Not Like This

It wasn't supposed to happen like this.

She was supposed to get the bullet removed in surgery and she was supposed to heal perfectly. She was supposed to return to work and everything was supposed to go back to normal. Everything would be forgotten like a bad dream.

She wasn't supposed to die.

The team slowly descended the church steps, each holding a corner of the casket, not one of their faces dry.

Nick was holding the middle, between Greg and Grissom. He squeezed the metal bar tight to try and keep his hands from shaking. Tears were threatening to pour out his eyes and he was breathing deeply trying to stop the emotional breakdown from happening. He thought back to their goodbye in the hospital.

He pushed open the white door and breathed in deep at the site. The doctor had told them about the complication during surgery. The bullet had separated when it entered her body and they could only remove a part of it. The other part had lodged itself in her heart and there was no way of removing it without killing her. They were told to give their goodbyes.

She lay in bed, pale, with dark circles underneath her eyes. Her eyelids fluttered open when the door opened and she gave a weak smile at his presence.

"Hey Nicky."

He smiled and walked over, totally unprepared for seeing her like this. He took a seat next to her and grasped her weak hand. He looked over her frail body and tears brimmed in his eyes.

"Oh Sarah, how'd we let this happen?"

She squeezed his hand gently and tears began to pour silently down both faces.

"It wasn't anyone's fault. Just my time I guess."

"But you're so young."

"Yeah. I know. Believe me, there's plenty of things I wish I could of done and said. That's the point of my goodbyes, I want you all to know that I love you and that you are the only family I have."

Nick sniffed and Sarah continued to cry.

"Nicky, you have been like my big brother, you always looked out for me and had my back in every case. I'm sorry that I was short with you sometimes. You have to understand that some cases hit me hard and it stressed me out. It was never because of anything you did. I love you Nicky and I want you to watch over Greg for me when I'm gone. He's come so far and I don't want him to stop just because I'm not going to be there. Push him, he's going to need it."

Nick nodded solemnly and Sarah smiled.

"I knew I could count on you Nick."

Nick's face was tear streaked now and he struggled to stay composed. In the next few months, he would sit in front of Sarah's locker and press his hand against it, trying to feel her presence against the cold black metal. Sometimes, he could have sworn he felt something, but then again, it was just a locker. He would move on but never forget.

Behind him, the young man who usually had a joyous smile on his face at all times was crying silently. The girl, who he had admired and even loved from afar, was gone. The one person in the lab who actually gave him credit and didn't see him as just a joker, the one person who believed in him was gone.

Greg walked into the stale hospital room, hands shaking uncontrollably. The doctor had informed the team in the waiting room about her situation and everyone had some time with her to say their goodbyes. He didn't know how he was going to say goodbye to someone like Sarah. It was impossible to do.

Once in the room, he tried to put on a brave face, hide the hurt that he was feeling inside, the sorrow that was slowly eating away at his soul. His wide grin faltered when he saw her lying so still. He walked over slowly, his shoes echoing slightly off of the linoleum floor. She gave him a small smile when he walked over and sat.

"Hey Greg."

He was silent; he didn't know what to say. He just stared at her once beautiful, elegant body with wide eyes.

"Aw man, don't look at me like that Greg, makes me feel like a piece of meat."

Greg looked in her eyes and tears started to come out uncontrollably. He couldn't imagine his life without this woman. He began to sob and he reached forward, burying his face into her shoulder.

She took her arms and pulled them around him, rubbing his back softly.

"It's going to be okay, you're going to be okay."

"Don't go." He mumbled into her hair.

"You know I don't have a choice in this matter."

"Take me with you."

"I wish I could."

He just continued to cry into her shoulder while she held him. She was crying too while whispering softly.

"You're going to be okay, you're going to be alright."

Greg watched in front of him, staring at nothing in particular. For the next few weeks, he would go to bed at night crying. Tears would leak out of his eyes when he would dream of her. He would miss her like nothing he had ever missed before. He would grow to accept it, knowing she was watching from somewhere, knowing she was happy. He would visit her grave and sit and talk with her. He would tell her about the lab and new cases. He would tell her about new girlfriends and he would eventually tell her about his fiancé. She smiled in heaven on the day his baby was born. He named her Sarah.

Catherine held the opposite side, watching the people around her break down. She felt empty inside, knowing that a member of their team would not be showing up on Monday. A sob emerged from her throat and remorseful tears escaped her eyes.

The room felt cold. If she remembered nothing else for the rest of her life, she would remember how cold that room felt. She saw Sarah's still body and made her way over. She took a seat and watched Sarah's careful breathing.

"Hey Cath."

"Hey Sarah, how are you feeling?"

"Tired."

Catherine nodded and was suddenly struck with guilt at all the things she had ever put Sarah through. She never meant to be over bearing or rude, it's just that sometimes she came off that way.

"Sarah. I'm-"

"I know, don't worry about it."

Catherine smiled slightly at just how much Sarah reminded her of herself and she knew the team would make it through this. They would be okay. In the next few months, Catherine would watch as everyone in the lab tried to hold themselves together. She would go amongst them, attempting to cheer them up, telling them that she was watching. She would feel it in every new case. Sarah was with them.

Warrick stood across from Nick and in front of Catherine. He heard her sob behind him and he himself felt as if his insides were rotting away. He wasn't that close with Sarah, but she was a part of the team, a part of the family. The family would be one member short. Her chair would always go unoccupied in the break room, her desk untouched in the workroom, her lab coat remaining on the same hook.

"Hey Warrick."

He smiled at the soft greeting and walked over to her still form. He took a seat and the plastic cushion crinkled underneath his weight. He reached forward and took her hand.

"I need you to promise me something."

"Anything Sarah."

"You need to watch Nick for me, make sure he's alright. I don't want him to grieve too much."

He merely nodded in response watching her with his quiet eyes.

"We're going to miss you Sarah. I don't know how to say good bye."

She turned to him and smiled slightly. "You don't have to."

Warrick breathed in the air around him and turned to his right slightly, looking at Nick. He was going to be okay, they all would. Sometimes, he would walk in on Nick with his forehead pressed up against Sarah's old locker. He wouldn't say anything, just watch as he silently mourned. No one knew, but when he was alone, Warrick would do the same thing. He felt Sarah on the day he married Catherine. They had left an empty place setting at the table where the team sat. A small index card marking Sarah sat on the empty chair.

Grissom stood walking behind the casket, the usual wall around his heart burned down to the ground. He didn't know how he was to function without Sarah in his life, without her smiling face and the way she blushed when Grissom said something exposing his soul slightly. Whenever he did this, he had backtracked quickly, covering it up immediately, but she always knew, giving him a small smile of recognition. Tears slid slowly down his face as he rested his hands on the casket.

He was the last one to visit her; the doctors said it should be any moment now. He took a deep breath and opened the door. He worked with death, he should be used to seeing dead bodies and those who were dying. But he never knew the names that went along with the faces, never knew how caring that person was or how they changed the lives of everyone around them.

He took a seat next to her and reached a hand out, touching her arm shakily. Here eyes opened at his touch and she smiled.

"Hey Grissom."

"Sarah."

She turned her head and faced him, tears forming in her eyes.

"I'm scared Grissom."

These words hit him hard and for the first time in his life he didn't know what to say. How was he supposed to comfort someone who was dying?

"You're going to be alright."

"Are you sure?"

"Yea Sarah, I've never been so sure about anything else in my life."

She began to cry and Grissom reached forward, pulling her into a gentle hug.

Grissom had watched a member of his team die. After that he would go to work and brief the team on cases, but the puns and Shakespeare poetry he usually recited were missing. He didn't have the heart to do it. Some days when he was in his office, he would feel a presence. A gut feeling that someone was looking over his shoulder. He would turn like a fool, looking for something that wasn't there. He dismissed it as nothing the first couple of times but soon realized that it was Sarah checking up on him.

She would check up on all of them. Nick would feel a cool breeze when he was out on a case and a feeling of calm and safety would pass over him. Greg would be sitting in the park watching his daughter play and he would notice a small flower by his foot. Purple, her favorite color. Warrick and Catherine would be sitting on their front porch and lightning bugs would dance in front of their eyes, putting on a beautiful show before disappearing all together.

She had died in that hospital room surrounded by the only family she had ever known. She had died knowing she was loved and cared for. She had died happy. She would watch over them every day, giving them small reminders of her presence every now and then. She smiled when Greg became a CSI. She smiled when Nick solved his career case and was awarded a departmental medal. She smiled when Catherine and Warrick had their baby. She smiled when Grissom had his surprise retirement party with all the team there. She smiled down at her family and they saw it every time the sun shined.