09 – Scents and Sensibilities

Continued from A Case of the Road Trip Blues

“God gave us memories that we might have roses in December,”
“Courage,” J.M. Barrie

********

There were always perils in sleeping with one’s spouse.

Snoring. Stolen covers. Bed hogging. Morning breath. Freezing feet. Being woken up in the middle of the night (or day).

But there were benefits too.

The reassuring presence in the bed beside you. Gentle hands. Warm embraces. The close comfort of it all. The peace. And being woken up in the middle of the night (or day).

Dawn was just beginning to inch its way between the curtains when Grissom started to stir. Gingerly, he rolled over; moved to migrate towards the side where Sara lay sleeping, sound, still and nearly snoring. Then there was the barely brush of breath; the brief caress of a kiss pressed into that small, soft expanse of skin between her shoulder blades; the drift of his fingers along the hem of her camisole that had ridden up during the night to reveal the slight bow of her belly. He eased himself closer, the better to snuggle with his wife, molded his body along hers, and was genuinely surprised to be rewarded not with drowsy murmuring or an appreciative sigh, but with a very loud and suddenly very alert shriek.

“Gil Grissom get your cold feet back on your side of the bed. NOW!”

It didn’t take long for his shock to give way to amusement however. Especially when his opting to draw nearer rather than retreat led a shivering Sara to maintain, “I mean it. Your feet are freezing.”

Naturally, this only encouraged him to edge his toes further up the cuffs of her loose fitting pajama bottoms. Something that both chilled and tickled all at once.

She squirmed, gave him one last cautionary, “Gil,” then an indignant, “I warned you.”

And before Grissom knew it, he found himself flat on his back, with Sara perched over and pinning him to the mattress for the second time in less than thirty-six hours. Although the circumstances were slightly different, he wasn’t about to complain about it this time either.

Certainly not about the view in any case. From his particular vantage point, he could see right down her thin cotton tank top.

For her part, Sara was having a hard time trying to keep a straight — let alone a stern — face, particularly at the way her husband’s eyes quickly flicked back up to hers when she sighed more out of amusement than irritation, “Gil.”

A really hard time.

“Socks,” she insisted. Her subsequent “I’m serious” suffered from the fact that the corners of her mouth threatened the mutinous curves of a smile.

The truth was at the moment Grissom was thinking more about taking off clothes than putting more on. It was difficult not to, with those bright eyes and flushed cheeks of hers, the way her loose curls fell over both of their faces. She was close, close enough that he could count all the freckles splashed across the bridge of her nose, but not quite close enough to kiss.

He arched his neck to narrow what remained of the distance between them before punctuating the pause between the words of his acquiescent, “Yes, dear,” with a kiss.

“You can’t sweet talk your way out of having to put socks on.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he replied in all sincérité.

Sweet talk or talk of any kind wasn’t what he had in mind.

As articulate as Gil Grissom was and could be, and now in more than a few languages, presently he was all for favoring less verbal forms of communication.

He just needed to check one thing first.

“Your plans for today,” he began, but Sara cut him off with a vigorous shake of the head and a moan of “Oh no, I quit. No more plans.”

“Didn’t turn out the way you expected?” Grissom asked unable to keep the mirth from his voice.

Sara thought back to the events of the last few days. Best laid plans, indeed.

Nothing has turned out the way I expected.”

“Learned your lesson then?”

It was her turn to chuckle. “What lesson is that?”

To which Grissom sagely intoned, “‘When man plans, God laughs.’”

“That’s one hell of a sense of humor, Gil.”

“So we have a whole unplanned day?”

“Check out’s at noon. We have to be in Nice to catch the train a little before six, but other than that –”

“Good.”

“Why?” she grinned. “Do you have plans, Gilbert?”

Grissom only kissed her into comprehension.

*******

In the choice between a morning spent sightseeing or one spent in bed with his wife, there was, even for as inquisitive and erudite a man as Gil Grissom, no contest.

Despite the prospect of untold wonders waiting just outside their door, he possessed absolutely no desire whatsoever to vacate the warmth of the bed, or more precisely the warmth of Sara in the bed beside him. It was just far too rare and precious a pleasure to readily squander.

For these were the sorts of hours by which not dreams, but life was made of.

Although it wasn’t quite l’indulgence clandestine of l’amour dans l’après-midi, love in the afternoon, neither of them could think of a better or more blissful means to while away a Monday morning.

For while the lightheartedness of their earlier tease and tussle had lingered in Grissom’s first expository kiss, the second had been far more imploring. By the third, Sara had relaxed against him, having completely surrendered and succumbed to the promise of what was to come.

If sex without love was pointless, sex with love was anything but. And there was only sweetness, no sadness that morning.

Sometime later, still tangled up and slightly breathless beneath the blankets, they lay there for a long while, touching and talking in the way that only lovers do.

Sara momentarily giggled as Grissom nuzzled her neck, the scraggly stubble resultant from three days sans razor tickling her, before the sweep of his lips against her skin turned it into a sigh.

Noting that he left a bit of redness behind, he murmured his apologies and reassured his wife that he would make sure to shave that morning.

Her “No, don’t” came out a bit more forceful than Sara intended. She made sure to soften her tone although not her insistence. “Not just yet. I like you scruffy.”

Privately pleased by her protests, and even more so by the way she rested her palm along his chin and in how her thumb caressed that bare spot just above his fledgling beard, he willingly yielded and signaled his consent by covering her hand with his own and pressing a kiss into her palm.

Sara smiled, leaned in to kiss him in return before settling back beside him again. She’d taken his hand with her and was tracing his fingers with her own, absorbed it appeared in examining them more by touch than sight. For her eyes had acquired that far off distant look she sometimes got when lost in thought or memory. It must have been a happy one in either case, as he could see her lips begin to twitch into a grin.

“What are you thinking?” asked Grissom gently.

“Your hands,” she replied almost absently. “I was thinking about how I used to fantasize about your hands.”

Grissom started slightly. Seeming to have sensed his surprise, Sara peered up at him, an amused purse of the lips barely containing her smirk. “And I thought you didn’t have a dirty mind.”

“That wasn’t what I was thinking.”

Her “Really?” was as incredulous as it sounded.

“Yeah, really,” he nodded, then with a smile of his own said, “I think that makes you the one with the dirty mind, dear.”

“Uh huh.”

There was a long beat.

“Well?” Grissom prodded.

“Well what?” she asked in return, unable to contain her grin as her husband was giving her that trademark quizzical expression of his, the one where one eyebrow rose higher than the other.

“I ask you what you’re thinking and you tell me that you used to fantasize about my hands. Then you wrongfully accuse me of having inappropriate thoughts.”

Sara was about to protest his wrongfully, but Grissom was still speaking, “And that’s it?”

“It’s not what you think.”

“You take up mind reading lately, Sara? You’re stalling.”

True.

Fantasize isn’t the right word exactly,” she said. “Not really. I was curious I guess.”

“Nothing wrong with curiosity.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I know. Just in how you exercise it.”

“Curious about?” he asked, sounding it himself.

“What they would feel like.”

His eyebrow went up again, causing Sara to remonstrate, “Not like that. Get your mind out of the gutter, Gil.”

Although she had upon occasion thought about them — and him — like that.

“Okay, sometimes like that,” she admitted. “Don’t tell me you never thought about it.”

“I never said I hadn’t.”

And he had.

He’d certainly thought about it after that night when she’d gone to brush that nonexistent bit of chalk from his face. As they’d always seemed to have had this strange sort of longstanding unspoken agreement regarding physical contact, that had been the first time she’d touched him, really touched him. That it could be so innocent and yet intimate all at once had startled him. And he’d forgotten, genuinely forgotten the power, the connection that existed in such simple human contact.

So yeah, he’d thought about it. Thought about it more than was likely appropriate for a man in his position or prudent for a man of his reserve.

“But,” Grissom maintained, his thoughts returning to the present, “you’re still stalling, dear.”

As she couldn’t exactly dispute that, Sara took another moment and a deep breath before continuing.

“You’re always so… deliberate with your hands,” she began, the unease in her voice soon giving way to unvarnished honesty. “There’s always a focus, a purpose to them and what they do. And yet this gentleness all at the same time. Like you, I guess,” she said with a slight smile.

“But you lose so much of the… nuances of touch with latex. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time that’s a very good thing,” she amended, mentally shuddering at some of the things she’d encountered and been grateful there had been even that thin layer of gloves between her and it. “But you can’t tell much from the occasional brush. So I wondered what it would feel like –”

“When the gloves were off?”

Though the gloves had been the least of things separating them, they’d been enough. Grissom had spent decades working — living practically — in those gloves. Pair after pair after innumerable pair of them to the point where it really had become true what he’d said to Lurie all those years ago, “The only time we ever touch other people is when we’re wearing our latex gloves.”

Grissom gave her hand a gentle squeeze before saying, “You do know what Oscar Wilde had to say about a woman’s curiosity.”

Sara couldn’t help but chuckle at the seemingly abrupt nature of her husband’s segue. “I have no idea.”

“It’s ‘almost as great as a man’s.’”

Wilde’s periodic descents into misogyny aside, Sara knew what Grissom was trying to tell her: she hadn’t been alone in being curious.

“So what did you discover?” he continued as verbally enigmatic as ever.

Sara stopped to consider her answer.

“Let’s just say there are some times when fantasy doesn’t even come close to reality.”

Momentarily arrested by that simple surety, all Grissom could do was lean in to kiss her in reply.

They’d both been barely breathing by the time they ultimately broke away.

Then Grissom ran his hand along her bare skin with all that same sort of intent and intensity Sara had spoken of, but for far different purposes. He’d begun by gently easing a stray strand back behind her ear. But the caress really started at the nape of her neck and her eyes closed at the contact. Careful to avoid the still healing tenderness in her shoulder, it slid down the slope of her spine, teased just along the swell of her chest where the catch of her breath came out as a sigh. As his fingers followed the concave of her waist, the convex of her hip, Sara shifted further into his touch and relished in the prospect of its return trip. But it loitered about her ankle instead. Opening her eyes, she found her husband examining with keen interest the tattoo there.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked, borrowing his earlier query.

“If you were ever going to tell me the story.”

“Of how I got it? What is this, give Sara the third degree day?”

“No, dear.”

“Like I told you the last time, you can keep asking –”

Grissom nodded. “But you’re still not telling. What, are you worried I’d tell?”

She laughed. “No.”

Grissom wasn’t one for loose lips, particularly about the sorts of things best kept private.

“It wasn’t one of my finer moments,” she eventually confessed.

Needless to say, that only served to pique his interest even more, something which must have been plainly evident in his face as Sara soon added, “It’s not nearly as interesting as you’re imagining, Gil.”

He said nothing to this, knowing as he did that Sara would probably fill the silence herself and did.

She let out a resigned “Fine,” before saying, “Remember the Candlewell case?”

“Dead guy on a plane not too long after you came to Vegas? Yeah,” he replied, but this initial nonchalance quickly gave way to a grin more mischievous than anything. “If I recall, it turned out that you had… uh rather particular first-hand experience when it came to airplane lavatories.”

“It was the same trip.”

“Ah,” he nodded knowingly. “And?”

“And?” she echoed.

“And that’s all you’re going…”

“To tell you? That’s all I’ve got to say on the subject, yeah.”

As she finished, she felt his fingers start to edge their way under her arch and towards the sole of her left foot, a spot they both knew Sara was ticklish.

“And no, you aren’t going to be able to tickle the story out of me.”

Maybe not, but Grissom didn’t see any harm in trying and while Sara jerked her foot away, she wasn’t quite quick enough.

Besides, he thought it worth anything she might attempt in return just to hear her laugh like that, laugh until she could barely gasp out “Gil!” in between paroxysms of shrieks.

And attempt retaliation Sara did. Grissom wasn’t immune from being ticklish, but as bent on self-preservation as he was, and not nearly out of breath, he managed to thwart said attempt. So Sara opted for beating a safe retreat once she’d squirmed out of his grasp.

Still half-doubled over and breathless she hurriedly scurried off the bed.

“Oh no,” she panted as Grissom moved to follow her. “You stay right there.”

And she absconded into the bathroom, leaving him still tangled up in the sheets and gaping perplexedly after her.

Gil Grissom wasn’t dumbstruck very often. In fact, Sara was one of the few people who ever had that effect on him and while he’d long ago stopped counting how many times she had vanished out of doorways and left him more than a little flummoxed behind, he hadn’t expected such a precipitous exit, not then and there.

Unfortunately, the gush of running water drowned out any and all hopes of further communication. He certainly wasn’t about to shout after her. Their playful rough-and-tumble had probably lasted all of about ninety-seconds but they’d definitely been making way too much noise for that hour of the morning as it was.

He was halfway out of bed and on his way to go join her, when Sara reemerged and with a firmness he knew better than to argue with insisted that he not get up.

“What about you?” he asked.

“I think I’m a lot safer over here,” she rejoined still laughing.

Which did a lot to help ameliorate some of the sudden sick sort of uncomfortable feeling he’d been starting to get in the pit of his stomach in fearing that he may have unintentionally gone a bit too far that morning.

Sara didn’t sound upset; seem upset. Still…

Nonplussed, all Grissom could do was watch his wife thieve the shirt he’d worn the night before and despite it being several sizes way too large for her, slip it over her head. She hastily donned a pair of jeans and was swiftly yanking her hair into a hurried ponytail by the time he finally found the gumption to inquire after where she was going.

“Breakfast,” came her unconcerned reply as she swung her tote over her shoulder. “Might as well. While I’m up.”

When all he could do was continue to gape at her, his bewilderment openly obvious now, Sara smiled. “You have to be hungry. You hardly ate anything last night.”

Neither of them had. By the time they’d arrived in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, all either of them had wanted to do was put the day and themselves to bed.

“And,” she added her grin growing, “your stomach was certainly rumbling loud enough earlier.”

“Sara?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be right back,” she reassured him.

But he didn’t look the least bit soothed.

“What?” she asked now confused herself.

“You aren’t mad, are you, about…” his voice trailed off uneasily.

“Should I be?”

“It’s just you…” and he motioned to the bathroom door.

Sara laughed, “You’ve obviously not been tickled enough, Gil,” and was happy to see comprehension finally begin to dawn on him.

“I’ll be right back,” she said again and coming up to where he sat perched on the edge of the bed, bent. He felt something fall into his lap, but before he could discern what it was, found himself distracted by the long, lingering kiss she pressed into his cheek and the “Otherwise, don’t bother to get dressed,” she whispered into his ear.

He was amused although unsurprised to find she’d dropped a pair of socks into his lap.

*******

Wherever Sara had set off to in search of breakfast, it couldn’t have been far. For Grissom had barely had the chance to get cleaned up and slip on a pair of boxers in addition to the socks when she returned, bringing with her the almost overpoweringly mouthwatering scent of just baked bread and the equally intoxicating aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

Brandishing her spoils, she greeted him with an enthusiastic, “Voilà. Ma spécialité. Take-out.”

She set down a pair of coffee cups alongside a small French-press cafetière on the small bedside table before unearthing a paper wrapped parcel from her bag. Thankfully, while many businesses in France were closed on Mondays, les boulangeries were not, their bakers up and already at work by four a.m. and well before the crack of dawn, so that no one would be without their morning pain.

The coffee had been a bit harder to come by as (thankfully) Starbucks hadn’t quite made it to that part of France and although unfortunately in this instance, neither had take-away coffee. But the owner of the small guest house (as the place they were staying in only had four rooms to let, one certainly couldn’t consider it un hôtel) had been understanding, perhaps a little too understanding if the smile she’d given Sara after a rather lengthy once-over had been any indication.

Sara set about pouring as she continued, “Un petit déjeuner français traditionnel. Café et croissants.”

She was halfway to handing him a steaming cup with a cheery, “Bon appétit,” when she was caught up short by her husband’s, “Actually not that traditional. Or French. Not the croissants at least.”

“Oh?” Sara asked. Amused and intrigued at the same time, she simply stood there Grissom’s tasse à café still in hand, ready to patiently take in another of her husband’s impromptu lectures.

“Austrian,” he supplied. “And the buttery rich croissants we think of today didn’t appear in France until the early 20th Century.

“Did you know that they used to publicly string up boulangers who produced bread of qualité inférieure?”

This didn’t surprise Sara in the slightest. The French were très sérieux – very serious in deed – about their bread.

Not utterly oblivious to the fact that his wife was humoring him however, Grissom chose to lean in and murmur, this very much to her surprise, “You are way over-dressed for the occasion, my dear.”

“For which occasion is that?”

“For le petit déjeuner au lit.” Breakfast in bed.

She recovered enough to ask, “What about you?”

“I can follow directions.” He followed her gaze to his boxers. “For the most part,” he amended.

“Some help then,” she said motioning for him to take the mug. Instead, Grissom reached out to pop the snap on her jeans. He eased the stiff fabric over her hips until it pooled onto the floor. Sara, café still in hand, deftly stepped out of them.

“Better?” she asked.

Not quite it seemed. Apparently, her husband was set more on having breakfast en déshabillé. For he set about undoing several of the bottom buttons of her — well his — shirt before pressing a kiss into her exposed belly. Sara was enjoying the twin sensations of the heat of his breath and mouth and the roughness of his stubble. Perhaps enjoying it too much, as she was starting to go a little weak at the knees at the contact.

“You might want to stop,” she warned. “Unless you want to wear breakfast.”

*******

Grissom had been in France for nearly the better part of a year and so far hadn’t gotten over the simple, yet profound pleasure of how freshly made bread warmed the hands as well as the stomach. Today, Sara had added a jar of last year’s lavender honey to the usual cream they (in defiance of all American health advisories) slathered on their croissants.

“You might want to save some of that,” said Grissom watching her swath honey on the last half of her bread with uncharacteristic abandon.

“I didn’t think you were into kinky, Gil,” Sara laughed.

“Just in case…”

“We have any more misadventures?” she supplied.

He went to wipe an errant flake from her collar but only succeeded in knocking it into her shirt. Seemingly both of them had forgotten that one most cardinal of tenants regarding breakfast in bed in France: Attention aux miettes! – Beware of crumbs.

“Find what you’re looking for?” she asked when his hands lingered overlong beneath the fabric.

“I still don’t get it,” he replied.

“Don’t get what?”

“You have perfectly respectable things of your own to wear. Why are you so fond of commandeering –”

“Your shirts? I thought you said you didn’t mind.”

“I don’t.”

“You just want to know why.”

Grissom nodded.

“I thought the answer would have been obvious.”

Apparently not to her husband.

“Mostly, it smells like you,” Sara replied.  When he continued to look no less perplexed at this she said, “You miss that article in Psychology Today on the role of scent in sexual attraction.”

“Obviously.”

“I’ll email you the link.”

“You’re here now,” he said giving her that imploring look she never could resist.
“Why don’t you tell me about it?”

So she did. Explaining how ten years ago this biologist in Switzerland had conducted an experiment where he gave a group of men each a new t-shirt to wear for several days. After they’d done this, he had a group of women smell the shirts and select which ones they found most attractive.

“Women outperform men in smell tests,” she added, explaining why the test hadn’t been done in reverse. “Better noses.

“And they tended to be consistent about their preferences,” she continued, “linking the smells of the most attractive shirts to memories of men they’d been attracted to in the past. Of course that wasn’t what was surprising. Scent has always been tied to both primitive and primal drives.”

“Hunger, sex, emotion, memory,” said Grissom.

“Right. What was interesting was that scent seems to be linked to compatibility on a genetic level. Turns out the women tended to pick the shirts of men who were genetically dissimilar to them when it came to certain immunological markers. Meaning that they were unconsciously selecting those who could provide their offspring with the greatest amount of genetic diversity when it came to disease resistance.

“So it turns out that what we think of as sexual chemistry is likely just the unconscious perception of scent-based compatibility.”

Grissom gave her a nod of comprehension before saying, “As the human genome carries more than 1,000 olfactory genes, but only 300 for photoreceptors, I guess that means that beauty really is in the nose of the beholder then.”

“Attraction is at least, yes,” she replied with a smirk. “But bathing habits, perfumes, deodorants, even certain kinds of contraception seem to affect the perception of attraction. So that…”

But at the strange way her husband was staring at her, Sara stopped mid-recitation. She couldn’t name the look herself, but for Grissom it was a mixture of wonder, awe and appreciation.

“Don’t stop,” he said. “I love it when you talk science.”

Sara let out another laugh and when she kissed him, her mouth tasted sweet like the honey they’d just eaten and soon neither of them were much interested in anything to do with Psychology Today.

“You smell like summer,” he murmured once they’d broken apart. “You always have.”

Sure there were times when she’d been fresh, really fresh after dumpster duty or dealing with a de-comp. But mostly Sara smelled of summer. Lemons after a particularly gruesome day at the office. On the afternoons when she didn’t have to work, of lavender. And every once in a while ever since their honeymoon, of oranges. But always of warmth and light and life.

Sara gawked at him for a moment before regaining enough composure to say, with the lilt of a tease in her voice, “It has other advantages, me wearing your shirt. You can’t.”

“I’m not seeing the advantage.”

“I am.”

“Still leaves me one shirt short,” he protested.

Giving him a thorough once over she replied, “And I’m not seeing how that’s a problem. Except you’re still wearing way too many clothes.”

“You asked for the socks,” he countered.

“The socks can stay. But –”

There was just something about lovemaking. Something in how the having and doing of it frequently only led to the desire for more.

And that morning they’d both ended up wanting seconds of something other than breakfast.

*******

Continued in All Roads…

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. vsky57
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 05:47:46

    Loved this. It is a joy to have a glimpse of Gil and Sara’s life with your wonderful talent for storytelling. I so look forward to reading this series when I see the notice in my inbox!

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