A/N: It's true! Hope Springs is officially finished. I have had what can only be described as a love/hate relationship with this story. The best part of it has been all of you taking the time to read, patiently following this story these last four months. You have been wonderful. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I probably won't post another story for a little while. Have to get my beloved laptop back and I am thinking about maybe posting a House fic. Don't know though. Hope to talk with you all soon on my fics or yours.

Thanks to the lovely Marlou for helping me look better than I am.

Sheila

Hope Springs

Chapter 20

Sara couldn't help but smile at the greedy infant who suckled on her breast. Even at 6 weeks old, it was clear that Dakota was never going to meet a meal she would turn down. Sara held her close and watched her little pink face so intent on the project at hand. She extended a finger and let Dakota capture it and squeeze it in her tiny fist. Her breathing was so noisy when she ate, and every once in a while she would let go and look at her mother. Sara said her name, and Dakota burst forth with a milky smile. After a few minutes of gummy smiles and cooing, she would shake her little face again, and search for her mother's nipple.

Sara marveled at the changes of the last year; not just about her life. She felt changed as a person. Dakota brought her a peace and a focus that she had never had before. Raising this baby to be happy and strong replaced almost every other dream she'd ever had. There was one dream she still harbored, but she was happy to live with him in the undefined manner currently in place. For some reason it worked. He took a light schedule, 3 shifts a week for the next three months so that he would have time to help her, and she found that she was surprisingly content to be at home with the baby. Dakota never stopped fascinating and delighting her. Nothing spoke of permanency for all of them, but she didn't quite mind; there were too many blessings present to entertain doubts.

"An iced tea for the new mother," Mark said as he walked into the living room. He put the glass in front of her and dropped into the couch beside her. Sara didn't feel like she was exposing herself and she appreciated the comfort with which he handled her breast feeding.

"I wish you and Matthew were staying longer. It's been nice to have you around...and Matthew is great although you have to convince him to stop buying things. You'd think he'd stumbled across a homeless family the way he keeps loading us down with baby things."

Mark smirked, "It brings him so much pleasure to buy for her. I don't really have the heart to tell him."

Sara sighed, "She is going to be the best dressed baby at the playground."

The doorbell rang, and Mark leaped up to get it. Warrick slapped him on the back when he answered and Nicky reached out to shake his hand as he passed. His eyes popped when he saw Sara though, "Whoa!"

She shook her head and laughed at him. "Nicky, knock it off. You can't really see anything. There's a blanket. Plus, I am guessing you don't want to deal with a hungry baby two hours from now."

"I know, I know," he said, continuing to avert his eyes.

Warrick laughed at him and leaned over to kiss Sara, "Where's Gris?"

"He and Matthew had a little errand to run," she replied.

"One of many they have been running in the last few days," Mark commented as he settled back into the couch with her.

Warrick raised an eyebrow, "Those two up to something?"

"Probably, but we just can't think what it is," Sara said as she pulled sleeping Dakota away from her nipple and settled her on her shoulder, gently rubbing her back in search of gas.

"Grissom taking you somewhere nice?" asked Nick who had relaxed considerably once Sara was buttoned up again.

"Just a walk; something to get out of the house and then maybe a movie. We should be gone only 3-4 hours. There is expressed milk in the fridge and she'll probably sleep the first two hours."

There was noise from the kitchen and Grissom and Matthew emerged from the back door.

"Speak of the devil..." Mark murmured. Matthew glared at him, and Mark countered with, "What! Warrick asked what you were up to?"

Matthew swung his head in Warrick's direction, "Well, I bet you did, but I am here now, and as you can see, my boyfriend is otherwise occupied."

Warrick nodded, "So I can't run off with Mark this weekend. Is this what I'm hearing?"

Matthew wagged a finger at him, "You think this is funny, but when you have something special, you have to protect it. No taking it for granted. Right, Gil?"

He had to turn his attention away from the tiny bundle resting on Sara's shoulder, "Seems reasonable."

"You're not at all comforted by the fact that I am not gay?"

"You have animal magnetism. Transcends sexuality. You are a dangerous man, Warrick."

"How about me?" Nicky asked, a grin tugging at his mouth.

Hands on his hips, Matthew regarded him for a moment, "Well, you're cute in sort of a Marlboro Man goes to Chem lab sort of way. I'm sure you're great with the girls, but you don't do much for the gay man."

Warrick shook his head, "You asked, Nicky."

Nick threw up his hands, "I don't even know what to do with information like that."

"Okay Matthew, you seem to have rattled enough people for one day. We gotta get going if we're going to make the noon flight." Mark took his boyfriend by the arm and started to lead him to the door. Matthew pulled away, planting hugs and kisses on all including Warrick and Nick.

It was only when the door closed that Nick turned to the others, "I don't get it. I'm pretty sure I should feel insulted or threatened or something, but he kind of grows on you, doesn't he?"

Warrick shrugged his shoulders, "Yup, that is the mystery who is Matthew. All I know is that I apparently have animal magnetism and you do not. Food for thought, Nicky."

Nick rolled his eyes, "Shut up."

Sara had disappeared into the bedroom and Grissom sat in a chair, rocking his daughter, oblivious to everything else around him. Sara came back in, dressed for the afternoon and sighed when she saw her scientist lost in space with their baby. She walked over and gently wrestled the child away from him and transferred her to Warrick. Grissom got up, but it then became necessary for her to steer him toward the door. Over her shoulder, she gave last minute directions, "Only 4 oz. at a time, okay? Change her diaper before you feed her. There are extra jammies beside her crib. Any questions, we are on my cell. The number is on the fridge and on the table. There are snacks on the counter for you."

Sara squinted at the sign and then looked at him again, "You thought I would enjoy hiking in a cemetery?"

He shrugged, not quite meeting her gaze, "It's very pretty. Lots of green grass, and you know how hard it is to find good foliage around Vegas."

"It's macabre, Grissom!" She folded her arms and stopped at the gate.

"Okay, look. There is something in there I would like you to see. Can you stop asking questions and just trust me?" As soon as he said it, he was sorry. Trust was still not a subject he had been willing to broach. He tensed for the inevitable response.

"Okay," she said, brushing past him and entering the gate.

He stood there blankly, surprised at her unexpected response. She waited for him, and took his hand when he reached her. "So, since we're alone, I thought we might talk about me going back to work."

He nodded, "I assumed you would want to, although there is no pressure. We're doing just fine without the extra income. I happen to have a knack for investments."

He let her lead her across the green lawn. "I appreciate the space, and I'm in no hurry, but I do see going back to work in the next couple of months. Do you think...Ecklie would take me back part time?"

Grissom chuckled, "He'd be stupid not to." He steered her to the northwest corner, bringing her to a spot where the lawn gently sunk into a stream. He gestured for her to sit. Beyond the stream was the fence which bordered on a nature preserve. "This is a very beautiful spot, don't you think? They call it Hope Springs."

She brought her knees up to her chest and looked around with an odd expression on her face. Then she turned sideways, looking into his face, "Are you dying? You're dying, aren't you?"

His mouth opened and no sound came out. Then he shook his head emphatically, "No! No! I am so sorry. I'm just fine. Really. I promise!"

"Then why are we at a cemetery, Gris?" He could see the concern etched in her features.

"I'm no good at this. It's hard. I never know how to do it right." He let out a big puff of air and looked away.

Sara stared down at the grass, "You have about fifteen seconds to let me know what the hell is going on before I start screaming."

He scrambled to his feet and pulled her up. "Let me show you." He pulled her over to a grave about fifteen yards from the creek bed. There was a small tombstone, beautifully carved, which read, Hope Grissom, Born April 12th, 2001, Died September 5th, 2004.

She stared at it, uncomprehending, and then shook her head at him. He sat down gently next to the stone and pulled her down beside him. "This is...I adopted her when...I am in the process of adopting Attica Jones."

She cocked her head at him, "She's dead. You can't adopt a dead child. Plus, she had a mother."

"Actually Sara, you can. Matthew and I have been working on this for almost five months. It's unusual to say the least, but it can be done. Marianne Jones has signed the papers although she did require some financial encouragement."

Sara let out a ragged breath, "Why?"

"She mattered to you. You never knew her living, but you never knew forgot her humanity in death. You asked me to make sure that she was taken care of, and I thought about it, and decided that this was the best way to do it."

"You..how much money...I don't know what to say," Sara was starting to choke out sobs.

He reached for her hand and pulled her into his chest. "I figured that we could take care of her, and give her a family who would remember who she could have been, and who would mourn for her loss. Dakota would be her little sister, and we would come here to visit and she would matter to us always." He paused for her, but she was crying too hard to respond. "I remembered how you didn't like her name, and Matthew told me about this guy at the morgue who called her Hope, and when I was looking for the right cemetery, I found Hope Springs, and it seemed to all come together so I am in the process of legally changing her name to Hope Grissom. If this is a problem or you don't like the name, just tell me, Sara. This is for you."

She hiccuped into his chest, and raised her tear stained face, "Hope is perfect."

He wrapped his arms tightly around her and rocked her gently. Finally he cleared his throat, "I realize this is an odd gift. Most people wouldn't understand. I just thought that with what we do and who we are, that this is a...beautiful thing to do."

She spoke into the fabric of his shirt, "It is, Gris, it's an achingly beautiful thing to do. No one anywhere, ever, have done something like this for me. And the most beautiful part is that no one ever did anything like this for Hope either. I'll never forget this moment."

He sighed and licked his lips, "I'm glad, Sara, but there is one problem."

She looked up into his eyes.

He lowered his head for a moment before continuing, "I haven't signed the papers yet. The adoption isn't final. You see, I was thinking...that Hope deserves a new mother as much as she deserves a father. And it seems that...well, you can't jointly adopt a child. Only one of us can...unless we're married, and so I was wondering if it's still too early for me to ask that question I asked about two months ago..." The words caught in his throat and he stopped.

Sara climbed up his chest and wrapped her long arms around his neck, hissing into his ear, "Of course, I'll marry you, you big dummy. Who else is there? Who else would there ever be?"

He nodded, a smile creasing his soft beard, "Well, that's more like it, Sara. Just what I needed to hear."

She pulled away, and looked him in the eye, "Let's get married right away."

"Absolutely. It's on your timeline. Rent a place. Get a caterer. Whatever you want."

"You're kidding, right? You think I'm going to plan a wedding?" She arched her eyebrow at him, and he noted how amazing it made her look.

"Well, I can help, but I don't think I would be any good at planning a wedding. That is, unless you want takeout from a rib place and a Twins game on the big screen TV at Morton's sports bar."

She smiled broadly, her wet eyes sparkling, "Let's not plan a wedding at all. Let's just get married. I doubt anyone really expects much of a spectacle out of us anyway. We'll grab Catherine, Brass, and head down to the courthouse. Oh shit! I forgot about your mother. She should be there."

Grissom shook his head, "My mother is not a traditional woman. She'll be okay with whatever we decide."

"Yeah, well, I want her there. Let's call her and have her come down sometime in the next few days. We'll go to the courthouse, and afterward, you can take all of us somewhere very expensive to eat. How about that?"

He responded by pulling her back into his arms and down into the grass. She shivered as the soft bristles of his beard massaged her neck. She cleared her throat and spoke, "Say, I've been meaning to tell you that...I've been feeling...athletic again."

"Hmm," he noted as he pressed his lips onto the skin behind her ear. "I'm happy to hear that. I was feeling like a little workout myself."

She slapped the top of his head and pulled away. "Not in front of our daughter, and certainly not in a cemetery."

"Sorry, I guess I kinda forgot myself there." They both leapt to their feet, brushing grass off their pants and twigs from their hair. She looked at him and they both laughed. He took her hand and she leaned into his chest. Together, they walked, sharing thoughts no one else would ever know, basking in the excitement of what was to come.

It was evening by the time they got back; cool and quiet, the only sounds being the chirping of crickets, and they took their time climbing the steps to his condo. "Do we tell them?" She murmured into his shoulder.

"Tomorrow. Right now, I just want it to be about us."

They found Warrick and Nick waiting for them in the living room. Dakota was sleeping on Nick's chest. Without a word, Sara swooped in and scooped the baby into her arms, holding her tightly. Dakota's eyes popped open, but Sara's soothing tones soon lulled her back to sleep.

"Everything okay?" Grissom asked.

Warrick threw a look in Nick's direction, "I'm not babysitting with him anymore. Once he got her, he never gave her up."

"What? She was comfortable. I should disturb her to make you happy," Nick countered.

"Shhhh!" Sara frowned at both of them.

In a softer voice, Warrick said, "I should warn you that Brass is on his way over."

Grissom creased his brow, "Why?"

Nick and Warrick exchanged glances before Warrick continued, "He called about an hour ago looking for you. Said it was an emergency. Said he would be over to wait for you."

There was an odd feeling growing inside of Grissom, "Why didn't you call us?"

"Brass said not to. Said he wanted to talk with you in person," said Nicky.

"Did he tell you what was going on?"

The two men again exchanged looks. "Not really. I think it's best that we wait for Brass."

Sara glared at them, "You know what's going on, and you expect us to just sit here and wait like a couple of idiots. I don't think so. If you know something, spill it."

Nick looked down into his lap, "We don't have details, but he called us from the hospital and we know it was about Lucy Bell."

Sara felt her stomach drop into the floor. She swayed for a moment, and then Nick gently pulled her into the couch beside him. Dakota weathered this incident without a sound.

"What happened to Lucy?" Grissom stared at Warrick.

"We really don't know anything-"

"Damn straight you don't. Didn't I tell you to wait until I got here." Jim Brass stood in the open doorway. "Lucy's going to be fine. Nothing to worry about, really."

Grissom whirled around, "Jesus, Jim, what the hell is going on?"

He stuffed his hands deep into his pockets, "Police were called out to the home of Lucy's prospective parents tonight. It seems Lucy's new daddy was beating up Lucy's new mommy."

Sara gasped.

"Turns out that the guy has a history of this, unreported, of course. The wife showed us a scar on her shoulder and one on her thigh. She said that she stayed quiet because he promised he'd stop, and that getting Lucy was proof that he had changed."

"Did she see this? Is she okay?" Grissom was starting to pace.

"Yeah, Mary has her. She didn't see, but she heard, and she's pretty shaken as you can imagine."

Sara handed Dakota off to Nick and stood up, pointing a finger at Brass, "Jim, listen very carefully. Lucy Bell is not going to grow up in a house like that. I know first hand what kind of life that is, and this is not going to happen to her. Do you understand me?"

Jim nodded. "Mary is going to terminate the adoption. It's not going to be too hard. The final papers have not been signed."

"Then what?" Hands on her hips, she ignored the tear falling down her cheek.

Jim swallowed, "Lucy will still need a home."

Grissom stopped and glared at Jim, "So you're saying that she has to start all over again. Meeting prospective families, getting to know strangers, never knowing who she can trust, never knowing who's really going to take care of her."

"Yeah," Jim shifted from foot to foot. "There's...um, one solution. You see, if there was someone who had already gone through the screening and already knew Lucy, well, that would make a difference. Lucy wouldn't have to start over."

Grissom advanced on Brass until he was inches from his face, "Really. So Sara and I should re-invest, knowing that Mary could find somebody more suitable at any time."

"I don't care," Sara said, "I don't care. We want her. We'll do it!"

"You wouldn't have to compete with other parents." Mary stood in the doorway with a sleeping Lucy draped over her shoulder. She looked at Brass, "We got tired of waiting in the car."

Grissom took a deep breath, "What do you mean, Mary?"

"I spoke with my supervisor and pulled Judge Murphy away from the dinner table. If you want her, we can finalize with you. No more looking around. All the paperwork on you is current. We could finalize this adoption within the next two weeks."

"We do, we definitely do. Both of us. We're getting married. We can take her as a married couple." Sara's words tumbled out without censor.

Brass's eyes grew in surprise and Nick's face lit up with a big smile. Mary stepped forward, "I think that's great, but take your time. Think about it. Things are different with a new baby in the house. It's probably been a lot more work than you ever imagined."

Grissom turned to look at Sara who could barely contain her emotions. Then he took a deep breath and said, "We don't need time. Lucy belongs with us. I think I've known it since the day I first saw her. There's really nothing to think about. Just tell us what we need to do and it will get taken care of."

Mary nodded. She walked over to him, easing the child off her shoulder. Lucy's wild curls stuck up around her face, her chubby brown arms limp at her side.. Grissom took her gently, careful not to disturb her slumber. Mary stepped back, "I'll have the lawyers draw up the papers. As far as I'm concerned, she's yours. No more foster homes. If you want, she can stay with you from this moment on. The paperwork will be nothing more than a formality."

Sara pushed Lucy's curls away from her face. "She's ours?"

Mary smiled. "She's a very lucky girl."

Sara nodded, eyes wet with her tears. Lucy shifted on Grissom's shoulder and raised a sleepy head. She looked around for a moment with foggy eyes, caught sight of Grissom's beard and whispered, "Bunny." Then she lay her head down again and dropped back to sleep. Sara leaned her head into Grissom's shoulder, "What do you know? We started the day with one child and ended the day with three."

Grissom buried his head deeper under his pillow and resumed his snoring. But almost immediately he heard that same harsh whisper again. This time there was a persistent tapping on his shoulder. He pried one eye open and found Lucy staring back at him. As usual, her hair defied all of Sara's attention, and corkscrew curls erupted around her face. "Lucy," he mumbled, "Daddy's sleeping."

"I know!" she said in an exaggerated whisper, "Time to wake up."

Grissom lifted his head and peered at the alarm clock. With a groan, he fell back into his pillow. "Daddy's only been sleeping 3 hours. Come back later, Sweetie."

"Mommy's feeding 'Kota, and she's all messy and noisy too. Nobody wants to play with me!"

"Honey," he said into the pillow, "I want to play with you, but I just need a few more hours of sleep."

For a moment there was silence, and Grissom began to delude himself that the 4 year old had responded to reason. Then a tiny finger began to tickle behind his ear. "If you wake up, Daddy, we can play bugs together. Doesn't that sound fun?"

He pulled his matted curls up from the pillow and regarded his little perpetrator, "Honey, I worked all night. Daddy needs a few more hours before he can get up."

She reached over and ran her fingers through his hair, "I want to catch bad guys too. I'm going to be just like Daddy, and kick 'em and punch 'em and shoot 'em, shoot 'em, shoot 'em."

Grissom shook his weary head and made another mental note to talk to Sara about switching day care providers, "No Pumpkin, Daddy doesn't kick and punch, and he certainly doesn't shoot anybody. He catches bad guys with science, remember?"

Sara peeked her head around the corner, "There you are, you little squirrel. I told you, Daddy needs his sleep." She came in and plucked her off the bed. Lucy squirmed in her arms. "I'm sorry. You know how she gets when her daddy's around."

Then came the inevitable, heart wrenching wail, "No, Mommy! I want to play with Daddy!"

"I got it," Sara said as she started off with the inconsolable child.

"Sara, bring her back. It's okay. You've got enough on your hands with Dakota's teething. Besides, you have to go to work yourself in a few hours. Where's that video? The National Geographic Furry Babies one. Put it in. She can lay down with me for awhile and watch."

"Yes, Mommy, please!" The child strained for the bed. With a sigh, Sara let her crawl back onto the bed. Then She found a tattered video and popped it in. Lucy curled up beside Grissom and propped up an elbow on his side. She then began a running commentary on the upcoming scenes in the film, showing the proficiency of someone who has seen it at least 50 times. Grissom settled back into a gentle snore, and Sara quietly backed out of the room, closing the door behind her.

The End