—Gil, you know I love you. I feel I've loved you forever—
It was the last time she would ever walk through this door. She hesitated a moment before pushing it open, her hand flat against the thick glass. If she were to wait just a few minutes, she knew, Grissom would be off duty. He would find her here on his way out; maybe they would leave together. Maybe she'd follow him home. Maybe during the night he could help her forget the tedium and regrets, and maybe he could help her remember what it felt like to smile often.
Her resolve wavered. But then she remembered the letter, and all the reasons that had driven her to write it; with weary resignation she pushed the door open and stepped out of the building where she had devoted so many hours of her life. Outside, she stood motionless for a long moment, watching the lines of traffic pass by without seeing them, breathing deep the night air in an effort to try to calm the raging chaos she felt inside. Finally she moved, knowing that if she didn't find an out she'd run right back inside, back to Grissom, back to the life she couldn't live any longer. She spotted a taxi and flagged it down; as she slid inside and gave her directions, as the vehicle pulled smoothly away from the curb and into traffic, it took all her control not to look back.
Instead she leaned her head back and fought hard against the tightness in her throat and the prickling threat of tears in her eyes.
—Lately, I haven't been feeling well. Truth be told, I'm tired—
She was tired. She'd been tired ever since the desert, ever since they'd found her half-dead at the base of a cactus in the middle of nowhere. She was beginning to realize, though, that she'd been tired long before that. She'd always known that to do this job it was necessary to deaden yourself in some ways, to desensitize yourself to all emotions that could hinder judgment and decisions that had to be made with logic and clarity. It had been harder for her than it had been for the others for many reasons, but she'd finally managed to shut off most of those things that had wrapped her up in knots during the nights, and made her so futilely angry every waking hour. She'd numbed herself as best she could, in an effort to maintain her sanity and to maintain the level-headedness she needed for the job she had to do.
But that sacrifice had come with a cost.
—Out there in the desert under the car that night, I realized something, and I haven't been able to shake it. Since my father died I've spent almost my entire life with ghosts. We've been like close friends, and out there in the desert it occurred to me it was time for me to bury them.
I can't do that here. I'm so sorry—
So many days she'd spent in a mix of different turmoil—frustration, rage, sorrow, helplessness. She'd fought for the innocent, fought for the weak, fought for the misjudged, in the only ways she could. But she was hindered in her struggles by rules, by guidelines, by the precedence of logic over emotion. Difficult for the headstrong to abide by those limitations—harder still for Sara, who'd watched violence unfold as a child and watched it over and over again in the daily grind she'd chosen as a career. You can only give so much of yourself, she'd been warned often, before there's nothing left to give. You can only go so hard for so long before it wears you out.
—No matter how hard I try to fight it off, I'm left with the feeling I have to go. I have no idea where I'm going, but I know I have to do this. If I don't, I'm afraid I'll self-destruct. And worse, you'll be there to see it happen—
Grissom had already seen her break, in little ways. But if she stayed, if she tried to keep living and working the way she had been, the impending break would swamp them both. She was terrified she'd lose him if that were to happen. And now here she was, leaving him—leaving everything—behind. Her lips quirked into a mirthless smile at the irony before they began to tremble, before she began to cry. She lifted her head again and stared out the window, watching the colors and lights that were Vegas blur together beneath her tears.
Whether this was the right decision, she didn't know. But it was the only decision she could make that was fair to herself, and though she knew he wouldn't see it as such, fair to Grissom. The only person that could help her at this point was herself.
And such a terrifying thought that was.
—Be safe. Know that I tried very hard to stay. Know that you are my one and only. I'll miss you with every beat of my heart—
"That'll be ten fifty-five," the driver told her when they'd reached her destination. She dug around in her pocket and fished out a twenty, and didn't wait around for the change. She closed the car door behind her and resolutely began to walk. The airport loomed above her, all around her; she joined the exodus of travelers heading for the entrances, realizing that without luggage she looked a little lost.
She felt a little lost.
—Our life together was the only home I've ever really had. I wouldn't trade it for anything—
Standing in line, waiting to purchase a ticket, Grissom was all she could think about. She knew he'd still love her after reading the letter, but she wondered if that love would fade as days passed, as weeks passed, as their time apart became immeasurable. She couldn't come back until she'd done what she needed to do; identifying what needed to be done would be a large part of this endeavour. It would be a long time, she knew, before she'd return. Grissom would wait, she knew. And knowing that it was a selfish and—in some ways—cruel, she hoped that he would wait forever.
Some time later, ticket in hand and nothing else with her but her wallet, Sara made her way through the airport towards the terminal. She scanned the crowds around her, hoping to spot in the masses that face that was oh-so-familiar, those eyes that could still stop her heart at certain moments. She was afraid to see him, too, afraid that if he found her here she'd buckle beneath the depth of her feelings for him and stay, and thus condemn them both to a slow spiral into what could only be the worst of endings. She knew he wouldn't be here, though; she hadn't given him enough time for that. He'd try to find her, try to call her—her phone was in a garbage can outside the airport—try to hunt her down. But she was leaving very soon, too soon for him to trace her here.
It wasn't long before the terminal gates loomed before her. She stopped walking, then, closing her eyes while wiping at her cheeks with one hand—she hadn't been able to stop the tears, despite her best efforts. Opening her eyes, she took a deep breath, and then another before stepping into line. She had to do this.
—I love you. I always will.