pg-13 | no warnings apply

It was never easy, erasing someone out of your life, but it always seemed deceptively so whenever she had to do it.

She had cropped the playlist on her computer, so it only contained one song; she had been listening to it for the past 43 minutes. She sang along, dancing around the clutter in her apartment, even as her voice began to get hoarse. It seemed to give her the strength to go about her task.

It would have been easier, maybe, if they had an official relationship. If she had pictures of the two of them, she could have destroyed them, cutting them up with scissors until she realized that ripping them with her bare hands was much more satisfying. If he had ever sent her flowers, she might have pressed a few petals in between the pages of a book; she could have crumpled the fragile, dry, dead, little slips until they were dust. If he had given her cards for their anniversaries, she could have torn them to shreds and burned them in her trashcan, hoping that she didn't set off the fire alarm. If he had bought her lingerie, she could have listened to the delicious sound of the fibers in the cloth coming apart as she yanked on each flimsy sleeve. If he had given her jewelry, she could have sold it and spent the money at a bar, clumsily flirting with strange men to regain her confidence.

But they hadn't, and she didn't have any of those things.

She did have a few trinkets that she had saved - like a forlorn, lovesick fool - which now occupied one of the many boxes sitting in her living room. She had carefully avoided it as she packaged up the rest of her life into the boxes that Greg had helped her procure from local stores. He had agreed to join her on the trip mainly to try to talk her out of it, but for once in her life, her mind was clear.

She had misjudged how much tape was needed to seal them all, but she didn't feel like driving out to get more. Plopping down on her couch, the small, battered box - it had once held Bic pens, according to the side - slid down, nudging her hip.

"Pathetic," she murmured.

In the past year, she had dug the items out from time to time, mainly to remind her why she still clung to hope. Sometimes she wondered what would happen if she died. Would he come to clean out her apartment? Would her parents return them to him? Would he sit there, go through her paltry collection of good memories, and think she had been a fool? Or an obsessed psycho?

There was the slip of paper he had given her, so long ago, with his work number written in thick black ink. Someone new was in that office now, and the paper was faded and worn, but she still held on to it.

It had been tucked into one of several books that he had given her, books that had formerly been scattered along her shelves. None of them had been new, but she had liked that. Each one had his name, neatly printed in the upper left corner, inside the cover. His notes were scribbled in the margins, places where he had found errors, added new information, or just noted his observation or opinion on the subject at hand. Perhaps she had been reading too much into his gifts. After all, when she had offered to return the first one, he had only said, "Oh, that's okay. I don't need it anymore."

One of them had been accompanied with an elaborate bookmark. Beautiful ivory paper adored with black ink that had just a hint of silver in it, causing it to sparkle. There were four Chinese characters on the front, with their English equivalent written below. Happiness, harmony, tranquility, and prosperity. On the back, it read 'One joy scatters a hundred griefs - Chinese proverb,' and above that, in his neat handwriting, it said simply, 'Congratulations, Sara.'

She had thought it an odd graduation present but hadn't really cared. He had gone into a store and purchased something with the intent of giving it to her, and then personalized it, albeit in a small way. It gave her a bit of hope that this 'thing' wasn't just some one-sided schoolgirl crush.

Happiness, harmony, tranquility, and prosperity. She hadn't had any of those in her life in a while.

There was a single Hallmark card, given to her when she landed in the hospital while working a case her second year in the field. She hadn't been attacked by a perpetrator or injured by a suspect; she had been at a crime scene and tripped over a tree branch, spraining her ankle. Her partner insisted on taking her to the hospital, and she had been mortified when he showed up in the examination room. He seemed to sense that, offering her a small, knowing smile as he approached her.

After handing her the card, he had told her some story about how he had injured his wrist once wrangling with a body at a scene. It was a cheap thing - as cheap as you could get in a hospital gift shop - with a simple 'Get Well' sentiment. He joked about how they wouldn't let him in to see her without one, but he had taken the time to scribble his name and hers, and like every little bit of evidence that she had hoarded and hidden in one of his books, it gave her hope.

He had changed so much since then.

Looking over her paltry stash of meaningless items, she felt like a fool for holding on to them. She had given him small things here and there, nothing truly significant, and she was certain he hadn't kept any of them for any length of time.

Occasionally, the phone would ring, and her heart would start racing. Even after everything, there was hope somewhere in her mind that he would call. He would apologize and they could start over.

But he hadn't called.

None of them called. Aside from the obligatory going-away party in the breakroom, Greg was the only one of her co-workers who had bothered to talk to her once she handed in her resignation.

And even he had barely spoken as they drove from shop to shop, just offering the same reasons to stay, over and over.

She didn't think she would be missed.

Catherine seemed pleased she was leaving. She didn't understand why; she had never entertained the thought that the older woman harbored ill will towards her. Things had been strained between them after Eddie's murder, but they had gone out that night she discovered the truth about Hank, and she thought their friendship was renewed. Lately, though, she got a bad feeling when she was around her.

Nick had his promotion, and he obviously thought he deserved it. When she had gone to Grissom and demanded to know his reasoning, Nick had eavesdropped on them and informed her of it later. He was deeply offended by her comments, but she didn't take any of them back.

She had flaws - she knew that. But she didn't understand why, after a careful look at their respective records, he would choose Nick over her. She was better qualified for the job - that wasn't hubris, simply a fact; she thought that was rather obvious. Nick took her comments as an insult and things hadn't been the same between them since.

Warrick just didn't seem to give a shit about anyone but himself.

And Grissom...

She stood up, rearranging the boxes into two piles - taped up and not. Dancing around her room, she thought back to a video voyeur case she had read about in one of her journals, wondering what would be more embarrassing if released on the internet: images of her naked or a tape of her prancing around here like she was in an eighties music video.

The latter, she decided. At least with regard to the former, most people would feel sympathy for her, thinking she had been violated. With the latter, they'd probably just laugh at her lack of coordination and rhythm.

The phone rang again, but this time she let it go on until the machine picked up. She had never bothered to record a personalized message, so it spit out the default one that had been programmed in at the factory. After the beep, she almost jumped when she heard his voice.

"Um... hi, Sara. It's Grissom. I guess I missed you."

Fortunately, she was only a few feet from the phone, so she didn't have to sprint across the room to pick up the receiver.

"Hey," she replied as neutrally as possible.

"Oh, you're there."


Silence. The music was still playing in the background, and she wondered if he was trying to make out the lyrics.

"You forgot to clean out your locker."

She clenched her jaw as she attempted to stifle the rage building in her. She wasn't sure who she was mad at - him or herself - but it didn't much matter.

"I'll be right there."

He had begun to speak, but she hung up on him anyway.