Epilogue

Every time I open my eyes, every dark morning, and see these same gray walls around me, I remember all that I've lost. Maybe it's because you've been here with me the whole time, supporting me until I pushed you away...I do that a lot, push people away. If it was an Olympic Event, I would be the record holder, I think. When I'm feeling low, I pull a letter out of my ever growing collection. Letters from you. Your words soothe me; remind me that no matter how empty this tiny cell is, I'm never alone.

I worry about you. Out there every night, every day. I saw Dave zip up so many good cops, and if I lose you, I honestly don't know what I'd do. I've lost everyone I've ever loved, ever could have loved.

Last week was your birthday, no I didn't forget, Sergeant Curtis. I wondered what you would be doing. Any other woman would have been living it up. Go out for a night on the town, have a hot date. You were probably at the PD, working. That's how I always spent my birthdays. Except that one, do you remember it? You were the only one who remembered, and only because you saw it in my file. You told me that I had to get out of the lab and live a little. We were both a little drunk and you rambled off something about eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die. I should have listened to you that night. I also should have taken advantage of you in your slightly inebriated state and kissed you. Maybe things would be different.

Beer is just not going to cut it tonight. Letters, she wrote me hundreds and hundreds of reply letters. Scrawled out in her immediately recognizable chicken-scratch, she poured her heart and soul out to me. The liquor cabinet is well-stocked and I run my hands over the smooth bottles until I touch the cool smooth glass of single malt scotch that my mother gave me when I was promoted to Lieutenant.

"Being a cop is never easy, Sofia."

I knew you were a Captain, Mother, but not Captain Obvious. It was easy, actually. Being a cop, a detective, was second nature to me. It was like breathing, until everything went to Hell that is. I struggled, of course, but everything was black and white, right or wrong, goddamn guilty or innocent. I toed the line, made other people toe the line. I broke hearts and brought peace, all in good faith. I thought I was right.

Looking back now, I was a fool. My convictions would have crumbled if Sara had sent me any one of these letters. They're spread over my coffee table, over my couch, it's the only clutter in an otherwise neat and tidy condo. My home away from the office for my - oh so many - lonely years. My lonely years. Get a grip on yourself, Curtis. At least you were free.
I cracked the seal on the scotch and poured it into the nearest glass, not even a shot glass, just the nearest vessel. Who says you can't drink liquor out of a coffee mug? The burn of alcohol down my throat doesn't equal what's going on deeper, in my heart.

Why had she walked away? She cared, I could see it in her eyes, see it in each one of her soul-filled letters to me. Letters that she never sent me. Why? Another swallow and I almost choked because of the bitter laughter that keeps bubbling up. She was still looking out for me, of course, Saint Sara. Weary, I sit down in the chair - the couch is covered with paper - and pull my knees up. Am I trying to blame her? I tried that route before and it was a spectacular failure. I wanted to hate her for loving Grissom, and not me. In some ways, I still want to hate her. I didn't ask to fall in love with Sara Sidle. Love is blind, deaf, dumb and impartial to logic. It's also all consuming, a fire that I can't, don't even want, to put out. Even as she stood over her old lover's grave, I loved her. Wanted to take her in my arms. I stood there, simply watching her, for the longest time. Watched the breeze tease at her curls, watched her sit, and trace the lettering on the tombstone. I watched her shirt crawl up her back to reveal a tantalizing stretch of skin. I looked; I ogled and felt only an ounce of guilt. Some things never change. Others do, like the fact that her skin is no longer pale and unmarked. She got a prison tattoo. Not a gang tattoo, or even a 'Only God Can Judge Me' melodramatic excuse for a tattoo. It took me a moment to place it because even as a child, I had never been especially religious. I had never taken the time to learn about the many saints and martyrs that the Church holds so dear to its heart. Sara, obviously, did, though. Because tattooed on her lower back, in fading black and green ink was Saint Helen, of Skofde. I had to look up the specifics, including the Skofde part, but when I read them off, I wanted to both kiss and shake some sense into Sara Sidle. The saint, the martyr, who she'd had tattooed on her skin had been accused of murder, and killed in retribution for it. Sara had given up and resigned herself to her fate. I hate that. I hate the fact that a beautiful, smart, innocent woman had gone through hell.

A few of the pages, many of them actually, have teardrops blurring the words, both hers and mine. Another scalding shot of scotch has my hand steady enough to pick up the next letter. After the first paragraph, I put it down and blindly reach for the bottle and drink straight from it.

Failure in print. Damn her for telling me these things, damn her for giving me these letters and damn me, damn me the most for failing her. She was miserable, aching, lost, and I was oblivious. Damn it. The tears start leaking out of my eyes and I can hear my mother in my head, "Big girls don't cry." Well, Mom, I'm a big girl, all grown up, and crying. Crying for Sara. For the woman I love. For the woman I may never have. Crying for myself and for the irreparable fuck-up that I allowed happen.

Another drink and another letter, the television is droning on and on, some syndicated rerun of a long-dead medical drama. A curly haired brunette is on screen and, disgusted, I turn the television off and resist the urge to throw the thin remote at the flat plasma screen. Wall to wall carpet, plush leather furniture, a stocked fridge, oh yes, my life has been pitiful. I've lived here, safe, sound and in some kind of a happy state while the woman I love rotted away, losing bits and pieces of herself every day.

Love. I love Sara. Have loved her for a very long time. It's a twisted madness that burns inside of me. It's a desire that lives and breathes inside of me, keeping my soul whole and intact despite the horrors it has seen. I didn't protect her like I should have, which means in this twisted case of finger pointing, I am no innocent. I am guilty, just as guilty as Catherine for doubting Sara, or Greg for turning his back. I think the only true innocent is Sara. All she ever did was love, and had everything torn away from her.

Sara would get it back. What she can't salvage, I'll give her something new to hold on to. It can never replace what she's lost: her career, her lover, her child. Maybe, though, we can begin again, together. Leave the blood smeared desert behind us, go somewhere fresh where no one knows our names. Leave the horror and pain behind, wipe the slate clean. No guilt and no innocence, none of the murky grays that lie in between them.

Is there such a place? If there is, I don't know where to find it. All I can do is pour another shot and hope that when I wake up, Sara will be at my door, ready to go there.

I know it's not going to happen, but I have hope, and I learned to live on that and that alone five years ago.

It's not over, it will never be over, not really. The damage Gillian-fucking-Rayne caused has scarred us all, but scars fade and maybe, just maybe, we will all be able to move on and away from the land mine strewn gray toned place between guilt and innocence.

Fin

Author's Note:

This has been a long, challenging story to write. There are, as always, a few people who deserve some thanks. A big chocolate and sprinkle covered thank you to my beta reader, HoneyLynx86, for her endless patience and advice. To my best friend Jenn, for listening to me ramble for months on end. Throughout the writing of this story, I could have easily become discouraged enough to throw up my hands, but the great reviews I get keep me going. So thanks to everyone who left a review; there are a couple of people in particular that really make me smile, so thanks to Immi, Icklebitodd, and especially El Gringo Loco.

I've been writing fanfiction and posting it up here for about a year and it's coming close to a half now. I've found some like minded people, friends, some confidence, and endless amounts of enjoyment. I have also, through an incredibly lucky and fated series of occurrences, found the love of my life. So the last mention in this long line of thank yous goes to Catherine, who completes me in ways I can't begin to describe. So while some of you are rolling your eyes and muttering under your breathe, or even exiting the window, this one's for you, Cathy, my muse and partner in all things.

Thanks for Reading everyone and stick around because I plan to be rather productive this summer.

RebelByrdie