42 – For Now

It was a far different sort of leaving this time.

Takes place prior to 10×01 “A Family Affair,”

circa September 2009.

*******

With much thanks to SC, particularly for not laughing too hard at my abysmal attempts at French. Any lingering mistakes are of course all my own.

*******

“I’m sorry, I lost track of time,” Sara hurriedly apologized as she withdrew her latchkey from the lock and eased the front door the Quartier Latin apartment that she and her husband shared shut behind her. In quick succession, she tugged the earbuds from her ears, dropped her ipod and keys on the table before shucking off her tennis shoes and briskly undoing the knot from the jacket she’d tied around her waist.

Of course the phrase I lost track of time was a bit of an understatement. She’d simply gone out for a quick run that ended up not being all that quick. But she hadn’t realized just how late it had gotten until she registered that all the extra traffic on the Boulevards St. Michel and St. Germain on her walk back was due to it being the middle of the infamous Parisian rush hour.

While Hank bounded up to greet her — Sara paused to kneel and give him an affectionate rub behind the ears — Grissom had yet to respond. Yet she knew from the presence of his keys beside her own that he had to be home, so she let out a louder and rather concerned, “Gil?”

“Kitchen, dear,” came his airy reply.

Which is exactly where she found him, standing behind the counter of their much smaller than back in Vegas kitchen, apron donned, his sleeves rolled up past his elbows and him in the midst of preparing dinner.

Despite all of the time they’d spent in Paris, neither of them had yet to get out of the American custom (although it was likely to be more of the habit they’d picked up in Costa Rica) of eating early and into the French one of not having le dîner until after eight o’clock.

She was equally unsurprised to find a French cookbook propped open on a jug of crème, nor to discover that it wasn’t the one in English that they’d purchased from the Abbey Bookshop, but a battered volume (in French no less) they’d picked up a few Saturdays before from one of the little green stalls of the many bouquinistes that populated the streets near Cathédrale Notre Dame. Sara still wasn’t entirely sure if it was curiosity or conceit that made her husband prefer to follow cooking instructions for la cuisine française actually written in French.

Taking in the fact that he’d already changed out of his typical university uniform of jacket and tie (one of the things about his new job that Sara quite liked – him having to wear a suit on a regular basis) into the much more comfortable jeans and sweater he only ever wore at home (although Sara had to admit she wasn’t sure which look she actually preferred), Grissom had obviously been back from his day of prepping for classes at the Sorbonne for a while. More than a while, if the neat mountain of freshly diced onions and the ever-growing pile of chopped raw spinach he was currently making his way through were any indication.

As there was barely enough room for one person let alone two, a reality which had made for quite a few rather cozy Chemistry of Cooking à la Française Lessons, Sara joined Grissom in the small, barely hallway of a space that served as their cooking area only long enough to lean in to give him a swift kiss on the cheek. That and she was rather sweaty from her run. Grissom, however, didn’t seem to mind. He turned his face so that their lips brushed instead and paused for a moment before returning to his preparations to give his wife both an inquisitive glance and an appreciative grin.

There was just something inexorably arresting about Sara fresh from a run. Perhaps it came from all those months they’d spent in the rainforest where he’d rapidly had to admit that he needed to revise his previously held belief that sweaty wasn’t sexy.

“Have a nice long run?” he asked. Then at the rather nonplussed look Sara was giving him, he supplied, “Clothes give it away.”

He turned to pull a bottle of mineral water from the small fridge behind him and proceeded to pour her a glass as she took a seat on the other side of the breakfast bar that ran along the counter.

“That and Mme Fournier…” he continued.

“You mean Mme Fouineur,” Sara cut in testily, then muttered, “Nosey old bat.”

The not entirely kind nickname was apropos really, as the wiry old widow who lived next door seemed to do nothing but spend her days, when she wasn’t out walking her unnaturally pugnacious French Bulldog, spying on her neighbors.

Grissom ignored the barb. “…Said you’d been out since four. You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, why?” she shrugged.

“You usually don’t take two-hour runs. Well, not at four in the afternoon.”

Which was true. The middle of the day wasn’t her typical time for a jog. As running wasn’t exactly a popular French pastime (apart from the notable exception of the slightly intimidating group of perfectly clad and rather buff les policiers that frequented the park), Sara avoided the strange looks by sticking to the earlier hours of the day.

And most mornings, Grissom and Hank could be found waiting for her beneath the dense, leafy shade along the Fontaine des Médicis in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Grissom sitting in one of the ubiquitous green chairs that populated all of Paris’s parks (as the grass, signposted as it was with Pelouse Interdite, was more for looking at than sitting on) and engaged in what was, along with the enjoyment of fine food and wine, one of the quintessential Parisian diversions – reading. It seemed fitting that the city that had been home, both permanent and temporary, to many of the most influential French and American writers of the 20th Century would harbor a passion for all things literary.

It hadn’t taken either Sara or Grissom long to discover that the near dawn hours before les enfants and their parents arrived to sail their rented boats on one of the garden’s pools certainly possessed a dreamy solitariness evocative of what Rousseau had found there hundreds of years before.

Afternoons, however, with all their hustle and bustle and crowds weren’t the best of times for a run, but Sara had really needed a run that day.

“You forget to turn your phone back on?” she asked by way of beginning to explain.

Grissom felt for the phone in his pocket to no avail, causing Sara to shake her head and sigh. That he’d left his cell in his attaché case and forgotten to switch it back from vibrate to ring came as no surprise. He’d gotten out of the habit of carrying it everywhere he went. Plus, the French penchant for politeness meant that phones weren’t set to go off while in meetings or in the university libraries where Grissom spent much of his days. As work seldom tended to call him out of the blue, primarily kept communication to normal business hours and usually to his office phone, and rarely was any call so urgent or important that it couldn’t be returned later, he rarely worried about missing calls.

It was a nice change, the phone not going off at all hours of the day or night. That and the ever-pressing immediacy was something Grissom had not missed from Vegas.

Grissom returned from the small office beside the kitchen phone in hand, scrolling to his missed call screen.

“Ecklie?” he asked, instantly recognizing the number. That was strange. Conrad Ecklie wasn’t prone to making social calls; at least he hadn’t been with either of them.

Sara nodded. “When he couldn’t reach you, he called me.”

He rechecked the time on the call. It had been more than two hours before. Even now, it was barely nine in Vegas and day shift had just begun.

A shadow of fear flashed over Grissom’s face and Sara could hear the hint of a tremor in his voice when he said, “And?”

As ever since Warrick had been killed, neither of them had been able to quite shake their knowing of the dangers inherent to the work they had done — and their friends were still doing — everyday, she’d felt that same heart-stopping apprehension when her caller ID had come back with a Vegas number. Dreading that something must have happened back at the lab, she had hastily picked up.

Readily comprehending that her husband was likely feeling much the same, Sara rushed to reassure him. “Everyone’s fine,” she said. “Well, not fine exactly. Riley resigned. Suddenly. With a hundred case files still open.”

“And now one less CSI,” Grissom intoned, having now much more relieved, gone back to his chopping.

“Ecklie wanted to know if we could recommend anyone. I told him I’d talk to you and get back to him about it.”

There was a beat in which Grissom nodded, as if comprehending something at last, before he replied utterly nonchalant, “You should go.”

As this had been the very last thing Sara had been expecting him to say, his response caught her up short. When her silence continued to stretch long, Grissom glanced back up at her to find his wife gawking wide-eyed at him. He gave her a slight smile of understanding.

“Isn’t that what you’ve been contemplating for the last couple of hours?” he asked. “About going yourself?”

She had been thinking just that. But how he’d known it…

“Honey, you do only tend to take really long runs when you are struggling to make up your mind about something.”

Which was also true. Or perhaps she had done it in hopes of clearing her head.

But Sara wasn’t quite willing to admit it and the implications of such thoughts, not just yet.

Instead, she attempted a tease, “You taken up mind-reading lately, Gilbert?”

However he didn’t rise to the bait. “How long have we known each other?” he asked.

“A while,” she admitted with the ghost of a grin.

“I’m not as utterly oblivious to the world as everyone’s always maintained I am. Particularly when it comes to you. At least not lately,” he smiled in concession. Then his face and voice turned serious again. “I mean it,” he said. “You should go.”

Despite her best attempts to the contrary, at this, Sara let out an almost humorless laugh.

“We’ve only been married how long now and you’re tired of me already?”

Grissom made no response to this, he didn’t need to. They both knew that wasn’t the case. Instead, he put down the knife he’d been holding, but hadn’t been using for the last several minutes.

“What’s stopping you?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“I thought that would be obvious.”

“Me?”

Us,” she corrected.

“Don’t say no on my account,” Grissom replied, causing Sara to gape at him once more. He reached over and took her left hand in his, running his thumb over the simple gold band she wore there. “Sara,” he began, “I never expected or thought you would give up your career and your own life to follow me and mine around.”

“You mean like you did?”

He smiled at this. “Those were extenuating circumstances,” he replied. “Honey, I know it’s not going to be easy if you go.”

What neither of them needed to say was, When had it been?

“But,” he continued, “I have no doubts that we can make this work.”

At her husband’s display of absolute certainty, Sara now had to grin even though she still didn’t know what to say in reply to it.

“Other couples do it all the time,” he added. “Besides, once the grant comes through….”

“I’m going to be back to being stuck with you pretty much 24/7 again,” she rejoined with a nod. Her composure at last seeming to return, or at least beginning to, Sara’s question of “Are you implying that I should take advantage of the break while I can?” almost came out as ribbing.

It felt good being able to tease him; made the whole conversation feel so much less heavy. Made the possible, even probable, reality of that they were discussing less disquieting.

So that she was genuinely having a hard time keeping herself from broadly smirking when she said, “I dunno, Gil. You lecturing all on your own. That could prove problematic.”

“How?” he asked.

Sara, pleased to see him look perplexed for once, offered, “San Francisco. Eleven years ago,” in a patently knowing tone, as if the answer were obvious. “Or,” she added, a bit of mischief starting to twinkle in her eyes, “was that one of those extenuating circumstances of yours, too?”

Grissom, not immune to a bit of razzing himself, adopted a vexed air as he said, “You do know that I have given plenty of classes without…”

“Ending up with romantic entanglements?” she finished helpfully.

“You make it sound like that was a bad thing. San Francisco. Eleven years ago.”

She turned her hand over in order to grasp his. “It wasn’t.”

“Besides,” he said. “While there is nothing wrong with the appreciation of beauty from a purely aesthetic point of view, I do only have eyes for you.”

“That’s good to know,” she grinned.

With the hint of his own taunt, Grissom whispered, “You aren’t going to have issues with Catherine being boss now are you?”

Sara rolled her eyes. “That was years ago.”

Then abruptly the laughter left his voice, only to be replaced by concern. “You know Vegas hasn’t changed,” he said.

“I know,” she replied. “But I’m not going for Vegas.”

He gave her an understanding bob of the head.

Sara shrugged. “Besides, I’m not even sure Ecklie would agree to it.”

She and Ecklie had never been on the best of terms. She’d always found the man to be an incompetent politico who cared more for the politics than the practice of science. And Sara did have to admit, however begrudgingly, that she’d been insubordinate more than perhaps necessary or prudent with him. There was just something about the man, had always been, and now not only was he lab director, but undersheriff as well.

And Ecklie had never concealed the fact that he’d long felt Sara to be more of a liability than an asset to his lab. That his dire pronouncement that she was a loose cannon with a gun had never come to pass didn’t much change that. So there was a good chance that he would unceremoniously dismiss her proposal without a first, let alone a second, thought.

Although Grissom didn’t seem to agree with his wife’s assessment.

“Conrad Ecklie might be an ass –” he began.

“No comment.”

“But he’s not that stupid, dear.”

She intoned dourly, “I’m glad you clarified that one.”

But he ignored this.

“You’re a great criminalist, Sara. You always have been.”

She laughed. “You have to say that.”

He shook his head, then said in all seriousness, “No, I don’t.”

He didn’t have to say it now, no more than he had to say it to Ecklie all those years ago when he’d wanted Grissom to fire Sara. And it wasn’t any the less true even with her having been away for two years.

So he simply handed her his phone.

*******

Back in Vegas, Undersheriff Conrad Ecklie picked up on the fourth ring, answering with his usual brusque greeting.

Once the very few normal pleasantries were exchanged, Sara launched in with, “You still need a name?”

His “Yeah” was even more terse. Things didn’t sound like they were going well.

“We’ve got one,” she said. “Although it would only be temporary.”

“Just give me his name.”

“Her name,” Sara corrected.

“Her name,” Ecklie conceded. “And I’ll give her a call.”

“That won’t be necessary.”

As his “Why is that?” was beginning to sound more than slightly annoyed, Sara was seriously starting to think that perhaps this really wasn’t such a good idea after all. But there was no way she was going to let Conrad Ecklie intimidate her.

So she took a deep breath and said, “You’re already talking to her.”

There was a long beat, as if Ecklie was carefully weighing his options, a long enough beat that Sara was fairly sure he was going to say no, so that when he finally said, “When can you get here?” Sara was so stunned that she didn’t have a ready answer.

Grissom rested a hand on her shoulder, having just come back in from the workroom in time to overhear the end of the exchange. Sara turned to face him.

“Tomorrow,” he mouthed.

She covered the phone.

“I can get you onto a flight for tomorrow,” he said.

Obviously, while she’d been on the phone, Grissom had been busy online. He placed a printout of a prospective itinerary in front of her. Sara scanned the flight info.

“I can make shift on the 26th,” she told Ecklie. “But I’ll be a little late.”

“Just report to Catherine when you get in,” was all Ecklie replied.

*******

While Grissom finished up with dinner, Sara hastened her way through a quick shower and set to packing. She didn’t really have all that much of it to do, as she still had plenty of things back in storage in Vegas. Besides, all those months in Costa Rica had taught her to appreciate traveling and living light.

So it should have been a fairly uncomplicated task.

Hank seemed to have other ideas. He had trotted after her into the bedroom and was currently perched on the mattress, giving her and the open suitcase one of his wary doe-eyed glares.

“Not you, too,” Sara sighed, when half-way through folding a pair of jeans, she found her husband standing there in the doorway watching her with a strange, distant sort of look on his face that she couldn’t quite interpret.

What he was so busy pondering was the question of which he preferred: Sara’s hair curly as it had been when he’d first arrived in Costa Rica or long and pulled back into its not entirely neat ponytail as it was tonight. They were, he decided, equally, if differently, alluring.

As was the amused sort of smirk and shake of the head she was giving him as she placed the neatly folded jeans into her carryon.

“I thought you were busy with dinner,” Sara said.

“It has to simmer,” he replied, joining her by the bed. “And you know what they say about watched pots.”

“They never boil?” she finished almost cheekily.

He extended his hand to her. Something brassy glinted in his palm.

“I didn’t know if you still had one,” he said.

“I do actually,” Sara smiled.

She never had removed the key to his apartment from her key ring. It was still there next to the one for her Prius that she would have to arrange to pick up.

“But you actually trust me in your place unsupervised?” she asked.

“You know it’s not really my place,” he countered. “Never has been.”

While he had intimated that it was theirs even before Sara had first left Vegas, it was still an actuality that she’d a hard time wrapping her head completely around. Besides, Grissom had always been a very private sort of person, so even once they had gotten together, being in his personal world and spaces had taken some getting used to.

“That mean I can snoop around as much as I like?”

“Go ahead,” he laughed, turning to head back down to the kitchen. “Catherine beat you to it a long time ago.”

“She find anything good?”

He only grinned enigmatically.

“Does this mean I’m free to redecorate?”

He paused at the door and shrugged as if to say Why not?

“You helped fix it up in the first place.”

*******

Dinner that night was a quiet and uneventful affair, and all the better for it.

Less than twenty minutes after Grissom had disappeared back into the kitchen, he ushered Sara up to what was perhaps the best feature of their Parisian apartment, its private jardin sur le toit, rooftop garden. Even this late in September, it was still a lush, verdant paradise. Herbs flushed green and pockets of flowers bloomed riots of color in their respective cachepots.

But the plant life was only part of the attraction. Often the two of them came up to pause and take in the view, particularly during the early evenings when one could literally watch the lights of Paris begin to blink into existence.

The city had a very different sort of air after dark. The ever-present looming brilliance of the Eiffel Tower, lit as it was like the giant lamppost it was originally lambasted and reviled for resembling not withstanding, Paris became more intimate, relaxed, even mysterious, once the sun went down. Even the Seine seemed to slow as it drifted, the river now glistening aglow from the strands of lights that draped along the bridges that spanned its banks. It was certainly a far cry from Vegas, where the tempo and timbre would only continue to frenetically rise as night fell.

That night, the twilight was further illuminated by a pair of antique glass-globed candelabra. The flickering flames from their tall beeswax tapers danced over the crisp linen nappe, laden as the table was with glistening goblets of eau minérale gazeuse accented with thin slices of citron, steaming bowls of homemade potage crème d’épinards – cream of spinach soup – and fragrant hunks of crusty pain français from the loaf Grissom had picked up at a boulangerie along the Rue Mouffetard that afternoon on his way home from work.

In true Parisien fashion, they lingered long over their simple meal, simply enjoying the good food and each other’s company, and sat there long after their bowls were empty and the night had fallen in earnest.

They talked about Grissom’s day. About how his plans for his courses were taking shape. About the insanity of Parisian traffic. About how Hank had seemed to develop a particular fondness for the chow who lived three houses down. About everything and nothing, except Vegas. Or what the next day would bring. Of course their not mentioning it didn’t change the fact that it was coming swifter than either of them could imagine or wish.

Still, they set about stealing a few more moments of normalcy.

So it was well past ten when the chill finally chased them (and Hank whom had spent the majority of the meal curled up asleep at their feet) inside.

Sara was about to take her usual after dinner post in front of the sink in preparation to attack the small mountain of dirty dishes they had just brought down with them, when Grissom said, “Why don’t you go finish packing. I can handle the cleanup here.”

She laughed. “I’m starting to think you are anxious to be rid of me.”

“Not in the way you’re thinking, dear,” he replied.

“So you are thinking about getting rid of me.”

“Only so I can finish up dessert.”

“Dessert?” Sara echoed incredulously. “After that meal?”

“If I know you, you’ll be back to peanut butter and takeout in Vegas. When you remember to eat.”

“So you intend to fatten me up before I go?” she asked.

Although Sara knew better than to ever turn down her husband’s cooking. Apart from a few rather memorable failed attempts and those mostly caused by a faulty rendering or missed nuance from translating from Français, or those due to him having to make serious adjustments to the primarily meat-based dishes to make them more vegetarian friendly, Grissom’s forays into Haute Cuisine had been a success – perhaps a bit too much of a success.

One of the reasons Sara had taken up running again was because she didn’t relish having to acquire an entirely new wardrobe because her current clothes no longer fit. Haute Couture was one of the few things in Paris that hadn’t interested her in the least, although she knew that Catherine would certainly have been in designer heaven.

For his part, Grissom made no comment to his wife’s practically impertinent inquiry apart from giving her a rather rueful shake of the head before unceremoniously shooing her out of the kitchen.

*******

Dessert, a pair of oranges filled with a sweet fragrant mixture baked into a feather-light soufflé, didn’t disappoint. And while Grissom shrugged off Sara’s enthusiastic compliments, he did look particularly pleased with himself.

Both knew that his choice of what to serve hadn’t exactly been arbitrary. He hadn’t needed to have whispered, in a soft, almost wistful sort of voice, “So you don’t forget,” when he passed her a spoon, for her to be transported back to that first Saturday afternoon they had spent together in Costa Rica when Grissom had pulled an orange of all things from his pack and turned to her and confessed in slightly faltering Spanish, that Sara was, as Ticos were wont to say, the other half of his orange. The two of them had been rather partial to the fruit ever since.

*******

Accustomed as they both were now to a more diurnal lifestyle these days, not much after eleven, Grissom, despite his best efforts to the contrary, was starting to nod off.

Sara smiled, nudged him gently and said, “Bed.”

He made no protest.

While he was busy in the bathroom, it being far too tight a space for the two of them to share at the same time, Sara changed and made one last survey of her bags before toting them downstairs to set by the front door. By the time she had finished her own evening toilette and reclimbed the narrow winding steps up to their bedroom, Grissom was curled up on his right side beneath the duvet and already fast asleep. Hank was similarly occupied near the foot of the bed and like his master, not so softly snoring.

Not wishing to disturb either of them, Sara carefully eased her way between the sheets. She slid a hand around her husband’s waist, nuzzled his shoulder for a moment before snuggling nearer, the better to take in the comforting warmth of him.

Only to find that while she was tired, physically worn out from the day, her mind just would not let her sleep. She tried to remain there with Grissom as long as possible, tried to let his deep, even breathing lull her to sleep, knowing all to well that it would be a while before she would have another opportunity to shake her head and sigh at the sounds of his snoring.

The realization that this would indeed be the last time for a while, suddenly hit Sara hard. For she and Grissom hadn’t been apart for more than the occassional day or two ever since he had shown up in Costa Rica the December before.

But after about an hour, her racing thoughts and restlessness eventually got the better of her, and not wanting to wake or worry him, Sara retreated from his side and the bed. She hurriedly donned the pale blue robe he’d given her as a wedding present months before and quietly made her way up the last set of stairs to the roof, hoping against hope, that the cool night air would help clear her head.

The silver sliver of the moon having set hours before and the Eiffel tower having gone dark as it always did after midnight in the autumn, the night had grown dark and even the Quartier Latin with its population of raccous students had, as the rest of the city had hours before, settled into somnolence. For while Vegas never slept, Paris did.

Soon, very soon, perhaps too soon, Sara knew she would be standing under a far different sky, a very different vista spread out before her.

She took a deep breath, held it for a long time before letting it go.

She was finding it hard, facing the reality of what had with all of her husband’s support and encouragement earlier seemed like such an easy decision. Or at least she’d been able to pursuade herself that it had been a simple choice.

For she meant it, what she’d told him about not going for Vegas.

When she had disappeared nearly two years before, she hadn’t just left Grissom. She’d left them all. And without so much as a good-bye, let alone an explanation. Though it had been necessary, desperately necessary, it wasn’t an act she was particularly proud of. She just hadn’t known any other way to go.

When she had once confessed as much to him, Grissom had reluctantly admitted that they all would have probably tried to persuade her to stay. But the time away had been good for her, he’d told her that too. It had given her a chance to heal and hope and breathe and be again. And while she knew that there was nothing she could do to change the past, this she could do. She could be there to help them now.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like Paris. She did. She loved it. The city was amazing and being there with Grissom made it even more so.

Grissom…

It hadn’t been so very long ago that they’d last been apart. Not even a year yet. And those had been hard, heartbreaking times. That was what had most made her hesistate. She knew Vegas was still Vegas, that the job wouldn’t be any easier than it had been before, not objectively speaking. The evil that men did never did change, at least not for the better. No, it was obstensibly leaving the man who had come so far and given up so much just for the chance of being with her again.

Yet, she had to admit it felt different this time, this going. Was different. There was no heartache like the last time. No desperate wishes for things to be different. Though that didn’t exactly make it all that easier. Going was still going.

Sara hadn’t realized that she had left the door to the stairs open until she felt something warm and moist press against her palm. Hank was attempting to nuzzle her hand as he let out a low, soft concerned whimper. She stroked him absently, but affectionately, behind the ears, then bent, placed her face next to his.

“You make sure to take good care of your daddy,” she murmured. “Okay, boy?”

*******

A little after one, Grissom woke to find the space his wife usually occupied beside him in the bed unaccustomedly empty. He rolled over to switch on the lamp, calling for Sara as he did so.

When she didn’t answer, he went in search of her, which didn’t take long. The rooftop stairwell door was still ajar.

He eased it a little further open and went to join her there. Hank turned to mark Grissom’s entrance, but Sara was so seemingly lost in thought that she didn’t notice his arrival. So he stood there for a long moment, watching the now faint light of the city play along her face, illuminate the strands that having slipped from her earlier hurried ponytale now blew slightly about her cheeks with the breeze, admired the way the glow reveal the way one side of her thin silk robe had slipped from her shoulder to expose the thin spaghetti straps of the customary tank top she wore to sleep in.

He padded quietly towards her, pressed a lingering kiss against the nape of her neck, before gently easing the fabric back over her chilled skin.

“Gil,” Sara whispered, a smile flitting across her lips as she felt his arms slide around her waist. Her eyes closed at his touch. Unlike her own, Grissom’s hands were warm, as was his breath. Both of them bled comfort into her.

“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked.

She merely nodded.

“Anxious about tomorrow?”

She let out a half laugh. “You mean today? A little.”

“You’ll be fine.”

“It isn’t the work I’m worried about,” she replied. Her voice was both soft and strained as she said, “I’ll miss you.”

His arms tighten ever more around her.

“Honey, it’s not that kind of leaving. It’s just for now. Besides,” he said leaning in and whispering, “Ça ne changera pas entre toi et moi,” You and me, it doesn’t change, in such fluent, nearly effortless French that she had to grin and wonder where he’d picked up that particular phrase.

For she seriously doubted that he’d learned it from the ancient dowager of a French professeur from the Sorbonne’s linguistic department, who not only headed her unit but was also a member of France’s elite L’Académie Française, an exclusive centuries old academic society committed to the preservation and transmission of la langue française. Those two probably stuck to high-minded topics like history and literature and science, not colloquialisms.

“You should be sleeping,” Sara said, feeling his fingers edge beneath her shirt. “You have work tomorrow.”

“Today,” he corrected, just as she had done to him. “But so do you.”

“I can sleep on the plane.”

“But you won’t.”

“Probably not,” she admitted, covering his hands with her own and threading her fingers through his. “Gil, are you really okay with all of this?”

He kept his response light, almost airy. “Isn’t it a little late to be asking that?” he said by way of reply, before his tone turned both reassuring and firm at once. “Yes. Sara, I don’t want you to go. But I understand why you need to. I do.

“But,” he admitted truthfully, “I’m not too keen on it becoming a permanent thing.”

“Neither am I,” she conceded freely.

Then with even more feeling than that time in the locker room back in Vegas, just before he’d gone off to Williams, Grissom said, “I’ll miss you, too.”

And he would. He knew that. He would miss her. Miss the simple pleasures of their morning walks, the adventures she would often drag him off to in the afternoons, the evening strolls along the Seine, the falling asleep with her beside him when the days were done.

Then there were the Saturdays spent loitering in cafes, where for the price of a single cup of coffee you could spend hours watching the rest of the world go by. And the lazy Sundays when most of the shops were closed, so they would cross over to the Right Bank to visit le Marché d’Aligre. There the motley collection of pâtisseries, boucheries, fleuristes, boulangeries and fromageries threw open their doors for all of Paris. Roses blushed and bloomed. The fragrance of fresh baked bread perfumed the air. Mounds of brightly colored fruits and vegetables stood as neatly arranged monuments to the French sense of order and decorum. While he and Sara usually went mid-morning before the crowds descended, even then the markets were alive and buzzing in ways reminiscent of all the Saturday trips they used to make to the local la feria in Costa Rica.

He favored all of this to the seemingly endless stream of dîners and events that he and Sara frequently had to attend as part of his visiting lectureship. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the company of his new colleagues or appreciate their well-meant attempts to make him and his wife welcome. But Grissom had never been fond of dinner parties or large group outings or anything really that required fancy dress. Although he did have to admit he enjoyed the glimpses of bare leg that seeing Sara in a dress more often revealed.

The simple truth was, he really did prefer his wife’s company to anyone else’s.

He knew that to the rest of the world their life together probably was rather pedestrian. But it was a life he loved and rightly treasured, having never really thought to possess it.

That was what he would miss most, the extraordinariness that lay in the most ordinary moments of that life.

For in truth, they hadn’t been together, not to mention been married long enough, for him to have even begun to be used to her being there, let alone for him to start taking it or her for granted.

But there had never been a question of refusing Sara, of attempting to persuade her to stay. No matter how much he would like to have her beside him always.

And while he appreciated the fact that these days the two of them had gotten a lot better at making these sorts of decisions more together and far less unilaterally than they had in the past, Sara hadn’t needed to have worried about how to break the news nor about what she could and could not, should and should not do.

His words, what he had said to her, they weren’t a lie, or meant to be placating in any way. Grissom knew far too well about regret, the desire to go back and the need to at least attempt to make things right again. He understood, too, that she wasn’t going back for the job. The life they had together may have been the only real home Sara had ever known, but Grissom knew he wasn’t her only family.

Besides, it was just for now. What were weeks, a couple of months, next to the lifetime together they had ahead of them?

“But,” he said after a while, “you aren’t gone yet,” and began to run his lips along the inside of her neck in such a way that there was no mistaking his intentions. So that when Grissom paused in his ministrations only long enough to say, in a voice now deep and low and thick with desire, “Come back to bed, dear,” they both knew he wasn’t suggesting sleep.

*******

When at six a.m. the alarm blared, abruptly startling them both back into wakefulness, the two of them were still laying curled up as they had been hours before, when still flush and slightly breathless, they had slipped beneath the sheets again, contentedly tangled up and lost in each other after a long, languid hour of lovemaking. And as much as Sara had wanted to stay in that moment, to hold fast to it and never let it go, her eyes had soon grown heavy, her breathing slowed, deepened. Grissom had tugged her ever tighter and soon she was dozing, nestled against his chest. It wasn’t too much later that he had joined her, and it had become sleep and dreaming in earnest for them both.

While Grissom promptly yet gently disentangled himself in order to reach back and shut off the offending shriek of the clock, neither of them seemed to be in any hurry to get out of bed that morning.

There was still time. It was not yet light.

Besides, Sara found it was hard to think about the ever more quickly encroaching laters with him so snug and real beside her, Grissom’s touch and smell surrounding her like this as they lay on their sides in the dimness, their faces and bodies close. The anxiety of going dispelled as it was by the overwhelming sense of connection she was feeling. Waves of warm contentment washed over her as he swept the long dark strands from her cheeks, smoothed her hair, still mussed as it was from their earlier lovemaking, and kissed her long, longingly.

The soft, tender smile that tugged at his lips was hopelessly contagious. Sara beamed back at him. Her eyes searched her husband’s face. There was something quite different from the encouraging support of his smile in his eyes. It wasn’t as if the expression hadn’t quite made it there. On the contrary, the grin about his eyes had deepened them into a still, calm, deep blue. His gaze was openly affectionate and adoring, yet intent and intense at the same time, as if he were trying to indelibly mark this moment in his memory.

Both loath to end it, reluctant to bring themselves back to actuality again and neither sure exactly what to say or do next, only certain that they didn’t want to move beyond that moment, they lay like that for a long time.

Though this time there was no talk of stayings or goings. No sorrow or ache or regret. Just the lingering sweetness of a morning spent together, the last one like this for a while, or no.

The missing, they knew would come.

But it really was a different sort of leaving this time. There was still longing, but it was a different sort of longing. For while reluctance remained on both their parts, there wasn’t any fear, only the certainty of a separation to be measured but in mere days and weeks, before they were to be once more together again.

*******

The rest of the morning passed just like any of the last several weekdays they had spent together in Paris. While Sara forwent her usual run, she and Grissom took Hank out for a walk along the Quai de la Tournelle. They paused for a while to silently admire the way the stately form of Notre Dame loomed on the other side of the Seine.

On the way back, they stopped in one of their favorite cafes, indulged in strong cups of café au lait, the sweetness of fresh fruit and the richness of croissants slathered in newly churned butter as they watched the city slowly rouse itself to begin another day.

But time, as much as they wished and wanted it, would not stand still.

And soon, far too soon, the taxi that Grissom had arranged to take her to Roissy had arrived. While he had wanted to accompany her to the airport, Sara had insisted upon going alone. It was silly for him to sit through the hour each way of Paris’s notorious traffic and there would have been no way for him to make it back in time for his weekly eleven o’clock appointment with the head of the sciences division. Besides, it wasn’t like he could wait with her at the gate, that practice having long been abolished in the wake of 9/11.

In the end, it was better this way, to keep their good-byes between themselves – and the taxi driver who appeared to be intent on practicing his aloofness.

Besides, they never really were good at good-byes. Never had been. Probably that was why they had tried so hard to avoid them in the past, even if they couldn’t escape the leavings.

The two men stowed her bags in the backseat.

It was time.

Sara went to get in, then stopped, turned, stood there with her hands resting along the top of the open door, lingering, not quite ready or willing to go just yet.

“I love you,” she mouthed.

Grissom smiled in return and took up her left hand, his thumb running over the simple gold band there much as it had the afternoon before.

“Sara –” he whispered. Then he lifted that hand so as to press his soft smile into her palm; she caressed the line of bare skin just above his neatly cropped beard before drawing his face to hers for one last kiss, each of these acts of private, personal ritual redolent of long held intimacies.

The cathedral bells boomed nine times, each stoic, indifferent toll reminding them both that it was time for Sara to go.

As they broke apart, he whispered, “Be safe.”

“I will,” she promised.

*******

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