Title: Because I Could Not Stop for Death
Rating: T for now, possibly M for future chapters
Words: 1700 (approximately)
Pairings: Grissom/Sara, Team
Genre: Drama / NON-CD
Spoilers: Season 8 thru Finale
Summary: "As they approached the top of the hill, Grissom watched his CSIs stop just a couple of feet in front of a familiar headstone…"
Author's Note: The season finale ticked me off… this is my take on what will happen in Season 9. (WIP)
They walked slowly through the graveyard, weaving respectfully between the rows and rows of concrete and marble headstones. Up the slope, Nick Stokes, Catherine Willows, and Greg Sanders made their way to the small grouping of trees, with Gil Grissom, Jim Brass, and Conrad Ecklie following sedately behind a few steps.
Grissom watched the trio, knowing the renewed grief they felt and wishing once again he could have spared them the pain of watching a man they all knew and loved fall from grace… and life. Somewhere in there, he was sure he'd missed the clues, and lay the blame solely at his own feet. Glancing to his right and left, he saw the stoic faces of a captain of detectives and assistant lab director take on the roles needed to get through the ordeal again; for yet once more, they were visiting Warrick Brown's gravestone, only this time it was to deliver the news that Warrick's killer had been brought to justice.
As they approached the top of the hill, Grissom watched his CSIs stop just a couple of feet in front of a familiar headstone, respectfully bowing their heads. Catherine leaned into Nick a little. Grissom had no doubt her face would be tear-stained, and her make-up would be smudged by the trails of moisture seeping from her eyes. He also knew Nick would be choking on emotion, as he stood over where they'd buried his partner. Greg would be holding his emotions in check, wishing to be anywhere else, but feeling it not just his duty as a fellow CSI, but as Warrick's friend, to be right there at that time.
All six of them stood silently, with only the bitter breeze breaking the silence, as it rustled through the bare branches of a copse of maple trees. Taking the opportunity, Grissom looked around them and for a moment felt the peace of the cemetery… the stillness only a final resting place could bring.
The CSI supervisor allowed the environment – not the people or the crime or the job – to fill his senses. The crisp cool winter air of Las Vegas seemed untainted, as if the moment truly meant something to the normally pollution-ridden city, and it had decided to give the mourners of the fallen officer a moments respite from sin. Below his feet, Grissom imagined the grass growing once again come spring, when the cold winter nights would give way to a gentler climate.
"He was a good CSI," Greg stated, his voice its normal, strong pattern. Very few would have caught the nearly undetectable wavering quality, had they not known the man.
Grissom was the one to finally state, "He didn't deserve this. For all his faults, he didn't deserve to be shot by McKeen." The fierceness and anger that rang through his voice did not go unnoticed by his co-workers, and for a moment, his CSIs looked to each other, no doubt wondering at the quality of his tone.
Silence reigned, as everyone took a moment of respectful silence, with heads bowed as they are wont to do when one stands facing of a headstone. Grissom finally broke the quiet when he said, "The past six months taught us a lot."
He almost grinned when he realized how easily that statement had captured the attention of his CSIs. Something within Grissom sighed softly, not in resignation over their predictability, but in contentment in knowing how intelligent and committed his team had become over their years together.
Stepping forward, Grissom laid a hand on the white marble headstone, tapped the flat top of it lightly with his fingers, and turned to face the men and woman with which he'd shared so much of his life and his career.
"The undersheriff is being indicted," Brass stated with a gleam of satisfaction; then a wicked grin graced his face and he added, "ADA Kline is having a ball taking him down. Turns out she can't stand the bastard."
"We were lucky," Grissom retorted. "Nobody else was killed, and all of us were neck deep in this mess." Just as quickly as those words fell from his mouth, months of bone-deep fatigue weighed down on every muscle in his body. Taking off his glasses, he dropped them into the chest pocket of his button-down shirt and really looked at the men and women who had made his life so much richer… so much better.
In the respectful and sober silence, Grissom watched each of his CSIs turn inward. Each had struggled in the past months, so when they became reflective Grissom wasn't surprised in the least. Instead, he watched the environment around him, noting the shadows cast by the morning sun, the small group of mourners over another grave, and the silver sedan that pulled to a stop at the bottom of the hill.
A small, sad smile crossed his face for a moment, and Grissom addressed the group, "It's time, guys." He missed the looks of confusion as he gazed past those in front of him.
The smile became genuine as he watched a man and woman slowly make their way up the hill. Giving himself a mental shake, Grissom sobered his stance and face before stating, "I want you to understand something. You are the best of the best. Of that, I have no doubt."
As he moved toward the group huddled and facing him, they parted, and Grissom stepped past them, grinning as Sara Sidle approached, holding and tugging the hand of a very much alive Warrick Brown.
X X X
Grissom pulled Sara to him, ignoring the people behind him, all stunned into silence. He grinned at the sudden shouts as he said, "Hey," to her, and with his hand around her back and resting on her waist, he smiled slyly and slowly turned.
Catherine had been the first to move… rapidly… from shock to anger to relief, as she approached Warrick, and laid a hand gently on his ebony cheek. On a sob, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, and hugged him close. The tears that had finally dried during Grissom's speech spilled over once more.
The CSI supervisor glanced at Sara before finally saying, "I think this is the first time I've seen you speechless, Catherine."
"How?" Nick demanded, his voice hoarse with raw emotion, staring unblinking at Warrick. He shook his head, as if to clear his mind from a waking dream, and his voice was thick with tears when he asked again, "How?"
Without a word, Warrick stepped away from Catherine, placed both hands on Nick's shoulders, and pulled the Texan into a tight hug. Time seemed suspended, as the two men embraced. Grissom watched, a half-smile on his face, but noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye. Greg had made his way over to Sara, and stood there staring at the woman. Releasing his hand from her waist, Grissom felt her move away a bit as she turned and pulled Greg into a quick hug, followed by a tussle of the young man's hair by her hand.
The world fell away, as friends quietly (and at times tearfully) reunited.
Grissom stepped back and watched his team together for the first time in well over a year. It took everything he had to maintain that mask of detachment as Nick reached out and followed Sara's lead by ruffling Greg's hair. Catherine smiled at Sara and gave her a hug and a genuinely happy smile. Warrick smiled at all of them, accepting and giving hugs. On the outside Grissom watched; finally feeling a bit of peace tentatively peek through the aching tiredness that seemed always on the edge of his periphery.
No one noticed that Warrick never spoke, until Nick finally asked, "Where the hell have you been, Rick?"
Warrick opened his mouth and despondently dropped his head to his chest. Turning to Sara, he gave her a helpless gesture.
Sara reached a hand over, squeezed his upper arm, and quietly said, "His vocal chords were severed."
Stepping forward, Grissom smiled and shook Warrick's hand, before he said, "It's good to see you again, Warrick. You look better than you did a couple of months ago."
Although Warrick's face contorted to a guffaw, the laugh escaped only as a loud breath. He mouthed, "Thanks a lot," and smiled wide.
Moving back from the group a step, Grissom looked to Brass and Ecklie when he stated, "We have a lot of explaining to do. It's time for them to know what really happened. It's time to call all the players together."
Neither Brass nor Ecklie had moved since the sensational arrival of Warrick and Sara until that moment. Stepping forward, Ecklie shook Warrick's hand and smiled at the former CSI, while Brass pulled Sara into an awkward, but nonetheless heartfelt hug. "You're looking good, Sara," he stated, and then tilted his head back to smile at the brunette in his arms.
Switching positions, Brass moved over to do the manly thing of shaking Warrick's hand with his right hand and smack Warrick's shoulder with his left, while Ecklie stepped in front of Sara and smiled mildly. The smooth politically inclined demeanor was nowhere to be seen, and in its place was a warm smile, when Ecklie said, "It's good to see you again." Discreetly jerking his head toward Warrick, he looked her in the eye and his voice held nothing but respect when he added, "Thank you for everything you've done and the risks you took, Sara."
When Grissom raised his hand in the air, the crew around him began to quiet down, until only the occasional sniff could be heard.
"I'm certain you all have questions," he soberly stated. Grinning at Sara, sinking deep into those brown eyes he often recited poetry to, he said, "Welcome home, dear."
As the questions bombarded him, he tuned them out, used to doing so over years of working with his team… except when Catherine asked, "Why didn't you tell us, Gil? Why didn't you tell us Warrick was alive?"
At that single question, he turned his head, looked his second-in-command in the eye, and soberly stated, "Because it could have killed you." More quietly, he added, "And it could've killed Warrick and Sara."