Spoilers: There's a reference to Crash & Burn in this part. Nothing much, but it does reveal something about Hank & Sara. That's all for the third season. Here in the Netherlands we still haven't finished the third season yet, so I'm unfamiliar with any major plot changes. Please remember that!
Author's note: First of all I want to thank everyone for their patience. I'm deeply sorry for keeping you waiting this long. I started college this year, so I didn't have much time to finish this story. Besides that, this chapter was also really hard to write. I suffered from major writer's block, and I think I have rewritten it at least a dozen times.
Fortunately my friends offered me all the support and advice I needed. So hereby I want to thank my wonderful betas Marlou and Missy, for their help and editing. Marlou, thank you for encouraging me to continue with this story! I also want to thank Geena for helping me with the beginning of this part and for pointing out some flaws.
And so here we are, the last part of my fanfic. I hope you'll like it!
It took Grissom at least a whole minute to regain his composure, his facial expression evolving from complete shock slowly back to reservation again. He cleared his throat. "How did you find out?"
He did not ask her what she meant; he did not play dumb. It would only be an insult to her intelligence.
"I'm not blind, Grissom. You consider yourself a good observer and since I've been your student, I can say that I've learned from the best. Little things made me believe that something was wrong. That day in court, the times you didn't respond when I asked you something, the times you zoned out… Well, I put the pieces together and…"
"Solved the puzzle," Grissom finished the sentence for her. He didn't know whether to be irritated or relieved. On the one hand he felt like a part of him, a part he had wanted to keep secret, had been invaded and turned upside down. But on the other hand, maybe it was only good that someone…that Sara had found out. At least it had spared him from the difficult task of telling her one day.
"I have a disease called otosclerosis. I won't tire you with the medical explanation. In short: I will lose my hearing." Before Sara could open her mouth and ask on, Grissom continued: "When? There's no saying. It is a progressive disease, but it may take several years before I will be completely deaf."
Sara remained silent, letting his words sink in. It didn't come as a surprise – she'd already suspected something like this – yet hearing it from Grissom himself was totally different. Suddenly it had become awfully real.
She looked up at him. "How long have you known?"
"Remember Ashley James? The model who was found under her own billboard? I had an appointment with the doctor afterwards."
Her stomach contracted. That long? "Why couldn't you tell me then?" she asked softly.
"And say what? 'Hey Sara, I'm going deaf'." It came out sharper than was intended. Grissom sighed. "I still have to come to terms with it myself, Sara."
Sara knew she couldn't begin to understand how hard it must have been for him to walk around with such a secret, knowing that you could be going deaf, that you would have to miss out on something really important in the world.
She gave him a small smile. "Well, I can't say it like you just did, but I'm here for you…if you want me to."
Grissom's features softened. In an instinct, without thinking twice, he took her hand and squeezed it. "Thank you."
A warmth made its way through her body. It was strange. Grissom had opened himself up to her more in the last couple of minutes than in the last year. And all because of… She stared at his hand still holding hers and suddenly another image was overlaid in her mind. An image of two bloody hands desperately trying to hold onto hers, but eventually slipping away as the life left his body.
Immediately, as if she had burned her fingers, she pulled back her hand.
She closed her eyes as the images flashed before her eyes. Their conversation had distracted her from why she was here, but she knew she could never run away from the truth.
"Sara, we need to talk about this."
"No, we don't. You can't blame it all on that. You made a choice. It had nothing to do with…him."
"Yes, it did. Can't you see that? It had everything to do with him."
She turned around, her eyes blazing. "I don't need your excuses. I don't want to listen to this. There's nothing to talk about. It's over. It has been over for a long time." She grabbed her jacket. "And now I need to get back to work."
She didn't answer; she didn't look back.
"We had a huge argument the day he..." Sara stopped, not able to bring herself to say that word. "Hank appeared on my doorstep that night, wanting to talk to me about our relationship." She grimaced. "Or the lack of it, so he said."
The fire flared up in her eyes as the mean words they both had said to each other that evening started echoing in her mind. But it was not just that. His words had hit home. Hank had said things to her that had sounded so true, so familiar. Truths she had pushed back really deep. Apparently not deep enough, because with every word they had returned to the surface more clearly than before.
He had accused her of using him as a substitute for the man she really wanted. He'd told her that if Grissom had welcomed her with open arms, she would have dumped him immediately. And although she had not admitted it in front of him, she couldn't deny to herself that he had made a point. If she were completely honest with herself, she would admit that it was exactly the reason why she had started a relationship with Hank in the first place. To have a life outside of her work, to feel alive actually, but also to get away from Grissom, to stop thinking about him, about the things she wished he would say or do.
Hank had touched a sore point and he knew it. And when she had left his house, she had not only fled from him and the pain he had caused her, but also from the truth he had thrown in her face.
"I had not expected him to be there that night…"
She didn't even hear the man approach her from behind. The conversation earlier that evening still played on in her head and she was so concentrated on the blood mark in front of her that she missed the sound of footsteps that would have warned her of another presence in the room.
Alarmed by the fear in Hank's voice, Sara jumped up and turned around. She stood face to face with evil. She knew it by the expression in the man's eyes. They were so cold that a shiver ran down her spine. The sole feeling present was the determination to survive, bringing down everyone standing in the way.
In the split seconds following the warning, the man reacted to Hank's voice and turned ninety degrees. The shot that followed made her ears ring. A soft murmur escaped her lips as she watched Hank collapse: "No."
She did not hear the second gunshot, nor the third and the fourth. She did not see the man fall on the ground, hit by bullets of the police officers around her. No, she was completely shut off from everything around her. Instead, she fell on her knees next to Hank and took his hand in hers.
"Maybe if I had not been so distracted or maybe if I'd reacted quicker…maybe then I could have done something…something to prevent this." There was no drama in her voice. It sounded almost distant, as if she was merely making a statement.
Grissom shook his head gloomily. "There was nothing you could have done, Sara. The most dangerous criminal is the one that has nothing to lose. He would have killed anyone in his way."
The sudden image of Sara lying on the ground, blood forming a pool around her body, turned his stomach. It was too horrible to even think about the possibility of losing her. This whole situation had made him realize that he had no idea what he would have done if it had been Sara instead of Hank.
It was bizarre. He had to thank Hank for still having Sara in his life. If Hank had not distracted the perpetrator, if he had not warned Sara, then she could have been killed. But instead the man he'd always seen as his rival had given his own life to save that of the woman he cared so much about. It was a strange experience to think of Hank as a hero when all of this time he'd envied and disliked the man for seizing the opportunities he had let slip himself.
"Maybe there was nothing I could have done, but he is dead because of me, Grissom," she snapped. The overpowering feeling of guilt clearly shone in her brown eyes. "We both said some mean words that evening. He'd hurt me. I wanted to hurt him back. I wanted to hate him. But how can I hate him now? After what he has done for me? He deprived me of my right to hate him the moment he warned me. So tell me this…what should I feel right now? Because I don't know anymore."
The distraught expression in her eyes betrayed the conflict inside of her. It consumed her, bringing about strong feelings that were each fighting to get the upper hand.
"He tried to save me, and that's why he got shot. He saved my life." Sara closed her eyes tightly, but a stray tear slipped through and slid down her cheek.
Slightly fascinated, Grissom followed the tear as it rolled down her face. It was one tear, but it betrayed all of her sorrow, pain and even guilt. At that moment he realized what he should have known all along. Sara didn't need any words from him, no empty promises or hollow words of comfort. He didn't have to say anything; there were no words that could ease her pain or make her feel less guilty. She had to do that on her own. All he could do was to be there for her, to give strength to the words he had signed only minutes ago.
Remaining silent he finally listened to his feelings and gently placed his arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer. He felt Sara stiffen for a moment, but then she leaned into his embrace. She didn't cry; she didn't break down. That was all reserved for later when she was truly alone. The big fight was yet to come, to come to terms with what had happened, to give all those feelings a special place inside of her, but she had already taken the first step. She had come here to pay her last respect to the man she had both hated and cared about.
They sat there for what seemed like hours, both lost in their thoughts. Grissom kept his arm around her shoulder longer than was necessary, and Sara felt comfortable in his warm embrace. It was a rare and special moment of closeness between them and despite the reason behind it, they both enjoyed it. Any rules of conduct between supervisor and subordinate had been pushed aside. The boundaries had already faded a long time ago; the line pushed back. Their relationship had never been easy to define, but the last couple of days had changed everything in a way they could no longer ignore. Instead of standing still they now seemed to be moving on. How they would proceed, they did not know. They just had to…
I hope you liked this final chapter. Please let me know what you think of it. Thank you!
- Karin -