Author's Note: If you haven't read Written in Ashes or Ashes to Ashes – especially the latter, I'd highly suggest you do so, or this won't make any sense. Warning: mentions of character death.
The pipe organ swelled, playing a mournful dirge. Sara looked around the church, and tugged at the collar of her dress. It was just her luck – on the day of his funeral, it was the hottest day of the year so far in Las Vegas.
As the unfamiliar faces filed out – she presumed they were former contacts of some sort – she felt a wave of nausea pass over her. She blindly made her way out of the church, tears threatening to sting at her eyes, but refusing to fall. Pressing her back up against the searing hot wood of the exterior, she slumped downward and sighed, pressing her head into her hands.
"Sar?" a male voice from somewhere above her said. "Are you okay?"
She looked upward, seeing a familiar face. "He can't be dead, Nick. He just can't be."
He reached down for her hand. "You heard what they said at the embassy. The evidence doesn't lie, Sara."
"Then it can't be him that we just held the funeral for. Nick, he's alive. He came to me in my dream, the night we got to Costa Rica."
"Sara," he said, kneeling on the ground and clasping her hands in his. "I wish he wasn't dead. He was a good friend, a good supervisor, and he loved you, which means that he was – no, is – a pretty important person in my life."
"He's not dead."
Catherine walked over. "Nick?"
"The rest of us are going over to the cemetery, if you two want to join us."
He looked down at Sara; she appeared so very small as she sunk into the ground, dirt staining the hem of her dress. "You want to go?" he asked.
"Do I have a choice?"
"Not much of one, no," he said with a frown, "but it might give you a chance to say goodbye."
She shook her head. "It won't be goodbye, Nick. It never will be."
Sara watched as the clumps of dirt were cast onto his casket, burying him under a rain of sediment and bugs. The thought of bugs covering his casket made her inwardly smile. If he were dead, it may be a comfort for him to know that even in death, there were still bugs around him. But he wasn't dead. He just couldn't be.
The rational part of her screamed otherwise. She had seen him laying in the casket just a short time before, before Nick and Greg had gently guided her to the pew. It was him – every aspect of it was him – but her heart said otherwise.
After everyone else had left, and her and Nick were the only ones left standing by the gravesite; she turned and buried her head in Nick's shoulders, the tears flowing freely. And he wrapped his arms around her, and refused to let go.
Denial – the first stage of grief.
The sound of something hitting the wall caused Nick to pop his head out of the bathroom, toothbrush dangling out of his mouth. "Sara? Is everything okay?" he asked, "Do I need to come out there?"
"Everything," she said, launching something else at the wall, "is," she threw a pillow this time, "fine," and another pillow landed next to the other, "Nick."
"You know where I am if you need me."
"I know." A barrage of pillows flew through the air.
When he walked out a few moments later, all of his couch cushions and throw pillows were slammed against the far wall. As he put them back in an orderly fashion, he saw what the two original items were – the two items that, in the barrage, had been buried underneath piles of fabric.
One was a picture of her and Grissom, one that she used to have sitting by the side of the couch. It was a nice picture of the two of them, but after they arrived back from Costa Rica, she had tipped it upside down. "Too painful," she had said, and he had nodded, at the time. Now, the glass was cracked: a crack running up the entire height of the frame, running right between where their arms were around each other, smiling at whomever it was taking the picture.
The other thing he found was her cell phone.
She had changed the wallpaper – it used to be of Grissom, if he remembered right, and now it was presumably one of the wallpapers that had come with the phone, a mess of gray swirls.
It was almost as though, after years of trying to pull Grissom into her life, she was shoving him out at an even quicker speed.
Maybe it was too painful for her otherwise.
Sara didn't like to admit it, and if one was to ask her, she wouldn't tell, and would mumble something about watching Discovery Channel marathons. But sometimes, after Nick left for work, she'd sit out on the little balcony and shout to the sky. "Look at what you've done!" she'd shout.
No one ever responded.
In the oddest of ways, it felt more therapeutic to berate something – or someone – who wasn't there anymore, than to talk it out with someone living.
She took this as the sign of something – what that something was, she wasn't quite sure.
Anger – the second stage of grief.
Her shouts to the sky take on a more pleading perspective. "Why?" she asked, one night as the stars twinkled merrily above her, "why does it have to be this way?" The tinkling noise of the neighbor's wind chimes was her only reply.
She begged for the pain to go away, for the hole in her heart to be filled. A part of her wanted to hit the town, do the one night stand thing, but that wouldn't take it away – she'd end up in some dingy motel room just off the Strip and not remember the guy's name. Or worse, she knew all too well what would happen – she'd been a crime scene investigator for years, after all, she knew the shadows that lurked behind the neon lights.
Nothing could ever replace what she had lost, so why bother trying to find it with faceless strangers?
So, she would curl up with Nick on the couch, talk about their days – "the case took a lot out of me," he'd say, and she'd nod her head because that used to be her – and it'd be nice, and simple.
Because she found that the best way for her to deal was to spend time with Nick.
Bargaining – the third stage of grief.
She slipped out of the apartment one morning, making sure Nick was not around to hear her, because she was fairly certain he'd stop her. And then, she kept on walking. The early morning sun beat down on her back; she trekked onward to her destination.
Iron bars reached to the sky, twisting to form curlicues, as she pressed her hand up against the cemetery gate and sought the inner strength to enter. Instinct directed her footfalls toward the site she hadn't dared to visit the past few months.
The headstone was plain marble, his birth and death years engraved below his name. She ran her fingers over the capital "g" in "Grissom," over and over again until it became a blind routine, her fingers mindlessly tracing the same route they had repeated only seconds before. Tears, tears of sorrow, tears of fatigue, fell unbidden from her eyes as she collapsed against the dirt, her hand still resting against the headstone.
It was in that position that Nick found her a few hours later. "Oh, Sara," he said, gently scooping her up and carrying her in his arms back to the car, "at least you're not hurt. I was -" He cut off the sentence before he could finish.
Maybe it was a trick of the light, or maybe it was an errant shadow, but as he staggered away from the gravesite, it was almost as though someone was watching them, and nodding a silent approval.
Depression – the fourth stage of grief.
One day, she walked out of the bathroom after her shower, a fluffy blue towel wrapped around her hair, and smiled at Nick.
"And how are you doing today?" he asked.
She thought for a moment, and then said, "I'm," she trailed off for a moment, and Nick flashed her a concerned look, "doing fine." Unlike her responses to that question she had given over the past few months, she felt as though, for once, she was telling the truth when she said it.
"It's a new day," she thought, and busied herself with making breakfast, "and I'm not going to let anything get me down."
Acceptance – the fifth stage of grief.