A/N: This is it! Last chapter. The origins of this story began when I read that a particular romance novelist did not like fan fiction writers. I decided to do something of a parody of her "style" as I was rather distressed by her very cold comments regarding fan fiction. I actually failed miserably at this as she does not write in first-person-present, she writes in first-person-past. And, in case it isn't obvious, this story took on a life of its own. Still, I thought it would be helpful to explain why this turned out the way it did. It is the first thing I've written that actually ended exactly the way I planned it. And for the record, writing anything in present tense is a huge pain in the ass. I strongly recommend against it.

Thank you to my betas for this fic: dreamsofhim, Cybrokat and Cincoflex! Thank you so much to everyone out there for reading and reviewing! Enjoy!


The figure lurking in the shadows of the dimly lit room does not stir, but maintains its vigil of the prone body within the bed before it. The figure is a man, Gil Grissom by name, and he has not left the room of the woman, Sara Sidle, for fifteen hours now.

Each breath the woman takes brings a ray of hope to Gil Grissom. Each moan or cry she makes sends him racing from the chair in the corner to her side, taking her hand and calling her name. He is distraught as any man can ever be; he pleads with the Lord to heal her and keep her here with him. He must not take her away. He prays this over and over as he listens to the random beeps and whirs of the monitors; while he watches the woman he loves fight to stay alive.

Fifteen more hours pass before the woman in the bed stirs. The man in the shadows is slumped in his chair, exhaustion finally overcame him a few hours earlier. She blinks and takes in her surroundings. She notices the machinery first, as it is loud to her ears and startles her. She sees her white sheets second and the metal frame of the bed third. The rest of the room comes to her in a blur, the TV, the panel door to the bathroom, the hotel-style air conditioner on the floor underneath the window. The large blobs of flowers printed on the curtains; those are pulled shut, the few rays of sun peaking through the cracks at the edges. And there is the man, slumped in the drab olive chair, his hair unkempt, his beard scraggly, his clothing rumpled.

"Grissom?" she tries to call out, but chokes when she says the words. The monitors start to beep and squeal loudly as she panics. The noise wakes the man and he rushes as before to her bedside, taking her hand in his. She can feel his warmth; it almost burns right through her.

"Sara?" he says, his blue eyes meeting hers. She notices the redness and the raw fear there; guilt floods her as she realizes she somehow caused it. She tries to again speak his name but is again hindered the dryness of her throat. Her arms instinctively rise in self-preservation when a flood gate of people enters into the room.

"Please relax," says a young woman in white. "You've been in a coma. Do you understand?"

Wide-eyed, Sara nods. "You must relax," says other. A haze begins to grow, clouding her vision until the world becomes opaque and she slips back into unconsciousness.

"What did you do to her?" the man asks angrily. "She was in a coma! She just woke up!"

"Sir," one nurse says haughtily, "she needs her rest. This is common in patients with head injuries. You should leave the room now so we can tend to her."

"I'm not leaving her."

The nurse makes a gesture and three others surround him. "You really need to leave now," they all parrot at him. "It will be okay, you can see her when we're done, we promise."

The nurses are fortunate that the man has had little sleep because he has little strength to fight them. They drag him outside into a hallway and settle him on a faded sofa in a lobby. "Just wait here and we'll come and get you when she is awake again."

He does as they ask, waiting and pushing himself to remain alert. He succumbs to exhaustion thirty minutes later and in his dreams he continuously thanks the Lord for returning his Sara to him.

oooooooooooo

Sara is not pleased and her displeasure has become everyone's pain. She wants to go home, but her doctor refuses to release her until the once gaping wound on her head has completely healed. The cast on her foot is itchy and sweaty and her arm tingles with lack of circulation. It is strapped to her side to allow her dislocated right shoulder to heal properly.

She is tired of physical therapy, she is tired of hospital food, and she is throwing a holy fit at anyone who comes to try to help her.

Grissom has been there for her the entire time; it is only he that does not feel her wrath. When he visits, she sobs against his shoulder and he comforts her with his soft words and soothing voice. He will tell her stories about their work, trying to get her to smile. Sometimes she does smile and will laugh with him. Many times they play quiet games together; Sara has developed a very pressing need to play chess whenever possible. Sara is sure that every nurse on the floor hates her; they are treating her poorly because of it. She does not treat them well in kind, despite Grissom's pleas for her to do otherwise.

The nurses do not understand what she went through. They do not understand at all. No one does. Sara's foray into the past is very real to her; she had just adapted to it as reality when it was ripped from her. She has told no one, not even Grissom, what occurred while she was in a coma.

She considered it, but after a few visits from her friends, she realized she'd better keep her mouth shut.

Doc Robbins had arrived early on, his bright eyes filled with concern and relief, and his metal crutches exactly what she remembered prior to her ordeal. "They are metal," she had said to him. "I knew they were metal."

He had looked at her strangely but dismissed it until she asked about Annie.

"Uh, Sara… who is Annie?"

"Annie is your wife, right?"

"My wife's name is Linda."

Shame and embarrassment had flooded her. Sara does know his wife's name; she knows what she looks like as well. She had met her at the couple's thirtieth anniversary party a few years ago. Linda is a kind but subdued woman; she does not resemble Annie in the slightest. Doc Robbins left when Sara's eyes had filled with tears, apologizing for upsetting her. He did not return. For days she mourned the loss of Annie, coming to the very dour conclusion that there is no Annie in her real life.

Greg drops in each afternoon before he goes into work. He is exactly the same to her as he was in her past reality. He plays chess with her as well and she beats him exactly the same way she had beaten him before. He too will attempt to cheer her up, and she will laugh with him as well. Greg is the only person she told about her relationship with Grissom prior to her accident. The relationship was and still is fairly new, and Sara had needed to share her happiness with a friend. Greg was delighted when she told him. "You both deserve to be happy," he had said. In Sara's mind, Greg's knowledge of their relationship rationalizes the Past Greg's behavior in bringing Sara and the Past Grissom together.

Nick and Warrick visited twice, once together, once separately. They brought her flowers and told her to take it easy and get better soon. Nick's lack of an accent, and Warrick's confident nonchalance are just as jarring to her as her original encounter with the Nick and Warrick of the past.

Brass stops by every other day. He pops into her room, say hello, squeezes her hand and leaves. He, like Greg, seems the same to her. Even David, who came once alone, is twin to his doppelganger. The only thing different is the glasses. And the wedding ring. Her Past David was unattached.

The day of her accident is permanently gone to her. She knows it occurred, the doctors and Grissom himself have told her what happened. But she remembers none of it. It is as if she went to sleep the night before the accident and awoke in her hospital bed the next day. Memories of her life in the past intermix with her present reality, making her question more than once what is truly real and what is fantasy.

For almost a week now she has tolerated the nurses, the therapy, and the doctor poking and prodding, "Does this hurt?" Enough is enough. She wants to go home.

When her doctor, Dr. Fernandez, finally comes to her during his daily rounds, she demands to be released.

"A few more days, Sara," he tells her clipboard. "Just a few more."

"Dr. Fernandez," says a voice from the doorway, "could she be released earlier if someone were to watch over her for the next week or so? I believe she would recover faster if she were in a more … comfortable environment."

Dr. Fernandez raises his head and studies Dr. Grissom. A moment passes as he considers his proposition. "If you can provide continuous surveillance of her and bring her to her physical therapy each day, I suppose it would be okay."

"I see no problem with either of those things."

Sara cannot contain her joy at the prospect of getting away from the hospital. "Please, can I go now? What do I need to do to get the hell outta here?" She struggles to right herself on the bed but Grissom rushes to her side and stops her.

"You'll have to prevent her from overexerting herself," Dr. Fernandez says derisively.

"Sara," Grissom scowls, "you need to take it easy. Your body went through significant trauma…"

"… and my injuries need time and rest in order to heal properly. Yes, yes, I know. Can we just go now please? Please?"

It is the desperation in her eyes that melt Grissom's ire. He looks towards Dr. Fernandez, who says, "I'll have one of the attendants provide you with a wheelchair, Miss Sidle."

"Thank you," Sara tells them both. She takes Grissom's hand in hers and speaks only to him. "Thank you very much."

oooooooooooo

Sara's apartment is as she remembered. She's fortunate that her building has elevators, as she'd have a hell of a time climbing the two flights of stairs to her home. It is nice to be back among the modern conveniences, such as toilets that flush and soap and electricity and dishwashers and cell phones and most importantly, air conditioning. God bless the man that invented air conditioning.

Grissom is with her during most of his free time; the others rotate their off-hours and off-nights to stay with her while Grissom is at work. Sara spends the majority of her days asleep in her bedroom while her babysitters watch TV or tinker on her computer. Greg especially loves to play an online computer game; he even installed software on her computer in order to play it. She doesn't know the name, but the characters on her small monitor appear very detailed and vibrant.

It is only for a week that she is confined to the wheelchair. Finally, on a Friday, she is declared fit to walk at her physical therapy session. The following Monday she is x-rayed and fitted with a walking cast for her shattered foot. The physical therapy doctors seem confident that it will heal fairly well; in time she may not even need a cane to walk properly, although it is likely she will have a slight limp.

The damage to her foot was extensive; most of the major bones, including her ankle, were broken as they bore the weight of her fall. Her dislocated shoulder was another casuality, but that too is healing nicely.

She also sustained multiple bumps and bruises when she tumbled down the narrow shaft; those have long since healed. It is the damage to her skull that is her most serious injury. Twenty-three stitches run a diagonal along the back of her head. At times, pain she is all too familiar with will return. The trauma she received caused extensive swelling of her brain and is what forced her into the coma. Dr. Fernandez told her she was incredibly lucky – most people with damage of the same caliber have partial or permanent brain damage.

There are times when Sara forgets certain things, or she seems a little slower than she thought she was. But the physical therapy does help and those doctors assure her that with a little time, she'll be as good as new.

One afternoon, while Grissom is quietly reading and Sara is munching on an egg salad sandwich he prepared for her, a stray thought, a lost memory perhaps, comes into focus in Sara's mind. With a leap, she is on her feet and walking as fast as she can to her bedroom.

Grissom looks up from his book, his glasses slipping to the end of his nose. "Sara?" When she does not reply he hurries towards her bedroom, quite concerned. He finds her balancing on a folding chair, scanning the top shelf of her bookcase feverishly.

"It must be here. I know I didn't throw it away!" she murmurs to herself.

"Honey, is everything okay?"

"I… I need to find a book."

"All right, do you need any help? Please do be careful standing on that chair, will you?" Grissom wisely places himself beside her in case she was to fall.

"It must be here. I know I kept it. I wouldn't throw it away… oh I hope I didn't throw it away!"

"Perhaps you put it someplace else?" Grissom asks, attempting to humor his girlfriend while enjoying the view of her rear end. "There are some books in the shoeboxes in your closet."

Sara pauses. "How do you know about the boxes in my closet? Did you look in them?"

Grissom looks sheepish. "Well, yes. I did."

She shoots him a look; she knows what he found in one of the boxes. Stepping gingerly off of the chair, she says, "Was there a romance novel in there, one with a picture of a half-naked cowboy entwined with a blonde on the front? 'Stampede Of Passion' I think it's called?"

"Uhm… I don't recall seeing a book like that, Sara."

"Distracted by the other items in the box?" she coos as she leans into him.

"Er…"

Sara giggles at his discomfort, she herself not feeling quite comfortable either. "You know that's old. I haven't … in years you know."

"Yes, I could tell. The battery was dead. It was very old too."

"You turned it on? And looked at the battery?"

"Well, I really have never seen one up close. I mean, there were those on that one case, in the dishwasher, but I didn't process them."

"Gil Grissom, you are something else. Why don't you get the boxes since you know where to find them, and we'll look for my book, hmm?"

The tattered paperback novel Sara is looking for is in the older of the two shoeboxes. She holds Stampede of Passion in her hands, feeling the familiar tear along the back cover and the feel of the bent pages in her palm. The half-naked black haired man with the cowboy hat is still grotesquely entwined with a blonde woman in a pale dress whose arms are inhumanly long as they reach up towards the man's face.

"This book has a history, Gil. This was my first entry into the realm of sex education. A girl in French class, Emily, gave it to me. She said she stole it off her mother's dresser… why her mother never wondered where it went is beyond me. When I finished it, I gave it back to her but she said not to bother, her mother thought the dog ate it and she was going to buy a new one. So I kept it."

"This book," Sara says fondly, settling herself on her bed, "is about a young woman who travels from Boston to a mining town out west." She flips through the first few chapters, searching for a passage. "Unfortunately for her, she gets walloped on the head by a bad guy quite soon after arriving in town, and she develops amnesia. I must have read this book a hundred times." When Sara finds what she's looking for, she reads aloud.

"'You have amnesia', Doc Roberts says quietly.

'I do?' Serendipity asks hesitantly.

'Yes,' Roberts nods. 'I'm afraid you do.'

Serendipity studies the room she does not seem to remember. Everything is soft and homey, inflaming within her a feeling of tranquility. The brilliant rays of sun provide fingers of light to her sanctuary; the furniture accenting her comfort. White lace curtains drift idly in a slight breeze and the white linens on her bed bring back memories of her infancy. The worn oil lamp resting on the bed stand nearby appears often used; its wick is dark and short with use. Next to it rests an old-fashioned Bible, the silk ribbon dangling over the side of the stand.

'I cannot remember,' Serendipity wails hopelessly. 'Oh heavens, whatever shall I do!'

'It will all come back to you in a while, my dearest. You are in the settlement of Nelson, near the Techatticup Mine. You live here - with me, Ann and Daniel. You are a registered nurse of The Union, Yankee-born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Does any of that sound familiar?'

Serendipity raises her hands to her head in abject confusion. Doc Roberts touches her shoulder in a fatherly way, attempting to console her. 'It will come back to you, dear. Just rest here for the evening and I'll have Annie bring you something to sup' later.'"

"Sara," Grissom asks as he places his hand on her knee, "uh… who wrote this book?"

"Sharon Moyer. She was a big name historical romance writer back then. Had five or six books, I think."

"She… wasn't very good."

"Oh no, she was more than not very good. She was horrific. She wrote the tackiest, cheesiest romance novels around in the most bizarre settings. People adored her; said she was a genius." Sara flips through to the next chapter.

"The masked rider strides towards Serendipity slowly, his stallion's head jerking as the magnificent beast fights for control from the man astride him. The man quietly utters a horse-like command, and the horse instantly quiets itself, succumbing to the clearly stronger will of the man. Serendipity's delicate bay mare is not used to such things and shuffles her hooves in fright. But Serendipity is not afraid, even when the man dismounts and approaches her with a lustful fire in his eye. He's dressed entirely in black, the cold glint of the gun in his hand entirely too visible in the waning light. Its dark barrel is pointed straight at Serendipity's chest.

'Dismount,' he growls.

'I will do no such thing!' Serendipity replies avidly.

The masked man grabs Serendipity and pulls her from her timid mount. His fiery kiss immediately ignites an ember deep within Serendipity's soul, despite her will to deny it.

'Oh, Serendipty,' the man moans as he kisses her swollen lips and caresses her breast with his strong, manly hand. Serendipity feels her chaste body respond to his advances and becomes frightened. She tries to fight her wanton womanly desires and pushes against his hard, flat chest, driving him away.

'I... I do not know you!' Serendiptiy gasps. 'Keep your vile hands off me!'

The man chuckles. 'You don't recognize me? Pity, because I know you. Quite well.'

Serendipity puts the pieces together quickly, as she is quite a smart young lady. 'Why, you… you are the horrid El Vaquero De La Noche! You murdered my only brother! I shall have nothing to do with you! Get! Get now from my sight this very instant!' "

Sara is laughing to herself as she reads the last passage. "This really is terrible. This is what my mind came up with? Wow, I might need therapy after all."

"Therapy?" Grissom is quite puzzled.

Sara faces him and explains as briefly as she can about what she experienced when she was in her coma. "I didn't want to tell anyone, it all seemed so very… real to me. But now I can see, it was just my mind playing out this book. And a terrible book it was at that."

"I can't believe this book was your education in sex," Grissom states, horrified.

"Oh yes. For a foster kid, parental guidance was out of the question. And schools weren't that eager to teach all the nuances of sex to us teenagers. Thought we'd go experiment and get pregnant and all. Which some did, which is why they teach it now." Sara flips to the middle of the book, scanning page by page.

"God Dammit!"

"What?"

"She won the damn bake-off. Why couldn't I have won the bake-off?"

"Because you can't cook?" Grissom realizes his mistake the second after he blurts it out.

"I can too cook! I … okay well maybe you are better at it than I am." Sara shoves him lightly and returns to flipping through the book.

"See this?" she says. "This was my first experience with sex."

"Serendipity clings tightly to Bo Raider, shuddering tremulously. 'I was so frightened! That inhuman beast was going to maul me!'

'Yes, Ser,' Bo huskily murmurs as he holds her, 'I'm sure he was. It is a good thing that my Indian friend Walking Bear responded to my call and was able to prevent that terrible rogue from harming you." He strokes her soft blonde hair gently. 'I don't think I would have been able to live with myself if anything happened to you.'

'Oh, Bo, how can I ever repay you for your kindness? I was ever so wrong to blame you for the death of the beloved brother that I cannot remember; it is obvious to me now that you could never commit such a heinous crime!'

'Oh, Ser, having you here with me is payment enough. Every moment I spend with you is like a fabulous gift, a never-ending dream come true. You must know now how much I love you and I swear to you now, on the graves of my ancestors, that I shall always love you and only you!'

'Oh, Bo, I have always loved you as well! I just was too clouded by my foolish notions to notice! Take me, take me now beneath the heather and prove your love to me!'

'Oh, Ser, you deserve so much better than this!' Bo Raider slowly caresses Serendipity Lamont's silken cheek with his muscular, tanned hands. His lips gently caress her delicate skin as he carefully removes her bodice, exposing the ripe, round melons of her breasts.

'Oh touch me, please Bo, touch me!' He fulfills her wishes and suckles greedily on her taut nipple. Serendipity cries out in ecstasy at his flaming touch.

It is with great care that he spreads her lithe legs and presses his throbbing member into the tight, eager petals of her gentle feminine sex..."

"SARA!" Grissom shouts, slamming the book closed. His eyes are bright and small blooms of color are burning on his cheeks.

"What, Grissom?" she asks innocently.

"That… that is porn! You read that as a teenager?"

"Sure! That's nothing. They aren't even doing anything kinky. I will admit that this book in particular is a really bad example of romance writing, but women love to read about fictional characters having unrealistically amazing sex with incredibly virile men who fulfill their every need."

Grissom's eyebrows rise in a classic confusion pose. "Women want men to fulfill their every need?"

Sara shrugs. "Some do. Women like it when men dote on them and make them feel special." Sara closes the book and with a sigh, puts it back into the old shoebox. "Well, at least now I know where my mind got the idea." She sighs in resignation. "It was all very real to me though. I suppose that is what it is like when you're in a coma, you know? They say people have weird experiences as their minds try to piece together what happened."

Grissom doesn't reply, and Sara turns to him. "What?"

"I have a question," he states in his non-emotional voice.

"Yes?"

"In your dream, who was Bo, the El Vaquero character?" The reddish hue returns to Grissom's cheeks. "Did you… were you intimate with him in your fantasies?"

"Well, I'm not sure I should tell you. It was very personal, after all."

"Oh. I see."

Sara's voice is a soft purr. "He wasn't all that tall, but he was very handsome. He had salt and pepper hair and these intense blue eyes. He worked as an apothecary by day, and rode a dark stallion named Dante at night." Sara scoots over on the bed to lean against Grissom. His sharp intake of breath is a token of how long it has been since they've been together. The exploration of their newfound romance was cut horrifically short by Sara's accident. In fact, Sara could count on one hand the number of times she and Grissom had been intimate. In her mind, that needed to change, right now.

She runs one fingernail up and down his thigh, causing him to shift his weight nervously. "Sara…"

"Yes?"

"You… are you up for this?"

"You betcha."

A great deal later, Sara lays happily against his chest, both of them sated and content. Grissom, with a hint of smugness, asks her, "So, was I as good as your fairytale dream man?"

Sara smiles against his skin and replies, "Don't worry yourself, Gil. I will always prefer the flesh and blood of reality to any idealistic dreams or fantasies."

A moment passes before Grissom replies softly, "That's disappointing. I was looking forward to wearing the mask."

THE END


Epilogue: Three Months Later.

"Did you pack all the boxes into the back of the car?" Sara hollers down the narrow hallway.

"Yes," Grissom replies, "as well as the two garment bags."

Sara takes one last look at her now-empty apartment. The walls were painted a neutral beige a week ago, and what was once her sanctuary has now become a stranger. With a sigh she does one last walkthrough, checking each cabinet and closet for any items she might have missed.

Grissom returns to her, beads of sweat coalescing on his brow. "We done?" he puffs.

"Think so."

His firm hand rests on her shoulder. "Leaving something behind?"

Sara murmurs, "I'm not sure. It might be more of a 'closing one door to open another' type of thing."

"Well, when you're ready honey, I'll be out in the car… blasting the air conditioner." Sara smiles at his departing back. He is very good about giving her the space she needs. How did she ever get so lucky?

She gives her old home one last look before closing and locking her door. One last trip to the main office to return her key and that's it. She's on to a new life with Grissom.

As she walks down the hall, the elderly woman in 315 opens her door, an empty canvas grocery bag looped through one arm and her large black purse looped around the other. Behind her is a view of her kitchen countertop, much more homey and domesticated than Sara's. Sara used hers as a repository for all of her miscellaneous mail and junk.

The elderly woman pauses. "You," she states. "You live in 321. Come in at all hours of the night. What's your name?"

"My name is Sara Sidle. But I'm moving out today. I am sorry if I disturbed you. I work the graveyard shift for the forensics department."

It's clear the woman doesn't understand what forensics is. "Well, I can't say I'm sorry to see you go, but good luck to you."

"Thank you. Your home looks lovely. Are those antiques?" Sara points to six white canisters, all lined up in a row on her counter. Each has a different symbol embossed on the side.

"Why yes... would you like to see them? I inherited them from my mother, who inherited them from my great-aunt, I believe. Maybe great-great aunt, I can't quite remember how many greats there were in there. But she was quite the baker, she was, and my mother kept all of her recipes and handed them down to me. Why, in my day I could bake the best apple pie you've ever tasted, I'm sure! In fact…"

The woman drones on but Sara isn't listening anymore. She is intently focused on one of the canisters, the one with a picture of an ear of corn. She takes it in her hand and holds it out to the old woman. "This is cornstarch, right?"

"Why yes, dear, that's what the little pictures mean. That one is wheat, for flour, that one is sugar cane, for sugar, that one in your hand is for cornstarch, that one is a bean, for coffee…"

"Ma'am, what was your great… er, great-great aunt's name?"

"The same thing as me, Ann Louise Whittaker. Wait, that's not right. Whittaker is my married name. So she must have been Ann Louise Robbins. My father was a Robbins. Why do you ask?"

"No… no reason." Sara carefully places the canister back on the shelf and steps slowly backward out of the apartment. "Thank you for showing me your lovely home, Ms. Whittaker. I'm sorry I didn't get to spend more time with you. I would have liked to have heard more about your aunt."

"Ah well, nice meeting with you then." Ms. Whittaker is back to locking up her apartment and preparing for her shopping trip. "Take care!"

"You too, Ms. Whittaker."

Sara leaves her apartment building for the last time mumbling to herself.

"... it can't be… it just can't be…"

THE END... really this time