74 – Domestic Tranquility

For much of Vegas, the bigger, the faster, the louder, the stranger the better. But for Grissom and Sara, nothing beats quiet hours at home together.

Of course with those two, there’s really no such thing as ordinary.

Takes place Summer 2011.

*******

For Frank, who makes the ordinary extraordinary everyday and everything worth it.

*******

Sara’s phone let out a piercing, impatient peal. Then another. By the third, she was wide awake. But not really wanting to be, she groaned, rolled over and covered her head with a pillow.

Irrational and futile as she knew the hope to be, she still clung to it: that if she simply ignored the phone long enough, it would stop on its own.

Which it did. Eventually.

Only to be replaced by the sound of her husband’s all too placid, “Hey, Nicky. No, it’s fine. Yeah, she’s right here. One second.

“Sara –”

When this didn’t succeed in either rousing his wife or getting her to relinquish her death grip on the pillow, Grissom gently urged, “Honey –”

To which she muttered something wholly unintelligible.

“Sorry, didn’t catch that,” he said, sounding — at least to Sara — far too cheerful for the hour of the day or more precisely early morning.

Reluctantly popping her head out, she repeated, “You go in. You used to head the department.”

Handing her the phone, Grissom laughed, “I think they want you, dear.”

Not bothering with the usual pleasantries, Nick Stokes opted instead to snicker, “Yeah, we want you, dear.”

Unfortunately, Sara’s tart “I’d love to see you try that in person,” appeared to do little to diminish her colleague’s amusement, for with a waggish chuckle he proceeded to inquire, “Late night, Sara? I’m not interrupting anything am I?”

Sara didn’t even possess the energy to roll her eyes. “Just sleep,” she sighed.

“Slacker. Is that reluctance to being called in I’m hearing? Whatever happened to the Sara Sidle who used to beg to come in on her days off?”

She didn’t bother to dignify this with a response. In truth, her disinclination had nothing whatsoever to do with slacking and everything to do with her having grown a little older and a lot wiser in the last decade. That and with them down one CSI and it being summer in Sin City, this would make the fifth day in a row she’d been called in early after having worked late the shift before.

For with the economy what it was, there might be fewer tourists, but the ones who did come seemed intent on making as much mischief as possible and the locals lately frequently proved just as bad, if not worse.

Still, normally this wasn’t even an issue. She would simply drag herself out of bed and into work. But her husband had only just returned home after yet another several weeks’ absence — the rarity of forensic entomologists making Grissom a fairly hot commodity on the consulting market. And while Sara had no intention of or inclination to repeat the whole ships passing in the night phenomenon which had characterized much of those particularly difficult months right after Ecklie had insisted on transferring one of them from Grave to Swing, not counting the last maybe three, four hours she’d spent asleep beside him, she and Grissom had probably spent all of two whole hours together since he’d been back.

Plus, technically she was scheduled to be off. Nick had to know that. Which meant it had to be serious, whatever he was calling about.

So Sara prompted, “The case, Nick.”

“Body dump out in Red Rock Canyon.”

“Red Rock Canyon?” she echoed a little hollowly, her usual no nonsense demeanor momentarily slipping. She hadn’t been out there since – Sara hurriedly shoved that thought aside.

“Any hopes it’s just a lost hiker?” she asked.

“Nope. Bureau of Land Management got several reports of large scavenger sightings. Checked it out themselves before calling it in. Definitely foul play. Catherine’s got another whole day of IA debriefs. And Greg and I are stuck babysitting. FOS duty,” Nick supplied, as if that explained everything, which it did. Sadly, the old adage oft proved true. It wasn’t what you knew, but who you knew which mattered most. “Days is tapped out. Swing is short. That leaves…”

“Me.” Sara gave him a nod he couldn’t see.

“Or Ecklie.”

“Yeah, I don’t see that happening.”

“Sorry. We’ll try to get out there as soon as we can.”

“No, I got it,” she maintained. “But you so owe me.”

Sara sighed as she signed off, sat perched on the edge of the bed for a second, trying to psych herself up for a day out in the desert before rising, showering and automatically performing all the usual ablutions. Slathering liberal amounts of sunscreen over the skin her loose long sleeves didn’t quite cover, she entered the kitchen to find Grissom finishing up breakfast. At least that explained where he’d got to, him having vanished to points unknown while she’d been on the phone.

“Eat,” he insisted placing a plate in front of her.

Knowing it would likely be hours before she’d have another chance, she readily did as she was told. Between mouthfuls of eggs, Sara said, “I still say it’s your turn to go in.”

Grissom chuckled but only continued packing lunch for her into a bag, though he did pause at his wife’s curious query of “Don’t you ever miss it?” to smile and reply, “Working with you? All the time. Getting called in after less than four hours of sleep to process a dead body — not so much.”

As she couldn’t rightly dispute this, she only nodded and drew him in for a kiss.

There was however no mistaking Grissom’s concern when he asked with no hint of a tease or lightness in his tone, “You going to be okay?”

Obviously he’d heard. And didn’t sound any more keen on her being out there on her own than she was.

Sara nodded reassuringly. “Yeah. Anyway, Dave’ll be there.”

His hands still firm about her waist, Grissom whispered, “Be safe.”

“I will.”

Then in one of those weird inverses of the classic 1960’s domestic comedy cliché, not to mention decades, if not centuries of tradition — like they were ever all that into tradition in the first place — Grissom sent his wife out the door with a warm kiss farewell and a packed lunch in hand saying, “Have a nice day at work, dear.”

*******

Sara returned nearly twelve hours later, hot, sweaty, smelly and in dire need of a shower if Hank’s distinct aversion was any indication. Unlike as in Paris where and when he’d been so happy to see her that he practically bowled her over in order to cover her in kisses, that evening he was giving her an uncharacteristically wide berth.

Grissom didn’t seem to share the boxer’s reticence however. Sara literally had to dodge his attempt to greet her with a shaky, “Let me uh… get cleaned up first,” as she reached for a couple of lemons from the fruit bowl.

But no matter how good the water felt, Sara wasn’t the least bit interested in lingering in the shower. Not when Grissom was waiting for her, apron-clad and looking as usual utterly at ease at work in their kitchen, as she knew he was.

He placed a tall glass of ice tea in front of her as she slumped onto a stool; Sara sipped at it gratefully. But she was even more appreciative of the feel of his warm hands settling on her shoulders, his thumbs caressing the exposed skin as they edged beneath the thin straps of her camisole and she was instantly glad she had tugged her freshly shampooed hair into a ponytail and thereby out of the way.

When she half-heartedly murmured something solicitous about dinner, her husband assured her they had plenty of time; it still needed to simmer for a bit. Sara certainly wasn’t about to protest, particularly when he started lavishing concerted attention to each of her vertebrae. Her eyes closed and her head fell forward.

“You’re tense,” observed Grissom.

“And you’re master of the obvious,” she rejoined with a sigh.

“I’d ask how your day went, but considering… I think I already know. Want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

But Sara did anyway.

Out there in the middle of the desert only miles from where she’d almost died, was certainly not her favorite place in the world to be. Dealing with a thoroughly eviscerated corpse in the hundred plus degree heat hadn’t made the prospect any more pleasant. But Dave had been there to keep her company, at least for a little while so it hadn’t been all bad. She’d even managed to crack a smile when in response to her intoning as they both stared agog at the crumpled body sprawled in the middle of several competing sets of tire tracks, “Brings a whole new definition to the term road rage,” Dave had piped in, “Or road kill.”

John Doe 1152 definitely qualified as that. Of course precisely how much evidence the buzzards and other scavengers had managed to obliterate they’d likely never know. The birds had certainly been banqueting. Sara supposed people probably tasted just like chicken. Or rabbit. Or maybe to buzzards, road kill was just road kill, of the human variety or no.

“Just how I want to spend my days off,” Sara was saying. “Ranks right up there with dealing with the body from the wood chipper.

“But there’s no way it could have been an accident. They didn’t just run him over, they backed over him. Repeatedly. But now it’s up to Doc to figure out if he was dead before or after he was hit.”

It was just about this time that Sara realized this probably wasn’t exactly the most appetizing of pre-dinner conversations. But then this was Grissom she was talking to. She couldn’t think of a time she’d ever seen him grossed out about anything, not two-week-old de-comps, or bug infested bodies, or brain matter splattered all over the walls. Besides, the truth was, strange, even prototypically stomach-churning discussions were the norm in the Grissom-Sidle household.

Still, a change of subject was definitely in order.

That and at that particular moment her husband’s ministrations felt like heaven. Maybe it had just been too long since he’d had his hands on her like this, Sara didn’t care.

She let out in a long exhale, “God, that feels good.” Then suddenly curious, she asked, “Have you been practicing?”

Grissom gave an incredulous laugh. “While I’ve been gone? Green’s not your color either, dear,” he scoffed. “I just had a good teacher is all. So relax.”

Something Sara was finding quite easy to do.

There was something in his touch or even in just the sound of his voice when they were apart which always served to soothe the difficulties of the day away.

I could really get used to this, she thought. Get used to having him home, being with him like this. She hadn’t lied when she’d told her rather formidable doyen of a mother-in-law that sure her and Grissom’s marriage was by all counts unconventional, but it worked, and it did. Of course that didn’t keep her from enjoying the time they had together, however seldom or infrequent it frequently proved to be as of late.

Coming home to dinner on the table or nearly on the table wasn’t such a bad thing either she had to admit. Although as her eyes settled on the island in front of her, neatly set as it was tonight with two pretty pairs of lacquered chopsticks instead of forks, Sara couldn’t quite resist saying, “You do know that just because you’re home, that doesn’t mean you’re responsible for dinner.”

“Already tired of my cooking?”

“Not at all. But I swear you’re always trying to fatten me up.”

Nonchalant, he simply observed, “You’re less cranky when I feed you.”

Sara shot him a reproving glare. “And you’re funny. Real funny, Gilbert.”

He was saved from having to come up with a reply to this by a loud shriek from the stove.

It was Sara’s turn to laugh. “I see you remembered the timer this time.”

Grissom shrugged. “You weren’t here to distract me.”

Curious as to what was on the menu, Sara joined him at the cook top. As he lifted the lid to give its contents a stir, she inhaled, her nose wrinkling in attempt to precisely pin down the scent, rich, fragrant and piquant as it was and redolent with notes of ginger, basil, lemongrass and something spicy.

“Smells wonderful. Curry?” she asked, peering into the bell pepper, baby corn and pineapple studded concoction.

Kaeng khiao wan, Thai sweet green curry,” Grissom offered. “Good for the heat. Helps you sweat.”

“I think I’ve sweated enough today, thanks.”

That afternoon the temperature out at Red Rock Canyon had topped out at 108 degrees in the shade. Only there hadn’t been any shade.

“I can do grilled cheese if you’d rather –”

Sara cut him off with a “This is good, really. Great.”

Normally, she wouldn’t pass up Grissom’s grilled cheese. Fancy dinners were nice and all, but his version of the American classic, like his pancakes, possessed in its simplicity a charm all its own. But tonight she was honestly so hungry even the proverbial horse wouldn’t be enough, even if Sara did eat meat, which she still didn’t. For while heavy on the peanut butter and jelly, the sandwich, carrot sticks and grapes her husband had sent in her lunch (hurriedly consumed at her desk once she’d finally made it back to the lab) were by now, a long distant memory.

She did however have one concern:

“It doesn’t have bugs in it, does it?” she asked.

For not only was Grissom an avid — albeit thankfully only occasional — eater of insects — ant eggs on his scrambled ones, late night snacks of chocolate-covered grasshoppers — he’d returned the March before from presenting at the 2011 Global Conference on Entomology in Chiang Mai all a glee about all the entomophagy he’d observed in Thailand. Apparently Thais had none of the Western repulsion for the intentional ingesting of insects and other invertebrates. In fact, just the opposite. So while bug eating wasn’t stereotypical quiet, romantic night out conversation, over the candlelight dinner he’d arranged out at the Springs Preserve his first night back, Grissom had readily – and eagerly — regaled Sara with tales of the veritable buffet of bugs on offer.

And a buffet it had been. The not entirely unfamiliar Sading or small crickets and Jing Leed, crickets fried up with chili and lemongrass were only a small fraction of the 150 species eagerly devoured each night at the various stalls throughout the Northern city.

When Sara had laughingly asked if they tasted like chicken, he’d replied in all seriousness, More like fish. Well, apart from the Lethocerus indictus, a species of water bug known locally as Meang Da, which apparently tasted more like a very ripe Gorgonzola. Then there had been the nutty and rather crunchy Non Pai or bamboo worm larva, although scorpions were crunchier. Much to Sara’s thinly veiled revulsion, gravid cockroaches full of sticky eggs were also highly sought after; dung beetles understandably not quite so much.

At the rather green mien his wife acquired during this recitation, Grissom had reiterated, as he frequently was wont to do on the subject, that insects were after all, a cheap, delicious and nutritious source of calcium and protein. And good with beer. However he did freely admit that the legs did have the worst habit of getting stuck in your teeth. Sara nevertheless unswayed had insisted I think I’ll still pass.

Back in their Vegas kitchen as he dished hot rice into bowls, Grissom replied in that ever-patient way of his, “They don’t add insects to curry. Mostly just fry them up like French fries.”

“French fries with legs.”

Opting to ignore this, he blithely continued on with: “Although you might find Khai mot or ant eggs or maybe silkworms boiled in soup. But they do serve up scorpions soaked in whisky for medicinal purposes.”

Sara was almost afraid to ask. “Medicinal purposes?”

“Local version of Viagra.”

“And you know this how? Personal experience?” For you never knew with Grissom.

“No, dear. I didn’t think it was necessary.”

Then after a moment Grissom paused right in the middle of ladling curry to turn to his wife and say more question than statement, “Unless there’s something you want to tell me –”

Sara had to work to conceal her smirk. “No, Gil.”

Not that between his being away and Vegas being Vegas, they had had much opportunity as of late. At this point, even being interrupted in the middle of something other than sleep to be called into work wasn’t sounding like such a bad thing.

Although last night, or rather very early this morning, had been nice, despite the fact she had come home so extremely and obscenely late that any later and she’d have been early. For while there had been nothing sexual about it, it had been intimate all the same.

Considering the hour, Sara had been unsurprised to find the house asleep. Usually, Grissom tended to adapt to her and what had once been for the better part of a quarter of a century his schedule. But having a series of afternoon meetings lately and him even less able than his wife to get his body to stay up for hours on end anymore, he had understandably succumbed to the need for sleep.

By the time she’d gotten home after fifteen very long hours at the office, she was too tired to eat, to shower, to bother undressing, almost too tired to oust Hank from where he had been fully sprawled along her side of the bed. Of course by then her husband had managed to abscond with the vast majority of the covers. Turned out lepidopterans weren’t the only ones who built cocoons. She virtually had to burry her way in beside him. And while she hadn’t meant to wake her husband, Sara couldn’t resist curling herself up alongside him. It was far too infrequent a pleasure to pass up. So breathing in the comforting scent and heat of him, she’d molded her body into his before slipping one hand beneath the customary white cotton undershirt he wore to bed.

She was rewarded with the long, drawn out murmur of her name, warm and welcoming. Grissom shifted onto his back, turning to her, his fingers finding her face even in the dark and his lips, hers.

Once they drew apart, she let out an apologetic, “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“You don’t sound all that sorry,” he said with a smile she couldn’t see, only feel, “And I’m not.”

Himself knowing all too well as he did the sort of tiredness which makes a person crawl into bed fully dressed, Grissom hadn’t asked her then about her day, just gathered her up, pulling her to him until her head rested on his chest. With his arm around her and the reassuring tattoo beneath her ear, Sara had soon slipped off into sleep.

That didn’t keep him from asking now as they tucked into their dinner.

“Ecklie,” Sara succinctly supplied.

“Ah,” was all Grissom said by way of reply. Lab boss and under-sheriff, Conrad Ecklie did possess a particular penchant for being a bureaucratic pain in the ass.

“And,” she added, “you might want to re-think your whole The only constant in the universe is change.

“The only constant in the universe is bureaucracy?” he suggested.

“That or idiocy. Take your pick.”

Worst part of it had been that it hadn’t been an actual case that had kept her. Not science of any sort, but that bane —

“Paperwork. Paperwork. Paperwork,” Sara lamented.

“Well, paperwork is how they caught Al Capone,” said Grissom not quite as sympathetic as Sara thought her husband should be given the situation.

“Funny, I don’t remember you being this keen when it was you having to do it. Selective memory already kicking in?”

******

Sara insisted on doing the washing up after dinner. There was just something strangely Zen-like about the whole process. Grissom offered to assist, but with a chastising chuckle of “Procrastination isn’t like you,” she sent him off to his study to work on the abstract he had due for a paper summarizing the entomological finds and their implications from the study he’d done earlier in the year of ancient Mochica mass graves.

Dishes soon done, she stopped on her way to the bedroom to check up on him, quietly lingering for a while in the doorway watching him work, laptop open, books and papers spread wide in front of him, his features set in their usual determined concentration and with his reading glasses perched at the end of his nose. It was as winsome a sight as ever.

Yeah, she really could get used to this.

Tiptoeing in so silently Grissom didn’t register her presence until she slid a hand over his shoulder and gave it a gentle press.

“I know it’s early,” Sara began, planting a kiss atop his grizzled hair, “but I’m going to head to bed.”

She was tired and even though she was scheduled to have that night off that meant nothing these days. Her summons early that morning a perfect case in point. And with her days of being able to make it three days straight without sleep definitely long gone, Sara knew she had to try and squeeze in at least a couple of hours whenever she could.

Grissom nodded, but before she could go, drew her in for what he regarded as a more suitable kiss goodnight.

She was in the middle of brushing her teeth, having already changed into her bedclothes and washed her face, when unexpected yet not unwelcome company took up the same task at the sink beside hers. Mid-brush Sara paused to peer bemusedly at her husband.

Having not bothered to remove said brush, her “What are you doing?” naturally came out garbled.

Also already dressed for sleep, Grissom in a tone which intimated What does it look like I’m doing? replied, “Getting ready for bed.”

When his wife only continued to gawk, it was his turn to mouth, “What?”

“Nothing,” said Sara, not about to complain or question any further, liking as she did having him in the bed beside her. Snoring notwithstanding, she always slept better, although even more so after —

And with the memory of that recent goodnight kiss still fresh in her mind and on her lips and it being from her experience more of the sort which signaled the start rather than finish of something, she shot her husband a shrewd look in the mirror. “Gil, you’re not coming to bed now because you think you might get lucky if you do, are you?”

He shrugged. “Not thinking. Hoping maybe.”

Sara sighed, her lips pursed in a vain attempt to contain a grin. “Ever the optimist.”

“‘Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?’” he quoted in that knowing way of his she never could resist. “Browning. Robert not Elizabeth.”

Only Grissom.

Sara simply shook her head as she set back to brushing her teeth.

*******

Sometime much, much later, with her once more contentedly snuggled into Grissom’s side, Sara’s last waking thought before she finally drifted off to sleep was:

Yeah, I could really get used to this.

 

*******

Want to read more about Grissom and Sara’s romantic dinner out?

 See A Team Effort.

********

A/N: I’ve been thinking about, playing with and scribbling on the bits and pieces of this particular story for the better part of a year or so now, but only recently did the heart of it really hit home.

If the last few weeks have taught me anything, it’s never to complain about the ordinariness of life, no matter how dull or frustrating. Ordinary, even boring, beats hospital overnights hands down.

Let me also take this opportunity to publicly thank all of you who left such kind messages of encouragement and support during these difficult days. They were appreciated more than you can know or I can say. Frank improves day by day and things are thankfully, albeit slowly, returning to something resembling normality, for which we are both extremely grateful.

 

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. grissomsgirl72
    Sep 18, 2011 @ 22:06:29

    Glad that things are slowly getting ‘normal’..I know the feeling. I’d kill for normal these days but things aren’t in my hands anymore then the rest of us…what is it they say “life is God’s way of laughing at us when we make plans”..how true..glad to see you back and you’ve certainly not lost your touch….

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