Disclaimer: The characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

Spoilers: through 9x5

My brief and unbetaed attempt to make sense of the episode.


She closed the door because boundaries mattered, and walked around the bed, not hurrying. She might have given up her former profession, but she still never hurried.

For all his years, Gil looked like a tired child, clutching the pillow and peering up at her with the pain that had caught her breath the moment she'd seen him shivering outside her door. She'd let him procrastinate for hours, pretend that he was only there for her expertise, but all the while she'd known that there was a deeper reason for his presence.

And she had to wonder why, out of all the people he knew, she was the only one with whom he felt safe.

Heather picked up the chair and moved it next to the bed, then sat down. All the while he watched her without speaking, and she almost found it within herself to hate Sara for his agony, except that she knew that Gil had mostly brought it on himself. No one was perfect by any means, but she understood this man, she always had, and he had never broken the habit of fear.

Even when it meant that what he feared most took place all the same.

Heather looked back at him for long minutes. Gil had always held a certain fascination for her, from the moment he first showed up on the Dominion's doorstep; while she'd met other men who understood her, she'd encountered far fewer who didn't judge her for what she did.

But neither of them were what the other really needed, and Heather never made the mistake of thinking sexual attraction and mutual understanding was enough for a relationship.

Not to mention, his heart was given before we even met.

Finally, she reached out and took his left hand in both of hers, the long sensitive fingers and wide palm unresisting. "Gil," she said at last, "may I speak the truth to you?"

He hesitated a long moment before nodding, and she could see that fear in his eyes.

Heather cupped her hands around his, cradling it. "I spoke earlier about relationships and their endings. But...I see no relief in you."

Gil looked away for the first time, the lines of his face hardening to keep back some emotion. She went on, holding her voice soft and level. "You made a decision by choosing not to decide, but in your heart this relationship, between you and Sara, is not over."

He met her gaze again, anger over anguish. "She left me. It's finished."

"No." The compassionate part of her wanted to soothe, but soothing would not help. "She took steps towards her own healing. She held out her hand to you, but you would not go with her."

He squeezed his eyes shut. "I couldn't. I had responsibilities."

"Perhaps not." Waiting for the photos had given them time to talk, and she had already known about the death of one of the city's CSIs. "But what stops you from going now?"

His fingers twitched, but Heather did not release them at his subtle pull. "Gil, I know you, no matter how little you like it. You know this, or you wouldn't have sought me out. If you do not choose, you will live the rest of your life drowning in regret."

And regret, I know. Not the same situation, but the same kind. Love bereft was always the bitterest of losses.

"She doesn't need me." It was hardly more than a whisper. "Not any more."

"Perhaps not." Heather only knew Sara through a brief encounter and the lens of Gil's words, but her former profession had required sterling character judgment. And the woman who had won this man's hidden heart was neither simple nor weak. "But she wants you."

"Wanted." He swallowed hard.

"Wants," Heather corrected gently. "Why else try to let you go? She still hopes you will change your mind."

Gil let out a long breath, and then tears spilled from under his lashes. She let his hand go as he buried his face in the pillow and wept. It belongs to her.

He cried himself to sleep. But as the day waxed, Heather stayed in the chair, keeping him company as he'd first requested. It was, after all, something that a friend could do.

The envelope that arrived six weeks later was plain, though the stamps it bore were colorful and exotic. It contained only one sheet of paper, and Heather unfolded the missive curiously, to find just two words in a strong hand that was definitely not Gil's.

Thank you.

The S.S. signed below made her smile.