A/N: Well, here we go! This is the last chapter in this story. Try not to be so shocked! I'm going to keep going with Grissom and Sara's story, but I wanted to break it down into what I consider to be the phases of their relationship: their meeting pre-Vegas, their time in Vegas when Grissom is oblivious, and their (painfully slow) movement into a relationship.
So, as that suggests, the next story will be a bit more cheerful. I'm still refining the details on that one. I hope to have the first chapter posted next weekend.
Thanks so much for reading, for reviewing, and for your patience with my slow, school-related update schedule. You've been incredible thus far, and I hope you're planning to continue the journey with me in the next story!
I don't own CSI. Some inspiration is provided by episodes 415, "Early Rollout," 422, "No More Bets," and 423, "Bloodlines." Some dialogue is also taken from episode 422.
A Different Side
Sara sighed, a bit disappointed at the voice that answered the phone. "Hi, Tom," she said. "It's Sara. How are you?"
"Sara!" he exclaimed delightedly. "How are you, sweetheart?"
"I'm … is Mary there?"
"Yeah," Tom said, the concern obvious in his voice. "Are you all right, Sara?"
"I'm fine," Sara said. "I just need to talk to Mary."
"No problem. Here she is."
Muffled sounds reached her ears. Sara was sure that Tom had covered the mouthpiece of the phone as he handed it off. A moment later, her best friend's voice came across the line.
"Sara? What's wrong?"
Sara burst into tears.
"Oh, Sara," Mary said, shocked that her friend was falling apart like this. "Please, sweetie, tell me what's wrong."
"Everything," Sara sobbed.
"You're going to have to be a bit more specific."
Sara laughed through her tears. "Can't you just let me be miserable?"
"Not unless you can calm down enough to tell me why you're miserable."
Sara took a deep breath, trying to get herself under control. "We had a strange case."
"Okay …" Mary said slowly. It had been a long time since Sara had lost control over a case.
"The victim … she was murdered in her shower." She paused to take a breath. "She looked just like me, Mar."
"She was your doppelganger?"
"Yeah. It was freaky, actually. Grissom wouldn't let me see the body at all. If it weren't for Catherine, I'm sure I never would have seen her. She asked me to get her toe prints once she was in the morgue." Another pause. "It was like I was seeing myself in the morgue."
"Oh, Sara. It must have been terrible to see her like that."
"It was really, really strange," Sara admitted.
"Being confronted with your own mortality can be tough," Mary acknowledged.
"Being … no, Mar, that's not what …"
"Tell me," Mary prompted gently.
Sara took a deep breath. "Grissom … it was like he was possessed. He worked something like twenty-six hours straight on this one. I've never seen him like that. He wouldn't leave the girl's house, he wouldn't eat … Catherine was the only one he'd let go to the house to help him. He made me stay at the lab."
"That must have been frustrating."
"Yeah," she agreed. "It wasn't until I saw Debbie … her name was Debbie … that I understood. He was trying to spare me."
"That was nice of him."
"He wanted to solve this for me," Sara said bluntly. "It wasn't about Debbie … not really. It was about me. He was totally freaked out after seeing someone who looked just like me with her throat slashed."
Mary exhaled slowly. "What are you saying, Sara? That you think that he's in love with you?"
"No," Sara said slowly, "but he could be. And he knows it. He said …"
Mary couldn't keep the shock out of her voice. "He told you that he could fall in love with you?"
"No. He … I need a minute, or you're not going to understand this thing at all."
"Okay," Mary said, completely confused.
Sara took a deep breath and began to talk. "Grissom interrogated the suspect. The guy who did this – he's a doctor at the same hospital where Debbie was a nurse. They worked together. He's about Grissom's age. He … they dated for awhile. But, Debbie broke up with him and started dating another doctor, a younger doctor. He couldn't take it, and he killed both of them."
Mary shivered. "Sara …"
"We don't have enough evidence to convict him. But, we all know what happened. He just won't admit to it." She paused yet again. "I watched the interrogation from the observation room. No one knew I was there."
"Griss … he admitted a lot of stuff to this guy."
"What do you mean?"
"He …" Sara swallowed, fighting back more tears. "Grissom told Dr. Lurie that he knows what happened because they're the same. They're both middle aged men who are married to their careers. They both had a chance at love with …" She trailed off and swallowed again.
"With someone like you," Mary supplied softly.
"Yeah. And he … Grissom said that he couldn't do it. That he couldn't risk everything to let himself fall in love with me." She gave up fighting and let the tears slide down her cheeks. "Why, Mary? Why doesn't he think that I'm worth the risk?"
"Sara, stop that," Mary said, sounding a bit harsh for the first time since taking the phone from her husband. "You are worth it."
"To whom?" Sara asked tearfully. "Not to Hank. He wasn't about to leave his girlfriend for me. Not to Jason senior year. He cheated on me, remember? Not to Evan freshman year. He broke up with me because he didn't want to be 'tied down.' Face it, Mary. Guys don't want me."
"Asses don't want you, Sara. And you don't want them, so get over that idea right now."
"Grissom isn't an ass," she said quietly.
Mary sighed, thinking that that was a matter of opinion.
"He's not," Sara insisted, knowing what was going through Mary's mind.
"Sara, he's been jerking you around for years," Mary said, finally feeling free to articulate the opinion she had held since Sara had moved to Vegas. "Don't you see it? He does something to make you think he's interested, then backs off to the point that you've had your heart broken again."
"He doesn't –"
"He does," Mary said. "If he didn't, you wouldn't be on the phone with me right now, sobbing over the fact that he had told some murderer that he wasn't willing to risk … whatever … to be with you."
Sara's tears began to fall faster. "How can I face him? How can I ever go to work again?"
"Don't," Mary said simply. "You're an amazing CSI, Sara. Find a new job in a new lab."
"No," Sara said, sounding stronger than she had at any point during their conversation. "I won't let him scare me away. I love my job. I love Catherine and the guys. I love this city. I'm not going to leave because …"
"Okay, then," Mary said, a bit relieved that her tough love had worked so well. "You just need to take a hot shower, have a glass of wine, get a good night's sleep and go back to work ready to solve more crimes."
Sara smiled in spite of herself. "Can I have two glasses of wine?"
Mary grinned. "Wino."
"Maybe." Sara sighed. "Thank you, Mary."
Mary smiled sadly. "I just wish I could be there to drink that wine with you."
Another tear slipped from Sara's eye. "Me, too."
"Are you going to be all right?"
"Eventually," Sara said, wiping at the tears that continued to fall.
"Okay," Mary said, the concern still obvious in her voice. "Call me when you get off work tomorrow, okay?"
"I love you."
Mary smiled. "I love you, too."
Sara took Mary's advice. She took a hot shower, drank a glass of white wine and collapsed into bed. Sleep was hard to come by, but that didn't really surprise her. She had gone without sleep before, and was sure that lying under the warm blankets would be good enough yet again.
The next day, she would walk into the lab ready to face whatever life threw at her. Even Grissom.
Until she saw him.
Pain, longing, sorrow, joy, regret, hope … a thousand emotions ran through her as she and Grissom walked down the hall on a collision course. She took a deep breath, trying to get herself under control before they were close enough to speak to one another.
He smiled as he drew closer to her. She could see it even from a short distance, but was incapable of responding in kind. As soon as they made eye contact in the hall, her face turned bright red. If he noticed, he chose not to comment. Despite all the other feelings swirling around inside her, she was grateful for that. At least she could still count on him to be a gentleman.
"Hello, Sara," he smiled.
"Hi," she said in what she hoped was a normal voice.
"I'm sending you and Warrick out into the field," he said. He gave her a guilty, apologetic smile. "Rangers just found a missing hiker in the woods. He's been out there for about a week."
Sara made a face. "Thanks, Griss."
He smiled again. "Take Greg with you. I think it'll be a good experience for him."
Sara couldn't help but laugh, finally managing to break free of the melancholy that threatened to pull her under. Sometimes, Grissom was so much like Carl that it scared her. At the moment, she was extremely thankful for this little reminder of her first CSI supervisor. "All right. We'll take Greg."
"So, where exactly are we going?" Greg asked a bit nervously, adjusting his newly-acquired field vest.
"Into the woods," Warrick replied. He grinned at Sara. "Not scared, are you?"
Greg rolled his eyes. "No."
"Oh," Sara grinned, "are you trying to tell us that you're the outdoorsy type?"
"I'll have you know that I've played in many an outdoor chess tourney," Greg replied.
Sara and Warrick both laughed.
"Tell me you're joking," Warrick said.
"No," Greg grinned. "Try not to be jealous."
"I'll do my best," Warrick said.
They all turned to their right, noticing the park ranger who was waiting for them.
"Hi," Sara said.
"Are you CSI?"
"Yes," she replied. "I'm Sara Sidle, this is Warrick Brown, and this is Greg Sanders."
The man nodded. "Derek Parker," he said. "Your body is just over there."
They looked to where he pointed and started off again.
"Why aren't the police here?" Greg asked.
"We don't know for sure that this is a crime scene yet," Warrick replied. "There's nothing for them to clear." He stopped dead in his tracks, looking down over a creek bank at the decomposing body that was lying alongside the rushing water. "Oh, man. Looks like we found our hiker."
Sara coughed. "Yeah, I'd say we did."
Greg's eyes practically bugged out at the sight of the body. "What happened to him?"
"The elements," Warrick said grimly.
Greg swallowed hard. "What do you want me to do?"
"Help me look for evidence leading to or away from the body," Sara said at once.
Warrick gave her a murderous look. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather process Mr. Worms for Eyes?"
"Oh, no," she grinned. "I think we'll leave him for you."
Their hiker case was full of twists and turns, and took over a week to solve. Sara was glad. It meant plenty of time spent in the field and interrogating suspects, which translated into less time with Grissom.
But, as with all good things, the case eventually came to an end as the man's hiking partner was revealed to be the guilty party. Sara sighed as she went home after her last shift spent working on the case. She hoped that the next day would bring her another case with Warrick, Nick, Catherine … anyone but Grissom.
She entered her apartment and dropped her purse and keys on a chair. Knowing that she was too keyed up to sleep, she went to the fridge and pulled out a beer. She sank down onto the couch with her drink and began flipping channels.
She was on her third beer and watching the local morning news when her cell phone rang. She picked it up, groaning when she saw Grissom's name displayed on the caller ID.
"Sara, I'm really sorry," he said by way of greeting. "You weren't sleeping, were you?"
"No," she said quite honestly.
"Good," he said, sounding a bit relieved. "I need you to come in for a case. One of the big casino owners and his wife were both shot in their palatial driveway this morning."
Sara groaned. "All right. What's the address?"
He gave it to her, glad that she was so willing to come in to work. "Just so you know, I'm calling everyone in. You're not the only one I want to make suffer."
Sara smiled sadly. Unfortunately, she seemed to be the one he made suffer the most. "Thanks. I'll see you in a little bit."
"Thank you," Grissom replied. "Take your time – these two aren't going anywhere."
Sara smiled. "I'll be there soon," she promised.
"See you then," Grissom said. "Bye."
Sara flipped her phone shut and looked at the half empty bottle in her hand. She sighed. She knew that she wasn't drunk, but it was going to take some work to cover the smell of alcohol on her breath.
In the end, brushing her teeth five times and popping cough drops at the scene were the best she could do to cover the smell. She spent most of the day with Nick and Brass. Nick, always determined to see the best in everyone and to shy away from anything that would disrupt his sunshiny view of the world, was blissfully oblivious as to why Sara spent most of the day sucking on cough drops. He was a little irritated that she wasn't willing to share, but that was as intense as his observation got.
Brass, however, was a different story. He knew in an instant what Sara was trying to do with her cough drops. He had already fought his battle with alcohol, and was terrified to see Sara do the same. He confronted her, in the gentlest way she could ever imagine, telling her something about there being more problems than solutions at the bottom of a bottle. While she loved him for his caring, she couldn't help but wonder if he would ever believe that she didn't have a drinking problem. The fear of his disappointment made her swear to herself that she would never drink before work again – even if it was hours before she had to start her shift.
Nick won the promotion.
It had been so long since they had applied for it that Sara had nearly forgotten about the Key CSI position. It wasn't until she walked into the locker room and found Nick reading the letter stating that he had been nominated for the position that it all came back to her.
She felt like the bottom had fallen out of her stomach, but she forced herself to smile and congratulate her friend. Nick smiled, knowing the intense disappointment that she felt.
"That's not necessary," he said. "The position was cut."
He kept talking about the budget issues and the way the money would be spent. Sara forced herself to focus, agreeing that Greg would be thrilled with the new lab equipment that they would have in place of the Key position.
She thought that she was doing fine until he said that it was an honor to be nominated as he left the room. Clinging to her composure by a thread, she wondered what she had done to lose the nomination.
An angry phone call to Mary seemed in order. Sara was glad for the three hour time difference; on the east coast, it wasn't obscenely early when she got off work. She called Mary on the way home.
"Nick got the promotion," Sara said by way of greeting.
"Oh, no," Mary said. "I'm sorry."
"Well, he didn't really get it."
"Okay, now I'm confused."
Sara took a deep breath, willing herself to make sense while she talked. "The position was cut. They're spending the money on some new lab toy for Greg. But, Nick was nominated for the promotion. Over me."
"I'm sorry," Mary said again. "I know you really wanted it."
"Yeah, apparently, that's the reason I didn't get it."
"I asked Grissom why he nominated Nick instead of me. He said it had nothing to do with our twisted past. It's because it didn't matter to Nick if he got it or not."
"That makes absolutely no sense."
"I know!" Sara yelled. "What the hell? Why not give it to the person who really wants it? The person who cares about it?" The person who cares about you
"I guess all we learned in college is true."
"What?" Sara asked distractedly, thinking that Mary's comment made about as much sense as Grissom's decision to nominate Nick for the promotion.
"The most brilliant minds have a complete lack of common sense." Mary paused and smiled. "Don't you remember that philosophy professor?"
Sara laughed in spite of herself. "Oh, the clothes!"
"We were happy when the TA took over for many a reason," Mary laughed.
"Not the least of which was that he was hot," Sara grinned. She laughed again. "Man, Mar, I'm sorry. Every time I call you, I'm in the middle of some emotional crisis."
"Don't apologize for that," Mary said. "That's what friends are for. Helping one another through emotional crises."
"I don't know what I'd do without you," Sara sighed.
"You'd make it," Mary said. "You're tough. Tough enough to congratulate Nick like you mean it."
"Yeah, you're right," Sara said. "I'll be the bigger person."
"Hey, Sara, wanna come out for a drink with me and Nicky?"
Sara looked up from her locker to see Warrick's hopeful smile. "Sure. What's the occasion?"
"Drinking," he grinned.
Sara laughed. "Let's go!"
As always, they ended up at their favorite neighborhood bar. They weren't such regulars that everyone knew them, but they did get smiles of recognition as they walked in. They found a table and ordered beers.
"So, no hot dates tonight?" Sara teased as she took a sip of her drink.
"You're a hot date," Nick teased, putting his arm across the back of her chair.
Sara laughed. "What about Warrick?"
"Third wheel," Nick said promptly. "He's our lame friend who couldn't find a date."
"My planner is quite full, thank you," Warrick said. "Unlike someone I know." He glared at Nick.
Sara laughed. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't tease. It's not like I'm Miss Social Butterfly." She smiled. "Really, I'm just excited to be out with you guys."
"Well, we're glad you came, too," Nick smiled.
"Definitely," Warrick said. "The three of us haven't been out in a couple of weeks."
"And that's just a shame," Nick said. "We need to have a designated drinking night."
"Yeah, we can do that with our schedules," Sara laughed. "Let's just promise to go out once a week. We can leave the night up in the air."
"Good plan," Warrick agreed.
"I'm in," Nick said. "Should we invite the others?"
"Maybe Greg," Sara mused, cocking her head to the side. "He was a real trouper with that hiker."
"He was," Warrick agreed. "I think he's really serious about this CSI thing."
"Good for him," Nick smiled. "He'll be fun out in the field."
"As long as Grissom doesn't get a hold of him," Sara laughed. "He'd have a fit over some of the comments that Greg makes."
"He'd know better than to say that kind of stuff in front of Griss, wouldn't he?" Warrick asked.
"I don't know …"
"What did he say?" Nick asked.
Warrick grinned. "You know. Typical Greg stuff."
Nick shrugged. "If Grissom can handle it in the lab, he can handle it in the field."
"I hope so," Sara said. "If not, poor Greg's never going to pass his proficiency."
They stayed out for several hours, drinking, laughing and talking. Sara loved every minute of the time spent with the guys. She spent so much time on the phone with Mary that she had almost forgotten that she had such wonderful friends in Vegas.
They finally left the bar and started back toward their cars. Warrick suggested stopping for food, but Sara and Nick both turned him down. After as many hours as she had worked and spending so much time out, Sara was exhausted. She could only think of getting home and collapsing into bed.
Warrick split off and headed toward his car, and Sara grabbed Nick's arm.
"Hey, hey, Nick, congratulations on your almost-promotion," she said. "Seriously, you deserve it."
Nick grinned at her. "Wow, that's really hard for you, isn't it?"
Sara smiled and gave him a playful shove. "Yeah, it is," she acknowledged.
Nick was still laughing as they separated to go to their cars.
Sara climbed into her car and started the engine. She watched as the lights came on, wishing that she were already home in bed. She sighed and turned on the radio, turning it up as high as she could stand. She hoped that the loud music would keep her alert during the drive home.
She was halfway home when she saw flashing lights in her mirror. Her first confused thought was that the police had come to escort her to a crime scene. She pulled over, wondering why Grissom hadn't just called her.
A police officer – one she knew by sight but couldn't put a name to – tapped against her window. She rolled it down.
"Do you need me at a crime scene?" she asked.
He frowned in confusion for a moment, then recognition passed through his eyes. "You're a CSI, aren't you?"
"Sara Sidle," she said. "Did Grissom send you to find me?"
"Um … no …"
"What's going on?" she asked in confusion.
"You … you were driving a bit erratically," he said with an apologetic note to his voice. "I need to see your license and registration, and I need you to step out of the car, please."
Still completely confused, Sara handed over the documentation and climbed out of her car. "Driving erratically?" she asked.
He looked at her closely. "Have you been drinking, Ms. Sidle?"
"A bit," she admitted. Her eyes widened. "I'm not drunk," she said. "I'm fine to drive, or I never would have tried! I was just working way too many hours, I'm tired …"
"I need to you blow into this," he said.
Her face flushing with shame, Sara submitted to a field sobriety test. The police officer truly looked like he felt sorry for her as he read the machine.
"You're over the legal limit," he said quietly.
"What?" Sara exclaimed. "How is that possible? I only had a few beers! Over a few hours!"
"Did you eat anything?"
She could have slapped herself upside the head. "No."
"Maybe you should have." He grimaced. "Look, you blew .09 and the limit was just lowered to .08. A few weeks ago, you would have been legal. I'll cut you a break. I won't cite you. I'll just take you back to PD … but, I'll have to notify your supervisor."
Sara's face turned even redder. "You have to tell Grissom?" she almost whispered.
"I'm sorry," the cop said. "I wish there was another way. But, the only alternative is to cite you, and …"
"No, this is better," she said quickly. "Thank you, officer."
He smiled sadly. "You're welcome."
Sara sat in the waiting room in the police department for what felt like forever. The kind cop who had pulled her over had made her leave her car and ride back with him. Once they arrived at the station, he directed her to the waiting area while he called Grissom. He had returned only once, to tell her that Grissom was coming for her.
Sara felt that she died a thousand deaths of shame while she waited for him. She couldn't believe that she had been so stupid. Why hadn't she just gone for food when Warrick suggested it? Why hadn't she just called a cab? She knew that she was too tired to drive home. She was sure that any "erratic" driving was more related to exhaustion than anything else.
After what seemed like years, Grissom appeared. He came into the waiting room and sat down next to Sara. She knew it was him, but she couldn't turn to look at him. She couldn't face him.
He reached out and took her hand, gently squeezing it as if to tell her that she wasn't alone. She returned the pressure, trying to stop the butterflies that suddenly appeared in her stomach. This is not sexual. Don't try to make it into something it's not.
"Come on," he said gently, "I'll take you home."
They barely spoke on the way back to Sara's apartment. She wasn't ready to tell him what had happened. He seemed to sense that, and didn't try to draw her out. Their only conversation was limited to directions to the apartment complex.
Grissom parked on the street and turned off the engine. He looked at Sara a bit apprehensively.
"Come in with me," she sighed. "I know we need to talk."
He nodded, and they both climbed out of the car.
Grissom followed Sara up the stairs to her third floor apartment. She unlocked the door and walked in, knowing that he would follow her. He did; securely closing the door behind him. He watched as she kept walking all the way into the small apartment until she reached the window in the living room. It looked out over the complex garden, but, in the darkness, she couldn't see it.
"You're going to fire me, aren't you?" she asked without turning around.
"Will you tell me what happened?" Grissom asked rather than answering her question.
Sara sighed. "I was too tired, I drank too much and I decided to drive myself home. It was stupid."
"I think there might be more to it than that," Grissom said gently, moving forward to stand about a foot behind her.
Sara sighed. "I went out with Nick and Warrick after shift. We do that sometimes."
Grissom nodded. "I know."
"We hit a bar near the lab – you know, that one we always go to. Warrick suggested getting something to eat after we left, but Nick and I both wanted to go home. So, we got back to where we had parked, and we split up."
Grissom felt a strange surge of anger that neither Warrick nor Nick had walked Sara to her car.
"I thought I might be tipsy," she admitted. "But, I was so tired … I didn't think it was the alcohol that made me feel like that. I just … I wanted to go home. That's all. I wanted to go home and take a shower and go to sleep. I thought I could drive, I really did."
Grissom sighed. "Sara …"
"I know it was stupid," she said, finally turning around to face him. "You don't have to remind me. And, now, I've lost my job, haven't I?"
Grissom shook his head. "No."
Sara's eyebrows shot up.
"If you had actually been cited, I would have had no choice," he said slowly. "You know that, don't you? You owe your job to the PD."
"Because they didn't cite you, your fate is in my hands."
She raised an eyebrow. "And? What is my fate?"
"You're going to use all three weeks of vacation that you have saved," Grissom said. "You are going to see a PEAP counselor. You are going to follow that counselor's advice when you come back to work."
She nodded, noting for the first time that he wasn't really reprimanding her. He looked … like he was worried about her. Like he wanted to help her. She looked straight into his blue eyes, shocked by the tenderness she found there. That tenderness nearly broke her resolve not to cry. Unable to face him, she looked away, staring at a point over his shoulder, willing the tears to fade from her eyes.
He watched her, knowing that she was fighting for control. He had seen her cry before over cases – and, he reminded himself, when we said good bye at Berkley – but never over something like this. He had never seen this side of her. It was sweet, in a way. As she slowly fell apart in front of him, he suddenly saw her completely differently. She wasn't the student who spent hours studying – trying to impress me – or the CSI whose determination to speak for the victims was all-consuming. She was open in front of him, the layers of her defensive walls peeling away. She was vulnerable. She needed someone to lean on, someone to protect her. And, suddenly, he wanted to be that someone. He wanted to be her rock. He wanted to be the one she could turn to with her problems. He wanted to be the one who took care of her.
"I have one more condition to add."
She finally forced herself to look at him. "All right. Name it."
He paused and licked his lips. "You are going to talk to me from now on. If you have a problem that you can't deal with, you need to let me help you."
She smiled sadly. "You're my boss, Grissom. You shouldn't have to deal with my problems."
He shook his head and touched her cheek. "I'm your friend, Sara. I was your friend long before I was your supervisor, and I will always be your friend."
She couldn't stop herself from closing her eyes and leaning into his touch, thinking that he had been a pretty lousy friend recently. But, at this point, she was willing to take whatever he would offer.
"In a way, this is my fault," he said softly.
She opened her eyes. "What? Why would you say that?"
He smiled sadly. "I'm the one who has always told you to socialize and find something to do outside of work."
She gave him a wry smile. "You didn't tell me to drink and drive, Griss."
"No," he acknowledged. "And, truthfully, I was thrilled to know that you, Nick and Warrick had become such good friends. It means a lot to me as a supervisor to see my team bonding like that."
"As a supervisor?" she repeated, a bit disappointed.
He bit his lip. "Sara …"
"I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have said that. I know what our relationship is. You've made that very clear."
He wanted to cry at her words. She was right, of course. He had been pushing her away for years, even though it had been his offer that had brought her to Vegas in the first place. "I haven't been a good friend to you, Sara," he said slowly. "But, if you're willing to give me another chance, I'd like to change that."
A true, genuine smile lit her face as the meaning of his words sank in. "Of course I'll give you a chance," she said.
He suddenly felt lighter. It was as though she had handed him a new lease on life. "Thank you," he said, feeling a goofy grin stretch across his face.
She smiled and took his hand in hers. "Just don't waste it," she cautioned.
"No," he said. "I'll never do that again." He squeezed her hand gently, feeling and squashing the insane desire to kiss her cheek. "I should probably let you get some sleep. You said that you're exhausted."
Sara wanted to protest, but knew that she didn't have the strength to entertain a guest for much longer. "I am," she admitted.
He nodded. "Well, you'll have plenty of time to sleep. Your vacation is effective immediately."
"I was afraid you'd say that," she sighed.
"I think you need the time." He touched her cheek again. "Sara … take care of yourself."
"I will," she promised.
"Good. I'll see you in three weeks, then."
She nodded with a falsely bright smile, wondering how she would possibly be able to stay away from work – away from him – for three weeks.
He stepped back, and she walked with him to the door. He opened it and looked at her.
"Good luck," he said simply.
"Thanks," she replied.
He smiled. "Good night, Sara."
"Good night, Griss." She paused. "Thank you. For everything."
He smiled gently, knowing what she meant. "You're welcome."
He walked out the door, taking a deep, calming breath. He had left Sara so many times. After sharing coffee after class. After finishing his seminar at Berkley. After spending a beautiful evening with her in San Francisco. After solving a case. After processing a scene. After getting DNA results from Greg. After handing out assignments. At the end of a shift. After a night out or breakfast in the lab with the team.
But, somehow, after all the large and small good byes they had shared, none of them hit him the way that this one did. It was as though he wasn't just saying good night to Sara. He was saying good bye to a way of thinking.
He was saying good bye to his old way of life.
Sara closed the door behind him and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes again, and walked across the room to sink down on her couch.
During the short amount of time that he had spent in her apartment, Sara knew that something had changed between her and Grissom. Their relationship had been completely altered, and, somehow, she knew that after tonight, there was no going back.
For the first time, she knew, she really, truly knew, that they would be okay.