06 – Awakenings

Continued from An Unusual, but Particularly Effective Cure for Insomnia

It was still dark outside when Sara next woke, which was not an unusual occurrence. She was, more often than not, up before the sun. What was unusual was that she woke up feeling strangely cold.

“Gil,” she sighed when the reason for the sudden chill became apparent. At some point during the early morning hours, Grissom had rolled over, taking the blanket and most of the sheet with him and leaving Sara more uncovered than not.

It wasn’t for the first time, and she was rather pleased at the prospect that it wouldn’t likely be the last.

As she knew from the veritable years of experience the futility of any attempt to retrieve the covers once Grissom had them that firmly in his possession and as she had no desire to wake him at the moment, she shifted onto one side to face him. When she molded her body into the relaxed line of his back and hugged him close, it was not just for the warmth, but for the reassurance she so often found in his presence.

The night before it had been easy, so blissfully easy almost, to fall asleep in his arms.

It had nothing to do with her being tired of his company, despite what he intimated. As she was so infamous for her insomnia, Grissom seemed to get an inordinate amount of pleasure in teasing her about how easily she seemed to fall asleep with him. The truth was she had always felt safe and comfortable and comforted with him in a way she hadn’t been with anyone else.

That didn’t mean she never had problems sleeping or that there weren’t any nightmares when they were together, but she did sleep better when he was around, and when neither of them could sleep, which happened all too often, his company often made the long sleepless afternoons more bearable — enjoyable even.

And while when she had first come to Vegas a great deal of fuss had been made of her sleeping habits, or more precisely her lack of sleeping habits, she knew that Grissom’s could be almost as bad. So she hadn’t been exactly taken aback to find him wide-awake in the middle of the night.

The sudden silence that heralded the moon could be genuinely disconcerting. Something that hadn’t taken her very long to discover as she had spent quite a few nights awake long past the moonrise when she had first arrived. So the quiet was certainly a plausible cause for his abrupt return to wakefulness. Though that he hadn’t slept at all hadn’t really come as much of a surprise either.

However, he was sleeping now, thank goodness, and hopefully would for a while yet.

While he had had more color in his cheeks and his eyes were brighter than when she had last seen him, he still looked tired, more tired than just the stress of traveling could produce. Sara knew that Ana wouldn’t protest if she asked to let Grissom sleep in for a few extra hours. Ana knew all too well the physical toll that suddenly finding oneself immersed in the heat and humidity of the rainforest could produce, so there wouldn’t be any need for further explanation.

Which was perhaps a good thing as Sara was still finding Grissom’s presence inexplicable.

Even here and now, with him very real beside her, there was still a measure of unreality to it all. Part of her wasn’t entirely sure that she wasn’t currently asleep herself and in the midst of a delightfully wonderful dream. Nor had enough time passed for the novelty to wear off, for her to become used to having him with her, let alone this near again.

So it was still honestly hard to believe.

But of all the many things Sara Sidle had learned from Gil Grissom over the years, one of the first and most important lessons was when in doubt, follow the evidence.

So she did.

Even if her eyes were not to be believed, she was surrounded by the rich, deep evenness of his breathing that was not quite yet a snore, but only just and she couldn’t help but smile at the sound of it.

When she snuggled ever closer, she breathed in the familiar fragrance of the unscented laundry detergent he liked to use. It was a smell that always seemed so quintessentially Grissom, as he so seldom used any soap or shampoo that wasn’t unscented, nor did he tend to use cologne or aftershave. These practices left him smelling clean, for lack of a better word. But it wasn’t a cold, sterile, antiseptic sort of clean — the kind that haunted hospitals and doctors’ offices and the morgue — but a warm sort of smell.  That it was that morning, now tinged with the faint hint of sweat was more inviting than off-putting.

Then when she slipped her fingers between his, she found his hands were as soft and warm and real as she had always remembered them to be and closed her eyes at the comfort of it.

However tempting though it might be to want to kiss him, to feel his lips on hers and their breath combine and fill her with that incomprehensible breathlessness, Sara knew he needed sleep more than she needed the reassurance. Besides, she still had the memories of his quiet kisses the night before to recall the taste of him.

So the evidence was there, unequivocal, irrefutable. She hadn’t merely imagined him into being. The morning, as the day before, however dreamlike it had and been or seemed, was real beyond all shadow of any doubt.

That truth was amazing enough, but it was the context — context of course being key, for as Grissom had always maintained: evidence without context had no meaning — that shocked and astonished her the most. She had been surprised to see him, happy to see him, beyond happy to see him again. But that he had so readily and willingly given up his work and life in Vegas to come and stay, merely the idea floored her, let alone the reality of it.

Yet, there was still that little voice in the back of her head, the one that had flourished and thrived upon years’ — decades’ — worth of insecurities, that whispered and worried as it was always wont to do, that eventually Grissom would end up both disappointed and regretting his choice.

Sara hurriedly attempted to shove those unpleasant thoughts aside.  She didn’t want to think about that, not when he was so close that her breathing seemed to naturally fall into sync with his.

On some level, she knew they were both aware that it wasn’t all going to be as easy as just picking up where they left off. Considering how poorly they had parted, perhaps that wasn’t altogether a bad thing. But they weren’t starting all over again either. She supposed they were meeting somewhere in the middle, between strangeness and familiarity, tenderness and passion, the past and the future.

And while she would have liked to remain snug and warm and content in bed with him beside her, she was too anxious that her continued presence would rouse him. Besides the day would soon break and beckon and there were still work to be done, unexpected visitors having shown up or no.

So Sara eased herself from his side, carefully slipped from the cot and quickly dressed in the dimness as quietly as she could.

Although she did linger just for a moment longer after tugging the blanket tighter around him to watch him sleep. It was good to see him asleep like that, relaxed and at peace, the lines and shadows having finally faded from his face.

She was relieved though that when she ultimately gave into the temptation of one last gesture of affection and smoothed his rumpled hair before leaning in and lightly kissing him there, that he sighed and did not stir but merely slumbered on.

*******

Dr. Velasquez, who never really answered to anything but Ana as a matter of course, ran her research station the same way Grissom had run the graveyard shift back in Vegas, meaning everyone pretty much knew what needed to be done and did it.

As cooking, fetching water and most of the rest of the day’s preparations all typically involved more light than lanterns allowed and the old diesel generator was so noisy that it could wake the dead — let alone any living person who might want to sleep — everyone but Sara seem to see little point to rising before daylight. Since day tended to break around a quarter to six, waiting for the sun seldom led to what most people would have considered sleeping in late.

Despite the fact that she had never really been a morning person, Sara enjoyed the peace and quiet of those pre-dawn hours. Nearly a decade of working the graveyard shift had trained her to regard mornings as the middle or ends of her work day rather than the beginnings, but three months of early rising had finally converted her. The time gave her a chance to pause and think and reflect on a great many things, although she had to admit that at times not always those of the most pleasant variety. Sara had always been prone to brooding and she knew it and knew that the only way to counteract the tendency was to busy her mind with something else, preferably work of some sort.

This morning though wasn’t really one for ruminating. She caught herself daydreaming repeatedly as she pulled out the specimen trays she had been working on the day before. She still had several she wanted to get sorted and entered into the system before the backlog got to be too overwhelming. It was the act she had been engaged in the day previously when George, the sometimes resident and perpetually mischief-making capuchin, and one Gil Grissom had shown up in very short succession.

When Sara had first arrived, Ana had both warned and apologized for the tedium involved in the species identification and archiving process, to which Sara could only laugh in reply. After she had finished recounting how she had been used to spending hours combing and itemizing the contents of crime scenes, garbage dumpsters and other not so savory places, Ana readily conceded that cataloguing probably wasn’t that bad after all.

Frankly, the task had come as a nice change and Sara found she enjoyed it immensely.

And while she never would admit it, she had also found a great deal of pleasure in the cooking that she like everyone else at camp was called to do. Like the rest of the larger and more time-consuming tasks, cooking was done by rota. The reason in the case of cookery had less to do with maintaining a general sense of fairness and more to do with the fact that no one else really liked having to do it.

Perhaps, it was all of her fond memories of the years of Grissom’s Chemistry of Cooking lessons that did it, but Sara frequently found that she looked forward to the days she was scheduled for kitchen duty. Regardless, the lessons had certainly come in handy. But since she still refused to handle raw meat on sheer principle and was fairly certain that the rest of the research team did not possessed a keen desire to become vegetarians, Sara sincerely doubted that if her predilection came out, her duties would be adjusted. She did wonder though if now that there were seven of them, if everyone would be assigned a set particular day of the week to cook.

This week, Sara had pulled Sunday duty, which meant both less pressure and more complications. Mondays through Fridays both breakfast and lunch had to be ready before everyone left since typically they spent the entire day out in the field. Saturdays being market days, people usually fended for themselves after breakfast and in order to relieve a bit of the monotony of camp food, often lunched in town. Sundays were more relaxed, meaning that breakfast was a little later and lunch frequently consisted of leftovers and the spoils brought back the day before while everything was still at its freshest. It was, however, though the one day when dinner rather than lunch was the main meal of the day. This departure from typical Tico custom had been one of Ana’s concessions to Stephen’s Midwestern American upbringing where Sunday dinner it seemed bordered on the sacred.

As apart from breakfast and the morning’s chores which had to be completed seven days a week, dinner was pretty much the only time you were likely to see anyone at camp on Sundays. In theory, little “official” work occurred that day. Luis and Bernie usually hitched rides into town, ostensibly to go see their families, but Sara thought it much more likely that they did it to go meet girls. Most of the time, Bridget was either working on crunching the data she had gathered from the week before, or out in the field acquiring even more data for her doctoral thesis. Everyone else frequently used the time to catch up on any work, reading or correspondence they hadn’t had time to complete during the week.

When six-thirty rolled around, the time chores typically began, Ana seemed surprised to see Sara up and dressed and in the middle of putting away the specimens she hadn’t finished with yet. The older woman gave her a rather inquiring look, although she didn’t ask. She only told Sara not to bother to bring Grissom out to the new plot she was in the process of laying out until after twelve as she had some traps she wanted to check on in a couple of other sites before then. Although noon, being the height and heat of the day, wasn’t really the best of times to be slogging through the rainforest, Sara recognized Ana’s request as an indirect way of communicating that she wanted to make sure Grissom had gotten enough rest before having to face the forest. That or she wanted to give the two of them a little time and privacy.

When you lived, worked, slept and ate in such close quarters, privacy was usually at a premium. However, Sara found that everyone seemed to think that she and Grissom might need space and time of their own and had gone out of their way to provide it. She was sure Ana had something to do with it.

But she didn’t really have time to much ponder her current boss’s behind-the-scenes machinations. There was work to be done.

*******

Grissom stirred to the warmth of the sun on his face. He had slept like he hadn’t in weeks or months, almost like the dead. In the days that followed, he wondered how he could have possibly slept through the hustle and bustle of camp in the morning. But that morning, he had woken to the almost overpowering sense of strangeness that frequently accompanied waking up in an unfamiliar bed. It had been disconcerting to say the least. And he had blinked bewildered and disoriented for a moment, until he heard the soft sound of singing from behind him. He didn’t recognize the tune, but he knew the voice well enough and while Grissom doubted Sara was even aware that she was doing it, he had always been fond of that particular habit of hers.

He closed his eyes, rolled over and let out a long, deep sigh of relief that caught in his throat at the feel of her fingers in his hair. Then the warmth of her breath and mouth was on his cheek. He turned. Their lips brushed. He was beyond pleased when instead of flinching at the contact, she moved to deepen the kiss until it grew into one of those long, leisurely sorts of kisses that only ends when the body begins to insist that breathing is not an optional but necessary activity.

If he had been dazed or drowsy just moments before, he was now certainly very much alert and aware and awake and alive in ways he hadn’t been in months.

Her voice hadn’t yet lost its breathy quality when she whispered, “Good morning, sleepy head.”

He opened his eyes to find her perched on the empty cot, beaming down at him. Her eyes seemed to sparkle, especially as she said, “It’s good to know that some things never change. You snore just as loudly as usual.”

Grissom couldn’t help but return her grin.

“Whatever you say, dear,” he readily — perhaps a bit too readily — and amusedly acquiesced, much to her hilarity.

She leaned in to give him another kiss. After they had broken away, Grissom inquired after the time.

“A little before ten,” she replied. “Ana thought it a good idea to let you rest up and sleep in. If it had been up to me, I would have woken you at the crack of dawn and put you straight to work.”

“Payback for all the times I called you into work early?” he asked.

She didn’t deign to give him an answer to this, instead she said, having an increasingly hard time keeping her face straight, “Lucky for you I was overruled.”

Grissom merely nodded in agreement. Taking in first the way her hair had become slightly unruly as it always did when she brushed it back while she was working, the lack of creases in her clothes and the deep pencil indentations on the side of her middle and the pad of her index fingers as well as the fresh trace of pencil lead along the edge of her hand, he surmised that she had been awake and working for a while now.

“How long have you been up?” he asked.

“Since around five.”

The answer didn’t surprise him in the least. “You should have woken me,” he maintained.

Sara shook her head. For a moment, all trace of teasing was gone, to be replaced by a tone more of tenderness than anything as she said, “You needed the rest.” Although the levity was soon back. “Don’t get used to it,” she announced extending a steaming mug to him.

“I won’t,” Grissom pledged. But as he did so, he was thinking that while he probably would never quite get used to the idea of waking up to her every morning, he really was going to enjoy the prospect of trying.

“This is horribly unfair you know,” he said, sitting up to take the mug from her.

“What is?”

“Do you know how long I have been attempting to bring you breakfast in bed?” he asked by way of an explanation.

For it never failed, even during the times when the two of them had spent most of their free and sleep time together, Sara would inevitably either rise and be out of bed before him, or with an uncanny sense of timing, stroll into the kitchen just as he was finishing his preparations.

“It’s all your fault. If you didn’t make food that smelled so good it could rouse someone out of a sound sleep –” she countered. “You could always keep trying though,” Sara laughed. “I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future.”

Grissom had to smile at that, at the ease with which she acknowledged they had a future, something a few months ago he hadn’t been all that certain of himself.

“Besides,” she continued affably, “coffee does not breakfast make.” Then as he bent to take a drink, she added, “I know you usually take yours black, but Bernie made it this morning and he tends to make it a little strong, even by Costa Rican standards. Plus, it’s had a while to ferment.

“So believe me you’ll want the milk and sugar. Otherwise the stuff is so potent that it makes what they used to brew in the break room seem like tap water.”

If that was so, the milk and sugar did sound like a good idea, for what they had typically drank in Vegas was acrid enough to peel paint.

He took a couple of hesitant sips.

“Why don’t you get dressed,” Sara was saying. “I’ll make you some breakfast.”

Not above teasing himself, Grissom gave her a disbelieving look.

“Not one word about my cooking,” she cautioned as she rose to go. “Otherwise you might just have to fend for yourself.”

He knew she wasn’t serious and he hadn’t been either. In truth, he had no real concerns when it came to her cooking.

Although when they had first gotten together, he had discovered much to his chagrin that Sara hadn’t been joking when she had told him that ordering take-out was the full extent of her cooking abilities. But over the next couple of years, Sara had, as she did with most things, proven a quick learner and ultimately quite adept at it.

He was recalling with a great deal of fondness a few of their times in the kitchen together as he bent to reach for one of his boots.

“You might want to tap those,” she said, pausing just before the entrance to the tent. “You’d be surprised at what sometimes tumbles out. Well, maybe you wouldn’t be,” she conceded. “But it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

*******

Grissom finished his coffee and spent a few minutes freshening up in the makeshift bathroom before dressing.  He made up the bed before joining Sara in the camp’s kitchen area. Even if he would have forgotten where it was, it was easy enough to find. All he had to do was follow his nose.

The piquant aroma of roasted corn filled the air and he could soon see why. Sara was turning a series of homemade corn tortillas on a large griddle.

She started slightly when he came up behind her and said, “It smells delicious.”

“Sorry there’s no toast,” Sara apologized. “With all the humidity, bread just molds too fast and is too labor-intensive to make all the time,” she explained. “Tortillas are simpler. Sort of like corn pancakes,” she continued with a grin. “Simply just add water and salt to the mix and heat.”

She turned to him and gave him a wry sort of smile as she said, “I was, you know, paying attention to other things in your kitchen besides just you.”

Grissom nodded appreciatively and said, “I can see that,” and after watching her crack several eggs into a pan added, “But I thought you didn’t do eggs.”

“Well, some things do change,” Sara sighed. “Not everyone is as easy to please as you when it comes to breakfast. But I still don’t do omelets. So you’ll have to be happy with huevos fritos.

“Although I could probably rustle up some ants to go on top if you want. Or you could just leave the plate unattended for a few minutes and they’ll probably find you. They’re fairly indiscriminate and aggressive around here. I don’t know how they manage to do it, but they get into everything — the flour, the sugar, the coffee — no matter what you do.”

“Just think of it as extra protein,” Grissom quipped.

“I think I’ll still pass.”

She was in the midst of dishing up the eggs and detailing the rest of the camp’s movements for the day, when she suddenly had to put down the plate.

As she was facing away from him at the time, Grissom didn’t immediately notice and as he was frankly amused at the fact that every one else was rather conveniently absent, was busy saying, “So you got stuck babysitting the new guy –”

Sara tried to keep her voice as light as she could as she clutched reflexively at her left arm. “It was me or Luis,” she replied. “And I really didn’t think you wanted him to be the one to wake you.”

Grissom chuckled, “Not if he does it the same way you do.”

When she didn’t immediately reply, he reached out to touch her shoulder.

“Sara?”

“It’s nothing,” she answered, but the hiss of pain that slipped passed her lips belied the truth.

He gently eased her to face him, to find that she was massaging her left arm. Afraid that she might have burnt or otherwise injured herself, he pulled her hand away.

“It’s nothing,” Sara insisted. “Really.”

But he brushed aside her protests to take a look for himself, only to see that there didn’t appear to be anything wrong.

“It’s just the humidity,” she explained. “It makes the place where the bones fused back together again ache is all.” Her attempt at a smile didn’t quite make it to her eyes, nor did her saying, “Almost makes me look forward to the heat of the day,” do anything to dispel his concern.

Her eyes closed at the warmth of his hand on her arm. She stopped breathing at the feel of his thumb brushing the sensitive skin just above her elbow and did not exhale again until after his hand had come to curve over her shoulder and that same thumb had begun to gently caress the hollow of her neck.

Grissom’s voice was suddenly very soft and distant when he said, “She can’t hurt you ever again.”

“Or you.”

Sara felt his grasp involuntarily tighten and when she met his eyes, found them intent with something she couldn’t name. They stood there for a few long, almost breathless moments, before he leaned in and kissed her gently in a way that was more longing than possessive.

When they broke apart, he rested his head against hers. Sara’s lips twitched into a nervous sort of smile as his fingers tugged on one of the curls that now framed her face.

“I know it’s different,” she said and then added almost apologetically, “A little short,” before plowing on with “And there’s nothing you can do about the curliness with all the humidity” so quickly that she didn’t hear him say, “I like it.”

So she was caught off guard when he, as if to impart some long-held secret, which in some ways it was, brushed his lips against her cheek before whispering into her ear what he had felt for a long time, but had never quite managed to say, “I have always been captivated by those curls.”

“Gil –”

Which was when the stovetop decided to issue both a loudly insistent sizzle and pop and the sudden scent of something burning into the air.

Sara hastily returned her attention back to her cooking.

She gestured to the table. “Maybe you should –” she began.

Grissom gave her a reassuring smile. “Are you trying to tell me that I am distracting you?” he asked.

“No — Yes –” she stammered, still more than a little flustered.

Understanding, he nodded and retreated to the table.

In a few minutes, Sara joined him, placing a heavily laden plate in front of him as she did so.

Eying the enormous pile of eggs and the generous helpings of the ever-ubiquitous gallo pinto, he said, “I thought you said everyone else was gone for the day.”

“They are.”

“How much do you think one person can eat?” he asked still agog.

“You’ll need it,” Sara asserted with a genuine grin this time. “Believe me. So eat up and I’ll take you to meet up with Ana.”

Continued in Settling In.

*******

Have a question or want to leave a comment or concern and don’t have a wordpress account? Please feel free to email me at kadhmercer@gmail.com

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. grissomsgirl72
    Jul 14, 2009 @ 18:29:13

    This is just so awesome, the feelings, the thoughts….hell there’s nothing I don’t love about this story…okay, yeah…when a chapter ends and I have to wait for another….other than that…Shear Perfection!!!

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