Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. All others belong to me, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

Spoilers: general sixth season through "Werewolves", but nothing specific.

Note: Two years ago (Jan. 9, 2004) I posted my first CSI fic, making my entrance into a fandom that had gradually absorbed me over the course of the past six months or so. I started watching CSI during summer 2003 because all the good sci-fi was canceled, and I thought I might as well watch cop shows; I didn't think I'd get absorbed enough to be ticked at myself for getting hooked on a show in the middle of its run.

Famous last words. (grin)

To date I have roughly 40 fics, 35 or so challenges, about five co-authored fics, and one or two private unposted stories in the CSI realm. Plus quite a number partly written, outlined, or just vague ideas still in my head. I don't know how many words that is, and I'm not even going to try to calculate them. Suffice it to say that over the past two years I've spent an increasing amount of time concentrating on our good friends at the Vegas lab, delving into myriad aspects and potentialities of their lives, and learning a great deal from it. I've made some excellent friends along the way (I meet the nicest people through fandom) and grown a great deal as a writer. I've gotten tons of compliments that can still make me grin and blush.

My first posted fic was written before I believed in GSR, having not yet seen "Butterflied", or indeed much besides some Season 3 reruns and half of Season 4. It seemed to me to be a reasonable take on a future Grissom, but it contained no GSR at all. After that, I started to get it, and now whenever I write Grissom's future Sara is in it, because that's the way it should be. :P

For some time I've been playing with the thought of rewriting that first fic (not the first I wrote, but the first I finished) as my last CSI fic, when I should come to the end of my interest in CSI. But how do I know when I've got to the end? I thought that with Firefly, and Prey, and UC: Undercover, and each time I've written more. So instead I've done it now, to mark this anniversary and for fun, and when the end comes (not any time soon, it seems) I'll think of something else.

As so often happens (heh) this is for Cincoflex. My dear friend, we didn't start talking until months after this, but if not for your support, encouragement, betaing, and--most importantly--friendship, I probably would have faded out of CSI ficdom long since.

And it's for my readers. Because while it's one thing to write for oneself, it's quite another to post--and you folks have never failed to make me feel welcomed, appreciated, and admired far beyond my deserving.

Thank you.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

A.D. 2023

I'd forgotten I had that.

Gil lifted the folder out of the back of the cabinet where it had lain for...oh, probably a couple of years, at a guess. He blew a little dust off the beige surface and flipped it open.

Within lay a handful of photographs, and he raised a brow at them and set the folder down on his desk. He'd take a closer look after he finished emptying the cabinet. Not that there was much in it now; most of his less-visible possessions had been taken home over the past few weeks. What remained were the last remnants of tidying up.

Two more books went into the box on the floor, and that was it, the shelves were vacant. Gil glanced around his office; it looked odd with the jars and cases gone. Bare. But this was the last box, and when he closed the door behind him to keep out prying eyes, he wouldn't be opening it again. The office would wait for whoever was assigned to it next.

He dropped into his chair, noting the creak and thinking absently that the next occupant would probably demand a new one, and regarded the photos thoughtfully, spreading them out across the open folder. A varied lot, they included a couple of shots of peculiarities in crime scenes, which he dropped into the trash can. They were copies, and he wouldn't be needing them.

One photo showed Catherine leaning back against her own desk, dressed in a suit and smiling her wicked smile at the camera. That was the day she started running day shift. A faint sense of pride stirred in him at the sight. She still ran it with a firm hand and a solve rate that all but rivaled night shift's. She'd done very, very well.

I wonder how she is. And Lindsey's new baby. I haven't talked to Cath in...oh...must be a couple of weeks. But the slight curiosity died down quickly. The position of day shift supervisor was the pinnacle of Catherine's career, though Gil hadn't quite forgiven her for taking Nick with her, and working opposite shifts meant that he seldom saw his old friend. Mostly they had just enough time for a few minutes' conversation.

He slid the picture aside to uncover three more. Nick and Warrick, posing shoulder to shoulder, their folded-arm tough-guy poses ruined by the grins on their faces. This one's pretty old too. Nick was now assistant supervisor for days, a position that suited him well; Warrick had long since left the lab to run another in Chicago. Last I heard he'd licked the place into shape. Gil wondered briefly if the two men still kept in touch. Warrick sent Gil the occasional e-mail query about some bug or other, adding casual news as the whim took him, but it had been a few years since the younger man had swung by the lab when he came to Las Vegas for a visit.

The next photo was a group shot from Doc Robbins' retirement party; the unflappable coroner looked slightly goofy with a party hat, but his smile matched David's, who had succeeded him at the helm of the morgue. Gil's eyes crinkled in amusement at the memory of David's twins running casually in and out of the lab on school vacation days. Doc Robbins was gone now; Gil had meant to attend the funeral, but a case had intervened.

On the other side of the coroner was Jim Brass, whose cynical glare at the camera hid the fact that he was slightly tipsy from the party's liquid refreshment. The captain had retired not long after Robbins, and returned to New Jersey. A letter ten years ago had mentioned in Brass' terse style that he'd reconciled with his daughter. Gil had been glad for him.

The last photo in the lot was actually a print-out from an e-mail; Sara Sidle, standing at a podium, her formal clothes and her hair in a bun making her look older than his memories of her. The stirring of pride returned, a little stronger and lasting a little longer. My best student. Now she supervised the San Francisco forensics lab, and rumor had it that some professional criminals there were thinking of relocating to avoid her scrutiny.

Gil pushed the photos back into a pile and closed the folder, dropping it into the box on the floor. One last sweep through his desk drawers yielded little besides a few pens and paper clips. He scooped up a stray coffee mug and his jacket, and rose to don the garment before lidding the box and picking it up.

Entering the corridor, he almost ran into Greg, who was striding past with his hands full of files. "Sorry, Griss," the younger man said easily. Time had tempered his energy, but he had in the end proven to be as capable a CSI as he was a lab tech, and one corner of Gil's mouth twitched at the surprise Greg was going to get when his next shift began. "Is the world coming to an end?"

"What do you mean?" Gil asked, catching the gleam of humor in Greg's eyes.

"You. Leaving shift early. Sure sign of the apocalypse." Greg gestured to the box in Gil's arms.

"Not that early," Gil replied. "There's only about fifty minutes left in the shift. I have an errand to run."

"Cool." Greg gave him a casual wave. "See you tomorrow." He continued on his way, never noticing that Gil had not replied. The older man smiled faintly at Greg's back, and headed for the sheriff's office.

The door was open, and the diminutive woman behind the desk raised her head and smiled as Gil appeared on the threshold. "Dr. Grissom. Come in."

He obeyed, setting the box on an empty chair and lifting the chain for his badge over his head. He handed it to the sheriff, following it with the gun he hadn't fired in years outside the practice range.

She looked down at the two objects, laying them out on her desk. "Twenty-two years as supervisor," she mused. "I can only hope I leave half the legacy you have."

Gil shrugged at her words, a little uncomfortable. "I had good people," he answered. This was the part he disliked the most; anything that smacked of sentimentality. But some rituals were inescapable.

The woman rose and extended her hand. "It's been a privilege working with you, Gil. Enjoy your retirement." Her eyes were sharp, and he knew she sensed his discomfort.

"I will." He grasped her hand briefly, then turned to gather up his box.

"You sure you don't want to tell Sanders yourself?" the sheriff asked behind him, and he turned a little to give her half a grin.

"Nah. Let him find out the same way I did. 'Surprise--you're in charge of night shift.' He'll appreciate the joke."

"After he stops hyperventilating." The woman chuckled. "Very well. Take care, Doctor."

Gil nodded and went back out her door. Some small part of him was cataloguing details as he paced the lab's corridors for the last time, but he ignored it. He'd memorized them long ago.

xxxx

His home wasn't one any longer; now it was almost as bare as his abandoned office, save for the stacks of boxes along the walls and the few pieces of furniture that were too good to throw away. Goodwill would be by that afternoon for the stuff; Gil made a mental note to remember to leave the keys with his neighbor so that the driver could get in.

He set the box he was carrying on top of a stack and removed the lid to fish out the folder of photographs. The books and other odds and ends could go to Goodwill too, but no one there had any use for old photos.

Gil took one more look at the pictures; they stirred a mild sense of wistfulness, nothing more. People moved on, that was natural. And most of them had moved on to good things.

Closing the folder again, he tucked it into the grocery bag on the breakfast bar. Methodical to the last, he made one last pass through the barren rooms, making sure he had left nothing undone. His truck was already packed, his destination set; he walked through the morning sun streaming in through the windows, ignoring the dust that danced in the beams of light. Cleaning was no longer his task.

Satisfied, Gil picked up his last couple of bags, and locked the front door behind him. A few minutes' conversation later, he had left his keys with his elderly neighbor, who promised to let in the "movers" when they arrived. Gil hadn't told the old lady that he was leaving, now, for good; he didn't want to hear her lamentations and good wishes.

He put the bags in his truck, and swung into the driver's seat. He meant to be in the mountains by nightfall. By the time shift started, he'd be out of reach; he preferred it that way. No fuss, no dramatic goodbyes. Just peace.

Gil pointed the nose of the truck towards the distant hills, putting the sun behind him. As he left the city behind, Gil knew he was bruising the feelings of his friends; Greg and Nick would be hurt and Cath was going to be downright furious that he'd left without giving them the opportunity to throw him a party. Once he hit the highway, he thumbed on his phone.

"Willows," came the familiar voice on the other end, and Gil smiled a little as he watched the road.

"Hey, Cath, just calling to say goodbye."

"Goodbye? Wait, you--oh." Her tone went abruptly angry, and his smirk widened. "Gil, you didn't."

"I did," he admitted without shame. "And keep it under your hat, Catherine. I don't want to spoil the surprise for Greg."

She sighed heavily. "That's about the only reason I'm not calling Vartan right now to have an APB put on your ass. You know, Gil, you never change."

"Nope," he agreed. "You can stop by the next time you visit Lindsey and chew me out in person."

"I'll do that," Catherine said, and he could just picture her expression, half-amused and half still irritated. "Tell Sara hello for me."

"Sure."

He shut off the phone, squinting a little at the sunlight reflecting off a car ahead of him, and fumbled for his sunglasses. Now is not the time to get myself killed in an accident. It'd be just my luck to have Cath's people come out to handle the scene.

Gil snorted at his fancies, and dismissed them. It would have a certain cosmic closure, but it would be cruel.

He turned his full attention to the road. The mountains awaited him, and beyond them, California, and San Francisco, and the director of the city's forensics lab. And all the time he wanted to study bugs.

Gil smiled just a little. There are experiments to be done. And Sara's waiting.

He pressed the pedal a little harder.

End.