DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything associated with the show… I just like playing with the characters in it from time to time. Dance Monkeys! Dance!
SPOILERS: Through US Aired Episodes
WARNINGS: CD = Character Death
SUMMARY: Now that they have gotten their "Happily Ever After," Gil and Sara decide to do all of those things they had been dreaming about for years. But what's that thing about waiting too long?
A/N: I struggled with the idea of labeling this story as CD, because I do believe you only read a tragedy if you know something bad is going to happen. But in the end, I have relented in order to preserve the peace. Many thanks to Smacky030 & lostladyknight for being my sounding boards as I struggled with the idea of labeling it.
REVIEWS: Reviews are the way I know if people are enjoying the work or not. So, if you leave one, THANKS! And if not, I hope you found at least a little something to brighten your day, and thanks for taking the time to read.
"Ahhhg!" His groan of frustration convinces Sara to rise from her seat on the bed.
Crossing the hotel room floor, she smoothes her hands down his arms from the shoulders, and then to inserts herself between Gil and the mirror. "Just because you're mad at yourself doesn't mean you have to take it out on your tie." Her deft fingers slip quickly into the motions of tying his favorite tie. She grins at his automatic acceptance of her into his personal space.
"I am not mad…and the tie should stop fighting against me." His anger makes him puff up, but her touch and her smile quickly crumble his resolve and the corner of his mouth turns up into a smirk. "I'm not…that…mad."
Sara pulls the tie through the last loop and pulls it tight, forming a perfect Windsor knot. Smiling, she straightens his collar when she explains, "Sixth place overall is a perfectly respectable position. And you beat everyone in your class, so why are you still grumbling? It's not like you live and die by the chess circuit."
He tries to bring the scowl back to his face, but it looks much more like a pout. "That's not the point." Through his furrowed brow, he continues to grouse at the outcome. "I lost to a fifteen year old kid."
Her laugh comes from her toes when she sees just how much his defeat is still bothering him. "Happens to the best of us, dear." She kisses him softly on the lips and rests her hands on his lapels. "Now, help me with my dress and we can go to dinner."
"Do we really have to go?" Sara shakes her head at his continued pouting as she walks into the bathroom.
"Well, you did buy me this dress for the occasion, and it would be a shame to waste it." Reaching around the bathroom door, she pulls her arm back holding a slinky red dress.
His eyes light up as his mind analyzes and catalogues the way she will look in the dress she let him pick out. Sara knows the fight is over when he double times it to her, his arms outstretched. "That's what I thought." Her comfortable giggles fill the air between them as he takes the dress from her hands.
Exiting the hotel lobby, Gil immediately gestures to the doorman to call them a cab, but Sara stops him. "It's only a couple blocks, and it's such a nice night, why don't we walk?"
His brow furrows deeply when he asks, "Are you sure?"
Sara lays a hand along the side of his face and smiles, "I'd really like to walk. There's nothing like a spring night in Boston, and I'd almost forgotten how nice it is."
Gil nods his head and motions to the doorman again, "Looks like the lady wants to walk."
The man chuckles and tips his hat to them. "Good night for it. Enjoy."
Pulling the shawl up to wrap it around her shoulders again, Gil brings her tight to his side and then they start off down street. The sounds of the city and the clicking of their shoes on the bricks are the only things following them down the street.
Their strides are short, the pace slow and easy. Just two people casually walking the lamp lit streets of the colonial city. Their movements appear almost synchronous as they turn the corner on the way to their hotel.
Feeling the warmth of his body when Gil squeezes her a little tighter, Sara sighs with the contact. "Are you okay?"
She leans her head into him and smiles at his concern. "Just enjoying the moment."
"Are you sure? Because if you're tired we can always…" He raises his arm to try and hail a cab before Sara stops him.
"Would you stop that? I'm fine." Shaking her head, she suddenly thinks there might be another reason for his desire to take a cab. "Are your knees okay? Is that why you want to ride?"
Gil instantly puts aside her fears. "Not at all. In fact, thanks to this wonderful woman who makes me take all my supplements, my knees haven't felt this good in years."
His answer makes her smile. "Well, good…because you have some work to do."
His gives her a puzzled look and asks, "And what would that be?"
"By my calculations, with tonight's stunning sixth place finish in a major chess tournament…" He groans at her mention of his defeat, but she smirks and continues, "You have just completed your first list. So, you need to start a new one."
Gil stops them both in an instant. "I hadn't thought about that, but you're right." He shakes his head as he takes the time to analyze the new knowledge. "Wait, you still have one or two, don't you?"
"No, not really." She tries to get him moving again, but he only frowns as he counts the items off in his head.
When he refuses to step forward, she begins calling them out, "I walked in the footsteps of Darwin. I worked to preserve the environment. I learned how to make a perfect omelet." Gil holds up a finger for every goal she mentions. "I made peace with my mother. I had a drink at a bar in Morocco. I got to see Paris at night. I rode on a gondola in Venice. And I found someone to love, who loves me."
His smile is broad at the mention of her last item. "While I am quite pleased with that last one, that's still only eight, and I know for a fact we agreed on ten things each."
Sara smirks at his ability to count. "Well, technically, I'm already doing one of them, and the last one has to wait a while longer." She snakes her arm around the back of his waist and urges him forward again.
"You obviously don't want to tell me the last one." He begins walking again as he holds onto the hand she rests on his belt. "But what are you already doing?"
With her head resting on his shoulder, Sara sighs as she holds him closer. Two steps later, they are standing in front of their hotel when she says, "I'm spending the rest of my life being in love with my husband."
Sitting motionless upon the couch in his living room, Jim Brass is still trying to process the news as he asks, "What happened?"
Gil stares into the bottom of his empty glass, his face a perfect marble façade, and casually answers his friend. "We were in Cairo. We had some trouble out in the desert, but we shrugged it off, thinking it was only the conditions." His eyes never leave the glass as he speaks. His voice never changes pitch or tone.
Catherine comes in with a fresh bottle and she winces at the pain in his expression. Setting the bottle down between them, she carefully seats herself beside Jim. "When did you figure out it was something more?"
His head twisted from side to side, in an almost mechanical motion, devoid of any human characteristics. "In Venice, when she was still getting tired so fast, I talked her into seeing a doctor. They thought she'd merely caught a bug. Told us to check with our regular doctor when we got home."
Jim's voice betrays his incredulity. "And you bought that?"
He reaches out for the bottle and pours himself two more fingers of Scotch. "I wanted to… Sara was the one who made me believe it. By the time we got to Paris, she seemed to be fine. So, I suppose I let her fool me."
"When we got to New York, she couldn't hide it anymore. I took her to the hospital and I refused to leave until we had some answers." Gil pauses, looks at the glass in his hand for a moment, and then slams down the Scotch in one gulp. "Until that week I never really understood the whole ignorance is bliss thing."
Catherine sits forward and lays a comforting hand on Gil's knee. "You know that's not true, Gil. Knowing meant you understood just how important your time really was."
"I already knew that, Catherine. That's why we were out gallivanting across the globe." He reaches up to wipe the frustration away with his hand over his face, but it is still there when he finishes. "We both spent so much of our lives in service of something else, someone else. Waiting for that time to come when the guilt, or the duty, or whatever it was that held us back from our dreams would let go. But together…even before we found out…together, we were living out all of our greatest wishes."
Jim snorts at the mention of wishes. "Let me guess… You both had one of those lists, right?"
Gil finally looks up at them, and they can see the surprise in his eyes. "Yes, we did. Why?" Catherine smiles. She knows how Jim feels about those last wish lists.
He is a live for the day kind of man, and in his line of work, it really is the only way to survive. Jim never leaves something up to tomorrow. If he wants it, he does it. From fishing trips in Central America to last minute weekends in Mexico with the right woman; he works very hard to never leave a missed opportunity. His philosophy has always been No Regrets.
Jim decides this is not the time to berate his friend and lets him off easy. "Just that you two are the kind of people who make lists like that, instead of doing the things you want, when you want."
"Well, regardless of timing, we did them all. In fact, we had done most of them before we even found out." Gil relaxes a little with his last statement, and sits back in the chair.
"What was on your lists?" Catherine's curiosity gets the better of her, and they all need a break from the seriousness of the conversation.
"Lots of things. Most of it fanciful, but some of it was important. Going to the rainforest, seeing the Pyramids, Paris at night, riding in a gondola in Venice." A faint smile plays across his face as he tells them about their adventures. "Sara wanted to do something for the environment, and she got that working with the Sea Shepherd organization. And I wanted to get the real tour of Scotland Yard, so I volunteered to do a forensic entomology seminar for them."
"Working vacations, Gil? Why doesn't that surprise me?" Catherine chuffs at his description.
Jim nudges her and gives a wink when he says, "Oh please, talking bugs, with a captive audience… That's like a dream come true for him." They all manage a small chuckle at his joke, and it's the first laughter they have experienced since Gil's arrival.
As the somber mood descends upon them again, Catherine works to keep them talking. "What did you do after you found out?"
Gil releases a deep sigh and removes his glasses, slumping down in the chair before he answers her. "Once we were absolutely certain there were no other options, we went back to our schedule. We were in New York because Sara was representing the Sea Shepherd at a hearing in the U.N. building. She was adamant we not miss that meeting, and after Sara gave her testimony, she came back to the hotel asking me what was next."
Jim's confusion is evident on his face as he sits up on the edge of the couch next to Catherine. "What was next?"
"Yes." Gil shakes his head and laughs. "Sara wanted to know what was next on the list. She insisted that nothing had changed, and we were going to finish exactly what we had set out to do in the first place. I was informed that it was not only our honeymoon, but also every vacation we had ever given up in the name of duty, and I had better make it worth it."
Catherine's laugh fills the air. "Atta Girl!"
Jim smirks, "Now that sounds like Sara."
"Indeed. She signed me up for a chess tournament in Boston, and before we left New York, I talked her into letting me take her shopping." Gil actually looks happy as he drops that bomb on them.
"You wanted to go shopping?!" Catherine is flabbergasted.
Sitting forward in the chair, Gil places his glass on the coffee table and puts on one of his smug grins. "I had the opportunity and the means to spoil Sara for the first time in my life. I was not about to pass it up."
Jim gives her another gentle nudge with his elbow as he adds, "Or the chance to dress her up in something other than those bulky sweaters and sensible shoes."
Nodding, Gil agrees, "Precisely."
"Okay, now that…I'll buy." And Catherine sits back to let Gil continue.
"By the time I competed in the chess tournament, we had ostensibly accomplished our lists, save for one item Sara wasn't ready for yet. So, we decided to use our time visiting with as many people as we could before it was too late. Saw Greg in L.A. and got to meet Nick and Mandy's new baby out in Reno. Met you both for Lindsey's graduation in New York."
Catherine interjects her thanks, "Which she is still thrilled about, thank you very much."
"It was a milestone we were both honored to share with you." He nods to the two of them before going back to listing off their adventures.
"We visited some colleagues in D.C. when Sara was asked to testify at a congressional hearing. Took a trip to Florida, but it was short-lived when we both realized how much we dislike the insane drama that Miami has become. And after a week of baseball, high cholesterol food and the Field Museum in Chicago, Sara needed to get off the road."
"Where'd you go? It just seemed like the two of you dropped off the planet the last few months," Catherine expresses her concern.
"Almost… I took Sara back to California. She got to spend some time with her mother, and we got our dog back. Laura kept him for us while we were traveling." His smile is wistful as he talks about the dog. "I was going to leave him with her, but he wouldn't get more than three paces away from Sara the moment we arrived."
"Dogs are funny that way." Jim speaks only to give Gil time to collect himself.
"I suppose you're right… But anyway, she was happy there, so I called up a realtor and found us a little rental cottage on the shore out near Pescadero." He is almost serene as he describes their time on the shore. "She loved that cottage. It was different from the shore at Point Reyes where she grew up, but the sounds were the same. I had spent so much time away from it that I'd forgotten just how beautiful and wonderful the Pacific Ocean can be."
"What did you do out there?" Catherine: always the one to find the flaw in the lack of excitement.
"When she was up for it, we walked on the beach. We watched Hank chasing crabs and attacking the surf. But mostly we sat out on the deck or the beach and read, and talked, and just listened to the waves." His smile brightens as he recounts their days in the cottage. "It was such a gift to have that time together, at peace with each other, and with ourselves."
Jim sees that he is finally ready to tell them why he has darkened their door. "How did it happen?"
"Quietly… As she lay sleeping in my arms out on the deck. I managed to find enough clams for lunch that morning, we had just finished a wonderful meal. Sara wasn't eating very much by then, but she said it smelled so wonderful that she just had to try. She was pretty weak, and I tried to get her to go lie down in the bedroom while I cleaned up from lunch." He chuckles, but it feels cheerless. "But you know how Sara is when she's got her mind on something… So, she talked me into reading to her out on the deck. And I loved reading to her."
He can practically see the lump rising in Catherine's throat as Gil talks about their last moments together, and Jim takes her hand. The gesture is well-received, but he knows it's just as much for him as it is for her.
"She curled up against my side, rested her head on my shoulder, and laid her hand over my heart as I read our favorite Wordsworth." He looks over to see their blank stares and he gives them the most famous line from the Ode. "What though the radiance which was once so bright. be now for ever taken from my sight, though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass…"
Jim nods, "..of glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind..." Catherine looks at him as though he's just grown a second head and he shrugs. "What can I say, I'm a Renaissance man." She rolls her eyes at him, but it is short lived as Gil continues his tale.
"When I finished the Ode, Sara sighed, and snuggled in a little tighter. I put down the book and wrapped both arms around her to keep her warm. I must have drifted off myself, because I woke with a start. "I tried to wake her, but…" He lets loose a heavy sigh as the words fall out of his mouth, "She was gone."
The power of his words leaves the room in complete silence for what seems like forever.
Jim finds it hard to imagine living in a world without Sara around to keep things interesting. And as hard as it is for him to imagine, he knows that his friend is completely devastated by the prospect of a life without the woman he has loved for so long.
The words are too hard to say, and he is only able to strangle one out. "When?"
Gil visibly shakes himself out of the fog and calculates the time in his mind. "Ah, about six weeks ago."
"My God, Gil! Why didn't you at least call?" Catherine is reeling from the news.
"And say what exactly?" He shakes his head.
"I know you aren't good with this stuff, Gil, but you could have at least had the funeral home send out a notice for the service." Jim tries to keep Catherine calm with his suggestion.
"No service." Gil exhales sharply and leans back in the chair again. "We talked about it…even before all of this. Sara never wanted a funeral. She wanted people to remember her for the life she lived, not the end she met."
"That's all fine, good and well, but funerals aren't always about the person who died. They're also for the ones they left behind." Catherine grows more indignant with every word. "Did you ever think that we would want to be there for you? That maybe we needed time to say goodbye? We didn't get those seven/eight months to make peace with this."
"That was all Sara." Gil shakes his head as it rests on the back of the chair. "She said the last thing she wanted was for everyone to stand around and wait for her to die. To disrupt their lives out of some sense of guilt, because they were healthy." Jim watches the tears fall down his cheeks as Gil shares their reasoning. "She told me it was the only thing she had to give the people in our lives, the freedom from survivor's guilt, and the little bit of time she had left."
Jim hands Catherine the handkerchief from his back pocket as her tears begin to flow freely with their friend's explanation. He watches painfully while Gil stares up at the ceiling as he struggles to regain his composure, not once acknowledging the salty streaks trailing from his wrinkled eyes. His own eyes are heavy with the emotions being shared there today.
"So," Jim chokes back the sob threatening to give him away, "why now?"
"What?" Gil brings his gaze back to his friends.
"It's been six weeks, why are you here, telling us all of this now?"
He huffs out a strangled laugh with Jim's question. "Well, I guess that's Sara's fault, too."
Catherine finally finds her voice again. "What do you mean?"
Gil sits forward once more, nervously pulling on his pant legs to straighten them as he does. "I was stuck. Hadn't left the cottage since the cremation. I just couldn't bring myself to live in a world where the sun continued to shine and everyone else's lives could go on without a notice."
Shaking her head in confusion, Catherine asks, "I don't understand… You blamed Sara for-"
"No… Not for that. That was all my own doing. No, I blame Sara for saving her last wish." A smile begins to play across his lips as Gil recounts his tale. "Laura brought Hank to the cottage after about a month of not hearing from me, even though she called nearly every day."
"You holed up in that cottage for a month?" Jim is surprised to learn the depth of Gil's depression.
"Yeah…" He nods solemnly, in a gesture that shows Jim he has accepted his failing, but the strength in his voice when he continues to explain lets him know Gil is on the mend.
"When Laura got there she let me know exactly where her daughter got the stubbornness from. Pushed her way in, opened up all the windows and dragged me out into the sunshine. Once we were out there she told me that I needed to get the hell out of there and do what Sara wanted." He shakes his head in disbelief. "I had no idea what she was talking about, and I told her as much. That was when she pulled an envelope out of her pocket and handed it to me. It was addressed to her on stationary from the hospital in New York. When I opened it, I found a single sheet of paper with Sara's chicken scratch on it."
"What did it say?" Jim is curious about the contents of such an important note.
"It just said, 'Mom, I can't explain right now, but I need you to do me a favor. I've never asked you for very much, so think of this as my one wish. When the time is right, I need you to tell Gil to go home. Love Always, Sara.'"
"Go home? What kind of message is that?" Catherine is troubled by Sara's cryptic request.
"The best kind." His smirk tells Jim that things are not nearly as bleak as he first imagined. "You see, when we first decided to give this thing we had a try, we had a discussion about the definition of home. I argued that home was where you kept your secrets and built your dreams, but Sara had a much different answer. She believed that home was the place your heart rested, where you knew the love of others. That it wasn't anything so simple as a house or an apartment, because it wasn't a place at all. When I went to Costa Rica, to live in tents and ramshackle lean-tos, she told me it was finally home, because I brought her heart back."
Gil covers the hand Catherine is resting on the arm of the couch and squeezes it as he explains, "And now, with Sara passed, the cottage wasn't home anymore. So, I had to leave." The tears are once more streaming down Catherine's face, and this time Jim is unable to stop his own tears.
Taking a deep breath as he lets go of Catherine's hand, Gil scrambles to his feet. Walking over to the window, he looks away from his friends as he continues to speak, "After that, it was Hank who really turned me around."
"How?" Catherine holds onto Jim's knee as her anchor while she waits for Gil's answer.
"He had this old shoe of Sara's. Actually, it was his first act of defiance when he was a puppy. Sara got after him for making a mess in the kitchen, so he went straight into the closet and stole one of her Hush Puppy boots. She found him lying on the bed, gnawing on her favorite pair of shoes. " Gil out and out laughs at the memory. "She was so mad, I swear she could have roasted that dog alive, if…"
He turns and his smile is wide and bright, and Jim can see the light in his eyes as he explains, "He dropped the shoe on the bed, went into the closet and got out the other shoe. Then he dropped it at Sara's feet, sat in perfect position, looked up at her, and started wagging his tail on the floor." The three of them laugh at the image Gil presents.
"Those shoes became their connection after that, and I knew I had to share my dog. When she was…gone." He pauses to give the weight of his words their due. "Hank would curl up with both shoes every night. When she was home, he would leave the unchewed shoe at the foot of our bed, and take the chewed up one to his bed."
With the light still in his eyes, Jim can see the sadness fall over Gil's face as he finishes, "When Laura brought him back to the cottage, he went and got the good shoe from his bag and dropped it in my lap. I started crying right then and there. That was when I realized I hadn't shed a single tear since the day Sara left me. But they weren't the same tears. It was blind grief that fueled my tears the first time. This was different."
Gil smiles at them this time, and they can see acceptance in his face. He is coming to terms with Sara's passing, and this is just another step in that process. "Sara left me with so much. She gave me all of the time she had to give, but there was a lot more than that. I had Hank and I had her shoe."
"Gil… Her shoe?" Catherine is unable to hide her incredulity.
Jim closes his eyes, because he can finally see what this has all be leading up to, and he knows what's about to come.
"Yeah, she left me with her heart and sole."