She heard a familiar voice, a comforting voice, from somewhere distant and above her, as though it was merely in a dream. Opening her eyes, she blinked cautiously, and looked around where she was – a very crowded airplane, filled with anxious travelers. Nick was sitting in the seat next to her, their arms sharing the armrest, his hand clasped over hers. "How long have I been out?" she asked, biting her lip.
"Long enough that you missed the landing announcement."
"Oh, so we're nearly in Nick Stokes country?"
"If you'd look out the window, Sleeping Beauty, you'd realize we are in Nick Stokes country," he said with a laugh. "We landed five minutes ago, just waiting for a gate now."
Swatting him gently, she eased open the window-shade, letting the bright Texas afternoon sun shine in. She peered out, taking in the never-ending expanse of concrete and blue sky. It seemed as though, anymore, she had been living a whirlwind life, ever since leaving Las Vegas nearly two years before. The constant beck and call, summoning her to a new adventure, flying her to a new corner of the world. It had felt nice; the sheer unpredictability of it all…but there was something to be said for stability…stability which could not be found until this was resolved, though, for the sake of her heart.
"Everything really is bigger in Texas, isn't it?" Sara said, letting out a soft pant as they made their way to their connecting flight. It was like walking through the never-ending airport.
Nick arched an eyebrow. "Do you really want me to answer that?"
"Forget I even asked."
A faint trilling noise came from Nick's jeans pocket. "Shit," he said under his breath, grabbing the phone and flipping it open. "Stokes."
"Where are you?" a very irate Catherine asked, raising her voice into the phone. "Greg and I have been waiting for almost an hour."
"Uh…I left a message with Lindsey this morning. Something came up, Sara and I had to cancel."
"Please tell me that you two didn't go out drinking last night, end up at a tacky 24-hour wedding chapel, and are now on your way to your honeymoon in Maui."
"If you take out the excessive drinking, tacky wedding chapel, and honeymoon in Maui parts…that's about right."
"Nick, where are you? Are you and Sara in some kind of trouble?"
He glanced over at Sara, who had found herself entranced by an abstract lighted sculpture nearby. "We're in Dallas."
"Dallas? As in Texas?"
"…Yeah. Cath, we need to get going or we're going to miss our flight. I'll call you later."
"Nick!" she shouted into the phone, but as he had ended the call already, all that answered her was dead air. Glaring at her phone, she slammed it down on the table and turned to Greg. "Those two."
Sara walked off the airplane a few hours later, with Nick following close behind her. Looking around, she sucked in a deep breath. It wasn't a place she had ever expected to see again, and she could feel it begin to suffocate her, the dread that she had managed to put behind her until the reality was staring her in the face. "You okay?" Nick asked, putting one hand on her shoulder.
"Yeah," she paused, searching for the right word. "I will be. I think."
A short time later, Sara hung up the phone in their hotel room, sighing. "He's left for the night. I guess it has to wait until morning." She sat cross-legged on her bed, playing mindlessly with a lock of hair that had fallen out of place. "We rush down here, and then we can't even get answers for another twelve hours."
Nick sat down on the other bed and faced her. "Want to go out and do something, to take your mind off of what's going on?"
"No," she shook her head and exhaled. "After all of our traveling, I really just want to sleep." Pulling back the covers, she burrowed deeply inside and laid her head on the pillow. "Good night, Nick."
"Good night, Sara," he said, turning out the lamp light, while noticing that she hadn't even changed out of her clothes from that day.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Sara found herself throwing the covers off and walking to the window. She pulled back the drape and looked out over the peaceful calm of a city at sleep. "Sara," she heard a soft masculine voice from behind her say.
She turned around, half-expecting Nick to be looking back at her. Instead, she saw Grissom standing there, looking as he did the same night he disappeared. "Gil," she said, feeling the breath leaving her as she fought back tears. She grasped the drape to steady herself. "What are you doing here?"
As he approached, she felt an eerie sense of calm wash over her. "Don't be frightened, be firm," he whispered. To her perplexed expression, he continued. "Keats."
She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could utter a word, he pressed his lips to hers, before walking away. The scene shifted out of focus and she turned over in bed, burying her face in the pillow, the ghost of a smile spread across her face.
The sound of her cell phone ringing in the morning woke Sara up. "Hello?" she asked, sleep thickly coating her voice.
"It's Paul, from the embassy. I take it you traveled safely down?"
"Yes. I brought a friend, I hope that's not a problem," she said, shifting her gaze over to Nick's slumbering form.
"Not a problem at all. Can you be at my office at nine?"
Sara blinked, bringing the clock next to her bed into focus. 7:38. "Yes," she said. "We'll be there."
"See you shortly, Ms. Sidle."
"'Bye," she said, clicking her phone shut, and taking a deep breath. It would take everything she had in her to make it through the day.
She folded her hands demurely in her lap and stared straight ahead, not making eye contact with Nick. Paul had excused himself a few moments prior, as the receptionist from the front area had buzzed for him and told him that the other party was here. She didn't know what to expect when the door opened.
The doorknob turned, and she felt her breath hitch in her throat. Turning around, she saw Paul out of the corner of her eye, along with a man and another woman.
"Ms. Sidle, this is Detective Espinoza with the local police department, and Adriana, who will be translating for you." They shook hands with Sara, and proceeded to sit down.
Sara focused on Adriana's large earrings as Detective Espinoza began speaking in rapid-fire Spanish. They moved around frequently as she translated what the detective was saying, complete with animated hand motions.
"Está muerto," the detective said, after a brief pause to allow Adriana to catch up.
It needed no translation, as she felt the room begin to sway back and forth. She gripped the chair, throwing her head back, gasping frantically for air. "This can't be happening, this can't be happening," she thought. After loving him for so many years, she'd have to learn what life would be like without him, and the thought of that terrified her.
Author's Note: So, this is the end of this road, the end of my first multi-chapter fic ever, but with the promise of a sequel in the not-too-distant future, picking up right where this left off.
Thanks to all of the reviewers who have reviewed past chapters, as well as the people who put it on alert, and anyone who didn't do either of the above but read it, you all made this such a pleasure to write. As well, thanks to my amazing beta without whom this story – or any of my CSI stories, period – would be possible.