04 – Confessions in the Park on a Tuesday Afternoon

Continued from You’re Never too Old (or Married) to Date Each Other

In le laboratoire d’Entomologie du Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, Sara had been absorbed in examining a particularly remarkable example of Elaphrus clairvillei under one of the high-powered dissecting scopes when a very familiar voice piped up behind her saying, “Find anything good?”

Familiar or no, she still started slightly.

And let out a sigh as she turned to face her husband. “You really need to stop doing that,” she insisted.

“What?”

“Sneaking up on people.”

Even though she knew he didn’t do it on purpose, Sara still rued the fact that Grissom had never managed to loose that almost uncanny ability of his to suddenly appear without any warning.

“Preoccupied?” he asked in return. “You’re not usually that oblivious.”

She slid back from the scope so he could take a look.

“Ah,” he murmured appreciatively, observing just how the beetle’s brilliantly metallic green carapace was randomly studded with a series of reflective ocellar eyespots that glisten almost diamond-like under the light. “Perfectly understandable,” he replied. “But I don’t recall there being any species of Elaphrus on the list.”

“It caught my eye while I was looking for the Carbidae you wanted,” she explained. “And I couldn’t resist having a closer look.”

“Nothing wrong with a little scientific curiosity,” Grissom smiled. “And he certainly is impressive.”

As Sara carefully replaced the specimen in its case, she said, “What puzzles me are the markings and colorations. What purpose do they serve? I mean I could understand it if it lived in the rainforest, but it’s a ground beetle from the Eastern U.S.”

“That is a good question,” Grissom agreed.

Sara pursed her lips. “You’re waiting for me to figure out the answer on my own, aren’t you?” she said with a knowing smirk.

“No,” he replied. “Actually, I have no idea.”

She both looked and sounded incredulous. “Really?”

“No clue,” Grissom freely admitted. “Must be one of those as yet unsolved evolutionary mysteries.”

If Sara had learned anything from her months in the rainforest, it was that the natural world was certainly filled with those.

She gave her husband and appraising glance. “Not that I’m not happy to see you,” she began, “but you didn’t just stop by because you happened to be in the neighborhood. Checking up on my work?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t waste my time,” he replied.

Apart from Sara’s ever-present diligence and innate attention to detail, after all the fieldwork she’d done in Costa Rica, there were few people short of post docs who were better equipped to help design morphology and classification practicums.

When she appeared to be still waiting for his answer, he said, “I came to see if you were free for lunch. I would have called first, but your phone appears to be off.”

It was Sara’s turn to look sheepish, particularly after all the times she had chided Grissom about his rather recently acquired habit of frequently forgetting to turn his phone back on when he finished with classes or meetings. She must have done the same after her meeting with M. Morel that morning.

But she didn’t have long to feel abashed, for her husband had already continued on, saying, “I thought we could faire un pique-nique.” Then as his eyes took in the neat stack of boxes covering her workspace he amended, “If you have time.”

She did actually. True, there was plenty for her to do. But she still had time. Besides, if the afternoon outside was anything like the morning had been on her walk over to the museum, the weather was just too fine to be cooped up inside all day.

“Do you?” she asked. Despite the strict French adherence to thirty-five hour workweek, they did tend to keep him busy at the Sorbonne.

“Nothing until three-thirty.”

Sara had a hard time hiding her smirk. Tuesdays and Thursdays at three-thirty were Grissom’s regularly scheduled French lessons with Mme Laurent. From what he had told her about them, they were frequently the most demanding two hours of his week. Sara however didn’t feel too bad about it, thinking it was good for him to be on the learning end of things from time to time. Knowing him, he likely felt the same.  Still, just the mention of the redoutable doyen from the French department was enough to make Sara cringe.

She shut off the scope and made sure that she hadn’t left any specimen cases open before pulling her light jacket from the back of her chair.

“I just need to let M. Morel know I’ll be back,” she said.

Although Morel didn’t bother to look up from his own work when Sara stopped by the registrar’s even more specimen laden desk to say, “Au revoir, M. Morel. Je serai de retour après le déjeuner.”

He peered up briefly, as if just remembering that she had spent the better part of the morning in his lab, “Ah, Madame Grissom. Au revoir.”

After years of working and living with Grissom, Sara was long used to such demonstrations of abstraction. Although the tendency towards absorption was about where the similarities between the two men ended. Anton Morel was a very sprightly seventy, his hair still stubbornly black and his air still debonair. When she’d first been introduced to him, Morel had given her an openly appreciative glance before bemoaning the fact that there hadn’t been very many pretty young women like Sara interested in entomology when he was still young enough to be able to enjoy it. This observation had for reasons she could never make out tickled Grissom to no end.

As they stepped into the well-kept ground of the Jardin des Plantes, Grissom turned to her and said, “Madame Grissom? I though I introduced you as…”

Sara sighed, “You did. I did.”

But she had long ago stopped trying to correct M. Morel and many of the rest of her husband’s other colleagues. For while Grissom always made a point of introducing his wife as Sara Sidle, inevitably she was addressed as Mme Grissom more often than not. It was just the French way. There was no point in fighting it.

At least back in Vegas when the topic as to whether or not she had taken Grissom’s name came up, it had been more out of curiosity than anything. Which had made it easy for her to shake her head and laugh and to tell them that she thought that there having been one Grissom around the lab had been enough.

*******

It proved to be an unseasonably warm day for the middle of October. Definitely way too nice to be stuck inside all afternoon so Sara readily assented to Grissom’s suggestion that they make it a Parisian lunch, one of the sort where you just disappear for a few hours.

Busy as the parc always was, they managed to find a bench in a relatively quiet corner to enjoy the warmth and the sunshine, the food and most of all, the company.

They passed over the various food kiosks that littered the garden, Grissom having stopped and picked up all the fixings for un pique-nique français on his way from the Sorbonne. With his well-chosen spoils spread out between them, they feasted on quiche aux poireaux and tore large hunks from a baguette that was so fresh that the bread still bled the heat of the ovens of the boulangerie into their hands. With the aid of Grissom’s pocket knife, Sara deftly turned the crisp pommes and gritty poires into neat even slices served to compliment the rich creamy softness of the Camembert and the tart earthiness of the Roquefort from the local fromagerie.

The meal was simplicity itself — and yet all the better for it.

They spoke as they ate about how Grissom’s lecture went. He cheekily replied that he was on a roll, as no one had fallen asleep in his lesson for two days now. Sara bemoaned the fact that apparently her husband wasn’t going to let her live down that nap of hers during his lecture, at least not for a while. Sara, with the air of one thoroughly impressed by the whole thing, talked of how M. Morel’s methods for the best way to sort through the museum’s 40 million plus insect specimens really had come in handy.

The two of them were just finishing washing down the rest of their déjeuner with the last of the eau gazeuse when Grissom said, “So how is Vegas?”

“Still Vegas,” Sara offhandedly replied.

As they both seemed to have been adhering to their long held, unspoken agreement to attempt to make the most of the time they had together, neither of them had spoken much about Vegas since Sara had arrived.

Grissom hadn’t inquired about the cases she’d been working on, knowing as he did that if she wanted to talk about such things, she would. Although he knew, too, there was plenty she hadn’t been telling him during their phone calls over the past couple of weeks. Mostly because he had done the same with her when he had been the one in Vegas and she’d been in San Francisco. The omissions weren’t acts of deception or concealment, but more ones of survival. Because talking about the horrors they saw everyday meant having to deal with them and the present wasn’t always the best of times to deal with such things. And he for one had wanted there to be more to life than speaking and living for the dead, even if it were only for the minutes they shared on the phone.

And then with all the long hours Sara had been putting in (so much so that he’d stopped being surprised when no matter how late he called, he always found her at work) there really hadn’t been much of a chance for them to talk about how things at the lab were going.

Recognizing the fact that her husband was content to sit there and patiently wait for her to give him an actual response, Sara shrugged and said, “I’d forgotten how bad the coffee was.”

He smiled at this. “Apart from Greg’s, Doc’s got the only decent stuff in the building.”

Sara perked up at this unintentional revelation. “Doc huh?”

Grissom held up his hands. “You didn’t hear that from me,” he insisted.

“Of course not.”

But the momentary playfulness left his voice when he asked in all earnestness, “You regret going?”

Without hesitation, Sara shook her head. “No. Although the job still has its downsides.”

“Like dead bodies put through wood chippers,” he supplied.

“Yeah,” she readily agreed. “And it looks like I need to schedule some time on the shooting range for when I get back.”

“Gotten a little rusty?”

“More than a little,” Sara admitted. “I think Nick’s currently a better shot than I am.”

“Ouch,” Grissom replied.

Nick wasn’t known for his shooting ability. More than once he had failed his firearms qualification.

“Making a dent in the backlog yet?”

“I wish,” she sighed. There just wasn’t enough people or hours in the day to keep up with the incoming cases let alone handle the lower priority ones already in process.

“When you first mentioned having work to do, I thought you’d brought some with you.”

“No. And Catherine made it very clear I wasn’t even to try.”

“You started to under-bill your overtime yet?” he asked curiously.

“No,” Sara replied automatically, then realizing his implications asked, “How did you know about that?”

For long ago she’s stopped accurately recording just how many hours she worked. The practice kept her from getting stuck with desk duty in the lab because she’d already maxed out her overtime hours for the month.

Grissom gave her a patently patient grin and told her, “I may not have a degree in mathematics but I can add, dear.”

Obviously, the tack hadn’t gone unnoticed.

“And you never said anything?” she asked in return.

“Would it have made any difference?”

“Probably not.”

There was something more than just curiosity to Grissom’s next question.

“So how did you manage to get Ecklie to agree to let you come back so soon?”

Sara didn’t immediately answer. She had always known that they would have to talk about it, that it was a discussion she needed to have with her husband, but as it was one she hadn’t really been looking forward to, she’d been hoping to put it off as long as possible, and probably would have waited until the night before she left if he hadn’t brought it up now. It was just the way they had always dealt with things: not talking about them until you had to. It had just been easier that way — or felt like it.

She took her time, first letting out a long exhale of breath before saying, “I promised to talk to you about staying on a little longer.”

Grissom’s “I’m not surprised” came out both wistful and knowing.

“Gil, I know we originally agreed it would just be for a little while,” Sara began, “but they’re swamped and….”

Her voice trailed off as if she were afraid she’d already said too much.

“And?” he probed gently.

“Don’t get me wrong, Catherine is a great supervisor –”

There would have been a time when Grissom would have had trouble believing this. But at some point over the years, Catherine and Sara seemed to have made their own separate peace with each other. It had been a truce and even amity he had been happy to see happen.

“And I told her so,” Sara continued. “That’s not the problem. Even if Ecklie thinks it is.

“But Catherine’s right. Things are different without you there. Not necessarily bad different,” she hurriedly amended. “Just different.  And change is hard.”

Grissom nodded, all too cognizant of the veracity in that. Change was always hard.

“Particularly when there isn’t any time to process it all,” she added. “But they’ll be fine. They all will. They just need time.”

He gave her another nod then said, “Sara, while I’d prefer we were together…”

She smiled sadly at this. “So would I.”

“What do you want to do?” Grissom asked.

“Honestly?”

“Yes.”

“I want to finish what I started. Well, at least try to.”

*******

They were taking a postprandial stroll through the grounds and had just stopped to admire the garden’s impressive cedar of Lebanon (whose planting predated both the French and American Revolutions by nearly half a century) when Grissom turned to Sara and said, “So apart from all the changes and Vegas being Vegas, how is everyone?”

For a moment, she considered asking when Gil Grissom had started becoming interested in office gossip, but Sara recognized that gossip wasn’t at all what her husband was interested in hearing. He was simply curious and concerned about the people, some of whom he had known and worked with for the better part of a decade or more.

Not that she’d had much opportunity to catch up with any of them really since she’d returned to Vegas. Sara had yet to have that bite to eat with Catherine – the whole shoot out at the lab and subsequent clean up had effectively put a damper on any of their after work plans.

“You were right about Langston,” she said. “He’s a bit of a forensics wunderkind, which certainly comes in handy, but…”

“But?”

“He’s good. Sometimes a little too good.”

As the look Grissom was giving her seemed to say And this is a problem why? Sara smiled and said, “No one likes the solution to be that easy to figure out. You were bad enough. Although at least you tended to let us work things out on our own, which helped make the fact that you always seemed to know everything a bit more bearable.”

Grissom chose to ignore the barb.

“He’s already got Hodges wrapped around his little finger.”

He did however grin at this. “I told you I was easily replaceable.”

“Hardly,” Sara replied. Then both her mien and manner turned tender. “Vegas isn’t the same without you,” she confessed.

He met her gaze and replied no less earnest or honestly, “Neither is Paris.”

For a long moment they were both tempted, more than tempted to do more than just stand there and lovingly regard each other, but despite the prevalence and free exhibition of PDAs in Paris’s parks, neither of them had ever really been all keen on such things. Instead, Sara took his hand and tugged him towards the great girded jewel box like gleaming glasshouses.

“I almost forgot,” she said. “Nick found Stevie.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Of course his tarantula seems to still be AWOL so there’s still a spider on the loose in the lab.”

“I bet Catherine was thrilled to hear that.”

Catherine wasn’t all that keen on the keeping of live insects in the lab, never had been, for the very reason that the creatures tended to have what she considered to be the nasty habit of liberating themselves.

“He’d just gotten it, so I’m not even sure she knows he even had it. And as she just promoted him, I don’t think he’d dare tell her,” Sara laughed.

“She made Nick assistant shift supervisor?” Grissom asked.

“I didn’t tell you?”

“No, you neglected to mention that, dear.”

Sara gave him an offhanded shrug before saying, “It was about time, too.”

“You sound pleased.”

“I am,” she said.  Sara had been hoping for as much after that rather unexpectedly frank tête-à-tête she and Catherine had shared in the locker room her first shift back, the comprehensibility and real world applicability of baseball analogies notwithstanding. “Why wouldn’t I be?” she asked.

For one, it was certainly a far different attitude than she had displayed when the two of them had spoken of Grissom’s recommendation to promote Nick over her more than five years before. Of course if his memory served, he hadn’t exactly been honest with Sara about his reasons why then. He paused, weighing whether or not it was either prudent or profitable to potentially resurrect the hurts of the past and reopen old wounds, particularly ones he’d been partially responsible for inflicting in the first place.

Still, there was something he’d wanted to know, had wanted to know for a while now.

“Sara,” he began. And recognizing in the tone of his voice that he had something serious in mind, she gave him her full attention. “Why did you come to Vegas?”

There was the barest hint of a pause, but Sara having long been used to Grissom’s frequent non-sequiturs, simply said, “You mean after Holly was shot?”

“Yeah.”

At least that was easy enough to answer.

“You asked me to,” she readily replied.

“And you stayed?”

“Because you asked me to.”

Remembering well how once several months before they had actually started seeing each other she had told him, you’ve always been a little more than a boss to me. Why do you think I moved to Vegas? Grissom said, “So you really did come to Vegas because…”

“Because of you,” Sara finished. “Yes. Yes, I did.”

After all this time, perhaps the answer should have been obvious, or if not, the question long before been put forward, but Grissom’s expression now seemed to ask Why?

“Gil, I had never met anyone like you before,” she replied. “Your passion for science and forensics, it was infectious. And you knew everything. Understood everything. Made it all look so easy. I know it wasn’t,” she said before he could protest. “And yet, you weren’t all pompous or arrogant like most of the so-called experts I’d met were. A little clueless sometimes, perhaps. But you were never dull — despite what I’d heard.”

Sara grinned. So did he.

“It was hard not to be in awe of you. But it was more than that.

“Look, when I started as a CSI in San Francisco, the department didn’t have teams. It was dog eat dog, sink or swim. You were on your own. There just wasn’t the time to show someone whose specialties were physics and mathematics the ropes. So I never really had a mentor before I met you. And you, you didn’t seem to mind answering all my emails full of questions or providing explanations for all the things I didn’t understand.

“Forensics was still mostly foreign to me and there were times when I wondered if I had made the right choice after graduate school. But you encouraged me to stick with it. You had faith in me and apart from a couple of my professors, no one have ever treated me like that. Believed in me like that.

“So yeah, I came because you asked me to and stayed because you asked me to. And once I got to Vegas, I wanted to be worthy of that faith, that trust.

“Then when it became clear that the only relationship we were likely ever going to have would be a professional one, if the only way you were ever going to see me was as a co-worker, I decided I was going to do whatever I needed to do to do that well. So I worked hard, pulled the doubles and long shifts, came in on my days off, tried to be your best pupil, to impress you. And mostly failed at it.”

“No, you didn’t,” Grissom replied.

“I didn’t realize then that wasn’t how you worked. You believed in issuing challenges rather than dolling out gold stars. And I have always been a sucker for gold stars,” Sara said, loath to admit it.

He nodded. “That was why the promotion meant so much to you.”

“I didn’t understand it — your reasons. I thought you’d want someone who wanted the job. So when you chose Nick, I guess I felt that not only wasn’t I good enough personally, I wasn’t good enough professionally either.”

For Sara, the coupling in rather short succession of the professional with the personal rejection had been hard to bear, almost too hard to bear at the time.

How wrong she’d been, Grissom was now thinking. And how much a coward he’d been, not to have told her then.

“That wasn’t why I did it,” he said softly. “And you were right. It was personal, that decision.”

She started slightly at this, but waited for him to continue.

“Sara, we didn’t need another me in the lab.”

“And you thought that was what would have happened?”

“It already was happening,” Grissom insisted. “The doubles. Coming in on your days off. Being maxed out on overtime every month. You spent more time at the lab than at home.” He paused to take a deep breath before saying, “I guess I didn’t want you to wake up one day and realize…”

“That I had never really lived at all?” she finished with a sad sort of smile.

“I didn’t want you to have the same regrets,” he said. “I should have explained it better at the time.”

“I’m not sure I would have understood it any better, not then,” Sara replied. “Besides, we weren’t really on the best of terms, were we?”

“No,” he agreed. “But I still wanted something better for you.”

At first, Sara didn’t quite know what to say to that. It was one of those moments when she was almost painfully reminded of the fact that Gil Grissom never had been as emotionally unavailable as she (and everyone else) had both assumed and accused him of being.

But he was still speaking. “So much for good intentions,” he said with a doleful shrug. “Thing was, you weren’t the one who needed saving from yourself.

“I was.”

“No,” Sara said, taking up his hand again, this time making a point of threading her fingers through his. “We both did.”

Despite or perhaps in spite of all of that, they had managed to make a good life together. Not a perfect life. But a good one. Even with them having to spend more time apart than together, it was still a far better life than either of them had ever dared to dream or hope possible.

Perhaps it wasn’t as simple as all’s well that ends well, but Sara felt about the life she had now the way she did about Nick’s promotion, pleased, overwhelmingly pleased.

So she gave her husband’s palm a firm squeeze and said, “Well, thankfully, I stopped trying to be your star pupil quite a while ago.”

Grissom had to admit that was true. If anything, Sara turned out to be the best teacher he’d ever had – at least when it came to the more important things in life, like loving and living.

“And I found a much more appropriate place to look for validation,” she added.

“Oh?”

“If you haven’t noticed, I rather like being your wife,” came Sara’s warm reply.

They shared the smile, before hers morphed into one that was more playful than affectionate.

“Despite all the teasing I’ve been getting for it,” she continued with a chuckle. Although secretly a part of her actually enjoyed it, she would never admit that to him. “Of course they would never dream of teasing you,” she concluded with a not entirely exasperated sigh. For she knew that his exemption was born more out of fondness than general fear, that and a still heavy measure of disbelief.

“You will give them all my best,” was all Grissom said by way of a reply.

“Even Ecklie?”

Obviously, still no love lost between those two even after all this time.

“Even Ecklie,” he insisted.

At her terse and almost petulant “Fine,” he sighed and shook his head.

From off in the distance, they could hear the call to Asr, or afternoon prayer, drifting from the nearby Mosquée de Paris. They both glanced down at their respective watches.

Somehow, the afternoon had managed to get away from them. It was already after three and time to get back to work. Sara still had specimens to pull and Jeanne-Marie Laurent was not a woman you ever kept waiting.

Sara leaned in and Grissom thought she was going to kiss him adieu in the French fashion but instead, the kiss she placed on just his right cheek lingered far longer than any conventionality or strict adherence to propriety would have approved. Neither of them cared.

Particularly Grissom, when before withdrawing she paused to whisper into his ear, “A tout à l’heure quand tu rentreras.” I’ll see you when you get home.

There were few phrases in either French or English he liked the sound of better.

*******

Continued in One Last Night in the City of Lights.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. eagertalker
    Jan 25, 2010 @ 20:52:57

    Hurrah. another chaper. Just what I need to chase away the winter blues. I hate this time of the year. There is never enough sun or enough money. I have been rereading your stories because they cheer me up and paris is a particularily charming one. With your stories I like the way you portray the characters. I’m reading another fan fiction at the moment and the writng is good a nd the story keeps you hooked but I’m not sure that I like grissom’s character. She is following the story layed out in the series but the background into his thoughts and feelings I’m not sure about. Oh well, I’ll just have to wait and see.
    Hope all is well with you, anne

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