14 – Up a Tree

Continued from No Time Like the Present.

The Friday after Christmas brought with it a return to the regular routine. Although Grissom hadn’t been there quite long enough for things to really have yet settled much into habit. As for Sara, Grissom’s mere presence there with her had soon managed to turn even everyday life extraordinary.

That particular day began ordinarily enough. Chores. Breakfast. The allotment of daily assignments. There had been the now customary kiss farewell and the have a nice day at work before the two of them parted ways. Sara was helping Stephen finish up marking out the last of the new plot, while Grissom and the two young Ticos were out to set the latest bunch of bait traps. Sara had regarded Grissom’s effusive enthusiasm for proverbial dung duty to be more than a little bemusing, and yet so Grissom all at once.

She was in the process of importing a series of coordinates into the computer when there was the sudden rustle of foliage. Sara, still not quite inured to the various sounds of the forest, peered skyward, thinking perhaps a troop of howlers or a large toucan had decided to put in an appearance. But the intrusion came from ground level and in the form of Bernie, who was so flush and obviously flustered that when he began to rattle off in such rapid Spanish Sara was only able to catch Grissom’s name and the word hurry. But it was the fact that all the while he didn’t dare look at her that started her heart pounding. Stephen although seeming to understand didn’t bother to take the time to explain and only motioned for her to go with Bernie and quickly.

By the time Sara arrived in front of the tent she and Grissom shared, she was wide-eyed and white with worry. Ana met her there, but before Sara could even ask, Ana put a soothing hand on her shoulder and said, “It’s okay. He’s okay.

“Nothing appears broken. But we’ll have the doctor in town do some x-rays tomorrow just in case.  He’ll be sore for a while and bruise later, but for right now, it’s mostly just some scrapes and cuts.”

And then with a reassuring smile Ana suggested that Sara go in and see him.

As much as she wanted to do so, Sara was still confused as to what had exactly occurred, since both she and Bernie had been far too breathless for speech. She was about to first insist on an explanation when Ana briskly excused herself on the pretext of going to fetch an ice pack and locate something to help with the pain and swelling.

So Sara was left on her own to take a long, deep, calming breath before venturing inside. She found Grissom propped up on the pillows, his shirt undone, looking a little rumpled, but not too much the worse for wear.

As he met her eyes, he tried to give her a casual smile, but Sara knew Grissom well enough to know better. She’d been around for enough of his migraines to recognize when his grins were just for show. So she didn’t return it. Instead, she just stood there, not quite certain what to say or do or even sure of what precisely was going on.

But then Ana soon returned with a steaming cup in one hand and a chemical ice pack in the other. She put the cup down on the bedside table simply saying, “Maracujá.”

“Passion flower tea,” Grissom acknowledged with a knowing nod. “A natural analgesic.”

Despite the distinct unreality of it all, Sara discovered she couldn’t quite help but be amused at the fact that Grissom’s ready response didn’t seem to faze Ana in the least. Apparently, it hadn’t even taken a week for Ana to get used to Grissom’s seemingly limitless supply of ready knowledge.

“It’ll make you sleepy,” Ana was saying, “but then right now rest is best,” and handed Grissom the towel wrapped ice pack.

Rest? Yeah right, that prescription was going to go over oh so well, Sara thought.

The last time she’d known Grissom to be sick — and walking pneumonia was no joke — he’d ended up working pretty much through the whole thing. Of course that hadn’t entirely been his fault. Sara knew that Deputy District Attorney Maddy Klein was not a woman to take no for an answer. But still, he’d been lucky not to land himself in the hospital.

Not that Sara was herself a particular fan of having to be stuck in bed for hours on end.  At least not being stuck in bed alone, and certainly not because she was sick or injured.

But he voiced no protest, not even after Ana decreed in an imperious tone Sara had seldom heard anyone use to address Grissom, “No more tree climbing.” The seriousness and the stricture however softened as she added, “At least not for a few weeks,” before brushing her hands off on her pants and turning to go.

Both Grissom and Sara were suddenly intent on following her retreat. It wasn’t until they were sure she was out of earshot, that they returned their attentions to each other.

Sara’s stiffened, one hand tense on her hip, as she peered down at him.

While not what she had intended to say, the first words out of her mouth were: “Tree climbing? What the hell were you thinking?” But before he could even attempt to reply, she plowed on with: “Seriously, Gil. Do I even want to know what you were doing up in the tree in the first place?”

Grissom shrugged. “Actually, I was never in the tree. I fell off the ladder while I was trying to get into the tree.”

Sara rolled her eyes. “Bullshit semantics and you know it,” she replied testily. “Just tell me you weren’t doing it in some foolish attempt to keep up with Bernie and Luis.”

There was the instinctive tilt of the head and the raise of a critical eyebrow before Grissom said, more acerbic than curious, “Are you insinuating that I couldn’t?”

She gave a humorless half-laugh. “I know I can’t.”

“No, I wasn’t,” he intoned solemnly and the said. “It was Pseudomyrmex ferruginea.”

At this seeming non sequitur, she said, “What?”

“The reason I was interested in the tree,” Grissom explained. “It was an acacia and home to an impressive colony of Pseudomyrmex ants.”

“Ants?” Sara echoed.

She should have known, she rued with an exasperated shake of the head.

“Yeah. Textbook case of mutualism. The ants guard the tree from anyone or anything that might attack it. They even go so far as to destroy any nearby plants to help cut down on the competition for light. In return, the tree provides a sweet, energy-rich nectar for them to feed on and their large, hollow horn-like thorns serve for shelter. I was trying to see if I could locate one of the brood or queen’s chambers.”

“And you couldn’t have had one of the guys look for you?”

“I wanted to see it for myself.”

At this, she gave a reluctant, yet comprehending nod. “Of course you did. But don’t you think you are a little…” she began, but stopped. Grissom narrowed his eyes as if to dare her to complete the sentence. “I mean when was the last time you climbed a tree?” she finally asked.

Without the slightest hint of hesitation he replied, “1988. It was an oak and twenty below outside so the tree had iced over. Not unusual for Minneapolis in the middle of winter. The wind had blown some evidence off a balcony and into the tree and someone had to go and get it and I was still relatively new at the time…” At the baffled look Sara was giving him at this dispassionate recitation, he said, “Everyone has to be the low man on the totem pole at some point. Some of us more than once,” he added with a slight smile. “Besides, I used to do it all the time when I was a kid.”

“Busy looking for bugs then, too?”

As if the answer were obvious, Grissom made no reply.

Sara sighed heavily. “You’re mother must have had the patience of Job.”

This time, that trace of a smile grew. “Whenever she caught me at it, she’d tell me she never wanted to see me do it ever again.”

“So you didn’t?”

He shook his head no and replied with an unstudied nonchalance, “I just made sure to do it when she wasn’t around.”

This unexpected revelation caused Sara to snicker, “Gil Grissom the rebel. I have a hard time picturing that.” But then the more she thought about it…  “Actually,” she replied, “maybe I don’t.”

Grissom for his part had suddenly gotten that far off distant look that often accompanied his private musings and had always left Sara wondering what stories he had yet to tell her. There were probably years worth of them. Although obviously today wasn’t the day he’d planned on sharing, for he said rather rueful himself now, “I have to admit, certain things are a lot harder at fifty-two than I remember them being at thirty-two.”

“Like climbing trees?” Sara supplied wryly.

He chose to ignore this and instead said, “It definitely changes your perspective on certain things.”

He could tell she was pursing her lips in order not to smile. “Such as gravity?”

“Well, Newton was right: What goes up must come down.”

How quintessentially Grissom, Sara thought. She gestured to the mug on the bedside table. “You better drink that before it gets cold.”

He barely made it through the first sip without making a face.

“Not to your liking?”

“Not really.”

She leaned over to take a whiff. “It smells like stewed grass.”

“Tastes like it,” Grissom replied, but without a single further comment or complaint, drank it down to the dregs anyway.

Indicating his right hand where a bright bandana cinched tight about the palm, she asked, “What’s this?”

“I tried to catch myself.”

“On the acacia?”

He nodded sheepishly. “As it turns out, yes.”

“That was smart.”

For a not so brief moment Grissom really did fervently wish that sarcasm could be banned from sickrooms.

Anyway, technically speaking, there really hadn’t been any thinking involved. Not in that instant when he felt his footing on the ladder slip. It had been instinct that had caused him to reach out. Of course that instinct hadn’t done anything to save him. He still ended up sprawled on his side in the underbrush with a gash on his palm and a multitude of unhappy ants swarming all over his hand.

“I see you got bit, too,” Sara was saying as she studied the many clusters of nasty white welts that surrounded the angry red punctures.

“Occupational hazard,” he deadpanned.

“Uh huh. Hurt much?”

At this, he amended his earlier thoughts on the banning of sarcasm to broaden the injunction to also include the unnecessarily pointing out of the obvious. Not because he was actually irritated with Sara, but because he couldn’t rightly refute her claims.

Rather, he sardonically rejoined, “Not as bad as bullet ants.”

“So named because their sting feels like you’ve been shot by a bullet?”

“Or wish you had.”

Her next question sounded far more scientific than sympathetic. “Personal experience?”

Grissom gave a short shake of the head as he said, “Thankfully not.”

Sara made no further inquiry, focused as she was on working the knot on the bandana free until she had carefully eased the fabric away from the wound. She momentarily blanched at the deep, jagged gash she found there.

“I doubt steri strips are going to be of much help,” she said having soon regained her composure. “But we need to get that sealed up. I can put some temporary stitches in to last until we get you into the doctor. Or I can get Ana to do it, if you’d prefer.”

“I trust you,” he said and meant it.

Sara nodded. “I’ll be right back — honey.”

Grissom started slightly as that wasn’t an endearment Sara used with him all that often. Besides, from the stiffness that had begun to settle over her mien and posture, he seriously doubted that affectionate was what she was feeling right now.

She seemed to note his confusion, for she said, “Honey, you know the stuff bees make. Best known for its sweetening properties, but sadly and unjustly little appreciated as a natural antibiotic and antiseptic.”

“Right,” he replied, recalling having once told her as much. He watched Sara go, part of his mind still trying to work out exactly how he had managed to get himself into this mess in the first place.

But he remembered little apart from the initial jerk of the slip, the rip of the skin along his hand and the rapid rush as the ground came up to meet him. There was the vague memory of not being able to move for what felt like a very long time. The sound of voices. Whether actually before that or after he couldn’t be quite sure. Nor was he certain how he had gotten back to camp.

Grissom had chosen not to tell Sara any of this. Principally, because he had never seen her look as pale and worried as she had the moment she stepped through the tent flaps. Thankfully, the color had quickly returned to her cheeks. Although he was astute enough to realize that it was probably more out of rancor than relief.

He wasn’t sure when it had all become so horribly serious. But he could tell she was upset. Knew she was, and that this was likely to be one of Sara’s slow boils, where instead of growing louder and more expressive in her anger, she would go quieter, colder. Grissom knew, too, that there was nothing more deafening than Sara’s silences.

The problem was, even after all the years, he still hadn’t worked out a way to deal with, let alone diffuse them.

Then all too soon it seemed, she was back with the honey, water and the camp medical kit.

He tried not to hiss from the pain as she carefully cleansed the wound and was infinitely grateful that she hadn’t been stingy with the numbing agent before she set to stitching.

But the discomfort had been disconcerting enough that his query of “Do I really want to know where you learned how to do this?” slipped out before he’d even realized what he was implying.

But Sara only said, “Hank?” with those tightly pursed lips again before replying, “No. Dave gave me some pointers.”

Whether it was the nerves or the twinge that accompanied each stitch, Grissom couldn’t seem to keep himself from saying, “I’m beginning to think that you and Dave were awfully chummy.”

His cheek was rewarded by a particularly firm poke.

A little late, he decided that perhaps it was a better idea for him to keep his commentary to himself, at least until Sara no longer was wielding a needle and scissors in her hands.

He did have to admit that she was rather adept at the work. When she’d finished, he ran his thumb along the threads. The neat row of stitches wasn’t pretty per se, but if her technique had been refined under Dave’s tutelage, that wasn’t surprising. Dead bodies weren’t known to be particular when it came to how their seams looked.

Sara was silent, too, as she slathered the wound with liberal amounts of honey before covering it with a loose dressing of gauze and tape. She had just finished putting the remains of which back in their proper places in the kit when Grissom reached for her left hand and slowly eased it over until it was palm up.

His thumb caressed the thin, almost imperceptible line that was all that remained from the injury she had sustained during the lab explosion more than five years previous. By now, if a person hadn’t already known it was there, they’d never notice the scar. But Grissom wasn’t likely to forget its presence any more than the events that had come after.

The faint feel of it, even if perhaps mostly imagined, had long been for him a source of regret. Not for the injury itself, but for the hurt he had caused Sara by not telling her the truth that night, the real why he couldn’t have dinner with her.

While he certainly hadn’t known what to do about the two of them, he had then yet to realize that sometimes it was okay not to know. But his fear and ignorance had only served to drive an even deeper wedge between him and Sara for years and he had long lamented all that time he could never have back.

But with time, as well as with the warmth of that hand in his, in the grasp of it when she pulled him closer to deepen a kiss, in the feel of it against his bare skin, he discovered there was still plenty of joy and love yet to be found. More than a lifetime’s worth.

And he hadn’t been too late.

Back in the dim confines of the tent, a stray strand had fallen over Sara’s face. As Grissom went to brush it back behind her ear, his breath caught in his throat with a loud rasp that seemed to startle her back into life again.

Or at least into action.

Initially, her fingers gingerly edged their way up the line of his cervical vertebrae until they reached the base of his skull, the feel of which caused his eyes to involuntarily shut. For while he hadn’t hit his head in the course of his fall, he’d somehow managed to acquire a beastly headache and her touch, as it so often did, helped to ease the tight knot of tension there.

But when her palm slid across his collar bone and over his right shoulder blade, he was quick to recognize that it was not meant as a soft, soothing caress intent on conferring comfort, but instead bore all the cool, clinical, almost detached air of impersonal examination.

It wasn’t until she began to test the range of motion in his shoulder and elbow that he started to protest, “Ana already checked…” but had to stop as the discomfort effectively cut off his ability to speak properly.

Besides, Sara only insisted, “I want to see for myself.”

As tempted as he was, Grissom knew better than to try and prevent her. In any case, he was too busy blinking back tears of pain. Although he did let out an almost cross, “Sara,” when she began to probe along his ribs with what he regarded as far more forcefulness than really necessary.  It was already hard enough to breathe as it was. Of course, he wasn’t about to admit that.

But his gasp of “I’m fine, really,” sounded so feeble and false even to his own ears that he wasn’t in the least surprised when Sara didn’t seem to buy this assurance.

Not even when she asked, her voice rather terse, “Since when have you become a medical doctor, Gilbert?” was there a pause in her physical evaluation.

And while he might have briefly considered asking her the same thing, even he wasn’t that stupid.

He was relieved however, that it wasn’t too much longer before she seemed to be satisfied with her inspection and replaced her hands with the ice pack and an insistent admonition for him to breathe.

Apart from the obvious tenderness, he really was okay. Nothing was broken, he was just badly bruised.

When she told him as much, Grissom brusquely replied, “I believe that was Ana’s diagnosis.”

Abruptly, Sara rose from where she had been perched on the edge of the bed. “Perhaps you should have fallen on your head,” she said, the hostility heavy in her voice, “it would have done the least damage.”

The silence that followed her words was so absolute that it seemed as if the whole world had suddenly been placed on mute.

Grissom watched her face fall, the thin line of her mouth tauten and her eyes harden.

But before he could heave words, any words at all, into his mouth, she had turned away and said in a crisp, cool tone, “That tea should be kicking in any minute now. I’m going to go get cleaned up before the others get back,” and strode out without even stopping to collect any clean clothes.

It had been his dogged insistence that he was okay, that everything was fine which had ultimately been the last straw. Sara knew Grissom was trying to hide the extent of his pain and injuries from her. So instead of ameliorating her concerns, his repeated denials had only served to fuel her fury — and her fear.

As she stalked off she was thinking of a few choice names she’d really like to call him at the moment. To start with she was more than ready to agree with his mother’s long held assertion that Gil Grissom was a moron and a fool.

Grissom could hear Sara stomping about, making nearly as much noise as Bernie and Luis did put together. He knew she was angry and hating having her angry with him, he pulled himself out of bed as quickly as he could, considering the act had suddenly entailed a lot more difficulty and much more wincing than he was used to.

He wasn’t sure how despite his slow going he was able to catch up with her, but he did.

“Sara,” he called, her name almost as soft as the caress he didn’t dare risk giving her.

She turned.

It wasn’t until then that he realized he’d been mistaken in believing her response to be anger. Simply having her angry with him would have been bad enough. Having hurt her was worse.

Except it wasn’t hurt or anger that stared back at him from out of Sara’s dark eyes.

It was fear.

Perhaps it wasn’t a forgivable oversight, but it was understandable. He’d so seldom ever seen Sara scared. Often, when things had gotten dangerous at work there had hardly been any time for thought, let alone fear. Even with Adam Trent’s makeshift weapon at her throat, she’d been more pissed than frightened.

So Sara scared was still new to him. Particularly a Sara frightened for him.

Finally, Sara spoke, each possibility making her voice both rise and tighten, “You could have broken your arm, your ribs, your neck.” But she abruptly halted after the k in “You could have gotten yourself killed,” as if she worried that she could somehow turn the word true in just the uttering of it.

It may have just been a ladder and a tree and she knew that Grissom had faced far worse, ended up on the wrong end of a gun on numerous occasions, come far too close to being blown to bits more than once, been the target of serial killers and assaulted more times than she knew he’d ever admit to her. In comparison, falling out of a tree was practically benign.

Still.

Grissom offered up no defense or justification, made no response at all, except to move to draw her towards him. And for a moment, he genuinely believed she might shove him and his attempt to comfort her aside. But while she retreated a few steps, Sara let him gather her up and simply embrace her for a while before her own arms eventually slid around him and she held him hard.

Perhaps a bit too hard.

But despite or perhaps in spite of his protesting ribs, Grissom didn’t care.

He understood. Had wanted to hold her like this after Trent — when they had finally found her in the desert — after he’d read that letter she’d left behind. Hold her tight to him and never let go.

All too well, he remembered what the fear had been like. How he had never wanted to feel that way ever again, even as he understood that you only feared to loose what you so desperately couldn’t bear to part with.

He recalled those heart-stopping moments right after they’d located her in the desert and she’d been so still he thought – for the first time feared — for there really hadn’t been time for fear until that moment —

But it was the fear of what could have been that had proven to haunt him most in the hours and days and weeks after the last of the original danger was long past.

If Sara hadn’t been able to free herself from under that car….

If she hadn’t carefully marked her trail….

If Nick hadn’t spotted the flash of her mirror….

If they had found her even an hour later….

If….

And here with her now, he could sense all the might have beens, the could have beens in her grasp.

Sara was right. He could have hit his head, broken his neck, broken any number of things.

And as if she knew what he was thinking, she whispered, “You were lucky.”

Grissom readily acknowledged it, even if he didn’t particularly physically feel it at the moment.

Still grasping him close, Sara shook her head and sighed, “Whatever am I to do with you?” But he could hear the tenderness begin to replace the rue.

As he didn’t rightly have a reply, he merely held her. When they finally broke apart, he was surprised to see her giving him a slight smile.

“You’ve… you’ve got,” she said by way of explanation as she extracted several large bits of plant detritus from his hair.

Grissom took this to be a good sign. After all, social grooming in primates frequently figured in cementing reconciliations. When he had said as much to her, Sara neither confirmed nor denied the prospect, she only let out another sigh and told him he’d been spending way too much time around Bridget.

He smiled, began to run his hand along her bare arm and was pleased to see her struggling to conceal a grin. He was likewise glad that he’d never told her that a similarly intimate gesture had been how Natalie Davis had found out about them. How she’d known. But he didn’t see the need to tell Sara that now. It was done. Over. And time that he no longer equated that action with Natalie and all that happened after.

“Just promise me,” Sara insisted, “that you’ll leave the arboreal explorations to Luis and Bernie. At least for a little while.”

“Is this your way of telling me I’m too old to be climbing trees?” he asked.

“No,” she replied. “I’m trying to tell you that while I have absolutely no interest in having a torrid affair with Luis, if you kill yourself falling out of another tree, I just might seriously consider it.”

Grissom chuckled softly. “I wouldn’t let Luis hear you say that. He was the one who was holding the ladder.”

Sara shook her head, more out of amusement than exasperation. The former was plainly evident as she said, “You haven’t even been here an entire week yet and you’ve already managed to get yourself peed on, fallen out of a tree and ripped open your hand. Either you are suddenly incident prone, Gil, or you’ve just had a busy last couple of days.”

“They’ve certainly been memorable,” he said. “But mostly for other reasons.”

This finally did garner him a grin.

“You do realize things aren’t usually this eventful around here,” she cautioned.

“But then excitement can be overrated,” Grissom intoned, then amended, “Well, certain types of excitement.”

Sara only rolled her eyes and told him to “stop being a stubborn ass and go lay back down.”

*******

Although he had point-blank refused to have his meal brought to him, Grissom retired directly after dinner. Not that he was all that much more comfortable in bed. His entire right side seemed intent on voicing its displeasure as loudly as it possibly could.

Sara, knowing better than to hover or fuss too much over him, pretty much left him to his own devices. Plus, they were running a little low on their preservation solvents and she didn’t want to be bothered with having to deal with them over the weekend.

But a little after seven, when she came in bearing a fresh ice pack it was to find him still patiently working his way through his copy of Costa Rican Natural History. Since the 800 plus page volume consisted mainly of dry, dense scientific prose, which while illuminating and fascinating in its own way, could only be consumed in relatively small doses even by specialists, she wasn’t the least bit surprised.

He peered up at her as she entered and gave her a welcoming grin that he was heartened to see her faintly return.

“You need anything else?” she asked.

“No, I’m good, thanks.”

She nodded and went to go, but not before pausing in the entryway to say in a tone Grissom knew to be a little too casual to be taken lightly, “You going to put Luis out of his misery any time soon?”

When he continued to look clueless, Sara supplied, “He’s been walking around all day scared shitless because he’s afraid you’re mad at him.”

“I’m not,” he replied simply and returned to his book.

She shook her head. Grissom had never really grasped the fact that he could be more than a little intimidating to people who didn’t know him well.

“I know that. You know that. Luis doesn’t,” she maintained.

He seemed to consider this for a minute. “Does he play chess?” he asked.

That caught Sara off guard. “I think Stephen’s been teaching him and Bernie how to play,” she said after a while.

“You think he’d consider a match?”

Still slightly disbelieving, she said, “With you?”

“Why not? I promise to play nice, dear.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” Sara replied, but she went to track down the young man anyway.

********

When he’d entered the tent, board and pieces in hand, Luis had looked more than a little apprehensive at Grissom’s sudden summons, but by the time Sara ventured to check up on them some time later, the two men were animatedly chattering away in Spanish about sports of all things.

Grissom was stumbling his way through a rather wistful account about his boyhood love of baseball, even though it was readily apparent that Luis didn’t quite grasp the appeal of the game. But the young man had proven very enthusiastic about Costa Rica’s chance of making it into the next World Cup Qualifiers. He’d seen them play and win in San José the February before, and was hopeful, despite the fact that the team was currently ranked 37th in the world in between Iran and Hungary.

Luis caught Sara’s eye, she put a finger to her lips to indicate that he shouldn’t give away her presence. He offered her the barest hint of a nod and promptly returned his gaze to the chest board, but he was grinning broadly when he did so.

And Sara went back to her solvents. When she returned about an hour later with another of Ana’s mugs of maracujá tea, the last game was winding down.

Of course there had never been any doubt as to who would win. But that hadn’t been the point. Grissom accepted his victories with little fanfare; Luis didn’t seem to mind having been repeatedly beaten. Instead, he was looking very much relieved as he packed up the pieces and prepared to head to bed for the night.

Although before he did so, he said softly, in careful English this time, “I am sorry.”

Grissom gave him a reassuring smile. “It was an accident, Luis. There’s no need to be sorry. Okay?”

Luis nodded. “Do you need anything before I go, Dr. G?”

Sara smirked at this, recalling how less than thrilled Grissom had initially been about the Ticos’ adoption of that particular moniker for him. Her assurance that it could have been worse, that they could have called him what the CSIs in San Francisco had, hadn’t helped. It wasn’t like Grissom hadn’t been called The Bugman before. But it hadn’t taken him long before he recognized that Bernie and Luis’s use of Dr. G carried with it equal measures of respect and ever-evolving affection. So he soon accepted the nickname with his usual good grace.

Not that Grissom had ever been the type to insist that the title Doctor precede his name. It had never featured on his nameplate or business cards or general correspondence. It seemed that the only time it was ever really called into use was when he testified in court or had to present at a conference, and Grissom showed every sign of liking to keep it that way.

But he had already gotten so used to being called Dr. G. by now, that he didn’t even register the address, and only said, “Could you pass me the book and the glasses from over on the table please? Thank you. Oh and Luis –”

Luis turned to face him.

“Don’t worry about Sara,” Grissom said as he slipped on his reading glasses.  “She’s not mad at you. Just me.”

Luis smiled and replied, “Not so mad. She is happy you are here.”

Sara had to hurriedly duck out of the way as the young man slipped off to his own tent.

********

When Grissom roused at some indeterminable hour during the night, he was perplexed to realize he was alone in the bed. He blinked, still slightly sleepy and befuddled by the ache all along the right side of his body.

The lantern had been turned down so low it took him a moment before he was barely able to discern Sara’s shadow curled up on the floor, her head pillowed on top of her forearms.

It wasn’t the first time he’d encountered her asleep in such an awkward position.    Over the years, on the far too numerous occasions he hadn’t been able to convince her to go home to get some proper rest, he’d found her dozing like this in the lab break room. Thankfully, it had been a far rarer occurrence once the two of them had started seeing each other and Grissom could add the insistence of a lover to that of a boss.

Knowing there was no way she could be comfortable, he gently nudged her awake.

“Sara,” he called softly.

And she stirred, then glanced up bleary eyed at him, the way she always did when unexpectedly woken.

“Honey, what are you doing on the floor?” he asked.

“You were already asleep when I came to bed,” Sara replied, brushing her hair from her face. “And since even with the tea you’d been having a hard time getting comfortable, I didn’t want to disturb you.”

Of course what she didn’t tell him was that he’d been occupying the vast majority of the bed at the time, so there really hadn’t been any way for her to have even wedged herself in beside him without waking him in the process.

While Grissom could see why she hadn’t chosen to doze off in one of the tent’s camp stools as they were barely comfortable for sitting on for short periods of time, but the floor?

“Why didn’t you go bunk with Bridget?” he asked, recalling the spare cot in Sara’s old tent.

Her reply of “I wasn’t all that interested in sleeping apart,” rendered him effectively speechless for a moment.

But then he reached out for her with his left hand, said, “Come to bed,” and after easing himself over to his side, tugged her onto the cot beside him.

Sara snuggled into his good shoulder.

“You aren’t really still as upset with me as you pretend,” Grissom whispered after a while.

He could sense her soften even more at this.

“You’re going to be hurting for while,” she said. “I suppose that is punishment enough.”

Although in truth Sara wasn’t upset with him any longer. Besides, it had been just as Grissom had told Luis earlier, an accident.

In any case, she couldn’t really fault Grissom’s almost insatiable curiosity or his inherent drive to see and know and discover for himself. Those were among the things that had so attracted her to him in the first place and were still among what she loved most about him. She just preferred that he’d be a bit more careful in the exercise of his trademark inquisitiveness.

Before drifting off to sleep again, Sara whispered, “Goodnight, Gil.”

And Grissom knew from the warmth in those two words, that while the events of the day might not yet be entirely forgiven or forgotten, at least she continued to love him anyway.

Continued in Another Just-So Story, More or Less.

*******

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