Final Chapter here; thanks to Kegel for the beta. No sequel planned as of now, switching my focus to some of my other on-going stories at the moment. Read and enjoy, and don't forget to review!
Chapter Twenty-Three: Endings
She had practiced it redundantly, reciting the lines over and over in her head. Had been thinking of them while in Ecklie's office, on her way to the break room, and again as she moved from there to the locker room. By then she had forgotten them. Her attention was instead focused on finding Greg. She had hoped to find him waiting for her, had hoped for the both of them to leave before Michael was led away. Part of her was hoping, hoping that she could explain things before Greg took them the wrong way. That was all they were though, futile hopes.
There was no sign of him; half the lab techs working recalled seeing him no less than an hour ago, and quite a few seemed to be thankful that he was nowhere in sight. It was slightly humoring, she had to admit, because she knew Greg could be talkative, more so when he was nervous. That was the part that worried her more. He had every reason to be nervous, she couldn't stop that, but she needed to help resolve it. Considering she had been the true start to it all. But where had he gone?
Night was nearly over now, and with the dawn approaching most of the night shift had already left, their places being taken by days who staggered in at the early hour. Theoretically he could have gone home as well, but then again his car was still here. Grissom hadn't assigned him a new case, and he hadn't heard from the man either.
It caused her to worry, but Grissom hadn't paid much heed. She had barely heard the older man mumble something about Nick, and turned her attentions instead to contacting the Texan instead. Greg's phone was off, having gone straight to voice mail, and Nick's was much in the same state. That left her only one option.
She had been to his place before, but it had been so long her memory had a difficult time grasping onto the fragmented thoughts, piecing them together slowly. Recollection hit her as she approached the streets, nodding to herself as she turned up the last road. She parked along the sidewalk, watching the house quietly as she turned off her car.
Part of her was still unsure to why she had come here. Greg's place would have been the most logical to check first, but Sara hadn't gone there, had come here instead. If Nick had taken Greg home, it would mean more sense to keep him here. That way no one would have to worry about getting Greg back to work the next night, and furthermore he wouldn't be alone if Michael made bail. That in itself was unlikely; not only was the bail amount high, but from what she could remember the man had no immediate family, and no real friends. That was part of his reason he had obsessed over her so much.
She fought of the slight repulsion, reminding herself that it was indeed all over. There would be a trial both she and Greg would testify at, and then they both could go about their lives as normal. Or as normal as they possible could go. Things would be different between them, that much was for sure, but Sara was curious to know if that damage was permanent, or short-lived. She hoped it was the latter, and with that thought she slid out of the driver's seat, heading for the door in the morning sun.
She came to a pause when she reached her destination, wondering then if she should really be here or not. The discussion could wait, if Greg was truly here now, but part of Sara knew that she could not. For her sake if for anyone else's. Paranoia had set in quite a while back, and she had ghastly envisions that plagued her mind; she needed to see him for herself, needed to remind herself that everything was fine, that everything was going to be okay. With that final thought, she knocked on the door.
In the stillness of the morning the knocks echoed around her, sounding hollow in the room just beyond her reach. They died down as she withdrew her fist, leaving her standing alone in the silence. Her ears listened intently, hoping to catch the slightest of sounds. But there was nothing. Once again she moved to knock, but paused as she heard it then, the footsteps on the other side. And so she waited.
She could hear the locks being fumbled with, and forced a smile as the door was finally opened. The look that greeted her was nowhere near as thrilled as she was, the man watching her, raising an eyebrow for a questioning glance. Sara was quick to clear her throat, part of her afraid that Nick might actually close the door on her.
He had beaten her to it, relief flooding through her then. Sara hadn't been able to form the words she wanted, but now she felt more confident that the silence between them was broken. "Is Greg here?"
Nick nodded, but made no move to invite her in, standing there instead, watching her. With a sigh Sara cleared her throat, trying again.
"Can I come in?"
"I don't think that's the best idea."
"I need to talk with him," Sara pressed, straining to see over his shoulder, but Nick only shook his head.
"You can talk later, right now, he's sleeping."
"I promised that we would."
"Well, obviously he doesn't care much about that, considering he left the lab on his own instead of waiting for you."
The accusation stung; she hadn't wanted to admit it, but what more could she do? She couldn't change the past, but she just couldn't turn away and pretend that none of it had happened either. She was in a hole and only digging herself deeper. That was why she needed to talk with Greg, and the apprehension was only building inside of her with each passing moment.
"Let us decide that, will you?" she finally answered, growing weary of his tactics. Whatever happened between the two of them was their own business. Nick did not need to be involved. But the Texan only shook his head, mouthing the word 'later' as he closed the door, leaving her standing there in semi-shock.
Minutes passed before she got the sense back in her, moving to knock on the door, hoping to bring him back, or at least wake Greg who would most likely let her in. But there was nothing, only the sounds of her knocks and weary voice. Finally she pulled away, accepting the slight defeat quietly. It was not total surrender though; Sara knew there had to be a way in.
Without another word she finally left, climbing into her car and driving off, making a loop around the block. There was no doubt in her mind that Nick had been watching, waiting for her to leave and she had to make it seem real. This time she parked further up the street, far enough to where Nick would not see her, but close enough to reach his place without having to walk a marathon.
Now she was thankful for the time of day it was; by now most people were already gone off to work, and would not question a lone woman sneaking through the yards and climbing the fence. This was good; the last thing she needed was a breaking and entering charge on her record. That would not only get her fired, but more-in-likely would land her in jail as well. That's why she had to be careful.
But her heart was pounding in her chest, threatening to give her away as she approached his house from the backside. A sliding door faced her then, and she moved behind an overgrown hedge, peering out from behind as she stared inside. She could see the shadow on the wall, and caught a glimpse of Nick as the man passed from one room to the next, disappearing from sight again. This, all of this felt so unnatural. It was almost…wrong.
Then again she could always place the blame on Nick. If the man had just let her in when she asked she wouldn't have had to resort to this. Mind made up, her attention moved from focusing on her thoughts, to figuring out a way inside. That was when she caught a glimpse of the open window, propped up by a worn book. Smiling to herself she could only shake her head, realizing then that it was all too easy.
He didn't want to come here at first, didn't want to rely on someone else to have to take care of him. That reasoning alone had angered him more. Greg wanted to be on his own; Nick refused to let him out of his sight. What was more than irritating was the simple fact that Nick refused to take the bait, refused to be drawn in a pointless quarrel. And Greg had wanted to fight, an array of emotions flooding through him that desperately needed to be released, without caring on whom. If he held onto them any longer, he felt as though he would explode.
But he didn't. By the time he had reached Nick's place, and changed into clean clothes, he had been too tired to care. He didn't even fight with Nick when the man helped him to the couch in the spare room. He had fallen asleep seconds before his head hit the pillow. And what was truly several hours of sleep felt only like a few spare minutes when he was awoken next.
It was mostly dark still, daylight drifting in around the curtains, casting him into further confusion as he tried to figure out what had woken him. The first few seconds were muddled, his mind grasping at where he was, and why he was here. Memory returned, but with it more confusion; shift wouldn't start for hours yet, and that was if he would even go in. Grissom had discussed issues involving his medical leave shortly before having to leave for the call concerning Sara. It wasn't set in stone yet, but Greg was desperately hoping that tonight would be the first night. He desperately needed it.
This time he heard it; the same sound he had heard before without really meaning to. His eyes searched the room as he pushed the blankets from his chin, forcing himself to sit up despite the fatigue and faded pain. He wasn't alone, that much he could tell for certain, but was it Nick, the man perhaps checking in on him and not wanting to seem overbearing? Or had someone actually broken in?
His questions were answered in the next moment as the figure moved towards him, Greg trying to call out, searching around to find something that could help him. But the hand clamped over his mouth, the quick quiet voice following after, turning his sudden fear into stark confusion.
"Be quiet, he'll hear us," she whispered, glancing around the room quickly. The door that led out to the hallway was ajar the smallest of fractions. Their quiet breaths intermingled as one, the only thing that could be heard as she watched the door intently, as though expecting someone to barge in at any moment. Finally Greg could take it no longer, pulling back from her in one abrupt motion.
She hushed him again, her head shaking as she continued to watch the door. Greg followed her gaze, wearing a frown on his own as he tried to sort things out. Who was she expecting? Where they in some sort of danger? Why was she even here and exactly where was Nick?
"What's going on?"
Sara looked at him then, motioning for him to keep his voice low, answering him in a whisper. "I don't want Nick to know I'm in here."
"Let's just say he won't be happy," she whispered.
"Isn't he going to notice you're missing after a while?" Greg pondered, watching her, "I mean, you come by to visit, then disappear. What's he going to think?"
"He doesn't know I'm even in the house," Sara clarified after a moment, turning away from him to stare at the door again.
That alone didn't make any sense to Greg, the man trying to sort it out. Of course Nick would know that Sara was here, he would have let her in. Unless…
"You broke in!"
He had never seen her move so fast in his life. One moment she was sitting there, crouched beside the makeshift bed, the next she was nearly on top of him, hand covering his mouth as she hushed him fiercely. Her gaze flicked from where they were sitting, to the door, then back again. Several long minutes they waited, Greg in cross of wanting to throw her off and scream at her about her stupidity, and yet wanting to collapse in his own laughter at the irony of the entire ordeal.
Only when there were no signs of life did she pull back, Greg letting out a groan as her weight was lifted off of him. He rubbed his arm subconsciously, watching her, the initial shock wearing off. In replacement was disbelief, and he shook his head slowly, letting out a sigh.
"You actually broke into a house."
"Yes and no," she answered with a whisper. "Window was open."
"You broke in," Greg clarified, pulling his knees up to his chest as Sara sat down on the end of the couch. "Have you ever heard of knocking at someone's door?"
"I did," she answered, "and I didn't break anything, I just came in. So really, it's not like I actually did something wrong."
"You can't talk yourself out of this one, Sara," he reminded her. "You're a criminalist. You know what they would say about this. I mean, think what you would say to someone else who had done this."
She nodded, but it didn't seem to upset her too greatly. She was already moving on. "I wanted to talk with you. There are some things I should have told you."
"Obviously," Greg's answer was dry, and he turned away, remembering suddenly why he was mad with her. Near him he could hear Sara sigh, the slight feelings of remorse creeping up in him, but he ignored them. He still wanted to be angry with her at this moment, had every right to be as well.
"How much do you know?"
"I know that you've lied to me, that you've been lying to me. That's about it; because honestly, what can I believe?"
It was a shallow answer and he knew it. He almost regretted it; the look on her face was desolate, as though his response had truly hurt her. He pushed it aside, Sara had hurt him more than once emotionally in the recent past, and karma was not exactly known to be kind.
"I deserved that," she muttered, shaking off the barb as she raised her head. "And you deserve to know the truth."
He nodded, waiting for her to continue, watching as she fiddled with the strap on her purse, the slightest motions seemingly distracting her from her task at hand. Her voice was quiet, forcing Greg to lean in closer to hear her, and it was unnerving to how she wouldn't meet his gaze.
But the story still came, starting with recounting the events that had happened to the both of them at the one dismal case. Greg could remember it all too well still, despite it being in the past, and only listened partially, his own thoughts wrapped around his stomach that was slowly tying itself in knots. But her story started to change after that, her voice growing stronger than it was before, but clearly still struggling to form the words. He soon forgot about his own fears, entranced with her own as she went on.
"It wasn't the best way to start something," Sara explained, meeting his gaze. "I've always been reckless, acting on impulses; so far they haven't gotten me anywhere in this life. The last thing I wanted to do was to follow a childish…belief…a fantasy, and have it screw up once again. But I couldn't say no, so I had to find a reason to say no."
She paused here, leaving him in slight confusion as he tried to piece her story together. Then it dawned on him, the realization coming swiftly. "Me?"
"Don't sound so surprised," she commented dryly. "I've thought about it before, but I was too afraid to see how it would end. I'm not the best person to date, every relationship I've had has ended on bad terms, and I don't ever speak to the person again. Look at Hank…and not only that, Michael."
"No offense, but he wasn't exactly a keeper," Greg reminded her, rubbing his arm again. "Where did you find him anyway?"
"I wasn't going to actually find someone," she went on, "just mention it, pretend I was seeing someone. I mean, our lives are so busy no one was going to question it. No one would think it odd that they never saw this supposed guy, or heard about it. Honestly, there's half a million people living in Vegas, not including tourists, so it wouldn't be that difficult. Then Michael came along, he seemed nice at the time, and he sort of became a part of my plan."
It made sense, Greg would have to admit, but even though that played on his nerves, it wasn't what truly bothered him. "Why didn't you just tell me you weren't ready for a relationship?"
"You would think that I was lying. I dated several times before, everyone knows that…and truthfully…if you asked, I don't think I could have been able to say no."
"I would have never hurt you," Greg pressed, remembering her earlier words.
"Not intentionally," she agreed, smiling at him. "But we all do stupid things when we're in love. That's not the point though," she let out a sigh, shaking her head. "The point is…I value you too much as a friend to lose you."
"You're not going to lose me."
"You say that now," she nodded, "but so did Hank. And you know how that turned out."
Greg could remember, could recall how hard it had been for Sara to move on after that. Could even remember vowing that he would never do the same to any woman he truly loved. Life was a lesson you learned bit by bit. He let out a sigh, watching her tiredly. "You could have saved a lot of trouble if…"
"If I just said something," she cut him off. "I know. I've gotten the lecture from Brass, Nick, Grissom, and from Ecklie. I don't need it from you as well. I can understand my own stupidity."
"And now you're in more trouble because you broke into someone's house."
"We've been through this," she rolled her eyes, "I didn't break anything. Besides, no one is going to know. I'll be out of here before Nick even catches me."
"What about me?"
"What about you?"
Greg laughed, smiling. "I've seen you. What's stopping me from reporting you?"
"You won't report me."
He wouldn't, that much he already knew, but it was still enjoyable to watch her cringe under his gaze. At the moment he held so much power in his favor it was sort of intimidating, but he didn't let it go to his head. Sara said nothing more, only moved off the couch to move to the door, watching the hallway from where she stood as if trying to plan her next move.
It was then Greg did something that surprised the both of them. He asked her to stay.
He wasn't sure how it happened; wasn't sure if he even wanted to know how it happened. He had left Greg in a separate room, knowing that he himself would be up and about for several more hours yet. Greg would sleep for quite a while longer, exhausted both mentally and emotionally. It was true he had known more about what was going on between Sara and their latest suspect than Greg did. But he hadn't said anything simply because he had wanted to protect the man.
It hadn't worked in the end, Greg still figuring out things on his own. And why wouldn't he? To anyone it was obvious what had transpired, for Greg, it would be even simpler. It was only a matter of time. But that didn't keep Nick from wanting to prevent the inevitable.
It would be rough times for a while, he knew. There would be an awkward atmosphere at the lab between both Sara and Greg, and it would be expected. Time would see them through, and the hope was that they would be at least on speaking terms, enough so they could both work through a case without feeling out of place, or trying each other's patience. That was why he had shut her out earlier. It was a hard call to make; Nick cared for both of them.
Greg had been his friend longer than Sara. He had simply known the man longer. Sara still had managed to find a place in his heart and he cared for her like she was family; she was a sister to him as much as Greg was a brother. He could find fault with both of them, and yet hadn't wanted to blame either of them at the same time. His only hope was that things could resolve, and they would be like normal in due time. These were his last thoughts before he fell asleep himself.
When he woke the house was still quiet. Part of him had expected Greg to be up already, but knew also the man might still be sleeping given his events in the previous days. It was also possible that Greg had left on his own; again. Nick wouldn't put anything past him, especially considering that he had rested throughout the day. Refreshed, and still stinging from all that had happened, it was very like Greg to walk off without telling anyone. That was what had prompted him to check on the man in the first place.
Shortly after opening the door however, he had closed it. He was bemused, slightly shocked, and completely speechless. What he had seen had left him sitting on the couch, trying to figure out what had happened. He could clearly remember turning Sara away earlier that morning. Yet there she was, curled up near Greg, the pair fast asleep as though it was perfectly natural. An amazing feat, considering earlier Greg hadn't even wanted to hear her name.
He knew it was possible that Greg had let her in. But it was unlikely. He had seen Sara drive away, had watched her leave. Even if she did return, he would have heard knocking at the door. His room was closer to the door than the one Greg was occupying. That left only one plausible assumption, and it wasn't one he wanted to think about. Surely Sara wouldn't have…
Then again, she may have. Nick could only shake his head, unsure if he should be angry at what had transpired, or thankful that the two were no longer quarrelling. He just hadn't expected it to happen so quickly. But then again it had been easy to always see the wanted interactions between them. Maybe it wasn't happening so quickly, rather instead it was moving slowly, coming to a completion after all of this time without their knowledge.
With a sigh he moved off the couch, realizing then there was only one thing he could truly do. Put in an extra order for take-out. Surely everyone would be hungry when they finally did wake up.