[ETA: oh, right, I suppose I should say R for language. It's just the one word though.]
“Shift’s over, huh?” you whisper, and only when the words echo back from the empty corners of the break room do you realize you’ve spoken them aloud.
You have no idea how long you’ve been sitting here. A real light load tonight, just one case still open, waiting on a DNA match from the hair Nick found. That’s the only reason nobody’s come looking for you yet. The only reason you’ve gotten away with sitting here long past the end of your “lunch,” with half the lights off, listening to muted mechanical sounds from the trace lab next door, and watching the few techs still on duty wander past the windows.
The counters are bare. The table is empty. You think there should be some sign that things have changed, that an era has ended. Sure, things have changed before, but this time it should have been marked or recognized or commemorated.
Damned if you can figure out how.
You shift your hands on the coffee mug. It’s cold now, and you think about putting it down, about going to pester Greg, but that makes you remember again.
Yeah, okay, it’s understandable that he would want to minimize the drama that usually surrounds a supervisor’s departure. You feel a tiny, unwanted smile tug at your mouth, as you imagine a cake on the empty table, forced-cheerful faces and handshakes, and his unsettled responses.
He might not have wanted it, but you can’t help thinking it would have been better that way.
It’s because you’ve closed your eyes for just a sec that you don’t see Sara come in. You hear the fridge door jerk open and there she is, staring into it, breathing audibly. She snatches a paper-bag lunch from the second shelf. You think she’s going to slam the door, but she closes it slowly, then stalks over to the table and sits down hard.
You knew she would take it hard. The past matters a lot more once it’s over. But this–the rigid back, hands on the table clenched into white fists–is a little beyond that. Her breathing is loud, like she’s trying to control it. Then she puts her head in her hands, fingers digging into short dark hair, and her shoulders start to jerk soundlessly.
If you move now, she’ll know you’ve seen her. Speechless and unsure, you stay put, gut bottoming out as you listen to her choke back sobs. Finally they slow, and she speaks, biting out the words with surprising venom. “You stupid, selfish, inconsiderate bastard.” The next breath is stifled, frustrated. She pushes her hands to the back of her neck and looks up across the empty room. “What were you thinking? What the hell were you thinking?”
Sara’s voice rises on the last few words, and you know someone’s going to hear her if she keeps going like this. Choosing the lesser of two evils, you get up and cross the room towards the coffeepot, into her line of vision. You hear her startled indrawn hiss and studiously ignore it. “Any coffee left? I need a refill.” You empty your mug into the sink and turn to reach for the pot.
Sara is staring at you, smudges of mascara dark around her eyes, the corners of her mouth pulling down. Accusing. You want to go to her, hug her, something, but there’s half a room between you, and you’re not sure you wouldn’t meet a fist if you tried.
At least you could ask. “You doing okay?”
The strangled sound she makes could be a leftover sob or a damaged laugh, and still she stares at you. You watch her draw a deep breath, and when she speaks it’s low but in control. “He didn’t even clean out the fucking fridge,” she says. A shaking hand comes up to wipe across one cheek, then the other.
You don’t know what to say to that, so you pour yourself some coffee and watch Sara get up stiffly, shove out the door, and head right, towards the restrooms. She leaves her lunch sitting on the table in its crumpled paper bag.
It seems like the least you can do to leave your mug sitting there and put that lunch away. When you open the fridge, you see that Sara was right. There’s a beaker full of something sitting on the top shelf, familiar blue handwriting on the label. You put Sara’s lunch back on the second shelf and hesitate.
The break room door swings open. “Warrick.” It’s Catherine, leaning against the jamb. “Greg’s looking for you. A little too excited, even for him.”
You leave the beaker where it is and shut the fridge. “Thanks, Catherine, I’ll be right there.” She stands there, like she’s waiting for something. “Great, just what I needed tonight,” you mumble. Catherine looks at you, then leaves without a word.
Silence settles in the empty room once more. You breathe deep, let it out in a long sigh. “You may have been a ghost in high school, man. How come you never figured out you were a lot more than that, here?”
There is, of course, no possibility of an answer. You pick up your coffee and wander out to find Greg and his test results.
And for those interested, my inspiration for this story was these lines at the end of "Ellie":
Grissom: You think I like dealing with people? Do you remember when you asked me what I was in high school?
Warrick: You said, “A ghost.”
Grissom: When I leave CSI, there won’t be cake in the break room. I’ll just be gone.