Spoilers: General, if it has aired in the US it may be referenced….Disclaimer: I borrow the CSI's on occasion, but they are not mine… Only their adventures are. Information, when researched, has been found within the public domain unless otherwise stated.


Epilogue


'Just living is not enough,'
said the butterfly,
'One must have sunshine,
freedom,
and a little flower'

-Hans Christian Andersen


Teddy had to go.

No if's, and's or but's about it. It was part of his master plan. But how to make it work without Sara finding out?
That was going to be the tricky part…

In Vegas the spring breeze carried with it a pleasant warmth more often than not, and the minutes of extra daylight gained every day slowly made each day look a little bit brighter. He smiled to himself when he realized the similarities to his personal life of late. Looking over at Sara where she stood in their walk-in closet, a tee over one arm and a burgundy fleece pullover draped over the other, he was awed by her practicality and straight forward approach to most tasks at hand. She had approached him in much the same manner when he had come home after his stint at Williams.

– One day at a time, allowing for both warm and not so warm days.

His suitcase sported a handful of tees and only one light jacket so far. He had decided to be optimistic for once.
Spring is but a song, where love and laughter are not wrong…

"Did your buddy at WCU happen to give you any hints pointing to any unusual April weather in the Carolinas, or should I pack like a girly-girl going on vacation?"

She gave him a shy smile, almost morphing into the mischievous Sara he had been used to seeing, before tossing both garments in the suitcase and closing their distance.

"Thank you, really. I'm excited about this trip. And not only because it's to a body farm..."
He got a quick peck on the lips before she returned to the depths of the closet to unearth what she considered to be suitable footwear for walking among the dead.

"I would pack for going on vacation…you never know."

Nine years of not knowing…but nine years of knowing what to do should the chance present itself.


When the second body farm in the country had opened last year at Western Carolina University, he had naturally had an invite in the mail…and in his inbox…and by phone. He hadn't thought Sara going with him to be a good idea at the time and really did want to include her, so he had decided to politely decline. Returning that phone call late last November he had found that not only was the offer still standing, but his inquiry into bringing one of his colleagues had nearly set off an event of proportions not really catering to his own main purpose for the trip. This he had managed to convey in a roundabout way, if not somewhat unconvincingly.

It was one of the few perks of being the eccentric bug guy…people tended to accept his requests and conditions without too many questions asked.

With Sara halfway out the door he picked Teddy up off the bed and placed him gently in the suitcase, and grabbing his own printed blue shirt from its hanger he covered the bear up, lest Sara catch a glimpse prematurely.

He didn't really keep things from her anymore, but this was different… Zipping the case up and checking his pocket one more time he caught up with Sara just as she were about to hoist her case into the back of his vehicle.
Independently efficient, as always.

"May I, please?" He gestured to her green nylon case and was glad to see a genuine smile light up her face.

Having loaded his own case as well he slammed the backdoor shut and tossed her the keys, knowing she liked to drive just as much as he did. Confident in returning her smile he felt their trip to be off to a good start.


Their flight had been effortless and their drive even fruitful. Staying on scenic Rt 74 for as long as they could, from the minute they had left Charlotte until they neared Cullowhee, had allowed them to truly appreciate spring for what spring is supposed to signify.

New life and new beginnings.

North Carolina came across as refreshingly healthy and green when compared to the arid lifeless landscape of Nevada. After about four hours on the road, of which a good half hour had been spent at a 'mom & pop' country store and gas station, they arrived at WCU. Sara had noticed the typically southern culinary delight of hush puppies advertised on the marquee, and had insisted they stop.
At least they would not have to worry about Vampires any time soon…

He'd only had two, but that meant she'd eaten the other ten - evidently they had indeed been a particularly good batch. And as was true for most good things in life; you don't know what you're missing until it's been…beyond your reach…for a while.

The body farm was his domain, one that she was eager to join, and after two days of non-stop exploration they found themselves on familiar and comfortable ground. Not only was he intrigued to work this closely with Sara again, but it had also brought them right back to the old days of him as a mentor and her as the student – times still dear to them.

Exhausted after their busy weekend they had opted for the swifter interstate when heading back to a Charlotte hotel for their supposed next morning return flight. Unfortunately this also meant missing out on a dozen spheres of corn-and-garlic goodness, but even Sara was too tired at this point to object. Grissom had been secretly relieved. Sara didn't know it yet, but their vacation was only about to begin and he wanted her well rested.


"Uh, Grissom, did you just miss the exit to the airport?" Her face scrunched up a bit considering they had been lodging in the airport business park area.

"Hmm, did I?" He merged onto southbound I-77, seemingly unaware of his missed exit.

"Aah…yeah you did."

"Oh. Well, I guess we won't be going to the airport then."
Barely containing a smirk his peripheral vision was on high alert, anticipating Sara's reaction to his unusually laid-back take on the situation.

"What?"

He kept a close eye on her, not wanting the situation to get out of hand.

"—We've always liked driving and our rental is quite comfortable don't you think? Let's just keep on going and see where we end up."

Sara said nothing, just stared into the windshield as if it were a crystal ball. Deciding he should probably somewhat clue her in before she reached her own conclusions, he added—

"…it may just be fun!"

Clearly her expression conveyed her absolute conviction of him having lost his mind, but she appeared more amused than apprehensive by her temporary conclusion.

With raised eyebrows and a playful smile he turned to her.

"—You up for some fun?"

After a few hours they had reached their 'mystery destination' when zooming past the city limit sign indicating they were now in Charleston proper. Sara had lowered the window a bit, willing the familiar ocean breeze to fill her lungs.
Nine years. It had been nine years since she, they, were here last. Nine long years…

She had done a double take as he had driven right by the Double Tree suites and made a right turn, pulling up at the curb in front of the Planter's Inn.

"We're here…if this is okay with you?"

Still somewhat tongue-tied she looked to the man on her left whose countenance contained an array of emotions, most notably nervous anticipation. With both her hands she had taken hold of his right hand, still unknowingly grasping the shifter, and kissed his knuckles gently before enveloping his whole arm in an awkward hug. Too affected by the realization of what was happening, combined with the weight of the serious struggles they had been working through over the past few months, she could not voice her onslaught of feelings. But she felt entirely like a girly-girl about to be seduced all over again, and she was ready – they were ready.

"It's okay with me, it's very much okay."

A slight squeeze had let him know it really was, to which a boyish grin escaped before asking her to stay put for another second or two so he could get the door for her.
Everything looked just as she remembered it, a true sign of a fine hotel.

"Your reservation is waiting."

Grissom guided her to the front desk, indicating she should check in.

"Your name Miss?" said the concierge, her knowing smile passing right over Sara's head to the blue-eyed gentleman behind her.

"My name? Oh, uh…Sidle. Sara Sidle." She turned to look at Grissom who in turn just smiled back.

He had hoped to be back with key privileges some day…

"Okay Miss Sidle. We have your reservation for three nights in a non-smoking room, two queen beds. And your stay has already been settled in full. How many keys would you like, Miss?" Sara looked to Grissom again, just receiving a shrug of his shoulders this time.

"—Two. Um, two would be great."

"Okay Miss Sidle. You'll be in room 305. Your-key-will-also-operate-the-elevator-which-is-located-around-the-corner-and-to-your-right. Your-room-will-be-on-the-third-floor-at-the-end-of-the-left-hallway. And-if-we-can-do-anything-to-make-your-stay-here-with-us-more-comfortable-please-do-not-hesitate-to-call-the-front-desk-at-any-hour."

Not having heard a single word the well meaning clerk had spoken after 'room 305', she found herself pushing the elevator button. Luckily she also found Grissom right behind her with both their suitcases.

Her hand was close to shaking as she turned the key to the right, not for the first time. The key had remained unchanged as well – they still used real metal as opposed to the more common plastic cards.

Flickering light and unmistakable fragrance had met her when she pushed the door open – it had made her stop dead in her tracks. There were lit candles wherever there was a surface to put them, with the exception of the trunk in front of the bed where her Teddy had once been seated some nine years ago.

The lid of that trunk had been covered with a number of beautiful magnolia flowers, each and every one stuck securely into their own yellow apple halves. She had walked closer, as if to make certain they were really there.

"—There are nine of them…one for each year I should have given you one, but didn't have the courage to do so."

Sara had turned to look at the beautifully complex person still standing in the doorway. And at that very moment, with the dancing candlelight reflecting from the gilded walls surrounding him, she had recognized that there were not enough nuances of visible color in the entire spectrum to paint an accurate picture of Gil Grissom.


Cleansing tears of relief and release…of equilibrium.



By the time Grissom had uncovered Teddy from his suitcase, Sara had been out like a light. He had decided to place the bear among the magnolia blossoms covering the trunk lid, the same place Sara had originally reached for him some nine years ago. However, looking at Sara's sleeping form was a study in serenity and he realized that this time around Teddy may not be whom she would be reaching for…

Having picked up a magnolia and replaced it with Teddy, Grissom could not help but feel...enlightened?
Who knew a quiet stuffed bear could speak with such force and insight?

The bright light, combined with the faint scent of extinguished candles still hanging in the air, reflected the early morn.

Keeping her eyes closed in protest she took a slow deep breath, willing the tender memories of last night to stay with her forever.
They had made love…and peace.

"I love you," he said, barely a whisper, relieved to again feel the weight of her arm where it lay resting across his forehead.

Sensing she was about to move, he gently stilled her. A primal yet soft look grazed his features, raw need filled his voice.

"—Humor me?"

She sank back into the down pillow and adjusted herself to where she could better look at him.

"Do I do that a lot…you know, slap you unintentionally while in my sleep?"

Her lighthearted query was lined with genuine concern, concern rooted in her past.

"When I'm lucky..."

He didn't smile per se, rather he…adored her.
Was that even possible?

Random little swirls of his fingers caressed the delicate skin of her lower arm, dissipating the slight tension her worries had brought on.

"—And actually…you reach out to me. You're very gentle."

The complete sincerity in his voice surprised her, she never had been a peaceful sleeper...until he was there.

Sitting up Grissom took a deep breath before continuing, still clutching her hand.

"Sara—"

His eyes alternated between her eyes and his own flowing thoughts.

"I ask that you will continue to reach out for me whenever you need me…and even when you do not need me."

Reaching for the magnolia Teddy had provided him, he very carefully placed the adorned flower in her outreached hand now resting in his lap .

"—Forever."

Wide-eyed she cupped the white blossom. Bringing it closer to her face she was just about to take in the citrusy fragrance when a ray of sun directed her eyes to the shiny gold band contained within—

"Marry me?"

Beautifully outlined by the strong waxy petal that held it, the antique Victorian ring had five variably sized old cut diamonds, lined up like stepping stones and completely inlaid in what looked like a sandy golden riverbed. Occasionally gleaming with blue, the sparkling gems mimicked a lazy river on a sunny day.

Unique, natural and stunning – like Sara.

The swirling dark blue water brought back memories, warm memories of radiating body heat and wind in her hair. Had it really been over ten years?

Two souls, one work of art.

Now. Then. Forever.


"In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love"

-Marc Chagall


FIN