Title: Only the Brave

Author: Summer Reign

Rating: T

Spoilers: If you don't want to be spoiled for episode 7, turn away now. Now, of course, this is all my imagination, but it is based on spoilers and pictures for the episode.

Disclaimer: CSI doesn't belong to me. If it did, it would be called the Grissom and Sara Sunshine Hour.

Summary: Courage comes in strange forms.

Warning: Hideously sentimental.

1. Only the Brave…know when to let go.

He had lied to Lurie all those years ago.

It wasn't 'risking everything he had worked for in order to have her' that kept him away from Sara. It was fear.

Of the two of them, he always knew she was the brave one.

Sara was the one who came up to him, fresh-faced and smiling, ponytail bobbing as she walked to the front of the lecture hall with her hand outstretched. She was the one who introduced herself before launching into her version of twenty questions.

Sara was the one who didn't need time to think--just jumped on the plane a few hours after he called. She was the one who asked to be tied up…and pinned down.

The one who wanted to accompany him on walks to "clear his head," cleaned off non-existent chalk from his face, and sought his company for dinner.

But he was afraid. So afraid. Because, even with all his inactivity toward her in the romance department, she still managed to work her way inside his heart. And if he took her up on all the unspoken promises shining brightly in her deep brown eyes, and then she turned around and left him…he'd be finished. Done. Broken.

But she stayed. Even when he couldn't think of a single reason why, she stayed. Stayed through all the insecurities he had about himself, her, and them. Stayed through the jealousy. Stayed through the moodiness he'd like to blame on middle age, but knew was the result of a lifetime of self-imposed hermit-ism.

And now, she was leaving him. Finally.

But, not really.

And he was letting her go. Because she was leaving for her. Not because of him. For her, For him. For them.

And even though he knew how frightened she was, she was doing it. And doing it alone.

She always had been the brave one.

Brave enough to actually deliver her letter.

She walked into his office while waiting for her cab to arrive, and told him to read it after she was gone. Threw her arm around his shoulder, gave him another tender kiss on the cheek and went to the locker room to get a warmer jacket she kept in there for emergency cold spells. San Francisco could get a lot nippier than Vegas.

He didn't ever want to read the letter. Not ever. Chicken-shit that he was, he just wanted to ignore its existence. Never mind the wedding vows they had exchanged a few weeks before, or the two years of official loving after seven years of playing at…something. It was going to be a Grissomian version of a Dear John letter. Perhaps divorce papers with a big hot pink sticky reading "sign here."

She wasn't out of the room for two minutes before he ripped the envelope open and took out the sheets of paper. If he was going to do this, it was going to have to be like ripping off a bandage: quick and painful.

He frowned. Yes, she had told him she needed to visit her roots. Needed to clear her head. She was having nightmares. He knew all this.

She needed ocean views, not desert.

All understandable.

But, as in many cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, past demons saw an opened door and jumped right in to party with her current problems. She spoke of her father, her mother and the lonely life she led until she found a safe, loving harbor—with him.

And she talked about how he had helped her face life head-on. Because he was her safety net. She knew he'd catch her, if she fell. Even during their rough times.

She'd always felt his strength, and would hold it to her while she sought to find hers again.

She finished with a few words of love and he was out the door before he realized he threw the letter on his desk.

Sara had just put on her leather-like jacket. It was surprising what they could do with synthetics nowadays.

They had stood this way, a little less than a year before. He, searching his incredible computer of a mind to find something to say, finally settling on "I'll miss you," knowing how inadequate a phrase that really was. She, looking like she was losing something she'd never find again.

And, at that moment, nearly a year before, he knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that at least part of his motivation in taking a sabbatical was fear. But this time, he was facing it, in an odd sort of way. Yes, he was going for his own mental health. But there was an added benefit, of sorts. When the month was over, he'd know how she really felt about him. How committed to him she really was. He'd leave her. See if she'd stay. Knowing she would. Hoping she would. Praying she would.

She did.

And part of him felt ashamed for any doubts that dared enter his mind.

He made it up to her. He showed her how much he had missed her. Even left an unsent letter he wrote, trying to express himself…around. She read his words. He knew that. He didn't even need to pull out his print kit to know that. It was in her eyes the minute he re-entered their bedroom.

And they both found each other. And almost lost each other, through no fault of their own. And found each other again.

And now…

"Sara," he said, and she looked at him. "I read your letter."

She frowned. "You could have at least waited until the cab pulled away. It's not even here yet, you know."

"I know."

"I'm sorry, Gris," she said, approaching him and running her finger down the front of his jacket. "I just couldn't say some of those things without falling apart, but I wanted you to know. It was important for me to tell you that I'm not leaving you. I need you to understand that."

"I know. It's all right," he smiled and licked his lips. His mouth felt dry all of a sudden. How could he let her go…now? How could he let her out of his sight for a day, never mind a week? Two weeks? More? He called on his inner reserves and mustered up a smile. "Will you send me a sonnet while you're away?"

She smiled. "Every day, if you'd like."

"Actually, I think I prefer your own words."

"I think I could manage that," she said, her smile becoming slightly more forced while the sheen in her eyes became slightly more pronounced.

"Sara…I…" he took a deep breath. "If you need me…I know you want to do this alone, but if you need me for anything…to talk to…to come and stay with you. Anything. Just call. I'll be there in a few hours. Nothing is more important than you. No one. "

She swallowed hard and nodded in understanding.

"And you're wrong. I had nothing to do with it. All your strength is right…here," he reached out and laid the palm of his hand between her breasts. "When you feel it again, and you will, Sara--come on home. I'll be waiting."

He stepped forward and put his arms around her waist.

"Gris. We're at work," she said, but didn't sound the least bit convincing in her disapproval.

"Who cares?" he said, and pulled her closer.

9 years before, he was a different man than the one that he was today. He had been willing to spend time with the cute brunette, but didn't go crazy and give in to every impulse he felt.

7 years before, he did give in to impulse and called her.

And then became cautious.

5 years before, he closed himself off. He didn't need her in his life. He didn't need complications.

2 years before, he did need her. The complications, he would deal with.

Today, he welcomed it all. The woman, their dog, the marriage, the complications. He welcomed them all. He welcomed life.

Because life gave him the most unexpected gift: the woman who stood by his side. And she would continue to stand right there, even in her absence.

He had picked the right sonnet a year before.

And so, he kissed her. There was a clear intention in almost every kiss he had ever given her. In this one, he wanted to convey love, and trust, and hope and sorrow and every emotion he had ever felt since the moment that ponytailed girl walked into his classroom and turned his world upside down. And some of the message must have been transmitted, because when he pulled away slightly, she smiled. A knowing smile.

She'd be back. Sooner than she thought.

She could do this. Of that, he was certain. And he could do this. He was pretty certain of that, as well.

And he felt a little braver than he had ever felt before.

And it was all because of Sara.

Everything good in his life…was because of Sara.


Chapter 2

Only the Brave…can walk alone

She stood in line waiting for the keys to her rental car. Taking her vehicle would have been an option. Maybe even the smarter choice. But she wanted to send a very clear message to Grissom. Her body was physically leaving the state. Her life was still at home with him.

Or something like that.

There had been so many things to take into consideration when making this decision. But, ultimately, it all boiled down to what was best for her, him and them. And she couldn't, and wouldn't be doing them any favors, in the long-run, if she continued feeling the way she felt and kept trying to tamp down her emotions.

She twirled the gold band on her left hand. Married. She smiled. Married. She liked the word. A lot more than she ever imagined she would. She had a husband. She was a wife--perhaps a somewhat unconventional one, leaving for an indeterminate amount of time so soon after their vows. But, no.


He understood.

She didn't ask for Natalie to come into their lives.

And she sure as hell didn't ask for…

Never mind.

There were places to go; people—a couple of them—to see.

She took the keys from the agent and slipped into her mode of transportation for however long this journey was going to take.

Step one needed to happen even before she checked into her hotel. As she drove, the late-afternoon sun hit the water, reflecting tiny jewel-like sparks all along its surface. She rolled down her window and took a deep breath.

This was more like it. Hot air did not burrow its way in, making breathing difficult. No, this air was clean and cool, and she breathed it in deeply, and exhaled slowly.

She had missed this.

Sara parked her car and walked a couple of blocks. Her hotel was just a Ramada Inn near Fisherman's Wharf. And this was just a tiny stretch of beach down the hill from Ghiradelli Square. She kicked off her shoes and forced herself to walk, not run, to the water. She hiked up her jeans and walked in up to her knees and looked around. Straight ahead: Alcatraz. To her left: the Golden Gate Bridge.

To her right…

Her smile faded a bit. For a minute there, she had expected to see Grissom, standing beside her, blue eyes twinkling in excitement over her excitement.

She sighed and took in another panoramic view.

The only way to do this…was to do this.


"I knew you'd be a string-bean," she said, giving Sara the once over—from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet and back. "You were tall for your age—even then."

"Um, thanks?"

"Spoke too soon," Laura Sidle said, stopping her visual tour at Sara's mid-section. "Pregnant?"

"No. I've just always had a problem in that area."

Laura lifted her eyebrows and screwed up her mouth in distaste.

"Well, sit. I know you have stuff you want to talk about so…talk."

"Are you sure I'm not keeping you from something?" Sara asked, not even attempting to hide her sarcasm.

"Yeah. My life. Now, sit."

Sara had called her mother from the hotel. There was no preparation for this visit. She just drove the hour's drive to a small bungalow-style house her mother was living in, and was let in by a woman she barely recognized. Her mother was smaller than she remembered, grayer, more wrinkled, obviously. And her green eyes held little warmth. But, then again, she didn't remember that much warmth to begin with.

Sara sat down.

"So," Laura said, grabbing a pack of cigarettes and taking a seat on the couch across from Sara. "What do you want to know? About your father? Why I did it? Why I basically cut myself off from you and your brother? Any, or all of the above?"


Laura took a long drag from her cigarette, releasing the smoke in one long, steady stream.

"I met your father in college. 1965. Two pot-heads from strict homes who wanted to be free-spirited hippies, sitting on the floor, smoking dope and making love. He was due to get an inheritance from his grandfather. It was sitting in trust until his 21st birthday. And it was pretty big, especially for those days. So, we started planning.

The B&B was on sale. It seemed like such a cool idea. We could check people into their rooms between joints and fucks. How could life be any better? His 21st birthday came, we got the B&B, dropped out of school and got married. Pretty much in that order."

She leaned forward.

"But, here's the hitch. Your father didn't go off to school. He was still living at home until we got married, and his mother did everything for him but wipe his ass. And, guess what? Free-spirit or not, he expected me to do the same. And then, the pot and sex didn't seem so great. It was his money, his business and he wanted it to run like clockwork—not run into the ground. Suddenly, he wasn't so much fun anymore, you know?

And I argued—a lot.

And he did what he was taught to do by his father. He smacked me into submission."

"Why didn't you leave right away?" Sara asked.

"Leave and do what? This was the md-60s.There were no battered women's shelters. My parents had cut off contact when I ran off to marry Tom. And I was already expecting your brother the first time he smacked me around. I didn't have too many options. I didn't really have skills to support myself."

Laura laughed. "You don't believe me. Well, I don't care. I'm telling you how it was from my point of view.

Anyway, you came along six years later. And, I've got to say, all hell was breaking loose about that time. Cause there was a clear dividing line. I had my son and Tom was jealous, and then he had his princess and I was really jealous because he wouldn't think of touching you the way he touched me."

"So you did it instead?" Sara asked, although it was a rhetorical question. If she had even looked at her mother in the "wrong way,' a spanking was in her near future.

"Yup. He smacked me around, I smacked you around. And he smacked me—or Joey—around even more. We were one fucked-up bunch."

"I know all of this, Mother, can we…"

"Get to the good part?" She barked out a laugh that was nothing short of chilling, then took another drag on her cigarette. "You married?"


"How long?"

"A month."

Laura looked at her through the thick fog of smoke that surrounded her and burst into laughter. Sara had a sudden urge to run out of the room, back home—to Gil—and never, ever look back again.

"Oh, my God. I knew there had to be a reason for this. I mean, I told you off—but good—the last time you called me in jail. What? Close to 20 years ago? I never expected to hear from you again after that. What's wrong? Afraid you're gonna pull a dear-old-mom and stab hubby to death or did you want some pointers on how to do it?"

Sara's eyes filled with angry tears and she stood up. This had been a big mistake. She didn't know who this bitter shell of a woman was, and didn't care.

"Oh, sit down, Sara. You have no sense of humor."

Sara bit her lip and sat. Ten minutes. She'd give this bitch ten more minutes and then she'd be free of her forever.

"I'm not sure what you want to hear. But, it wasn't some weird impulse. I knew I'd kill him someday. Almost from the beginning of our marriage. I think that's why I got such a long sentence. There was some premeditation involved and very little remorse. But I learned to play the game later. I said what needed to be said to get out."

"You loved him once."

"I loved the idea of him. By the time I pulled the knife out of the drawer, I didn't even see him as a person. I saw him as my stumbling block to freedom. I wasn't meant for a controlling husband. Maybe I wasn't meant for any kind of a husband, I don't know. And—you want the truth? Yeah, I loved you kids. As best as I could. But I didn't—and don't—want you in my life either."


"Because I know I didn't do right by you. I know that. I can't ever make that up. And I don't even want to try. I don't want to think that hard, or feel that hard. I'm happy now, in my own way. You wanna send me a Christmas card or pictures of the grandkids? Go ahead. But don't expect anything in return."

"I never have," Sara said, quietly yet firmly.

"There's my smart girl," Laura said, stubbing her cigarette out in the ashtray and ushering Sara to the door.


Sara lay face down on the bed for hours. After her initial bout of uncontrollable shaking finally subsided, she didn't move at all. Didn't sleep, didn't think.

She shouldn't do what she was about to do. But…there were no rules to any of this.

She picked up the phone.

"Honey?" he answered, breathless and excited.

"Talk to me, Gil."

"Where are you? Are you all right?" She almost never called him by his given name. She had no idea why. She just preferred "Gris.' He knew something was wrong immediately.

"I'm in my hotel room and I'm fine. Sort of. No more questions, all right? Not today. You know that sonnet? Our sonnet?"

"Of course."

"Read it to me? Just read it to me, please?"


And he did. Although Sara knew there was no book in front of him and the words were coming straight from his head and his heart.

Five minutes later, Sara told him she loved him, put her head down on the pillow, and cried herself to sleep.


And I have NO idea where that interpretation of Laura Sidle came from. I knew I wanted her in the story, but when I started writing her, that's what came out and I had a field day with her. I just figured…you know, Sara sticks by everyone she loves. There has to be one hell of a reason she (allegedly) has no contact with her mother.

Credits: "Only the brave…can walk alone' is taken from a song I found on google(!) by a group called Runrig. Interesting lyrics, actually. Very GSR.

And I was just looking for title-related quotes!

Chapter 3:

Only the brave…accept what is given, even when they want more

Grissom sat in his office. The only light that illuminated the room was coming from the desk lamp. The overheads were out. He needed the dark. It reflected his mood.

He was studiously trying to complete the rather small amount of paperwork he had left. It was amazing how much work he had gone through in an effort to stop thinking about…everything else.

His fingers were itching, though, to do more than paperwork. He really wanted to check his email in-box for the 80th time that day.

She would contact him. All in due time.

A gentle tap was heard from the vicinity of his door. He looked up and saw Judy, the receptionist, carrying a big box.

"Delivery for you, Dr. Grissom. From a "Mrs. Grissom.'"

He jumped to his feet and reached Judy and the package in two quick strides.

"I didn't know your mother's name was Sara," Judy said, a twinkle of amusement in her eyes.

"My mother's name was Jessica. Sara is my wife, Judy."



"Wow. Like legally?"


"Well, congratulations," Grissom nodded his head in acknowledgement. "Who would think she'd go for a name change?"

Grissom shrugged and gave what was, for him, a delighted smile, "Not me."

"Well, I guess I'll leave you to it, then."

"Thank you, Judy," he said, and gestured toward the door. She bowed out gracefully, closing the door behind her and probably enlightening about five uninformed souls about the "news" before returning to her desk. And, somehow, that made Grissom ridiculously happy. His team knew. Ecklie knew. Everyone else was learning gradually.

Grissom wasted no time. He looked at the package. Sara's familiar handwriting was scrawled all over it in black magic marker. And the return address did, indeed, read "Mrs. Sara Grissom" with their home address underneath. He could just picture her doing this, to make him smile more than anything else. She succeeded.

He opened the package to reveal a basket with Ghiradelli chocolate bars in it…six dark chocolate, three semi-sweet and three milk. A small note was attached. "I know nine of these aren't exactly your cup of tea, but they are healthier alternatives. The other three…well, they just fell in my shopping cart and I thought you might like them. P.S. Don't give any to Bruno. Chocolate is BAD for dogs. Really bad. A no-no."

Then there was a giant, plush bee. All yellow, black and chubby. The note attached to that one read, "Bee good. Ha ha."

And then, there was something soft wrapped in tissue paper. The note on that one read, "I will deny ever giving you this. But there is this funky little store in town called "Crazy Shirts,' and, well…how could I resist? You have to promise NEVER to wear it in public." He opened it and smiled. He was greeted by a dark green shirt with lighter green frogs all over it. It was hideous and wonderful, all at the same time. And she threw in a pair of dark green boxer shorts for good measure.

And, at the bottom of the box, was a letter. Another thing she included in her package, that he hadn't had the nerve to do in his.

He took a deep breath. He knew there were no divorce papers in there. You don't give sweets, an ugly shirt and a stuffed bug to someone before telling them you want to divorce them. Still…

He opened it and sat down to read:

"Hey, hubby!

So, how did I know you'd be at the lab, instead of home? I guess I must be psychic, huh?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy your little CARE package. It was nice going shopping for you. I kept telling everyone I was buying these things for my husband. Sickeningly romantic, no? Actually, it was just something that felt very normal. And I needed normal today.

Listen, I know you must have been worried about me the other night. And I was worried, too. I had gone to see my mother that afternoon, and it was everything I had ever thought it would be (in my worst nightmare), only more…intense.

It was really tough. And, thank you for just doing what I asked. I just really needed to hear your voice, but if you had said anything more, I would have been back on a plane that night. And that might have been good for the moment, but not great for our future.

So, progress report? I did one really tough thing. It's taken me two days to recover from said tough thing but I'm better today. Hence, the shopping. You should get this tomorrow since I'm sending it by Fedex.

And, that's it.

Love you, Gris. I really do.


He walked over to the computer.

To: sidleonover
From: GGrissom

Re: Package

I got your special delivery. Judy now joins the list of people Who Know. Which means the entire lab will know by tomorrow. Very subtle, Mrs. G. Not that I'm complaining, At all.

I was scared for you, Sara. I'm very glad I got the package and, especially, the letter today. It's helped tremendously.

I will eat all the milk chocolate first. Then try to swallow some of the dark, for medicinal purposes, of course. I won't feed any to Bruno. I have read Doggies for Dummies, you know.

Bruno and I will sleep with Buzz (I already named the bee, you see), but I'll hold off on wearing my chic outfit until I see you again. I'll wear it to bed on the day you come home.

And if that isn't enough incentive to hurry on back….

I love you right back, my Sara.

Thyself away art resent still with me



Chapter 4

Only the Brave: Seek the truth

Sara sat on the beach again.

Well, it was hardly a beach-beach. There was no great display of greased bodies or swimming. But she liked the large strip of sand facing the Golden Gate Bridge. She always had. It was teeming with life, and had the best view of San Francisco. And it was a place where she felt oddly restored. Here was a little bit of real beauty, in a world that sometimes felt filled with ugliness. It had been beautiful the first time she saw it; it had been beautiful eight years ago, when she left the city; and it was still, and always would be—beautiful. The timeless quality of the area helped her put some things in perspective.

It had taken her two days to recover from her visit with her mother. Two days of sitting in her hotel room, blackout curtains drawn. She finally turned on the television. Ordered room service. Tried not to think. Then thought too much.

She had loved her mother. In spite of it all. She loved her father, too. She knew the things he did to her Laura, which explained a lot, in her young mind, of her mother's actions toward herself. But none of the rationalizations made things "right." Nothing could make any of it right. It just was what it was.

If she hadn't married Grissom, and if certain events hadn't occurred afterwards, she would not have sought Laura out. Ever. Laura had pretty much burned her last bridge during a phone call Sara made to the prison sometime during her 16th year. She had just called to wish her mom a happy birthday and was pretty much told every single thing that Laura disliked/hated/despised about Sara since the day she was born. She was sent off with a "live with your fancy-schmancy foster folks and leave me alone."

That had been painful. Especially since she had been in a pretty tense foster situation at the time.

She stood up and stretched.

It was time to go back to the hotel and change clothes.

Time to visit Joe.

If her brother was even half as bitter as her mother, she was going to be home with Gil by nightfall.


"Sara Lee," he said, as he opened the door and grinned.

Who was this man? The last time she had seen him, he had been a pimply-faced young 18-year old. Now, he was a grown man, in his early 40s—not overly tall, slightly balding, and a little on the chubby side. His green eyes, though, were not cruel and cold. They were warm and affectionate.

"Stop calling me that, Joey."

"Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Sara Lee…" he sang the old jingle for Sara Lee pound cake. He used to torment her with that song as a kid. But it was a good type of torment. "Hey, have a seat. It's really weird seeing someone I never thought I'd see again. Wasn't really sure I wanted to see you again, really. Old life and all that jazz. Sit, sit."

Sara made her way past a playpen with a sleeping toddler in it, and toys…lots and lots of toys.

"That's your nephew, in there. Caleb. My wife's idea. Who names a kid Caleb?"

Sara smiled and looked at the child. He was cute, even though he was drooling in his sleep. She had a sudden yearning to see Bruno and smiled at the bizarre leap her mind had taken.

"You have kids, Saralee?"


"Married…oh-yeah. You are. Just spotted the ring. Very shiny. Too shiny. So, for how long?"

"A month."

"Wow. What are you doing here? Geez. I don't think I had left the bed once when I was married for only a month."

"We've been together for two years, so…we have gone slightly past that stage," she said, a small smile appearing on a suddenly flushed face.

"Cool," he said, sitting down on a chair, then leaping up again. "Hey, you want something to drink? Carol is off at work and I'm Mr. Mom today. She'd be pissed if I didn't offer you something."

"I don't want anything."

He sat back down. "So, how did you find me?"

"I asked Mom if she happened to know where you were and she gave me your address," she said. "So, how did she know?"

Joe frowned and, for the first time that afternoon, looked troubled. "Mom. So, you've seen her, huh? That must have been a barrel of laughs. She's…something, isn't she? Actually, she requested 'contact information,' so when the time comes—people will know who is in charge of her burial. I went to see her after she got out of prison. She gave me the big kiss-off, and then asked me to bury her. Yeah, Mom. Sure. I'd be thrilled to do it."

Sara laughed, in spite of herself.

Then, she got serious. She didn't want to tell Joe this, but felt she should put all her cards on the table. "Right before I left…Mom suggested that I may be visiting a younger version of my father. That certain …traits seemed to be passed on from generation to generation, in the Sidle family."

"Well, wasn't that nice of her? She'll be lucky if she gets a Hefty bag, now," he smiled a grim sort of smile. "For the record, I have two other kids. In school now, or we wouldn't be able to get one word in. The boy-child, Harry, is 12, our girl, Gemma, is 7. Jesus, where did the name Caleb come from? Anyway, I haven't so much as smacked their hands. Not once, in their entire lives. They get "time outs,' when they misbehave. They hate me anyway, sometimes , but…no. I don't hit them. And I don't hit my wife. Ever. I've never wanted to. How could we have seen what we saw and want to emulate that?"

"How did dad? He saw his father do it."

"I don't know. Different times? Different attitudes? Who knows?"

"Well, if you did, it's not likely you'd tell me, is it?" Sara said, pushing the issue one step further, just to be sure.

"I wouldn't have to," Joe said, staring her straight in the face. "You'd know. You know you would. I know when someone is abusive. I can spot them a mile away. And, frankly, you've always been smarter than I am. What are you afraid of, Saralee? What made you leave your husband to run after the past only one month after tying the knot? You're not afraid of hurting him, are you?"

"I don't think so. I just…don't know. That's the whole thing. I don't know."

"Talk it out. You know you want to."

She remembered the boy who became the man. He lived in the house until the day of the murder. And then he was given the option of going into foster care, or going out on his own. He was, technically, of age. He went out on his own. He tried, for a while, to stay in touch, but then went to the East Coast, and Sara hadn't heard from him since.

There had been a different life waiting for him. She didn't blame him at all.

But he had been a partner throughout her life: shared in the few fun times, shared in the pain, shared in the fear.

And, ultimately, knew the heartache.

She took a deep breath and tried to voice what had been bothering her for weeks.

"I once told a room full of my colleagues—I work in forensics—that I could never kill anyone. And, yet…that's exactly what I almost did about two weeks ago."

"Not your husband?" he asked, a look of fear crossing his face.

She smiled. "No. But not much better."

"Go ahead."

"I had a case a few years back. This kid—pre-teen genius—managed to convince a jury that her brother did not commit a murder. That she was the one who actually did it. . She later told me—bragged, actually, that her brother did do it and she got him off using her brains. And, she had. But, when her trial came up, the evidence we had didn't stand up, and both of them walked. Anyway, fast forward a few years and I met "Hannah' again. And history repeated itself. Her brother was in trouble again, and this young rookie, who was assigned as my partner, figured it all out. Rather surprisingly. All of it. While she was in a room alone, talking to Hannah. I don't know what it was, something Hannah said or an expression in her face, but all the pieces fell into place.

And she made a huge mistake. She blurted it out in front of Hannah. Hannah burst into tears, Ronnie—my partner—went to comfort her, because, well—she seems to be a 16-year old kid crying over her brother's crime—and, when she did, Hannah grabbed Ronnie's gun. I walked into the room just as Hannah was going to shoot Ronnie. I pulled my gun and told her to drop it."

"And did she?" Joe asked.

"No. She was standing there, with Ronnie in front of her, and I knew that she had every intention of killing her. And every intention of killing me right after. And then probably getting both her and her brother out of the country before anyone even knew to look for us. Ronnie, even if she's in her early 20s, is very much a kid. She looks about 12, and babbles like a child. And there she was, with these big, innocent brown eyes full of fear, knowing she could be facing the last minutes of her life. Something in me just…couldn't let that happen…and, I just…fired."

"You killed Hannah?"

"No, at the last minute, I moved my hand so the bullet whizzed past her by about a foot. She had absolutely convinced herself that I would never do it, and it distracted her enough that she dropped the gun. It was all over. But…the intention…"

"Saralee! Are you insane?" He asked, green eyes flashing.

"Maybe. You tell me," she asked, a challenge in her voice.

"What makes you think I'm the poster boy for mental health?"

"You have a more normal life than I do. That's enough of a credential for me."

"Okay. Did you want to kill Hannah?"


"Could you have lived with yourself if she killed Ronnie?"


"Would you have let her kill you?"

"I hope not."

"I believe all that, dear sister, is called "self-defense.' You should read about it someday in your crime stoppers manual. Sara, we're not some genetic machines. Yeah, I have mom's green eyes. Does that mean I look through them and see myself stabbing someone to death? No. You've got dad's. Do you see yourself smacking your spouse around? We see what we see. We feel what we feel. We've learned from our parents' mistakes. Our kids will learn from ours, God willing. Come on. You have to know that. I mean, I know this must have scared the crap out of you, but the fact that you're worried about it means you are very aware of the world around you. And very cautious about how you deal with others. Does that sound like the thoughts of someone who would ever batter or willfully kill someone?"

Sara shook her head and took a deep breath. It felt shaky in her lungs.

Joe stood up. "I'm gonna get you something to drink. Ice tea okay?"

She nodded. "Go—pick up your nephew if you want. He's a good one to help you focus on what's important in life. He'll take his wet little hand that he spit all over, and use it to pinch your nose and you'll forget there's anything in the world but this kid who stinks to high heaven because he's waiting for Auntie Saralee to change his diaper."


To: GGrissom

From: SidleonOver

Subject: Pictures

Hey, hub.

I'm sending you a bunch of pictures. Both old, and new. Don't pass out. I'm holding a baby in one of them. He's a relative. I had to.

My visit with Joe turned out a lot better than the one with Mom. Maybe, someday, you'll actually meet your nephews and niece (nephews and niece-in-laws? I haven't learned all of the marriage lingo yet).



Grissom smiled and downloaded the zip file.

The first few pictures were difficult to look at. He had never seen a picture of Sara's family before. Ever. He had never even seen a picture of her as a child. He wasn't sure she had any. These must have come from her brother. Young Sara's freckles were even more pronounced than they were now, and her hair was a kind of dirty blonde, which he hadn't expected at all. Although it kind of explained the ultra-fair complexion. She was smiling. The gap was there. Even back then.

They looked like an average family. No indication of the dirty little secrets within. Still, looking at the pictures made his stomach clench.

These were the people that made Sara's early life a living hell.

He scrolled on down and his stomach clenched in a different way.

There was a picture taken today.

She was sitting on a couch, his beautiful Sara, in the middle of a highly cluttered room. There was a baby on her lap, and a man—he assumed it was her brother, seated next to her, with his arm casually draped around her shoulder. Two more kids, one a pre-teen with a grimace, and one a pigtailed little girl with a big smile, were seated on the floor, by the adults' legs.

Sara was smiling.


She could do it no matter what, but he knew when it was forced and this one wasn't.

That was always a very good sign.

He hit "print" on this last shot, and later put the photo up on his bulletin board with a pushpin.


Chapter 5

Only the Brave: Patiently Wait

Grissom looked up from his desk. He wasn't even pretending to work. He was just thinking. And wondering whether to check his email again.

He had told Sara he liked the pictures she had sent him, while secretly hoping the "old" ones were not going up anywhere in their house. Well, that's not true. He wouldn't mind one with her or her brother but he was having a hard time looking at the images of her parents with any degree of neutrality.

He let out a breath, slowly. He just ached for her. Grissom didn't like the idea of her doing this on her own. He had wanted, and did want, to do this with her, although—in many ways, he knew he'd impede the healing process. It wouldn't be intentional but, when they were together, she always had a strong desire to shield him from anything that might cause pain. And he was fairly certain she knew that thoughts of her living the life she had led definitely fit the bill.

Besides, she felt secure enough to do this alone. That was a step in the right direction. She had spent years trying to just "move on,' without dealing with a lot of repressed emotions. Now, she wanted to face it all so she could move into the next phase of her life—their lives—without letting her past dictate their future in any way. It was, probably, the healthiest thing she ever did.

That didn't mean he had to like it, though.

Grissom missed Sara terribly. On a purely selfish level, he missed being with her, kissing her, holding her, loving her. But he also missed talking with her. Without a doubt, she had become his greatest friend, as well as his lover and, now, his wife.

He'd like to tell her that he did, actually, sleep with Buzz—the stuffed bee she sent him. Not by personal choice but because Bruno must have caught Sara's scent on the toy, and refused to let it out of his sight. So, it was Man, with arm slung around Beast, with paw slung around Bee. And that's how they slept.

Now, that was a picture that would be sure to go on their mantle, if Sara ever saw it.

But he refrained from telling her any of this. Only Sara could determine the length of her journey, and no cute story from home, possibly tugging at her emotions, should get in her way. He'd tell her all of this when she got back.

He began to think of starting a list.

"I'm going to deny saying this, but I miss Sidle," Conrad Ecklie stood in the doorway, after opening the door so sharply, it banged against the wall.

"And hello to you, too, Conrad. I will admit to missing "Sidle' as well," Grissom said.

Conrad came in and took a seat. "You know, between her leaving and Ronnie taking time off to decide whether she's coming back at all, swing shift is completely screwed up. And I will say that Sidle is much better than the rest of the jokers who work that slot."

Grissom just stared at the man. He had absolutely no idea where he was going with all of this. Oh, wait…

"You're not asking that I use my…influence…to get her back. Because that's not something…"

"No. I'm not," Ecklie said quickly, before an expression of pure discomfort crossed his face. "I'm … well, you know. Sidle and I…got off on the wrong foot. And…well, I once called her a loose cannon with a gun. Don't think I forgot I said that. Actually, I thought it was a very insightful remark at the time. But, well…"

"Spit it out, Conrad."

"She saved Ronnie's life. And didn't take out the suspect. She should have, maybe. It would have been within standard operating procedure to at least disable her, but…it wouldn't have looked good for the lab. She did well in a very clutch situation. And considering the timing of all of this, I just had to come in here and tell you that I was wrong about her. And you can tell her that, although—as I said before—I'll deny it vehemently. She did a really good job in an extremely bad situation. I'm glad she's still part of the lab. And I'd be happy if she stuck around."

Grissom stared at him for a moment, eyes slightly squinted, trying to read the man. He was red faced, sweating slightly and looking nothing short of nauseous. And he was telling the truth about what he felt.

Grissom couldn't help himself. He looked over at the jar with his fetal pig to see if Ms. Piggy had sprouted wings and was about to fly.


"Thanks, Conrad," Grissom said, trying not to make a non-manly fuss over something that really did touch him. "I have no idea if she'll resume working here, but…thanks."

Ecklie nodded and walked out of the room, this time closing the door quietly behind him.

To: SidleOnOver

From: GGrissom

Subject: You'll never believe this…

But Conrad Ecklie was in here just now, telling me how much he missed and adored you.

Wait. Would that keep you out of the state longer? Scratch that, then.

Seriously—and I do mean seriously—he was saying some very nice things about you. It was a little frightening.

He didn't know what else to say. He knew what he wanted to say: Come home. I'll make things all right. I love you. I need you. I want you. I miss you. The dog misses you. The bees miss you. The very air that surrounds us is stagnating without you being a part of it.

Or, at the very least, he wanted to talk about everyone's reaction to her leaving. How Catherine was trying to give him unasked for bedroom advice, convinced that was the problem. How Brass was hauling around a bottle of scotch after every shift was over. How Nick referred to little fillies needing to sow some oats (!) while Warrick was moaning about his own busted-up marriage, as if they were now members of the same secret brotherhood.

None of that would help.

And it wouldn't necessarily help, although it might amuse her, to know that Greg was giving him the evil eye every time he saw him because he was convinced Grissom had done something to drive his Sara away. Or he was still pissed about the wedding no one was invited to and, during which, if he had been given a chance, he surely would have been the "anyone" who would have objected to the union of this man and this woman. If looks could do anything, Grissom's wedding band would have melted under the heat of Greg's glare.

But, there was to be no pressure at all from the work or personal front. None.

He deleted the email, sat back and resumed the waiting game.


Chapter 6

Only the Brave: Release the Past

She had no idea why she had planned her day this way.

Several phone calls had to be made to set up the first phase. Talks with new owners, the renting of a room--in spite of the fact that she had no intention of staying in it for more than an hour, at most.

The new owners of the Bed and Breakfast her parents had owned were, apparently, more savvy businesspeople than her mother and father ever were. Not only did they now rent out the suite of rooms she had called "home" for the first third of her life, but they weren't giving out free looks to former inhabitants, either.

It didn't matter.

She walked into an establishment she didn't recognize at all. The lobby had been completely modernized. There was no old country charm to it. No great warmth. But, it was attractive enough. And the huge, wrap-around porch still had a lovely, peaceful view, in spite of the fact that there was now more formal landscaping.

Room 108. There had been no rooms to rent on the first floor when the Sidles lived there.

She ran the keycard in the slot and opened the door.

She walked from room to room. The "suite" consisted of half their former living quarters. The kitchen, Joe's room and an office were not a part of what was being rented. Instead, there was the larger bedroom her parents shared, her smaller room, a bathroom and a small living room.

Her father had been killed in the "living room." The ultimate irony.

No blood was there to greet her. Although, illogically, she expected it. She took a deep breath. No tell-tale copper smell.

And there wasn't a sound except for the hum of the air conditioner running full-blast.

No shocked, guttural sounds from her father as the knife plunged into his back time and time again.

No curses from her mother, ending in shocked shrieks. No matter what she said, this was not wholly planned. She had not planned on her reaction after finally fulfilling her grisly fantasy.

No screams and cries from her, as she ran into the room, mid-7th stab, grabbing at her mother's arm, only to be knocked on her ass because she was in the way of something that no one, and nothing, could stop.

And, finally, no sobs from her brother when he came home and found out what had happened while he had been on a nice, quiet, peaceful date.

It was just a set of rooms now. Like any other. Bland, generic type of rooms.

No signs of life.

No signs of death.

She looked out the window. Even this view was slightly different. Again, trees had been taken down and a large pool had been added to the back of the establishment.

There was nothing to see here. Nothing to hear. Nothing to feel.

Nothing at all.

Whatever had been was now just in her memory.


Wine Country. He was buried near wine country.

Kind of ironic, in a way. She remembered that he drank too much. Maybe way too much. She was too young to know how to gauge those things. She did remember he drank hard liquor. Wine wasn't all that popular in the Sidle household.

She stopped in the office and asked where Thomas Sidle's grave was. They gave her a section, a row, and a plot number and told her how to find it. After only a small detour, she found the grave. It was a fairly well-tended cemetery, but there were definitely weeds running rampant in between headstones.

Sara spent a few moments pulling them out, then took some wipes from the car, and cleaned off his headstone, until every trace of dust and rain spots was gone.

Thomas Sidle.

Beloved Son

Gone too soon
And the dates of his birth, and his death.

Obviously, her grandparents took care of the funeral arrangements. Adding 'beloved husband' would have been foolish, but 'beloved father?' Well, maybe that was foolish, too.

She wondered, briefly, if they were still alive. It was just a passing thought. She wouldn't look it up. They had an option of taking in their son's suddenly abandoned children, and chose not to give them a second thought.

And she was very grateful for that, after hearing where her father learned his abusive ways.

Her father had been just shy of his 40th birthday on the day he died.

Her father.

The first man who loved her. The first man she loved.

The man who beat her mother, and her brother, on a regular basis.

The man who was stabbed to death while preparing to spend the night in front of the television set.

She went back to the car and pulled out the green plastic "cone" vase. Then she unwrapped the flowers she bought and put them in, adding water from the nearby fountain. Sara stuck the spiked end of the vase in the ground in front of her father's headstone.

And then she sat down, crossed-legged, in front of it and just stared for a while.

Yes, she felt foolish. But, really, it was no more foolish than any other action in life.

"So," she said out-loud, after looking around to find herself pretty much alone in this section of the cemetery, "I'm not really sure why I'm doing this. I know you're not here. I'm not actually sure you're anywhere, really. The whole afterlife thing confuses me. I kind of believe in the human soul, and kind of actually believe it exists apart from the body, but…I don't know about all the rest. I really don't know. I'm kind of softening on the subject after …well, after a traumatic experience I had recently. It's kind of hard surviving an impossible situation and not giving the subject matter at least a little reconsideration. Gil believes, though. He's…well, if you are around…somewhere…you know who he is. And, if you're not..." she gave a soft laugh at how awkward her conversation with a dead man (who may or may not be hearing her) was.

"Gil is my husband. I hope you find that thought as funny as most of the people who know either one of us do. The thing is, I've tried not to think about you—any of you—for years. Since the day it happened, really. I once told Gris that up until that day, I thought the way I was growing up was normal. And I did. I really did. I thought those TV shows with the normal families were just idealized versions of what really went on. They presented these public images while behind closed doors…But no one else I knew had their mothers kill their fathers. No one. Not before, and not after. And," Sara bit her lip and looked down at her lap. "And that's when I found it really uncomfortable thinking about any of you. Because a whole bunch of questions that I never wanted answers to began floating through my mind."

"So, I took control over what I had control over, and accepted everything else. And I don't think that's an awful way to survive. It's probably not the healthiest but…okay, it's not the healthiest. Or the happiest. But, it's what I did. I studied really hard and learned as much about everything I could. And then, well…here comes fate again. Or whatever. I met Gil. And, through him, I found a purpose in life. I could make sense of horrific situations and let "normal' people—those who wanted answers—have them. And, hopefully, let them gain some peace in their lives.

And I really threw myself into my work. And still do. But, on a personal level, I had less than I wanted, but more than I ever expected. And that's kind of sad, isn't it? "Settling' for anything? So, anyway, I won't bore you with details but a couple of years ago, things shifted. I had stopped expecting anything, I think, and Gris had decided, at that time, that he was willing to take a chance and…for two years, I got adjusted to living with happiness. And, now, things have started to fall apart. Not with us. We are stronger than ever. For now. But, the outside world is getting in the way again.

And that's why I needed to come here. I needed to see all of you. Well," she said with a smile, "maybe not you.

I pretty much knew what I'd find with her. Mom. I can't tell you how many times I've been judge and jury in a domestic violence case we've had. I've always sided with the victim. But, I've also always known that, in mom's case, it wasn't all that black and white. And I'm not letting you off the hook. Not by a long-shot. I'm just saying two wrongs don't make a right. And what mom turned around and did to me, even if I could rationalize it, was not right and she was not blameless. And she's still doing it. Willfully and unapologetically. So…

I didn't blame Joe for leaving me and taking his chance on life. And he's a great guy now, he really is. I spent time with him and his family. His wife offered to let me do a strip search on her. Which I thought was…weird. But then she laughed and I realized he just married someone with as offbeat and dark a sense of humor as he has. And he's needed it to survive. But, anyway, his actions back then were hard to accept, even if I understood them.

But, you…"

Sara looked around the cemetery.

Okay. This was getting way too easy now. The words were coming fast, and soon…they might be headed toward furious. And she wasn't entirely sure she was comfortable with that.

She took a deep breath and decided to continue. This was not a leisure trip. Comfort was never an issue. The whole damned thing was uncomfortable. But the whole damned thing was necessary, too.

"When I would think of you at all, I'd try and convince myself you were not a bad man. You just did bad things. You never hit me. You loved me and I knew it. But there was this whole sick cycle going on and … seeing Joe the other day put everything in perspective. Whether you were taught these things by your parents or not, whether you could justify everything by having a "manly' role model who knew how to keep his woman in place, and whether or not Grandma accepted it as part of the marriage deal…somewhere along the line you had to look in your heart and know it was wrong.

And even if you didn't—with mom—which seems inconceivable to me—you had kids. I'm not great with kids. They make me uncomfortable. And you want to know why? Because they are innocent. You look in their eyes and you see trust. Total and complete trust that is there until you destroy it. And I've never wanted to accidentally destroy it with something foolish I may say or do.

But you destroyed it with Joe. And…yeah, you destroyed it with me. Because even if you didn't hurt me yourself, I was always, always wondering when it would be my "turn.' And that stuff that's been happening lately? I was starting to think I deserved it again. That there was just something about me that drew all this crap toward my life. And THAT'S your legacy. Yours and mom's. Because somewhere along the line, one or both of you needed to do what Joe did. You needed to realize you were hurting the innocent.

I have no idea if I'll ever have kids. But I do know that I won't do what you both did." She took a deep breath and felt the air go in—and out—unimpeded. Her whole being felt lighter than it had in quite awhile.

Because, somewhere in the middle of her tirade, she came to the truth.

And now it was time for the whole truth. The whole sad, heartbreaking truth.

"I guess you were a bad man, Dad. And mom was no prize herself. And there is nothing I can do about that. But I'm not letting it affect my life any longer. I have a good man who loves me, and a future. And we deserve to be happy."

She got up and brushed the dust off the back of her jeans.

"For what it's worth, I loved you anyway. I loved all of you."

There was one important thing she still had to do. She got up and went back to the trunk of the rental car, and pulled out the small duffel bag she had packed. She brought it back to the gravesite and sat down again.

Sara pulled out a pair of scissors, then looked around again and clipped a few blades of overgrown grass that were near her father's grave. She then pulled out her lab-issued vest. The poor thing had been put through the ringer and it was time for a new one, anyway.

She took the scissors and carefully clipped the spot that had her name embedded in it.

The scissors went back in her bag, and she held "Sidle" in her hands.

There were a few things she now knew:

The real source of her problems, this time, lay in Las Vegas. Her mind had confused issues with its self-imposed pity party.

But, since she was here, she needed to do something she should have done years ago. She needed to let go of "Sidle." There was only one reason to keep it: she had developed a professional reputation with her name, and was the author of several articles in rather prestigious journals.

But the reasons to let it go were abundant. She found them in her mother's bungalow, in the memories of the B&B, and with the very thought of her paternal grandparents.

It was a very rough beginning. And no legacy, whatsoever, for her.

She had loved them but, yes, her mother was completely right. They hadn't done right by their children. Not at all. And maybe life sucked for them, but they needed to step up to the plate, just as Joe had, and make things better for their kids.

It was possible. It was being done.

In the meantime, she had a name she would be perfectly proud to take, and the idea of doing so was almost as simple as the sure knowledge that she was going to accept Grissom's marriage proposal about one second after he asked.

She took the small shovel out of the duffel bag and dug a very small hole in the earth near her father's stone. She placed the scrap of fabric there, and carefully put the dirt back on top.

"So long, Sara Sidle," she said, and got up to go back to the car.

After taking two steps she turned back to the grave.

"Bye, Dad. I hope you found peace."

Strangely, Sara had just found a bit of it, herself.


Only the Brave: Open their Hearts

Her name appeared on the screen and he answered the phone before a full second had gone by.

"Sara," he said, in lieu of a more personal greeting. If she was calling, she was in distress of some sort. That much was apparent from the last phone call, and the lack of any phone calls since.

"Hey," she said, obviously feigning cheerfulness.

"You okay?"

"Not really."

"Do you want to talk about it?"


"Do you want to hear the sonnet?" he asked softly.

"Not yet. Maybe later. I just want to talk for a while."

"Okay. About anything specific?"


His hand tightened around the phone and Bruno went on alert, immediately. He had been lying across Grissom's feet as they watched television in bed, and could sense something was wrong. Grissom tried to relax. This Us conversation didn't necessarily need to be negative.

"Us," he said, as casually as he could fake.

He heard her chuckle softly.

"Relax, Gris. I just … I don't know. It's been a very rough day. I thought things were under control and I had taken a big step forward, but…I need a distraction. And I just…there are things about us I only know from my perspective. I'd like to find out about them from yours. You don't have to answer, if you're not comfortable. I'm just…I wanted to hear your voice and talk about the two of us. It might cheer me up a little."

"I'll answer everything, comfortable or not. Fire away," Grissom said, relaxing against the pillows, and snapping off the tv with his remote. Bruno put his head back on Grissom's toes.

There was a long silence on the other end of the line. "Sara?" he asked.

"Sorry. I had so many questions before and now I can't think of one," she laughed a little but it still wasn't one of true mirth. "Okay. Well, let's start at the beginning. I know you told Ecklie we got "intimate' right away, but—come on—what did you really think of me the day we met?"

"I thought you were exasperating. So many questions. I think, under normal circumstances, I would have just assumed that you were angling for an "A,' but the questions were too thoughtful, too…intelligent, for someone who needed to manipulate people to get grades."

"Did you think I was pretty?" she asked, quietly.


"Well, I guess--with the sloppy pony tail and all--I didn't give the best…"

"There was nothing sloppy about your pony tail. I thought you were beautiful, that's all."

She made a sound somewhere between a huff and a raspberry, and he laughed in response. "I know I make you uncomfortable when I say that, but it's true. I've always thought you were beautiful. There is something in your eyes and your smile. A kindness, a loving spirit…I don't know. I just feel it. It would be nice if you could see yourself the way I see you."

"Ditto on that one, Mr-Checking-his-gut-out-in-the-mirror."

"Yes, but that's only because I have a "gut.'"

"I'm not complaining, am I?"

"No," he said, smiling warmly at the thought of her hands running up and down his stomach, and her lips following.

"Are you thinking naughty thoughts there, Dr.G?"

"Oh, yeah."

She laughed again. This time, there was amusement in her voice. "Okay. Get your mind out of the gutter. It's time for another question."


"When was the very first time you thought you might love me?"

"Coffee that night."



"Really?" Now, that was more like it. There was definite delight in her voice.

"Yes. I looked across the table, and you were staring at me, mid-sip, and I thought, if I fell into that gaze, never to come out again, I would be a very happy man, indeed."

"You are a romantic, Gris."

"Yeah, I think I might be. At least in my head."

"More than that. How's my dog?"

"I won't get insulted that you thought of me, romance and Bruno in the same moment. Your dog is fine. He misses…he's fine."

"You can tell me he misses me, Gris. You can tell me anything."

"Okay. He misses you," he said, and decided to fill her in on a couple of other things. "He sleeps with your bee, and I sleep with them both. I miss you, too, for the record. I keep sniffing this nightshirt of yours, and telling myself I'm acting like a demented old pervert, before going in for another sniff. And, Ecklie misses you, too. Even though he warned me he'd deny it to his dying day. He told me he was wrong about you. Ecklie! Catherine is giving me sex advice and Greg looks like he'd like to kill me for driving you off and…shall I stop now, or get my list?"

She was genuinely laughing now, and as clichéd as it sounded, it was music to his ears.

"You don't actually have a list, do you?" she asked.


"Liar. I want the list. But, no—not right now," she got more serious. "God, I miss you so much, Grissom. I want all of this to…just go away. I want to kiss you and hold you and…just be with you. I don't want to do this anymore."

"Then don't," he said softly.

She took a deep breath. "I went to my father's gravesite today. Just to "chat.' Silly, isn't it?"

"Not at all. I've done that before at my father's grave. Actually, I've done it many times."

"You have?"

"Yes. It's cathartic."

"Yeah, well. It was a little too cathartic. I kind of told him off. Told him he was a bad man. Which, at the moment, I believed. And I'm not so sure I disbelieve it now. But, now that I'm away from there and back in my room, I feel awful. And it's really stupid because I don't even believe, on some level, that I was really talking to him. And now I'm afraid I'm hurting his feelings," a little hitch caught in her throat and he knew she was either crying or about to.

"Sara…Sara…you do what you need to do. No one has more of a right to scream or cry or tell off her parents than you and your brother do. No—scratch that. No one has more of a right than you do. Your brother was almost an adult—at least chronologically--and had options. You had none. You do whatever you need to do to feel better. And don't feel guilty about it. You are still a good person and always will be. And you are still loved—and always will be. Sara, you know that, don't you? I've always loved you and always will."

"Even if I continue doing this? If I don't come home right away?"

"Always means always. I understand."

He heard her take a shaky breath. "Then I'll see this through. I don't think it will take too much longer. I just need to do a few more things and then I'll come home. I'm…"


"I'm just not sure how much good I'll be when I get home. I don't know how I'll feel or if I'll be prone to these depressed moments."

"Doesn't matter. We'll see them through."

She sniffed a little. "You've changed, Gil. You know that, don't you?"

"I know," he said, smiling softly.


"Because I know how I felt when I thought you might be gone. It was far scarier than any discomfort I may feel revealing myself emotionally."

"I guess we have to thank her for something, then, huh?"

That would be the day. "Not by a long-shot," he said.

She laughed again. "I love you, too. I can't wait to hear that list, but I think I'd like my sonnet now, if you don't mind. And you'll kiss Bruno for me?"


"And you'll continue sniffing my nightshirt?"

"If you insist," he said, his eyes suddenly burning. Their conversation was nearing its end and he didn't know when he'd hear her voice again. But, he would hear it again…that was all that really mattered.

He cleared his throat and began:

"Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took…"


Chapter 8

Only the Brave: Tie Up Loose Ends


To: RonnieTheItGirl

From: Sidleonover

Re: Things

Dear Ronnie,

This is kind of overdue. I've been away, trying to get my own head together but that doesn't mean I've forgotten everyone else. I just wanted to write and tell you that I hope you're doing well, and are trying to come to terms with what happened during our last case.

For what it's worth, you did an incredible job figuring out what happened. Really. It was an amazing piece of work, especially considering the fact that you're still a rookie.

And, now, for the tough part.

While our profession is supposed to be fairly safe—lately, things haven't worked out that way. And the risk is something that needs to be factored in when you make your decision as to whether or not you'd like to come back to work.

Because, if it's just a job to you, frankly, there are more pleasant ways to make a living. It should be more than a job; it should be a calling.

For many years, I felt it. I'm not so sure my priorities haven't shifted. That's something I eventually have to figure out for myself. And it's not something that will happen overnight.

And that's the only 'advice' I'd ever dream of giving anyone. Don't let this be a quick decision. Weigh all sides, see what's on your mind, and—more than that—what's in your heart.

Either way, I'm thinking of you and wishing you the best.



Sara sat on her favorite mini-beach for, perhaps, the last time in a long time. She would miss this spot. Someday, she wanted to turn to her right and find Grissom standing right there. She'd see the gray flecks mixed among the blue in his eyes, see the sunlight turn his cheeks a rosy shade of pink, and feel the warmth of his hand surrounding hers.

And they'd do this with just the merest accompaniment of bitter-sweetness in the background. She was sure of that.

She walked into the water again. It was beautiful, cool, clear and cleansing.

And some of it was coming with her.

She took the gallon jug and dipped it below the surface. When it gave up its last air bubble, she pulled it out and put the cap back on.

With one last look at the Bridge, at the island-prison which always managed to look strangely lovely--from a distance, and the vast blue space that surrounded her, she turned and went back to her hotel.

She had to call the rental agency. She'd need the car for a longer period of time than originally expected.


Grissom had felt nervous all day long.

Sara hadn't contacted him much in the last two days. There had been their phone call the other night, and then a quick email thanking him for his patience and sending him a virtual kiss, whatever that was supposed to be.

And now he felt like a cat in a room full of rockers.

He didn't want to be at work. At all. But home was almost worse. Bruno was a great distraction, but the dog seemed very aware of the fact that half his family was not there, and those big brown eyes looked at Grissom in a way that made him feel unnaturally guilty. Like he should be doing something…anything…to get his Sara back.

Or perhaps he was just projecting.

The toughest thing about the phone call the other evening was knowing that this journey was not the complete answer. Issues would always be there. Old wounds never really would heal. And tamping things down again was, perhaps, the only way any of them ultimately survived.

He just hoped Sara wouldn't find it a complete waste of time. That something, anything, would ease up in her heart and allow her to feel like 'herself' again.

But, he did wonder if that was possible.

Because, in the dead of the night, he'd wake up and imagine her under the car, with the flashflood water rising around her. Or walking through that desert, disoriented and dehydrated, ready to collapse.

Or Nick spotting her five minutes later, and needing to call a coroner instead of a Medevac.

And, when that happened, he found it very difficult to breathe.

And, if he felt that bad 'second-hand,' he couldn't image how Sara managed to cope.

At all.


570 miles.

570 long miles. Very long miles.

Sara drove with the windows opened all the way out of California. Cool, ocean breezes wished her well on her journey and the hot air of the desert welcomed her 'home.'

But she wasn't home yet.

She had asked Greg to email her part of a file. He had been suspicious until she assured him that there was nothing going on, even though she way lying through her teeth when she said it.

Sara had taken precautions.

The first one was to change her compact rental for an All-Terrain vehicle.

She reached her destination in the early hours of the morning. Dawn had hardly hit the city. Sara got out of the car and went to the trunk, to double-and triple-check her provisions.

Three cases of bottled water-check.

Various food products—all easily accessible without can openers or any other gadgets—check

Cell phone-check

Extra charged batteries for cell phone-check



Extra clothing-check


Computer to send email-ditto

Fully loaded gun with extra ammo-ditto to the ditto

She was okay. She'd be okay. There was an email set on timer, in case something happened and all safeguards failed.

Which was…highly unlikely.

She leaned against the SUV and tried to breathe. Everything was tightening up again.

She needed to do this. So badly.

She could do it.

She could.

She couldn't. No. She could barely breathe, never mind face this so soon after all of it happened.

She heard a smug voice in her head. She saw a smug smile before her eyes. She heard the sound of her arm fracturing in several places while Natalie smiled.

She damn well could do it.

Sara got back in the SUV and drove off the side of the road and into the desert. She looked at the map Greg had sent her, and tried to visualize the place as it looked in the dark, the terrain she had stared at for hours before her escape.

And there it was. She was sure of it. The earth had been disturbed. The plant life had been broken and damaged by the sheer weight of the abandoned Mustang. Some of it was growing back; some of it was not.

She got out of the car and approached the area.

Again, it was just a place. A scary place, though. Nothing and no one around for as far as the eye could see. It had taken her nearly fifteen minutes of driving, off-road, to find it.

Sara took a breath against the rising panic and didn't allow herself the indulgence of looking in the trunk again.

It was just a place. Just a place where she almost drowned. In the desert. Just a place that she spent hours walking away from.

Just a place where she faced her own mortality. Completely and totally alone.


She had been alone for a great part of her life. And two years of not being totally alone had spoiled her.

She hadn't wanted to die alone.

Sara remembered walking, reciting the multiplication tables.

She hadn't thought of saving herself at the time. No, she thought of just getting to Grissom, so she could throw herself at his feet and not die alone.

A sob rose to her throat and she allowed it to emerge.

She had been so scared.

So very, very, very scared.

Mommy was crying. Daddy had punched her, right in the stomach.

Joey had run to his room to hide. He still had bruises on his arms from the last time.

Daddy went to bed and Mommy was very mad. Very mad.

She took Daddy's belt from where he left it on the dining room chair.

God, it hurt. Sara tried not to cry. Crying only made it worse.

Mommy liked to get her right behind the knees. It stung so bad. But then she'd wear pants to school and no one would know but her.

You didn't tell things like that. You just didn't.


Dad was screaming. Weird screams. Like the ones Joey screamed sometimes, when Dad got too rough.

And Mommy was using the F-word. Hypocrite. She always told her and Joey not to use that word but she used it all the time.

And then she was shrieking and Dad was shrieking and something was really wrong.

And Sara walked in and saw it. Mom was doing something to Dad. And there was blood all over the place.

And then she was flying across the room and landing on her back, her head banging against the floor. As soon as she could pick her head up, Sara scooted herself backward and tried to get out of the room. She'd be next. She'd be next. She was always next.

She was so scared.


Tameka was telling her what it was like to be raped. And what it was like to not be believed when she told someone she was raped.

So far, none of Sara's fosters were too bad. They didn't like her very much, but no one had really hurt her in any way.

And then Tameka told her what Mr. Jackson did, and Sara was scared all the time.

She didn't want to be next. She had always been next.

She was not. Mr. Jackson had done it to another girl at the school he worked in. And he got caught. And they took all the kids away. She never saw Tameka again.

But she learned a big lesson from Tameka. And she kept watch, from that moment on.



She felt so alone.

The guys all had each other. They could casually talk and joke around.

Catherine was a bitch. Sara didn't really care what she did at the moment. Maybe she hung out with her new pal, Ecklie.

And Grissom—well, he had Sofia draped over his desk, didn't he? And he was smiling up at the blond in a way Sara had only dreamed of in her most secret of fantasies.

But Sara was damaged goods. And he knew it now.

And she'd live alone, and work alone, and die alone.

That was her destiny.


Ronnie. Pain in the ass with big brown, innocent eyes. Almost like a child's.

Save me, Sara, they called to her. Save me, please.

And Hannah. Big brown eyes, as well. You won't do it. You don't have the brains or the guts.

She was wrong.

Sara was scared at just how wrong Hannah had been.



The first thing her eyes focused on was the name tag on his vest. It was a beautiful sight.

Her eyes had opened after all.

And she wasn't lying by his feet, waiting to die.

She didn't really know where she was. She didn't really care. And maybe she was dying. She wasn't sure she cared at that moment either.

Because her hand was being held, by the man she loved. And he was looking at her with an expression she had never seen before. Not ever.

Good God. He loved her. Really loved her.

And she looked back at him. Something was on her face. Oxygen mask. It felt kind of good but partially obstructed her view.

Read my eyes, Grissom.

You…made everything…everything in this world that I went through…everything I ever experienced…

You made everything…worthwhile.


When Sara's sobs finally subsided, she looked around.

She was actually sitting, crossed-legged, on the ground where she had been trapped for 8 terrible hours, under a fire-engine red Mustang.

She took in a shaky breath and stood up.

Sara went over to the trunk of the car and opened the duffel bag in the back seat. She smiled a little. THIS, this was the reason she couldn't fly home. No one would let her on the plane with this.

She pulled out the gallon-jug of San Francisco Bay water.

Sara tipped a little bit of it in her hands and scrubbed her face with it. It was still cool. Still smelled like the city she probably loved more than any other.

Then she walked over to where she had been held captive.

"You didn't win, Natalie. You didn't win," she said and poured the water from the jug slowly over as much of the area as she could.

And she smiled. A genuine, warm smile.

She didn't get all her answers. She never would.

But she got just enough to make things a little bit better.


To: Ggrissom

From: GrissombyChoice

Dear Gil,

First, don't be angry.

Second, take a deep breath.

Third, for heaven's sake, be careful!

Fourth—I'm home. But, not really. Not yet.

I was going to do something completely on my own, and I did part of it on my own. But I realized, maybe you needed to do this as well.

So, I'm going to wait for you for a little while out here. I'm perfectly safe and perfectly fine.

Please be careful.

All my love,


And she attached the map of Ice Box Canyon.


Chapter 9

Only the Brave: Run toward Love—Quickly.


"Pick up, Sara. Please pick up," he heard the same words coming out of his mouth that he had said under different circumstances, a relatively short while ago.

His ear was glued to the cell phone and his eyes were completely focused on the road. The road to Sara.

"Gris?" she said, answering after two rings.

"Sara," he let out a huge sigh of relief. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I told you that. You did get my email, right? This is not just a random call?"

"I got it. Are you …" Calling her insane probably wasn't a politically correct move at this point in time. "Sara, why are you out there on your own?"

"I needed to be, Gris. I'm okay. You'll…laugh when you see all the precautions I've taken. And, it's okay. It really is. I just needed to do this."

He sighed into the phone again. She was home. Probably about 45 minutes away.

In 45 minutes, he'd see her again.

He stepped on the accelerator.

"Don't drive so fast," she said, into the phone.

Sara Sidle: ever the investigator.

"I'm not," he lied. If he had to, he'd switch on the siren he had in the car, but almost never used. There was no traffic whatsoever, but state troopers had a habit of appearing out of nowhere when people were maniacally speeding down the road.

He heard a car door close. "What's that?"

"I wanted to go inside for a bit. Turn the air conditioner on. I've been gone 10 days and already forgot what an oven this place is."

"Yeah. It's been warm."



"I can't wait to see you."

He wanted to close his eyes and beam himself where she was. There were still too many miles between them.



"I think I'm going to have to hang up now. If you need me, just call me right back. I'm having trouble concentrating. I'm not sure I remember how to drive at this point."

She laughed into the phone. "I'll see you in a little bit."

He lay his cheek against the phone and hit 'end.'

And then he hit the siren.


He was off-road now.

Grissom remembered the last time he drove here. The panic welling up in his chest. The thought of what they might find. He felt it again. The fear. The pure, unadulterated fear rising from the pit of his stomach.

And then he saw the SUV, and the door opening.

And there was Sara.

She wasn't sprawled on the ground. There were no disjointed words floating around: "35 year old female" "no radial pulse" "unresponsive."

She was alive and well, and running toward him. And he put the car in park, leaped out and ran toward her.

And, suddenly, his arms were full of Sara. And he thought one or the other of them might be sobbing. Maybe both. He didn't care. His lips were moving and he had no idea if he was making sounds or simply kissing every inch of skin presenting itself to his mouth.

There were a lot of "I love you's" tossed into the mix, and more kisses, and hands everywhere at once. And there was absolutely no concept of him or her, or time, or place. None. Until much later, when he suddenly realized how gentle her hands felt, slowly caressing up and down his back, and how soft her cheek was against his unshaved face.

"I'm sorry I didn't shave," he said, and it was the first words he could consciously remember saying to her in the last few minutes, hours…days….since he had arrived.

She kissed his cheek warmly, wetly. "I don't care," she said.

He rubbed his cheek against her own and pulled her tighter against his body. "Missed you," he murmured into her ear, as he cupped the back of her head with his hand.

"Me, too," she said. "I'm…come here." Sara pulled away from him, took his hand and led him to the place where the car had imprisoned her a few months before. A lot had happened since then.

She stood right over the spot and he stood beside her. He watched as she looked down on the ground. The expression on her face was open, unguarded. And the ground was…slightly damp. It hadn't rained the night before. Not to his knowledge. He was about to ask her about it when she looked up at him. And smiled. The kind of smile that made the tiny lines around her eyes crinkle and her dimples appear. The kind of smile that melted his heart.

"It's just a spot in the desert, Grissom. Nothing more."

"I think we should go home, Sara."

"Yeah, but … I don't want you to think of this place and feel pain anymore."

He shook his head slowly. "When I think of this place, I'll think of getting you back. Both times. No pain."

She smiled again. "We have a big problem."

Grissom frowned. "What?"

"We have two cars. I didn't think of that before I called you. How am I going to keep my hands to myself for a whole hour, till we get home?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. But the faster we leave, the faster we get home."

He was rewarded with a soul-searing kiss before she darted back to her car. Sara opened the trunk to reveal a mini-supermarket's worth of provisions. The woman covered every known contingency. "You'd make a great Boy Scout, honey."

"Gee, thanks," she said, throwing him a bottle of water and a bag of potato chips.

He caught each one and then gave her one last, long look before getting in his car.

"Let's go home, my Sara."


The drive home was interrupted several times by them pulling over to the side of the road, running out of their cars, and kissing. It was, perhaps, the silliest, most juvenile behavior they had demonstrated in nine years of knowing each other, but it felt like the most natural thing in the world. His lips and her lips—together, good; apart, not so good.

During the first half-hour of the 45-minute drive, they only encountered two other cars on the road. No wonder it took so long for Sara to be found. Grissom reminded himself to change his will, and leave Nick one very large gift, in honor of his eagle eyes alone.

Sara ran up the stairs of their home first. By the time Grissom parked the car and went through the front door, he found Sara flat on her back, with a 55-pound boxer on top of her, licking her face.

"Bruno!" Grissom tried to move the dog off of her but Sara just laughed and threw her arms around the dog, until he felt his personal space being violated and quietly went off to a corner of the room to play with Buzz.

Grissom took Bruno's place and lay down beside her on the floor. Her warm hand in his was a nice contrast to the cold floors.

"The way I see it, "he said. "We have several options. The first is the most sensible. We can go and wash up, change into our nightclothes and go to bed. The second is slightly less sensible, considering the fact that I worked a full shift and you've been driving all day. We skip the washing up, skip the nightclothes, even though I have one hell of a frog outfit, and go to bed. The third is the least sensible of all…and that is we skip everything, including the bed, and 'go to bed' right here, right now."

"I washed up a little in the car while I was waiting for you," she said, straddling his lap as he lay on the floor.

"And I used Handiwipes while driving," he said.

"I thought that was some odd cologne you were wearing," she said, opening his shirt. She leaned over and kissed his neck, then pulled back.

"What?" Grissom said.

"We're going to have to go for another option. We have to look at the big picture here. If we do this now, in this particular way, we'll both be in bed for a week, but not in a good way." She got off him, and stood up. Then she reached out her hand, and helped him to his feet.

"Which option are we going for?" Grissom said, not caring what she chose, or made up, for that matter. He'd do anything she wanted. Catherine would be proud.

Sara didn't say anything, just led him to the bathroom, where she turned on the shower full blast. The steam started to rise just about the time she was helping divest him of his boxers.

When she stepped in to join him in their shower-for-two, she just slid her arms around him and pressed her naked body against his. Yes, he was excited, but he was also incredibly…moved. For the moment, she just wanted to hold him, and he just wanted to be held, and hold her in return.

"I've missed you so much," she said, and he pulled her closer. She giggled into his neck, "You are a master at non-verbal communication," she said, and pushed her pelvis against his.

Grissom moved his head away from hers and looked at her with a soft smirk, "I think we better make good use of that soapy sponge, soon, or I won't be able to contain my 'inner voice.'"

Sara moved away, got the mesh sponge and made quick work of cleaning herself. Grissom did the same, although he wasn't really watching what he was doing to his own body. He was too busy watching Sara rub the shower gel across the pert breasts he loved so much.

When they had rinsed off, he grabbed a towel and draped it around her, then high-tailed it out of the shower before her. He ran to the bedroom, threw on some clothes, closed the bedroom door (Bruno and Buzz could find their own romantic encounter) and got into position on top of the covers. Sara came in with her light robe on, drying her hair with a towel. She took one look at him and smiled the biggest smile he had seen on her yet.

"Frogs! I knew that ugly thing would look wonderful on you. And look at how that weird shade of green brings out the blue in your eyes! You're gorgeous."

"Sara, you've been gone too long if you think I look gorgeous."

"You do," she said, dropping the towel and climbing on the bed. She went over to him and kissed his cheek. "You are SO gorgeous. And, you know something else? I bought you another outfit before I left. This one in a deep red."

"Don't tell me, devils?"

"Nope. Devils, I could resist. But there was no way I could resist spiders."

He smiled and pulled her down on top of him. He looked at her. Just looked at her. "You do know we're a match made in heaven."

"Now, that I'm beginning to believe," she said, and lay back, pulling him with her.

Grissom remembered their first night together when he returned from his sabbatical. He had been hornier than he ever remembered being. Not even as a teenager, had he wanted sex so badly. And Sara had been annoyed with him before he left. There was no doubt about it, but she was also highly amused by his reaction to her at the lab, and she pushed every other feeling aside to make him happy.

Tonight, he just wanted to make love. And so did she. And it was a joyous reunion of bodies, minds and souls. Issuing a warm 'welcome home' to various parts they knew all too well, curving his fingers around her hip and drawing her closer as his body joined with hers. Feeling her fingers sink into his curls, and pull his face closer, as they kissed deeply before they began to move faster and faster into sweet oblivion.

And then he just watched her. Watched her as she slowly drifted to sleep. Drained beyond belief from the past 10 days and what she had experienced. Drained from this evening, by their loving activities. Just … drained.

But, lovely. Always lovely.

He blissfully closed his eyes, slept for a while, and opened them the minute he heard the moaning.

It was not a good moaning. It was definitely the sign of another of the nightmares that had been a steady part of their lives since Sara had been rescued from the desert.

Grissom sighed softly and started to stroke her hair. Rome wasn't built in a day. Healing would not be quick. Perhaps, true healing would never even come.

And then he heard it. A strange sound resembling…? No. A giggle. A kind of strangled, trying to hide it, giggle.

Within minutes, it was quite a few giggles. Sara was laughing in her sleep and Grissom was totally baffled.

He just watched her as she continued to laugh, her face half-buried against his chest. Then she opened her eyes, looked around and found him staring at her.

"Hey," she said, eyes still full of mirth.

"Hey, yourself. What's so funny?"

"Did I do that out loud?" she said, a look of embarrassment crossing her face.

"Yes, tell me. You had a funny dream?"

"Yeah. It was…weird. Natalie was in the desert, and she was trying to taser me again, and I started flashing on everything that would happen next. But, this time, I took out a jug of San Francisco water and threw it at her and she…well, she kind of went down like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. That never happened in my dreams, before. San Francisco water: more potent than bleach!"

Grissom tried not to laugh. But he couldn't help but join in. Sara was now fully awake and reaching for his discarded frog shirt. She quickly put it on herself and buttoned it up.

"Good thing I'll have the spider shirt as backup," he said, and she laughed again.

"I'm cold," she said, snuggling into his side. "Now, since my dream provided the comic relief for the evening, I believe there was a list of things you needed to tell me about?"

"There is, Sara. But, save something for tomorrow."

"Okay," she said, settling back against him. They said nothing for a while. She seemed to be listening to his heart beating and he was just inhaling the real Sara…not some pale reminder on an old nightshirt.

"Sara," Grissom broke the silence. "GrissombyChoice?" he remembered her last email to him. He had been a little too distracted by the message to fully appreciate the change in her email address, but somewhere in his subconscious, he had taken note of it.

She shrugged, just a tad too nonchalantly. "It's been my favorite name for almost a decade. How could I resist taking it when I had the opportunity?"

Grissom bit his lower lip. There were too many emotions running through him to attempt speech. He never thought this conversation would ever even occur, never mind having this monumental announcement dropped on him.

Sara was willingly taking his last name as hers.

Granted, 'Sidle' held nothing but bad memories and he understood that but still…



"I've got to tell you something you may not be so happy about."

For once, he did not brace himself. He did not fear divorce papers or declarations of separation. He just felt…calm…secure…

"Go ahead," he said.

"I'm not going back to work at the Crime Lab. I didn't really think I'd be making this decision for a while, yet. But, I kind of decided when we were driving home. I feel better. I really do. And, I think I needed to go on my little 'journey' to make sure that I was—well, I don't know—not some natural born victim, or something. And I think that's what I learned. Shit happens. And we don't 'invite' it into our lives, and we can't control everything, as much as we'd like to. Some things, we just have to accept.

None of these 'revelations' have made what's happened lately sit any better with me, but…it did help me identify my priorities. And the fact of the matter is, I've given enough time to the dead. I just can't live my life doing this anymore. And I could ask for another position in the lab, but with our two shifts, we barely see each other. And that's probably my biggest fear now. That we don't take full advantage of every moment we're given in this life. I know this feeling could be a temporary reaction to stress and I'll be blasé about everything soon enough, but I kind of don't want to be."

"I knew this was coming," he said.

"You knew?"

"Well, I had a feeling."

"And you're not angry?"

"Of course not. In over two decades at the lab, I've seen people walk into work in the morning and leave for lunch—only to decide never to come back. I almost did the same thing last year myself. "

"Well, it's not only burn-out, you know."

"I know. And, um…" he rolled over and turned on his bedside lamp. He opened the drawer to his nightstand and pulled out a sheet of paper.

Sara pushed her pillows behind her back and sat up with a smirk. "I thought we were saving your list for tomorrow."

"That list, we are saving for tomorrow. But, I have another one."

He handed her the piece of paper and watched her frown as she started reading it.

He knew the exact second she had her "A-ha!" moment.

"Is this?" she asked.

He nodded. "They're job options. I've been making phone calls."

"But, Gris. I don't need you to give up your job just because I'm giving up mine. I'll find something else to do…"

"You don't have to. We can start something new together. I've only been searching for less than two weeks but these are pretty firm offers. I don't have one from San Francisco yet, but we can try there, too, if you'd like. I thought the Boston offer might appeal to you, since it's near one of your alma maters or … maybe New York. But we can try the West Coast, too."

She sat there and stared at him. He saw the tears fill her eyes again.

He hated when she cried. But, this time, he was pretty sure they were not tears of unhappiness, fear or distress of any kind.

This time, it was for something else altogether.

"You don't have to give up everything you worked for. You already have me," she said.

They had talked about it, once. How she had been outside that glass and had heard every word he said when he talked to Lurie. They had already been together for a while when she admitted she heard him talk about his fears over starting a relationship with her.

But, he had already realized he wasn't honest about his fears. Not even to himself.

"I know that, Sara," he said. "I didn't know it then. And that's what I was afraid of. Really afraid of. Not losing my career but losing you and not having my professional safety net to catch the broken pieces. But, all that's in the past. And, we're scientists. I think I lost sight of that fact myself until I started working with Buzz's friends. There are many avenues open to us. Many roads to explore. Maybe we've limited ourselves with the dead. Perhaps we can now do something that will eventually help the living. So…what do you think?" he asked, and she looked at him with the same warm smile she had six weeks before when he asked her that question.

She pointed to a name on the list. "This one looks promising. Teaching, research…and it would be nice to experience four seasons again."

He smiled. "That's the one I was hoping you'd be interested in. This isn't going to happen overnight. They'll still need to find replacements in the lab."

"That's fine. I can wait for our happy ending."

Grissom looked at Sara.

Nine years had gone by since the day they met. Nine years since the bright eyed student with the ponytail and never ending questions knocked him on his ass.

And here she was, all soft and warm, hair mussed from lovemaking and sleep. She was his love, and his life.

He shook his head. "You and I, Sara G, …will never end."

She reached her hand out and touched the side of his face. She looked like she had about a thousand things to say and he wanted to hear each one.

But, in the end, she just smiled softly, and he returned the gesture.

And she expressed her agreement with his sentiment…

With a kiss.

The End.



I almost don't want to write another word and take anyone out of the story.

But, of course, I will.

I didn't know how I wanted to end this, but when in doubt, get as mushy as possible (I love romance, by the way. It puts a great big smile on my face when I read, or write, something that warms my heart a bit. I'm sure you couldn't tell at all!)

Well, okay. The epic is done. I never thought I'd do a WIP, not sure I'd ever want to again (oh, the pressure! And all from me—you guys have been great), but I really, really, really am glad I did this one.

This is the only story I've written that I thought would be good to have in "installments." It's kind of talky, kind of emotional, and…well, we're still all kind of reeling with anticipation of what might be in less than a couple of weeks now. So, this is definitely a "what if" that I can live with.

Anyway, I'm not delusional about what we might be given (although, with my constant cheerleading on YTD, I'm sure there are a few people who might argue that point). But, there is a small message I hope I've conveyed. I adore Grissom and Sara. I know I've badmouthed The Powers That Be on occasion, but I give them complete respect and admiration for creating two completely original characters who have managed to completely steal my heart. And, of course, the largest amount of credit goes to Billy and Jorja for reaching out in—sometimes literally—less than 30 seconds and just grabbing you with their portrayals of key GSR moments.

Whatever we end up with, in my heart, Grissom and Sara will have a very happy…beginning, and I will be forever grateful for having spent some time with these characters.

Smooches to you all for believing I'd finish this and taking this little journey with me.

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