02 – The Switch

Continued from The Set Up

“I leave the falling asleep during lectures to you, dear,” Gil Grissom replied with a grin. “Besides, he’s harmless,” he said, extending his palm to reveal a large spider placidly sitting there. “Aphonopelma iodus. Handsome little fella, isn’t he?”

If tarantulas could be thought of as comely, he certainly was. Large and yet weightless, it inched its way into Sara’s open hand.

“Though a little confused. He’s a couple of months too early to be out looking for…”

“Trouble?” Sara supplied.

“A mate.”

Though when it came to arachnid reproduction that frequently amounted to the same thing. If the males survived the mating process, and that was often a very big if, they usually soon fell prey to other predators or the perils of nature itself.

When she teased as much in reply, Grissom chuckled, “And here I was starting to think you might not be happy to see me.”

“Whatever gave you that idea?” she asked in return, replacing the tarantula within the much safer confines of a patch of underbrush far from any blindly stepping feet.

“More like who. Nicky texted to warn me that…” His voice trailed off as if he suddenly thought better about repeating Stokes’ message.

But the damage had already been done. “Warned you that what, Gil?”

Grissom took a deep breath before admitting, “Said he didn’t envy me as you were a little… cranky tonight.”

“And he said this when?”

“Right after he got off the phone with you.”

Sara had to work to stifle the string of invectives she would have liked to hurl at her colleague and so-called friend. All much to her husband’s apparent amusement.

Tired. Not cranky,” she corrected once she’d composed herself. “There’s a difference. And you’re not exactly perky on only three hours of sleep. Nick isn’t either.”

“Well, I wasn’t expecting you to be working quite so late,” Grissom replied, though perhaps in hindsight he should have.

“Blame John Doe 1115.”

“I have the feeling he’s probably had a bad enough day as it is.”

With a very long, heavy exhale, Sara sighed, “You have no idea.”

But it wasn’t until she felt the warm press of his hand on her cheek that she realized she’d closed her eyes.

“Honey, you okay?”

“Yeah,” she nodded, reviving as she often did at his touch. “And I am glad you’re here.”

They shared a smile.

“I just wasn’t expecting you back until the weekend.”

“I caught an earlier flight.”

“Obviously,” she laughed. “But it’s not like you to leave early, particularly when bugs are involved.”

“The last day was more sightseeing than science. Perhaps some other time,” he said, the unspoken with you utterly unambiguous. “Besides, I had my reasons.”

“Oh?”

When it rather rapidly became evident that no further explication was apparently in the offing, Sara said, “And you didn’t call or text or email to let me know your change of plans because?” After all, she had just spoken to him early the day before.

“I believe there is a highly technical term for it –”

“Masculine forgetfulness?”

Surprise.”

Surprise?” she echoed.

Normally, Sara wasn’t all that keen on being on the receiving end of surprises. In her line of work, they seldom proved pleasant and on the personal side, surprises had long tended to be problematic. Like girlfriends you didn’t know about or that what you mistakenly thought was a monogamous relationship turned out to be anything but.

Thankfully, things were considerably different with Grissom. And to be fair, she’d pulled her share of surprises on him since they’d gotten together. So she really had no room to complain or even talk when he returned the favor.

“I see. And all of this?” she asked, and gesturing to his neatly pressed suit, one of those he usually reserved for teaching or court appearances, added, “You’re overdressed to be consulting on a 419.”

To which Grissom only shook his head. “Nicky has no imagination.”

“Okay. Leaving Nick out of it for a second, what are we doing here exactly?”

But instead of answering, he took her hand and tugged her further down the winding path, at the end of which, beneath an arbor decked out in pretty, twinkling fairy lights, a single table set for two sat waiting. The sight of which caught Sara up short so that she stood there for a moment stock-still and staring.

And there was no mistaking the agog amazement in her “You went through all this trouble for a date?”

But before he could even answer, she continued on with “What, were you afraid if you just asked I might stand you up? Though it would,” she said with mock severity, “serve you right.”

“How many dates have we had to cancel over the years?” was all he said in return.

“Too many,” Sara conceded.

Not all that long ago, she had been called in early because of a particularly nasty multi-vic arson incident out in Parhrump, right in between the entree and dessert courses of an afore promised dinner Grissom had arranged for the two of them to have with his mother. Which meant that neither his concern nor his planning were exactly unwarranted.

“And since you haven’t been able to get away lately, I thought you could use a break, if only for the night.”

“Except I’m due in,” Sara paused to check her watch, “in less than three hours.”

“Actually, you’re not.”

“Since when?”

“Since I spoke to Catherine and Ray agreed to switch nights off with you.”

“You called Ray?” she asked, unsure when those two had become phone call friendly.

“He was in the office when I called Catherine. Was more than happy to volunteer.”

Of course that didn’t mean anything. Her name still headed the call-in sheet and had all week, which was part of the reason she’d been working so much as of late.

As if he’d read her mind, Grissom said, “You’re name’s not even on the list tonight.”

“Like that’s ever made a difference.”

“It does tonight. So hand over your phone,” he said holding out his hand.

Which Sara did, watching him shut it down before returning it to her.

“Catherine’s still got your number on speed dial.”

He swiftly repeated the operation with his own phone.

“And if Nick knows were we are –“

Grissom promptly countered, “Temporary amnesia.”

While her look said Oh really? Sara was having a hard time concealing her grin.

“Should clear up by tomorrow night,” he replied in all seriousness, which only made her laugh all the harder.

Trust Gil Grissom to be thorough. Although that did partially explained her boss’s earlier insistence that they all call it a day.

What Grissom chose not to repeat to his wife were Catherine’s closing comments.

“Well, at least one of us will be getting laid. Even if it is you. Which, Gil, I have to admit is –”

But the rest of her words had been drowned out by a low, deep, unable to be stifled splutter from the background, which Grissom knew had to have been Ray’s.

Unsurprisingly a rather awkward silence followed.

“Grissom, you still there?”

“Yeah, I… Uh…” he’d begun.

“You gotta run,” Catherine had finished knowingly. “Of course you do.” And he could swear she was tittering as she clicked off.

Back in the present, Sara said, “You forgot Ecklie.”

Even after she’d agreed to stay on at the lab indefinitely, Conrad Ecklie still hadn’t exactly warmed to her. Not that she had to him either. Mostly they stayed out of each other’s way. Only problem was that Conrad, as they both knew all too well, tended to be a stickler for rules and procedures, particularly when it meant their enforcement thwarted Grissom in some way.

“Out of town until Tuesday.”

Neither precisely question nor statement, she said, “You didn’t engineer that –”

“Serendipity,” he smiled.

“And so you talked to Catherine and Ray and then arranged for Nick and Greg to do your dirty work?”

“If you mean I asked Nick to stop by to pick you up and drop you off, yes, I did. I have no idea why Greg tagged along.”

“Same reason as always. Curiosity.”

“He gave me the idea, actually.”

“Greg?” Sara stammered in disbelief. “Since when are you so desperate that you’re taking dating advice from Greg, Gil?”

While his expression plainly said, You’re joking, right? Grissom simply replied, “I was trying to think of somewhere new to take you –”

“You mean somewhere I haven’t been out on a call out before?”

Choosing to ignore this, he continued with, “When I remembered this breakfast we’d had, must have been three, almost four years ago when he was working on that history of Vegas book of his and he was talking about how the city has always been built on blood, going back to the murder of Archibald Stewart, Vegas’ second major landowner way back even before Vegas was a city. When it was literally still The Meadows.”

Sara cocked her head at this. “Las vegasthe meadows,” she translated. “I never made the connection before,” she admitted rather ruefully. So much for all the time they’d spent practicing Spanish in Costa Rica.

“Anyway, the original draw, what first brought settlers to the area was the natural springs here. I thought you’d appreciate the vegetation.”

She grinned at this.

“So Ray, Catherine, Nick and Greg all knew. What about Hodges?”

“Ah, Dave didn’t know it, but he had the hardest job of all,” Grissom said with a smile of his own. “Staying out of it.”

Sara laughed, “Loose lips–”

“Exactly.”

“And when,” she asked, “did you arrange all of this?”

“Four days ago.”

“From Thailand?”

“It was a couple of calls and a couple of texts. Anyway, aren’t you the one always extolling the wonders of 21st Century technology?”

“I knew that phone would be trouble,” she sighed. Why she had thought getting him an iPhone for his birthday was a good idea, she never knew.

“Are you done protesting yet?” Grissom asked, attempting to tug her into motion again.

“Not protesting. Just seems like a lot of work to score a date.”

“Wasn’t. Just called in a few favors.”

“Yeah, I’m not so sure I want to know what you had to promise in return,” she said, all too familiar with how most favors she ended up bartering for frequently required rather steep and oft peculiar returns.

“Terms weren’t too bad,” he shrugged. “One of the curators here is a friend of a colleague of mine. So I traded a couple of lectures for the preserve. Bugs are a Gardener’s Best Friend.”

“Cute. At least it wasn’t Bugs, They’re What’s for Dinner.”

“Entomophagy is the most eco-friendly solution to fighting and preventing world hunger,” Grissom maintained.

“I’m still not eating insects, Gil. And you’re digressing,” Sara reminded him.

“So there’s just the tip for Ernie.”

“Ernie?”

“Security guard up front. Ray didn’t want anything. Said he was just happy to do it. Catherine is expecting a Hermès scarf for her birthday this year. Nick wanted breakfast somewhere other than Frank’s. Greg…” his voice tailed off again.

“What?” she asked, unable to contain a curious sort of smirk.

“Greg said since he was the one who gave me the idea, he wanted breakfast in bed for a week.”

“Have fun with that,” Sara chuckled.

“From you, not me,” Grissom countered. “And I told him hell no.”

“Then I guess I will have to think of some other, more appropriate way to thank them.”

“Other than?”

“Than this,” she replied and kissed him long and lovingly on the lips.

“Definitely inappropriate,” he murmured once they broke apart.

“And Greg would probably like it too much.”

Grissom laughed as he kissed her in return. And this time when he went to nudge her down the path, Sara readily took his arm.

“So,” she began, “collusion, conspiracy, kidnapping under false pretenses –”

“I believe you went willingly, my dear.”

Lured under false pretenses then,” Sara corrected. “I’ve got the who and where and what and how, but I’m still missing the why.”

Though she was pleased by all the thought and trouble he’d obviously gone to, as she’d never really been worth all the effort before him, she still had a hard time understanding it.

“Do I need a reason?”

“No, you just usually have one.”

“I missed you,” he said simply.

The rejoining smile of hers erased all remaining vestiges of the tiredness from her features, even her eyes, which were always the last to lose its traces.

“That’ll do.”

“And I didn’t get to see all that much of you before I left.”

Being at the top of your field had some advantages, principally that you never suffered from a lack of job offers. Unfortunately though these days, Grissom’s work kept him more out than in Vegas. Plus, Sara had been busy, even busier than usual in the last month or so. Not counting all the usual petty thefts, assaults and robberies, there had been half a dozen mysterious deaths eventually linked to contaminated drugs. A trio of Kentucky truck drivers had gone missing during a NATSO Convention. Vanished into thin air. Then that gruesome dismembered body discovered in the pantry of one of the many abandoned houses perennially up for sale in the city’s severely depressed housing market. A serial rapist was on the loose, stalking underclasswomen at UNLV. And not least of all, Nate Haskell was back at large and getting into who knew what sort of mischief.

All in all, the last few weeks had been problematic to put it mildly. So much so that even when Grissom managed to make it home for any length of time, with her getting called in at all hours of the day and night, they still never saw as much of each other as they would have liked.

“I know,” Sara said softly.

“Then in the middle of the plenary lecture I realized I’d forgotten our anniversary.”

Her eyebrows crinkled at this. True, an actual night out to celebrate had been a little hard to orchestrate with the two of them several thousand miles apart, but Grissom hadn’t forgotten. Even if it had only been a Skype call, it had been nice. In any case, Sara hadn’t felt they needed to do anything special to mark the occasion; their life together was special enough.

Therefore she rather confusedly replied, “No, you didn’t.”

Nor had he, like some husbands, forgotten Valentine’s Day. Nearly a month later, the jokes were still coming.

“Not that anniversary. San Francisco,” he supplied. “Thirteen years ago. Forensic Academy Conference.”

Ah, that anniversary. She hadn’t thought of it either. That he had and with such fondness as to regret having missed it, touched her.

Consequently it was with much affection that she intoned, “Lucky thirteen.”

“Superstitious, Sara?” Grissom asked amused. “Triskaidekaphobia doesn’t sound like you. Besides, for some cultures thirteen is a lucky number.”

“Like where?”

“Italy, for one.” Came his matter of fact reply.

“And the lecture stimulated this thought how?” she asked. “I’ve never known you to be so easily distracted around bugs.”

“You’re always a distraction,” he said with easy insouciance. “And the topic was Blowflies, Bacteria and Inter-Kingdom Ecological Interactions During Decomposition.”

With anyone else, Sara wouldn’t have regarded the thought as romantic, even complimentary, but this was Gil Grissom after all. And while the experience had been revolting enough on a sensory level to convert her to full-time vegetarianism, those few, very cold December days the two of them had spent observing blowfly and other insect invaders developing on decomposing pig flesh had been pleasant on a personal one.

She smiled. But then her husband seemed to be having that effect on her a lot these days.

“So I thought it was time to do what I should have done thirteen years ago. Made sure to take you to dinner,” he finished.

Of course he hadn’t then. Hadn’t for seven years. And those seven years he’d waited had been far too long. This time, he hadn’t wanted to wait seven days.

“I still would have been called in,” she offered, a little rue in her smile, and that same tinge of regret they both seemed to feel when it came to the past. But with the past being the past, and therefore unchangeable, Sara tended to opt to focus more on the potentials of the present.

And while she did agree with Grissom’s murmur of “Turned out okay anyway,” she hadn’t been able to resist teasing, very heavy on the sarcasm, “Yeah, dead bodies are quite the aphrodisiac.” Although at the hint of a challenge in his gaze, she had to hastily add, “Insects notwithstanding.”

Then after a moment she said, “We’re here now. Even if,” she paused to give herself a self-deprecatory once-over, “I’m not exactly dressed for it.”

Her work vest, dark jeans and simple long sleeve t-shirt weren’t exactly sexy. At all. And with Grissom chic as he was decked out in a suit and tie, she was definitely feeling underdressed.

“I have a solution for that as well,” he said retrieving a garment bag from where it had been draped over a nearby bench.

Sara unzipped it to find the dress she’d bought to wear for The Gilbert Foundation party the month before.

“Right here, right now?” she asked.

“Since when are you shy?”

“Since when are you a voyeur, Gilbert?”

“There’s a restroom near the box office,” he replied. “And you did say you’d wear it if I took you out.”

Only if you took me out,” she corrected.

He chuckled, recalling precisely how adamant his wife had been on that point, when as she was puzzling over what to wear out to dinner with his mother, he’d suggested she could always wear that particular dress again.

He shrugged as if to intimate, This doesn’t qualify?

Knowing better than to protest when her husband was wearing that imploring look of his, the one they both knew she never could resist, and considering he made so few requests and had gone through all this trouble, humoring him in this was the least she could do, Sara gathered up the bag saying, “Just give me a few minutes to uh… freshen up.”

Continued in The Score

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