CSI: Obsession

False Prophet (Cont.)
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Chapter 8

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“Catherine!”

She sat straight up in her chair, momentarily unaware of her surroundings.  Looking down, she saw her research spread before her on the break room table.  Turning, she watched as Sara rushed over from the doorway and took the chair next to her.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Catherine sighed.  “I guess this whole situation has just worn me out.  I need to go home.”

“Hey, I understand, trust me.  Even I could use some sleep.”  Getting a smile from Catherine, Sara continued.  “But right now, we need to hang out here.  Never alone, remember?”

“Yeah.  I just feel like it’s been forever since I’ve been home, and Lindsey—”

“Lindsey will be fine!  She’s with your sister, right?”

Catherine nodded.

“No worries then.  Look, give her a call.  It’s not that late, she’ll be home from school by now, and she’d probably love to hear from you.  It’ll make you feel better, maybe even boost your energy and give you something to work with.”

Smiling, Catherine stood.  “Thanks, kiddo.  Look, I know we haven’t always gotten along, but—”

“Yeah, I know, I know!  So, call your kid already!”

“Alright!  But first, I gotta pee!  You’re not going to follow me in there, are you?”

“Ewwww!  No!”

Laughing at Sara’s funny face, Catherine clapped her on the shoulder and headed in the direction of the restrooms, leaving Sara in a giggle fit that could be heard down the hall.

* * *  * * *  * * *

Catherine was in such a daze, she didn’t even remember the drive home.  All she could think of was Lindsey and making sure her daughter was safe.  She drove with such purpose, she didn’t realize she was 15 over the speed limit the entire drive to her sister’s.  She was so focused on getting to her daughter, she didn’t even notice the extra car in the driveway.  But when she got inside, she sensed danger before anything else.

“Lindsey?” she called.

Silence answered her.

“Lindsey?” she screamed, pulling her weapon.

“Mommy!” came the muffled cry from another room.

Catherine made a mad dash for the family room to find her sister and nephew Jeremy huddled in a corner and Lindsey in the hands of the woman wreaking havoc on her world.

“Let her go or I’ll shoot!”

Vivian merely smiled and placed her knife closer to Lindsey’s throat.

“Drop it, Catherine.  You don’t really want to kill someone in front of your daughter, do you?”

“Mommy!” Lindsey sobbed.

“I said let her go, Vivian!”

“Really, Catherine, don’t force my hand.  You know, I usually find children a few years older than—Lindsey, isn’t it?—to fulfill number four, but I could make an exception.”

There was a loud thud as Catherine’s weapon hit the carpet. 

“Don’t hurt her, please,” she pleaded.  “I’ll do anything.  Just don’t hurt her.”

Smiling wider, Vivian picked Lindsey up and walked to the door in one swift action, calling for Catherine to follow.  Glancing at her sister with a look that said, “I’m sorry,” Catherine hurried to her daughter.

When they got to the car, Vivian shoved Lindsey into the back seat and climbed in next to her, telling Catherine to climb into the driver’s seat. But before she pulled away, Vivian stopped her.

“Wait,” she said with a sinister smile.  “You’re going to leave the message.  Get out your beeper."  Handing Catherine a cell phone, she said, "Leave yourself this message: Jer 2 33-34a, 35b.”

When Catherine had left the message, Vivian instructed her to toss the pager out onto the grass strip next to the driveway.

“Gently, now.  We don’t want it to break,” the bitch crowed.  “Now, get us out of here.”

“Gladly,” Catherine sneered, peeling out of the street, leaving good tread marks behind her.

‘I hope this works,’ she thought, taking a last look at what was left of her life shrink into the distance of her rear view mirror.

* * *  * * *  * * *

Chapter 9

* * *  * * *  * * *

“Hey Griss,” Sara called.  “How you coming on Greg and Warrick’s stuff?”

“In the interest of time, I’ll skip the details, but Greg was taken from the locker room as originally thought.  Shoeprints and a well-hidden white rag confirmed it.  All three rags were doused with the same chemical.”

“Let me guess: chloroform.”

“Good guess.  Confirms that all three disappearances were linked.”

“Which we already knew.”

“Right.”  He paused before asking, “Where’s Catherine?”

“Direct quote: ‘I gotta pee.  You’re not going to follow me in there, are you?’”

Grissom shook his head.

“For future reference, that was probably more than I needed to know, Sara.”

“Hey, you asked.”  She crossed her arms across her chest, feeling slighted.  “Grissom, what did I do to piss you off?”

Grissom blanched.  “What are you talking about?”

“You’re mad at me.  I can always tell when you’re mad at me, and right now I’m definitely getting that feeling.”

Heaving a sigh, he tried to put his thoughts into words.  “I’m not mad at you, I just—”

The buzzing of Nick’s pager cut him off, as it skittered across the lab table.  Grissom grabbed a glove and read the message aloud.

“V has C & LW.  #4.  En route.  CW.”

Grissom heard a smack as Sara’s fist hit her forehead.

“All she could talk about was Lindsey!  I shouldn’t have let her out of my sight… She tricked me!”

“Get in the Tahoe, now!” Grissom ordered, pulling her by the elbow and grabbing their vests and weapons on the way out to the car.

* * *  * * *  * * *

When they pulled out onto the road, Grissom asked, “Where was Lindsey?  Where did Catherine want to go?”

“Her sister’s house.  That way,” Sara directed him.

He turned on the little flashing light and didn’t worry about the speed limit, causing Sara to cling to the seat.

“Do you have the GPS for her beeper chip?”

“Yeah, just a sec.”  Sara dug in her field kit in the back seat.  Finding what she wanted and bringing it forward, she fiddled with the buttons until it displayed the information she needed.  “It says she’s at her sister’s.”

Pulling up to Catherine’s sister’s house a few minutes later, Sara jumped from the car.  Using the GPS to guide her, she walked toward the end of the driveway.

“100 feet…” she called.  “50 feet… 30 feet… 20 feet… She’s right here!  10 feet…” She stopped.

“Damn it!  Grissom, her pager’s laying here in the grass.  Wait… There’s a message… Jer 2:33-34a, 35b.”  Looking up, she watched Grissom pull out his mini Bible from his kit and read the verse.

“ ‘How you plot to win your lovers.  The most experienced prostitute could learn from you!  Your clothing is stained with the blood of the innocent and the poor. … Now I will punish you severely because you claim you have not sinned.’”

“That’s not true!  God damn it!  She took the one thing she knew would make Catherine fold: Lindsey.  Then she had her leave her own verse.”  Sara stood stock still for a moment, staring at the ground in mourning for her friend.  Suddenly she took off her ID badge and hurled it at Grissom, shouting “That bitch!  She’s breaking us apart, and she knows it!”

“Sara, stop!”  Grissom picked up her badge and came to calm her.  “This is just what she wants.  Don’t give her the satisfaction.  Now, think.  Catherine’s last message said ‘en route.’  En route to where?”

As if in answer, Sara’s pager went off.

“Cabin 108, Lake Meade. CW,” she read.  “She likes to be near the water!  Duh!”

“Get back in the car!”  Grissom called as he dashed for the driver’s seat, Sara scrambling after him. 

“Follow those treads!  Catherine’s pulling another ‘Finger.’”  Sara pointed to the long set of skid marks.

“I know, Sara.  I see them.  Call Brass.  We need him to be there with us.  Then call O’Riley and tell him to get some uniforms over to Catherine’s sister’s house to check on things.  Tell him to bring in swing shift to help.  Then you get me Catherine’s cell phone on that GPS!”

Grissom drove wildly to the other side of town toward Lake Meade, hoping and almost praying that they’d get there in time.  Thoughts and pictures of the crew played in his head like a movie reel, but he drove them from his mind, forcing himself to focus on the road.  Only one thought remained:

‘We’re coming, guys.  Hang on.”

* * *  * * *  * * * 

Chapter 10

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Nick, Warrick, and Greg sat up at the sound of three sets of footsteps above them, one quicker and lighter than the others, making their way to the basement stairs.  They watched in silent anticipation, wondering who it was that would next come down those fateful steps. 

Their spirits fell when they saw Catherine pushed ahead by Vivian, who was dragging Lindsey behind her.  Shoving Catherine aside to wait by Nick, Vivian pulled Lindsey to the other side of the basement and opened the door to a small cage, which looked just large enough for a small dog kennel.  Lindsey was crying.

“No!” Catherine shrieked, getting up from her fall and running to her daughter.  But she was stopped when Vivian delivered a powerful backhand, causing Catherine to fall back, hitting her head on the hard concrete floor.  While she lay motionless, Vivian finished locking Lindsey in her cold metal prison, then dragged Catherine to her own space beside Nick, chaining her like the others.

“That wasn’t very smart, Catherine.  If you would only use your God-given brain, you’d realize that there are still two more that must join you before punishment ensues.  Note to self,” Vivian sighed to herself as she walked to her desk.  “Never assume that the implied is understood.”

Instead of going back to her research, she decided to set up for her finale.  ‘Better now than later,’ she thought.  She liked to think of herself as always being prepared, so she began setting up a video camera near a large pole in the center of the room, a set of knives and other torturous instruments laying at its base. 

Once finished with the camera, she leaned down to inspect her weapons.  Pulling out a knife first, she was disappointed when it barely left a mark on her skin.

“Can’t have a dull blade, now can we?” she asked, an innocent look on her face as she smiled at the team, who were all scooched over as close as possible to a now silently weeping Catherine.

Taking the knife to a grinder by her desk, Vivian started the process of sharpening the blade, filling the room with the sound of stone against steel.  With her focus solely on her task, Vivian shut the world out of her mind, oblivious, if even for a moment, to all around her…

* * *  * * *  * * * 

“Hello, Vivian.”

Vivian turned from her task and was shocked to see Sara Sidle standing ten feet away with a gun pointed at Vivian’s heart.  Gil Grissom and Jim Brass stood behind Sara, their weapons drawn as well.

“Surprised to see me?” Sara asked, cocking her head.

“A little,” Vivian answered truthfully, backing slowly towards the dog kennel.  “But then, you always were the smart one, weren’t you, Sara?”

“Don’t move,” Sara warned in an icy tone.  “I’ll shoot.”

“Oh, are you sure?” Vivian asked with a haunting smile.  “I don’t think you will.  You can’t ethically take someone’s life, can you?”

Sara clicked the safety off and cocked the gun.

“I will shoot you, Vivian,” she said strongly, realizing that she was trying to throw her off.

“Drop your weapon and fall to your knees!” Brass called out, cocking his weapon as well.

“Okay.”  Vivian complied, setting the knife down beside her and dropping to one knee. 

Sara inched her way forward, gun still at the ready, but not seeing Vivian’s hand reach back to unlock the kennel door.

Just as Vivian had expected, as soon as the latch was undone, Lindsey shot out like a jackrabbit and ran to her mother, providing just enough distraction for Vivian to jump forward, knocking Sara’s gun from her hand and putting the knife to her throat.

“One move and Sara dies!” Vivian shouted.  It was clear that she was desperate, but not scared shitless.  She knew she held power right now, which made her all the more dangerous.

“Stop, Vivian.  You’re smarter than this,” Grissom coaxed, leaning down to set his weapon next to Sara’s on the floor.

“Gil, don’t,” Sara started, but Vivian held the now razor sharp blade tighter against her throat, drawing blood and shouting, “Shut up!”

Although having faced near-death experiences before, at this point Sara couldn't take it anymore.  After everything that had happened in her past, from her abusive childhood to the recent events and deterioration of her relationship with Grissom, she was clearly coming to realize that life had used her as a shithole.  It was time to use it to her advantage.  Resolved to her fate, she looked at each of her colleagues in turn.  Her emotions never showed so clearly as they did at that moment as her pleading eyes locked with those of Grissom, standing just a few feet away.

‘I’m sorry, Grissom.’  Her eyes told the story.  ‘Please forgive me… I love you.  Goodbye.’

At that moment, she yelled, “Jeremiah 14:15,” before jerking an arm back and turning her body as if to face off with her assailant, the blade slitting her throat as she did so, blood spattering all over Grissom and Brass.  Her elbow caught Vivian in the stomach, making her double over to catch her breath as Sara fell to the ground and lay motionless.

* * *  * * *  * * *

“No!” Grissom cried, rushing to her side.  Leaning down he brought her head up to his lap, elevating the wound to slow the bleeding, all the while calling her name.  “Sara? … Oh, God!  Sara…”

“Shit!” Brass muttered, picking up his walkie.  “Dispatch, this is Jim Brass.  I need backup and medics now!  Officer down!  I repeat, officer down!  Suspect fighting back!”

Seeing Vivian come at Grissom, Brass called out a warning, knowing he’d never be able to handle her himself.  He rushed to the team members chained to the wall.  Reaching Warrick first, he shot the locks on the chains, releasing him.

“Go help Griss!” he shouted while moving to Nick.

Warrick’s legs felt a little wobbly, having not used them for at least 24 hours, but once he regained his balance, he ran like the wind to wrench Vivian away.  He pulled her off of Grissom by the arms, twisting them behind her back, but she fought loose and turned on him.  A combo of weaponless combat and street brawling ensued, combining Warrick’s past and present.  It was clear by the use of his training that the CSI wanted to be civil about this, but the streetwise tough guy Warrick Brown, which had presented itself on a previous case in his old neighborhood, was showing through and it was just as clear that he wanted Vivian to pay for what she’d done.

Once the others were free from their bondage, Nick ran to help Warrick, showing his Texan roots as he tried to help take her down, while Greg rushed to the sidelines, helping Grissom pull the already injured Sara away from the action.  By now Brass was shouting onto the radio, asking where the hell was his backup, all the while ushering Catherine and Lindsey up and out of the basement.

Meanwhile, the fight to subdue Vivian had grown ugly.  The three had moved toward the center of the room and Vivian, having lost her knife, had switched for a whip, thrashing wildly at her attackers.  Nick took a stripe on the arm before managing to wrestle the weapon from her, kicking the others away as well.

When Brass’s backup finally arrived, the brawl was ended as nightsticks came down upon the instrument of their torment.  Backing out of the chaos, Nick and Warrick exchanged battle wounds.

“You all right, man?” Nick asked, seeing Warrick rubbing his jaw but watching the medics attend to Sara.

“Yeah, she’s got one hell of a punch, though.  She clocked me!”  Warrick nodded back at Nick.  “How ‘bout you?”

“She took a chunk out of my arm with that whip, but I’m good,” he replied, rolling up a sleeve to assess the damage.

“Guys, come on!  Follow the ambulance to the hospital.  I’m going with Sara,” Grissom called from the top of the stairs.

“Let’s go.  You drive.”  Nick tossed Warrick the keys before rushing up the stairs, holding his arm as he went.

* * *  * * *  * * *

Chapter 11

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A sense of deja v filled the air as the group sat in the waiting room at the hospital, yet somehow, this time was worse.  This time they had all been there.  They’d all witnessed helplessly as Sara had willingly sacrificed herself for the rest of them, all to bring Vivian to justice.  They’d all experienced and faced near death with Vivian, some more than others, but none as closely as Sara.  Now they waited in worried anticipation to learn the fate of one of their own.

Three hours after they’d arrived, a doctor came through the emergency doors and headed their way.  “Dr. Grissom?”

“Yes?”  Grissom stood to address the doctor, worry and fear uncharacteristically shining in the eyes of a typically expressionless face. 

“As you know, Ms. Sidle suffered severe lacerations on her throat.  The good news is that they missed her carotid artery.  The bad news is, whatever did this to her sliced her vocal folds.  She won’t be able to speak for quite a while.”

Grissom hung his head.  He understood all too well the frustration of not being able to communicate.  His mother’s deafness and his own hearing problems had proven difficult enough.  He couldn’t imagine not being able to speak. 

“Mr. Grissom?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.”  Grissom looked back up at the doctor, his face now hard as steel, betraying nothing.

“I was saying that Ms. Sidle is a very lucky woman, even after all that’s happened.  She lost a lot of blood.  She had to have a transfusion.  For the long run though, she’ll be okay.”

“Can we see her?” Grissom asked, breathing a sigh of relief, having not realized he’d been holding it in.

“Yes.  Actually, she asked for you.  She’s been in a private room for the last 15 to 25 minutes stabilizing after surgery.  She woke up and after we explained her situation, she wrote her request on a notepad from the nightstand.  She specifically asked for you.”

Grissom turned to see the rest of the group listening earnestly and staring up at him.  He raised an eyebrow, as if asking for permission.

“Go,” Catherine said, pushing hair back from Lindsey’s sleeping face, then looking up at him.  “She needs it as much as you do.”

“Yeah, man,” Nick smiled.  “You saved your damsel… Don’t leave her hanging now!”

The group nodded their assent. 

Grissom gave a small but rare smile and whispered a sincere “Thank you” before following the doctor back to Sara’s room.

* * *  * * *  * * *

Another small “Thank you” eked its way out as the doctor opened the door to Sara’s room, then left.  Grissom walked in, closing the door behind him.  An eerie silence filled the room as he made his way to her bedside, all the while feeling her eyes upon him.  Once seated, he looked up to see her sad smile set upon an otherwise pale and almost lifeless face. 

It cut Grissom to the core to see her like this.  The bandaging and gauze on her neck was extensive.  The sparkle was gone from her eyes.  Her hair fell unruly and disheveled on her shoulders.  The hospital gown did her no justice whatsoever, hiding her beautiful figure under its formless folds.  She held a notepad and pen in her lap and it was clear that she had something on her mind.

“Hello, Sara,” he managed with an even tone, dreading the questions to come.

‘Is everyone OK?’ she wrote.

“Yes, everyone’s fine.  They’re all out in the waiting room, feeling much better now that they know you’re all right."  He sighed as he thuoght about all that had happened.  "Catherine has developed a severe separation anxiety from Lindsey, which, under the circumstances, is understandable.  Warrick’s okay, but Nick took a swipe on the arm from Vivian’s whip.  The doctor said he’d look at it soon.  Brass went back downtown with Vivian, but made it here about a half an hour ago.  Greg… well, Greg won’t talk to anyone.  I think he’s just overwhelmed by the whole thing, especially since he was with Vivian the longest out of all of us.”

‘What about you?’

“I’m fine,” he shrugged. “Relieved, frustrated, but mostly just glad that it’s over.”

Sara cocked her head, then scrawled, ‘Frustrated?’

Grissom sighed.  “For you.  I know how hard it is to feel isolated by communication.  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

Sara nodded in understanding.  A moment later, she scribbled another message. 

‘I have a question…’

“Okay… I might have an answer.”  Despite his light tone, his muscles tightened as he expected the worst.

‘Where did you learn to sign?’

Grissom was surprised; this wasn’t at all what he’d expected.  Stunned into a response, he replied, “My mother taught me… Why?”

‘Tell me about it.’ 

She looked at him intently, waiting for a response.

He wasn’t sure why he decided to answer.  He’d flat out refused to tell her when she’d asked three years ago during a case.  But, somehow, he found it slightly easier to tell her now.

“My mother became deaf when I was eight.   Otosclorosis, a bone growth in the ear... it's genetic.  I had the same issue.  I asked her once if it was hard being so isolated, so different.  I couldn’t understand how she could accept it as gracefully as she did… She told me…” He paused.

Sara prompted him to continue with a hand on his shoulder.

Sighing, he said, “She told me that she wasn’t different.  She said she was blessed.”

He looked at the floor and seemed lost in thought.

Sara watched him, wondering what he was thinking, realizing the love he had for his mother.  She’d heard a warmth in his voice when he talked of her.  She wondered if she could ever find such a place in his heart.

She started scrawling something else on the pad.  Tapping Grissom’s arm when she was done, she watched his brow furrow as he read.

“You want me to teach you to sign?” he asked incredulously, looking up at her.

She nodded and started writing again, scribbling furiously for a few moments before handing him the notepad, her hand shaking a bit.

Grissom took the pad and read the note written on the bottom, in what others would have called chicken scratch, but what he had simply come to know as Sara.  It read:

‘I didn’t even expect to be here right now.  I’d made my peace.  But since I am here, I’ll still have to work and frankly, there’s no other place I’d rather be than with all of you.  The doctor said I won’t be able to speak until I’m fully healed and that could take months.  I’ll need to communicate somehow.  I can’t keep using notepads; think of how much that would cost the department!  Help me make up for all the wrongs that have led me to this place.’

His head snapped up when he finished reading, just in time to see Sara wipe away a tear.  Dropping the pad, he sat on the side of her bed and enveloped her in his arms.  For the next several minutes, he simply sat and held her, rocking her a bit, as his walls came tumbling down.

Sara just fell into him, weeping silently, feeling safe and secure in his arms. Grissom didn’t know her past, didn’t understand the wrong of which she spoke, but he stayed.  He cared, and that was all that mattered to her.

He tilted his head and whispered in her ear, “Of course I’ll teach you.  We’ll start as soon as we get home.”

Home.  It sounded so natural.

Home.  Where they could continue on this new path they’d forged and live out the new life that beckoned them.

Home.  Where love awaited them.

* * *  * * *  * * *

Chapter 12

* * *  * * *  * * *

Six months later, the cold November air swept in from the desert, tugging at the dark, navy windbreakers worn by the forensics crew as they came in from various cases to end shift with a celebration.  Catherine and Nick arrived first in the break room.

“You think they’ve figured it out?” Nick asked as they blew up a few balloons and set a cake on the table.

“Nicky, they may be great CSIs, but the case they’ve been working on is a doosy!  They’ve been so busy lately with leads to follow and doctor’s appointments, they have no idea what’s going on, trust me!” Catherine smiled before blowing up another balloon and setting out the refreshment plates and sporks.

At that moment, Warrick walked in with Brass on his heels.

“What’s up?” the CSI asked, setting some crepe paper down on the table.  “They here yet?”

“Look around, buddy.  What do you think?”  Nick flashed a sarcastic smile at his friend and tossed a trash bag his direction.

“I just hope day shift doesn’t get wind of what you guys are doing,” Brass said.  “They’d wreak havoc on you guys.”

“Well, guess what?  Day shift can piss off!” Catherine spat.  “They can tell Carvallo anything they want, and if Carvallo tries to do anything about it, we’ll all quit on the spot, ‘cause Grissom and Sara aren’t going anywhere.”

The other team members nodded. It was a decision they’d made when their whole ordeal had ended.  They knew blame would be settled somewhere, but they also knew that this team, this family, was the reason Las Vegas had the second best lab in the country.  Carvallo couldn’t hope to keep up that record without them.

Suddenly, Greg burst in, having run from across the lab.

“They’re…coming!” he managed, through gasping breaths.  “They’re in…the…parking lot.”

“Okay, Greg-o,” Nick said, taking charge.  “You go meet them and bring them in.  Just say that you have something to show them.  Oh, and Greg?”  Nick pointed at the boom box in his hand.  “If that’s anything other than classical, jazz, or Pink Floyd, you can drop that back off in the lab.  We are not listening to Nine Inch Nails.”

“Awww!” Greg whined.  “Come on!”

“No!  Now, get going.  Quick!”

And, with that, Nick flipped the lights and closed the door.

* * *  * * *  * * *

“SURPRISE!”

Sara’s face lit up as she saw the rest of the team pop out from the dark break room.  Her gap-toothed grin and a look of surprise from Grissom told the team that they’d done a good job.  They hadn’t seen those faces in a while.

“What’s all this for?” Grissom asked, looking at all the balloons and at the cake on the table.

“We’re having a party, Gil,” Catherine smiled, pretending that she was explaining something to a child.  “You know, a party… A social gathering for fun and celebration?”

“Catherine, I may be socially inept, but I do know what a party is.”

After the laughter died down, Grissom continued. 

“I meant, what are we celebrating?”

“We’re celebrating Sara getting those bandages off!  She’s almost completely healed.  That means she’ll be able to talk again soon.  Don’t you think that’s worth a celebration?”  Nick asked with a smile, giving Sara a gigantic hug.

“Of course it is… I just wasn’t expecting-“

“We know.  That’s why it’s called a surprise party!” Warrick piped up from the corner, moving in for his own turn with Sara.

“We’re also celebrating your six month anniversary.  Want some punch?” Catherine asked innocently.

“What? How did you-?” Grissom stammered.

“Oh, come on!  Even I’ve noticed that you two have been inseparable,” Brass crowed.  “Sara hasn’t bothered to file a change of address since she moved in with you after the fire, plus you two always come in and take cases together.  It wasn’t that hard to figure out!”

‘Hey, don’t I get to say anything?’ Sara signed, trying to get everyone’s attention.

Since Sara had gotten out from the hospital, the crew had learned tidbits of sign language from conversations, but for the most part, still needed Grissom to translate.  He and Sara had gone to classes at the deaf college to become more fluent, and ever since, it was not uncommon to see them having their conversations, or even arguments, with their hands.  Now they all turned to “listen” to Sara as Grissom interpreted.

‘Thank you all so much.  You have no idea what this all means to me.  You’ve all been so patient with me, and I love you all the more for it.  But there’s something I need to say… Soon, Gil and I will have to go on leave for a while.’

“Why?  After everything that’s happened, you’re not leaving, are you?” Greg asked, suddenly looking very worried.

A similar look of worry and panic swept the room as the group awaited an explanation.

Sara looked at Grissom with a smile.

‘Should I tell them?  Or do you want to?’

‘It’s up to you,’ he signed back with a smirk of his own.

‘I think they should hear it from you.  It would give it more meaning, and it might explain some things.’

“Hey!  Hello?  Still here…  Don’t leave us hanging!” Nick called, waving his arms to get their attention.

“Yeah, what’s going on?” Warrick asked, his brow furrowing in suspicion.

“We’re not leaving,” Grissom said, putting up a hand to calm them.  “It’ll just be for a few weeks in March.  We’ll be back… I, uh…” 

His pause earned him an elbow nudge from Sara and a look that said, ‘Go on, and tell them.’

“You what?” Catherine reinforced the prompt to continue.

A blush rose to Grissom’s cheeks as he nearly whispered, “I’ve asked Sara to marry me.”

Suddenly it seemed like a dark cloud had lifted as looks of worry were replaced by surprise and sheer joy.  Catherine jumped out of the chair she had plopped into and ran to Sara, pulling her into the biggest hug possible.  Sara’s gap-toothed “Sara smile” showed itself as she and Grissom were bombarded with hugs and pats on the back.

“Oh, my gosh!  Are you serious?”  Catherine cried, pulling back far enough to see Sara’s face.

Sara nodded vigorously and held out her left hand to show a beautiful princess cut diamond on a simple silver band sitting gracefully on her ring finger.  The team gathered round to stare in awe and disbelief.

“Take a look at that rock!” Warrick exclaimed.

‘Grissom wanted me to have the best,’ Sara signed, smiling.

“Damn, it’ll be good to hear your voice again,” Nick laughed.  “Grissom, translation please.”

“I’ve told you a thousand times!” came a voice from the doorway.  “At seven am, your shift ends.  NOW GET THE HELL OUT OF MY BREAK ROOM!”

Heads turned to see Conrad Ecklie seething, a few of his CSIs standing behind him.

Sara’s smile changed to a scowl as she walked towards Ecklie.  Instead of speaking to him, however, she addressed Greg.

‘Greg, go back to your lab and grab your boom box.  This party is now worthy of Nine Inch Nails.’

When Grissom had translated and Greg ran to go fill the request, Ecklie simply smiled.

“You know,” he sneered, “I’m really going to miss the quiet that’s settled around here for the last—six months, isn’t it?  It’s too bad.  I was really started to enjoy it.”

The dayshift CSIs behind him snickered at Ecklie’s comments, while graveyard simply glared, intense hatred in their eyes.  Catherine pushed forward to say something, but Sara turned and shook her head.

‘We’re better than that,’ she signed.

Greg had come back by now. Sara looked his direction and nodded, at which point loud rock music began blaring from the speakers.

“You can’t play that in here, you smug ass punk!” Ecklie yelled over the music at Greg.

At this point, Sara lost it.  Ecklie could insult her all he wanted, but when he attacked her friends, that was too much.  She stormed back to the boom box and turned off the music before marching back to Ecklie and punching him square in the jaw.  She punctuated her point with a gesture that you didn’t need to know sign language to understand, and then managed in a weak whisper, “Piss off, Ecklie.”   With that, she slammed the door in dayshift’s face.

Sara turned to meet a round of applause from her friends and shocked smiles all around.

“Brilliant!  Absolutely brilliant!”  Warrick laughed.  “I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for someone to really tell him off!”

‘Well,’ she signed, color rising to her cheeks, ‘he had it coming.  Greg may be weird, but he’s not a smug ass punk.  Ecklie had no right to call him out like that.  At least Greg earns his pay.’

“Hey, come on.  This is supposed to be a party, remember?  Greg, turn the music back on.  Catherine, will you help Brass cut the cake, please?” Grissom asked, trying to liven things up again. 

When the others went back to the party, Grissom turned to Sara.

‘You are in big trouble, missy!’ he signed, a mischievous look in his eye.  ‘The doctor said no talking until you’re completely healed…  I distinctly heard a whisper!’ 

Getting a smile from her, his face turned serious. 

‘Are you okay?’

‘Yeah, I guess.  He just pisses me off!  He’s an ass and he doesn’t deserve his job.’

‘I know, but that’s not for us to decide.  We are the reason this lab is at the top, not them, and if Carvallo wants to keep Ecklie around for the politics, then that’s fine by me!’

‘Speaking of Carvallo, what’s he going to do when he finds out we’re engaged?’  A worried look crossed Sara’s face as she signed.

‘Sara, who cares?  Screw Carvallo!  He needs us here, and if he tries to break us up, the others have already threatened to leave.  Besides, we swore to ourselves that this was for us and nobody else, remember?  I love you.’

‘I love you, too.’  She signed the formal three-word phrase before pulling him into a hug, resting her head on his chest. 

He took one of her hands in his own and started rocking from side to side.

“Dance with me,” he whispered.

* * *  * * *  * * *

Catherine tapped Brass on the shoulder and nodded toward Grissom and Sara, making him smile.

“You know, they really are kind of cute together,” he chuckled.

“Yeah, they are,” Catherine sighed.  “I haven’t seen them this happy in a long time…  I guess all things really do happen for a reason.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you know Grissom.  It always did take a crisis for him to realize how much he cared for someone.  I guess it took seeing Sara willing to sacrifice her life for us all for it to really sink in.  I mean, did you see the look on his face when she tried to fight off Vivian with a knife to her throat?”

“Yeah, I remember,” the detective captain sighed.  “He was really hurtin’.”

“Now, he wouldn’t let her go for all the world.  You said it yourself; even you’ve seen a change in him, and you’re just as socially inept as he is!”

“Hey!”  Brass lifted a hand to his chest, pretending to be hurt before a smile took over his usually stern face.

“You'e such a baby,” Catherine smirked.  “But, really, he’s been nicer to everyone, he’s been more laid back, even a bit more open…  It’s made things so much more pleasant around here, with the tension gone.”

“Yeah, I hear ya’.  I just hope it works out for them,” Brass said, making his way past Greg, who was playing air guitar, over to Nick and Warrick.

Catherine just sat and watched her best friend.

‘He deserves to be happy,’ she thought.  ‘After waiting so long, he deserves it.’

She grinned as Grissom leaned down to kiss Sara, soft as butterfly wings but still deep and passionate, his hands drifting to her waist.  Sara lifted her arms around his neck, taking in the moment and deepening the kiss.

Catherine smiled as she got up and joined the others in conversation, leaving the couple to live in the moment.   The love revealed in that one instant showed them all that anything was possible, giving them hope that one day, they might all be that happy.

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