Chapter 16

Six months. It was six months, almost to the day, since Sara hand handed Grissom her leave of absence form. Tonight was going to be her first night back at work. The idea of returning to the lab had her more then a little freaked. This morning she woke herself up in a cold sweat, shaken from a nightmare. She had walked into the lab to find that Ecklie was her boss, Greg was lead CSI, and she had forgotten everything she had ever known about forensics. Sitting straight up in the bed she rattled off the periodic table of the elements, both as a way to calm herself down and as proof that all the knowledge she had worked to hard for was still there. Here, in the bright light of day, she could laugh at the dream. While she had been sleeping it had seemed to real. Ecklie's snide comments as he handed out assignments, her own reflection appearing ghostlike in the glass walls, Greg's calm lecturing as he taught her how to lift fingerprints. Greg calm. That should have been a sign right there that she had been dreaming.

"Sara?" Grissom questioned as he also sat up on the bed, rubbing her back in slow circles with the flat of his hand. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. It's stupid," she responded self deprecatingly.

"I'm just a little nervous about tonight," she sighed.

"That's only natural. But it's just the crew, and you see them all the time."

"What if I can't do my job? What if I've been away too long, and it's not in me anymore?" Sara was off the bed now, pacing the room in an effort to dispel her nerves. "I told you it was stupid."

Grissom caught her the next time she walked past the bed and pulled her to him.

"Sara, tonight is going to be fine. You are a good CSI. I've known a lot of CSIs in thirty years of working for law enforcement, and you are one of the best I've ever worked with. Now, if you don't think you should go to work, that's a different matter."

Sara bristled at that last statement; the subtle questioning behind it was enough to strengthen her resolve.

"Of course I'm going to work. I never said differently." She slid away from him and headed to the bathroom.

Grissom smirked when he heard the shower water turn on. It was good to know he could still push just the right buttons to motivate her. One of the first things he had learned about Sara, back when they were still teacher and student: don't question Sara's ability to do something. She will do everything in her power to prove you wrong.

"I'm leaving for work in an hour," Grissom told Sara when she got out of the shower. "Do you want to ride in with me or are you going to drive in on your own?"

"Why so early?" Shift didn't start for more then two hours. While it once would have been normal for Grissom to arrive at work two or even three hours before shift, all that had changed in the last month.

"I have some phone calls that need to be made earlier then eleven."

"I'll be ready to leave when you are."

It was like arriving for work on any normal day, except that it wasn't. Everything around her seemed to move faster then usual. The florescent lights in the hallway were brighter. The stares of the people were more intense. As Sara walked into the lab on her first night back, she reluctantly let go of Grissom's hand. She felt like a child going to school for the first time.

"I'm going to go put my lunch in the break room fridge." Sara had packed a meal at home: lunch, breakfast, whatever you wanted to call the meal that you eat at three in the morning. She usually didn't eat in the middle of shift, being wrapped up in whatever case she was working, but that was BC. Before cancer. Now she made sure to eat more regularly.

"I'll be in my office," Grissom stated as she walked away.

The break room was uncharacteristically dark, and Sara had to grope for the light switch next to the door. In the moment it took her eyes to adjust to the change in light, shouts of "Surprise" assailed her. Nick, Warrick, Greg, Catherine, Brass and Doc Robbins, plus a handful of lab techs, stood in the middle of the room. Balloons and streamers gave a rather bizarre look to the room. On the table sat a cake, the writing on it proclaiming that she was 'welcome bake.'

"In case you couldn't guess, it's supposed to say welcome back. Someone decided to leave Nicky in charge of ordering the cake." Warrick playfully jabbed his friend in the shoulder.

"Not my fault they couldn't read my writing. Who says welcome bake? They should have called," Nick defended himself.

"Good to know it was a mistake," Sara joked. "For a minute there, I thought you expected me to cook for you."

"That would have been a nightmare. What am I supposed to do when my whole team is in the hospital with food poisoning?" Grissom stepped into the room, briefly resting his hand on Sara's shoulder.

"Hey, not fair. I'm not that bad a cook." Sara tried to pout, but couldn't pull it off with a straight face.

"So why is it that I end up cooking every meal we eat at home?"

"I'm not stupid. Why cook when I have you around?"

Grissom lifted a single eyebrow in response.

No one in the room commented on the by-play between the two CSIs. Neither Sara nor Grissom wanted to have to sneak around, so in the interest of full disclosure, they had told everyone that they were dating. Although dating wasn't really the right word for it. Sara didn't know how to label their relationship. It just... was.

Warrick had simply shrugged when they told him.

Nick had replied with a "well, duh."

Greg had said "cool."

"Is this fact supposed to surprise me?" Brass questioned sardonically.

Catherine, ever blunt, had responded with "it's about time."

And so it became an accepted fact on the night shift. Sara and Grissom were together. Privately the other CSIs agreed that 'Sara's cancer was horrible, but there was a silver lining. It finally resolved things between the two of them.'

For an hour that night everyone ate cake and talked, making sure to let Sara blend in with the group without being the focus of the room, forgetting that there was such a thing as crime. Nick, Warrick, and Archie played football on the PS2. David shyly asked Catherine for advice on a wedding present for his fiancé. Greg spoke with Bobby about some concert he had been to recently. Brass, Grissom, and Al reminisced about some of the more memorable cases they had worked on years earlier. Sara floated from group to group, razing the guys about their game, giving David suggestions, reminding Grissom of a case they had worked together in San Francisco. She paused in the middle of refilling her punch glass to slowly scan the room. Everyone in the world that she cared about was present. Nick had been right, when he visited her after her return from the hospital. She had yelled at him, over something stupid. Before he left she had guiltily apologized. He had brushed it off. Don't be silly, we're family. Here, in this room full of scientists, doctors, and cops, she was among family.

Grissom slipped out of the room to collect the night's assignments. He was reluctant to break up the party, but the criminals of Las Vegas apparently didn't care that they were celebrating, and continued to rob, assault, and murder. Returning to the break room he cleared his throat.

"To everything there is a season. A time to be born, a time to die. A time to sow, and a time to reap. A time to eat cake, and a time to return to your jobs."

A collective groan sounded from the group.

"Paraphrasing God now, Gil?" Brass joked.

"Don't you have a crime scene to be at, Jim?" Grissom returned.

He assigned Sara to work with him on the death of an elderly man. He wanted to keep an eye on her. He almost expected her to protest, but she just smiled at him as she picked up her perfectly organized, cleaned and freshly stocked kit.

"What do we know?"

Together they collected the evidence, working in a silent rhythm that made onlookers believe in telepathy. When they returned to the lab Grissom was waylaid by a stack of phone messages handed to him by the receptionist. Three were marked urgent.

"I'll get started on processing." Sara told him as she read the messages over his shoulder.

Grissom sighed. Sometimes, he almost hated being supervisor. People, especially those he was forced to report to, often annoyed him.

"I'll catch up with you as soon as I can."

It took him more then thirty minutes to escape from the phone. Walking down the hall he searched for Sara, noticing that Nick and Catherine had returned from their scene but Greg and Warrick were still gone. On his third try he found her, bent over a microscope.

"Hey, what did you find?"

Sara looked up. "Fiber from the victim's shirt. Looks smooth, maybe silk? Want to see?"

"Sure." He examined the magnified blue fiber.

"What was the victim wearing?" he questioned.

"Slacks and a green polo shirt. No silk, but the next door neighbor was wearing a blue silk dress when I questioned her."

"Looks like we might have a suspect. I'll go call Brass, have him bring in the neighbor."

"Sure thing, boss," she quipped, stressing the word boss ever so slightly.

Grissom resisted the urge he had to roll his eyes.

"By the way, about your comment earlier. Are you cooking dinner tonight?"

"You wish." Sara turned from him and returned her attention to the evidence. "Now go away Griss. I don't know about you, but I have work to do."

Grissom left the room, turning once at the doorway to look over his shoulder. Sara was one again bent over the microscope. Completely absorbed in her work, she was singing to herself. "...gone are the dark cloud I left behind. It's gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day."


A/N: Wow. I can't believe I completed my story. First thing I've ever written this long. Thank you to everyone who wrote me such kind, happy, helpful reviews. I love all of you. I'm a little depressed now, knowing this story is over. I didn't think anything could beat reading fanfic, but it turns out writing it is even more fun. To everyone who read this, thank you! This is for you, my friends at and YTDAW. A toast to GSR, champagne for everyone!