A/N: Sorry for the delay, same old RL gets in my way as usual. I hope the wait was worth it. Thank you for your continued support and reviews. I have had numerous questions I can't reply to as you need to sign in so I can. Remember if you wish to get a reply from me, you MUST be logged in.

Major thanks to my partner in crime SweetSouthernComfort for your beta and input to the chapter. You are rapidly becoming more evil than me but I have managed to keep evil hat in his box, for now, hehehehehe.

Don't forget you can follow me on facebook – I am under sidle77.

So here we go. Enjoy :)

Chapter 106

It all seemed so surreal. She awoke to a warmth. A warmth she hadn't felt in such a long, long time.

And she knew exactly what that warmth was.

It was him.

With her eyes still closed, she smiled, feeling his strong yet comforting body underneath her. She enjoyed the sound of his soft and steady breath as it floated by her ear.

Contently, she licked her lips, slowly opened her eyes and emitted a gentle yawn. Her entire body lay atop of his and it was a perfect fit. His arms wrapped around her, holding…protecting…

What a surreal, happy little dream. Another yawn slipped from her, her eyelids feeling like tiny weights.

Sleep seemed to tug at her still, beckoning her back into it's fuzzy depths. She sensed the morning and knew that she needed to get up; however, the dream was more pleasant.

"Good morning." He smiled down at her as she looked up. "Sleep well?" he asked, stretching a little underneath her with a happy sigh.

"Umm..." She swayed at the sound of his voice; it seemed to float through her mind. She heard him chuckle, soft and deep.

"I think you're still asleep," he whispered, tugging at her. Sara fell back against him, her eyes now closed.

"Hmm..." she hummed. "This is nice; don't want to wake...up...just yet."

"Good," he whispered again, running his hands tenderly up her back.

She snuggled into him, breathing in his scent, her cheek flattening against his chest. Her soft breathing suggested that sleep had found her again.

But then she sprang from his arms, sitting up straight, her eyes open but glassy. "Oh, it's morning."

Turning his head, he gazed at the sunlight coming through the window. "Yes, it is."

"I can't be here." She shook her head. "Father will be so angry. Mother too. They will know I am gone."

His lips puckered. "Probably…" His voice was calm and lack of any panic, unlike hers.

"And Hank will be back in here any minute!" Panic started to creep into her voice.

Grissom frowned at the realization that Sara hadn't awakened completely or at least enough to think clearly. It was a little discomforting how quickly her solace had turned into something fearful.

"Come here..." He didn't let the nightmare progress. Pulling her back down against his chest, he spoke softly in her ear. "You're still sleepy. Just rest awhile longer. You're alright."

She didn't fight the comfort he was offering as his arms once again coiled around her. She slackened in his arms, but a soft whimper escaped her.

"I know what you're thinking," he began softly. "But shush now, sleep some more."

"You'll be late for work," she pointed out drowsily. "Father won't like that."

"I think for once, he will understand…"

Sara closed her eyes and yawned again. "I'm not so sure about that…" She felt so cozy, so warm and for a change, safe. Her breathing deepened.

He cuddled with her for several minutes before deciding that he had to leave. Reluctantly, he
slid her from the top of him. She turned onto her side and he snuggled in behind her. He was cautious as he pulled her close, for just a minute longer. He was careful not to startle her, but she scooted close to him, humming something before fully finding sleep again.

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Grissom left his bed shortly after Sara had fallen back into slumber. He dressed and quietly slipped from the cabin, shivering as the very cool morning air hit his lungs.

It was almost 8amnow but the winter's frost still coated the ground and it crunched beneath his feet. As he walked along the path towards the estate he pulled his collar up, the bite in the air nipping at his exposed skin. He was glad he hadn't brought Sara out so early; she would need some very warm clothing around her in order to cope with the day's temperature.

As he reached the end of the path and passed the outer stables he heard voices and spotted the captain with Laura. They were coming in his direction and they looked very worried. As soon as they saw him, their pace increased.

"Gil…" Laura gasped as she reached him. Her hands shot out and she grabbed his arm. "…Sara is gone again and it looks like her bed hasn't been slept in…"

As his eyes clashed with hers he smiled and she stepped back. "She came to you, didn't she?" Laura knew by the look on his face that her words were already true.

He nodded. "Yes, she did. Late last night."

Now the captain stepped forwards as Laura sighed a little relief. "And she spent the night with you?" the ranch owner questioned.

Grissom ruffled his nose sensing the animosity but his smile remained. "I gave you my word, Captain, that there would be no indiscretions and I am true to my word." He slipped his hands into his pockets. "Nothing untoward happened."

"Keeping my daughter in your cabin all night is an indiscretion," the captain pointed out.

Laura cut in. "She is still at the cabin?"

"Yes," Grissom replied. "She's sleeping. She slept all through the night and only woke for a short time this morning before I suggested she got more rest. She was still tired."

The captain worked his jaw. "She could be in her own bed, Gil. You should have brought her home."

"Thomas…" Laura warned.

"No arguments, Laura!" the Captain snapped. "You know how I feel about this."

"I may not have made the most appropriate decision, Captain, but I believe I have made the right one." He sniffed hard, the cold getting to his senses. "Sara's health is my number one concern right now and it's as simple as that. She is safe, warm and resting and to me, that's all that matters."

"I want to hear you say that when you have a daughter…" the Captain hissed. "Can't you love my daughter without jeopardizing her? Her reputation is already in tatters. If this town knew the truth about you and her, we would not be able to live here."

His words stung and Grissom took a step back. "I've offered to do the right thing."

"That's the very least you can do."

Laura took her husband's hand. "For me, just let it go."

He sighed, his head shaking just a little. "Fine but I want to see her. Right now…"

"Like I said…" Grissom began, "…she's asleep and she needs the sleep."

"That doesn't matter," the captain continued. "I just want to make sure she's alright. I don't have to wake her."

Grissom could do nothing but concede. "Okay…"

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The captain and Laura stepped from the cabin and Grissom quietly closed the door behind them.

"Happy now?" Grissom asked as they left Sara still deep in sleep.

"Not entirely," the captain admitted. "But I'll live with it, for now."

Now Laura smiled and she took her husband's arm. "Why don't we go back to the house where it's warm and Gil can properly explain what happened?"

The captain cleared his throat. "Fine," he agreed.

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Rana brought coffee into the living room as Grissom stoked the fire. The housekeeper poured and then left the group to their conversation.

"I was so worried when I found her gone this morning," Laura began, sipping from her cup.

Grissom turned from the fireplace and sat opposite the couple. "Well as you've seen, she's fine, so you can stop worrying," Grissom encouraged.

"Is she really?" Laura questioned knowing exactly what state her daughter was in the night before.

The rancher got her meaning. "Let's just say…she's doing better than she was."

"How so?" the captain asked, placing his cup down. "What exactly happened last night?"

Leaning forwards, Grissom helped himself to a cup of coffee and then sat back. "I found her outside the cabin. It was late, not entirely sure what time it was. I didn't check." He took a sip from his cup as the couple listened. "She was freezing so I took her inside."

The rancher made eye contact with Sara's father. "I am well aware of the social boundaries of such an action, especially at that hour but I wasn't going to allow her to remain in the cold any longer. Plus…it gave me the opportunity I needed."

"Opportunity for what?" the captain questioned.

Grissom took another mouthful of coffee then placed his cup down. "To get Sara to open up to me."

Laura perked up. "Did she?"

Grissom nodded as Laura exchanged a look with her husband.

"She actually talked to you?" Laura asked again, needing confirmation.

"Yes," he replied softly, entwining his fingers. "We talked about…things. She told me about Hank and what he did." He took a breath. "It was very emotional. Eventually, a little time after, she fell asleep in my arms."

Laura held her hand over her heart. "I can't even imagine how hard it was for her to confess."

"It was hard," Grissom admitted. "But…" he sighed, "…now we can move forward and she knows that I love her no matter what has happened. That will never change."

"And you believe now she is able to move forward?" the captain asked seemingly still a little dubious.

A small smile passed over Grissom lips as he slipped a hand into his pocket and took out the box which held Sara's engagement ring. He flipped the lid open and held it out for the couple to see.

Laura edged forwards and she saw the box was empty. Her eyes seemed to double in size as she slowly raised her head to look at him. "She…said yes?"

Grissom closed the box, his smile growing. "Yes," he answered.

"Oh, my lord…" Laura gasped, a smile now growing upon her own lips. She suddenly seemed giddy. "She actually said yes?" she questioned again, rocking back and forth.

Grissom laughed. "Yes, Laura. She accepted my proposal."

Laura squealed as she shot to her feet, lunged towards him and pulled him from the seat into the most fearsome hug.

The rancher laughed as she cuddled him, her glee at the announcement most evident.

"Laura…" he chuckled, "…I can't breathe…"

"Oh…" She stepped back although she continued to giggle, "…I'm sorry."

He laughed again, licking his lips. "It's fine. It's nice to see you happy."

"Happy? I'm…I'm…elated!" she shouted. She turned to her husband and took his hands, pulling him up from the sofa. "Did you hear that, Thomas?" Her smile grew further. "Our daughter is engaged?"

Now the captain laughed. "How could I not?" he jested.

"Oh…" Laura took a deep breath. "I'm so happy for you both. You have no idea how happy I am."

"Yeah, I kinda guessed," Grissom answered.

The captain cleared his throat. "You are sure she is true with her answer?" he asked. "Another failed engagement is not an option."

"I will admit we no doubt still have a long road ahead but yes, I'm sure."

Laura clapped her hands together. "We have so much planning to do." Her excitement was still very evident.

Grissom's heart beat fast at the sudden thought of a Sidle wedding. It would not be a small affair. That made him very nervous. Nonetheless he continued to smile. "I'm sure," he responded. "Although, we haven't set a date or anything yet but I'm sure we can discuss that when Sara is ready."

He looked to the door. "I should probably get back to the cabin. I'm not sure how long Sara will sleep for but I'd rather be around when she wakes. Then I can bring her home. She will need some fresh, warm clothing. If…that's alright? What she has on at the moment isn't appropriate for today's temperature."

Laura looked to her husband and although it was obvious he still wasn't entirely happy about Sara being at the cabin, he didn't offer an argument. "Just make sure you bring her home as soon as she wakes up," the captain stressed.

"I will."

"I'll organize some clothing and have someone bring them to the cabin," Laura said.

Grissom nodded. "Thanks."

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Upon leaving the house Grissom had a thought and another smile fell upon his lips. On his way back to the cabin he took a slight detour and headed towards the hay loft…

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Sara thought she was still dreaming but as the strange sound of soft mewing in her ear got louder, she realized she wasn't. She frowned softly, opened her eyes and then blinked in surprise.

Two tiny blue eyes looked back at her and her frown deepened until she focused, realizing exactly what was looking back at her.

A soft paw stretched out and she sat up in surprise. "What the…" she whispered as the tiny kitten attempted to step towards her and ended up stumbling onto its rear.

Another mew came as it tried to stand again.

The biggest smile graced Sara's lips as she reached out and scooped up the kitten. "And where did you come from?" she asked the animal.

The kitten looked at Sara's hand and she laughed.

With a creak the door opened and Grissom walked in carrying some wood for the fire. He kicked the door closed behind him when he saw Sara was awake. He smiled at her. "I see you found him," he said, nodding to the kitten as he flopped from Sara's fingers to land on the blankets again.

She giggled as she scratched the cat's tiny head. "More like he found me," she laughed. "Where on earth did he come from?"

Grissom placed the wood by the fireplace and turned back to the bed. "The hay loft. I stopped by there on the way back from the house." He sat on the edge of the bed, stroking the kitten with one finger. His hand was huge next to the tiny creature.

Sara laughed again, but then frowned. "He seems so...small... "

"He's the runt," Grissom continued, pushing the kitten over with ease and giving him a playful tickle, "Doesn't seem to be getting much support from his mother and..."

"She pushed him out…" Sara finished with a frown.

"It's nature." Grissom shrugged. "Anyway, he's got no chance with his mother. So I thought you could look out for him."

"Really?" Sara asked hopefully. "Well, maybe I could...but it's so sad that he's rejected by his own kind."

The weight of her words were not lost on Grissom. Laying a hand on her shoulder, he met her eyes. "Well, sometimes nature isn't perfect. There's nothing wrong with him. All he needs is a little love." He tickled the kitten again.

Sara watched him noting how gentle he was and it made her smile. "Where will we keep him?" she asked.

"He can stay here. Well…at least until he's old enough to fend for himself then it's up to him."

"Thank you," Sara said sincerely. "I would still like to see the whole family at some point though especially if they are as cute as this little fella." She tickled the kitten under his chin.

"I'm sure we can arrange that at some point," he replied. "Right now, I need to get you home."

Sara's smile faded a little as she swung her legs out from beneath the covers. "I'm presuming my father wasn't exactly pleased with things."

"Not exactly..."

"So?"

"So...they were more worried as is to be expected but..." He turned to retrieve a bundle sitting in a chair by the fire place, "...all is well." He placed the bundle beside Sara. "Some clean clothing for you."

She looked to the pile but didn't react. "My father isn't angry?" she asked returning her attention to him.

He scooted back a little as the kitten attempted to stand again, only to topple over. "He wasn't entirely happy but he was willing to listen and he insisted on coming here to check you were alright."

Sara smiled again knowing that meant he truly cared even if she had done wrong.

"Come…" Grissom pointed to the clothes, "…you need to change so I can get you back to the house. I'll see if I can scrounge up a bottle for the fluff ball while you dress…and…I really should get to work. I've already missed half the day."

Sara smiled at the kitten. "I will make sure he gets fed regularly."

"I can see already he's going to be a handful," Grissom sighed.

"And we need to think of a name."

He nodded. "Well, you can get thinking while you dress…"

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Sara, with her arm looped through her fiancés, was escorted inside the house.

"I wouldn't be surprised if…"

Grissom was cut short when Laura appeared from the living room calling her daughter's name with excitement.

"Thought so," Grissom finished, smiling at the woman he loved.

Sara shot him a look. "You told them, didn't you?"

"I had to, Sara, you know that. But look how happy she is."

Sara rolled her eyes as Laura got closer. "Oh yes and that means I know what I'm doing with the rest of my day."

"Well, you've had plenty of rest so, just enjoy the attention."

She jabbed him in the ribs. "You know I don't like attention. I've had way too much of that lately," she said quietly as her mother reached them.

"Oh my child," Laura declared, holding her arms out to Sara and pulling her into a very tight hug. "I am so happy for you."

Before Sara could even say anything Laura pulled back and held out a hand. "Come on then…" she urged, "…let me see…"

Sara's eyes flicked to Grissom but all he could do was smile at her.

Obligingly, Sara raised her left hand so her mother could see her ring.

Laura was definitely giddy as she took her daughter's hand. As she looked her in the eye she had the biggest smile on her face. "Are you happy?" she asked.

Sara blushed. Already she wasn't keen on the so called attention.

"I'm doing better, Mother, thank you," she replied softly.

"Well come…" Laura urged, "…we have lots to talk about and oh…Gil, Thomas is having some sort of meeting by the barn. Something to do with plans for the new hotel. He said he could use your assistance if you got back in time."

Grissom looked at Sara then back at Laura. "Right…sure…"

"Can I meet you in a moment, Mother?" Sara asked. "I'd just like to say goodbye to Gil, if you don't mind. Alone…"

Something in her daughter's tone caught her attention so Laura gave her the benefit of the doubt. "Alright, five minutes, no more."

Laura stepped away with a slight look of suspicion in her eyes.

Sara turned to Grissom. "Thank you for last night…I don't think I've actually managed to say it yet."

"I am here to take care of you, Sara, so no thanks are necessary."

She blushed again, but then frowned. Her finger waggled between the two of them. "Are you sure...about all this."

He suddenly frowned. "Do you think I'm not?"

"I didn't say that," she corrected.

"I never say anything I don't mean, Sara. Things will be fine. I promise."

"Okay."

"I should go find your Father," he sighed.

Sara grabbed his hand. "Wait…" She tugged him to the bottom of the staircase as he offered her a frown. "Just…wait there a minute. There is something I…just…wait. Please?"

He looked confused but agreed. "Alright…I'll wait."

She smiled, removed the thick overcoat she was wearing and dumped it on the banister. She picked up her dress and hurried up the stairs. She was barely a minute before she returned and was a little out of breath when she took the final few steps back down the stairs.

"You should stop exerting yourself," he said with concern noting her shortness of breath.

She sucked in some well needed air but gave him another smile. "I'm fine." She held out her closed hand. "Here…"

Giving her an inquisitive look he glanced at her hand. "What is it?"

"Take it and see," she urged.

His eyes narrowed but he placed his hand under hers and she opened her fingers, allowing whatever she was holding to drop into his palm.

He looked down to his hand when he felt something cool drop into it and his right brow inclined when he found the eagle ring resting in his palm. Slowly, his head rose and he looked at her.

"I…" Her smile faltered a little, "…found it after you…"

Quickly he slipped a finger to her lips, silencing her. "You don't have to say it," he whispered. "Let's not think about that." He removed his finger and she licked her lips.

"Well…" she continued, "…I always intended for it to be yours and now…you can wear it."

He held out his hand, offering the ring back to her and she took a step back, looking shocked.

"Take it," he said.

She didn't know what to say. Her chin quivered. "Don't you want it?" She held her breath.

He smiled and that confused her even more. He took her hand and slipped the ring back to her. "Of course I want it and I wish I could take it now but I can't." His hand closed over hers. "I need to receive this at the appropriate time, as tradition would be set out, either just before or actually on our wedding day." He had a quick look over his shoulder before continuing. "We need to do things properly in order to keep your father happy."

She looked a little disappointed.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

"I guess so," she sighed. "I suppose you're right…"

His hand gently cupped her cheek, his eyes looking deeply into hers. "I look forward to the day when you slip the ring on my finger," he said with nothing but love

Now she smiled. So full, so true.

Oh he wanted to kiss her. He wanted to kiss her so badly. He just couldn't help but wonder how long he would have to wait…

*** - "He put her hand to his lips, and moved towards the door."

*** - Extract taken from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A/N: Aww, I do love me some fluff. Now I want a kitten, lol. How long will the fluff last? Thoughts please… :)