31 – Here

Even after Sara’s return from the hospital, Grissom is still troubled by insomnia, nightmares and the fear that in the end, only her presence can assuage.

Follows “Critical Care,”  post episode 801, “Dead Doll,” circa May 2007

*******

I’m not entirely sure what it is that suddenly brings me back to wakefulness.

All I know is when I do wake, light is seeping in from the edges of the windows, and there is but the ghost of the warmth of you in the bed beside me.

At this, I am very suddenly and very wide awake, and bolt upright with your name lodged in my throat.

Somehow, I manage to untangle myself from the sheets and stumble from the bed and begin to frantically search for any sign of you only to find the bathroom empty, though your toothbrush still sits in the holder and your hairbrush rests on the shelf.

The hallway seems horribly interminable, as each door along the way reveals nothing but the hint of you having ever been there.

Perhaps, it only feels so far because I cannot seem to catch my breath or even breathe at all, nor do my legs seem to want to work.

It isn’t until I reach the doorway that leads to the kitchen, that I can even get your name past the hard lump in my throat and when it comes, it is more like a hoarse croak than anything.

Sara —

Then a little louder and insistent and indeed desperate, Sara —

It isn’t until you reply I’m in here, spoken so seemingly untroubled and nonchalant, that I finally find myself propelled irrepressibly forward.

When I turn the corner, you are there, standing barefoot in front of the stove in your customary tank top and lounge pants, your hair pulled back a little more messily than usual. You look so absolutely and utterly at ease, as if nothing has happened, nothing has changed…

Well, almost nothing.

If you disregard the scrapes still fresh on your forehead, the still rough and raw patches on your chin and nose, that fresh gash that slinks along your right cheek and your left arm in a sling, very obviously, and painfully I would imagine, broken.

None of which seems to faze you in the slightest, as you are, albeit a little clumsily, making a pot of tea one-handedly.

The pain meds were making me nauseous, you explain, pouring hot water into a mug. And then Hank was giving me that I’m hungry, please feed me look and I didn’t want to wake you, since I know you haven’t been sleeping well.

That was an understatement.

Usually, you are the one who fights for and against sleep, but in these past five days since you’ve been home from the hospital, I have been the one waging war against the weariness that will not give me leave to rest.

You on the other hand, have slept like I have never seen you do, so still and quiet, like the dead almost, and there were moments when I honestly feared you were…

And I would hold my breath and watch and wait and listen until yours came again.

You want me to… your voice trails off, as your eyes meet mine for the first time, and your face and seemingly carefree demeanor suddenly fails and falls.

Gil? you say and in two strides you are next to me, your uninjured hand soft and warm on my face.

Then even more concerned now, Gil?

But I cannot answer, as your touch feels like heaven and renders me as so often it does, absolutely speechless. I do find, however, that at the tender weight of your fingers curled around my cheek and the gentle caress of your thumb, my eyes cannot help but close.

Dream. I tell myself.

It was all just a bad dream.

And yet, with the reality of having woken up to an empty bed, to having you gone, it doesn’t feel like just a dream.

The sudden absence of your hand against my skin is soon replaced by the warmth of your body pressed against mine as you draw me to you. My arms close around you tight, perhaps tighter than I should, but I want just to hold you here and now and never let you go.

You seem to understand this as you merely silently smooth my hair.

I do not realize that I have begun to cry into your shoulder, that I am shaking, that my knees no longer want to work until, I find myself collapsed onto the tile floor with you beside me.

Then there is the sudden incredulous sound of your laughter, which finally makes me open my eyes, only to see that Hank has bounded into your lap and is licking the wetness from your cheeks. That done, he proceeds to place two paws on my shoulders and does the same to me, which makes me laugh and cry all the harder, despite myself and everything.

Your voice is firm, but gentle when you tell him to Get down.

Surprisingly, he actually obeys and retreats, but not without receiving a good boy and an affectionate rub behind the ears from you.

Quickly though, you turn your attention back to me. Your lips move as if you want desperately to say something, but do not know the words.

Neither do I.

We have not yet spoken about what happened out there in the desert, what could have happened, what so nearly did happen.

I do not want to speak about it now.

And neither it seems do you.

Instead, you take my hand in yours, and gently place it on your chest, so it rests directly above your heart.

I cannot help it; my lips twitch slightly. For I recognize this gesture, and know what is to follow it, although it has been years now since that day.

That day I came to you as scared and frightened and afraid of having lost you as I am right now, in those days right after Adam Trent threatened to take your life.

Yes, that press of your hand against mine is familiar, and unlike that afternoon, the feel of your skin beneath my fingertips is familiar, too, born out of the years we have since had together.

That familiarity is reassuring. As is the rhythmic thump of your heart.

I close my eyes once more, the better to relish in them, in your warmth and that sure and steady beating, until I can feel my own heart rate start to slow until it seems in sync with yours.

Then your uninjured cheek slides against mine. Your breath tickles my ear and I at last begin to breathe again, deep, calm breaths and not hurried panicked gasps of fear, until I find I can do nothing but rest my head on your shoulder and bury my nose into the nape of your neck, the better to inhale that sweet familiar scent of you, of home and safety and surety, even if that sterile hospital sourness still seems to linger. But even its harshness is not enough to distract me from the rush of relief of being here with you like this.

Your lips are soft against my cheek, nuzzling their way toward mine.

At first, your kiss is merely a brush, almost as imperceptible as breath itself. But we both seem to long for, to need, more than that and I carefully cup your face in my hands and kiss you gently, yet in earnest, until I can no longer breathe or want or need to.

When that blissful breathlessness is done and my eyes again open, you are still there, your dark eyes warm and full of understanding and the knowledge of all the hours and days and weeks that have come and gone since that first kiss in your kitchen.

You lean your head against mine and smooth my hair again, and I cannot resist brushing that one stray strand back behind your ear.

It is only then that you speak and just three words, quiet and simple and unadorned, and yet, the words I needed most to hear.

Here. I’m here.

*******

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