55 – Look Who’s Coming for Dinner (well lunch)

When Greg and Nick manage to con Sara into inviting them over to her (and Grissom’s) place for dinner, unsurprisingly a little mischief and a lot of teasing ensue.

Follows “Assorted Inquisitions into the Nature of Long Distance Marriages” and takes place between episodes 10×13 “Internal Combustion” and 10×14 “Unshockable,” circa February 2010.

*******

It hadn’t taken long for Sara to realize that it was just going to be one of those days.

To begin with, she had been called in four hours before shift, despite the fact that she hadn’t been scheduled to work that Sunday in the first place. Then Catherine had sent her out solo to process a nasty vehicular manslaughter case out in Boulder City, where the scene had taken forever to release and the post on the body even longer because of a backlog in the morgue due to a multi-casualty arson case.

At this point, she was really hoping that the car would have something constructive to say, because as of now, the whole thing was starting to look like another case of monumental stupidity. But with Impound as behind as everyone else, they had just picked up the car in question and were still a good half hour away from the lab.

So as she hadn’t had the chance to eat much of anything since coming in, Sara decided to take advantage of the brief lull in activity to finally grab a bite to eat. Besides, it wasn’t like she was going to be heading home any time soon.

Although at half past eight, it was more of a breakfast than a dinner break.

Of course it wasn’t like she hadn’t eaten gallo pinto everyday for breakfast for months. And while reason would suggest that she would have tired of the fare and craved something not made up of corn, eggs, beans or rice, she frequently did. The truth was the simple but hearty Tico staple had become a comfort food of sorts; the taste and preparation of it infused as it was with all her memories of the time she and Grissom had spent in the rainforest together.

Which is why she had taken one of the containers she’d filled from the batch she’d made a few weeks before from out of the freezer before heading in to work that day.

She’d been wanting the comfort.

The day before she’d been in the midst of her first really good night’s — well, afternoon’s — sleep back in Vegas for a while, when the phone had rung. Which was not all that rare or remarkable of an occurrence. But only a few hours before, it being Saturday and him not having to worry about being up early for classes the next day, she and Grissom had stayed up talking until Sara had been sleepy enough to actually drift off. At least she hadn’t been so far gone after he had wished her goodnight not to have the presence of mind to hang up. But having nearly fallen asleep to the sound of his voice in her ear, when the cell had gone off not too much later, she had rolled over and sighed for her husband to get the phone.

When its insistent peel persisted, Sara had reluctantly opened her eyes only to find the space in the bed beside her empty.  Abruptly, she both recalled and realized that Grissom was nearly 6,000 miles away.

Which had been disconcerting to say the least.

So yeah, a little comfort food never hurt.

Back in the break room, the microwave chimed and Sara removed the steaming bowl. With it and a copy of the latest JFS in hand, she took a seat at the conference table. However, she hadn’t made it much past the table of contents when she was interrupted by Nick and Greg entering to partake of the last remains of the coffee pot.

Nick let out a long appreciative whistle. “Man, that smells good. What is it?”

Gallo Pinto, beans and rice,” Sara supplied not bothering to look up.

“Where did you order that from?”

“Didn’t. Made it.”

Both looked incredulous, but it was Greg who voiced it first. “Yeah right,” he scoffed.

Nick rejoined with, “This from the Sara who only ever brings a sandwich from home.”

“I don’t see it either,” Greg agreed. “Married or no, I just can’t see Sara as the domestic goddess type.”

“I don’t know, maybe Grissom taught her,” Nick suggested. “Catherine did say he knew how to cook.”

Sara put down her fork at this and glared. “For your information,” she replied. “I taught him how to make this.”

“Fine,” Greg conceded. Then with an impish smirk he said, “Prove it,”

“Prove what?”

“That you can cook.”

“You’re just trying to score a free meal,” Sara protested.

Greg let out an overly dramatic, “See, knew she couldn’t do it.”

“Not couldn’t. Wouldn’t,” she countered.

“Could have fooled me.”

“I’m with Greg on this one,” Nick chimed in. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Sara let out a long resigned sigh before saying, “So you want me to bring something in?”

“Nah, you could cheat,” Greg replied.

“You want to come over for dinner then?”

Nick grinned. “Why we’d be delighted to come, wouldn’t we, Greg?”

“Absolutely.”

Knowing all too well that there was no point to arguing, Sara simply surrendered. “I’m supposed to be off tomorrow. You can stop by after shift. For lunch, not dinner. But I don’t do meat. Period.”

Greg laughed, “Like we’d expect anything else from you.”

*******

It was nearly two that Monday afternoon when Greg and Nick finally arrived.

Sara greeted them with an exasperated yet knowing, “You’re late.”

The two of them shrugged off their jackets and placed them in her outstretched hands as Nick said, “Blame Catherine.”

But their weariness was soon replaced by looks of wide-eyed curiosity. Neither of them had ever been to what had once been Grissom’s new place.

It was certainly an improvement over his last townhouse, Nick mused. And yeah, Catherine had been right. It was rather homey, particularly for Grissom.

Particularly as the rich fragrance of fresh cilantro, chilies, garlic, and roasted corn perfumed the air.

And with her hair pulled back into a haphazard ponytail and a simple green apron tied over a pair of jeans and slightly more casual than what she usually wore to work t-shirt, Sara certainly looked at home.

Upon her having noted that they had come empty handed, Nick explained, “Since you didn’t bother to tell us what was on the menu, we didn’t know what to bring.”

“Although, we did bring this, just in case,” Greg said, pulling a folded sheet from his pocket.

As she unfolded it to reveal the take-out menu for Thai Gardens, Sara shook her head.  “Oh, yea of little faith.”

“And much experience,” Nick replied.

“Well, little in this case,” Greg corrected.

As Sara led them downstairs into the kitchen, Nick asked, “So what are we having?”

“Since you two were so interested in the gallo pinto, authentic Tico camp food.”

“What no French?”

“You’ll have to talk to Grissom if you want that,” she replied. “Besides, beggars can’t be choosers. At least you won’t have to worry about ants.”

“Ants?” they both echoed in unison.

She proceeded to explain how in Costa Rica there just had been no way around eating ants on a fairly regular basis. No matter how hard you tried or how well you attempted to seal things, the ants still managed to find their way into everything from the flour and sugar to the coffee.

“Bet that didn’t bother Grissom in the slightest,” Nick chuckled.

“Nope. He just regarded it as extra protein.”

“Sounds like Grissom,” Greg agreed.

Sara took up a plate of freshly cut fruit, saying, “You can start on these now. The red powder on the mango is chili. It’s good, trust me. And you can go ahead and eat the seeds along with the papaya. I just need to finish up the chorreados.”

“Homemade corn tortillas?” Nick murmured appreciatively, peering over her shoulder as she turned the heat back up under the griddle. “We don’t even get them that fresh back home.”

“Impressed yet?” Sara asked.

“Maybe.”

Greg reached over to lift the lids on the two large pots at the rear of the stove.

The beans and rice dish he recognized. The other was a simmering pot of what looked like a thick, creamy black bean soup.

Sopa negra,” Sara offered, by way of explanation. “I’ve got patacones — fried plantains — keeping warm in the oven. The gallo pinto, plantains and tortillas are comida typico for lunch in Costa Rica. They serve as the sides for casados — I guess you would call them the Tico equivalent of the blue plate special. All the sodas, the local diners, serve them at lunchtime, usually with chicken or beef or fish. You get soup.”

“Sounds good,” both guys agreed.

“Just one thing though,” Nick began. “Is dinner usually an educational experience with you two?”

There was a momentary pause while Sara considered the question, before she shrugged and with a pleasantly reminiscent sort of grin admitted, “Yeah.”

“Figures.”

********

While Sara finished up the last of the tortillas, Greg and Nick, having been offered the far more pedestrian choices of soft drinks, juice, water or coffee to drink, made themselves comfortable on stools at the end of the kitchen island.

She was just rinsing her hands of the last of the masa flour at the sink when Sara thought she might as well take advantage of the two of them being there to find out something she’d been wanting to know, but as the lab had been swamped as usual, hadn’t had the chance to ask.

“While I have the two of you here,” she began, “you want to explain what the hell you were thinking two nights ago. You know when you decided it was a good idea to take down Mark Samuels.”

Samuels had been a rather belligerently intoxicated suspect in a nasty assault and battery case just off the Strip. Sara had been in the process of going through the usual routine questions when the man had launched himself at her. Nick and Greg had taken him down before he could even reach her.

When no answer seemed forthcoming, Sara sighed and said, “Please just tell me it wasn’t some sort of macho you’re a girl thing.”

“Not exactly,” Nick replied.

She waited for him to continue. Instead, Greg said, “Well, you are Grissom’s girl.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning it was self-preservation more than anything,” Nick offered. “If we let anything happen to you, Grissom would kill us.”

“And hide the body.”

“And probably get away with it.”

Sara simply shook her head.

“He could,” Greg insisted.

The guys were saved from any further explanations by Sara’s phone going off.

She glanced down at the caller id. Earlier that day, she’d received a rather cryptic text message – Have some news. Will call later – and had been dying of curiosity ever since.

“I need to take this real quick,” she said before flipping the phone open and giving the caller a cheery “Hey” in greeting.

“Grissom?” Greg asked.

“You think?” Nick said as if it were obvious.

Sara for her part nodded and asked Grissom, “Your ears burning?”

“What?” came her husband’s understandably perplexed rejoinder.

“Nothing,” she laughed. “I know it’s late, but can I call you back later?”

But she didn’t get the chance to hear her husband’s reply, for Nick was urging her to “Take it.”

“Go on,” Greg agreed.

“We can handle this,” Nick said, gesturing to the stove.

“One second,” Sara told Grissom as she headed down the hallway towards their bedroom in order to finish up the call in private. “Sorry about that,” she said, sinking onto the mattress. “You’re home late,” she observed. “Dinner that good?”

She wasn’t surprised really, knowing as she did, that Grissom had been out for dinner that evening with several of his colleagues from the Sciences division, and it being Paris, dinner there was an affair of very little rush and a great deal of slow savoring.

“You wouldn’t have liked it,” he replied. “But I thought you were off today.”

“I am.”

“Then why did I hear Nick and Greg in the background?”

“Company,” Sara supplied.

“Company?” Grissom echoed in surprise.

“Dinner. Well, lunch.”

“Ordering in?” he asked.

Her “No” was less than easygoing.

“You’re cooking? Is that such a good idea, dear?”

“Not you, too.”

“Sorry, couldn’t resist,” he chuckled, not sounding the least bit sorry at all.

“I think I can handle gallo pinto and fried plantains,” Sara maintained.

Grissom’s enthusiastic “Sounds good. Can I come?” did however manage to erase the last of her irritation and make her smile.

“I think by the time you got here, it would be cold,” she replied. “And gone.”

Grissom asked, “Do I want to know why you’re cooking for Nick and Greg?”

“Long story,” Sara said and proceeded to recount her conversation with Nick and Greg in the break room the day before.

By the end, her husband was chuckling again. “You do realize that you’ve been suckered,” he said.

“Yeah, I figured,” she allowed, then said, “Speaking of Nick and Greg, you have a chat with either of them lately?”

“No.”

“Exchange email?”

“No.”

“Instant message? Snail mail? Telegram?”

“No. No. Do they even have telegrams anymore?” he asked.

“Dunno.”

“Still no,” Grissom finished. “Why?”

It was Sara’s turn to be amused. “I don’t know how you manage to do it, Gil,” she said. “Intimidate from nearly 6,000 miles away without saying a single word.”

He only replied, “You’ll have to explain that one to me later. But I don’t want to keep you from your guests.”

“Don’t trust the guys unsupervised in your apartment?”

“No, just not in our kitchen,” he corrected. “You do remember where the fire extinguisher is?”

“Worried?”

“No, just concerned.”

“Look, the last time was entirely your fault.”

“Right,” Grissom replied. “On that note…”

“Wait,” Sara said before he could sign off. “You said you had news.”

“Ana called.”

Her eyes widened. “They didn’t.”

They had.

*******

When Sara returned to the kitchen several minutes later, she was greeted by Greg saying, “How come you never answer the phone like that when I call you?”

She shot him a Don’t go there glare.

“You look awfully pleased about something,” Nick observed with a grin.

“And you weren’t even gone that long,” Greg added.

“Both of you get your mind out of the gutter. He had some good news,” she supplied.

“Your grant get funded?” Nick asked.

“If only.”

Greg feigned a hurt expression. “You tired of us already?”

She didn’t deign to answer this. Instead, she moved over to where her laptop sat in the middle of the long worktop next to the wall of bookshelves, booted up the machine and after scrolling through the files until she located the one she was looking for, clicked open a picture file.

“It’s a bug,” Greg announced as if it were obvious.

“Some kind of dung beetle,” Nick said.

“More precisely Canthidum grissomi,” Sara beamed. “Although I thought Canthidium gilberti sounded better, but I was overruled.”

“They really named a dung beetle after Grissom?” Nick asked, and both he and Greg shared a grin as if that was somehow beyond apropos.

Greg said, “Cool.”

Nick gushed, “You must be so proud.”

And Sara was, really.

“You know,” Greg was saying, taking a closer look at the picture. “I’m starting to see the resemblance. It does have Grissom’s legs.”

“Just more of them,” Nick readily agreed.

********

Having been well fed and feeling pleasantly sated, Nick and Greg were in the process of helping Sara clear up, when Nick paused by the nearby bookshelves, the better to examine the series of framed photographs that filled the mostly empty cubbyholes. After the first of the year, once it had become apparent that she was going to be staying for a while, Sara had decided to partially make good on her threat to redecorate the apartment and had put up the prints.

“Where did you get these?” Nick asked, both curious and impressed. “They’re amazing.”

“I took them,” came Sara’s nonchalant reply. At his and then Greg’s disbelieving stare, she said, “Don’t look so surprised. I do know how to use a camera for something other than documenting crime scenes.”

“You got any more vacation pics?” Greg asked. “That first set you sent were fairly…. revealing.”

As she carried the last serving bowl back into the kitchen, Sara replied with an almost coy, “Not that you are ever going to see.”

Gesturing to the where the refrigerator doors had been plastered with snapshots, Nick said, “How come we didn’t make the fridge?”

For there were plenty of other photographs, including a rather battered and faded one of her and Grissom that appeared to have been taken in San Francisco quite some time back, which Nick suspected had been the one that had set Catherine off nearly two years before.

“Because,” Sara said taking from him the glasses Nick had brought into the kitchen, “I have to look at your ugly mugs practically every day as it is.”

Greg, with an elbow, his hands full of plates, indicated a photo. “I’m not sure I want to know what you said to Grissom to make him smile like that,” he teased.

Sara stood there perplexed for a moment unsure of what the big deal was.  But upon closer inspection of the picture in question, now that she thought about it, it was rather intimate. She and Grissom had just spent so much time together earlier that year that she’d forgotten just how private that look really was.

As to the source of her husband’s unusual expression, Sara tried to recall the day she’d taken it. They’d been out in the mostly empty Jardin du Luxemburg late that August (both tourists and Parisians having abandoned the city for cooler haunts). But as to what had caused him to smile in that way, she couldn’t remember it being anything in particular.

Perhaps, she mused, it was a good thing neither of the guys had seen the picture she kept by the bed, the one of Grissom and Hank curled up asleep on the sofa together that was perhaps her favorite.

Ultimately realizing that Sara wasn’t going to rise to the bait, Greg turned to Nick and said, “Well, I suppose they are married.”

“Don’t go there, man,” Nick warned with an insistent shake of the head. “It’s way too much like thinking about your parents.”

“And I’m standing right here,” Sara reminded them as she began running the water to start on the dishes.

“Hey, at least we don’t go through your closets,” Nick said, thinking back to Catherine and her failed investigation.

“You know what,” Sara laughed, adding dish soap to the water, “be my guest.”

“Got nothing to hide?”

“Nope.”

“So you aren’t going to give us any details?” Greg asked.

“About?”

“Anything,” he replied. “I mean you even smell different.”

“Excuse me?”

“Like flowers,” Greg hurriedly supplied.

“Better than death I suppose,” Sara rejoined, shutting the tap off and starting her attack on the pile of plates in the sink.

“I mean weren’t you the one decrying marriage as a property exchange?”

Nick nodded. “Yeah. Strange how you seemed to be singing a different tune when Grissom was around.”

“I never,” she protested, emphasizing her point with the shaking of a soapy finger, “said I was anti-marriage. Just anti-stupid and doing things simply for the sake of tradition.”

“No chance of that,” said Nick, taking the scrubbed plate from her in order to rinse off the suds.

“What? Stupid or tradition?”

“Either.”

“Thanks,” Sara replied slightly nettled.

“Me, I just want to know one thing,” Greg said, reaching for a towel to help dry. “Well, two,” he amended.

He took Sara’s silence as permission to continue. “Was I right about it being a hot date?” he asked.

“Sara Sidle,” Nick grinned broadly when no reply from her end seemed imminent. “I didn’t even know you could blush.”

Greg said, “I’ll take that as a yes then.”

“And the other thing?” Sara asked, not quite sure she wanted to know.

“I never really had a chance, did I?”

At this, Sara chortled, “The phrase a snowball’s chance in hell ring a bell?”

“Wasn’t entirely a lost cause then.”

“You know,” Nick said. “You might want to tone that down there, Cowboy. I don’t think Grissom would appreciate you flirting with his wife.”

“He’s in Paris. And I’m not flirting.”

“Yeah right.”

“Besides,” Greg persisted. “He’s not my boss anymore.”

While this was indeed true, Nick said, “I’m not sure even that would save you from more dumpster duty.”

They all laughed at this.

After a while, Nick turned to Sara. “You do realize that we’re happy for you,” he said.

She nodded.

Greg added, “Of course that doesn’t mean we’re above teasing you about it.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

*******

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