(A/N: sorry about the delay, guys. RL has been a handful, but in the good
way. Also, my muse has been pretty silent with the general lack of GS fodder
on the show (well, except fot recently!). It's getting me frustrated, and
frustrated+me doesn't equal writing. plus I got started in a new fandom...
don't even get me started on how upset I am that I'm writing more fics! My
next project will be reacquainting myself with IandB. I did plan out that
story line to the end to some extent- it's just a matter of getting back
into that frame of mind. My muse needs a little encouragement right now- ALL
feedback, good, bad, ideas for the stories, things you love/hate about my
writing, things you want to see in IandB... ALL is welcome! Thanks for
hanging in there for so long. I hope this is a good payoff for everyone!

ALSO! Thanks to Kelly and Ash for beta :))

Chapter 16: Going Back, Moving Forward

Sara sat on the sun deck, listening to the announcements over the loud speakers that interrupted the live music. Her luggage tags were blue, and it seemed that blue was going to be one of the last colors to disembark.

She and Grissom had watched the sun come up, then caught a few hours of sleep in his cabin before packing and sharing a quick breakfast. They were on different flights, and he'd been given white tags, which meant he was on the first wave of passengers to disembark.

With a smile and a kiss, he was gone.

Even with all of their whispered promises the night before, she still couldn't help but wonder if he was going to change his mind.

She watched her now estranged friends on the other side of the sun deck, and realized how much she had changed. For good or bad, she was happy with the person she was now, and didn't think that she was missing much. She stood, shouldering her purse and picking up her bag and began to make her way around the crowded deck. At the very least, she had to say good bye to them, and maybe even explain herself.

.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.

Grissom sat on the plane staring out the window into the bright clouds. Each second brought him closer to some sort of reckoning. There was no answer, in his mind, to the problem of how to be together and how to work together. It turned his stomach sour and his mind to mush every time he thought about it.

Frustrated, he reached into his bag and pulled out a book of brainteasers. Maybe he just needed to get his mind thinking some other way to find the answer to this puzzle.

Twenty minutes later he finally reached a solution to the puzzle he'd chosen. He closed the book and fiddled with his pen.

It couldn't be that simple.

.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.

Sara tossed another load of laundry in her washer and put her suitcase away, finally finished with her post vacation rituals. She was making a list for the grocery store when there was a knock at her door.

Grissom's profile greeted her in the peephole, and she immediately opened the door. "Hey."

"Hey." As she opened the door he walked past her into her apartment. His demeanor was casual, but as soon as she had the door closed his eyes darkened, and he pinned her against the door. His lips hovered over hers, his breath on her skin causing shivers. "I miss having you right across the hall."

Her heart was pounding and she let her hands roam over his back. "It's only been twelve hours."

"Which is entirely too long." His lips claimed hers hungrily, his arms almost roughly moving down her sides to pull her closer to his body. He pulled her leg up over his hip, getting as close as humanly possible in the confines of their clothes. He pulled away, resting his forehead against hers, their lips barely touching. "I think I have a solution to our problem."

Sara smiled, leaning closer and rubbing herself against him. "Good. Because you're right, twelve hours is far too long."

x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x

The next night, Sara sat in the break room tapping her pen on the table trying to finish a crossword puzzle that had been left half-done from the evening shift. The rest of the crew floated in: Nick commented on her newly tanned skin, Catherine and Warrick chatting about something Lindsay had done in school. Greg was the last to bound in, chatting a mile a minute because Grissom had promised to take him out into the field tonight since all his spiders were alive and kicking.

Sara could feel the seconds ticking by like Chinese water torture. It had been hours since she parted from Grissom, but she was already in withdrawal. It was like he was some new drug, something she couldn't be without. She'd never wanted to admit she had an addictive personality: being a strong, independent woman demanded that she could stand on her own two feet and not rely on a man, anyone, or anything else to get her through the day.

There was something about this man that simply drew her in. It was like she couldn't breathe when she wasn't with him. They meshed so well it felt like he was simply an extension of her; a missing piece she had never known was missing.

Not that she'd ever tell anyone that.

She looked back at the crossword puzzle and tried to hide her smile. She could hear his voice down the hall. She was half excited, half nervous to see how this was going to go down.

All eyes turned to Grissom as he walked into the break room, his face the normal mask of indifference. Sara didn't pay attention to any of the particular pleasantries exchanged about his vacation, but watched as he tried to hide that his eyes kept flicking over to hers. She smiled at him, he lifted the corner of his mouth, but didn't let it blossom into a full-blown smile. He passed out assignments, then sat down at the head of the table instead of dismissing everyone like he normally would.

"In addition to tonight's assignments, there's a piece of information that you need to know, but that I'll expect you'll keep it to a need to know basis." Everyone's eyes were on Grissom as Sara tried to hide my smile. "Sara and I are in a relationship outside of work."

x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.

Epilogue: 2 years later

Sara stood in the circle of Grissom's arms, the sounds of churning ocean below them as the wind rushed by them on the back of the cruise ship. It was the first time they'd finagled any kind of real vacation time at the same time since they'd gotten back from their eye-opening cruise.

She sighed, leaning back into the warmth of his body to ward off the chill of the wind. He'd been right- their relationship wasn't a problem unless they made it a problem. Grissom had talked to the team very matter of factly, as if he'd been going over evidence or the growth stages of flies. He's asked for discretion, but also their trust and their vigilance.

"We're working on the assumption that it won't become a problem unless we make it one, unless we let it become one. Sara and I have both proven, as have you all, that we can separate our home lives from our work lives. That is what we intend to continue to do. I will be approaching several people with this information, but we're not broadcasting it. I will not show favoritism, I will not show preference, and I need you all to believe that I can continue functioning in the same capacity that I have. I want you all to feel comfortable confronting either of us if you feel that we're not acting in a professional manner. What I really need to know is if you can trust us to make this work?"

Through surprised looks came smiles and choruses of "Finally!" Since then, there'd only been a few times, when they'd been fighting or when one of them put themselves in unnecessary danger, that Catherine or Warrick had come up to one of them and set them straight. So far they'd had no problems on any higher level, even when changing Sara's address and contact information to match that of Grissom's.

He leaned his head down, resting his chin on Sara's shoulder. "Sweetheart?"

"Humm?"

"Got something I want to talk to you about." His voice was a little louder than a whisper, almost normal talking volume, but with the roar of the wind and water it seemed like an intimate gesture all the same.

Sara closed her eyes, tipping her head back on his shoulder, but still seeing the inky water merging into the dark blue night sky behind her eyelids. "Gil... nothing serious. Nothing work. I want to enjoy this moment."

"Well..." His voice trailed off, and she could tell he was thinking. He gently kissed the delicate skin just below and behind her ear, then started talking again. "It's just that, I'll be eligible to retire in another two years. Early retirement, mind you, but still retirement."

"Gill, you love your work," Her arms wrapped around his own that were holding her, her hands rubbing up and down in a now familiar gesture. "You'd go crazy."

"I can still give lectures. And I can write some of those papers I've been meaning to start. I'll be able to go to other states and share my expertise. Maybe I'll build a lab in the house and start doing some new research. There's plenty to do."

"You'd miss the lab too much."

"I'd still have you to keep me in touch with the cases, and out there in the desert it's surprising how often they need a forensic entomologist so I'm sure they'll be calling every so often. But I'm thinking bigger, Sara."

"Bigger?"

"If I retire, we can get married." Grissom spun her around in his arms, catching her eyes and smiling. It had been the one rule they hadn't been able to get around: no spouses working in the same department. Since neither had been willing to abandon the lab that had grown into a family, they'd simply abandoned hopes of nuptials any time soon.

"You'd really retire early just to get married?"

He tipped his head in the style that she'd come so accustomed to, and looked her right in the eyes. "Honestly? I'm not sure. I just... thought it was something we should be talking about... considering as a real possibility."

Sara laughed and hugged him tightly. "We'll consider it. But we'll do it some other time." After a gentile kiss, Sara turned back to her former position in his arms where they were both gazing out into the sea, watching the water disappear into the horizon without a spec of land in sight. "We never did get out to the desert in Vegas to see the stars..."

Grissom sighed and gave her a quick squeeze. "No, I guess we didn't."

"Stop thinking, Gil, and look at the stars, and the ocean, and just relax." She sighed as she felt tension drain from him, and fought the desire to fall boneless into his embrace. "Do you remember that poem you recited for me last time? Shakespeare?" She felt him nod against her shoulder. "Recite it again?"

He cleared his throat, and when he spoke, she could feel the smile on his face reflected in the tone of his smooth, deep voice. "'O! How I faint when I of you do write, knowing a better spirit doth use your name, and in the praise thereof spends all his might, to make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame. But since your worth, wide as the ocean is, the humble as the proudest sail doth bear, my saucy bark, inferior far to his, on your broad main doth willfully appear. Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat, whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride; or, being wracked, I am a worthless boat, he of tall building, and of goodly pride: then if he thrive and I be cast away, the worst was this, my love was my decay.'"

"It's beautiful."

"You're beautiful."

She sighed, not wanting to break the spell of the moment. A bright, full moon hung low in the sky and sent rays of reflected sunlight streaming onto the water, stars twinkling in the darkness, the water's gentle ripples fading into an inky smudge of a horizon that blurred into the sky... She couldn't help but feeling small in the face of the enormity of nature, but the arms of the man behind her made her feel safe, and strong, and a contentment that she didn't think she had ever felt before. She didn't realize that she had spoken until the words were already out of her mouth, and after they were, she realized that it simply described how she was feeling. She whispered the Shakespeare gently, "...wide as the ocean is..."

End