08b – The Five Cent Tour, or an Unexpectedly Pleasant Way to Spend a Sunday Afternoon

While Ecklie may have had sex in mind, for Grissom and Sara, intimacy comes in many different forms.

A continuation of “On a Sunday,” prequel to “Devoutly to be Wished” and “Consummation” and takes place post season five, circa late May 2005.

*******

“Knowing is the most profound kind of love,

giving someone the gift of knowledge about yourself,”

Marsha Norman

*******

Okay, maybe just showing up wasn’t the best idea was Sara’s second thought as she stood there on Grissom’s doorstep getting up the nerve to knock.

This was actually a marked improvement over her first, in which she’d wondered precisely when and how she had suddenly devolved into an awkward insecure lovesick teenager. She wasn’t usually this bad.

Needless to say it didn’t help that there was no ready reply to her rap on the door. Particularly with his car parked out front, he had to be home. Of course he could be asleep or in the shower or busy doing who knew what Grissom did when he was alone.

Perhaps she had simply read a little too much into his oddly self-conscious I’ll see you later.  But with him occupied all morning down in Autopsy collecting trace with Sofia and Sara busy with Greg on the crime scene reconstruction, they hadn’t seen each other since they’d parted in the parking lot more than eight hours before.

And the very last thing she wanted to do was screw this up. Grissom wasn’t just some guy. Any guy. It had been too long. Meant too much.

Still, it was all so new, this whatever this was between them that in truth, Sara didn’t know what she was doing any more than he did.

Yep, she probably should have called just to make sure. She’d give the door one last rap and then —

Except Sara never got to knock or even finish that thought as at that moment the door opened.

“Hi,” she said, unable to get out anything more cogent or explanatory.

God, she even sounded like a lovesick teenager.

But Grissom either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

“Hi,” he greeted her in return and with such a warm, welcoming smile it crinkled at the edges of his eyes despite all the fatigue of what she knew had been a very long day for them both.

At least he appeared happy, harried, but happy, to see her. Although they did just stand there staring at each other for a what felt like a very long while before Grissom seemed to recover enough to invite her in.

As it shut behind them, Sara observed, “You look like you just walked in the door.”

“I did.”

This stopped her in her tracks. “I… I know you said something about later,” she stammered. “But I can… I can come some other –”

He cut her off with simple, yet earnest, “I’m glad you’re here.”

And as quick as her disquiet had come, all that unease she felt out there on his doorstep, it was gone, replaced by a far different and distracting a sensation. So much so she almost missed his apologetic, “Lunch will just be a little late is all.”

Then glancing down at his watch, he amended, “Really late.”

“Um, why don’t you let me,” suggested Sara. “You go have a shower. I can handle it.”

Grissom looked askance. “I thought you said you didn’t cook.”

Can’t is more like it. But,” she replied giving him a broad smile, “I’m a pro at ordering in.”

Returning her grin, he nodded his keen assent. After yet another fourteen plus hour day, delivery sounded perfect.

Sara went to withdraw her cell. “What are you in the mood for?”

At the playfulness of his rejoining “Surprise me,” she realized what it was, that feeling she didn’t quite have a name for barely moments before: fondness, love.

“Speaking of surprises,” she began, narrowing the space between them. Grissom waited for her to elaborate, but instead of continuing, she kissed him.

“For earlier,” she explained a little breathlessly some time later, before proceeding to confess a little shyly, “I’ve been wanting to do that all day.”

After all, it wasn’t everyday the man you’d always and not so secretly been in love with for more than seven years now tells you he loves you for the first time. Of course most people wouldn’t have regarded as they were stopped at a red light on their way back to the lab after six hours of processing a gruesome and heartrending quintuple murder-suicide to be the most romantic time or place, but Grissom had left her gobsmacked all the same and utterly unable to do anything about it until now. Sara only hoped that kiss could convey even a fraction of all she wanted to say.

Grissom grinned at the reference. While he hadn’t meant to just blurt it out as he had, he was glad he did. It had already taken him far too long to tell her as it was. Besides, at the moment, with her so close he couldn’t help but breathe her in, he couldn’t get out any words at all, not even the two short syllables of her name. Maybe it was because it was all so new, but Sara simply happened to him all over again.

“You… um… should go,” she began after a while, “have that shower.”

Although she didn’t remove her hand from his cheek, her thumb still absently brushing along the bare skin just above his beard in that way he found both stimulating and soothing all at once.

“Are you trying to tell me something, dear?”

The endearment more than the query caused her to chuckle. While this wasn’t the first time he’d called her that, dear wasn’t a word she regularly associated with Grissom. It was strange and yet not. Even stranger, Sara found she rather liked it.

“No.”

And to prove no aversion, she leaned in and grazed her lips along the same path as her thumb had taken. “But,” she murmured into his ear, “I know there aren’t too many things better than a hot shower after a long day.”

It had been a long day, a difficult case, this was true, but Gil Grissom was rapidly discovering one thing which was proving far better than a shower and while he did obediently disappear off down the hall, it was this more than anything which caused him not to loiter over long under the spray.

Soon he emerged, hair a little damp, changed into the far more casual than what he usually wore to work ensemble of jeans and a polo, to find the table had been made up for two, paper napkins folded under the silverware. The sight waylaid him for a moment.

He so seldom had visitors, preferred it that way most of the time, Sara as ever persisting to be the exception. Though he’d imagined her here probably more often than was seemly or prudent, it was nothing like actually having her there. Her presence didn’t feel intrusive, just the opposite. Somehow she just fit.

As it wasn’t a luxury he got to indulge in very often, the opportunity to observe her unobserved himself, Grissom stood there watching her in the midst of pouring freshly brewed tea over a pitcher of ice. True, he’d seen her at work hundreds, probably thousands of times over the years they had known each other, but this was different, far different. This wasn’t work. This was life.

It all still feeling a little unreal to him, he reached out to rest his hand in the space just beneath her shoulder blades and was pleased when she didn’t start at the contact.

What he couldn’t see was the soft, slight smile tugging at her lips.  While she’d registered the sound of the shower shutting off a few minutes before, she hadn’t heard his soft footfalls on the carpet. Sara wasn’t all that surprised. Though he would always deny sneaking, Grissom had this uncanny preternatural ability to abruptly appear out of nowhere.

“I see you found everything okay,” he noted, leaning in as if to get a better look at what she was doing. Sara knew better, but appreciated his desire for contact all the same.

Upon giving the pitcher one last stir for good measure, she turned to him and asked, both a little curious as well as concerned, “Not into long showers or case still on your mind?”

Neither true in this instance, Grissom shook his head. What was on his mind was much the same as what had been out there on that balcony overlooking Lake Mead earlier that morning: Sara. But then he’d been doing a lot of that lately, thinking of her.

Unsure just how to tell her this, he opted instead to take her face into his hands and kiss her into comprehension.

Before they knew it, the tentative hesitancy of two people yet learning how the other liked to be kissed gave way to being lost in the sheer pleasure of it. After a moment, Sara’s knees began to, too. Good thing she had instinctively slid her arms around his neck and his had tightened about her waist.

It was Grissom’s turn for his tone and touch to turn solicitous.

“You…?”

“Hmm,” she replied, though her response had more to do with the feel of his thumb caressing the inside of her neck. But as this murmur appeared to do little to dispel his disquiet, Sara added, “Yeah.”

And she was. She was definitely okay. Definitely better than okay. Way better than okay, even if she couldn’t quite characterize the sensation. Hot? Breathless? Dizzy? Flush? Weak at the knees? All she knew, was no one had ever managed to do that to her before.

“It’s a good thing,” she assured him. “Really.” Then turning her bright eyes to his she beamed, “Do it again.”

Grissom gladly obliged.

And his last thought before all thought once again left him was Definitely better than a shower at the end of a very long day.

This time when they broke for breath, Sara grinned, “So I take it it wasn’t a cold shower then?”

They both laughed.

“How long before lunch?” he asked after a while.

Sara consulted her watch. “Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes.”

“Good. Gives us plenty of time.”

Not quite sure what he was suggesting, and frequently you never really did know with him, she said, “Plenty of time for what?”

Grissom only held out his hand. “Come on.”

What else could she do but take it?

His fingers closing about hers, he gave her hand a squeeze. “It’s about time.”

Time for what? she wanted to ask but didn’t get the chance. They were halfway on their way down the hall before he bothered to say in that strangely sheepish way he’d adopted more and more often as of late, “I’d give you the twenty-five cent tour, but the place isn’t that big, so the five cent one will have to do.”

What precisely Sara had actually expected, she had no clue, but this certainly wasn’t it. It wasn’t as if Gil Grissom was exactly prone to acts of reckless abandon. Not that she was either. And she rather liked him for his quiet reserve, though there were times when it drove her nuts. Like years. But she wasn’t about to turn down a tour. Sure, she’d been here a couple of times after shift over the last few weeks, but her visits had centered around the kitchen and living room. And while part of her might have been tempted, sorely tempted, to peer behind the mirror or under the sink in the bathroom, she’d managed so far to resist.

With her own place a simple studio apartment, there wasn’t much you couldn’t see from any other part of it, so it required very little explanation. Sara liked it that way. Her work schedule what it was, she was hardly ever there really, and she hardly ever had anyone over, so it wasn’t like she needed a ton of space. Besides, if there was anything she learned in the foster care system, it was the advantages of living light.

But with Grissom, his house wasn’t just his castle. It was more like his fortress. Private and intensely so. Before that evening when he’d invited her over for dinner, in the five years since she’d moved to Vegas, she’d only been inside his place once and Catherine had been the one doing the inviting and without Grissom’s prior knowledge or permission.

So hell, yes, she was curious.

They passed the first door on the left with no further explanation. Necessity had required she know where the powder room was. And while realtors might regularly term half-baths as such, Sara was fairly certain the only powder that place had probably ever seen was Grissom’s fingerprint concoctions.

They did however stop before the next one. Giving the knob a turn, he motioned for her to enter ahead of him.

Well acquainted as he was with Sara’s investigative methods, Grissom was unsurprised when she proceeded to take in his home office with all her customary patient and well-practiced scrutiny.

Except in this case, Sara couldn’t help but smile. The room was just so Grissom.

It certainly bore the stamp of his unique brand of organized chaos. His desk had all the air of that of a man who was ever in the middle of something, which this being Grissom, he probably was.

Not all that unlike his space at the lab, there were books of course, stacked on shelves, covering what once were free spaces on the floor, a few left haphazardly opened. There were, too, his various specimens under glass, both living and dead. Sara recognized a few of the tarantulas in their terrariums. Nevertheless she was surprised to find an arrangement of pressed plants ornamenting one wall. Even more so when she leaned in for a better look, it was to note the fountain-penned, ink-scrawled identifications along the bottoms were in a hand other than Grissom’s. Like the pinned butterflies in his living room, they hinted at a sense of beauty, an aestheticism, she hadn’t exactly expected from him.

Still, over all, it was definitely one of those places in which look but not touch applied.

Ultimately, the room reminded her of what she had once read regarding the old curiosity cabinets collectors kept in the seventeenth century. It certainly smelled of it. Of aged and aging paper. That not quite faint sickly sweet of chemical fixatives. The rich earthiness she had a harder time classifying until she recalled Grissom once informing her that there was indeed a word for the scent of an insect: cimicine. At the time, she had very much wanted to call bullshit on this, but was glad she hadn’t as when she’d gone to look up the term in the behemoth of the OED, there it was. What it didn’t quite clarify was whether the scent was meant to reference bugs living or those dead. If any one would know, Grissom would, but Sara had never gotten around to asking. She was about to now when a large aquarium caught her eye. Or more precisely the thick opaque rim which encircled the entire top two inches of the tank.

Perplexed she asked, “Behind on your housekeeping?”

“Petroleum jelly,” he replied. “Keeps the roaches from getting out.”

“Roaches?” echoed Sara, swiftly taking several involuntary steps back.

A reaction Grissom must have missed for he enthused, “They can climb flat surfaces, even glass. How scientists are still trying to work out. Want to hold one?”

And before she could even begin to refuse, his hand was already in and out of the tank.

Gromphadorhina portentosa,” he said with all the satisfaction of a very proud papa, “Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. Hissers for short.”

Now Sara wasn’t exactly entomophobic, she just preferred them dead on pins than live at hand.

“They’re perfectly sanitary, Sara,” Grissom assured her.

When this seemed to do little to convince her, he added, “Out of the 4,500 known species of roaches, only thirty even vaguely associate with humans and out of those, only four are actual pests which can carry disease and that’s only because their habitats are unsanitary in the first place.”

“Uh huh,” was all she replied.

“Come on, I promise they’re not slimy or gross. Feel just like the tips of your fingernails.”

He took it as a good sign when he caught her unconsciously rubbing her own.

“And she doesn’t bite.”

After a deep breath and a very resigned sigh of “Okay, I trust you,” Sara held out her palm.

Not like she could ever ultimately say No to any of his however off beat enthusiasms. There was just something oddly contagious about them and him and there always had been ever since the first time they’d met.

Still, she hadn’t been quite able to conceal her cringe when he placed all three inches of living breathing creeping crawling cockroach into her hand.

Yet after a moment, a smile began to spread over her face.

“See,” he said smugly, “told you she doesn’t bite.”

“Tickles a little,” said Sara.

“Tarantulas are worse.”

“I think for now I’ll take your word on that. But you keep calling her a she. You regularly look up roaches’ skirts, Grissom?”

He chuckled. “No need. Obvious sexual dimorphism.”

Knowing there had to be more to this, Sara waited patiently for him to continue and he did.

Gesturing to the pronotum or head plate, he said, “See how smooth it is?”

Sara nodded.

He rooted around in the tank for a moment for a second roach. “Males have a pair of ‘horns’ or bumps like this.” He indicated two large swellings. “They’re principally used for fighting.”

“What do cockroaches fight over?”

“The usual: food, territory, females.”

“So much for evolution,” quipped Sara. Then catching sight of the injured expression Grissom was suddenly wearing, she amended, “Present company excepted.”

“That’s the problem with generalizations. Almost everything is an exception. And everyone.”

“Some more than others,” she agreed with a laugh. “I’m probably going to regret this, but ‘hissers’?”

“Orthoptera like crickets and grasshoppers stridulate, they make sounds via friction. Some are wing-singers, some leg-fiddlers. Others are head-thumpers or foot-drummers. But hissers, hissers are the Louis Armstrong of the insect world.

“They blow. Literally. See the small holes along the carapace. They’re spiracles.”

Sara recognized the term from her entomology reading. “Air holes?”

Grissom nodded. “Hissers can blow air out through their spiracles like this –”

Except when his roach let out a particularly piercing shriek, Sara nearly dropped the one she was holding.

“You really don’t want to do that,” he cautioned, taking it from her and along with his own replacing them in the tank, making doubly sure to secure the lid. “Quick suckers. Top out at two and half miles an hour so hard to catch once they hit the floor.”

“Hence the cockroach racing. And people say physicists are weird,” she smirked.

“I don’t know,” Grissom countered, “physicists seem to have an inordinate fondness for dead cats, throwing them off buildings, keeping them in boxes.”

“Schrödinger’s cat wasn’t necessarily dead.”

“And live cats in boxes makes it better?”

Sara couldn’t quite dispute this.  “Point taken,” she conceded.

“Anyway, entomologists didn’t invent cockroach races. Australians,” he supplied after a suitable pause for effect. “Story goes a couple of guys were arguing one night over who had the fastest roaches. Decided to race them to find out.”

“They had to be drunk.”

“Very.”

“Figures.”

“I wouldn’t knock it. Last year more than seven thousand showed up for the 23rd Annual Cockroach Races in Brisbane.”

“You manage to place any better last year?” Sara asked. Purdue University’s Bug Bowl might not be the big time of Brisbane but Sara knew he looked forward to the event every spring.

It was his turn to sigh. “Not really, no.”

“Maybe you just haven’t found the right motivation yet.”

While she intended it as a tease, Grissom unexpectedly got that far off look he frequently wore when struck by a sudden brainwave. “Hmm, that just might work,” he murmured to himself.

But as was not an uncommon practice, he didn’t opt to enlighten her any further. In this case, she thought it was perhaps all for the best.

Familiar as he was with Sara’s fastidiousness when it came to all things hygiene, Grissom passed her a bottle of hand sanitizer.

“I thought you said –”

“It’s for my germs, not hers,” he replied.

Considering what they had been earlier engaged in, she thought it prudent to mention, “Isn’t it a bit late to be worried about that?”

They shared a significant sort of smile before he said, “There’s just one last thing. And I think you’ll actually like this one.”

Admittedly, the cockroaches hadn’t been quite as eww as Sara imagined they’d be; were even a little cool to tell the truth. Although that was pretty par for the course. Grissom always did possess the faculty for making the weirdest, strangest and most esoteric of subjects fascinating. Perhaps it had something to do with his ability to find wonder in a world which had never seemed so full of them before to her. It was one of his more endearing traits, most of the time.

At the moment, Grissom was motioning for her to join him in front of a tall wooden cupboard, one with its many rows of wide but narrow drawers Sara recognized as an entomologist’s specimen cabinet.

However knowing the answer, she still asked, “Does she bite?”

“No, he doesn’t.”

Then with all the flair of an impresario about to reveal his most inestimable treasure, he drew open a compartment. Spying what lay inside, Sara’s eyes went wide.

Morpho Menelaus,” she breathlessly supplied.

The enormous blue morpho was even more magnificent in the flesh than the pictures she’d managed to track down online. No matter how advanced they had become, cameras just couldn’t do its almost impossibly brilliantly blue iridescence justice.

But the spectacle wasn’t what caused her to peer up at Grissom or to beam when he met her gaze. It was that the imago was indeed nearly the precise hue of the dress she’d chosen to wear to dinner that first evening he had invited her over, just as he’d said.

And as if he could read what she was thinking, Grissom said, “They aren’t really blue, you know, the lamellae. The scales just appear that way because of how –”

“They refract the ambient light,” Sara finished. “Like a prism.”

He nodded, apparently not the least bit nettled at the interruption. In fact, he looked pleased if anything at her eagerness.

“The layering of the scales simply intensifies the effect,” she added. “Doesn’t make them any less beautiful though.”

Towards the end of this, her voice trailed off as still a little awkwardly, her fingers sought his until there was again that gentle warmth of his hand surrounding hers. There was something reassuringly sure about that grasp. She savored the sensation; he appeared to, too, for a long while until giving her hand a tug he urged her onward.

Her taunt of Since when do you ever tire of talking about bugs? died unvoiced as they neared the last door of the hall.

None of this had been the least like how Sara had imagined them spending the afternoon and yet, like so much of their relationship, it proved better somehow.

Perhaps it was because as she was only now starting to understand, his proverbial five-cent tour hadn’t been about showing off where he lived or merely him inviting her into his private spaces and places. It was about letting her if only bit-by-bit, further into his world, his life. Something he appeared to be making a concerted effort to do more and more of as of late.

“Wait,” said Sara, halting them before they reached the door, and then as if it were the most natural, normal thing in the world for her to do instead of rather novel which it really was, she kissed him once more.

They shared a look, a deep breath before Grissom reached for the handle. But before he could give it a turn, the doorbell let out a lusty peal startling them both.

And while Sara let out an uneasy laugh of “Saved by the bell,” there was no missing the rue amongst the mirth.

A sentiment Grissom seemed to share as he said with a soft press of her hand, “Some other time then.”

*******

A/N: I have to admit that one of my favorite things to bring out when I taught at the zoo were hissers. First, it was always eww, but after a while by in large it eventually turned to wow, cool. There was just something about being able to change people’s perceptions, if only in a small way. I’ve been rather fond of the Madagascar variety ever since.

And no, I didn’t make up the whole Australian cockroach-racing bit. They actually do race roaches in Brisbane every January 26th in honor of Australia Day and yes, in pure Aussie fashion, copious amounts of VB or Victoria Bitter are consumed.

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