Author's Notes: To follow.
by Kristen Elizabeth
"Tell us, Ms. Sidle, why are you interested in IFFS?"
The question, posed by one interviewer on a panel of three, momentarily stumped Sara. Up until that point, the interview had been one of the best of her life.
She'd woken up that morning to her usual self. The whole, disgusting peeling process that followed any severe sunburn was finished and after a week and a half of constant rest, she was rejuvenated. Ready to take on anything, to show anyone who cared that Sara Sidle was getting on with her life, starting with the IFFS interviewers.
In her best blue suit, she'd chatted with the interviewers, all of them seasoned crime scene analysts, listened to their careful explanations of the program, everything from compensation to personal insurance, and gone over her résumé in great detail. They'd seemed impressed that she'd been hand-picked by Dr. Gil Grissom to work in Vegas. All she'd been able to do was smile and tell them, honestly, that it had been an educational six years.
But this question was different. They weren't asking about her proficiency in facial reconstruction or trace identification. It was a personal question that demanded a personal answer. She knew what that answer was. But she also knew it wasn't what they wanted to hear.
The three interviewers exchanged looks as she contemplated the question. One of them went on, "We ask because this job is unlike anything a criminalist trained in America has ever seen before, outside of journals and textbooks. When we're selecting program applicants, we know that they can handle one body, two bodies, maybe even a dozen bodies at a time. But in our work, we deal with death on a grander scale. It's nothing for one of our teams to uncover a grave containing five hundred bodies. We need to know that our people can handle it. And the only way we can assure that is if we know why they want to do this. It has to be for the right reasons. So, Ms. Sidle, what are yours?"
Sara took a final second to think, then gave her answer.
"To Sara! She might be leaving our city, but she's not leaving our hearts." With one hand over his, Greg lifted his beer high. "Keep her safe, keep her happy, and bring her home soon. To Sara!"
The group clustered around him echoed in kind. "To Sara!"
Unable to sip her own drink for fear the lump in her throat might cause her to choke, Sara merely watched the toast with misty eyes. It was the first one ever dedicated to her.
Catherine slipped up beside her, nudging her slightly with her elbow. "You okay?"
Blinking, Sara nodded. "Sure. Thanks." She cleared her throat. "And thanks for hosting this. It's…overwhelming."
"Mi casa is everyone's casa," the older woman replied. "But if Greg goes overboard and pukes on my carpet, mi casa will be his deathbed." Handing Sara her martini, Catherine went after him, to stop the young CSI from popping open a fresh one.
Now with two glasses in her hands, Sara wandered through the living room, taking in the fact that this party was for her. Everyone had been invited and most everyone had come; in addition to the obvious, Warrick, Nick, Greg, Catherine, Brass, Doc Robbins and his wife, she recognized Judy the receptionist, Taylor, Jackie the fingerprint guru, Hodges, Buddy the DNA guy, Archie, David and his new bride, Bobby, the sweet guy from QD whose name she couldn't quite recall, Vega, Vartann, a few more detectives she'd worked with over the years.
There was only one person missing.
I still recall the words you said to me
It's what you did not say that sets me free
Now how can I find peace of mind when you keep coming back again?
It's not okay for you to play this game of seesaw with my head
Now it hurts too much
And it hits too hard
And I won't play this part
The last time she'd seen Grissom had been three days before the party. She'd been back at work for a week, but bound to the lab by Ecklie's orders. He already had her resignation on his desk; if she didn't process any evidence on new cases, she'd never have to testify. Surprisingly enough, she didn't mind. There was a lot of work to do, wrapping up her time at the LVPD. And she didn't even have a desk to clear out.
It was dawn by the time she called it a night and on her way out, she passed by Grissom's office. He was inside, of course, pouring over a case file with such intensity that he didn't even realize she was standing in his open doorway until she said his name.
He looked up, fixing his blue stare on her. But he said nothing, waiting for her to go on.
"I'm heading out," she'd said, keeping her voice neutral. A second passed. "What are you working on?"
"Oh. Well…good luck." She lingered for another few seconds. "Grissom," she started again. "I have an interview with IFFS later today."
He readjusted his glasses like he always did when he needed a moment to process something. "They're a good group. They do important work."
"I think so." Sara threaded her fingers together tightly. "Any pre-interview words of advice?"
Grissom considered this. "Wear your blue suit." He looked back down at his work.
She blinked once, then twice. "What?"
Glancing up again, he simply said, "It looks good on you."
It took her awhile to regain her sense of balance. Was he doing again? Reeling her in, only to let her dangle on the hook? She wouldn't let him do it. Not again. "You are…unbelievable." Shaking her head continuously, Sara had backed up, out of the doorway. "See you later."
"Penny for your thoughts." Nick snapped her out of her reverie, bringing her back to the party. He smiled at her around the hideous moustache he'd decided to grow over the past week.
"Do you like my blue suit?" Sara blurted out.
"Blue suit…blue suit…oh, the one with the skirt!" He grinned, almost dreamily. "Yeah. It's nice."
Sara rolled her eyes. "Grow up."
"Yes ma'am." Nodding at the two glasses, he continued, "Having a good time, are we?"
"Catherine's," she clarified, setting down the martini glass. "She doesn't have to work later. Or get up early in the morning."
"That's right. You're leaving on a jet plane tomorrow." His moustache drooped as he frowned. "Do you have any idea how much you're gonna be missed around here?"
She hadn't until that night. "'No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth.' Robert Southey."
"I see Grissom's quote-disease is spreading."
The mention of his name put out a fire in Sara's eyes. "I guess it's easier to let poets and philosophers talk for you."
Taking her arm, Nick guided her to a corner of the living room, where they were out of hearing range. "Sara, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she lied. "I got accepted into IFFS. I'm leaving for London tomorrow. My career is taking off. Why wouldn't I be okay?"
"You tell me."
"Well." She gave him a cool look. "I wouldn't mind being told something about my own attempted murder investigation. Apparently, mum's the word around me. There's even password protection on the computer files."
Nick sighed. "I'm sorry. We figured it would be better…to protect you."
"Contrary to what recent events might imply, I am not a damsel in distress," she told him in a harsh whisper. "I can handle it, Nick."
"Okay. Well, the truth is, the investigation is ongoing. Callie Lamb is behind bars, but there are…complications. I swear, Sara, I wish I could say more, but I don't even know all that much myself."
He was lying and she knew it and he knew she knew it, but Sara let it go. For the moment. "I want to be kept informed from now on. I'll have limited access to a phone or the internet, but I will have a mailing address. I assume you still know how to write an actual letter?"
"You mean, with paper?" She gave him a glare. "You have my word." Nick looked down at the carpet for a few, long seconds. "Sara, there's something I've needed to say to you for awhile. It's not easy…but I need you to forgive me."
"For Kevin." He turned his gaze up to the ceiling. "If I'd had any idea he was capable of treating a woman the way he treated you, I never would have…"
"Nick." Sara put a soft hand on his arm, forcing him to look her in the eye. "It wasn't your fault. I made my own choices, and they were bad ones. I won't let you blame yourself for them."
Nick shook his head. "I just wish there was something I could do."
"There is." She smiled, her eyes twinkling like they hadn't in years. "Shave off that disgusting thing on your upper lip."
Laughing softly, she left him standing by the wall, one hand over his 'stache.
In the middle of the living room, Catherine accosted her, a fresh martini in her hand. "I am never one to bring a good time to a close, but a few people here have a shift starting in a couple of hours. I think it's time to say…you know…"
"Goodbye?" Sara nodded reluctantly. "All right. I'm ready."
"Attention! Everyone!" Catherine waved the group into quiet. "Go ahead," she urged Sara once everyone was paying attention.
Suddenly, Sara wished she had something stronger than club soda. Taking a deep breath, she smiled at her friends. "I just want to thank you all for rearranging your schedules to be here. It means a lot to me. More than you can know." She caught Greg's eye and his encouraging nod helped her go on. "When I came to Las Vegas, I thought I'd be lucky if I met one or two people worth knowing outside of work. And somehow, I ended up with a lot of friends, good friends, who I am honored to know outside of work. Of course, that makes leaving so much harder." She smiled down into her glass. "Thank you all for coming. I'll miss…" Sara bit her lip and looked up. So many familiar faces…but all she wanted to see was the one that wasn't there. "I'll miss you. All of you." Her emotions finally got the best of her, and she shook her head. "I'm sorry. I'm not big on speeches."
"We'll miss you too, Sara!" Bobby called out. Light laughter broke out, followed by a smattering of applause.
Blushing, Sara smiled shyly. She felt two arms wrap around her, Nick on one side, Warrick on the other. Greg came up behind her, hugging her around the middle and resting his chin on her shoulder. Catherine snapped a picture quickly.
And for one of the rare instances in her life, Sara Sidle felt loved.
So now I say the things I want to say
Sometimes it's better letting go this way
I'll always know
Down in my soul
We really had so far to go
I've given all I had to give
And now it's time for me to live
And I won't look back
And I won't regret
Though it hurts like hell
Someday I will forget
Later that night, after all of the partygoers had gone into work, or home for more sleep before work, she returned to her practically empty apartment for the last time.
Her furniture remained, part of the deal she'd worked out with the person who would be subleasing the place while she was gone, but all of her personal things, her books, her pictures, her mementos, were locked away in a storage facility. All she was taking to London were two suitcases, her laptop, and the gifts she'd been given that night.
The gifts had surprised her. They were nothing expensive, save for the gold locket Nick and Warrick had teamed up to purchase for her. They were mostly reminders of certain events, or gag gifts, but they had all touched her deeply. The thought certainly did count, although she might not have access to a grinder in order to make use of Greg's pound of expensive coffee beans, or ever have use for the Play-Dough Archie had given her. "Never forget to play," he'd said, in explanation of his present. Actually, she might have use for that someday. The old Sara had enjoyed such whimsy.
Shrugging out of her coat, Sara left the box of gifts on the kitchen counter and, by sheer force of habit, opened the fridge, looking for something to drink. It was empty; she'd finished off the last of her perishables that afternoon.
But she was restless, and a drive to the 24-hour supermarket would at least keep her busy. Sara put her coat back on and headed to the door with her keys. She opened it and came face to face with Grissom.
His hair was disheveled, liked he'd been running his fingers through it, something she'd only seen him do on occasion, when a case really got to him. He looked like he needed about a week of sleep. She wanted to laugh at herself. He'd hurt her so much that night, and yet still…all she could think about was his well-being.
"Sara." His voice wrapped around her name like no one else's could. "Can I come in?"
She wanted to say no and to close the door his face. But she couldn't. He was Grissom. Stepping back, she waited for him to enter and close the door behind him. He could come in, but she'd be damned before she'd welcome him with open arms.
"I've got news," Grissom said after a few minutes of awkward stares and silence. "You were right."
"I was right? About what?"
With his hands in his pockets, Grissom took a step towards her. "Callie Lamb has been claiming that Dr. Forbes planned and participated in the crimes against you and Julia Sommers. And until tonight, we haven't been able to prove or disprove that."
"So?" she prompted.
From inside his pocket, Grissom withdrew her cell phone, her desert savior. It was encased in a plastic evidence bag. "Your pictures, Sara. They prove that there was only one car at the scene. One set of tracks. Callie's claim that Lawton drove his car out into the desert with her is false. I did some checking, too. While you were unconscious, being driven out to the Refuge…Lawton Forbes was checking into a local motel with a woman named Andrea Hansen."
"Andrea," Sara breathed. "From the group."
"He didn't murder Julia. And he didn't try to murder you. Without your pictures, we might never have known." His smile was proud. "You did it, Sara. You broke the case. And you were right all along. Forbes isn't a murderer."
"Yeah." Her tone turned cold. "But you were right all along, too. He is a disgusting bastard."
She started to walk away, leaving Grissom perplexed. "Sara…"
"Thanks for keeping me up-to-date," she said, turning back around. "It'll be nice to leave tomorrow with some sense of closure." A shadow fell over his face. "You do remember, right? That I'm leaving?"
"I wasn't sure. Because you clearly forgot about the going-away party, so I figured you might have let the actual going-away thing slip, too."
Grissom tucked the cell phone back into his pocket. Another minute passed before he looked up. "I'm sorry. I should have been there."
"There are a lot of things you should have done, Grissom." She felt a tear tumble down her cheek, unbidden, but unstoppable. "And maybe there are things I should have done, too. What does that leave us with? A pile of unused chances, missed opportunities?" Sara shook her head. "But…I tried. I know that deep down, I tried. Can you say the same?"
"Where you're concerned, I've always tried." He cleared his throat. "Tried to deny. Tried to forget. Tried to distract myself. Tried to push away. And when I finally decided to try something new…I was too late."
"Don't say I didn't warn you."
"I wouldn't." Grissom took another step toward her. He smelled of the lab, not a bad thing. Grissom and the lab, the two great loves of her life. "Honey…"
"Why do you only call me that when something bad is happening?" she asked for a second time. He'd never really answered before.
He frowned. "Something bad is happening?"
"I'm leaving." Sara let out a breath. "Well, I guess that says something. If you don't think that my absence will be a bad thing, then…"
Before she could finish, Grissom covered the distance between them. He took her face between his hands and kissed her. His mouth was as hot as she remembered, but this time he made no demands. He loved her lips with his, turning her knees in ballistic gelatin.
Grissom'shands buried themselves in her fragrant locks, like they'd always itched to do. As they kissed, he pulled her even closer, thrilled when her hands tentatively rested on his shoulders. She tasted like chocolate, a decadent dessert that he'd finally given in to. Now that he knew the flavor of her mouth, he'd never be able to get enough.
They broke apart at the same time, desperate for air. Sara ran her tongue over her lips, surprised at how quickly she'd become hooked on the feeling of his tongue doing the same.
Grissom spoke first. "Don't go," he pleaded. His forehead touched hers, his eyes closed. "Don't leave. Please. You're needed…so much."
"By you? Or just the lab?"
"Me, Sara. Damnit…it's always been me."
"That's the problem. This isn't about you anymore. It's about me." She closed her own eyes, her lashes wet against her cheeks. "I have to go," she whispered. "You have to let me go."
"What if I can't?"
Thinking back to the answer she'd given the IFFS interviewers, Sara replied, "I have to find the Sara Sidle who came to Vegas six years ago. I lost her somewhere along the way. And this is the only way I know to find her again."
His forehead still rested against hers, neither one of them ready to pull away just yet. "When you do find her…" Grissom stroked her cheek with trembling fingers. "…will you come back?"
She smiled through her tears. "That depends." Drawing back slightly, Sara lifted her chin and kissed his brow. "If the same Gil Grissom asks me to…no. But if an older, wiser man does, then I just might." He opened her eyes to see her. "I've always had a thing for older men."
He left her apartment a few minutes later, after one last, lingering kiss.
And the next morning, she left Las Vegas on a 767, bound for London.
Don't call me
Don't show up in the middle of the night
You know that
Some time and space to breathe in
And this is letting go...
- Sozzi, "Letting Go"
Fini. And yet...
Author's Notes: This is the end of "Giving Up" as I imagined it when I started the story almost a year ago. But I do plan to continue it in a sequel entitled "Letting Go," if anyone wants me to. Actually, I'll write it anyways, but it'd be cool if one or two people read it;) Thanks for all the reviews on this story; I've had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you've had half as much fun reading it.