03 – Three

 CASSIE JAMES:

…I mean, you never know what you need until you find it.

GRISSOM:

Or until you lose it.

….

CASSIE JAMES:

… I mean, you know, y-y-you-you can pick through a million

lives and never have one of your own.

GRISSOM:

 Looking for things, analyzing them … trying to figure out the world

— that’s a life.

CASSIE JAMES:

You never know what you need until you find it.  And the next

thing I find it might be the thing that changes everything.

GRISSOM: 

What will you do when you find it?

CASSIE JAMES:

Sleep … the most perfect sleep.

– Episode 223: The Hunger Artist

*******

Grissom bolted awake.

Initially, he was unsure what precisely had woken him. For he’d been very contently curled up alongside his wife, the two of them as yet fast asleep, enjoying the unaccustomed luxury of what was for them, up before dawn as they usually were for work, a late lie in.

Until it came again: that drawn out, thundering guttural rumble growl of a roar which seemed far more apropos to the savannas of Africa than to the vast verdant canopies of Costa Rica. But there was no mistaking the sound or the source. Only one animal on the planet was capable of making that profound of a racket. Locals called them el mono aullador, scientists, Alouatta palliata, but they were best known by their apt (if somewhat of an understatement) of a common name: Howler Monkeys.

From distances exceeding three miles their diurnal dawn and dusk heralding could be heard. Though judging by the volume of this particular troop’s recital, they were likely far, far nearer, probably less than half a mile away. Which happened to be a little too close for Grissom’s liking.

It wasn’t that he had a thing against primates or had grown immune to the wonder of encountering the creatures in the wild, he just preferred for them to stay heard rather than seen, particularly after he’d discovered firsthand during his first week in camp that Howlers had a nasty predilection for urinating and defecating on any humans they came into contact with. It was not an experience he was in all that much of a hurry to repeat. Ever.

How any one could sleep through the males’ resonating barks, grunts, screeches, and cackles, he had no clue. In his opinion, the din was fit to wake the dead. Although apparently neither Sara nor Hank. Both were still sound asleep and snoring, which of the two louder, Grissom couldn’t — and wouldn’t — say.

Besides, the snoring, at least in Sara’s case, presaged an undisturbed sleep, a state her husband was always heartened to find her in, knowing as he did, how for nearly all of her life, she had struggled between the twin quandaries of insomnia and sleep’s attendant nightmares. And understandably so. But she’d been sleeping better ever since he’d come. She had confessed as much to him on more than one occasion, though she needn’t have; he’d happily observed it for himself.

As tempting as it was, and it was that morning, their first morning as husband and wife, to linger there in bed with her, Grissom knew from the depth of her breathing, she would be asleep for some time yet. Which provided him the perfect opportunity to finally make good on something he’d been wanting to do for quite some time — years even — but had not quite yet ever managed to accomplish: bring Sara breakfast in bed.

He’d have to improvise a little, this he already knew. But then Gil Grissom had always possessed a quick and ready mind for problem solving. Besides, Sara served as the perfect inducement.

So Grissom, very much not wishing to wake her, very carefully extricated himself, still intimately intertwined as they both were from the night before. Apart from a wholly unintelligible murmur, Sara scarcely stirred. Not wanting to disturb her by rifling through his satchel for clean clothes, he gathered up the now rumpled remains of what he had worn the night before and quickly and quietly dressed.

For while the howlers might not wake her, that didn’t mean his puttering about the small cabin wouldn’t. She was weird like that. Though Grissom supposed it was no different from his being able to sleep through the dog barking, sirens blaring, planes whizzing, traffic rumbling, construction thumping and people, people everywhere that made up the cacophony of Las Vegas. No wonder the place never slept.

Tiptoeing out of the cabin so softly not even a sure to be hungry Hank had heard, Grissom stole off towards the ground’s open-air communal kitchen.

*******

 A little over an hour later he returned, heavily-laden tray in hand to find his wife had taken advantage of his absence to sprawl even further across the bed, so that she was now currently occupying more than three-quarters of the mattress. Not particularly a surprising or unusual occurrence. Attempt to deny it as much as she tried, for as long as he had been in a position to be in the know, Grissom had known Sara to be a habitual bed hog.

What she hadn’t done that morning was manage to take much of the sheet with her, which left her far more exposed than covered.

Slowly, his eyes trailed up the long, smooth slope of her spine, bare backed as she was, took in the contrast of suntanned skin and the pale creaminess of what her clothes normally covered. There was the slight swell of a breast, the heightened smattering of freckles along her shoulders and neck, the way her mass of mussed, sun-honeyed hair splayed across one cheek and haloed against the pillow.

Perhaps it was a good thing he’d possessed the forethought to deposit the breakfast tray on a table first thing when he’d come in. The resulting crash of china would not have been his first choice of a way to wake Sara.

For his breath caught. And he just stood there staring. Much as he had that first afternoon he’d shown up in the rainforest, when he’d stopped short, speechless, breathless at the sight of her preoccupied as she’d been in trying to capture on film the latest antics of George, the camp’s quasi-resident capuchin.

Strange, now that he thought about it, he’d been similarly engaged on her first day in Vegas, when she’d tracked him down to the scene of a suspect death by leaping at the old Hotel Monaco. But then history did have a habit of doing that: repeating itself in the most unexpected of ways.

Even now, more than a decade later, Grissom wasn’t quite certain what his full intentions had been when he’d asked Sara Sidle to fly out to help investigate the murder of Holly Gribbs. Yes, they’d been short staffed. Yes, he wanted someone other than IA handling it. Yes, she was someone he could trust. But there had been more to it than that. What precisely, he hadn’t allowed himself to think then or even years later. Though if someone would have told him back then that they’d end up husband and wife, he would have scoffed at the absurdity of the suggestion.

And yet they were.

He even had the ring to prove it, the mate to the one he had slipped onto her hand the night before, the one he was, despite his not registering his doing it, absently fingering.

That was what had rendered him so thoroughly dumbstruck at the sight of her that morning. For it wasn’t as if he hadn’t come across Sara wearing far, far less countless times before. But it was the first time he’d encountered her as such as his wife.

He hadn’t thought it would make a difference: their getting — being — married. Yet it did. How, after not even quite a full day, he couldn’t pinpoint exactly. But it did.

Even if it was still a little hard to believe. Hard to believe that the woman lying before him, the one whom he had loved for so long (though not always so well), the one who had become over the years, his best friend, partner, companion and lover (no matter how horribly sordid certain people made that word sound. He loved her; she loved him. They made love. What other than lovers could they have been?) was now his wife.

Grissom wasn’t good with feelings. Not usually. Never had been. Emotionally unavailable had been the general consensus, even if Sara was the only one who ever had the guts to utter those precise words to his face. Once, a friend of his had described him as an old soul with a young heart. And she hadn’t even needed to possess that advance degree in psychology of hers for him to know she was probably right.

But that morning he had no trouble identifying the feelings of warm contentment coursing through him. It was happiness, plain and simple. Precisely quantifying said emotions, however, was a bit more difficult.

The happiest day of my life, that was how he’d heard so many people refer to their wedding day and with such predictable regularity, how could it not come off as some trite, meaningless cliché?

But he had been happy then. Profoundly and gratefully happy.

Yet somehow, in some way he didn’t possess the words to articulate, he found himself even happier this morning after, just standing there watching his wife — how both strange and yet comfortable it was to regard her that way — sleep.

Happy. Once, and for once in his own words, without any mediating quotations, he’d told Sara she made him happy. Although on the way to inspect a dead man’s trailer in the middle of a brothel probably hadn’t been the most romantic choice of places to have done so. It was something he should have made sure to tell her more often. It was the truth. Even then. Everyday.

Their relationship hadn’t been perfect. For far too long it had been anything but, but that didn’t keep her from being the one person who made him happy in ways no one and nothing else ever had. And these days and weeks ever since he’d left Vegas to come find her, be with her, they had been joyous in ways he could never have hoped or imagined.

Maybe he shouldn’t have been so surprised. Even Hamlet, consummate cynic, professional pessimist and procrastinator as he was, recognized there were more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in anyone’s philosophy.

All Grissom knew was that that numb deadness which had plagued him during all their months apart, had vanished and he felt alive, truly and utterly alive, again with her.

His coming, he knew, had been the start of something, the start of a new life; the ceremony the night before, a promise that it would be a life lived together.

Perhaps that was why that morning more than any other, seemed ripe with untold and undreamt of possibilities.

Fleetingly, Grissom wondered what Sara was dreaming of now, fast asleep as she still was.

It seemed such a shame to wake her. Even if he did come bearing breakfast. Besides, it wasn’t the first time the pancakes had gotten cold by the time they’d finally gotten around to them. He’d let her sleep, at least for a little longer.

Which meant he probably should retreat to the sofa. Except he couldn’t quite resist the lure of being near her. Even if he’d spent the better part of half a decade denying the truth of it, the attraction had always been palpable between them.

An immovable object encountering an irresistible force indeed.

He should have known the two states couldn’t coexist. It was, after all, basic physics. And you couldn’t fight physics.

That morning he wasn’t about to try.

If there had been any room left for him, he would have seriously considered returning to bed. Instead, he settled for sinking as softly as he could onto the thin sliver of mattress remaining.

Nearer as he was now, he noticed one lone orange blossom, having survived the previous night’s passion, lay still nestled in one of her curls. With all the careful precision of a man used to extracting miniscule particles of evidence without disturbing the whole, he retrieved the tiny floret. Rubbed between his thumb and forefinger, it released that same sweet, almost intoxicating redolence the air had been so full of the night before. He closed his eyes, the better to focus on the scent and the sentiment which had prompted him to choose the flowers in the first place.

Victorian bridal traditions hadn’t really been the reason. It was more the memory of the question an old Tico whom Grissom had encountered on his bus ride on his way to camp had asked him of Sara: ¿Ella es usted media naranja? Is she the other half of your orange? The Costa Rican equivalent he was soon to learn of Is she your other half? Grissom hadn’t really thought about it in those terms until then, but Sara was. Sara who was still sleeping so soundly beside him.

But he couldn’t resist the temptation any longer.

There was, he thought as one hand naturally settled in the small of her back as he bent to press a kiss into her hair, just something about the feel of her beneath his fingertips: undeniably warm and alive.

The character of her breathing changed at this; began to lose its deep, even constancy. When his mouth moved from her hair to her shoulder, he was rewarded with a sharp inhale. The soft trace of his hand along her spine inspired a sigh.

It was that sigh which undid the very last of his good intentions. To hell with them anyway. What — where — had all his ones for Sara gotten him anyway? Only heartbreak and misery.

He placed a lingering kiss in between her shoulder blades before his lips set to follow the route his hand had so recently taken.

Then there was the hum, more purr, at the back of her throat; the rustle of sheets accompanying the start of a stretch. By the time he made his way back up to nuzzle that spot just beneath her ear, he was greeted not with one of their usually fairly chaste good morning kisses but one full on the mouth and fervent.

Her eyes fluttered open with a still dozy satiated sort of sleepiness so unlike her habitually instantly alert wakefulness resultant from too many years of too many early call-ins.

She yawned. “How late is it?”

Not wearing a watch, Grissom estimated. “After eight.”

That late,” Sara laughed, heavy on the sarcasm.

“I actually hadn’t intended to wake you.”

While her expression said Yeah right, she replied, “I think you’re forgiven in this case.”

In truth, Sara couldn’t have imagined a more wonderful way to be woken. Of course this didn’t keep her from teasing, “Although I wouldn’t be so tired if someone hadn’t kept me up for half the night.”

“Complaining?”

“Not complaining. Merely an observation.”

But her nose did wrinkle when he drew her closer for another kiss. She snuffled sharply. “You smell –”

Affronted, Grissom cut in with a choked, “Excuse me?”

“Not like that. I mean you smell different,” she said. And he did. Not of sweat or musk or lovemaking. Nor of soap or shampoo. If she had to characterize it: “Sweet. Fruity. Like –”

“Breakfast?” he supplied, rising. When Sara appeared about to do the same, he insisted, “No, don’t get up.”

To her almost coy, “This mean you aren’t in any hurry for me to get out of bed?” Grissom only gave her a grin that would put the Cheshire Cat to shame before replying, “No, I’ve just been wanting to do this for a long time –”

“What?” she asked, watching him retreat to the cabin’s small dining table.

“Bring you breakfast in bed,” he replied, carting the tray back with him. There was both satisfaction and a touch of exasperation to his “Finally. Only took almost five years and marriage for me to manage it.”

For it had never failed. They’d get called in early. Her nightmares or her insomnia meant Sara was up and out of bed before him. Or if he’d managed to be up and about before her, she would wake and wander into the kitchen just as he was finishing cooking.

“Your dogged persistence is –”

“Admirable?” he suggested, setting the tray down on the bedside table.

“Appreciated. Much.”

And the kiss she next gave him left no doubt to just how much.

“I hope you’re hungry,” he said.

At how her stomach chose that moment to take the liberty of answering for her with an unmistakably loud and insistent gurgle, they both laughed.

“Obviously.”

She scooted over and he sat beside her.

With a conjurer’s well-practiced flourish and flair, Grissom whisked the cover off a plate piled high with —

“Pancakes,” Sara beamed.

“Not exactly like the ones back home. I had to improvise a little.”

“I can see that.”

For upon closer inspection, she observed that these particular pancakes were studded with thick circlets of bananas, ones she knew were likely to have been picked fresh ripe from the tree.

“Honey?”

“Hmm?” she asked, her grin growing, rather partial as she was to his use of that particular endearment.

Honey,” Grissom repeated, extending a small bottle before proceeding to lightly drizzle some atop the pancakes, saying, “Syrup’s a little hard to come by out here,” by way of explanation.

It all looking and smelling absolutely divine, Sara was about to dig in and heartily, too, except the presence of food had finally roused Hank. The boxer had lumbered up to the bed and was currently giving the two of them one of his plaintive, baleful looks of the sort which could neither be ignored nor denied.

“I’d better –” Grissom began, resignedly. Sara fought not to smile back her agreement. Some things never changed. Hank always had the worst sense of timing. Grissom gave a whistle; the dog followed him out on to the porch to be fed.

By the time he returned, Sara had managed to make a sizable dent to her stack of pancakes, causing him to observe, “You were hungry,” as he helped himself to several chunks of mango and papaya from the accompanying bowl of cut fruit.

“Also your fault,” she insisted.

A momentary flash of smugness flickered across his face. Sara, thinking it was well merited in this case, decided not to call her husband out on this particular show of self-satisfaction.

So for the next couple of minutes, they ate, Sara making approving noises and free with her praise. She’d never had banana pancakes or pancakes with honey before, but the combination proved unsurprisingly delicious.

But after a while, she realized Grissom had stopped eating and was instead eying her intently.

“What? Have I got something–?” she asked, wiping her face, thinking perhaps she’d managed to make a mess of herself.

But suddenly she realized when and where she’d seen that look before. He was staring at her now much the same as he had the night before when she had begun her descent of the short flight of stairs to their cabin. It was that same look of wide-eyed open awe and unabashed appreciation.

That morning, his feelings, all those things he so much wanted to say, but so seldom had the courage to tell her, completely bypassed his head on their way from his heart to his mouth and he murmured, “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

Sara gaped at him. As honest and out of the blue as they frequently proved to be, she never got used to his compliments.

“You are,” he maintained.

She doubted it. Not her husband’s veracity, as Grissom didn’t stoop to petty, false flattery, at least he never had with her, but rather his objectivity.  Last night, his admiration had perhaps been understandable. Even his murmurs as they’d kissed and made love. But this morning? Not with sleep still in her eyes and her hair the mess she knew it had to be.

She attempted to cover her sense of disbelief with a half laugh of “You keep saying that, but will you still when I’m old and grey?”

His matter of fact No caught her by surprise. But not half as much as his next assertion of “You will be even more beautiful then.”

As there was no possibility of a reply to this, she simply kissed him. Well, not so simply. And while he may have been momentarily taken aback, Grissom quickly and thoroughly surrendered. For that morning she tasted of honey, hope, happiness and home.

The rest of breakfast and the day could wait.

Besides, it was, after all, their honeymoon.

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