A/N: Returning to this story is a little holiday gift to myself! I hope you'll enjoy this one – it definitely does not have a holiday spirit to it.
Thanks for reading and reviewing!
I don't own CSI.
"Did you have fun at the party?"
Sara grinned as Grissom unlocked the door. "Yeah," she said. "Did you?"
He nodded and opened the door, standing aside to let her enter ahead of him. "Greg was surprised, wasn't he? To see you there?"
"Everyone was," Sara replied. "You're a good secret keeper."
"We all have talents." Grissom closed the door. "The team misses you, too," he said quietly as he tossed his keys on the table. "I think they want to see you almost as much as I do."
Sara turned to look at him. The raw sadness in his eyes stunned her. She closed the space between them and put her hands on his cheeks. "I love you," she said, looking deeply into his eyes. "You know that, right?"
"Of course I do," Grissom replied, his hands finding her hips. "I love you, too."
"Even when I'm far away … Gil, you're the most important person in my life."
Grissom leaned forward to give her the gentlest of kisses, then took her hands in his and led her to the couch. He sat down, tugging her with him. Sara willingly joined him, cuddling up against him.
"Do you know why I moved to Las Vegas?" Grissom asked.
Sara frowned. "No," she said at last. She sat up to look at him. "I'm sorry I never asked. Will you tell me?"
"I wanted to start a body farm," Grissom said.
Sara smiled indulgently. "Of course you did."
"But, I lacked funding," Grissom said. "My mother had already told me she wanted no part of it, so I couldn't get a loan from her. I had just finished my PhD, so I had more student loans than I care to think about; there was no way a bank would finance me. So, I came to Vegas in the hopes of winning the money for it."
Sara stared at him. Her scientific, cautious, steady man had moved to Las Vegas to gamble his way into money?
"I had a girlfriend at the time … we had been dating for about a year when I decided to move here. She came with me." He shook his head as though still baffled by her decision. "Her name was Rebecca."
"Was she a scientist, too?"
"No," he replied. "She was a nurse. She found a job here easily enough."
Sara nodded. "Did you love her?"
"I thought I did," Grissom said with a sad smile. He reached out to touch Sara's cheek. "I actually did very well at poker. Everything that I won beyond what I needed for my living expenses went into my savings for the body farm – and into some experiments of my own."
"So, you used gambling for a noble cause?"
Grissom winked at her. "I like to think so."
"Well, I know you got the body farm going."
He nodded. "Yes. I did what I intended. But, I lost Rebecca in the process."
Grissom took her hand and started playing with her fingers. "The same way I nearly lost you: I was married to my work. I kept pouring all my money into science, and none into her. I put all my time – all of myself – into the body farm, into experiments … I'm sure it's not easy for a woman to take a backseat to that."
Sara smiled sadly. "It comes with the territory."
"You knew me as a scientist," he said. "She knew me as a grad student. She didn't mind me spending long hours in the library or the lab when it was part of my larger plan to get my PhD. But, when I graduated, she thought that I'd spend more time with her. That I'd put more into our relationship. But …"
"It didn't work that way."
"No." He sighed. "She came over to break up with me, and …" He shook his head. "I was reading when she got to my apartment. I remember what I was reading – it was Jean Rostand's Thoughts of a Biologist."
"Wow, Griss," Sara said. "You actually remember what book you were reading? I didn't think you had such sentimentality in you."
He smiled. "I remember because when she left, I picked up the book again. The next line where I had been reading said, 'To be an adult is to be alone.' Until I met you, I thought it was true."
Sara's breath caught in her throat.
"With you in my life, Sara, that's just not true. Even when we're three thousand miles apart, I know that I'm never alone."
"What time does your flight leave?"
Grissom sighed and pulled her closer to him. Sara laid her head on his bare chest, and pulled the blankets snugly around them.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"For putting you through this."
Grissom sighed again. "Sara, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't care that you're leaving. I do care. Very much. But, your happiness matters more to me than …" He drew a deep breath. "I meant what I said earlier. We're always together in our hearts."
She pressed a kiss against his chest. "You could come to visit me."
"I will," Grissom promised. "I'll have to work it out at the lab, though. I won't be able to come next week."
"No," Sara agreed. "But, this summer, maybe?"
"Yeah," Grissom agreed.
"Or … we could go somewhere else," Sara said. "Somewhere … far away from work. From our lives. From everything."
"Mmm," Grissom hummed, tightening his hold on her. "Sounds nice. Where do you have in mind?"
"The Galapagos Islands," Sara said without hesitation.
"You've been thinking about this."
"Not really." She smiled wistfully. "But, when I think of getting away from everything, I think of being somewhere pristine, somewhere … that time forgot."
"Okay," Grissom agreed. "We'll go."
Sara smiled. "Good."
"I'm going to miss you," Grissom said, squeezing Sara's hand.
Sara looked at him for a moment, then dropped her luggage to hug him tightly. Grissom wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair, trying to imprint the feel of her body in his memory.
Sara broke the hug and pressed her lips against his. When she pulled back, tears stood in her eyes.
"Thank you," she nearly whispered.
"For letting me leave," she said. "I know it's not ideal, and I know it's not what we want, but …"
Grissom shook his head. "I want you to be happy." A shadow crept into his eyes. "And, right now, that's not something you can do here."
Sara shook her head. "No. But … someday …"
Grissom smiled and fold her hand into his. He pulled their joined hands to his lips and pressed a kiss against hers. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Sara smiled. "You'll let me know, right? When you can take time off for our trip?"
Grissom smiled. "To the Galapagos."
"To the Galapagos," Sara repeated.
"I can't wait to see you on an island. The sun and sand in your hair …"
Sara raised an eyebrow. "I thought we were going to see the natural beauty."
Grissom brushed a curl behind her ear. "We are."
Sara blushed, and leaned in to kiss him again. "I have to go."
"I know. Text me when you get to Boston."
"I will." She kissed him again. "I'll see you when I see you."
He hugged her tightly. "I'll see you when I see you," he repeated.
Pressing a kiss against her hair, Grissom released her. With one last lopsided smile, Sara picked up her bags and made her way through the security gates. Grissom watched her go, his sense of loss nearly overwhelming him.
Sara turned back one last time, and raised her hand to wave to him. Grissom waved back, wishing more than anything that she would walk back through the gates, back into his arms.
She turned away and walked forward, disappearing from his sight.
"You're here early."
Grissom glanced up as Catherine walked into his office. "So are you."
She looked at the file open in front of him. "Did Sara leave today?"
"A few hours ago." He frowned. "Did she tell you she was leaving today?"
Catherine shook her head and indicated the file. "We closed that case a month ago."
Grissom shrugged slightly and closed the folder. Catherine sat down across from him.
"She seemed … good," she said.
"Is she thinking about coming back?"
"She didn't mention it. We talked about taking a trip, though."
"No, I mean … is she thinking about coming back permanently?"
Grissom shook his head. "Not as far as I know."
"And … how do you feel about that?"
"I want her to be happy."
"Yeah, Gil, you keep saying that, but … What would make you happy?"
"It doesn't matter."
"I think it does."
"Look, it's your life," she said, holding up to her hands as if to fend off an attack. "I just want to make sure it's what you want."
"What I want," he repeated with a humorless smile. "Is this what I want? A relationship in limbo because a lunatic kidnapped the woman I love and left her for dead? No, Cath, that's not what I want. But …" He scrubbed his hands over his face. "I can't do anything to change the past. I just have to make the best of the present. And, if this limbo relationship is what it takes to keep Sara in my life, then that's what I want."
"You love her," Catherine said.
He nodded. "More than anything."
Catherine leaned across to squeeze his hand. "Hold her tightly, Gil. As tightly as she'll let you."
He nodded again. "I will."
Catherine looked at him closely. "There's something …"
He shook his head. "I can't …"
"You can't what?"
"You're sure you're okay, Gil?"
He nodded. "Fine."
Catherine left, and it took everything in him not to call her back. He wanted desperately to be able to share the awful thoughts and feelings that had been weighing him down since Sara had waved goodbye …
But, he couldn't. He couldn't give a voice, and a life, to that which that made him feel unbearably guilty …
He couldn't bring himself to tell his best friend that he was exhausted. That supporting Sara through so much trauma had been the most draining experience of his life. That he just didn't know how much longer he would be able to do it.
His phone rang, bringing welcome relief from his heavy thoughts.
"Hi, Gil," Brass said. "We've got a homicide."
"Before I say another word, I have to tell you that this is going to be high-profile," Brass said. "We've got a dead actress."
Grissom exhaled. "Perfect."
Losing himself in his work would take him away from his personal problems like nothing else could. The actress could not have chosen a better time to be murdered.
Sara smiled as she hugged Mary. "Did you miss me?" she teased.
"You have no idea."
Sara laughed at that. "I was only gone for a couple days!"
Mary squeezed her arm. "Doesn't matter. I still missed you. Come on, I'll take you out for dinner."
"Don't you have a family to feed?"
"At eight o'clock? Josie ate before I left; Tom should have her in bed by now. The two of them will be fine without me. Come on, let's go out."
Sara grinned. "Okay. Dinner it is."
"So, tell me about your trip."
Sara smiled. "It was nice. Surprising Greg was fun."
"Really? That's all you're going to give me?"
"You know I was happy to see Gil."
"Of course you were," Mary said. "But, before you left, you were … unsettled about your relationship. Did you find some clarity this weekend?"
Sara shrugged slightly. "I know that he loves me, and that I love him."
"You've known that for a long time now."
"Yeah," Sara said softly.
Sara looked down at her salad. "It's … tough."
"What do you mean, Sara?" Mary asked slowly.
"I hate this," Sara said, looking up at her with tears shining in her eyes. "I hate knowing that he's there and I'm here and we're both miserable because of it. I hate that I'm not strong enough to go back there and live with him again. I hate that he won't ever leave that lab to be with me. I hate that I'm not strong enough to ask him to do it. I hate …" She shook her head, letting a tear fall. "I hate a lot of things right now."
Mary stared at her for a moment, then reached across to grip her hand. "I told you this before, Sara: If you're not happy, then you've got to make a change."
"What am I going to change?" Sara asked. "How can I possibly fix this? What can I do to move us out of this … relationship limbo … without destroying at least one of us?"
She shook her head. "This life is not what makes me happy, Mary, but it makes me happy enough. I'd rather have him in my life like this than not have him in my life at all."
"Oh, Sara, I wish …"
Sara shook her head again. "There's no other way, Mary. This is how it has to be."
Mary squeezed her hand again. "For now."
Sara nodded. "For now."