Disclaimer: They're not mine

Spoilers: None

Rating: PG

Summary: The end of GSR. The beginning of WarrickSara. "And still minding their own business, the fine grains of sand pour down. If he gets here before it runs out, he loves her. If he doesn't then - he doesn't."

Yes, my regular WarrickSara booster to keep my going through the very GCR Perpetuity. Here is my response to the WarrickSara Livejournal Community challenge of using an 'Alias' episode title. Never actually watched 'Alias'. Is it any good? Anyway, this is a little more depressing than Xerox It (thanks so much for the brilliant reviews for that, by the way, to ImJustEmilia, nick55, Geeky Annie, M2S, Kelly, Jenn Sidle, Gonna Marry A CSI, Megara1, wplove, MissyJane and CatStokes – you were fantastic). Enjoy! Love LJ xXx

- o -

Hourglass

- o -

The top shelf is empty.

Can that be right?

Sara feels dazedly around her fridge again before peering inside, leaning heavily on the door. She could've sworn she had some beers in there earlier on. The refrigerator light is bright. It's far too bright for Sara. She blinks and quickly shuts the door, falling to the tiled kitchen floor with the sudden movement. That's right – there were some in there earlier. But she drank them. It's all coming back now.

The top shelf is empty.

And all she can now think about is where she can find something else to drink – something stronger this time. Beer just doesn't quite cut it anymore. She stumbles across her room in the semi-dark and, when she throws out a hand to her bookshelf to stop herself from falling, her hand closes around cool, round glass. A drink? Sara falls. She examines the object in her hand.

"Huh."

She surveys the smooth contours of the rustic sand-timer in her palm with small bitterness. There is a story behind this. Through alcohol-haze, she still remembers.

She'd been finishing up at college and had had her last lecture with her favourite lecturer. Sara Sidle had packed up her few belongings from her dorm room and vacated it without a trace she'd ever been there. Where would she go now? Honest-to-god, she had no idea. But she wandered down the halls and found herself standing outside his office. He was rarely in. She didn't expect him to be, but she rapped quietly on the door all the same.

Gil Grissom had been in. The door had swung open – both surprised to see each other.

"I wanted to say goodbye," she said to him barely audibly. He smiled kindly at her. "I don't know if I'll see you again."

"I'm sure I will," he told her. "You'll go very far, Sara – I'll see that happen."

She smiled shyly at her feet; they shuffled awkwardly on his rug.

"Well, have a nice summer, Sara," he continued when she said nothing. "I'm sure I don't know what you college kids get up to in your vacations."

Sara laughed nervously. She was sure she didn't know either but if he thought she had a whole bunch of cool college friends then she wasn't going to set him right.

"I'll miss you." she blurted out without thinking. Gil paused, unable to think of anything to say. He pointed, instead, at his desk.

"Take something," he offered. Sara stared at the row of various curious objects that stood on his desk and then at him, closely.

"Take...?" she repeated. He nodded.

"Sure – take something, anything." he said. "To remember me by?" He smiled.

And, without thinking, her hand tentatively closed around that same round, smooth glass. It was strange, she thinks now, that she picked the hourglass. Perhaps some kind of irony – did her younger self know that a lot of everything she'd hoped for between herself and him would amount to nothing more than endless waiting? – perhaps it could have even been funny.

Sara does not find it funny now. She finds it disappointing. Disappointing that she'd wasted all this time on him. Disappointing that the glass didn't turn out to be alcohol. Oh god. She has a problem. She really does have a problem. It's 11 o'clock in the morning! The semi-dark is artificial – outside it's really very sunny but Sara's lying on her living room floor, an hourglass in hand, wishing it were an alcoholic drink, with all blinds and drapes drawn shut. She's sealed herself into a gentler gloom – the ultimate icon of the true alcoholic.

She has a problem.

Okay. Right – she's admitted it now. Isn't that supposed to be the first step to overcoming the addiction? Or do you have to admit it to someone else? She's already got several units inside her from beers, from tequila, from wine. No wonder she couldn't find any more drink in her house – she's drank her apartment dry. If she could trust herself to walk steady, she might be already making her way down to the nearest liquor store. She knows exactly how long it would take. It has gotten that bad.

Instead, from where she lies, she reaches out and grabs the phone. She dials for work – just about the only number she will still remember when she's drunk. She muses this for a moment. That is sort of tragic. Sort of very. The phone begins to ring.

The extension number is his office. She knows this too and she knows his voice when he picks up the phone.

"Grissom," he greets promptly. A stark and sober contrast to the words that slur back at him.

"I've got a problem." she announces. There is silence for a while. She wonders if he heard her at all and is about to repeat herself when he finally finds his voice.

"A problem?" he says delicately, as distant and cautious of this clearly unstable person as he was that many years ago.

"Drinking is the tip of the iceberg." she tells him seriously. "So make that problems. Plural. I need help, Gil. I need some help."

Another long pause. "Okay." he says.

"Okay," she repeats, like an anchor in her drifting head. He is very quiet. She contemplates this, the finality of his 'Okay'. And puts the phone down.

What does that even mean – 'okay'? Is that an 'okay, you have a problem'? Or an 'okay, you need help'? Or was it what she hoped it was – an 'okay, I'm going to help you'? She doesn't know, she doesn't know. Decisively, Sara turns the sand timer over.

The sand begins to drain.

It is carefully measured to run for half an hour exactly – not quite an hourglass per se, but you get the idea. She calculates the times in her head. It's a ten minute drive from work to her place. He could have fifteen minutes to tie up a case and give everyone something to do while he was gone – tops. Five minutes to spend sitting there and wondering what the hell he was going to do about this troubled Ms Sidle. Thirty minutes.

Seconds, minutes, the sand keeps falling.

After those thirty minutes, she tells herself, if he is not standing outside her door then it's obvious. It's clear. There's nothing more for it – he cannot understand her and will never love her. At least, not in the way she's always telling herself she loves him. After all, if she didn't love him so desperately and completely, she's just spent a very large chunk of her life being very, very wrong. And she wouldn't want that.

And still minding their own business, the fine grains of sand pour down.

If he gets here before it runs out, he loves her. If he doesn't then – he doesn't.

The mountain of sand on the lower half of the hourglass is getting bigger and bigger while the top is getting emptier and emptier. It fills her with a sort of despair. If he doesn't come, what will that mean for her? Will she just have to slap herself and get over it or will she keep on falling, beyond help? What exactly is she balancing so entirely on his arrival? Her recovery, her health, her career – her past decade of useless, useless love.

It's almost time.

He is not here.

It looks like someone will be making that trip to the liquor store after all.

She thinks she's going to cry – that's just how dire things have gotten for Sara Sidle, very much drunk and lying on the floor.

And then there's a knock on the door.

And a smile on her face.

Sara gets as quickly as she can to her feet and practically runs to the front door. She flings it open.

"Hey," he says. "Are you alright?"

Sara looks stunned. "Warrick?"

He grins awkwardly and shrugs. "Yeah, it's me." he rubs the back of his neck. "I know you...I know you were probably hoping for someone else..."

She doesn't deny it so he goes on.

"Grissom got held up by an incoming case. He told me you needed a hand with something," he explains, as though that were a valid excuse. "Triple homicide – he was needed right away."

"Weren't you needed?" she asks, unaware of how rude that sounds, but she knows how much he'd give to be the first one on a hot case like this.

Warrick shrugs again. "Work versus you? No contest, Sar." He touches her arm lightly. "I hope I'm not so unwelcome. I just wanted to see that you were okay."

She realises it then. All the waiting, all the hoping. She had been wrong. She'd spent a large chunk of her life being very, very wrong. But that harsh reality doesn't sting as much as she thought it would.

"I've got some problems, Warrick," she mutters. Her words down sound so challenging now spoken to a different person, they sound like a real cry for help - a real confession, not a test of love or anything like that. At any rate, he's already passed just by being here. "And I really need some help."

He peers around her into the darkened room, at the unusually messy surroundings and the empty glass bottles standing on the counter. He'd recognise an addict if he saw one.

"I know, baby, I know," he murmurs. The words sound strangely fitting when flowing from his mouth, just as his arms just seem to fit around her when her forehead finds his shoulder. "I'm here now – I'll help you, I promise. You will be okay."

The final grains of sand drip.

The top shelf is empty.

But Sara, lost in what she'd waited for, really couldn't care any less.

- o -