05 – An Unusual, but Particularly Effective Cure for Insomnia

Continued from Nightlife.

Gil Grissom was no stranger to insomnia. That he had for most of his twenty-plus year career frequently suffered from work-related sleeplessness had been bad enough, but during the months that Sara had been gone, the usual restlessness had seemed not only to grow worse, but more and more often, if and when he was finally able to fall asleep, he found no real rest, only nightmares instead.

Nightmares filled with the frustration of not being able to get passed locked doors. Filled with the scalding burn of the desert wind upon his face. Filled with the image him of peering down at his empty hands only to find them bathed in blood and lastly and perhaps worst of all filled with silence, an utter and absolute silence that nothing could penetrate.

The dreams had been so aching and intensely disturbing that he had begun to actually prefer the incessant insomnia to the prospect of waking in chest-heaving, heart-thumping, gut-wrenching cold sweats on a regular basis.

There was only one thing worse: the occasions when after a rare night of blissfully dreamless sleep he would start to stir and in the immeasurable interval between wakefulness and dreaming suddenly feel so certain that Sara was there, certain that he could feel the heat of her in the bed beside him, certain of the sure steady sounds of her snores, certain that he drew in with each of his own breaths the familiar scent of her.

Except when he ultimately opened his eyes, all he found was the absence of her surrounding him.

He had thought, or more likely had eagerly hoped, that having Sara, the real Sara, living — breathing — warm Sara, lying beside him again would mean the end to his sleeping woes. He had been wrong.

For he should by all rights be fast asleep instead of wide awake. In fact, he should have been asleep hours ago. He wasn’t.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t tired. He was, but no matter how bone-weary his body might be, his mind still stubbornly insisted on racing a million miles a minute so that sleep just would not come.

Perhaps, he began to muse, he had somehow managed to tire himself into wakefulness. The prospect was not as ludicrous as it sounded. He’d seen it happen before; had experienced it first-hand himself upon occasions too numerous to count.

Or perhaps with all the day’s newness and excitement, his mind just hadn’t had enough time to fully process and assimilate everything that had happened.

It was equally possible that his wakefulness resulted from being surrounded by strange noises as he lay in a strange bed in a strange place.

For it had been nearer to twenty-five than twenty years since he had last slept in the rainforest. And while Vegas was not precisely quiet at night, he had over time, grown accustomed to its often discordant melodies. The forest was different, especially at night. It was as if half of its inhabitants had suddenly woken when the sun went down — and probably had. Although it really was merely that unfamiliarity alone that made the night seem so strange, for the polyphony of buzz and hum and drone, of cry and creep seemed to carry with it an underlying harmony as poignant as any musical chord.

He thought back those nearly twenty-five years. He had been younger then than Sara was the first time they had met in San Francisco. And while he had been gallivanting across the Brazilian rain forest, Sara, who at the time hadn’t yet turned twelve, had already seen and lived through more violence and hurt and abuse than most would ever encounter in a lifetime. Not that she had managed to leave much of that misery behind after her father had been murdered and her mother jailed. While Sara hardly ever spoke of it, Grissom had heard too many horror stories, personally seen too many things to believe that her life in the system had been all that much of an improvement. But Sara had survived. Certainly not unscathed, but she had.

Sara…

While he could probably postulate enough perhaps to keep him awake for the rest of the night, he knew that Sara was the most likely cause for his current bout of insomnia.

Only in this case, it was her presence, rather than her absence that kept him awake.

He could feel her begin to stir and realized that he had over the course of the last several minutes, tightened his grasp on her, drawn her as close to him as he could. The gesture had been unintentional, purely instinctive and absolutely irrational. There were no real dangers out here that she would need protection from and Sara he knew would balk at the mere implication that she ever needed to be protected in the first place. Of course that knowing hadn’t exactly kept him from feeling and sometimes being overprotective when it came to her.

Fat lot of good it had done, he rued, remembering all too well how powerless he had been when he had most wanted and needed to keep her safe. Vegas could be dangerous enough as it was. Their work as crime scene investigators had put them in close contact with that peril on a daily basis. But some cases, some investigations had proven more hazardous and haunting than others.

Adam Trent’s desperate attempt to hold Sara hostage had shaken Grissom so profoundly, that it completely shattered his naïve belief that there was and always would be, time enough to court Sara the way he always thought she should have been.

And Natalie….

He didn’t even want to think about Natalie and all the might have happeneds that almost were.

So when instead of leading to waking, Sara’s stirrings only caused her to nestle nearer, Grissom let out a sigh of relief. He really hadn’t wanted to wake her.

It was early — or late — depending on how one divvied up the night and he was all too familiar with how rare a quiet and peaceful night’s sleep could be. For over the last couple of months, they had certainly become things more devoutly to be wished than actually possessed.

Several hours earlier, when they had both still been awake, he had considered asking Sara how her nightmares had been of late, if both the time away and distance had managed to mitigate them as he yet hoped they might do his.

But he hadn’t wanted to talk about such things — not then and there — not when the two of them were so contentedly lying together, their bodies and faces close, quietly kissing – touching – talking.

In many ways, he was almost glad the two of them had that night it seemed to reach a consensus, unspoken as it was, that there was no reason to rush or hurry. For while he had thought of this moment, dreamt of this moment, hoped for it for so long, he found that all those thoughts and dreams and hopes paled in comparison to the reality of being with her.

It was almost as if he had somehow forgotten the feel of her touch; the way it felt to touch her in return and was discovering that intoxicating pleasure of simply being together with her all over again.

Just having her near was overwhelming.

So he was content with that, relishing the quiet easy intimacy they had so often shared. Sara appeared to feel the same way.

Grissom had to fight back a chuckle, recalling how earlier as they had lain there curled up together, she had tried so hard and yet failed so spectacularly to stifle a yawn, that he could not resist asking her if she was tired of him already. Sara had shook her head, pursed her lips with the same bemusement she always displayed when she thought he was being ridiculous and told him that she was just sleepy.  The yawn that followed, being larger and therefore more obvious had only served to amuse him further and proven her point.

However, he had simply drawn her to him then. She still lay there now, snuggled up against him beneath the thin cotton sheet, with her head on his shoulder, the tips of her fingers resting against the bare skin just above the collar of his undershirt and her palm pressed over his heart. He held her close, smoothed her hair, buried his face in the nape of her neck and breathed in deep the scent of her that now had an earthy quality to it. Probably, he reasoned, due to the unfiltered water they used for showering.

Her breathing had slowed, deepened not quite into a snore but close, something he would have to tease her about later, especially after what Stephen had said. Sara could protest all she wanted that Stephen had made up Bridget’s complaint to serve as a pretext for changing her sleeping arrangements and that his words proved nothing, Grissom didn’t care.

All in all, apart from his racing thoughts, it was peaceful, lying there with her beneath the gauzy mosquito netting. It reminded him of the first time they had slept together that day after they had found Nick. He had slept so soundly that afternoon. It had been dark when he had finally woken up with her still nestled beside him. That day, as in this one, she had been comfort and warmth and light and life after so many months and years of cold and dark and death.

While ultimately he had been unable to resist kissing her awake that evening, he had no intentions of doing the same now. Besides, it had been too long, far too long since he had last had the pleasure of having her asleep in his arms.

The last time. He closed his eyes at the thought of it. That night had been very different and the memory of it would probably always fill him with both sorrow and regret.

He had felt so cold then, so lost and distant in knowing that Sara would soon be gone. He wasn’t sure what had been worse: not knowing that she would soon be gone or knowing that she would and there was nothing he could say or do that could change that fact. All he did know was he had ached with knowing that night, which was probably why he had said the things he had when she had so unexpectedly shown up at his office when he had already expected her to already be long gone.

He hadn’t wanted her to go. Hadn’t understood why she couldn’t stay or why she was so certain that she had to go away. He couldn’t and wouldn’t pretend that he completely understood her reasons even now. But all his hurt and anger had done was lead to heartache for both of them and left him with nothing but the unsettling presence of her absence in his life.

Even now, as utterly irrational and absolutely illogical as he knew the entire train of thought to be, it was still hard to believe, despite all the proof he had of its certainty, that he was really here, that all of this was really real and not just a dream.

That was, in the end, what he really did fear, that the previous day had been nothing more substantial than a passing dream, so that if he allowed himself to surrender to sleep, he would but wake to find himself back in Vegas again, back in his own bed once more alone, back with Hank as his only sleeping companion.

It was foolish. He knew that. That didn’t make his fear feel any less founded.

So as a thin ribbon of moonlight began to creep between the tent flaps, he just held her close. For even with his worries, he still longed for nothing more than to be able to remain as long as possible here in this moment with her.

He marveled at how soft and warm her bare skin was when his fingertips began to trace the ridges of her ribs beneath her camisole.

Earlier that night, when he had returned from brushing his teeth, he had found himself strangely reassured by the fact that Sara still wore the same thin-strapped tank top and light cotton pants he was accustomed to seeing her sleep in. With all the changes, it had been nice to see that some things hadn’t changed.

Then suddenly, it was quiet, almost deathly quiet, so that all he could hear above the rapid thumping of his heart was the sounds of his ragged breathing, and the soft ebb and flow of Sara’s shuffling half snores. After so many hours of a cacophony of noise, the abrupt lack of it proved disconcerting to say the least.

He hadn’t realized just how visceral his reaction to the variation had been until he began to feel Sara stir again in response.  First, her fingers twitched, and then her whole body seemed to arch away before relaxing back into his again. This time, however, she didn’t go back to sleep.

Her voice, still thick and drowsy, softly murmured, “Gil?”

“Go back to sleep,” came his soothing whisper of a reply.

But Sara had instantly registered the alertness in his voice and was now very much awake herself. She propped herself up on one elbow and peered down at him, intently searching his eyes, his face before saying, “What is it?”

He gave her a dismissive shake of the head. “Nothing,” he answered, and then feeling a little sheepish added, “It’s just quiet,” by way of an explanation.

“Must be after one then,” she observed absently.

Grissom retrieved his watch from the table. When he held it up to the lamplight, it read ten past one.

“How did you know that?” he asked, equally perplexed and impressed at the same time.

Sara chuckled. “Because around here it always goes quiet right after the moon rises,” she explained matter-of-factly. “It can take some getting used to.”

But her concern was genuine when she asked, “Is that what woke you — the quiet?”

When he did not immediately reply, she said, “Don’t tell me you’ve been awake all this time.”

He didn’t see the point in lying, so Grissom merely nodded.

“You haven’t slept at all?” she said incredulous.

This time he gave her a half-smile with his shake of the head.

Sara sighed. “Do I even want to know when the last time you slept was?” she asked. “And no, dozing on the plane doesn’t count, Gil.”

He squinted slightly as if trying to work out the answer. He hadn’t dared to fall asleep on the bus ride from San Jose and she was right about whatever half sleep he might or might not have gotten on the plane, it didn’t count. He hadn’t risked a nap before his flight out of fear of oversleeping. Nor had he really slept the day before, there had just been too many last minute details to take care of then. That meant it must have been —

“Thursday afternoon,” he reluctantly replied, as it was now Sunday morning, even if just barely.

“For?”

“Six hours,” he answered which was stretching the truth, as it had been more like four, if he was really being honest with himself and her.

“You have to be exhausted.”

He merely shrugged.

As tempting as it might have been for her to tease him about her going to get him a glass of warm milk to help him sleep, Sara recognized that this wasn’t one of those times that warm anything could help.

Sleep was what he needed most right now — sleep and rest and stillness.

Their earlier walk may have burned off the last of his excess nervous physical energy, but whether or not he was physically tired she knew wasn’t the problem.

“Your head keeping you awake –”

While it wasn’t really a question, he nodded in response anyway.

Sara gave him a soft knowing smile, for she knew how that went all too well. But she also knew what to do about it.

Grissom, or more precisely Grissom’s mind, needed a diversion. And not just any diversion, but the kind that required single-minded focus and concentration.

Yes, what he needed now was —

A good mental chess match.

It might not be sexy and even seem counter-intuitive, but the tactic had often proven quite effective in the past, particularly after a difficult shift when sleep just would not seem to come no matter how tired either of them were.

Sara was a competent chess player, no where near Grissom’s league, but she could hold her own long enough for the game to produce its desired effect: to provide a singular thing for his mind to focus on long enough to help still the tumult of thoughts rushing about his head and allow him to finally fall asleep.

“Come here,” she whispered and tugged him along with her as she shifted onto her back, until they had in effect, reversed their earlier positions and his head now rested on her chest. Her fingers alternated between lingering in his hair and tracing abstract patterns on one shoulder blade, while his edged beneath her shirt to curve themselves around her waist.

The simple comfort to be found in holding and being held in this way alone already seemed to help, for Grissom let out a long deep breath and relaxed further against her.

“Do you remember,” she asked, “where we left off that last game.”

Sara could swear she could feel him smile. “I was two moves from having you in check,” he answered, knowing immediately what she was referring to.

“It was more like four,” she countered, which garnered her a disbelieving laugh.

In the end, they were both wrong. Grissom had her in check in three and had captured her king within five. Sara wasn’t surprised or disappointed at the outcome, even though she did tell him that she swore she was going to beat him one of these days.

They were only a handful of moves into their next match, when Sara paused before announcing her next move to place a kiss into his hair. Then almost as if she had read his mind or merely understood the source of his apprehension, she whispered, “It’s okay, you know, to fall asleep. I’ll still be here in the morning when you wake up. I promise.”

Grissom did know. Even with all of his fears, he did know, but it still felt good to hear her say the words anyway.

As they resumed play, Grissom felt for the first time in a long time, safe and snug and at peace. He closed his eyes.

It wasn’t too much later that Sara was pleased to hear his voice begin to trail off. She did, however, have to restrain a chuckle of her own when he finally began to snore in earnest.

Continued in Awakenings.

********

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