pg-13 | no warnings apply

His mother once told him that everything happened for a reason.

It was shortly after she told him about her condition, when he had asked her why this was happening to her. She had smiled and shook her head slightly. He hadn't believed her then, and he didn't believe her now. Even as she had said it, he knew that she really didn't believe it either. It was the closest his mother would ever come to lying to him.

He knew now, as he supposed he had then, that some things did happen for a reason. Other things were completely random. Luck of the draw. Humans liked for there to be reasons because they like order. If there's order, then there's predictability, and the future isn't a mysterious blur that we can never quite get into focus.

There was a reason why he had kept in touch with her after that seminar. And at the moment, it had nothing to do with love or even lust. He found her attractive, but what man wouldn't? He exchanged contact information because he saw something in her that reminded him of himself. He had been lucky enough to have mentors in his life, and he wanted the same for her.

That was it.


That's how he remembers it now, anyway.

There was a reason why he asked her to come to Las Vegas. And there was a reason why he asked her to stay.

If asked, he could generate a dozen reasons. They would be rational, logical, simple reasons, and they wouldn't involve any emotions on his part. He needed an impartial investigator. He didn't want Internal Affairs sniffing around. He was short one CSI, and she was one of the best he knew.

Perfectly logical reasons.

It would have been easier on him if she had died. Or left him for another man. Or left CSI. Or left Las Vegas.

He's not sure why she's still here. There are times when he thinks it's simply to punish him.

She has her hair up in a tight bun that makes her look older than she is. Her lithe legs are hidden under a long black skirt. As she turns around, she catches sight of him and forms her mouth into something that almost looks like a smile, but the expression doesn't make it up to her eyes.


"Hey." He feels the pressure to say more. Before, they could sit in comfortable silence for hours. They didn't try to make small talk, mainly because each of them knew the other wasn't skilled in that area.

Now, however, he was desperate to hear her voice. Desperate to hear her opinion. Desperate to have her argue with him. Anything.

"You look...nice. Nice skirt. I...uh...I don't think I've seen that outfit before."

He's not very good at this at all.

Normally it wouldn't matter to her. But things hadn't been normal in a long time.

She cocks her head and sighs. "I wore it to Lockwood's funeral. You would have seen it...if you had been there."

He can't tell her why he wasn't there and where he really was. It's not as easy to tell her as it was to tell Cath. With Catherine, there was no real risk. She would pity him, sure. But he was used to seeing pity in her eyes. Pity because he was still alone. Pity because he lived in his hermetically sealed townhouse with tarantulas for friends.

He didn't want to see it in hers.

So he shuffles his feet and tries to formulate an answer that wouldn't be a lie, but would help her understand.

"Will you attend my funeral? Or will you be too...busy?"

He's shocked by the question. So much so, that he can't muster a response. She slips past him, muttering something about being late to court.

He's become a desperate man.

Her eyes, once so full of life, are dead. There's no passion in them anymore. She does her job, just as well as she used to. She's still his best CSI. But when he looks at her, he sees an empty void. Whatever it was that made him fall in love with her is gone.

No, not gone.

Repressed, maybe. Hidden.

He doesn't want to think that it's gone.

Whereas before he would keep her at arm's length, he now struggles to hold her close. Where he would once sit in silence, he now fights to find conversation. He tosses out almost-but-not-too-revealing comments, offering her a small smile to try to induce her own. It doesn't work, but he keeps trying.

He's thought about letting her go. Transferring her out or even laying her off. He tells himself he doesn't for legal reasons. She could sue. Charge that she was being treated unfairly.

And she was. She is.

He's killing her.

So he tries to save her.

He even tried asking her out to dinner, thinking that the event that precipitated this decline could somehow bring her back.

She produced something like a laugh, staring at him with those dead eyes.

"You don't really want to," was all the reply she'd offer.

His sadness had morphed into anger. She thought she knew him - better than he even knew himself.

Heather didn't know him.

Catherine didn't know him.

And Miss Sara Sidle certainly didn't know him.

At least, that's what he keeps telling himself.

He doesn't fantasize about her anymore. At least not sexually. He dreams about her making a pot of coffee. Turning off the lamp beside her bed. Shaking her umbrella off after the rain has stopped. Smiling as she finds the pen she was looking for in her purse.

Catherine's long since given up on talking to him about it. She tried subtle hints and when those didn't work, she turned to yelling and cursing.

Nick had never tried to be subtle. Neither had Warrick. Even Greg had mentioned it. They all looked at him differently now. He's seen the same looks of disgust in their expressions when they deal with murderers. Rapists. Sadists.

He was losing his entire team with the emotional death of one woman.

He likes to tell himself that he hasn't been cruel to her, but he knows it's a lie. His behavior's been atrocious.

He knocks on her door, after his shift is over, knocking twice before she answers.

Her empty eyes stare back at him.

She doesn't wear much makeup anymore. Not that she wore that much usually. But now she doesn't bother at all. Her beauty is such that she doesn't need any artificial coloring. It makes him wonder why she ever used it at all. When they first met, she never used makeup. If she had worn it at CSI to get his attention or attract him, it was unnecessary.

He should have told her that.

"What do you want?" Even her voice is dead.

He's changed too. Molded by desperation, shaped by fear, and crafted by despair. He almost wants to slap her, if for no other reason than it would spark a reaction in her cold, dead eyes.

There aren't any words. Any other situation, he could generate dozens of them and weave them into intelligent sentences. But her gaze seems to drain his powers of speech. He touches her, his warm hands latching onto her cold arms.

He kisses her because he's tried everything else and it hasn't worked.

Well, he hasn't tried everything. But it's easier for him to close his lips and kiss her than to open his mouth and confide in her.

She doesn't move.

Her body is rigid, and her lips are immobile underneath his. When he pulls back, he sees her eyelids are open.

"Don't," she murmurs. "Don't kiss me because you don't know what else to do."

She steps away and turns around. His arms wrap around her waist and bring her body close to his. She's shaking her head and asking him to stop, to let her go, but he does neither.

Confession might kill him. But he can't stand watching her die like this. If his suicide will save her, then he'll do it.

He whispers to her, keeping his eyes closed and his face buried in her hair, as if that will somehow protect him. Her body tenses, relaxes, and tenses again. His hands are splayed across her stomach, and he can feel her breathing as it becomes erratic and then slows again.

She's silent. Even after he's spilled his soul and has nothing left to say.

He supposes he could tell her that he loves her, but that sentiment seems inappropriate at the moment.

He knows she's crying. It's becoming hard to resist the urge to do so himself. His eyes are still closed as he steps back, resigned to the fact that his sacrifice did nothing.

"Wait," she whispers.

So he does.