Gil's warm arms wrapped around Sara and she leaned into his embrace. He could still smell the sweet pea scent left on her skin from the boys' baths earlier that evening. The room was dark with the exception of the flicker of the television screen.
It was only eight o'clock, but both were too tired to pay much attention to the History Channel program being aired about a massive earthquake in the Midwest during the nineteenth century. They were taking advantage of a rare opportunity to spend some quiet time alone, as both boys were sound asleep in their own rooms.
The ringing of the telephone suddenly shattered the peace. Sara immediately shot up, worried that the sound would wake someone, and darted across the floor stubbing her toe on the bouncer that was inadvertently left in the middle of the floor, "Shit," she spat as she hopped the last few feet to the phone catching it before the second ring. "Hello," her voice breathless.
Grissom watched as she listened to the person on the other end. After a moment, she held up a finger to him and turned to walk into the kitchen to talk. He was slightly more awake now and picked up the remote to flip through some channels stopping when a Cheers rerun caught his eye. It was just ending when Sara strode back into the room. After setting the phone back on its cradle, she slipped back onto the couch next to her husband.
"Who was that?" His curiosity piqued.
"John." She paused to gauge his reaction, knowing he wasn't too sure about the other man.
"Oh yeah? What's he up to?" His voice was light.
"He got married." Her own surprise was reflected in her voice.
"Yep," she added. "And suddenly."
"Is she pregnant?" He was being completely serious and not judgmental at all.
"No," she giggled slapping him playfully, and then paused thoughtfully before adding, "I don't think so."
He nodded, knowing there was more to the story.
"Well apparently they've been talking about it for awhile, but John's been dragging his feet." She shrugged.
"Well a few failed marriages have soured him on the concept." Her nose wrinkled slightly as she spoke.
"A few?" He questioned as he pulled her back to him and began rubbing her neck.
"More like four…"
"I see." His hands stopped their action momentarily as he took in this new information.
"But, he's dated Casey longer than the others. In the past he's…well, he's rushed into marriage." Suddenly she felt the need to defend her friend. "And for the most part, his relationships have seemed to go south sometime after the I do's. He wasn't ready for that with Casey."
"I see." He'd admit he was intrigued.
"Anyway, apparently there was a…disturbance at the courthouse, and long story short, she was held hostage for nearly two days."
His eyebrows furrowed as he realized that this wasn't going to be a funny story. "How is she?"
"She's fine. Shaken, but surviving." She cocked her head, remembering her own fear when she had been held against her will by a suspect and knew how scared Casey must have been.
Grissom gently laid his hand over Sara's as he watched the memory replay through her eyes. She shook her head, trying to get back on track. "So, John got a huge dose of the possibility of having to go on without her, and he spent most of those forty-eight hours unable to do anything, but wait for the creep who held her to surrender." She crossed her fingers in front of her. "He realized that he wanted to be with Casey for the rest of his life, and he proposed the night the standoff ended." She smiled brightly again.
"So when did they get married?" Both of his hands had returned to her neck and shoulders.
"Two nights ago." Her head bobbed up and down, "Neither wanted nor needed anything flashy, and neither wanted to bring too much attention to the fact that an Assistant District Attorney was marrying a Detective." She smiled an 'I know what that's like' smile. "They had a simple ceremony and…get this," her smile beamed, "They're going to take their honeymoon in Vegas."
"Really." He wasn't entirely surprised.
"Yep. Partially because they want to vacation far away from home and partially because they haven't seen me in a long time." She bit back a smile.
His hands paused once again. "Uh-huh," came the sarcastic reply.
"Oh and they want to see the kids as well." She playfully shrugged it off.
He patted her shoulders indicating the massage was over. "So when will they be here?"
"Friday; I asked them to Mattie's premiere party on Saturday." Grissom smiled at his wife; now that their youngest son was past the critical one month mark Sara was much more open to the idea of visitors and much less afraid of the germs said visitors would be bringing into the house.
The morning of the party, Sara was hard at work in the kitchen. She ran her knife through the pile of parsley before adding it to the salad. After turning to rinse the cutting board and knife, she quickly spun back around and began slicing up the eggplant and zucchini before adding them and the mushrooms to the marinade so they would have time to soak before going on the grill later. She had already cut up the watermelon and pineapple, and the corn on the cob was soaking.
The only thing left was for Gil to prepare the chicken for the grill, but she was done. There was still time before their guests would arrive, but when you have a one-month-old baby, you don't take any free time for granted.
Mattie was napping, but Sara knew that he'd be waking up hungry any minute now. She made quick work of the dishes she had dirtied, and was nearly finished when the grainy cry came through the monitor sitting on the nearby counter. Rather than stopping, she just picked up the pace.
"Hey, it's alright," she heard her husband coo. "Daddy's here." She smiled as she continued to work to the sounds of the simple, yet sweet, conversation. Mattie continued to fuss though. Sara assumed from the rustling sounds that his diaper was being changed, and she said a silent thank you, because by that simple act, he had bought her enough time to finish the task at hand.
A minute later, she was done, and after draining the used water from the sink, she walked to the living room, where Alex was playing firefighter with his fire truck.
Gil came down the stairs with Mattie nestled in the crook of his arm, "I have someone for you."
Sara reached for the small package and took him back up the stairs to nurse in the quiet of her bedroom. It was a well-orchestrated dance that they had mastered over the last month.
While Sara went to care for Mattie, Gil had Alex help him get ready for the gathering planned for that afternoon.
The rest of the morning and early afternoon was a whirl of activity, but now it was getting to be time for everyone to arrive. Sara had just put Mattie down for a nap when the doorbell rang. She was about to reach the last step when Anya opened the door to a face she hadn't seen in a very long time.
"Detective Munch," she spoke firmly.
Without missing a beat, the tall, lean man replied, "Anya! I've missed you." He leaned in and gave her sloppy kiss on the cheek.
Anya was stunned for a second, but quickly recovered, shaking her head with a smile, "Come on in." She and Casey exchanged a kisses on the cheek as well.
"You're here!" Sara nearly squealed.
"Sara!" John smiled back. She went to greet them near the door and was immediately embraced by her friend. His arms felt so good, she hadn't felt their safety in so long. She swallowed the lump in her throat before they separated. She then gave Casey a hug as well. She normally wouldn't have greeted the other woman in that manner, but she figured she had just hugged the woman's husband, and she wanted to be just as welcoming with Casey.
"You two remember Gil?" She gestured to her husband who had just entered from the kitchen.
"Yes. Gil, it's good to see you again." John spoke as he shook the other man's hand.
"You too, and congratulations by the way." He then took Casey's hand as well. "Come on in."
"Yes, congratulations. I'm so happy for you," Sara added.
"Thank you." Both Casey's and John's smiles were hard to miss.
John looked to the stairs where Alex was balancing himself on the edge of the last step and hanging on to the banister. "Hi, Alex."
"Hi," his voice was soft as he looked over the tall man with the dark glasses. "Who are you?"
Sara and Casey both let out a snort, as John looked over to Sara. "You let him forget me?" He feigned hurt.
Sara licked her lips and walked over to Alex. "Sweetie, you remember John? He lived with us for a while in New York."
"No." He shook his head and walked over to his father.
"Well, Alex, this is John and his wife, Casey." Sara said after following Alex.
"Hi Alex, we brought something for you and something for your brother." Casey said as she handed Alex one of two packages.
Alex immediately tore into the wrapping, eventually revealing a rather large tyrannosaurus rex. His eyes grew wide as he tried to open the packaging. "Daddy can you help?"
Gil took the package from his son and using his pocketknife, carefully cut the half-dozen straps that held the dinosaur in place and handed the T-rex back to Alex.
Alex pushed a small button he had found towards the end of the tail. Suddenly the face lit up and the jaw opened releasing a Rooooaaaar causing Alex to jump and the others chuckle.
Alex went around the circle of adults showing off his new dinosaur and its voice. After he had pushed the button only inches from his mom's face, she laughed with him and then whispered in his ear. "Alex, what do you say to John and Casey for the gift?"
"Thank you," he said loud and clear before taking off to find a couple of his other dinosaurs. A minute later, he returned and sat playing with them as the adults carried on the conversation.
"Sara, we brought this for Matthew." Casey handed the smaller wrapped box to Sara.
She accepted the box with a smile and carefully opened the wrapping. Her eyes sparkled when she saw what was inside. "How sweet," she held up a tiny tee shirt with 'I love New York' written across the front. "Thank you."
They fell into casual conversation for a few minutes before the bell alerted them to new arrivals. After initial greetings and introductions, the party moved to the backyard, and drinks and hors d'oeuvres were passed around.
The deck that connected the house to the grassy yard was only a few feet off the ground, but large enough to provide enough room, and shade thanks to the overhang and table umbrella, for all of their guests to be comfortable. They were surrounded by the lawn that had become Grissom's passion over the last year. It was important to him that his kids have a soft lawn to play on and explore. The sounds of bustling conversation, laughter, and the occasional dinosaur roar rang through the yard.
Twenty minutes later the baby woke and as Gil had predicted, Catherine was the first to claim little Mattie, while Alex convinced Greg to play dinosaurs with him. Before long, Greg was the dinosaur chasing Alex around the swing set in the backyard.
Once the air filled with the smoky scent of barbeque, Sara stood, "I'll get the food from the kitchen." She told her husband.
"Need any help?" John stood from his spot on the bench looking over Casey's shoulder, as she held baby Matthew.
"You offering?" She smiled.
He shrugged and followed. They made their way to the kitchen, "Sara, I can't believe how much Mattie looks like Alex at that age."
"I know." John noticed the glow that seemed to emanate from Sara as she spoke of her kids. "I mean I thought there'd be some similarities, but it's uncanny."
"So how does Alex like sharing his mother?"
She handed John the cut up chicken, "You can carry this one," as she took the marinated vegetables and corn. "So far…he's a little iffy on it. He's not thrilled with not having one hundred percent of my attention all of the time, but he's also pretty protective. He tells us everything his brother does, even if I'm watching Matthew with him."
He listened intently, and then asked the question that he really needed to know the answer to. "How's Gil treating you?"
Moments like this reminded Sara of how much she missed John, and his big brother-like protective side. She turned and faced him, "It couldn't be better. Thank you." She turned back to make sure they had everything. "How is married life treating you?" The wide smile on his face answered her question. "Well, Casey is a lucky woman." She leaned in and gave him a peck on the cheek, causing a slight blush on his pale skin.
He smiled as he pulled the sliding screen open and they set their dishes on the table. John went to check on Casey and to take a turn with the baby.
Sara joined Gil at the grill, "You bring the food for me?"
"Sure did, what do you want first?"
"Here, just keep it away from the other food, please." She waved her hand towards the offending food.
"Honey, after all of the time we've been together I know better than to let your food touch mine." He sounded exasperated, but she knew he was actually teasing and she loved it. It was so wonderful to finally be so comfortable with the man she loved and know they really did fully understand each other.
As the hosts debated the location of the various foods on the grill, Jim took a seat next to John. "It's hard to remember your kids being that small and helpless."
John smiled, "That's what I keep hearing, but no personal experience."
"Really? With how comfortable you are with Alex that surprises me."
"Well, that was an unexpected situation that I will always be thankful for."
"From what I've heard, Sara's equally thankful for your help." Somehow, Jim felt better knowing this man had been there for Sara and Alex when they needed someone.
In an attempt to get on a less sentimental subject, John asked, "How many kids to you have?"
"Just one, and truth be told, I'd love to have her this age or even a little older again." Sadness crossed Jim's features.
John gave a sympathetic nod before looking out to the racing dinosaurs, "Would you like to hold Matthew?"
"Uh, it's been awhile…alright." After the slightly rocky transfer, Jim carried Mattie to the porch swing.
Gil added the various foods to the large grill, causing a slight hissing as each piece was exposed to the searing hot metal, and filling the air with appetizing aromas.
While the food cooked, Mattie began to fuss in Jim's arms. "You want to take him?" Jim asked as Sara sat next to him on the porch swing, swaying gently.
"Why? You're doing just fine." Sara smiled sweetly as she brushed her son's soft hair with her hand. Before long the baby settled.
"I haven't seen you in a while. How are you doing?" His voice was soft so as not to disturb the baby.
"I'm good, a little sleep deprived, but nothing major." She smiled.
The grizzled detective gave a snort of amusement. "Hon, I hate to break it to you, but you will never sleep well again." As Sara laughed in response, he thought about his next words, "I'm glad you two are so happy; these guys deserve a happy family." Sara followed Jim's eyes from Mattie in his arms to Alex who was running circles around the guys.
"Hold on, Hold on…" Greg began to wave his arms to stop the game. "Warrick, a T-rex wouldn't be able to grab him like that; their arms weren't made for that."
Warrick looked dumbfounded at Greg, "Hey man, it's just a game. Relax."
"Yeah, man; it's just a game," Alex echoed with a smile.
Nick could hardly contain the laughter, "Alright, Greg you be the T-rex then."
"I don't want to be the T-rex; I like being the triceratops."
"Hey guys," Alex took on his authoritative voice, but was ignored as the debate continued.
"Nick's right. If you don't like my tyrannosaurus rex, you do it and I'll be the triceratops," Warrick taunted.
"Hey guys." Alex's voice was louder this time. "It's just a game."
"Yeah, it's just a game to you and me, but these three seem to be pretty engrossed in it." John sat down beside him.
The argument continued in front of them, but now Alex's focus was elsewhere. "What's in-gross-ed?" He tried his best to repeat the word, but ended up adding extra syllables.
"Engrossed," John repeated slowly. "It means that they are really into the dinosaur game right now."
"Oh," he paused. "John, do you wanna get engrossed in the sand box with me?"
John chuckled, "I'd love to Alex."
Alex took John's hand and guided him towards the sandbox, but John quickly picked him up and flew him through the air as Alex giggled, leaving the other three to figure out exactly which dinosaur could do what.
Once at their destination, Alex immediately picked up two shovels and handed one to John. "Here, you can did up the bugs with this."
"What bugs?" John knew full well what Gil did for a living and after hearing some of Sara's stories, he wouldn't put it past the man to have a bug zoo in his back yard.
Alex quickly began to dig until he hit something, and then he reached down and whipped it out of the sand. "See!" He smiled proudly as he held upon oversized, plastic praying mantis.
"Oh," he breathed a sigh of relief. "I remember these guys," he reminisced as he dug up the ladybug.
"Why do you remember them?" Alex watched the man with dark glasses, waiting for a reply.
"Your daddy gave them to you when you lived in New York." He smiled as he recalled, "You and I would play with them for hours when your mom had to work late."
"Oh," was Alex's only reply.
After a few more minutes of digging up and burying the large bugs, Casey came over and sat on the red painted wood of the sandbox frame. "What are you two guys up to?"
Without missing a beat, Alex replied, "We're engrossed in sand."
Confused, Casey looked at John who returned her glance with a quick nod. Soon Casey was helping with the dig for bugs.
Sara took lemonade to Catherine, who was watching the argument between the guys finally die down. "Thanks." Catherine gratefully accepted the glass.
"So, that's John?" She gestured with her glass towards the sandbox.
"Yep, that's him." Sara leaned back in the lounger.
"He seems nice." She, too, leaned back in her chair. "His wife reminds me a little of you."
"Really?" Sara didn't see it.
"Yeah, she seems a little uncomfortable around everyone."
"Well, she's only ever met me before. Oh and Gil for maybe a minute." She defended. "You know this group can be a little…" She wasn't sure how to finish her sentence.
"Loud?" Catherine offered. Sara shook her head. "Overwhelming?"
"No, not really."
"Well, some of us." She smiled shyly hoping not to have offended her friend.
"I could see how she would feel uncomfortable, but she does seem nice though."
"She is, and good for John."
They drank in silence for a while. Sara watching her son and friends play together, and Catherine watching Lindsey who was sitting in another chair talking on her cell phone. That is until she looked up to see her mother watching, "What?" Her voice dripping with annoyance.
Catherine shook her head and put her hands up defensively. Once Lindsey's eyes were off of her, she muttered, "Teenagers."
Sara heard her and couldn't help but laugh.
"Sure. Laugh now, but just you wait." She smirked, and then added, "You know, Alex is a great kid."
"You're preaching to the choir." Sara grinned.
"And Mattie is adorable." Sara nodded before taking a sip. Catherine continued. "You've made Gil very happy from what I've seen." Sara blushed slightly, not sure where this was going. "You've done good kid." She raised a glass and when Sara matched her move, they clinked their drinks.
"Thank you." Sara was impressed with the other woman's sincerity.
"Seriously," the blonde sobered, "I'm sorry for rushing to judgment when you came back. I can't imagine how much hurt he," she nodded towards Grissom, "would have gone through if you hadn't returned.
Sara wasn't sure what to say, but was saved when her husband beckoned. She reached over to Catherine's hand, which was laying on the armrest, and gave her fingers a little squeeze. She smiled and stood, making her way to the grill.
"How are you doing?" His voice was low, knowing she wouldn't appreciate him asking in front of the others.
"I'm fine." She assured him.
"You're not too tired?" His concern was touching.
"No," she shook her head.
"You sure?" He looked back down at the grill.
"Alright, then in that case, the food's almost done; can you get me something to put it on?" She playfully slapped him as she turned to go back into the house, emerging a minute later with a few serving platters.
They ate and laughed together as only old friends can, sharing stories and memories along with the meal. As the sun set, good-byes were said.
John and Casey went back to their hotel. Catherine, Nick, Warrick, and Jim went to work their shifts. Anya retired to her room for the night. Gil, who had the night off started on the clean up process as Sara put the boys down to bed.
Twenty minutes later, Sara joined her husband in the kitchen and before long, they were done.
"Do you want something to drink?" Sara offered as she stood in front of the open fridge.
"Iced tea sounds good."
Sara poured two glasses before following him to the back deck. She found him spreading a blanket on the grass and moved to the top step, wondering what he was doing.
As if he was reading her mind, he looked up at that moment. "I thought we could sit under the stars tonight."
She set the glasses on the table so she could turn off the back light before picking up the drinks again and joining her husband. They both took a seat on the blanket, next to each other. "You know what this reminds me of?" Sara asked.
"Our first date?" His eyebrows shot up; he knew what he was doing.
"God, that was so long ago." She shook her head in disbelief.
"We've come a long way."
"That we have." She smiled and he couldn't resist capturing her lips with his. Before long, the kiss had deepened, but the barking dog on the other side of the fence interrupted their actions. Sara sighed, resting her forehead against his, both of them panting slightly from arousal. "You know we still have two weeks to wait."
"Arggg, I don't know if I can wait another two days, let alone two weeks." He pulled her into another kiss, but this time something else stopped them cold.
"Mommy, Mattie's crying." Alex stood at the back door.
"Did he wake you, honey? I'm sorry." Sara stood and made her way to the house.
"No, I wasn't engrossed in sleeping." He proudly announced. Sara paused for a moment, confused at her son's choice of words.
"Come here, son," Gil called, and Alex joined him on the blanket.
Once inside, Sara found a screaming Matthew in his crib. She picked him up, inhaling the powder fresh scent and nestling him on her shoulder, and almost immediately, he let out a burp. She lowered him down and cradled him in her arms, "So that was the problem." She thought about laying him back down, but after looking out the window and seeing Gil point out stars to his oldest son, she decided to take Matthew out as well. He was already in a warm sleeper, but she grabbed a blanket for each child anyway.
A minute later, she was handing Alex's blanket to Gil, who covered the child who looked up to the brightly lit sky from the safety of his father's lap. Sara sat next to them, wrapping another blanket around Mattie's little body.
The family spent that night together under the stars, marveling at the wonders of the Universe, secure in the knowledge that their world was safe and complete, filled with love.
I'm sad this journey is over, but I'm so happy that you all have taken it with me. I cannot thank you enough for the support and reviews I've received over the last several months.
My undying gratitude goes out to Mingsmommy and Smacky30 for all of their time (oh, so much time) and talent that they unselfishly gave. Thank you both so very much.