18 – Pax Romana

Continued from Bella Notte

“…the bright day is done,

And we are for the dark,”

Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare

*******

Soon — all too soon — they were utterly lost.

And absolutely unconcerned about the prospect.

With all the ease of those well acquainted with the night, they were more than happy to haunt the mostly empty streets, holding hands and walking close along the cobblestones, conversing in quiet whispers and so content in the company that they wandered without realizing it for hours amongst the city’s many fountains and grandly gilt lit monuments.

And that didn’t include the quarter hour they’d been sidetracked by the flashes of fuchsia from the fast beating wings of a pair of Deilephila elpenor, elephant hawk-moths, hovering hungrily about the jasmine gardens of the Gianicolo.

So it was genuinely late when Grissom suggested they finally surrender to the time.

“Tired?” asked Sara in reply.

“No,” he grinned.

Then as if there was any doubt as to what he did have in mind (not like there was) he leaned in, his bright eyes darkening and his smile turning into an expression Sara never saw him wear with anyone else but her.

“‘Come,’” he softly intoned, “‘let us take our fill until the morning; let us solace ourselves with love,’” causing Sara to say with a smirk, “I don’t think I recognize that one.”

Upon his enlightening her, her echoing “The Bible?” sounded as equally incredulous as she looked.

“There are quite a few racy parts,” Grissom noted, ever nonchalant. “The Song of Solomon in particular.”

At this Sara simply took his hand and tugged him off in the general direction of their hotel, no longer interested in loitering in the least.

*******

Nor wishing to disturb the other guests, it being long, long past midnight by the time they stole into the silent courtyard, Sara slid off her sandals so as to pad quietly, yet quickly along the walkway. The coldness of the stone beneath her bare feet serving to spur her on as much as the warmth of her desire.

Once inside, she had to laugh at the absurdity of it, the two of them creeping like a couple of teenagers concerned about being caught passed curfew.

But her laughter soon gave way to a delight of another sort as her husband took up the edges of her shawl and tugged her to him. For one breathless moment Sara thought he might kiss her, but he didn’t. Rather he ran his palms along her bare arms, both to warm them and to relish in the feel of her.

The caress as it so often was, was both soothing and tender and electric all at once, jolting their earlier easy flirtation into sweet, slow seduction.

Having already removed his jacket, Grissom wordlessly moved to relieve her of her wrap. Sara gladly turned to oblige but was kept from returning to face him again by the brush of his breath along her shoulder as he drew up close to her, close, tantalizingly close but not quite close enough to touch.

Having caught the trace, that hint of the heady sweetness of orange blossoms lingering about her skin, he’d bent, the better to breathe it and her in. She’d missed that momentary catch in his throat, but not the heat of his exhale. Her eyes closed at it.

Danainae,” he murmured after a while.

“Hmm?” she said, unsure if she heard him correctly.

Danaus plexippus.”

Both curious and yet perplexed as to how that was what her husband was thinking about at this particular moment, with a half laugh Sara asked, “Monarch butterflies?”

“The world’s first perfume blenders,” Grissom supplied, replacing the graze of breath with first that of his fingers, then his lips, pressing a lingering kiss into the space just behind her right ear.

His next words buzzed along the hollows of her neck, “The males flit from flower to flower to collect the perfect blend of scents –”

“To drive the ladies crazy?” she finished with a sigh.

Which was apropos really, as this protracted nuzzling of his, the sort that invariably worked to dismantle the very last vestiges or even pretense of resistance, always left her practically purring with the pleasure of it. Not that Sara had any cause, need or wont for resistance that night. She was more than pleased to relish in the attention and what she knew it portended.

Nor was his voice entirely steady either, when he whispered, “And therefore predated the human practice by nearly 150 million years.”

At this Sara couldn’t help but smile, supposing as she did that entomology wasn’t exactly customary pillow talk, nor conventionally romantic, sexy or seductive. With any one else, she would have been tempted to agree that it was strange; with Grissom no. For Gil Grissom, bugs were romantic and sexy and seductive. Or at least somehow managed to become that way. How precisely she was never sure. They just were. Just as his comments were so quintessentially — and endearingly — her husband.

Bugs know best,” Sara recited the oft-used adage, both sagely and vaguely all at once and he chuckled against her shoulder in response.

His hand hovered over the zip. For the first time, Sara consciously noted the absence of buttons to the dress he had bought her and wasn’t entirely sure it was coincidence.

“No buttons this time,” she observed.

“Not this time,” he agreed and took her words as permission.

There was the long, drawn-out rasp of the zipper; the slow reveal of more of her freckled skin.

Sara never understood her husband’s fascination, probably never would. In her experience, freckles were, like the gaps in one’s teeth, things people and particularly boys made fun of, not something to be admired. Grissom on the other hand, enjoyed being on intimate terms with each and every one of those freckles, liked to construct constellations, make mazes his fingers and lips could follow, especially over those particularly sensitive places it hadn’t taken him long to discover. Turned out he wasn’t entirely averse to tickling when he was the one doing it.

Although there wasn’t the least hint of mischief that night. Instead, his touch was promising and unhurried.

That was the one thing about being apart so much, the languid lovemaking before leaving.

Perhaps it wasn’t wild, unbridled passion. It was better. And passion all the same.

Sara wasn’t about to complain. She liked it. Liked it in him. Certainly liked his touch on her skin, his lips, his breath. The way his thumb slowly traced the curve of her spine. That he’d finally become rather deft with the unfastening of certain undergarments. How his hand slid beneath the fabric of her dress and around her waist before coming to rest on her stomach, holding her to him.  She was glad of it, its steadying influence. Something she much needed once he resumed his ministrations to the back of her neck, intent as he was on lavishing attention to each vertebrae her upswept hair left bare.

Wanting the feel of his mouth on hers, she turned, reached up to wrap her arms about his neck and kissed him, stretching up upon her tiptoes to further deepen and lengthen the kiss into adamant openmouthed breathlessness.

Which he eagerly returned with equal enthusiasm. For even after all this time, she tasted as she had the first time: of possibilities, of life and love and longing.

And before long, Sara wasn’t the only one feeling a little weak in the knees; she could feel his grasp tighten at her hips before they finally broke apart.

“Too many clothes,” she murmured, fingering the buttons of his shirt, working them free between kisses, first absently, soon intently, though not intently enough to get in the way of said kissing.

Still she undressed him with the same earnest care he’d done her.

That once she’d peeled off his undershirt her hands were cold on his chest didn’t matter. Her touch was too intoxicating.

“Sara,” he began, but got no further.

She recognized the pause, the struggle and understood he was having a hard time putting his feelings into words and knew, too, how hard that was for him. Her eyes softened. She took his face into her hands, smiled and nodded.

“It’s okay,” she said and it was. He didn’t need to say it. She didn’t need to hear the words. She knew. She knew.

Grissom might not always have the words he wanted to express himself, but his touch left no room for ambiguity.

So she drew him close to whisper, “Show me,” into his ear.

He did.

*******

Their unhurried tenderness lasted long into the early hours of the morning, when they lay there close, still intertwined, content in the comfortable intimacy of longtime lovers, whispering and kissing and laughing and caressing.

But no matter how much they didn’t want the night to end or how hard they tried to stay awake, they slipped off to sleep sometime after three.

Neither was to know it would be the last deep, satisfied sleep either would know for quite some time.

*******

Light beneath the curtain had begun to creep; morning come again.

Curled up content with his still slumbering and very naked wife beside him, the very last thing Gil Grissom wanted to do was get out of bed.

But there were just some calls one couldn’t ignore for long.

And as they’d fallen asleep only a few hours before all tangled up in each other, and him very much not wishing to wake Sara, he had to work to carefully extricate himself before padding off to the bathroom.

Of course with her laying there barebacked and beautiful, it wasn’t just the morning chill that made him hurry back to bed.

He was barely beneath the sheets again when as if instinctively seeking out his warmth, Sara rolled over in her sleep, her hand slipping naturally across his middle as she snuggled closer. Grissom’s lips twitched into a smile at the possessiveness inherent in that grasp.

That grin only grew at the way her soft sigh soon shifted into the first rumbles of a snore. Recalling how regularly and steadfastly his wife decried his snoring, he had to catch himself before a chuckle escaped.

For he didn’t dare wake her. Her tendency towards crankiness notwithstanding, and her nightmares might be better these days, but her work hours back in Vegas were not. And then there was the far less selfless and more honest reason of wanting to keep her near him as long as possible.

Not that there was a chance in hell of him falling back asleep. But he didn’t regret that in the least, quite comfortable as he was lying here with her. After all, it was one of his favorite places in all the world: Sara beside him like this, her head resting just above his heart.

Grissom fingered a curl that had come free during their earlier lovemaking for a moment before easing it back behind her ear, placed a kiss into her hair, then rested his head on hers, inhaling once more that rich redolence of orange blossoms yet remaining about her. Roses may be for Rome, but it was the scent of those blossoms he would ever after associate with the place.

Instinctively his breathing slowed to synch with hers, unable as he was to resist the reassurance in its deep, regular rise and fall that was so soothing, nearly as primally so as was that warmth of bodies molded close in that gentle press, almost caress, of skin on skin.

His hand slid from her now fully healed shoulder down her back, where savoring the feel of her beneath his fingertips, he began to trace abstract shapes. While her snore slipped into the murmur of a sigh in reply to the caress, she only stirred long enough to nestle a little nearer.

Grissom closed his eyes at this, vaguely wondering if it were possible to have too much happiness.

It was that same sense he’d woken to that first morning in Costa Rica nearly a year and a half before. That if one was very fortunate, they would one day wake to an explicable sense of joy.

That unlooked for joy, the quiet peace, that unexpected comfort, the sheer pleasure of her with him again, it all certainly passed his understanding. It was still strange to love and be loved like this, still surprised him. Part of him hoped it always would.

For he relished being here like this with her. And not just because all too soon it would be just a memory. There was nothing like having his wife back with him.

Still he collected moments like this one, like he had so much of this last nearly week they’d had together. He gathered them up — the memory of her smile, her laugh, the feel and touch of her, the scent and taste — and hoarded them to save and later savor in her absence.

He may not have gotten it right the first time, or sadly even the second, but he knew better now and truly grasped the priceless value of what he possessed.

If there was anything all their time apart had taught him, it was not to take it or Sara for granted.

Yet he wondered too why the most perfect moments in life were all too short for all their meaning.

All he knew was he didn’t have the words to describe it that morning either.

Somehow four years and marriage had done little to change the fact that even now Grissom found it so difficult to express his feelings when it came to Sara.

Sure there were borrowed words and in abundance. But he wanted his own and not to be rendered dumb and tongue-tied when there was so much left unsaid.

In the beginning perhaps it was understandable not to have the words for his hopes and fears, for the wants and desires he hadn’t really had before, or perhaps not allowed himself to have.

But he hadn’t liked it, not knowing then what to say or do. True, he knew he didn’t know everything, but at least he could frequently find out. Except it seemed not in this, in what all the strange sensations meant.

For love wasn’t something you could learn out of a book, no matter how many volumes existed on the topic. Science didn’t help. What good were studies on the chemistry of attraction? They might attempt to explain the how about it all, but didn’t provide one damn clue as to what to do about it. Even empirical observation failed him and understandably, love and loving tending to be rather private things.

And it wasn’t as if he could just ask.

Besides, most of the people he knew seemed more jaded than not about the whole thing. Apparently divorce did that to people.

So words, which had always seemed his best ally, all equally seemed to vanish when it came to Sara, she who so often left him speechless, not because there were no words, but because there were so many. And yet all inadequate.

If only words were as overrated as he’d rather flippantly told his wife at dinner the night before. And maybe they were, if Sara’s gentle admonitions for him to show her were any indication.

Sara —

Sara understood, sometimes understood him better than he did himself.

It was strange to be known like that: intimately, heart and mind and body and soul, breathing and being, and yet be loved all the same.

He’d long thought it would be scary, being known that way. And it had been. Or maybe he’d been more scared of what that knowing meant.

But when it came to Sara, he was in the middle before he knew he had begun.

It had been much like Carl Jung had once described: The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances, if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

At first, there were small, nearly imperceptible changes, most of the sort that were easy to dismiss while Sara was five hundred miles away in San Francisco, but far harder when she came to Vegas to stay.

He couldn’t deny that he’d certainly been attracted — and something more.

It hadn’t been love when they’d first met. He hadn’t had a word for it then; he didn’t possess the word for it now. Love with its single syllable barely longer than a breath, how could a word so small truly convey so much?

He’d probably never understand it — love, Sara, any of it — let alone be able to speak about it. But perhaps he figured, Sara and Pierre Reverdy had it right:

Il n’y a pas d’amour, il n’y a que des preuves d’amour.

There is no love. There are only proofs of love.

It might be woefully inadequate by his own estimations, but Grissom loved Sara the best and only way he knew how; tried to as hard as it was to do so from too frequently over 6000 miles away.

He might be okay, and even that wasn’t the right word, with the whole long distance marriage thing. It was more that he accepted it; they both did. Somehow a few weeks turned into a few months and then half a year and now it had been nearly half that again. Accepting that reality didn’t mean he had to like it. Or prefer it that way. Or miss her any less while she was gone.

It sucked.

There was no elegant, erudite or less crude way to put it. It sucked being apart all the time.

And it wasn’t getting any easier, only worse.

If anything, nearly a whole week of not living todays in yesterdays and tomorrows made it harder to be apart.

It was always too short a time and no matter how hard he tried not to, he still found himself getting used to having Sara there. That and the more he saw her, the more he wanted to see her.

True, it was far different than the months they’d been apart before, the ones after she’d left Vegas that last time. It wasn’t heartache or heartbreak. Still, he missed her all the same.

He had a good life in Paris, though it was nothing like this, nothing like the time he had with her, the days as short as butterflies’ and yet —

He wouldn’t trade this life they’d made together for anything, not even when they had to spend so much of it with an ocean and half a continent between them.

It might be an unconventional marriage, he would be the first to admit it, but it was a life together and having come close, too close to losing even the possibility of such a life, he knew just how precious that life was, however strange and different.

So he let her go without complaint. And yes, he worried. But those he kept to himself.

As the bells from la Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere began to chime the hour, part of him wondered if it would be any easier this time not to wake to the lingering scent of her in the sheets long after she was gone.

His heart grew heavier with each peal, intoning as it did in reply, Not yet. Not yet. Not yet.

Yet there was no mistaking the lateness of the morning or the nearness of Sara’s going. And as much as he wanted to keep her here, keep her close, there were trains and planes to catch. And life, real life to begin again.

Grissom breathed in one last time that reassuring scent of her before murmuring gently, “Honey–”

She only nuzzled nearer.

“Sara,” he tried again.

Then a little more insistent, but with no less regret, he whispered, “Honey, it’s time.”

Continued in Epilogue: Coda

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. grissomsgirl72
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 22:15:35

    NO

  2. grissomsgirl72
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 22:17:17

    no absolutely not, there will be no epilogue…..you must keep them alive….TPTB aren’t helping except to resurrect Mrs. Grissom whom I’m sure we all thought was dead…tell me you’ll keep writing GSR…tell me cause you do it so beautifully.

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