Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. All other characters are my invention, and if you want to mess with them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any. Thanks as ever to Penn O'Hara, my faithful editor!
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Spoilers: none as far as I know, but then I haven't seen all the episodes yet. This is a look into a possible future.
I'd forgotten I had that.
Gil lifted the folder out of the back of the cabinet where it had lain for...oh, probably a couple of years, at a guess. He blew a little dust off the beige surface and flipped it open.
Within lay a handful of photographs, and he raised a brow at them and set the folder down on his desk. He'd take a closer look after he finished emptying the cabinet. Not that there was much in it now; most of his less-visible possessions had been taken home over the past few weeks. What remained were the last remnants of tidying up.
Two more books went into the box on the floor, and that was it, the shelves were vacant. Gil glanced around his office; it looked odd with the jars and cases gone. Bare. But this was the last box, and when he closed the door behind him to keep out prying eyes, he wouldn't be opening it again. The office would wait for whoever was assigned to it next.
He dropped into his chair, noting the creak and thinking absently that the next occupant would probably demand a new one, and regarded the photos thoughtfully, spreading them out across the open folder. A varied lot, they included a couple of shots of peculiarities in crime scenes, which he dropped into the trash can. They were copies, and he wouldn't be needing them.
One photo showed Catherine leaning back against her own desk, dressed in a suit and smiling her wicked smile at the camera. That was the day she started running day shift. A faint sense of pride stirred in him at the sight. She still ran it with a firm hand and a solve rate that all but rivaled night shift's. She'd done very, very well.
I wonder how she is. And Lindsey's new baby. I haven't talked to Cat in...oh...must be a couple of weeks. But the slight curiosity died down quickly. The position of day shift supervisor was the pinnacle of Catherine's career, though Gil hadn't quite forgiven her for taking Nick with her, and working opposite shifts meant that he seldom saw his old friend. Mostly they had just enough time for a few minutes' conversation.
He slid the picture aside to uncover three more. Nick and Warrick, posing shoulder to shoulder, their folded-arm tough-guy poses ruined by the grins on their faces. This one's pretty old too. Nick was now assistant supervisor for days, a position that suited him well; Warrick had long since left the lab to run another in Chicago. Last I heard he'd licked the place into shape. Gil wondered briefly if the two men still kept in touch. Warrick sent Gil the occasional e-mail query about some bug or other, adding casual news as the whim took him, but it had been a few years since the younger man had swung by the lab when he came to Las Vegas for a visit.
The next photo was a group shot from Doc Robbins' retirement party; the unflappable coroner looked slightly goofy with a party hat, but his smile matched David's, who had succeeded him at the helm of the morgue. Gil's eyes crinkled in amusement at the memory of David's twins running casually in and out of the lab on school vacation days. Doc Robbins was gone now; Gil had meant to attend the funeral, but a case had intervened.
On the other side of the coroner was Jim Brass, whose cynical glare at the camera hid the fact that he was slightly tipsy from the party's liquid refreshment. The captain had retired not long after Robbins, and returned to New Jersey. The last letter Gil had gotten had been almost ten years ago, but it had mentioned in Brass' terse style that he'd reconciled with his daughter. Gil had been glad for him.
The last photo in the lot was actually a print-out from an e-mail; Sara Sidle, standing at a podium, her formal clothes and her hair in a bun making her look older than his memories of her. The stirring of pride returned, a little stronger and lasting a little longer. My best student. Now she supervised the San Francisco forensics lab, and rumor had it that some professional criminals there were thinking of relocating to avoid her scrutiny.
Gil pushed the photos back into a pile and closed the folder, dropping it into the box on the floor. One last sweep through his desk drawers yielded little besides a few pens and paper clips. He scooped up a stray coffee mug and his jacket, and rose to don the garment before lidding the box and picking it up.
Entering the corridor, he almost ran into Greg, who was striding past with his hands full of files. "Sorry, Gris," the younger man said easily. Time had tempered his energy, but he had in the end proven to be as capable a CSI as he was a lab tech, and one corner of Gil's mouth twitched at the surprise Greg was going to get when his next shift began. "Is the world coming to an end?"
"What do you mean?" Gil asked, catching the gleam of humor in Greg's eyes.
"You. Leaving shift early. Sure sign of the apocalypse." Greg gestured to the box in Gil's arms.
"Not that early," Gil replied. "There's only about fifty minutes left in the shift. I have an errand to run."
"Cool." Greg gave him a casual wave. "See you tomorrow." He continued on his way, never noticing that Gil had not replied. The older man smiled faintly at Greg's back, and headed for the sheriff's office.
The door was open, and the diminutive woman behind the desk raised her head and smiled as Gil appeared on the threshold. "Dr. Grissom. Come in."
He obeyed, setting the box on an empty chair and lifting the chain for his badge over his head. He handed it to the sheriff, following it with the gun he hadn't fired in years outside the practice range.
She looked down at the two objects, laying them out on her desk. "Twenty-two years as supervisor," she mused. "I can only hope I leave half the legacy you have."
Gil shrugged at her words, a little uncomfortable. "I had good people," he answered. This was the part he disliked the most; anything that smacked of sentimentality. But some rituals were inescapable.
The woman rose and extended her hand. "It's been a privilege working with you, Gil. Enjoy your retirement." Her eyes were sharp, and he knew she sensed his discomfort.
"I will." He grasped her hand briefly, then turned to gather up his box.
"You sure you don't want to tell Sanders yourself?" the sheriff asked behind him, and he turned a little to give her half a grin.
"Nah. Let him find out the same way I did. 'Surprise--you're in charge of night shift.' He'll appreciate the joke."
"After he stops hyperventilating." The woman chuckled. "Very well. Take care, Doctor."
Gil nodded and went back out her door. Some small part of him was cataloguing details as he paced the lab's corridors for the last time, but he ignored it. He'd memorized them long ago.
His home wasn't one any longer; now it was almost as bare as his abandoned office, save for the stacks of boxes along the walls and the few pieces of furniture that were too good to throw away. Goodwill would be by that afternoon for the stuff; Gil made a mental note to remember to leave the keys with his neighbor so that the driver could get in.
He set the box he was carrying on top of a stack and removed the lid to fish out the folder of photographs. The books and other odds and ends could go to Goodwill too, but no one there had any use for old photos.
Gil took one more look at the pictures, but they stirred no emotions now. It was a relief, really. In the end emotion had proven more uncomfortable than helpful, and he preferred the calmness it left when it faded from him. Few things could move him even slightly anymore.
He couldn't remember when he'd stopped feeling; there wasn't really a clean demarcation, just the slow lessening of hope, of fear, of joy and sorrow and pain. Objectivity had become his reality instead of just his watchword, and his sense of loss had vanished as time went on. Now a faint ghost of emotion might rise up from time to time, but even those were becoming rarer.
Closing the folder again, he laid it next to the grocery bag on the breakfast bar. Methodical to the last, he made one last pass through the barren rooms, making sure he had left nothing undone. His truck was already packed, his destination set; he walked through the morning sun streaming in through the windows, ignoring the dust that danced in the beams of light. Cleaning was no longer his task.
Satisfied, Gil picked up his last couple of bags and the folder, and locked the front door behind him. A few minutes' conversation later, he had left his keys with his elderly neighbor, who promised to let in the "movers" when they arrived. Gil hadn't told the old lady that he was leaving, now, for good; he didn't want to hear her lamentations and good wishes.
He dropped the folder in the Dumpster and put the bags in his truck, and swung into the driver's seat. He meant to be in the mountains by nightfall. By the time shift started, he'd be out of reach, and no one would know where he'd really gone. He preferred it that way. No fuss, no goodbyes. Just peace.
Gil pointed the nose of the truck towards the distant hills. Up there a cabin was waiting for him, where he could study high-altitude insects to his heart's content, and where no one would come to disturb him. As he left the city behind, Gil knew he was bruising the feelings of those he'd once called friends; Greg and Nick would be hurt, and Cat was going to be downright furious. But it was better this way. He wouldn't have to explain anything. He wouldn't have to feel bad for them. They wouldn't have to worry. He'd told the sheriff he was heading back to California, and they would just think he'd chosen not to stay in touch.
He wondered briefly, squinting at the sunlight, if in five years or ten the CSIs would be called out to try to identify the skeleton of an old man found high in the mountains. He hoped not; that would be cruel. Though it would have a certain cosmic closure.
Gil snorted at his fancies, and dismissed them. The mountains awaited him, and coolness, and peace. And, of course, bugs. He smiled just a little. Emotion might have drained out of him, leaving dry sand behind, but the curiosity was still there. And there are experiments to be done.
He pressed the pedal a little harder.