What Hard Is by She'sAShipper

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters that are familiar too you nor do I own the fabulous view of Sara and Gil's home. I do on Lili Grissom and any other original characters mention.

Disclaimer 2: The whole idea for the conversation that takes place can from a line I heard while watching The River Wild with Meryl Streep and I wanted to give the movie a nod for being my muse.

A/N: Regular updates of my WIPs Mountains and Let's Be Us Again will resume shortly hopefully on a weekly – biweekly schedule. I am mostly recovered from a long illness and while it is not over the end is in sight and I'm feeling more like myself.

This story takes place in an alternate universe in which Sara and Grissom married not long after she left college and started their family. Once Mountains is complete, I hope to take on that AU story, for I think it may rival any of my work to date. I am excited about it.

Sara and Gilbert Grissom's Home

Marble Falls, Texas

July 2032

Sara awoke to the unfamiliar sound of the front door creaking opened. Ever since her husband of nearly 40 years Gil Grissom had a stroke two and a half years ago no one had been taking early morning walks along their expansive lands. She slid out of their queen sized bed pausing to peak at the large numbers on the digital bedside clock. It was a little after 8:oo AM.

Sara pulled on her robe and slid her feet into her slippers. She took a quick look over her shoulder at Grissom who was still sleeping peacefully before getting up and peering out their large bay window surprised to see their daughter's SUV parked in their carport.

The movement of the mattress and the light from Sara parting the curtains had awakened Grissom. "Sara?" he asked sleepily.

Sara turned and walked to the bed and sat down on the edge of it. She spoke and signed as Gil's hearing had declined significantly since his stapedectomies though he was still not completely deaf. Still, it was easier on both of them for Sara to speak and sign her words for him. "Lili's here."

Grissom's eyebrows knitted together. "Why?" he asked. He had only lost his hearing to the current degree about five years ago leaving his speech clear except for a barely perceptible delay left from his stroke. "Were we expecting her? Are Jimmy and the children with her?"

Sara laughed, "I don't know, honey. I only just realized she was here this minute. I'm going to go downstairs and find out what's happening."

"Is she is here so early something must be wrong," Grissom sighed shifting in bed as if he planned to get up and go downstairs with Sara. "Can you get my…"

"Ssh," Sara silenced him with a gentle finger to his lips. "You stay in bed and rest a bit more. It is going to be very hot today and I know if Lili did bring Steven and Erica you'll be running around with them all day. Let me go down and see why Lili's here. I'll come ang get you before too long."

As much as Grissom wanted to argue he knew Sara was right so he settled into his pillows and closed his eyes.

Sara made her way down the long staircase loosely holding the banister. At sixty, Sara was still very physically fit and healthy. Grissom's failing health forced Sara to exercise and stay conscious of things many people tend to let go of as their youth recedes. Sara was lucky, except for a few gray hairs peaking out from under the Miss Clairol and a couple of wrinkles around her eyes and mouth she maintained her health and looks over the years.

Sara turned toward the large kitchen in their nearly 150 year old farmhouse. After Grissom retired as a CSI and a professor they settled in the Hill Country of Texas. The home was a whitewashed two story with full wrap around porch. 

The downstairs was home to their living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, both of their offices and the laundry room. A large staircase ascended from the front hallway to the second floor where Sara and Grissom's bedroom was located in addition to the exercise room and four large guest bedrooms that were home to their children and grandchildren on visits.

Lili was their oldest child born in March of 1995 a surprise for the couple. Grissom had just begun working with the Minneapolis Police Department and Sara had been studying for her Masters in applied physics. Lili was not a planned pregnancy, nor at first a very welcomed one, but it had turned out very nicely.

All in all, the immediate Grissom family included Lili, Molli and Mark, the twins arriving in 1998, Gretchen born in 2001, Noelle in 2004, and finally their sixth child Daniel born in 2012. The family was scattered across the United States. Lili and her family lived the closest in Texarkana. She had followed in Sara's footsteps, marrying young and having a family while continuing her education to be put to use when her children were older.

Molli and Mark both lived in New York. They had been inseparable growing up and stayed that way all of their lives. Molli was a professor of biology at Columbia University and Mark worked as a public defender for New York County. They were both happily married and had children of their own. Molli had two boys, Kenny and Jack while Mark had a son, Bryan and a daughter Grace.

Thirty-one year old Gretchen was still single living and working as CPA in Boston. She had a lot of success in her career, but very little I her personal life. More than once Sara or Grissom would be awakened by Gretchen's midnight or dawn arrival home to cry on their shoulders and each time she would prepare to leave their home and return to Boston again it was with the knowledge that if there was a next time, if her fragile heart was broken again she could come home to her mother and father and receive love and understanding, not ridicule or judgment.

Noelle was next in line. She currently lived in Los Angeles with her husband Samuel. She was like both of her parents a Crime Scene Investigator something that made her father and moth very proud. She h dot had any children as of yet and did not seem very interested in that course for her life at this point. While Sara wanted all of her children to know they joy of parenthood she supported and understood Noelle's choice in a way others could not.

Finally, there was the youngest Grissom, 20 year old Daniel. He was studying anthropology and art at Northwestern University hoping to become a natural history museum curator. Grissom secretly hoped Danny would turn his sights toward forensic anthropology and use his talents in that way but was supportive of his son's choice now that he finally was able to understand the value of a college education. Danny's disinterest in education was a long and hard fought battle that Grissom finally won.

Sara reached the kitchen where Lili was making a cup of tea trying not to make too much noise so she wouldn't wake her mother. She jumped when Sara spoke from the doorway. "Lili? What are you doing here so early, honey?"

"Oh, mama. I'm sorry I didn't mean to wake you," Lili replied. Lili ran a hand through her curly dark hair. "Would you like some tea?"

Sara shook her head, "No, honey. I'll make the tea. You have a seat. You much have driven all night."

Lili nodded and sat down heavily in the chair Grissom usually occupied. "Did Daddy wake up too?"

"For a minute," Sara answered brewing the mug of tea exactly as Lili liked it out of years o experience. "He wanted to know if you brought Steven and Erica along with you."

"I hope he won't be too disappointed," Lili sighed. "It's just me, I mean I had to get out of there and I didn't know where else I could go."

Sara set the tea cup down in front of her daughter then reached into the cabinet and took out a box of Cheerios. She poured Lili a bowl, sprinkled the cereal 

lightly with sugar and moistened it with milk before giving it to Lili. "You know you can always come home, baby," Sara said for probably the billionth time. "Your father and I are always happy to see you."

"Sara!" Grissom's voice pierced through the house just as Sara had sat down next to Lili.

Sara laughed, "I told him to go back to sleep. Eat your breakfast, I'll be right back."

Sara hurried upstairs to the bedroom shaking her head at Grissom's stubborn streak, the very same one that many times had left her fighting mad. A moment before she entered the bedroom he called her again, "Sara! Did you hear me?"

Sara turned the knob and pushed the bedroom door opened, "Yes, Gil," she signed. "I heard you. You are supposed to be sleeping."

"No," he argued. "You said I should rest. I am resting. Why is Lili here? Are the children with her?"

"No," Sara replied. "She's alone but I haven't found out why she's here. She drove all night though, I can tell you that.

"She drove all that way alone in the dark?" Grissom exclaimed appalled his little girl did something he considered dangerous.

"Well Jimmy and the kids are back in Texarkana and Lili and the Jeep are here," Sara sighed sarcastically. "All evidence points to yes."

"Why on earth would she do something like that?" Grissom asked. "Did she say anything? What did you find out so far?"

"Nothing," Sara repeated. "All she said was she didn't know where else to go."

As he had done earlier Grissom shifted using his good arm and leg to propel his body into a somewhat seated position. "Sara, will you get my robe and my other things?" he asked. Even after his leg brace, cane, wheelchair, and other 

assistive devices had been part of their lives for two years Grissom could still not bring himself to ask for them by name.

"Gil, it is still early and I know you had a rough night. You need more rest," Sara encouraged.

"Our little girl…" Grissom began.

"I know," Sara soothed. "Lili and Gil had always shared a special bond. "I know our little girl is home for a mysterious reason, she's clearly hurting and you want to go to her and fix it, I know. But I have a feeling that this is more of a mother daughter moment."

Grissom frowned but nodded in agreement. "I'll make you a deal," Sara continued. "You stay up her in bed and rest while I talk with Lili and I'll give you the privilege of taking two beautiful ladies to lunch at Rockin' R's. I won't even make you use your wheelchair. What do you say?"

"That you drive a very hard bargain, Mrs. Grissom," he said with a wink. "And I love you."

Sara leaned over and placed a soft, lingering kiss on his lips, "I love you too. Don't worry. I'll take care of Lili."

Sara left Grissom to rest and returned to the kitchen. She found Lili sipping her tea and playing with her cereal. "I'm sorry," Sara said sitting down next to Lili again.

"Is Daddy okay?" Lili asked.

"He's fine," Sara answered. "He's curious about why you are here alone and he's worried about what would make you drive here by yourself in the middle of the night. I am too, Lili. What's going on?" Sara asked gently.

At her mother's soft query, Sara began to cry. This disturbed Sara deeply, Lili all of her adult life had been 100 Grissom, always stoic, collected, never showing much emotion. For Lili to be openly sobbing something must be wrong, very wrong.

Sara reached over and firmly held Lili's hand, her thumb stroking her daughter's knuckles in slow soothing circles, "Mama's here, baby," Sara crooned just as she had when Lili was a tiny baby. "It's all right. Mama's here."

Sara and Lili sat like that for several minutes until finally Lili took a few deep breaths and began to calm down. Lili looked at her mother with watery blue eyes and whispered sadly, "I think my marriage is over, mama."

"Oh, Lili," Sara sighed. "What happened to make you think that?" Sara knew her daughter well, she knew if James had harmed Lili or the children Lili would not be at their house alone. She did not need to worry about that, though James was not the type for that either. He never showed a single sign of being abusive. Sara did not fear that at all. She asked the next dreaded question, "Is there another woman?"

Lili shook her head, "I don't believe so," she replied. "I wish it were that, I think I could handle it. It's worse, it's…He is so involved with work, he never spends any time with me or even with the kids. He is at the office day and night doing a zero respect job that he hates, still he has not been home for dinner a single time since Christmas, not even on the weekends." Lili took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. "It's over, mama. There's no magic, no romance, there is barely tolerance. We don't even see each other long enough to fight. I can't do it anymore, mama. The whole thing has become unbelievably hard."

Sara listened to Lili's words carefully taking in every thing she said and reading between the lines as well. Sara had found herself in Lili's position many times, feeling sad, lonely, unwanted, or neglected. She had been right when she told Grissom it was mother-daughter moment for now Lili was ready to learn the most important lesson of her life.

Sara smiled softly and gave Lili's hand a squeeze. "Oh, honey. You don't know what hard is; very few people your age really do. That's because you give yourself an out," Sara explained. "For me and your father, there was no out. That was the pact we made, the vow of marriage. If you give yourself the out, get a divorce, any so many did and so many do, you miss part of that package. 

Marriage really is the good and the bad, the rough and the smooth…Lili," Sara sighed. "Hard? No. Hard is a safety word, an excuse…Do you think if I gave myself an out with your father, with stubbornness, his isolation, and now his deafness that I wouldn't have taken it years ago?"

"It's different for you," Lili sighed. "You and Daddy had the same interests and there weren't all the issues…"

"Lili, your father and I had plenty of issues, setbacks, tantrums," Sara recalled. "We saw each other through everything, losing jobs, losing parents, losing children and there were the happy times, helping him with his doctorate work, giving birth to our babies, seeing you all grow, and the lean years when I was sick with cancer and your father's arthritic knees and now the stroke…But Lili, I could have missed a lot of that pain, a lot of anger, a lot of upsets, but not more than ten minutes ago your father looked at me like he did the day he first kissed me forty years ago and told me he loved me. Honey, if I had taken my outs or daddy had taken his we would have cried many more tears choosing that path to make it easy than we did together, working and fighting through the hard."

Lili nodded. She knew Sara was right but still she was unsure. "I'm so tired of fighting, mama. Our kids think he doesn't want to spend time with them. They think it's their fault."

"What do you tell them when they say that?" Sara asked.

"That is isn't true and that Daddy is working hard so we can all have good food and nice clothes," Lili replied. "But Steven is so much like Daddy, he sees right through it except he's too young to understand the real reason Jimmy is not around anymore."

"And what do you think that is?" Sara prompted.

"That Jimmy doesn't want me anymore," Lili whispered. "He's staying away because he's tired of me."

Sara took in her daughter's words. She ached for her baby girl but truly felt Lili had more choices than to get a divorce just now. "Lili, only you can know what 

the right decision is because only your are living your life and only you know your feelings, but promise me one thing," Sara requested.

"What?" Lili asked silent tears falling down her smooth cheeks.

"Promise me you'll think hard before you make any big decisions, because while you are the only one who can know what's right for you there are the children to consider as well," Sara advised gently.

"I know," Lili admitted. "So many of my friends came from broken homes and I remember how luck I felt having both you and daddy growing up. I never had to wonder if you both loved me and wanted me, but Steven and Erica are wondering that even with both parents living with them."

"Have you told Jimmy that?" Sara asked, with a pretty good guess as to the answer. Lili was, after all, her father's daughter. "Does he know what Steven and Erica think? Does he know what you think?"

"I gave up trying to get that across to him months ago," Lili sighed, defeated. "I'm just so tired of it all. I'm sick of the whole thing, the whole fight. Ive had enough."

"So you're ready to quit?" Sara asked. "To give up?"

"I'm ready for something to change," Lili said. "All I ever wanted was what you have with Daddy."

"I got what I have with your father by standing firm through all the rough times," Sara answered. "This life is not fair, it can bring even the strongest person to their knees, it happens to everyone. It's what you do about it that separates the strong and the weak."

"And you think I'm among the weak?" Lili asked.

"To the contrary," Sara replied. "I know you aren't."

"So what do you do when…" Lili's voice cracked on a sob. "When you've lost your fight, when you can't take it another second?"

"Well," Sara sighed squeezing Lili's hand in a show of maternal support. "You get mad, you cry and scream. You do whatever you have to do for a release and then you shake it off, take a deep breath, and get back up again…"

"How do you do that, mama?" Lili asked. "How do you find that strength?"

"Part of finding it is figuring that out yourself," Sara replied. "For me, your father was my strength, my courage, but it doesn't always come out like that. Sometimes…sometimes you have to look inside yourself, into your soul and see what's deep down in your heart. Let me ask you this," Sara began. "Do you love Jimmy?"

"Very much," Lili replied. "That's why it hurts so much."

"That's right," Sara smiled. "Love can be a beautiful thing, but it can be also be very lonely and even painful. But while love is all those things it is also strength. Use it, lean on it and pull yourself through. You'll make it," Sara encouraged. "We did."

"What if we don't?" Lili asked with apprehension.

"You will," Sara assured her.

"But what if we don't?" Lili asked again.

"Then we'll be there, supporting you," Sara replied. "You just think hard and dig down deep and you'll be fine."

Lili smiled for the first time since she arrived, "Thanks, mama," she said stifling a yawn.

"You must be exhausted," Sara observed. "Why don't you grab a nap? Then Daddy's going to take us to lunch."

"I need to head back," Lili sighed. "I have to talk with Jimmy."

"Stay at least until tomorrow. Then I'll go back with you and bring Steven and Erica home with me so you and Jimmy can work things out. All right?"

Lili thought a moment then agreed, "All right. It'll give Jimmy time to think too."

Sara smiled and reached out to brush Lili's cheek, "I love you," Sara said gently the sentiment echoing in her eyes.

"I love you too, Mama," Lili replied before quietly climbing the stairs and creeping quietly into the guest room to sleep.