DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything associated with the show… I just like playing with the characters in it from time to time. Dance Monkeys! Dance!
RATING: T for Teen
SPOILERS: Post Ep for S11XE05
SUMMARY: Grissom takes inventory before moving on to the next phase of his life.

A/N: There was just something about the end scene of "House of Hoarders" that kicked the plot bunny back to life..

REVIEWS: Reviews are the way I know if people are enjoying the work or not. So, if you leave one, THANKS! And if not, I hope you found at least a little something to brighten your day, and thanks for taking the time to read.

He supposed it had always been this way, but he never imagined he could accumulate so much stuff in just a year. Cleaning out his meager office in the Sorbonne had proved a much larger task than he envisioned when he started sorting through the drawers of his desk. Now on his fifth box, Grissom was finally ready to accept the truth. Sara's right, I am a pack rat.

One box was filled with nothing but research notes detailing the various experiments he had conducted during his tenure. Another box contained the overflow, and a few composition books of notes from his work in Costa Rica. He was trying to reproduce some of the results from the rainforest in a controlled lab environment, and needed both sets of notes to compare his successes and failures in a third set of notes.

After many years of research, he was beginning to see the value in keeping notes digitally. Sara walked away from nearly two years in the rainforest with nothing more than a laptop and an external hard drive. If nothing else, he should consider it his responsibility towards reducing paper production on several continents.

Sealing the fifth box, Grissom realized he had two complete boxes of specimens and slides, and had yet to start on his personal papers and effects. There were also the lesson plans and the lecture notes he needed to finish preparing for the associate professor taking over.

By the time he glanced at his watch again, it was well into the afternoon and creeping up on the evening. He looked up from his lecture notes on the rates of decomposition in varying climates and barometric conditions, and released a heavy sigh. There was still so much work left to be done, but his time there was drawing to a rapidly approaching close.

He clapped his hands together and startled Hank into standing, "All Right." He pushed his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose and looked at Hank. "We've got to knuckle down here, buddy." Hank stepped forward to brush Grissom's hand with his muzzle. "All of this stuff has to be out of here tonight."

Hank seemed unfazed by his words, so he stroked the boy's head and scratched under his chin which got him another scent rub before Hank went back to his bed next to the office door. "Yeah, I know… My mess, my job…" He had to chuckle when Hank dropped his head down over the edge of the bed and snorted lazily at him. "You're as bad as Sara."

He carefully organized the lecture notes and lesson plans in a file box. He still had more than a week before it all had to be at the printer's for the next term. That left all the other ephemera he had collected in a year's time.

With great care he bubble-wrapped the antique test tube and beaker set he had found in a little shop outside of Paris. The hand-blown glasswork globe a student had given him after his first term was packed in a special box to protect it from breaking. Each of the Jasper frogs which lined the front of his desk were wrapped in tissue paper and placed in a small box. And he was equally careful with the glass-boxed Iolana iolas, Nymphalis antiopa, Cupido osiris and Anthocharis euphenoides. They would make wonderful additions to his collection, whenever he had a chance to hang it again.

He and Sara had been living out of travel cases and makeshift dwellings for two years. Grissom was afraid he'd forgotten what it was to have a real home anymore. And he still didn't know where home was going to be. Their research grants had finally come in and the foundation was picking up the remaining budget for their project.

Sara was supposed to be working out the details of their living arrangements, and all Grissom really knew was that they were going to be together again. It was actually all he cared about.

While it was true their relationship was unconventional, and more than strong enough to handle the miles between them, he was ready to close the gap and end their geographic separation. What made it even better was the fact that they were on the same page about his conclusion. Sara was just as anxious as he was to occupy the same continent, house and bed. She was also anxious to get away from the world of forensic investigation once more.

Initially, she went back to help Catherine and to relieve her boredom as they waited for the grant paperwork to make its way through the proper channels. But Grissom knew there was a deeper reason behind her decision. Sara had to prove to herself and everyone else that the job hadn't destroyed her, that she was stronger than anything it could throw at her. She had to prove it hadn't beaten her, and that she could still be C.S.I. Sara Sidle. But more than that, she needed to prove she could leave it, on her own terms, when the time came.

When the time came, she was more than ready. Unfortunately, he had to wait until the end of the term. It was probably the longest nine weeks of his entire life. Knowing everything waited for him half a world away, made those final weeks pure, gut-wrenching torture. But he made it through, and in less than twenty four hours, he and Hank would be on a plane to Chicago to meet Sara.

With a great sigh of relief, Grissom slipped the last of his lecture notes into the briefcase and fed the strap through the buckle. He half-smiled at the worn leather case and remembered when it was given to him. It was that first Christmas after Sara came to Vegas. She had been very nervous about giving him the oddly wrapped package, and thinking back on that day and the way her worried smile crept up in the corners of her mouth, always warmed his heart. She had stumbled upon the case at an antique shop and was compelled to purchase it for him, because she remembered what a mess his previous case had been in. It was many years before he told her how much that case meant to him, and why after most of his life he was finally able to retire his father's leather briefcase.

Hank patiently observed his master's walk to the door, with only an occasional twitch to show his anticipation. Grissom turned back to look upon the remains. A few boxes, some trinkets, papers and the memories were all there, but now it was time to leave. Heaving another deep sigh, he shook his head and turned again for the door. He slowly turned the knob as he shored up his grip on the case handle while Hank grew more anxious. With a silent wink at the door, the corner of his mouth turned up to see his canine companion nervously waiting to see if it was time to leave.

Finally giving the poor dog a reprieve, Grissom patted the side of his leg and Hank instantly jumped to his feet to meet him at the door. Pulling the lead from his jacket pocket, Grissom fastened it to Hank's collar as the anxious dog's nails tapped on the tile floor. And just as he was about to leave the office, he spotted the bowl of marbles sitting atop the empty bookshelf. Chuckling to himself, he took the bowl down and dumped the wide variety of shooters out into his jacket pocket, switched off the light and left Paris behind.

With boxes stacked on virtually every square inch of the first floor in their red-brick, two-flat, Grissom had never before felt more at home. Chicago was the last city he ever imagined they would be working out of, but Sara had fallen in love with it after he had taken her to a ballgame at Wrigley. And while the housing market in Vegas had been a trial for them, it was perfect timing for picking up this old Chicago charmer. And the Logan Square house was ideal for them to live and work in the same space. The selection of international flights out of O'Hare also meant they could fly to anywhere on the globe without trouble. Chicago truly was a perfect fit for the Grissoms.

He was busy trying to figure out which boxes were from which move when he heard a large truck pull up out front. Their house sat at the corner of a diagonal, which put it closest to the street and all of its noise, but it also afforded them a decent backyard which he planned to turn into a patio oasis. He could give up the grass and live closer to the street if it meant he could build a small greenhouse in the back.

Just as he discerned from Spanish writing on the sides that the stack of boxes near the hallway had come from their bungalow in Costa Rica, he heard the loud clang of the moving truck door being thrown open. Apparently their furniture and the rest of their boxes had finally arrived from Nevada. He was about to take the first three boxes of his research notes to the back bedroom that was to be his office when Sara came in through the front door talking to someone behind her.

"Thank you very much for the offer, but it looks like they finally figured out how to get the truck into the city. I was beginning to think I'd have to get the furniture in a piece at a time from the movers' parking lot in Oak Lawn." Sara said to the perky blonde woman walking into the house with her.

"Trust me; I know exactly how that goes." The woman spoke with a slight accent that Grissom was trying to place. "We had to wait three whole days past the delivery date for those guys to deliver our stuff from Waycross. Thought I was going to lose my mind without my nice big TV for my shows. Those people just don't understand how much we need our stuff when it's promised to us. And they certainly don't care, either." She stopped dead in her tracks, and that was when Sara turned to find him standing there at the entrance to the long hallway.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Sara turned from Grissom to the woman and began her introductions. "Sherry, this is my husband, Gil. He's been on box patrol all morning, or he would have come out earlier." Grissom smiled when she turned away from the woman enough to plead with him using only her eyes. Socialization was not a strong suit for either of them, but it still made him grin to see her trying so hard. "Gil, this is Sherry from next door."

Grissom returned his boxes to the closest stack and wiped his hands off on the handkerchief barely hanging out of his pants pocket. "I apologize for my hands, but some of these boxes were packed and shipped under less than ideal conditions." He held his hand out to her and she accepted it. "It's very nice to meet you, Sherry."

"Oh, don't worry about the dirt. I've managed to stay married to my husband for fifteen years and the man is always getting into something dirty. I don't think he's actually happy unless he's making some kind of mess." Grissom laughed at her remarks, and was glad to have such a friendly neighbor. "I was telling your wife that I was upset I'd missed y'all looking at the place before since I was out of town for work, and when Ham...that's my husband, Hamilton...told me the place had finally sold I was hoping I'd be in town when you got here. And thank goodness I was. Your lovely wife might've gotten herself into a world of trouble with those uppity people across the street, otherwise. Not that I have anything against them personally, but they were awful to the last folks that lived here...the ones that did all the renovating on this house. Anyway, they were always calling the inspectors and complaining about the work trucks. Hopefully they won't give you any trouble with that moving van out there."

Nodding, Grissom only offered, "I'm sure it'll be fine. They won't be here too long, since we really don't have that much furniture to start out with. You wouldn't happen to know a good used office furniture place around here, would you?" He thought if he gave her something to be helpful with, it might lead the way to a pleasant relationship with the new neighbors.

"Me? No, we've lived here more than a year, but I'm just home so little right now, I'd probably get lost going to the corner market." Sara laughed along with the joke. "No, I don't, but I bet Ham either knows someplace or someone to help you out. Soon as he's done with the lawn I'll ask him for you."

"The lawn?" Grissom's eyebrow twitched up at the term.

"Well, Ham calls it a lawn. I call it a well-trimmed patch of weeds the neighborhood dogs keep watered." Another round of laughter passed amongst them. "I'm convinced the man's religion is tied up in blades of grass, or something. Actually tried to talk me into letting him get a great big gas powered lawn mower for about twenty some square feet of grass. I told him that since he's retired he can spend his time pushing one of those manual things over four feet of grass all day if he wants to." She shook her head in disgust before going on. "And you know what that man did? He went out and bought himself the biggest, shiniest push-reel mower they got, just to spite me."

Sara jokingly chimed in with, "Well, you know, you can't keep the boys from their toys."

"Isn't that the damn truth?" Grissom tried not to join in their laughter, but his restrained grin gave him away and Sara gave him a wink to show that she had seen it. "Well, I better go check on him and make sure he hasn't mown off a toe or something, and I'll let you get back to your boxes. But please, if you need anything at all, don't even try to hesitate, and just come on over, anytime. We moved up here the same as you, because we just fell in love with this city. And we don't have a soul around that's connected to us, so we know what it's like starting completely over with folks. If we can help you two from making some of the same mistakes we made, then that's what we're here for, all right?"

Sara took the hand she was offered and smiled at the ineffably cheerful woman. "Thank you very much. You've been wonderful, and once we're all settled in, you'll have to come over for dinner sometime."

"Oh, after hearing about your husband's kitchen exploits, I'll be looking forward to that one. And just you remember...anything you need, just come on over. Ham's always home and he's got every tool under the sun. He also needs something to distract him from tearing up another wall in my house." Sherry shook her finger at Grissom, singling him out for her final statement, and he recognized that her speech was more of an invitation than anything else. He dutifully nodded and accepted her challenge. "Well, all right then..." She poked her head out of the door to get a look at the movers. "Looks like those boys are finally ready to start unloading the truck. I'll leave you both to it, then. Take care, now."

Sara walked to the doorway and waved her out. "Thanks, for everything, Sherry."

Grissom moved up to stand behind her and laid his hands on her shoulders. Sara responded by leaning back into him. "She was certainly a...lively person."

Sara sighed with laughter at his assessment. "No, she's wonderful, but yeah...that's a lot of energy, for sure."

"It does prove one thing to me, though." He slipped his hands down from her shoulders and wrapped his arms around her.

She snuggled into his embrace with a casual acceptance that warmed his heart. "What's that?"

"That we were right not to get that condo in Lincoln Park." He gestured to the tree lined street and the varied collection of brick and stone two-flats. "We never could've afforded this in Lincoln Park."

"And in such an affluent, status driven part of town, I seriously doubt we would've found neighbors like the vivacious Sherry and the long suffering Ham. Or Bernie the retired postman." He could feel Sara's laugh through her body.


"Yeah, he caught me getting out of the car, and wanted to know if we'd taken the mail block off the house yet." She chuckled again before going on, "Apparently the local postmaster only goes through the neighborhood once a month to see which houses have been foreclosed on, or have new people in them. So, he wanted to be sure we were getting our mail before, and I quote, 'that lazy son of a biscuit makes his way back around.'"

Grissom couldn't help it, as he joined her laughter. "Well, all right then."

"And when Bernie found out I was going to be teaching at DePaul, he wanted me to know that if we have any questions we could ask one of the grad school kids he rents the upstairs apartments to. Because they are 'pretty smart when they aren't listening to that lousy rat music of theirs.'"

Grissom had to agree with Sara about the neighborhood. On first glance, he had wanted to find something in Lincoln Park. It was clean and well maintained, and in perfect proximity to everything they had come to Chicago for, but the property values were reflected in that fact. So, Sara, in her infinite wisdom, started looking for something at little farther out into the city, and with a touch more blue in the collars of its residents. Logan Square really hit the mark.

Much of the city's praise is given to the bungalows common throughout, but Sara had fallen in love with the lesser known two-flats. She liked the idea of having a self-sufficient apartment upstairs for their living space, but also enough room to work or maybe even entertain on the main level. And the garage and basement afforded them some extra wiggle room for projects and storage. It took her less than twenty-four hours to convince him that the Lincoln Park condo was a mistake, no matter how much they both loved the idea of keeping things simple and clean.

Sara told him it was time for them to put down roots. They had both been nomads for far too long, and they needed a home instead of just another house or condo. She wanted to have a little piece of earth she could always fall back on when the world became too much for her. A place where they could work together to make it their own, and where, if someone were to ask, "Where do you call home?" she wouldn't hesitate to name it. He'd had that as a boy, but he suddenly realized Sara had never gotten to experience that for herself, and he wanted to be the one to give it her, so he immediately gave up on the condo idea.

Watching from the hallway all afternoon as Sara directed the movers from one room to the next Grissom likened her to a general in battle. While he sorted through boxes of notes and personal items, she was hard at work picking a strategic location for every single item brought through their front door.

In one box, he stumbled across a few of Hank's toys from Costa Rica and realized that the wily mutt must have hidden them as they were packing. Grissom was anxious for Hank's arrival, but he was currently being spoiled rotten by Nick, because Sara was concerned he would worry himself sick with the movers and all the new smells if they brought him out too early. And he had to admit, it was much easier to get everything sorted out when Hank wasn't underfoot and inspecting everything he did.

As Sara wandered close to him, he asked, "So, when's the boy being delivered?"

She put a loving hand on his shoulder and smiled at his canine discovery. "Day after tomorrow. Nick and Mandy are flying out with him for the weekend."

"I didn't realize they were coming out as well." Grissom was surprised, and perhaps a little disappointed they wouldn't be spending their first weekend in the new house alone.

Sara walked away from him as she spoke over her shoulder, "Just worked out that way... One of Mandy's roommates from college is getting married and the wedding is here, and Nick thought it would be less traumatic for Hank this way."

"Don't you mean less traumatic for Nick to have a safety net in case the wedding festivities get to be too much for him?" Grissom quirked a brow with his question.

"Yeah, that too." Sara chuffed at his joke. "He also wanted to see for himself that we were actually staying put for a while. Something about not believing it until he saw the proof for himself."

"Then I guess it's a good thing I've already subscribed to the paper and put in the forwarding notices." He smirked at his own clever comment as he continued to sort through the box.

As Sara passed him again she kissed his cheek and said, "Always thinking ahead... I knew there was another reason I keep you around."

His head popped up with a quizzical expression on his face. "What was the first reason?" He turned to find Sara staring back at him with a look that would've melted the resolve of any man and he smiled bashfully. "Oh yeah, right." She started to walk back toward the living room when he added, "My keen sense of direction." He was rewarded for his effort by Sara's burst of laughter. Grissom lived for the sound of Sara's laughter.

They worked that way throughout the afternoon and into the early evening, until the movers brought the final item to their bedroom and Grissom had paid them for their pains. By the time he walked back inside, Sara was already unpacking the things for the closet.

He walked up behind Sara and stilled her arms with his hands before leaning in to speak into her ear. "Let's take a break and get some dinner from that little cafe we saw two blocks down. We can have a nice walk, clear our heads, and I know you haven't eaten since this morning. What do you say?"

"I say...I knew I married a smart man for a reason." She turned her face to his until he could feel the smile growing on her cheeks. "You get the jackets, while I wash up?"

"As you wish." And with that she went into the kitchen.

Grissom reached into the closet and grabbed Sara's supple leather jacket and his favorite charcoal wool one, and then walked for door. He laid Sara's over his arm, but when he lifted his up to do the same he noticed that it appeared heavier than it should. He quickly inspected the pockets and discovered a large collection of marbles. His discovery made him smile, and triggered a mad search through a few of the Paris boxes he had left in the hallway.

That was how Sara found him when she emerged from the kitchen. "What in the world are you doing now?"

"Found it!" He marched into the living room with a stone bowl clutched in his hand over his head. "I think this will convince our cynical friend much better than the newspaper subscription."

Sara chuckled at the sight of him and asked, "What are you talking about? How is a bowl, while very nice in its own right, going to convince Nick of anything, other than the fact that you've lost your mind."

"Like this..." He placed the bowl on the bookcase she had located by the front door and then reached deep into his jacket pocket to retrieve the marbles. Sara's laughter increased as he emptied the vast assortment of shooters out into the bowl with a proud smile splayed across his face.

Laughing and shaking her head, Sara said, "I'm really glad you found your marbles...but how is that going to work on Nick."

He strode up to her, her jacket opened to slip on and she turned into it for him. Wrapping his arms tightly around her once he settled the leather onto her shoulders, he offered, "I've got all the marbles right here...why would I ever need to leave?"

Sara turned from his embrace and quirked her brow when she said, "Not quite."

Walking over to the bowl, she reached into the pocket inside her jacket. Producing a very large Indian Swirl shooter marble, dark and opaque with a brilliant royal blue, red and white swirl circling the sphere, Grissom instantly recognized the vintage marble. He had been giving out shooter marbles to his protégés for many years, to impart a lesson about handling the strain of the job, but Sara's had been special. Hers came from his own private boyhood collection of marbles. And that particular Indian Swirl had been his favorite shooter.

He watched as she gently placed the piece of his childhood on the top of the pile. "There... Now you've got 'em all."

Grissom stepped forward and met her at the door, taking her hand in his. With a soft and loving smile he raised her hand to his lips and pressed a gentle kiss to the back before he said, "I most certainly do."