Disclaimer: Some 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. Others strongly resemble characters that sort of belong to ABC, though I seriously doubt anyone cares at this point. The rest belong to me, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

Note: This is an AU futurefic that includes a number of original characters. Production notes for this and other stories are available on my LiveJournal.

I actually started this story a couple of years ago, but the muse abandoned it for a while. Just a quick dip back into the Rollercoaster universe; I don't expect to do more there, but then, I didn't expect to write this, either!

This one is dedicated to Cincoflex; this AU series would never have existed without her support and sterling edits. Love you, dearest.


2012

She still hated the smell of hospitals.

Sara took a deep breath despite the odor, and knocked lightly on the door before her. Within seconds, it swung open.

"Hey, Sara." Ed stepped aside so she could pass by him. "Good to see you."

They exchanged a long hug, and then Sara took a good look at her brother. "You look like hell."

"Eighteen hours," he reminded her, running a hand through already wild brown hair. There were circles under his eyes, and his shirt was wrinkled. "There might have been breakfast yesterday, but I can't really remember."

Sara sighed, rummaged in her bag, and slapped a granola bar into Ed's hand.

He laughed and tore the wrapper open. "Where's your other half?"

"He'll be along. Parking." Sara tried to peer beyond Ed. "Well?"

The granola bar vanished in three large bites, and Ed stuffed the wrapper in his pocket. "Thanks," he managed around the last mouthful. "This way."

They'd been speaking quietly, so as to not disturb the hush of the dim room. Now Ed led her past three drawn curtains to a fourth at the far wall, and drew it carefully aside.

Propped up against pillows, Gracie looked more tired than Sara had ever seen her - flat, even, as if the sheet on the bed weighed far more than it should. But her eyes were incandescent.

Sara couldn't help smiling at the sight of the bundle in the crook of Gracie's arm. "So what happened to that nice comfortable birthing center?"

Gracie smirked. "Don't make me laugh, everything still hurts."

Ed chuckled and lifted the sleeping infant with the care and confidence of an experienced parent. "I'll give you a rubdown later," he told his wife.

Sara bent to give Gracie a gentle hug. "Congratulations, you two. You really okay?"

"Yeah, it's all normal wear and tear...I'm just completely wiped." Gracie looked it, her face pale and her hair limp and tangled. But she also looked content.

"Okay, so let's see the little miracle," Sara teased, holding out her hands, and Ed snorted and gave her the baby.

There wasn't much to see besides blanket, just a little squashed face about as ugly as Sara had expected, but she was charmed all the same. The delicate-lashed eyes were closed in that solid sleep of the very new.

Sara held her close, touched; she had never had the opportunity to meet her other young relations so early. "So this is Susan. Did you finally decide on a middle name?"

Ed looked at his wife, who smiled again. "Jennifer."

Sara glanced up at that, but Ed and Gracie were looking only at each other, their hands linked. Sara swallowed, and returned her attention to the baby, subsumed in a wry admiration for them both - remembering Ed's first wife by giving her name to their daughter.

Well, she was Gracie's friend too. Sara wished she had known the woman who had managed to heal her big brother's heart the first time.

But the little bundle stirred, eyes opening, and Sara was distracted from melancholy as Susan Jennifer stared vaguely up at her, mouth opening and brows puckering in uncertainty.

Trying not to be hasty, Sara returned the baby to Gracie's arms. "Here, I think she's looking for you."

Ed laughed. "Still paranoid, huh Sis?"

"Shut up, Eddie." Sara folded her arms and watched Gracie settle Susan.

"Would you please put up the 'nursing mother' sign, Ed?" Gracie asked, opening her gown.

"Sure." Ed wandered off towards the door. Sara raised her brows inquiringly, but Gracie jerked her chin at the chair pulled up to the bed.

"Have the kids seen her yet?" Sara asked, taking the seat.

Gracie guided Susan's mouth to her breast. "That's it...you've got the idea...ow." She wrinkled her nose, and Sara had to laugh a little. "I'm told the barracuda grip is a good sign, but..." Gracie sighed exaggeratedly, then smiled. "Yes, but only through the nursery window."

Sara hooked an arm over the back of the chair. "I'm sure they're climbing the walls by now."

"Undoubtedly, but Ed says the Gallistons are taking good care of them." Gracie touched Susan's curled hand lightly with one forefinger.

Sara watched, still bemused by the family Ed had managed to create, or gather, or just fall into - she wasn't sure which. Sure, she and Grissom had their own circle of loved ones, most of whom weren't related at all, but Ed had found people so large of heart that they would welcome the birth of a child who had no blood tie to them at all. Jenny's parents, the Gallistons, had been delighted to learn of Gracie's pregnancy, and Sara found the whole thing a little bewildering.

It's great, though. Ed needed people in a way Sara didn't, and certainly his kids deserved all the love they could get.

Once Susan was feeding steadily, Gracie looked back up. "Did you two drive, or fly?"

"Drove." Sara shrugged, half in apology. "We'd have been here sooner, but we both had cases to wrap up."

Gracie laughed. "I'd say you missed the most exciting part, but I'm not sure Ed would have allowed even you in."

"Yeah, no thanks." Sara grinned at her sister-in-law. "So you're both really okay?"

Gracie smiled down at Susan. "We're fine - I have a bruise on my backside, but that's all."

"Too bad about the center, then." Sara laid her chin on her arm, still watching. Gracie had booked a room at a local birthing center in preparation for Susan's birth, but had slipped on some wet grass and fallen hard. Whether the impact had triggered labor or the timing had been sheer coincidence was unknown, but either way she and Ed had ended up in the hospital instead. Fortunately, Susan had emerged robustly healthy.

Ed reappeared, peering around the edge of the curtain. "You decent, love?"

Gracie reached for the towel folded on the nightstand, but Sara beat her grab, shaking it loose before handing it over. Gracie draped it over her bared shoulder and front, and Susan's head, moving a little awkwardly. Ed looked back over his shoulder. "It's safe, man."

The curtain parted, and Grissom slipped through the gap, ignoring Ed's snicker to step up behind Sara's chair and rest a hand on her shoulder. "Congratulations," he told Gracie quietly, eyes crinkling with his smile.

She beamed back at him. "Thank you. I'm glad you guys could make it."

Sara stuck a gentle elbow into her husband's thigh. "He almost didn't."

Grissom sighed patiently, still smiling. "I told you I only needed to wait for Betty to arrive and take over the scene."

Ed snickered again. "Actually, Sis, I was more worried about you."

Sara stuck her tongue out at him in lieu of an answer, knowing he had a point; she still got absorbed in her work, more so now that she no longer had to look after her niece and nephew.

Ed just grinned at her, leaning a careful hip onto the bed beside his wife so he could put an equally careful arm around her shoulder. Susan, as far as Sara could tell, didn't miss a beat, even when Gracie leaned tiredly into Ed's embrace.

The silence was unusual, but it felt right, a quietness enveloping them as they all admired the new life. A tiny part of Sara twinged wistfully at the sight, but the greater part of her was content to watch. Children were not part of her plan for life, nor Grissom's; nor were they her desire. I don't think I've wanted kids since I was twelve.

To be sure, neither Ed nor Gracie had planned on another either. Ed was older than Sara, and Gracie not much younger; and Ed's two were enough to keep them both satisfied. But when chance had presented them with a pregnancy, as Ed had put it, the two of them had decided to accept the unexpected, which now weighed almost nine pounds and bore a haze of fuzz as red-gold as Gracie's own curls.

Grissom's hand tightened on Sara's shoulder, and she tilted her head to rest it against his arm, her gaze traveling from the infant to Gracie to Ed, and marveling anew that he - that he and Sara both - had found so much happiness after so long.

Susan's not the only miracle.

xxxxxx

"Wow." Joseph peered over the back of the couch to the arm-waving bundle in Ed's lap, then looked up at Gracie. "Isn't she kind of big to fit inside you?"

Next to Ed, Kimmy rolled her eyes at her little brother's question. Gracie just laughed and settled carefully into the armchair next to the couch. "It was getting a little small in there at the end, but it's amazing how Nature works these things out."

Sara grinned and sat down on her brother's other side, reaching up to ruffle her nephew's hair. "Plus, she's grown already."

Grissom, seated in the other chair, watched as Joseph, wary and fascinated both, reached down a tentative hand. "Put your finger next to her fist," Ed instructed, and a smile spread over Joey's face when his new sister clasped his finger, her gaze unfocused.

"She's strong," he said, wiggling his hand gently to make her arm move.

"Infants have astonishing grip strength," Grissom noted. Susan was mildly fascinating to him, too; he was a little sad to realize it, but he'd spent more time around dead infants than living ones.

"She's blowing bubbles," Joseph commented, and pulled free, coming around to lean on the arm of Gracie's chair instead.

"Please, Daddy?" Kimmy asked impatiently. Ed lifted Susan carefully and shifted her to Kimmy's waiting arms, not letting go until Susan was securely braced. He did not, Grissom noticed, have to warn Kimmy to support the baby's head; it looked like Kimmy's volunteer work in the church nursery on Sundays was paying dividends.

Grissom's gaze moved to Sara. She was watching the process with amused interest, and he had to marvel again at how different she was in the presence of her family - one he hadn't even known she possessed until a few years before.

But then, Sara would say that her family had changed her. Leaving Vegas to help her brother with his children had been the right thing for her to do, had given her the space and time she needed to make choices.

Be honest. It was the right thing for you too. Losing her had shaken Grissom out of his rut and into despair; finding her again had given him his own chance to grow, and he'd seized it with both hands.

And now he had more than he'd ever expected to have. He did his best to savor every moment.

Gracie was mouthing something at his wife; Sara grinned again and rose from the couch, crossing the living room to return with a camera and take a few shots of Kimmy cradling Susan. She snapped some of Ed, watching both his daughters with an expression of deep tenderness, and then turned the lens on Gracie, who looked still tired but radiant, her arm around the little boy perched on the arm of her chair.

Family.

He'd never expected it.

x

Later, after dinner, Ed retreated to the new nursery to demonstrate the arcane art of diapering to his older offspring. Gracie stretched out on the couch, her color much better than it had been in the hospital. Grissom was back in his armchair; he'd tried to help with the dishes, but Sara had chased him out of the kitchen on the grounds that there weren't enough for two. He wasn't sure if that was true, or if she just needed time alone, but either way he was willing to acquiesce.

"How are you doing?" he asked Gracie quietly.

She smiled at him. "I'm okay," she said, and it had the ring of truth. "I don't want to do that again any time soon, but it wasn't too bad."

Grissom shook his head with the age-old amazement of the male gender contemplating childbirth. "The Gallistons aren't stopping by?"

Gracie folded her hands carefully on her stomach. "Tomorrow. Anna was feeling kind of poorly, so they said they'd make it an early night." She blinked sleepily. "They saw Susan twice at the hospital, so that should hold them for a few more hours."

Grissom chuckled. He'd met the Gallistons only once, but he'd liked them; an older couple classically thrilled with the addition of a new grandchild. They apparently approved of their son-in-law's second marriage.

"Are you going to bring Rosalie by to visit?" Gracie asked.

"With your permission," Grissom replied, smiling a bit ruefully at the mention of his mother. "She'd be delighted." And she would be. Rosalie's Alzheimer's disease was gradually worsening, but most days she was still sharp enough to function, and she had followed the progress of Gracie's pregnancy with great interest. Grissom knew that Joseph went to visit her every few weeks, treating her as an adopted grandmother and practicing his American Sign Language skills.

"Of course," Gracie said easily. "I'd offer to go to her, but - "

"Not until you're up to it," Grissom said hastily, and she grinned at him.

" - not hungry yet, Joey." Kimmy's voice carried from the hallway, and then she was there, walking very carefully with Susan in her arms. From his angle Grissom couldn't see anything besides a blanket and a tiny hand waving, but Kimmy's expression was rapt as she looked down at her new sister.

Then she lifted her head. "Oh. Uncle G, you're the only one who hasn't gotten to hold Susan yet."

Grissom opened his mouth, but before he could think of a diplomatic way to refuse, Kimmy was beside him, and he found himself with an armful of infant. She was warm and solid, and Grissom automatically cradled her against his chest, irrationally afraid of dropping her even though he was already seated.

Susan was red and wrinkly, as was expected for a newborn, but she was also extremely cute, and while Grissom could enumerate every factor evolution had brought into play to make this tiny being attractive to him, they nonetheless had their effect. He smiled tentatively down at her, knowing that she probably could see no more than a blur yet, but compelled to do it anyway. Susan blinked up at him, smacked her lips, and kicked.

The flare of a flash made him glance up. Sara was grinning at him again, the camera in her hands, and he gave her an admonitory look.

"Just one for the album," she said, cheerfully ignoring his censure. Setting the camera down, she came over and hitched a hip onto the arm of his chair, sliding her own arm across the back and looking down at her niece. "You done good, guys."

Ed, entering the room with Joey slung giggling across his shoulders, snorted. "Gracie did all the work."

"From each according to their ability," Gracie quoted, smirking a little.

Susan began to hiccough, a warning sound. "Louis Blanc," Grissom noted, and handed the baby up to Kimmy's eager hands for transport over to Gracie. Ed handed his wife a towel without putting Joey down, and Grissom glanced away politely as Gracie arranged the fussing Susan for her meal.

Sara's fingers drifted down to the back of his neck, rubbing in just the spot she knew would make him purr. "You're almost as cute as she is," she said just above a whisper, and Grissom let his arm snake around her hips, adding a rebuking pinch on the way.

"I am not cute," he returned, listening to her snicker and unable to take offense.

In that moment, immersed in the family that had become his own, watching their joy and knowing that his own rested in the circle of his arm, Grissom knew himself, quite simply and completely, content.

He caught the memory to keep, and smiled.

End.