Disclaimer: Most of 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. All other characters are my invention, and if you want to mess with them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
Spoilers: through One to Go.
I know, everyone and their evil twin is doing a post-ep for this one, but I couldn't resist. Enjoy.
She'd wanted a lot of things in her life. Quiet, freedom, knowledge, love. They had all been passionate desires at one time or another.
And she'd gotten them, too. Sara admitted that without hesitation. They'd been achieved, lost, regained, lost again--like so much of life, they were impermanent.
She'd just about come to terms with that, with learning that you can want something with all your heart--struggle years to obtain it--cherish it with careful tenderness--and still lose it despite everything.
If there was one thing that her former job had taught her--and really, she'd learned far more than just one--it was that life was short. There was never enough time to do everything you wanted, and there would always be regrets.
Sara tried to live her life so that her regrets would be few. It didn't always work, but at least she knew she'd made the attempt.
And here I am. Deep in rainforest, following life instead of death, choosing to change. Choosing to do what was right for her.
Despite the inevitable regrets. And she'd found a measure of the peace she'd so desired.
She sighed, and made sure the extra camera battery was in her pocket before heading out of her tent into the vivid green world. That was another thing investigating crime scenes had taught her--always have extras, because sooner or later you'll need them. Or Greg will forget to pack his own, and you'll have to give them to him.
But there wasn't a Greg in this crew, and anyway most everyone was out on a field trip. Sara wandered around the camp, a little tired, but enjoying the solitude. She'd chosen to skip the trip for just this reason--she needed a bit of alone time. Living in a camp did make for more proximity than she was used to, and she needed some time to decompress.
It wasn't that Grissom was constantly on her mind, at least in the forefront of her thoughts. She hadn't heard from him in weeks, not since she'd sent her video message, and in a sense it was a relief, because their last few exchanges had been increasingly painful. She could see him sinking, struggling against the crushing weight of guilt, of too many deaths and too much darkness.
But he wouldn't let me help. He wouldn't even listen.
And Sara's self-preservation skills, formed in the crucible of a childhood marred by violence and unpredictability, would not let her go down with him.
I had to go. It was half justification, half rueful regret. Sara acknowledged it, accepted it, and released it. No more denying for her.
No, he wasn't before her eyes, not when there was so much life, fascinating and incredible, to fill them. Sara took it all in with the open pleasure of the sensualist and the sharp mind of the scientist, and knew she was doing the right thing.
It did hurt. But she'd let Grissom go, because holding on would have hurt them both, and she tried to remember their time together with love.
There was so much to see--to experience--to do. Even just a walk around the camp brought her a dozen new sights and sounds and smells, glimpses of flora and fauna she had never heard of, knowledge that the world was far vaster and more complex than she could even imagine. Sara smiled as she took photos, knowing there was far more out there than she could ever encompass, and content in the small portion of it that was, for the moment, hers.
In fact, for a wilderness, it had some surprisingly blasé inhabitants. Sara paused to get a few shots of a capuchin hunting snacks in a tree, smiling at the little creature so blatantly unconcerned by her presence.
The hair on the back of her neck didn't prickle; she just knew someone was there. Without even thinking about it, Sara turned towards the river path.
And her heart stopped.
For a moment, she simply couldn't believe it. Surely her mind had conjured up this image, impossible as it was. Gil was back in Las Vegas, burning himself out like a guttering lamp. He certainly wasn't here.
But he was. He didn't vanish, didn't waver into someone else, didn't prove a mirage of her tired brain and her camera-focused eyes. It really was Gil, standing there a few yards away, giving her a small and uncertain smile.
She couldn't speak as she took him in, same sturdy form, same silly hat, the dream she'd given up. There weren't words.
He took a step forward all the same, and she felt her lips turn up helplessly. He was real. He was real. And, judging by the backpack and the light in his eyes, he was there to stay.
Her throat closed, and Sara felt the tears start. Gil's smile spread, and he shrugged out of the pack and let it fall, and stumbled towards her, his hands held out.
It was such a small space, those few yards, and Sara scarcely realized that she was closing them, because all she could see was him. And then he was in her arms, and his mouth on hers was without doubt or hesitation. He was solid under her hands, solid and absolutely there, and her heart swelled with a joy she had thought she would never feel again.
He chose. He finally chose--
Their hungry kiss shifted, and Gil pulled her closer still, wrapping her in one of the all-embracing hugs she'd missed so bitterly. Sara held him hard, stunned and soaring.
Yes, she'd been willing to let him go. In fact, she had.
And here he was.
When his arms slackened a long time later, Sara felt him sigh. "I need to make a lot of apologies, Sara, but--" His lips grazed her ear. "I want you to know I'm staying. As long as you'll let me."
She blinked away tears, and leaned back just enough to see his face. "Better be prepared for the rest of your life, then."
His smile was without doubt, so she kissed him again, long and sweet and satisfying. When they stopped for air, she grinned at him. "There's lots of bugs here, you know."
Gil smirked at her. "I do, yes."
Sara stepped back. His arms loosened reluctantly, his eyes holding hers. "Sara, I love you."
She smiled, and laced her fingers with his. "I know." She tugged. "Come and see my world."
He smiled back, and did.