Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. All others belong to me, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

Spoilers: Season 7

Cincoflex gave me a challenge. Thus, results.

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"Are you sure about this?"

Sara gave the woman looming over her an amused look. "Does anyone ever say 'no'?"

She grinned. "You'd be surprised. C'mon, give me a verbal answer so I can cover my ass."

"You're the boss. You don't have to cover your ass," Sara pointed out dryly, then gave in. "Yes, I'm sure."

"Good." The woman reached for her tool, and a buzzing hum filled the air. "If it gets too bad, let me know, and we can take a break."

Sara took a deep breath as the woman bent closer, but she'd known a lot of pain in her life. This…didn't compare.


.


The house was quiet when she got home, except for Bruno's ecstatic and juicy welcome, but she was expecting that. She didn't anticipate liking it, but the silence was no surprise.

To counter it, she put on some of her favorite grrrl tunes, the sort of stuff she didn't play when Grissom was around--the same way he didn't slip in the German aria CDs when Sara was home. To each their compromises. And Bruno didn't howl along with her choices the way he did with the opera.

But somehow the house still echoed.


.
She took Bruno out to the doggy park, not feeling up to a run in the morning heat, and they stopped at The Hound's Grounds for coffee and a snack--decaf for her, biscuits for him--before heading home. Somehow those outings always took longer than she thought; Bruno was the sociable sort, and Sara often found herself having conversations she might otherwise have never started, dragged in by his eager lunge towards person or pet.

But, she had to admit, it was nice to feel normal once in a while. Most of the dog owners she met at the park or the café were more interested in sharing doggy stories than anything else, and it was a weird relief to have her terse statement of "I'm a criminalist" passed over without interest in favor of Bruno's history.

Eventually, though, they made it back home, and Bruno had a drink and one last pee and prepared to settle down for a long day's snooze.

At least, with him around, Sara thought wryly, there was no shortage of a warm body in the bed.

She took her time over her sleep preparations, missing Grissom more with each passing moment, though he'd only been gone twelve hours. She expected him to call by afternoon, in fact, as soon as he got the chance.

It had taken a lot of persuading to get him to go. Ever since her kidnapping, just about a year ago now, he'd been quietly reluctant to have them separated for more than a day, and frankly Sara hadn't minded too much. She'd spent a lifetime being independent, sure, but with Grissom she had gradually discovered the pleasures of another's care.

But when the invitation came, a month's worth of lectures in Japan, she'd convinced him to go. It was a sterling professional opportunity and something he'd have leapt at a few years prior; and, privately, Sara subscribed to the notion that a healthy couple should occasionally spend some time apart.

It had been the right thing to do, she thought, as she settled down on her side and listened to Bruno's snuffle behind her. Keeping him home, letting him turn down the trip, would have been fair to neither of them.

The house still echoed, though.


.
The four weeks were long and quiet, punctuated by postcards and phone calls. Sara teased Grissom that he was going to spend his entire profit from the lecture series on his phone bill, but he scoffed and kept calling.

In truth, she didn't mind. She missed him badly, much more deeply than she'd anticipated, and it was good to know that he missed her too. The only unpleasant part was the insecurity Sara could hear in his voice sometimes, though she was pretty sure he didn't realize how he sounded. Some part of Grissom was still afraid that he would come home and find her gone, that she would give up on him and walk away despite all evidence to the contrary.

It wearied her, but she figured she'd hit on the solution already.

Eventually even the last hour slid away, and Sara saw Grissom striding out of Security at McCarran, his eyes lighting up as he spotted her. Sara returned his hard hug, squeaking as he managed to lift her briefly off her feet, and then kissed him soundly and long. He was grinning as she pulled back just enough to lift a hand to his face. "What is it with you and vacations? You always come back fuzzy."

Grissom pressed his bearded cheek into her palm. "Somehow it's always easier not to shave. Particularly during a twelve-hour plane flight."

He looked good--tired from the marathon travel time, of course, but teaching invigorated him. "I like it," she told him honestly. Bearded or cleanshaven, he was always yummy to her eyes.

Grissom released her, but slid an arm around her waist as they headed for baggage claim. "I might keep it for a while; sometimes it's nice to have a change."

They talked all the way home, trading stories of cases and students, and then Sara made omelets while Grissom greeted Bruno and showered the plane flight off. He unpacked just enough to find the presents he'd brought back for her, but she could see that jet lag was catching up to him.

"Go to bed," she told him affectionately. "I'm going to brush my teeth and join you."

Grissom kissed her and complied, stripping down to his boxers and sliding into bed, but he sat back against the headboard and watched Sara through the open door as she scrubbed. Bruno was already snoring on the carpet.

"I missed you," he said softly as she came back into the bedroom.

"I missed you too," she replied with a grin, slipping off her bathrobe to hang over the door. "In fact--"

Grissom sat up straight, swinging his legs off the bed and interrupting her. "Sara, honey, what happened? Your back--"

He stood up and in two steps was bending to look more closely at her spine. Sara blinked; in the excitement of seeing him, she'd honestly forgotten, after all the trouble and healing time--

"It's not a bruise," she said over her shoulder to the man on one knee behind her. He didn't answer, too taken up in his examination of the small, exquisitely elegant orchid tattoo below her right shoulderblade.

Grissom was silent a long moment, and Sara didn't move, his breath tickling along her skin. Finally she felt his fingertip trace the tiny "GG" woven into the design.

"Sara--" It was hardly more than a whisper.

She turned, and tugged him up into a hug, one that turned into a hard clutch and a few tears. "Not leaving you," Sara mumbled against warm skin. "Believe it yet?"

Grissom hoisted her up, carrying her back the few feet to the bed and wrapping her in a tight embrace. She clung to him, aware again of how much she loved him, how hard it had been to be apart for so long. His fingers found the marked skin, stroking lightly, making her shiver pleasurably.

And on the edge of sleep, she heard him whisper "Yes."

End.