“You mean because you’re going to leave again?” came the blunt response.

Sara’s mouth opened then closed. It shouldn’t sting but it did. It shouldn’t because she had initiated the leaving and hadn’t done it very well.

“Yeah, something like that,” was her only response, feeling even worse than when she left the first time.

“Does he know that?”

“I’m not inclined to speak on that just now, Catherine. I’m here until he doesn’t need me anymore.”

Catherine laughed. “Then you’ll be staying a long time. Let us know if we can do anything.”

“I will. Thanks.”

Closing the phone, Sara just looked at it then up at the bathroom door, thinking on the man behind it. She loved him with all her heart, had for as long as she could remember, and yet she’d done the walking. Her reasoning? So he wouldn’t see her fall apart, too afraid about what he might think or say. And yet here she was providing what little stable ground she could for him. But Catherine was right. When she left, she’d take that ground with her and no telling what it would do to him.

Sara rubbed her face. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to go through things with a helping hand nearby. So many times she’d wanted to have him hold her, to listen to her, to just be there. That’s what he wanted; she could tell by his conversations or lack of conversation when she’d called.

She often wondered if this was some sort of payback on her part for how he’d treated her those many years. What a better way to get back at someone then to draw them out of their shell, make them rely on you, then leave in the middle of the night with only a letter left behind.

“Heartless,” she muttered.

What a horrible person she was. Grissom was a complicated man with so many barriers to break and she’d succeeded in breaking them all and making him take the step she’d always wanted. If she hadn’t known how he felt before Natalie Davis (1), she knew after. She would always remember that look in the chopper; those eyes fixed to hers spoke volumes of what his heart held and nearly lost. The days in the hospital and the weeks at home showed her more of how he felt, how nearly losing her had very nearly destroyed him. How could she just up and leave without even a spoken word?

“Cold blooded,” she remarked running a hand through her hair. “Completely and utterly wrong.”

Sighing again, she finally stood and reached for the door only to stop at the sounds coming from beyond it. Peeking past the door, she could see Grissom had flopped onto his back but he was no longer quiet. His head kept pitching from side to side, hands moving in an out of fists; sweat covered his face and incoherent mumbles turned into words the closer she got.

“Warrick . . . oh, God. Stay with me. Come on . . . please. I need you to fight. No, no, no!”

A hand came to her mouth as she neared the bed. He hadn’t told her what had happened . . . not in detail. All she knew was he’d pulled Warrick out of the car and desperately tried to stop the bleeding. By the time it was over, he was covered in blood and the paramedics had called for a time of death. Nick told her he’d just sat there in silence on the cold pavement, staring at the white sheet that covered their friend until Ecklie arrived on scene. He’d not said much of anything else while they fought to find his killer. Now the story was let loose in his head without a stop button and she couldn’t let him continue.

“Gil? Gil?” She tried taking hold of one of his hands. “Come on, baby, wake up. You’re home. It’s over now.”

She grabbed his other hand and held both across his chest as his eyes shot open, focusing on nothing then everything as he bolted upright, knocking their heads.

“Get it off!” came a frantic voice as he pulled his hands from hers and swiped at his chest. “I can’t get it off!”

“Can’t get what off, Gil?” she asked, a sudden fear running through her.

His frenzied blue eyes tore into her. “Blood. I can’t get it off.”

Confused she tried to grab his hands. “Who’s blood?”

“Warrick’s. It’s all over me. Can’t you see it?” he asked as she grabbed his face and held on tight.

“Gil, you’re home with me. There isn’t any blood. It’s all over now.”

She held his gaze until he blinked, that unfocused look becoming clear and she thought she’d never seen anything so sad.

Quickly scrambling out of her grasp, he made a beeline for the bathroom where she heard him retching. Grabbing up the washcloth, she followed behind and rested a hand on his back, knowing there was nothing in there to throw up. She’d not seen him eat one thing this day.

Resting his head on the seat, she ran the cool cloth across his neck then pulled him back into her embrace.

“Why, Sara?” came his quiet broken question. “Why him?”

She had no answer besides McKean was an asshole that needed to cover up his mistakes but knew that wasn’t what he wanted.

“I don’t know,” she finally whispered tightening her hold as she rocked him on the bathroom floor.
*****

“There you are,” Sara called out upon spying Grissom standing silently in his kitchen, hands in his front pockets, staring at a photograph on a shelf. Slowly she approached, the figures in the photo coming into focus as she neared remembering the time when it was taken.

It was Jim Brass’s birthday and they’d all dragged him to a football game. Nick insisted they attend the tailgate party before, much to Grissom’s distaste. He’d gotten into the swing of things, though, by the time the picture was taken; she remembered the shared joke, at his expense, that broke everyone up including him. Everyone was happy; everyone had big smiles on their faces; everyone was together.

She cleared her throat not sure if he’d heard her or not, just before slipping her arms across his chest. He tensed then relaxed, a hand coming to rest over hers.

“I’ve been thinking about what made us laugh,” he began in a soft voice, “and, out of context, it’s not funny at all.”

“It was an ‘in the moment’ kinda thing,” she related to him. “They always fall flat when you try to tell someone about it.”

“I’d catch Warrick’s eye during the game and he’d just start laughing again. He finally had to change seats with you.”

“I saw what you were doing,” she chided him, laying her head against his back. “I finally threatened to turn you out of our bed if you kept it up.”

“Yes, you did.”

“And you stopped.”

“I may be dense but I’m not stupid.”

She could hear the smile in his voice even though she knew it didn’t reach his lips or his eyes or his heart. She heard him sigh then slowly he walked out of her embrace, holding onto her hand for a time then letting it go.

“I’m going to take Hank for a walk.” Heading up the stairs, he called to the boxer as he moved, taking the leash down from the sideboard near the door.

“Want some company?” she asked following after, flashing him a smile.

Finishing with Hank, he stood and gave her a narrowed look then hesitantly nodded. “Sure.”

*****

The silence that engulfed them was tremendous and filled with unsaid words and feelings. She hung on his arm and he kept hands in his pockets, unsure of what he could do but knowing what he wanted to do – take her in his arms and never let go. But she’d left him, left him wondering what it was he could do to get her back in his life. Losing Warrick was not the way to do it.

Stopping suddenly, he looked out over the vista before them, a cool breeze ruffling his curly hair as a memory of what he’d said to her the previous day washed through him – ‘Don’t leave. Please don’t leave me again’. He couldn’t believe he’d said those words aloud. True, it’s what he wanted but wild horses weren’t going to drag them out into the open. He didn’t want Sara back because she felt guilty. He wanted her back because she wanted to come back. And especially didn’t want her back because Warrick was gone.

“Sara,” he began then trailed off. Whatever he said here was going to be wrong but the words needed to be said. He sighed.

“What is it, Gil? You can tell me anything you know?”

“Yeah, well, you won’t want to hear this I’m sure.”

She frowned and forced herself to swallow. She’d told Catherine she was going to stay for as long as he needed her. And, whether he realized it or not, she needed him as much as he needed her.

“After what I did to you, I’m sure it can’t be that bad,” she responded, noticing him wince at the words, keeping his eyes straight ahead.

“I shouldn’t’ve . . .” He stopped again, took a deep breath and turned toward her. “You don’t have to stay. I’ll be fine.”

He watched her face then her eyes as they drilled into him. He was sure he saw anger, hurt. It was merely a reflection of his own gaze.

“Gil . . .”

“Thank you for being here. I truly mean that,” he quickly added, wanting so to touch her. “I don’t think I could’ve gotten through these last days without you here. But I must learn to stand on my own two feet now that . . .” He stopped himself from saying ‘now that you’re not here with me’. “I’m sure you have better things to do than take care of an old boyfriend.”

She put a hand on his chest and felt the rapid beat pulse against it. He was giving her the heave ho, letting her back away gracefully. But his words thundered in her ears – ‘Don’t go. Please don’t leave me again’. They’d hit home hard and it was perhaps the first time she truly understood what she’d done to him when she left like a thief in the night. She’d torn up his heart and tossed it out the window.

If she was truly honest with herself, she’d made him admit his love for her and then walked away like it meant nothing. She’d accused him of doing the same for years, and while he hadn’t destroyed her heart, she’d destroyed his and it was all in a letter. She knew those words would haunt her forever.

“You aren’t my old boyfriend, Gil,” she finally said.

He pierced her with a look, hurt plaguing his words. “Then what am I, Sara? You said goodbye in your letter. Not ‘see you later’ or ‘until next time’, but goodbye. I can’t think of anything more final than that it just took me a bit to realize it. Accepting it is another matter entirely.”

He moved away from her touch and leaned against a tree then slid to the ground, Hank resting his head in his lap. Sara moved to sit next to him, keeping a bit of distance, then wrapped arms about her knees.

“You are my life, Gil,” Sara began. “I’m sorry if my leaving made you question that.”

Grissom chuckled, refusing to look at her. “You left me a letter, Sara, a dear John letter. You didn’t even have the grace to tell me to my face. That hurt, Sara, more than you’ll ever know.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“Me, too,” was his only answer.

“I had to face my past and get rid of everything that was holding me down. I couldn’t do that here,” Sara tried to explain.

An incredulous look overtook him as he turned toward her. “Did it ever occur to you that I would’ve gone with you? That I would’ve considered it a privilege to help you?”

“I didn’t want to bother you.”

“I love you, Sara,” he said in an exasperated tone. “You are my everything. What bothers you bothers me. How could you even think . . .” He rubbed his forehead and leaned forward trying to still his racing heart.

She watched his hand move from his forehead down his beard, eyes closed. It was a ‘count to 10’ response and she knew it well. So she waited, waited for whatever else was to come for she knew she deserved it. Instead he just sat back and remained quiet. It was her turn to fill the void.

“I’ve spent the better part of 10 years stalking you,” she began. “You’ve seen me happy, sad, torn apart and desperately, hopelessly in love. But you’ve never seen me at the end of my rope. I didn’t want you to see that. It could’ve ended everything between us.”

“And walking away didn’t?” he said before he could stop himself.

She moved closer then and grabbed his hand intertwining her fingers. She relaxed a bit when he squeezed back. “I was giving you an out. I was cutting the ties so that you could move on; find someone a bit more stable. I didn’t want to take you down with me.”

Grissom looked at her, those blue eyes staring into brown ones. “I would’ve gladly gone down that path, Sara, because I wouldn’t have let you fall. Between the two of us we have more stubborn than we know what to do with and it would’ve gotten us through. I don’t understand why you didn’t know that and I apologize if I didn’t make it clear somehow, that you felt forced to just walk away. And even if you did fall, I would’ve picked you up and we would’ve continued on.”

“I know. I just . . .”

“You just didn’t trust that I would be there,” he interrupted, his tone flat as he stared down at their hands. “That’s why you have to go, Sara. If you don’t trust me, there’s no sense in continuing on.” He let go of her hand and hastily stood before she could say anything, looking down at her. “I love you, Sara, with everything that I am. You are and will always be in my heart, something you’ve had since day one. I trust you with my life and I hope the best for you in whatever you do and wherever you go.”

“Gil . . .”

“If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to call. I’ll always answer. I mean that more than I’ve ever meant anything in my life. Until my last breath I will always be yours.”

With that, he turned and walked away but not before she saw tears in his eyes and on his face. She sat there shaken to the core. She was losing the best thing that ever happened to her because she was letting him just walk away.

This journey home was to say goodbye to Warrick and to be there for Grissom, to help him and the team over the rough patches. Now he was showing her the door, letting her go back to whatever life she was building for herself and she found she didn’t want to go. But then she couldn’t stay either because he would never let her, not like this, not if he thought she didn’t trust him.

Life was funny. You pine and pine away for something and then as soon as you get it, you misuse it, neglect it, and toss it away for something else on the horizon. And that’s what she’d done. She’d tossed away Gil Grissom to find herself.

God, what an idiot. Things would’ve been so much easier if he’d been there. Now she was more alone than before they finally got together and it was all her own doing.

“Damnit!” she shouted, willing herself not to cry, thinking she would just sit here next to this tree until they found her desiccated remains months from now. “I had it all and I blew it. I’m so sorry, Gil.”

Tears came then and she just fell over and wept wondering why she couldn’t just turn back time and change . . . everything.
*****

“Grissom?” Catherine called from around the door, pocketing her key as she entered the darkened room. “Sara?”

“She’s not here,” came a quiet voice from out of the dark, startling her.

Putting a hand to her chest to calm herself, she stepped forward, eyes adjusting enough to see a form sitting on the couch. “Why are you sitting in the dark?” she asked as she settled in next to him.

“Nothing hurts in the dark,” was his only response making her wince.

She rested a hand on his leg. “What happened?”

He was quiet for a bit. “I asked her to leave.”

“Why?”

“Why?” he repeated with a heavy sigh. “Because she was going to leave anyway so why make me think she wasn’t. Just getting over these few days with her is going to be hard enough.”

“She loves you, Gil,” Catherine added.

“She has a funny way of showing it,” was all he said as he leaned forward and clasped hands together, looking toward the floor.

Catherine just waited, knowing he’d talk when he felt the need. She’d gotten over filling up the spaces long ago when dealing with this particular friend.

“She left a note,” he said off-handedly.

“What did it say?”

“I don’t know because I’m not going to read it. Her last note nearly did me in,” Grissom answered before looking off into the darkened room.

“What if it explains where she’s gone? Don’t you want to know that?”

“Why?” he asked with a shake of his head. “What good would it do to know where she is since she obviously doesn’t want me with her?”

“Gil . . .”

“It’s true, Catherine, or she would’ve just ignored me and would still be here,” he answered.

“There’s always hope.”

Grissom gave her a mirthless chuckle. “Hope. I think the hardest thing to deal with is that little flicker of hope that springs up when you think you’ve got a chance at something. It makes you ignore the obvious.

“I felt it for just a moment when I held Warrick in my arms, thinking the EMT’s would get there in time. I could hear the sirens. All he had to do was hang on, last a bit longer.” He dropped his head into his hands. “But the flame never reached very high. I guess it was just wishful thinking on my part. I couldn’t lose him, too.”

She heard him sniffle and ran a hand across his back feeling him quiver.

“Then Sara showed up . . . God, it felt like I could make it through this as long as she was here, as long as she loved me. It felt so good to be back in her arms and that damned hope flamed back to life. I tried to tamp it down, knowing she wasn’t staying but I just let it go because I needed her to feel whole again.” He stopped for a moment and sat back rubbing at his face. “So now I’ve managed to douse that particular flame, so, no, I don’t want to read her note and have it flicker to life once again.” Catherine was quiet drawing his attention. “Go ahead and laugh. I know you want too.”

“Why would I laugh at you?” Catherine asked.

“Because I’m so . . .”

“In love?” she offered a smile in her voice.

“Tired,” he gave her. “I don’t know what I’m saying anymore nor do I much care. I’ve lost two people who meant the world to me – one is untouchable and the other . . . the other doesn’t trust me,” he concluded with a sigh.

“Of course she trusts you; otherwise, she wouldn’t be back here,” Catherine tried, glad it was dark and he couldn’t see her face just then because even she didn’t believe those words.

“Trust, like fine china, once broken can be repaired, but it is never quite the same,” he softly intoned. “I trusted her with my heart and she left. Next thing you know, you won’t be coming around anymore either.”

Catherine heard him heave a heavy sigh and dragged him into a hug. “Gil Grissom, you’re such a drama queen.” She heard a slight chuckle over that. “I’ve known you how long? Twenty years? If I’m still coming around after all the crap you’ve pulled you’re stuck with me forever, like it or not.”

“Thanks . . . I think.”

Catherine smiled then and rested her head against his. “Think about it this way. Sara’s not here for Warrick. She’s here for you. After leaving the way she did, how tough was it for her to step back into your world without knowing whether you’d toss her out. And believe me, that’s what she expected.”

“I wouldn’t’ve done that,” he emphatically stated.

“She didn’t know that and took a big chance just showing up at your office. I saw her face when we all came in. It was like looking at someone waiting for the trigger to be pulled.”

Grissom pulled out of her embrace and skewered her with a look, Catherine seeing it despite the dark. “That’s just the thing, Catherine. She should’ve known I wouldn’t just turn her out. I never would’ve done that.”

Catherine held the sides of his face. “We never know what men are going to do after they’ve been pushed aside. She hurt you, Gil, hurt you badly after promising she wouldn’t. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to come back, to see what I’d done if it’d been me. Girl’s got guts, I’ll give her that.”

He closed his eyes, feeling the burn of tears, trying desperately to keep them in their place. He would have time enough for that when he was alone.

Alone. God, what an awful word.

“I just want things to be like they were,” he whispered. “But that will never be and I can’t let myself get sucked in again. I don’t have enough willpower to fight it. I just want these last few days to go away, Catherine. I want Warrick to walk through that door and smile at me and I want Sara . . . I want Sara to stay away and let me try and forget her, even though I know I never will.”

“If this was a movie, we could rewrite the script,” Catherine began. “Take out the bad stuff and put in nothing but good.”

“Ah, but words once spoken can never be recalled. Their meaning will always stay with you whether you choose to ignore them or not, just as events can never be forgotten as much as we wish they could.”

Catherine silently nodded, remembering the look on Grissom’s face as she came upon him, staring at Warrick’s sheet shrouded body and thinking he’d never looked more lost. She batted at her eyes and stood, pulling on Grissom’s arm. “Come on, bugman. Let’s get you to bed.”

He didn’t even put up a fight or make a wry comment, letting her lead him to the bedroom, Hank following closely behind. She held on tightly, feeling him wrap an arm about her as they walked.

“Do you want to change?” she asked as he paused at the side of the bed. “Gil?” He blinked and looked at her. “Do you want to shower and change or just lay out as is?”

“I don’t care,” was his only answer as he wondered briefly where Sara was sleeping this evening then tossed it from his head. He didn’t need to know nor would the information make him feel any better. Sighing, he dropped onto the bed and kicked off his shoes then stared at the floor.

“You know this sleeping thing works better if you’re actually lying down,” Catherine gave him as she neared kneeling in front of him. He gave her a half-hearted grin and kissed her forehead.

“Thanks, Catherine, for everything.”

“What’re friends for?” she answered with a smile before pushing him down and tossing a comforter over him. Her smile widened when Hank leaped upon the bed and snuggled close.

“Will you stay . . . for awhile?” he shyly asked as she sat next to him and grabbed his outstretched hand.

“You know I will. Now close those eyes and dream of finding a new bug.”

He gave her a slight grin and closed his eyes.

Not twenty minutes later, Catherine was easing herself out of Grissom’s bedroom and heading for the front door when her eye caught sight of a small white envelope on the sideboard with “Gil” written across the front. Her fingers dangled over it for a half second before whipping it up and pulling out the folded piece of paper.

She smiled then, returned the note to the envelope and left it where it had been. The door closed quietly behind her.

She had a mission to complete.

*****

“Cath?” Nick said as he opened the door, trying not to yawn in her face as he tied his robe together. “Do you know what time it is?”

“Late. Is Sara here?” she asked, skipping over the pleasantries. Nick said nothing, instead stepping aside for her to enter, closing the door softly behind her.

Sara looked up from her book and groaned inwardly. She’d seen that look before on Catherine’s face and knew she was in for it. Well, she actually deserved it this time and faced her straight on. “He told me to leave,” she said before Catherine could say a word.

“I know,” was her answer, surprising Sara but only for a moment. She knew how close Grissom and Catherine were. “But you didn’t.”

Sara shook her head. “I couldn’t. I love him, Catherine, but I hurt him and now he doesn’t trust me.”

“Maybe it was the way you left him in the first place,” Nick added, trying to keep the chill from his voice looking away from the two women.

Sara couldn’t fault Nick’s anger or Catherine’s or Greg’s. Even Brass had had a few things to say to her and she deserved it all. She’d been a coward leaving in the dead of night with only a letter left in her wake. It hadn’t just hurt Grissom but all of them and she’d never meant to hurt anyone.

Catherine sat next to her on the couch. “Grissom loves you with every breath he takes, Sara, and it’s tearing him apart to know that you’re only here to help us through Warrick’s . . . through these hard times. I found him sitting in the dark thinking that if you truly wanted to be with him, you would’ve ignored him and stayed anyway. His words,” she quickly said at the perplexed look from Sara.

“I told him where I was in a note.”

“A note he didn’t read,” Catherine informed her, frowning at the perplexed look on the young woman’s face.

“But you obviously did.”

“Someone had to step in and right this mess.”

“And, of course, it had to be you.”

“I’ve known Gil a long time, Sara. I’ve been here when you’ve been away ‘finding yourself’. It hasn’t been pretty. And why would he want to read anything you left behind after the last letter?”

Looking away, Sara stared at the book in her lap. “I’m still here.”

“But you’re not there, Sara,” Nick added sitting on the table in front of the couch. “You pissed me off the way you left like we meant nothing to you. Not a word did you say. Warrick and I felt . . . well, we felt abandoned, like we’d done something to you. When Grissom was finally able to talk about it, he wanted us to know that it was him you’d left, not us, and that just pissed me off even more. How could you do that to him, Sara? You chased him for years, got him, then you just up and left.”

“I couldn’t be here anymore, Nick,” she tried to explain. “It was all just closing in on me.”

“Then why didn’t you say something? We were all here for you after Natalie Davis, especially Grissom. All you had to do was open your mouth and ask for help.”

Sara looked away from him. “I don’t do that very well.”

“No kidding,” Catherine said drawing an angry look from Sara.

“I almost died out there.”

“We know, Sara,” Nick angrily responded. “We were there.”

“You weren’t with Grissom when we were trying to find you,” Catherine began. “I’ve never seen him so lost, so fractured. I truly believe if you’d died, we would’ve lost him, too. He was standing there right beside you, willing to help but, instead, you just ran away. You don’t trust him, Sara, and that’s worse than almost anything else.”

“I do trust him.”

“Then why are you here and not with him?” Nick asked.

“Because he didn’t want me there!” she shouted.

“Geez, Sara,” Nick sighed moving off the table to pace the room. “He’s been a mess since you’ve been gone. I don’t know why you’re doing this to him.”

Sara looked from one to the other then stood. “I’ll go get my things and . . .”

“Run away again?” Catherine said holding Sara’s angry gaze. “Do you really love Grissom?”

“Yes,” came instantly from Sara.

“Then go to him.”

“I told you he doesn’t want me there.”

“Yes, he does but he’s as stubborn as you are,” Catherine stated with a smirk. “You’re both science geeks with absolutely no social graces. You two fit like a glove. And, if you truly love him, get over there and make him believe in you again. Do whatever it takes because you’re not going to get another chance if you leave again. He will wall you off and the rest of us with you. We’ve already lost Warrick. We don’t want to lose him, too.”

Sara looked to Nick, who simply nodded then back to Catherine, who gave her a soft smile. “He loves you. You love him. Go and make it right no matter how hard you have to fight him.”

“Is he home?” she meekly asked.

Catherine grinned. “I put him to bed about an hour ago.”

“Then I should wait until morning.”

“The longer you wait,” Nick began, “the harder it’ll be. I don’t think he’ll mind being awakened by you.”

Sara looked toward Nick’s grinning face and felt herself blush.

Catherine reached out and grabbed her hand. “Go to him, Sara, and makes things right. Just be honest; confess your sins and he might just surprise you.”

Sara squeezed back then headed toward the spare bedroom to collect her things, all the while hoping that Catherine was right and dreading the thought that she was wrong. But no matter. She would fight for Grissom even if he wouldn’t let her in, wouldn’t let her near. She’d camp out on his doorstep until she wore him down if necessary. She’d done it before. Nothing would make her leave him again.

Shouldering her bag, she headed for the front door and reached for the knob, stopping only to look back at both Nick and Catherine.

“Thank you,” was all she said as she slipped through the door.

*****

Grissom could smell her shampoo, could feel her hair against his face and the beating of her heart beneath his hands. A frown crossed his face as these facts penetrated the murkiness of sleep. How could she be here? She’d left – packed up and left – leaving him to ponder the many things he’d done wrong in his lifetime.

But he could still smell her and that brought a smile to his face, for as long as he slept she would be with him — happy and content and willing to love him as he loved her. What a place it was this dream state that forever filled him to overflowing. What a terrible thing it always was to have to leave it behind when he had to face a new day – a new day without her by his side.

Wishing to stay in a world of his choosing, it annoyed him so when his eyes, ever so slowly, insisted upon opening, seeing nothing but the dark interior of his bedroom, hearing Hank’s heavy breathing coming from the end of the bed.

Quickly closing his eyes again, he tried to submerge himself back into that dreamscape that made him feel whole again but it was gone, that fleeting bit of happiness, and he buried his face in his pillow thinking on how inept he was when dealing with his emotions. Perhaps if he’d been better Sara wouldn’t have left in the first place.

Rolling onto his back, he glanced at the clock and grimaced – 1:00 am. Normally he’d still be at work, shift having just started an hour before, but Ecklie had been kind enough to give his team the week off, so now his timetable was turned upside down. Rubbing at his face, his mind shifted over to figuring out what he was supposed to do now. Maybe get up, get dressed, eat something so he could sit in the dark until the sun came up and remind him what a confusion his life had become and how it would probably always be that way.

Gee, that sounded like fun.

A loud groan escaped him as he sat up, unconsciously brushing at his chest then stopping himself mid-swipe. Noises and smells and the sticky feel of Warrick’s blood soaking through his shirt still clung to him, knocking at him unexpectedly as he moved through a day. Grabbing the sides of the bed, he fought off the image of McKean’s face as it darted through his head.

If only Nick had blown him away.

Shaking his head to rid himself of the thought, he made his way into the bathroom and shut the door. After a hot shower, he climbed into clean clothes and headed to the kitchen, reaching for the refrigerator door only to stop at the familiar sight of the photograph that hung there – both of them before the Golden Gate Bridge smiling, taken oh so long ago back when they were happy.

“So long ago,” he muttered, running a hand over her face and then through his hair. A pang of regret moved through him, then sadness, then sorrow over what he’d lost. “Everything.”

Clenching his jaw, he forgot eating and headed for the front door to gather up car keys, catching his name on the envelope still perched there. It would take but a few seconds to read her final words to him — just a few moments for his heart to disappear even further as she said goodbye once again. Looking away, he sucked in a breath then grabbed Hank’s leash, calling for him as he closed the door behind them, no destination in mind.

He just wanted out — had to drive for awhile and see if he could sort out everything that clogged up his brain and figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life, since he only had to worry about himself and his dog now. It seemed rather pitiful but he’d been here before and he was sure he could do it again.

He didn’t have much choice.

*****

By the time Grissom realized where he was going, the sun was rising and he found himself parked outside the cemetery, the same cemetery he’d walked . . . was it yesterday or the day before? It’s seemed as if it had been just hours before.

It took him another thirty minutes to get out of the car and slowly walk toward the closed gate, debating with himself about climbing the rock wall or just waiting until it opened. He chuckled. Why should a cemetery be locked at all? It’s not like people are trying to get out, or get in for that matter.

What little mirth he found in the thought drifted away when Warrick’s face popped up and he closed his eyes.

“Ah, hell,” he muttered, finding himself leaping over the wall and heading toward his friend’s last resting place, the dim early morning light showing him the path to the newly turned earth before him.

Slowly, he came upon it, hands stuffed in pockets, eyes firmly fixed to the ground, wondering what possessed him to come here in the first place — come to the one place he didn’t want to be, to see once again the name affixed to the marker of a man he’d come to love and lost too soon. He would never understand the complicated reasoning of the mind and why it was determined to make people suffer, make him suffer more than necessary. Stopping mere inches from the place his friend slept, Grissom rubbed his neck and forced himself to look at the inscription:  ‘Warrick Brown ~ A good man gone too soon’.

“How very true,” came his whisper as he knelt to place a hand against the stone, the cold working its way into his fingertips, into his soul.

How long, he wondered, would it take for the ache of loss to go away? Would it be with him always or would he awake one day to find it gone? And then it hit him. He still grieved the loss of his father, something that had happened so many years before. So there was his answer. It would never go away.

“I’m so sorry I wasn’t there sooner.”

Pulling back his hand, Grissom looked out across the expanse of grass and trees in front of him. It felt oddly comforting to be here talking to Warrick.

“I thought we had more time – more time for the EMT’s to show and more time to start your new life.”

He settled on the ground then and picked absently at the grass.

“Right about now, you’d tell me life isn’t fair and I’d say no one ever said it was. But this time I’d have to agree with you. Life isn’t fair in so many ways.

“I’m sure Nicky told you we caught McKean,” he continued. “He’ll be going away for a long time. Maybe he’ll get shanked, then you can hunt him up for a conversation.” He raised a brow then looked back down at the grass. “I can’t believe I just said that. But then, I’ve been saying a lot of things lately that probably should’ve been kept quiet. I guess I’m still in shock. I don’t do well losing people.

“Who else you ask? Well, let’s see. It started with Nick (2). I know he’s still around but it was awful watching him decide whether or not he should kill himself all the while waiting for us to come find him. I felt so helpless. And then when we did find him, I still couldn’t get to him, and all I could think of was, what if he kills himself right in front of me. I’m this close and can’t save him.” He shook his head. “That really shook me up, made me start to question a lot of things, made me sit up and take notice of other things.” He caught himself smiling a bit. “That’s when I let Sara into my life and everything seemed . . . better. Then Jim was shot (3), and I had to make a life or death decision. God, what if I guessed wrong? What if my decision killed a friend?” He nodded. “Yes, everything worked out. But it might not have.”

He rubbed his eyes. “Then Sara left (4) and, well, you know what happened to me then. I can’t seem to function very well without her.”

Grissom leaned back and cast a glance at the stone again before turning away.

“Then . . . you. It really threw me for a loop, Warrick, feeling you . . . feeling your life just . . . slip away and I couldn’t do a thing about it (5).  I would give anything to have you back. I’d even trade places with you because you have so much more to live for than I do. I’m just a sad old man who has nothing but his job and a dog. That’s not much to live for if you ask me. You have Eli, a son who won’t know his father, and that’s a shame because he would be as proud of you as I am. Yeah, I’ll make sure he knows you. Don’t worry about that.

“Sara? You want to know about Sara?” Her face came unbidden to his mind, those deep brown eyes seeping into his soul. “It’s like my life before never existed. She gave me joy with her happy smiles that came my way for no reason at all. I felt like I could do anything.” He bowed his head then and swiped at his eyes. “And then she left and took the sun with her. Corny, I know, but it’s how she makes . . . made me feel.”

A trace of a grin came as he remembered how it felt when he’d walked into his office that horrific day and she’d been leaning against his desk. It was as if the clouds parted then closed just as fast when he realized she wouldn’t be staying.

“She came to say goodbye to you and to help us get through. And now she’s gone again. But this time, I sent her away even though I didn’t want to. Why you ask?” He closed his eyes. “I wanted to hold her and never let go but I couldn’t do that to her. Obviously she doesn’t want to be here, be with me, or she never would’ve left and I can understand that. Well, because look what I am. I’m emotionally stunted and Sara needs someone who’s not hesitant to say what he means. I’m always so afraid of scaring her off that I keep quiet and, guess what, she left anyway. So I’ve done it to myself again.”

Grissom was getting mad at himself, at her and tried to slow his beating heart, tried to remember that he’d asked her to leave this time. He cocked his head, eyes fixed on the stone.

“At least I found out why she left in the first place. She doesn’t trust me. Do I blame her? No, I blame myself for giving the impression that I couldn’t handle whatever happened.” He shook his head.

“I’m just a sad human being, Warrick, who’s screwed up everything and I don’t know how to get it back. I guess I’ll just do what I do best – be alone for the rest of my life. It’s safer. If you don’t give out your heart, it can’t be broken. That was always my mantra before. I guess I’ll just have to start thinking like that again.”

A quick smile came to him then. “Ah, but then I guess I’m never really alone. I’ve got Catherine, Nicky and Greg, who will do their best to make sure I’m not too lonely, whether I want them to or not. I should be thankful. But what happens when they go away or, God forbid, one of them gets killed. I can’t watch that again. Not like that.”

Grissom dropped his head into his hands and took a deep breath. “Ah, Warrick, why couldn’t I save you? Why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I have been a few minutes earlier?”

His voice broke and he realized he was rambling, words were just tumbling out and it didn’t make him feel any better. Looking up at the morning sky and taking in some deep breaths, he tried to regain some control.

Death was an everyday occurrence – it came with the job. He saw what man did to man and had long ago come to grips with the fact that people did crazy, insane things, sometimes for no apparent reason or, at least, reasons he didn’t understand. But this was different. This was one of his own who’d gotten in the way of a man they all knew and paid with his life right when he was getting that life back on track.

It wasn’t fair.

“I saw the tape, the one you made when you were trying to get Eli (6). I thank you for those kind words. I’d always hoped you appreciated that I was trying to take care of you, trying to show you the right path when you were off the mark, because I knew what you could be, just like I know what Nicky can be and Greg, eventually. You reminded me of me when I was younger – the commitment to the job, the enthusiasm you carried with you for getting the bad guy and helping the victims. I always admired your passion and loyalty and dedication to the team, to me. Eli will know all these things about you and, hopefully, try to emulate you. It would be a testament to you and to those of us who knew you.”

Looking up at the wispy clouds fanning out like mare’s tails across the sky, he listened to the leaves rustle in the slight breeze.

“It’s beautiful here,” he said. “Quiet. No noise but nature itself.”

Glancing back at the gravestone, he listened to the birds overhead, closing his eyes against the feelings that surged through him, causing him to sit up a bit straighter, to try and think of other things. It didn’t work. A tear rolled down his face followed by another as he hugged his knees to his chest.

“After the noise and bother,” he slowly began, his voice petering out for just a moment. Clearing his throat he tried again.

“After the noise and bother
of a tragic encounter
comes the quiet and the calm;
a bit of solace in the swirling maelstrom.

For in this place of memory,
void of tears and thoughts darkly,
lives a life bright with hope and youth
evermore in search of the truth.

It is here I will find you
as I travel forward and through
holding your own on a vast open sea,
fraught with unknowns, you venture onward eternally free.

And the smile that I see as you turn
lets me know this grand sojourn
is where you need to go
and where I can’t follow.

So home I stray,
seemingly a world away,
and beckon to me good thoughts of my friend
ignoring his inglorious end.

For I knew him like a son,
now lost to me and everyone,
on the eve of a brave new start
with hope and courage in his heart.

But knowing that he is truly gone
I’m left with nothing to think upon
but all the noise and all the bother
that will last from now until forever.”

Grissom wiped at his face then laid a hand on the stone again before shifting to his feet.

“For you, Warrick, my friend. I envy the peace you’ve finally found while I continue my search, fruitless though it may be.”

Stuffing hands back into his pockets, he stepped away only to come to an abrupt halt when a familiar voice erupted behind him.

“Who wrote that?” came Sara’s voice.

Grissom stiffened, his heart nearly bouncing out of his chest. Even if he’d wanted to, he couldn’t have moved an inch.

“I’ve never heard it before,” she added. His mouth opened but nothing came out. “It was beautiful.”

He tried again. “I . . . I did,” he stammered continuing to stare out into the trees, then cleared his throat. “I wrote it for his funeral. I’m sorry I couldn’t . . .” He dropped his head. “I just couldn’t.”

“I know,” she said wanting so to take him into her arms but keeping her distance. “I’ve been trying to find you. Since you weren’t at home, I thought you might be here.” She smiled then. “Never thought I’d see the day you’d break into a cemetery — a morgue maybe but not a cemetery.”

Why was she here? Why couldn’t she just stay gone?

“I, ah, didn’t mean to eavesdrop but when I saw you jump the wall I just had to follow,” she continued.

Every muscle in his body tightened.

How much had she heard?

What was she thinking?

What was he supposed to do besides flee the scene?

“You found me,” was all he could think to say after finding his wayward voice not wanting to look at her, for her to capture him with those brown eyes again. He had to be strong, had to stick to his decision.

It was better for both of them.

“Warrick was a good man,” she said, making him flinch at the sudden closeness of her voice.

God! This was torture. Every piece of him just wanted to grab her and never let go but he forced himself to keep his hands where they were, keep his thoughts focused on the trees within sight.

“Yes he was,” Grissom finally answered.

“Gil . . .”

“Why are you here, Sara?” he asked, his voice feather light. He hadn’t meant to say anything.

“I came to find you.”

Grissom frowned. “Why?”

“Because I love you.”

He shook his head. “Sara, don’t . . .”

“I know you didn’t read my note,” she interrupted standing just a few steps behind him.

A sad smile graced his lips. “Why would I want to put myself through that again?”

She cringed at the sadness in his voice but decided to push on. “In short, it said that you are the most important thing in my life and I need you more than I’ve ever needed anyone or anything, so instead of goodbye, I’ll see you tomorrow or the next day or anytime you need me. I’ll be there before you take your next breath, before you take another step, before you can change your mind. I love you with all my heart and I . . . well, I don’t want to leave. Not this time.”

Sara waited for him to respond, waited for him to turn and tell her to take a hike, to stop messing with his head and leave, but instead, he continued to remain silent, so she kept going.

“When you told me to leave, I realized, finally, how much I’d hurt you — I mean truly hurt you — and it disgusted me that I could stoop so low. So I packed my bags and headed to Nick’s, who, by the way, told me off as only a Texan can.” She smirked at the blistering she took, knowing she deserved it.

“He made me think, Gil, made me see straight for the first time in a long time and I realized I was missing something and couldn’t seem to find it.” She took another step closer her hands hovering over his back only to pull back. “So I went looking for it. It was easy to find but difficult to obtain.”

Grissom’s brow furrowed. “If you need the money . . .”

“No, Gil,” she said with a shake of the head, a small smile turning her lips. “It’s difficult to obtain because it insists upon standing apart when all it has to do is walk straight ahead.” That pulled his gaze from the trees and directly onto her face not that far from his own. “You, Gil, it’s you I’m talking about.”

He gave her that confused look she’d seen him wear so many times and decided to forge on before he simply walked away.

“I can’t leave without you,” she gave him steadily holding his gaze. “Not this time.”

He cocked his head and narrowed his gaze. “Why is this time so different?” he asked clenching his jaw. “I don’t want Warrick’s death to be the reason you decide to stay.”

“It isn’t,” she responded.

“And how can I believe you?” was his question. He saw the hurt in her eyes but held steady. “How can you suddenly change your mind if not for that?”

“Because I now understand what I had and what I lost. Gil, I love you. I don’t want to lose you again.”

“You didn’t lose me, Sara, you walked away.”

Those words tore through her as she heard the hurt and anger behind them, watching as his eyes began to glisten right before he turned away.

“You were right,” she quickly countered. “Earlier, you were right.”

Now he was mystified and aggravated and just wanted to leave but his feet wouldn’t move.

“About what?” he finally asked.

“That five letter word that means so much. Trust, Gil. Trust.”

Grissom’s puzzled expression cleared and his mouth dropped open as if to say something then snapped shut as he thought better of it. He’d already said enough on the subject. But, apparently, Sara wasn’t through.

“Trust is described in the Oxford Dictionary as a ‘firm belief in the reliability or truth or strength of a person or thing’. I asked you once if you trusted me and you said with your life. I believed you. I still do. Yet, when the tables were turned, I ran and I don’t know why. I’ve always trusted you from the moment I met you and yet I bailed when it mattered most, and that’s bothered me from that day until now.”

She looked away for a moment, swiping at her hair that insisted upon blowing across her face. “It would’ve been so much easier if you’d been with me these last months, no matter how I looked or behaved. It is utterly baffling to me why I chose to leave you, my heart’s desire, when I finally had you and destroy what we’d built.”

He turned then and his heart clenched at the sight of her tears and, even though he was still angry, he couldn’t help but feel the love he still had for her. “Sara, you don’t have to explain.”

“Yes, I do,” she answered, sending a heartfelt gaze toward him. “I can see what I’ve done to you and I am so sorry. I made you lose your way when I left and now you’ve lost Warrick. How could I be so cruel?”

“You thought that was the only way.”

She stepped closer. “Don’t give me an out, Gil,” she chastised. “I didn’t even think. I left because that was what was best for me. I never considered what it would actually do to you. I can never forgive myself for that.”

“Sara . . .”

Grissom stammered to a stop as she stared him straight in the eyes just before holding up two tickets. He could see they were plane tickets – destination: San Francisco.

“I cannot move forward without you by my side, Gil Grissom. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know; I’ll bear my soul if it means you’ll come with me and help me find my way, and if I fall, I want you there to catch me.” Grissom didn’t move, didn’t say anything and nerves began to infiltrate her calm. “Please, Gil. I don’t want to breathe another day without you.”

Gently he pushed down the hand that held the tickets and placed his own against her cheek.

“Sara, you don’t have to do this. You have your own life. It’s what you wanted.”

She placed her other hand over his on her cheek. “It was never what I wanted but what I thought I had to do. I love you, Gil, more than anything else in this world. I’ve missed you so. I hadn’t realized how much until I saw you in your office. The look on your face . . . All I wanted was to grab you and hold on forever. Please let me do that. Please let me make it up to you. Tell me I’m not too late.”

Those words echoed through Grissom’s head, for Sara had said the very same to him a few years before. It turned out he wasn’t too late for her. Was it the same for him? Could he jump back in knowing it could happen all over again?

Damn! There was that flicker of hope raising its ugly head again.

He pulled his hand from hers and stepped back.

Did he dare?

It was time to be honest. It was time to tell her what he needed.

“I can’t go through that again, Sara — you walking out the way you did,” he admitted. “It nearly killed me. I suppose I should be stronger but I’m not. You woke me up and I put everything I had into us, and when you left, it was like…like I was drowning. I should’ve gone after you, brought you home kicking and screaming, but I wanted to abide by your wishes, even though it hurt like hell.

“And now you want to grab a hold of me again and my heart is screaming at me to take the leap but my head is reminding me what it was like that night when I read your letter — how I raced home but you were already gone, how you didn’t answer your cell, and how, when you finally called, I just wanted to beg you to come home but didn’t because I was afraid it would drive you further away.

“I love you so much it hurts, Sara. I can’t take that again and I know you can’t guarantee that it’ll never happen again — and that’s what scares me.”

His voice cracked on those last few words and he looked away, taking in a deep breath to calm himself. He’d never said so much about his own feelings at one time before and he figured when he turned back she’d be gone. It was surprise that filled him when he felt her hand on his back.

“It scares me, too, Gil, that one day you’ll wake up and be tired of me and walk away, but I’m willing to take the chance. I trust that you won’t just leave like I did. I trust that you will talk to me, make me understand. In short, I trust you with my heart and everything else and I want to show you how much you mean to me. Please take me back into your life. Please, Gil. I’ll write it out in another note. I’ll get on my knees if it’ll help.”

He was so confused. On the one hand, he wanted to run back to his car and disappear, never to open his heart again, but on the other, he just wanted to feel loved, feel her arms about him soothing away his many fears, keeping him warm and safe.

‘Man, give her a second chance like you gave me. She’ll take better care of you this time. From where I stand, it all looks good.’

Grissom started then frowned, eyes shifting toward Warrick’s marker. He’d plainly heard his voice flitting between his ears, a familiar voice he’d so wanted to hear again.

A second chance. Well, that was much less than all the chances she’d given him over the years.

Was it too much to ask?

Did he dare?

Before he knew what he was doing, his hands were clasping either side of her face and he was staring into her deep brown eyes wanting to see what was there, what was left. All he found was love, pure and simple and all for him. He couldn’t help but lean in and kiss her, a soft chaste kiss, just before pulling her close and burying his face in her hair as a smile tugged at him. Unwelcomed questions began to form, wounded thoughts beckoned, but he closed them off, deciding for once his brain needed a rest. His heart would take care of the rest.

Epilogue

Six Months Later

Grissom could smell her shampoo, could feel her hair against his face and the beating of her heart beneath his hands. It brought a smile to his face, for this time she was really here by his side, encased in his arms, giving him her trust and her love and filling him with a happiness he hoped would last for life. He no longer had to force himself back to sleep to capture this dream, for it had become a reality. That thought alone both frightened and enthralled him to no end. But he couldn’t think on that now. Now was for their new life together; just the two of them.

Looking down toward his hand and the ring that captured one of his fingers, he carefully lifted her hand that held the exact same ring and thanked whoever was responsible for making them both see the light.

Feeling her move, he gazed upon his life snuggled next to him in their honeymoon suite, thinking she never looked so beautiful even with bed hair and pillow creases on her cheeks. The neon lights of Vegas and the magnificent landscape of Yosemite outside their window had nothing on her, for her beauty was all he ever wanted to see each morning and every day from now until forever.

Forever.

That word didn’t worry him as it once had, especially now that he let his heart do all his talking. Since Sara came back, he’d taken it slowly, dreading the idea that she would walk away again but finding she was closer than ever and he was bound and determined not to lose her this time. So with a clear head and barely a shake of his hand, he’d given Ecklie his resignation papers, recommending Catherine take his place. After his initial outburst, Ecklie managed to talk Grissom into a consultant job for the good of the lab. It was the least he could do, or so thought Ecklie.

After his goodbyes, handshakes and hugs, Grissom and Sara flew to San Francisco to work out her problems together. It had been tough and they’d both been marked by the experience, but that had been six months ago and their bond was stronger now than ever before. Now, after a quiet wedding before the splendor of El Capitan, he could worry about the rest of their lives and how he was going to make her happy.

“Come on, honey, rise and shine,” he whispered to her as she mumbled something back at him. “We’ve got places to go and mountains to climb.”

“I wanna stay here,” she whined pushing against him.

He chuckled. “Me, too, but remember you wanted to go hiking this morning and the sooner we start, the sooner we can get back to take a nap.”

She giggled then grabbed onto his arms as he started to rise. “No! Just a couple more minutes of snuggling with my man will get me going.”

He nestled back in behind her. “It may get me going, too.”

She snickered then turned over to face him looking into those impossibly blue eyes. “I won’t turn that down, you big stud.”

“Mrs. Grissom, is that any way for an entomologist’s wife to talk? The gossips will have a field day.”

“Aw, just kiss me,” she begged, seeing a big smile overtake him just before she found herself covered in kisses and warm caresses.

This was a grand beginning to the rest of their lives, lives together that almost didn’t happen because they were both way too stubborn. He pushed those thoughts aside and pulled Sara closer losing himself in the woman he loved. Hiking could wait.

Their lives were just beginning and they had new memories to create.

***The End***

1 Reference to the episodes “Living Doll/Dead Doll”
2 Reference to the episode “Grave Danger”
3 Reference to the episode “Way to Go”
4 Reference to the episode “Goodbye and Good Luck”
5 Reference to the episodes “For Gedda/For Warrick”
6 Reference to the episode “For Warrick”

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