A/N – Because of the responses I've gotten and the requests to show Sara back in Vegas with her team, I've decided to add a prologue for when Sara returns. I hope you like it.
Please R&R. I appreciate the comments. They give me the drive to continue on writing this stuff.
Disclaimer: CBS rules all.
The drive from California to Vegas took several days, with Sara insisting they take every back road they could find.
"You'll see," she said enthusiastically to Gil. "It's amazing what life is out there, just out of reach unless you're willing to grab it."
It had been so long since he'd seen that shine in her eyes, he would have flown to the moon if she asked.
The first day consisting of holding hands while he drove, and occasionally switching places. Stolen glances became common, and eventually pulling off the road at historical markers was a given. They both needed to hold and be held.
At a place called Salton Sea, they stopped to rest for a moment. He stood behind her as she looked out across the water. His arms wrapped around her as she shivered, and she looked up at him.
"You're smiling more," he commented with a grin of his own.
"I have more reasons to smile," she laughed.
Turning in his embrace, she wrapped her arms around his neck, running a hand into his curly hair, and matched her lips to his. Time stopped for awhile as they simply held, and let the caress heat each other. Slowly, he deepened the kiss, taking it from warmth to blaze, and pulled her tighter.
"Let's find a place to stay for the night," he whispered into her ear.
The next day found them meandering on pavement occasionally, but more often than not wandering on dirt and gravel in his car.
Laughing, he said, "I still can't believe you drove your car into the junkyard and gave it to them."
"It was falling apart, Gil. You've been telling me to get rid of it for nearly a year," she replied.
The car moved on quietly, neither speaking, just touching from time to time, and soft classical music playing in the background. Grissom drove, lost in thought. Sara sat next to him, stealing an occasional glance, and knowing something had to be said.
"I left… everyone," she started, glancing at Gil.
"I'm sorry for the way I left," she continued.
Glancing over, Gil replied, "It hurt me. It hurt everyone that you wouldn't talk to us."
They were driving through Joshua Tree National Forest, and Gil found a lookout, pulled over, and shut off the car.
Shifting in his seat, he said, "It really hurt Greg. He blamed himself for not hearing you."
Her face pale, Sara responded softly, "It's not that I wouldn't talk to you… I couldn't find the words. My emotions were a jumble of shouts echoing in my ears, and I just couldn't hear myself anymore. It was overwhelming in a way I couldn't handle or express."
"I wish you'd said something more about the nightmares - waking and asleep," Gil replied.
"I couldn't," Sara said, smiling sadly, "I couldn't handle them, and I was afraid if I talked about them out loud, I'd shatter. It was bad enough they were in my subconscious… I didn't want them in my conscious self."
"Where do you want to be, Sara?"
"I don't know," she responded, shaking her head. "All I know is I need to be in Vegas – with you and everyone else."
She leaned her head against the car seat and sighed.
"I've never really learned to relate to people. I never really had a family. Then Natalie happened, and I realized I had a family, but it was gone. I made the choice to go to swing shift, and I don't regret it. But the people I could count on weren't in my life anymore," she told him.
"Except Greg," Grissom replied, and then smiled and added, "and when were you going to tell me he was your little brother? It actually explains your relationship pretty well."
"Gil, you need to understand something. I've spent my life with no one to talk to. Sometimes, I don't know what needs to be said. There are these rules about what you share and don't share. Sometimes they confuse me, because I don't know what I can and can't say… so I've learned to say nothing."
"Honey, you can tell me anything and everything," he said, grasping her hand and running his thumb across the sensitive valley of her palm.
"I've told you more than everyone else in my life combined," she solemnly told him. "I just forget to talk sometimes."
"How about we make an agreement," Gil said. "We tell each other everything, whether it hurts or not."
He kissed her palm, and continued, "I know I don't exactly communicate very well myself."
Smiling at him, she leaned to him, and quickly kissed his cheek.
"All right," she said.
"Good," he said. Gil decided to broach a subject that made him nervous… because he didn't know how Sara would react.
"I think maybe you and I should see someone," he said, looking out the windshield, not seeing much of anything.
"A counselor?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied, "a counselor. Someone who can maybe help us talk to each other."
The reaction he got was about the opposite of what he expected.
With a smile, she agreed, "Okay. I think maybe we need it."
His Sara had changed while she was gone.
The third day found them driving through the Mojave Desert, and then near Lake Mead. Sara found a small dirt road leading down to the shore, and asked Gil to pull over.
"We're almost to Vegas," she said.
"Are you okay?" he asked, concern etched on his face.
Smiling, she replied, "I see beautiful water, rocky shorelines, and a cluster of trees right over there." She pointed to the trees down a ways on the shore.
"If I close my eyes, I see kids swimming, their parents sitting on the shore keeping an eye on them. I see boats towing skiers. I see people laughing," she said, turning to look at him.
"I see life," she flatly stated. "I forgot what that was like."
Pulling her into a hug, Gil murmured, "We're almost home. Let's go home."
For the next few days, they stayed in their home. Nick, who had ended up to baby-sitting Hank, dropped him off quietly, not saying a word to Grissom, but giving them the space that they needed.
Sara told him some more of the places she'd visited. Gil told him about the reading the letters. They got an appointment for the same day when Gil called to ask to see Susan. They talked.
Sara told him about the dreams in detail. He told her about the pain of losing her. They both talked about what made them angry… what broke their hearts. Gil paced around the counselor's office, while Sara cried. He watched her eyes occasionally dim, but always come back to life with just a glance in his direction.
Susan listened intently as the couple shared with each other their greatest fears, and finally said, "I have an assignment for you. Call it homework."
The couple looked at each other, then back to the counselor.
"Okay," they replied as one.
"I want the two of you together to write a letter – to the people you work with," she said.
That night, Gil and Sara sat down and wrote.
The letter arrived addressed to 'Graveyard Shift', with their return address noted in the upper left of the envelope.
Greg had a case file in his hand when he passed by Judy's desk.
"Greg," she called out, "I have a letter… I don't know what to do with it."
"Let me take a look," he said, taking the letter she offered.
With a laugh, Greg sprinted down to the break room, yelling along the way, "They sent a letter to us."
It took no time at all for the entire group to ensconce themselves in chairs in the break room. It seemed like everyone was there – from Doc Robbins to Ecklie to every CSI and lab tech in the place.
The room fell silent when Greg ripped open the envelope and read aloud…
We wanted to let you know we are back in town. You probably already know this, but we wanted to make it official.
For so long, we have been unable to say what we feel – what we really mean. Not just to each other, but to you, as well. We've never told you what your friendship means, so we'll say it now.
We wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. You have supported us when we needed it, yelled at us when we needed it more. So many times you have given us strength and support, but we've never said thank you. We say it now.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
We can't predict what the future will bring, but we're grateful for what we've already been given.
Jane Howard is quoted with "Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." We're pretty sure we've found our family.
We miss you.
Love, Gil and Sara
By the end of the letter, everyone was smiling – and stunned that the two quietest people they knew would reveal so much.
"Cool," Greg said, handing the letter to Wendy and asking, "Can you post this for me?"
"Absolutely," she said.
"Why would you be posting our letter?" Sara's voice asked from the doorway.
With a grin, a sprint, and a huge hug, Greg made it over to her and half-lifted her off the ground. Laughing, he spun her around and put her back on her feet.
Answering her question, Gil looked at her sideways and said, "I had her put the picture on the bulletin board."
That's all he got out before they were surrounded by everyone. Catherine elbowed her way in, looked at them and smiled.
"Welcome back, guys," was all she said before she managed to get her arms around both of them at once.
"It's good to have you back, Sara," Warrick softly murmured in her ear. "We may not be much of a family, but we're here for you, okay?"
Jim got to her next. He just held her hand, looked her in the eye and said, "You're made of strong stuff. Most of us wouldn't have the guts to take on the world the way you do."
The next was Nick, who just looked at her, his eyes misting, and pulled her into a hug. Minutes seem to pass before he pulled back, kissed her cheek, and whispered in her ear, "You scared me."
To which she whispered into his ear, "I scared me, too."
For quite some time, Gil and Sara were greeted by each person, and each person drifted back to their posts in the lab. Finally, the only people in the room besides them was Ecklie and Greg.
Ecklie approached Sara with an unreadable expression.
"I never realized how vital each one of you is to the team. Come to my office if and when you are ready to get back on the job. We'll talk about working graveyard," he offered before leaving the room.
Greg finally approached the couple and addressed Sara.
He opened his mouth to speak, only to find himself choking back a sob. Lowering his head, he mumbled, "Welcome home."
Sara pulled him into a tight hug, and murmured, "I'm sorry, Greg. I'm so sorry." Her tears began to streak down her face and she pulled back to find matching tears in hers.
"I don't know how I'll ever make it up to you," she softly said.
"I forgave you with the first letter," Greg replied, giving her a true Greg Sanders grin.
As he left the room, Gil wrapped his arms around Sara and smiled.
They were both thinking the same thing – We're home.