a/n: Well. Its finally done! It only took half a year, lol. I'd like to take this chance before you read this last chapter to thank everyone for reading, reviewing, and overall, for being supportive. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it! Wow, I've never had this many reviews before...you guys are awesome. And a huuuge thanks goes out to my betas, TroddenBlack and mingsmommy. They've made a lot of this story way better than I'd even planned. Especially TB, whose ideas had a lot of say in the early chapters. Anyway, thanks to everyone, and I hope to come up with something new soon!! And now, may I present...
Chapter Twenty One: Epilogue
"You're not alone in this story's pages..."
Emilie Louise Farragher, 32. Loving wife & mother of 2. Will be missed by all who encountered her…
Sylvia P. King, 50. Mother, friend, sister, and soon-to-be grandmother…
John-Ryan McDermott, 17. Brother, son, grandson. Star quarterback at Phoenix Union High School…His spirit will live on with his memory…
George Michael McCarthy, 10. Son, role model & big brother. Brother of Christian Owen McCarthy, 7. Son, brother, friend. Their ever-present smiles will be sorely missed…
Grissom stood quietly, the wind gently toying with his curls. His still-smooth cheeks felt sensitive to the crisp chill in the air, although the sun was hanging in the sky, yet to sink below the horizon. His mouth was set into a sad grimace, hand shoved deep into the pockets of his sweater. As he read through the names, he could feel a sad sort of ache in the pit of his stomach.
They brought back memories that replayed through his head over and over, and Grissom wasn't sure if this was a good thing or bad thing. Should he really be thinking of himself at a time like this? Should he not be thinking about them; the people that belonged to the names he was reading? He couldn't help it though; the memories just wouldn't leave his head.
In fact, they got even stronger as his eyes fell upon the next name. His eyes stung and he felt suddenly weak. A vision of a little, limp body with blonde pigtails forced itself to be displayed in his mind's eye and there was no way he could suppress it.
Elizabeth Rebecca McCarthy, 6. Daughter, sister, and light to the world. Rest happily, Lizzie.
His fingers clenched at the fabric of his pockets and he had to bite the inside of his lip to keep the tears from falling. That little girl, the one with the sweet, innocent looking face…Grissom knew it was her. He could feel it, pressing hard on his chest and lungs. He was biting his lip so hard now that it would surely start to bleed.
A soft voice jolted him out of his thoughts and he quickly backhanded his cheeks, wiping away moisture that had somehow escaped his eyes without notice. He was solemnly staring at the large grey monument as Sara stepped up beside him. He could feel her looking at his profile, but he said nothing.
Sara took in the white engraved letters before her, knowing immediately what they meant to him. She had her own memories running through her head now, sad memories of a time exactly a year before. Silently, she slid her arms across his back, sitting her hand on his waist and leaning her head against his shoulder. After a moment, she felt his large, warm forearm against her own back.
They stood like that for a long time; just looking and thinking alone, yet together. Every so often the breeze would delicately blow Sara's dark hair around her face. Had Grissom noticed, he would have seen how forlornly beautiful she looked. Then again, he didn't need to see her to know how beautiful she was any more.
After a while, Grissom was aware of the shape of another person near him. It was a woman, he deduced; short and delicate...He still hadn't looked over at this woman, but he could make out her form. She was pregnant, her small hands protectively holding the graceful bump of her stomach. Her dark-blonde hair fell like a veil around her face as she looked down.
Grissom's curiosity overtook him as a man's form came up beside the pregnant woman, holding a bouquet of flowers. Grissom finally looked over. His blue eyes were met by the watery blue eyes of the woman, and he swore he could feel the pain radiating from her. Her eyes flashed in recognition and Grissom felt a sharp twinge in the pit of his stomach.
A moment passed between them, unspoken words floating on the breeze, invisible to the rest of the world. Grissom looked away from her and put his mouth to Sara's ear.
"Let's go, Honey," he said quietly, his voice rough with emotion. Sara's eyes met his with confusion and uncertainty, but she complied, letting him shuffle her away with his hand on her lower back. She was unaware of the people that had been next to them until she felt a small, cold hand grip her wrist.
Turning, she was met with the sad gaze of Rebecca McCarthy. Sara's mouth dropped open and her eyes widened, but she said nothing. Shocks of electricity ran from where the other woman was touching her wrist. She could see Rebecca's mouth grimace as she swallowed thickly.
That was all she said. Just 'thank you'. Letting Sara go, she let her hand fall to the underside of the pregnant belly. She walked back to Jack, who was looking away over the ridge, taking in the sight of the green second-growth of forest that was arising from what had once been tall sugar pines and cedars. Grissom noticed that Jack now had slight grey patches at the sides of his head.
After touching his hand to Rebecca's belly, he finally looked up. The man noticed Grissom looking at him and gave a nod, which Grissom returned. He was – again – startled by the look of pain he saw in his eyes. Jack turned away quickly, and when he bent to place the flowers below the monument, Grissom knew it was time for he and Sara to leave.
They made their way back to the SUV silently. Grissom started the car without a word, and neither spoke until they pulled up to their destination. He turned off the ignition and made no move to get out of the car, so neither did she. They stared at each other for a moment, until suddenly one of Grissom's hands was tenderly touching her neck and his lips were against hers.
It was a light kiss, but full of emotion. A lot had changed since they'd been at Lake Tahoe last. A year ago, so much pain and suffering had entered their lives, but together they had overcome it. Grissom had returned to Vegas with a new scar on his cheek, but it was defiantly not the only one. One deeper than that had tormented him, but Sara had healed it, just like the physical one.
Breaking away from the kiss, he grabbed her hand. Stroking it lightly, he said the words he knew he didn't say near enough as many times as he should.
"I love you."
"I love you, too," she returned quietly.
With a sad smile, Grissom got out of the car and headed down the path with her, his fingers intertwined with hers. They passed the familiar lookout over Lake Tahoe and down to the outcropping of rock that had an old sense of familiarity to it.
Sara watched as Grissom pulled a lighter out of his pocket. It had once been blue, but its plastic surface was now blackened, its shape hopelessly heat-warped. But still, on the bottom of the lighter, the initials "R.C." were still visible.
"Ready?" Grissom asked, curling his fingers around the lighter. Sara nodded, hoping that they'd never see the item again. With a tiny hint if a smile, Grissom's arm pulled back and he hurled it out over the rocky outcropping. They watched silently as it plummeted down towards the water and eventually disappeared beneath the tiny waves. Except for Grissom's scar, it was the last physical reminder of what had happened to them the year before.
Grissom knew he was dealing with chances again. Actually, since the last year, he'd been dealing with chance all the time. And so far, he regretted none of it.
A few hours later, they were in bed in a B&B they'd found near the lake. Grissom loomed over her, his tan skin glowing with just a touch of red. He was kissing her decidedly and warmly. He'd mumble her name every so often and she'd feel the humming in his chest. He slid his hands down her bare hips and she shivered.
"God, Sara…" Grissom moaned, his chin dropping as his eyes closed in anticipation. Sara suddenly realized something and her eyes shot open.
"Damn it, Griss. Youre not wearing…" She muttered, attempting to reach over the side of the bed to grab the box of condoms from her duffel bag. In that second, Grissom made a decision that he'd first contemplated when he'd first seen Rebecca McCarthy.
Sara's hand was reaching for the bag, but since her body was pinned underneath his, she didn't have much room for movement. She found her arm being pushed over her head by his large, hot fingers as they wrapped around her wrist. Confused, she looked up into his eyes and saw a fire deep within their depths that she'd never seen before. A fascinating, intense blue like the color of the driftwood fires of her childhood.
"Don't," he said. His voice was husky and Sara almost couldn't bear to challenge him.
This time, his voice was softer. Slowly, he slid his fingers down her waist. The blue fire consumed her, gripping her heart and her insides and spreading outwards. He kissed her once more, this time lengthy and meaningful.
"I love you." Over and over again over the next while, those words were repeated like a mantra across his lips.
Doing what they were doing was one of the biggest chances they'd ever taken. But if the McCarthy's had been able to overcome the kind of pain they'd experienced, if good things really could come from the bad, maybe this chance would be one worth toying with.
After all, out of tragedy comes purpose.
a/n: Thank you again for reading!! You guys are amazing. Hope to hear from you all later.
Oh, and I must credit sparklin-strawberries for that last line. You're a genuis, Em...But what happens if you BOTH have glasses?? Hmm? Tell me THAT.