54 – Assorted Inquisitions into the Nature of Long Distance Marriages

When the answer “So far so good,” just won’t do, three conversations on the state of Grissom and Sara’s marriage.

Takes place post episode 10×12 “Long Ball,” circa January 2010.

*******

Late Sunday morning Nick stumbled in from his latest call, still shaking his head and thinking that stupid really should be a valid listing for cause of death.

But at least the shift was nearly over. Then he’d have twelve hours of sanity before it all began again. If he wasn’t called in early. Still, twelve hours of sanity were sounding really good right about now.

He just needed to get a couple of reports in to Catherine before he could leave. Having just poured himself a sixth cup of coffee for the night, he was about to sink into the chair behind his desk when he noticed he wasn’t alone in the office.

Not that that was anything new. He, Greg and Ray had been sharing a workspace for a while now.

It just wasn’t like Greg to be quietly installed at his desk, even if he was working. However, the case file propped open in front of him didn’t fool Nick in the slightest. For Greg Sanders seldom ever did anything quietly. And even if he had mellowed and matured over the years, pensive abstraction certainly wasn’t Greg’s style.

Leaning in over his shoulder, Nick inquired sociably, “So who’s the girl?”

While Greg didn’t start exactly, he did look genuinely bewildered when he turned to reply, “Huh?”

Nick chuckled. “Guys only tend to get that look about two things: girls and — well, girls.”

“It’s not like that,” Greg maintained.

Resisting the urge to say, “It never is, man,” Nick instead perched himself on the corner of Greg’s desk and asked, “So who is she?”

Although he almost choked on his coffee when Greg replied, “Sara.”

“Come again?” he sputtered.

By way of explanation, Greg repeated the brief tête-à-tête he’d had with Sara on the practice green a few days before.

Nick both looked and sounded aghast when he repeated, “Sometimes I wonder if you two are really married? What the hell would possess you to say something like that?”

Greg shrugged. “It doesn’t seem weird to you? Her here, him in Paris?”

Nick shook his head. “Not that it’s any of my business, but this is Grissom and Sara we’re talking about here. If it wasn’t weird, I’d worry. The man races cockroaches and –”

“This from the guy with the tarantula on his desk,” Greg interjected.

Choosing to ignore this, Nick said, “OK, I admit it isn’t the most conventional marriage I’ve ever seen. But when have those two ever been conventional?  I think the only conventional thing they’ve ever done is get married. And even that was unconventional for them.”

Truth was Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle were the last two people Nick would have thought to ever get married to anybody — let alone to each other. But they had.

“Still, So far so good?” Greg intoned.

“You ask a vague question, you get a vague answer. Interrogation 101, Greg. Besides,” Nick began with a smile. “You haven’t noticed that grin she gets nearly every time someone mentions Grissom?”

Now that he thought about it, Greg had actually. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Sara so…

Happy.

“And since when does Sara crack jokes?” Nick laughed. Then serious again he said, “Look, you want my translation? She’s not worried, so I wouldn’t be. But if you really want to know, there’s only one thing to do.”

“And what’s that?”

“Well, you could get Grissom’s number in Paris from Hodges. Or you could just ask Sara what you really want to know.”

*******

The Previous Afternoon

Although absolutely exhausted after finally just getting home from the lab at two in the afternoon, Sara could still be found in the kitchen of what her husband had to continually remind her was their townhouse, engaged in cooking of all things.

Not that the kitchen hadn’t seen a lot of that over the years. However, it hadn’t usually been Sara the one doing it. Well, at least not solo.

But over the last several months since she’d been back in Vegas, she’d found the practice actually helped her to relax and unwind, particularly at the end of a long, tedious or troublesome shift.

And if anything, it made her feel a little closer to Grissom.

That had been one of the many surprisingly pleasant discoveries she’d made about him after they’d first started seeing each other: the man certainly liked to cook, at least for her he did and did so as often as their schedules allowed. He wasn’t shy about roping her into his culinary experiments either. Although even after all of their Chemistry of Cooking lessons, Sara had yet to acquire his ease in the kitchen.

For while watching Gil Grissom work a crime scene was an almost Zen-like experience, watching him labor in the kitchen was both sensuous and sensual. No wonder Sara knew she would never tire of watching that man cook.

As the sopa negra she was reheating began to bubble on the stove, filling the room with the familiar warmth and rich fragrance of cilantro infused onion, black beans and peppers and Sara set about mixing the simple dough for homemade corn tortillas (she’d never been able to go back to store bought ones after being spoiled by having fresh ones every day in Costa Rica), her phone went off. For a moment, she feared it was Catherine or Nick or even Ecklie calling her back into work again, but when she peered down to check the caller ID, she was pleased to find it someone else entirely.

“Hey,” came her enthusiastic reply. “You read my mind. I was just thinking about calling you.”

“I could hang up,” Grissom suggested from the other end of the line.

“Not necessary,” Sara insisted in amusement. “Just let me put you on speaker.”

“Hands full?”

“Dinner.”

While he may have wanted to sigh, “At this hour?” he chose instead to say once she’d switched the phone to hands-free mode, “I thought I would chance calling you again.”

Sara grinned at this.

New Year’s had been the last time he had done so. After several months of his varied and various attempts to call Sara seeming to inevitably result in him finding her still at work even long after her shift should have been done, they’d decided that perhaps it was just better for her to do the calling. The plan worked, as long as Grissom made sure to turn his phone back on after his lectures.

“But please,” he was saying as she went back to kneading the masa, “tell me you don’t answer the phone like that when Ecklie calls.”

It was an old joke of theirs, originating from an afternoon when Sara had quipped upon receiving a far more effusive Hi than she had expected from Grissom’s end, that it was no wonder that Ecklie called him all the time, if that was how he habitually answered his phone. He had chuckled then and they shared the same warm laugh now.

“You know ten minutes sooner and you would have caught me in the shower.”

At this, he couldn’t help but sigh.

Knowing right well what his exasperation signified, Sara rejoined, “It’s Saturday, Gil. When have Saturday shifts ever ended on time? And I had to stop by the store on the way home. Lemons.”

Even though Grissom knew lemons could only mean one thing, he said, “Do I even want to know?”

“Short version: Month old de-comp in a garden shed. House had been on the market for a while. Realtor went to prep the place for an open house and –”

“Got way more than he bargained for?”

“Yep,” she replied and trying to keep the rancor and bitterness from out of her voice as much as possible said, “And let me guess, while I spent the day with John Doe 279, you spent your Saturday playing chess in the park?”

It had become a bit of a weekend ritual with him while she’d been away, to pass his Saturdays at one of the many chess tables set up in the Jardin du Luxembourg. With players there from all sorts of backgrounds and nationalities, it was a bit like playing in an (although unofficial) international chess tournament.

“I lost,” he offered as if in expiation; although his addition of “Once” did more to nullify his attempt than further him in his wife’s good graces.

But Sara wasn’t nearly as testy or upset as she pretended. And they both knew it.

The reference to chess, however, brought the mention of another game — and conversation — to mind.

“Speaking of games,” she began.

Grissom’s rejoining “Yes?” emerged slightly wary.

“You ever play golf?”

“Golf?” he echoed in surprise before replying, “Yeah. A couple of rounds here and there. Nothing serious. There was never time for it to become much more than a theoretical pastime.”

“Sort of like fly fishing?” Sara asked, the lilt of a tease in her tone, as she remembered back to her husband’s one and only attempt at that particular sport when they’d been off on their honeymoon. It had not gone well. While he had managed to capture the stillness and meditative quality of the experience, that was pretty much all he caught. Needless to say, it was a good thing they hadn’t been dependent on him to supply dinner.

He didn’t deign to dignify the reference with a response. He only continued to ask, “Why the sudden interest?”

“Greg said something about it being the kind of sport that would appeal to you.”

Slightly confused Grissom said, “And this came up how?”

“Well, we were on a golf course at the time.”

“Ah.”

Except he could sense there was something more to it than that.

And he was right.

Sara had been honest with Greg. While she did indeed know Grissom’s feelings about games like hockey and poker and chess — and certainly baseball – she hadn’t had a clue about golf. But it wasn’t that lack of knowing that had bothered or perplexed her. There were still plenty of things she didn’t know about her husband; plenty of things he likely didn’t know about her. Those were just things the two of them would have to reveal and discover together. That was just part of being married.

It was the being married bit that had thrown her with Greg. Not her being married, but his concern about it, for lack of a better word. When she’d first returned to Vegas, he’d been full of jests and teases, as if he were more amused than anything about her and Grissom’s marriage. But the longer she stayed, the less frequent the kidding had become. Initially, she’d reasoned it was just because he thought the joke was growing old, for Sara certainly wouldn’t have thought of Greg as a worrier.

“He said something else,” she began in a tone far more reluctant and reticent. “He seemed concerned.”

When no further details on her end appeared to be forthcoming, Grissom gently prodded, “About?”

“About 6000 miles.”

“You mean the distance between Vegas and Paris? Although it’s more like 5500 miles the way the crow flies.”

“I think it was the principle he was more concerned about,” Sara replied. “I believe his exact words were Sometimes I wonder if you two are really married.”

While Grissom could tell it was more than solely what Greg had said that was troubling his wife, he was genuinely having a hard time getting passed the non sequitur nature of the young man’s argument. But he knew, too, that wasn’t what was really important. Greg’s feelings regarding geography and matrimony weren’t nearly as critical to him as Sara’s were.

So after a moment he said, “Are you worried?”

“About us? No,” she quickly and truthfully replied.  “You?”

Grissom was equally certain and unequivocal. “No.”

As the only marriage Sara had experienced first-hand had been one of fury and frustrations that had only ended in destruction and death, she said, “Is it like you expected?”

“Being married?” He gave her a shake of the head that she couldn’t see, but she could hear his smile when he said, “It’s better.”

For while there had been the fleeting phantoms of happy memories from his parent’s life together, the years of heartbreak, of loss and longing that followed his father’s death had left an indelible mark.

He’d often heard people remark on how the day they’d gotten married was the happiest day of their lives. And although he had been beyond happy that day, Grissom had discovered he was even happier the next morning when he’d returned to their room, breakfast in hand, to find himself transfixed by the sight of Sara curled up still fast asleep beneath the covers.  In that moment, he’d first truly realized that amazing and unbelievable as it all was, this woman who had over the years become his best friend and lover was now his wife.

That was the day he stopped trying to make sense of life and loving, of marriage and what it meant through other people’s expectations and realities. Perhaps like love, marriage really did mean something different, was different for every couple.

In some ways, it just was. Like he was just starting to be. Just being like he was when they were together. Even if these days, being together was the two of them on the telephone speaking with most of a continent and all of an entire ocean between them.

“Sara, I have no idea what this is all supposed to be,” he freely confessed. “But if you haven’t noticed, I really enjoy being married to you.”

She smiled, having once said much the same to him on her first trip back to Paris.

“Even with us 6000 miles apart?” she asked.

“That part I’m not so fond of,” he admitted. When he added, “I do miss you,” there was no blame or regret or need for guilt in his voice. It was simply an honest admission.

He missed falling asleep with her in the bed beside him. Missed their conversations over dinner together. Missed their walks with Hank. Missed hearing her moving about the apartment while he worked at home. Missed the rush of lavender when she leaned in to kiss him. Missed her.

He missed his wife. Even after all this time, he was still getting used to thinking of Sara in that way. But it was a very pleasant and pleasing thing to have to get used to.

True, neither of them were going to lie and say that the separation was particularly easy or in any way preferable to being together. That there wasn’t loneliness or longing to live with.

Maybe So far so good really did sum up their current circumstances.

And while it wasn’t that Sara really believed in luck or fate or being able to jinx things, she still knew better than to push, tempt or chance it either.

Their marriage, this life they were building together, was nowhere near complete, and yet despite all the things that could go wrong – and they both knew all too well about how wrong things could go – it was going well. Yes, being apart wasn’t the most ideal of living or marriage situations. But with the help of some creative scheduling, transatlantic flights and a generous international calling plan, they were making it work.

In some ways, sadly and strangely enough, they almost saw each other more these days with him in Paris and her in Vegas than they had once Ecklie had transferred Sara to Swing. Although the long weekends every three or four weeks were never quite long enough.

And she did feel every one of those 6000 — or 5500 — miles on those sleepless afternoons after particularly unpleasant cases.  But then they would talk or she would find a text or email waiting for her, and even if it were just for the length of them, that distance didn’t seem quite so impenetrably vast.

What Greg didn’t understand was that marriage wasn’t about geography. It was about connection. And that connection hadn’t changed.

As the last of Sara’s tortillas browned on the stove, she and Grissom talked about this and that, about nothing really. They just talked and took pleasure in the company.

But before Grissom rang off, he said, “You know there’s a simple solution.”

“To Greg?” Sara almost laughed, knowing as she did, that her husband had seldom if ever, found any of his dealings with the lab tech turned CSI simple.

“In this case, yes,” he replied. “Talk to him.”

*******

Several Days Later, just before shift

Sara was on her way to the break room when she caught sight of Greg hanging up his jacket in his locker.

“Hey,” she said pausing at the door. “I see you managed not to get called in on your days off.”

“Jealous?” Greg quipped.

“Terribly.”

Then there was a long, pregnant pause, as if each were trying to steel themselves for what they wanted to say. They both seemed to manage this feat at nearly the exact same moment, for they began at the same time:

“Sara –”

“Greg –”

And laughed.

“Go ahead,” she insisted.

“Ladies first.”

“Okay,” Sara conceded. Then after a deep breath, she began, “About what you said out on the golf course. That wasn’t what you really wanted to know, was it?”

“No.”

“So?”

As he stood there with her, Greg realized that when it came down to it, there was only one question that really mattered. So he asked it.

“Are you happy?”

Her eyes softened and there was no room for misinterpretation in the broad smile Sara was giving him.

“Yes.”

*******

Have a question or want to leave a comment or concern and don’t have a wordpress account? Please feel free to email me at kadhmercer@gmail.com

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ladylobo2
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 06:06:36

    Oh, how I love this! It answers our questions and gives a sweet peek into that dynamic. I also love “Those were just things the two of them would have to reveal and discover together. That was just part of being married.” as that is how I feel about my marriage! Thank you as always for sharing!

  2. mbonthecorner
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 19:17:56

    Another wonderful story! Your gift for portraying Gil and Sara lies in capturing the small, ordinary moments of their lives. A great read for a snowy day with not much else to do!

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