Spoilers: Nothing substantial. But it would help if you've read The Kingdom of Chairs, The Room and A Wolf at the Door. Also, if you remember episode 3.14 One Hit Wonder, that'd be nice as well.
I still don't know what I'm doing here. I know why exactly I'm here, but the moments that led up to this moment I'm still having trouble grasping. But that's the rub, isn't it? The moments in between. The moments that seem inconsequential but somehow end up being the crux of the story. It was just another day. Just another day. How funny that sounds. But now here I am. And for the life of me, I still can't believe I'm here.
I can feel the rain pelting the exposed portions of flesh as I stand here in the cold, the rapport of gunshots fading in the distance. I can feel their eyes on me even though I'm cold. Numb. They know there was history there. They all know. And now that's all it'll ever be. History. Yet another moment that wasn't taken full advantage of.
I feel Nick's hand gently squeeze my shoulder as the words stop, their absence quickly filled with the sound of pulleys groaning against the considerable weight. I can hear Catherine sobbing somewhere off to my right, the sounds muffled almost immediately. Warrick must be standing next to her, offering her solace in this moment.
Just a moment. Probably one that'll remain with me for the rest of my life. But I find myself numb. I can't feel the oncoming rush of tears, and that in itself disturbs me to no end. I should be crying. Why can't I cry? Why can I only picture Grissom?
Grissom in his condo, blood pooled around his head like a halo. A blood halo. The entrance wound something akin to Vishnu. Hindu and Christianity melded into one. It's the moments in between we take for granted.
After all, I didn't think opening that door would ever lead me to the next moment.
But there it is. Proof. My gaze never leaves the coffin as it disappears into the earth. I hear the grief from everyone present, but for some reason I can only picture Grissom in his condo. As a peaceful blood angel.
Time passes as we come upon Sara, sitting in a diner in New Mexico. The city's not important. The only thing that's important is that she's still trying to come to terms with Grissom's abrupt death. She couldn't find peace of mind in Las Vegas so she's left the job and is just traveling. Traveling, and trying to make sense of a world without Gil Grissom in it. Close in to Sara nursing a cup of coffee when someone slides into the booth opposite her.
"Sara? Sara Sidle?"
I look up from my cup of black coffee that hasn't been refilled once since I've stepped into this greasy spoon, the woman sitting across from me familiar yet not all at the same time.
"I'm sorry. Do I know you?"
She chuckles softly, her blonde hair glistening in the waning sunlight. "Melissa? Melissa Winters from college?"
"Oh, right. How could I forget?" Pretty easily, actually. "So, what brings you out to this neck of the woods?"
She chuckles once more; as though she's getting the punchline of a joke that I'm clearly not, before motioning over to the waitress for a cup of coffee. "Actually, I'm out here on a spiritual journey of sorts."
This elicits a look of befuddlement.
"Yep. And no better place to have a journey of the mind than in New Mexico." Her eyes dart from the side to side, as though she's sizing up the room, before she reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small canvas satchel with a leather tie closing the neck. She slowly pulls on the makeshift lace, revealing the contents of the bag to me. Unfortunately, the reveal isn't that long since the waitress comes over with Melissa's coffee, Melissa quickly retracting her hand back under the table. "Thank you. I appreciate it."
"No problem." The waitress turns her attention to me. "You want anything else to go with your coffee, hon?"
I shake my head, managing to muster a semblance of a smile. "Still working on this cup. I'll let you know when I'm ready."
"Okay, sugar." And then it's just Melissa and myself.
"Is that what I think it is?"
Another obnoxious chuckle is her response. "Trust me, if you want to expand your mind, there's no better way than this."
"Hey, don't knock it until you've tried it." She takes a swig from her cup, quickly lapping me. "So, what brings you here? I thought you'd be on some college campus somewhere pursuing yet another graduate degree. This is the last place in the world I thought I'd ever find you."
Grissom flashes in my mind's eye, and I turn away for a moment before answering Melissa's question. "I guess I'm on a journey of sorts as well."
"Seriously?" I nod; still trying to push the image of Grissom sprawled out on his kitchen floor as Melissa continues. "Man, talk about coincidences."
"Yeah. Coincidence." Doesn't feel much like one. More like a distraction, to tell the truth.
Melissa eyes me for a second. A second in which I'm wondering whether she's sizing me up. After all, there were those rumors in college. However, my fears are for naught when her hand emerges out from under the table, extending out across the table toward me. "Take it."
"No, really. I've got more than enough here for what I've got planned. But maybe this will help you along with your journey. You never know, right?"
I don't know why I do it, but my hand reaches out to Melissa's, our palms grazing until I feel the spherical mass rub against my skin. My hand closes quickly around the foreign substance, Melissa shooting me a grin before taking another healthy swig from her cup.
"Well, I should go. Here's hoping you find what you're looking for."
And before I have a chance to say goodbye, she's out the door. I don't try to follow her, instead focused on the small brown lump nestled in my palm.
Time passes once more. Sara sits on the hood of her jeep, the gift from Melissa in her hand. Daylight has given way to darkness save for the dead stars in the sky, their light now reaching Earth even though they've gone supernova millennia ago. Sara looks out to the horizon, seeing nothing but vast plains of nothingness. Par for the course when you're in New Mexico.
It's almost like there's nothing in my hand, that's how light it is. But looking down at my hand, I know it's there. I didn't dream that encounter at the diner. Melissa really did give me some of her 'stash', so to speak. But what now?
I've been searching for meaning in Grissom's death for months now and I've yet to find a suitable answer. Maybe Melissa had the right idea. Maybe expanding my mind will help me find what I'm looking for, whatever it is I'm looking for.
I hesitate for a moment, reconsidering the ramifications. What if there's an adverse side effect? I'm out here by myself. No chance of finding medical help for miles. Stop thinking, Sara. Aren't you tired of thinking? Isn't that why you're here in the first place?
"The hell with it."
I reach for the bottled water sitting between my legs, unscrewing the cap and holding the peyote up to my lips. I close my eyes as I pop the foul smelling substance into my mouth, chewing on it thoroughly, making sure not to swallow. The water bottle comes up quickly to my lips as the liquid hastens the spread of the peyote's effect. I spit out the water, making sure not to lose any of the peyote in the process, finally swallowing the noxious object.
My mouth begins to turn numb as I sit on the hood of my jeep, wondering if I'll know when it kicks in. How does one know when peyote kicks in anyway? Then, for some reason, I have the uncontrollable urge to look over my shoulder. And that's when I see it. That's when I know the peyote's working.
"Oh, Jesus." The light is blinding, the harsh white giving way to a shadowy silhouette. The silhouette quickly becomes more than a silhouette, the desert fading away, falling away from view. Being replaced with something more familiar. Am I in a living room? "I can see you! Who...who are you?"
The figure takes a seat in front of the computer, one leg crossed over the other, arms crossed. His gaze never wavers as he sits in front of the monitor.
"Me? Why, I'm the evil mastermind behind all this. I'm the wicked puppeteer that pulls the strings and makes you dance." He pauses for a moment, allowing his words to sink in even though I'm still having trouble comprehending what exactly is happening to me.
"Sara, I'm your writer."
I say the only thing I can in such a moment.
Oh hell. What's happening to me? This can't be real. Just the peyote doing its work. Just the peyote playing tricks with my mind. That's all.
"You'd like to believe that, wouldn't you?"
Did he just...
"Read your mind? I guess that's one way to put it. Another way to put it is that I know what you're going to say because I've already written it."
He shakes his head slightly, an almost apologetic look on his face as he speaks. "I'm sorry. I guess that's not entirely accurate. I'm just one of many writers that tend to your everyday existence. I'm not one of the important ones. I'm just one that likes to think he knows what you'd like out of life. Still, I can make you do or say anything. I can make you think you live in a world of talking chairs. I can make you take peyote even though that's probably the last thing you'd ever do. I can even kill Grissom without ever showing how he died." He points to the computer monitor as he continues. "It's all here. This is where I write the wrongs of the world and try to make things better in the end."
"No. This isn't real." I can feel the anger building, my muscles tensing. "You don't control me. No. I won't believe that." Before I realize what I'm doing, I've unholstered my weapon, pointing it at the now terrified stranger. "Control me now, you son of a bitch!" I don't keep track of how many times I squeeze the trigger. All I know is I'm pulling on an empty clip as his body slumps on the leather chair, blood trickling down the corner of his mouth.
"See? What did I tell you?" I look over my shoulder to see the stranger standing behind me. "I made you do that. I can make you do anything." I turn back to the chair, his dead body noticeably absent; not a trace of blood anywhere. "I mean, you're not terribly violent, are you? After all, how many times have you used your weapon on the show? Have you ever fired a shot? Speaking of which, where exactly did you get your service weapon from anyway?"
"I...I don't know. It all just seemed to make sense at the time." I scratch my head in confusion. "Why did I do that?"
"I told you already. I made you do that. I thought the piece could do with a bit of action. After all, it gets somewhat pedantic reading monologue after monologue after a while, don't you think? And, by the way, you can't hurt me. I mean in order to hurt me you'd have to get into the real world. But I can get into your world very easily. It's as simple as putting pen to paper. But, like I said, I'm not one of the important writers."
"What are you..."
He walks over to the television, flipping through the channels before stopping at what he's looking for.
I move closer to the television, kneeling in front of it as though I've seen God in a church. The pictures on the screen are unmistakable yet unnerving to say the least. "That's Grissom. And Catherine. And...and me."
"Like I said. I'm not an important writer. These people are." I read the names that flash under Grissom and Catherine and even myself, the words 'Executive Producer', 'Written By', and 'Directed By' ingraining themselves into my mind. "I began to write because of what these people were doing. But now I wonder..."
"So, they didn't kill Grissom?"
"Oh, heavens no. That'd be ratings suicide if they ever did that. I killed Grissom."
"Because it added drama. All stories need drama and it's easy to get a cheap emotional shock by killing popular characters."
"But that's not fair!"
"Fair?" The stranger walks over to a shelf of CDs, his fingers flitting across the plastic cases until he finds what he's looking for. He tosses a CD over to me, my fingers gingerly grasping it. "I had a dear friend in high school named Carolyn Baker. We used to pass notes in biology class. She borrowed my copy of 'The Crow' soundtrack. You can still smell her perfume on it. She left a note inside for me. She died in a car accident senior year. That wasn't fair either, but who do I complain to?"
I open up the CD case, the faint scent of perfume evident. The note's still there, just like he said it would be.
"See, no matter how real your world tries to be, it's so much simpler than ours. There's no problem that can't be solved by a half-decent fourth act. So don't come here complaining to me about what's fair and what's not."
I put the CD down, my attention moving back to the television. "I remember this. This has already happened."
"Oh." For some reason, that makes sense to me.
"Come on. Let's go out." I look up to see the stranger now donned in a slightly tattered black hooded sweatshirt. I do as he says. After all, I still need answers.
"So, where are we going?"
"Nowhere, really. I don't suppose you've ever noticed how easy it is to travel from one place to another with a convenient cut. Explains why some shows just give up on continuity all together. Kind of hard to keep track of such minute issues."
I'm looking around at our surroundings that I'm not really paying attention to my host. This is definitely not New Mexico. It's not even Nevada. If I had to guess, I'd say it was either California or Florida. Way too many palm trees about. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"
"Never mind. I brought you here because this is where I come when I'm blocked or stuck for an idea. Right now, I'm trying to think of what to say to you."
I stop walking, somewhat stunned at this revelation. "Wait. You mean you don't know what we're going to say?"
"Oh, no. I mean it's okay for you. After all, you're just saying what I've written for you to say. I actually have to think this stuff up, you know. In fact, I've been planning this meeting for a while now. It was going to be such a great story." He leans over to pick up a pebble, tossing it lazily into the adjacent canal. "But there's not enough space. You have to be concise in this medium or else you'll bore the reader and lose them altogether. There's never enough room to say anything important."
He continues to look toward the canal, the sunlight beginning to disappear behind the horizon. I walk over to him, my hands in my pockets while I stand beside him, taking in the scenery.
"Can you tell me something?"
"Am I real?"
"Of course you're real."
"Because on your television, it looked like someone else was pretending to be me."
"She's what's known as an actress. She's had many roles on many popular television shows. But you, Sara Sidle, are real. After all, you're here talking to me, aren't you?"
I shake my head solemnly. "I still think this is just one big acid trip."
"Perhaps. But the real question is, what if you're not?"
"I don't follow."
"You didn't find it somewhat odd that one minute you're attending Grissom's funeral, the next you're in New Mexico, running into an old college friend that just happened to have peyote on her to allow you to come here?" I'm trying to wrap my mind around what he's just said, but he interrupts, beginning to speak once more. "What was the name of the friend again? At the diner?"
I reach for the name, finding it somewhat difficult. But after a moment, it comes to me as though I've always known it.
"Melissa. Melissa Winters."
"And other than college, that's the only other time you've met her?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure. Why?"
"Season three, episode 14, One Hit Wonder. She was your friend in the District Attorney's office? The one that faked a break in when in reality she killed her husband, her husband using her last ounce of strength to shoot her in the neck?" I nod slowly, wondering why I haven't put the pieces together. It's all been right there, laid out for me. "I mean, seriously, other than the people you work with, do you have any real friends?"
"Well, you wrote me that way, right?"
"You keep forgetting. I only write a fragment of what you do. It's the people in charge of the television show that have carte blanche. I just work with what they've given me. I try and fill in the gaps. In fact, if you're very lucky, you'll still be the way you are now when I'm old or dead. So, yes, I'd say you're very much real. In some instances, you're more real than I am. After all, if something were to happen to me, I doubt anyone would take the time to notice. But you. You have the adoration of millions."
"Your world seems so terrible. So...bleak. How can you possibly live in a world like that?"
His answer is a sincere one. "We get by."
We continue to walk to nowhere in particular when the thought just hits me. Or does he want me to say this? Suffice it to say, it's a bit unnerving either way.
"Look, I don't mean to sound pretentious here, but isn't this a haphazard way to write a story? I mean if I'm remembering correctly, you always seem to find some way to bring Grissom and myself together and instead of continuing on, you start over from square one. Different variation on the theme, mind you, but still, it's the same story, isn't it?"
He nods slowly, looking out in the distance as he responds. "And therein lies the problem. I've done all I can with the both of you. I mean, Jesus, the chair thing was my just struggling to do something original with the two of you. But in the end, there's only so many ways I can tell your story. That I can tell his story. But you're right. It is rather haphazard, the way I write the both of you. A bunch of unconnected events that somehow ends up being connected. Story of my life."
"No, you mean my life." He finally turns to me, curiosity on his face. "If these are my stories that you're telling, why does it sometimes feel like I'm just an observer? Like that thing between Grissom and Lurie. I was incidental more than anything there."
"It's the same with almost everyone else. We expect starring roles in our own lives but somehow just end up with walk-on parts. That's the thing with life. It doesn't have plots and subplots. It's just a big collection of dangling loose ends that never get explained."
"Well, where I come from, we live on plots and subplots. And quite frankly, I'm getting sick of these pseudo-existential narratives."
"Oh? Well, maybe another writer will make things better for you."
This catches my attention. "Another writer? What are you talking about?"
He smiles softly, a hint of regret in his eyes. "This is my last story. I'm sorry it's been such an anticlimax. You know, I always planned for you and Grissom to eventually get married in A Wolf at the Door. Shame I never got to do that for you. After all the crap you have to put up with on the show, I would have liked to at least give you that much."
"So, what happens now?"
"Exactly what I said. Someone else writes your life. They might play it safe and have you and Grissom get together in every piece. They might pair you up with Greg. Hell, just for a shock moment, they might turn you into a meat eater. Or better yet, a lesbian."
I can almost feel myself choking on my words as I speak. "But...I'm a vegetarian. And a lesbian? Have they not been paying attention? I've been pining for Grissom since I met him."
"That's the rub with your world. You'll be whatever you're written to be."
"But...if that's true...then what am I?"
"You're Sara Sidle."
For some reason, his words comfort me somewhat.
"Listen, if this is your last story, perhaps you can do something for me?"
I can feel the lump in my throat as I hope beyond hope that he can do what I want him to. "Can you bring Grissom back?"
His answer is to the point. "Sorry. Wouldn't be realistic. And your show strives to be realistic, if anything. Take those TMI cams for instance. There's too much, then there's too much, then there's that."
"Then, what if you made it all a dream. What if I wake up and everything's back to normal?"
"You're joking, right? A dream? You do know the definition of the word 'hackneyed', yes?"
It's the laugh at the end that does it.
"This isn't a joke! I just want Grissom back! I just...I just want him back. What can I do to get him back?" The tears begin to force their way to the surface. "What am I supposed to do?"
"I told you about Carol. The bright spot in my day was fourth period when I'd get to see her. But one day, Carol didn't show up. And then another. And then another. It wasn't until I was invited to the funeral that I found out what happened to her. Drunk driver, swerved right into her. She never had a chance. And, to be honest, I never thought I'd be talking about this ever again, but it seems somewhat fitting. It kind of ties into what you're going through right now with Grissom, don't you think?"
"Did you loooo....did you loooo...."
"Sorry. That word you're trying to say? Not really accepted in your world. Too mushy. People in the real world tend to shy away from that word. Not very realistic in the overall scheme of things." Then he pauses, looking for the right words before continuing on. "But to answer your question, I think I did. If things had been different, who's to say I wouldn't be with her right now. Then again, I might just be where I am right now."
"And where's that?"
"A broken heart and not much hope."
I'm not sure how to respond so I remain silent, hoping that he'll fill the void. Luckily, he eventually does.
"I'm out of space. I'm out of time. And I haven't said anything worthwhile. I've got nothing left to say. Go home, Sara. Go home, and forget we ever met."
He begins to fade out just as the New Mexico landscape did before this moment. I reach out to him, but find myself grabbing emptiness instead. "No! Wait! I wanted to...to..."
Too late. He's gone, and I'm all alone. I close my eyes, the tears that were threatening before flowing freely down my cheeks. I'm all alone.
Oh, Grissom. Why did you leave me?
I don't get a chance to answer my question, because the knock at the door gets my attention. I slowly open my eyes and I'm in my apartment. Well, of course I'd be in my apartment. Where else would I be right about now?
I push the thought aside, wiping the tears from my eyes as I make my way to the door. I take a moment to smooth out my shirt before opening the door. I almost fall to my knees when I see who's standing on the other side.
"Sara, are you okay?"
"I'm..." Words fail me at the moment.
"You didn't call into work today, so I started to get concerned. You're not sick, are you?"
"I'm not sick. I'm not..." Before I realize what's happening, I've closed the distance between us, my hand caressing his cheek as my lips find respite on his. At first he resists, but eventually his arms wrap about my waist, pulling me closer to him. When we regretfully part out of need for oxygen, I find the words I've always wanted to say to him.
"I love you, Grissom. I've always loved you. From the first moment I met you, I knew that you were it. I can always get another job if that's what's been stopping you. It's just a job. But you? I need you, Grissom. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"
At first I wonder if I've ruined our relationship, what with the look of confusion on his face. However, his demeanor changes quickly. "Okay."
"I love you too, Sara. I've just never been able to find the right way to tell you. I've always thought that I wasn't good enough for you. I've always..."
My fingers press against his lips, ceasing his words. "It doesn't matter. Not anymore." I smile at him before my lips return to his once more.
We close in on Grissom and Sara, both maintaining their embrace, deepening the kiss. Both smile and laugh in between kisses, neither sure why it's taken so long to get to this point in their lives. And in this moment, Sara realizes there's nothing wrong.
Nothing wrong at all.
Is that the best I can do?
I guess it'll have to be.
Summary: Sometimes walls are meant to be broken.