08 – On a Sunday

 

What if Sara had something far different than sex in mind when she told Ecklie that she thought it had been a Sunday when she and Grissom first became intimate?

A prequel to “Devoutly to be Wished” and “Consummation,” and takes place post season five,

circa late May 2005

*******

In Vegas, Sunday mornings were in comparison to the rest of the week, relatively peaceful. Relative of course being relative.

While the merry and mischief makers in the city seemed to have by that time finally gorged themselves on enough sex, drugs and rock and roll to lull them into a stupor, that didn’t mean the city actually slept. And despite the fact that Sundays were supposed to be one of her days off, Sara Sidle found herself more often than not, haunting the halls of CSI if she was lucky, or wading through the sometimes gruesome remains of a crime scene if she was not.

This particular Sunday had been worse than most. A lot worse.

While Grissom had petitioned for Nick and Warrick to return to Grave and Catherine had decided to rejoin them, the constant shortage of staff to cover the swing shift meant that Sara, Greg and Sofia were all Grissom had on hand to cover a particularly nasty multiple.

On a quiet cul-de-sac of million dollar vacation homes that all had million dollar views of Lake Mead, a family of five’s summer holidays and lives had been tragically cut short.After six hours of processing the extensive house and grounds, it was beginning to appear that late the night before, a former dot-com entrepreneur had come back from a nasty hostile takeover meeting in California and decided his own life wasn’t worth living – and neither was that of his wife and his three young children.

The event certainly proved the assertion that all the money in the world really couldn’t buy happiness – or safety.

Even Greg, who was normally animated even at the ungodly hour of five a.m., had been silent and subdued as they were finishing up. Sara had volunteered to stay back with Grissom after she helped Greg and Sophia load up one of the Denalis, ostensibly to do one last check on the house, but in reality, she had remained behind because she was worried about her boss – for lack of a better ready term.

She and Grissom hadn’t exactly defined where their now much more personal relationship was heading. There really hadn’t been a need. Not really.

Not that a great deal had happened since that day they shared their first kiss in her kitchen a little over a month before. They had had the sum total of a single date, which had of course, been cut short by the inevitable call-in from work. And while Grissom had spent the night (or more precisely the day) at her place twice, one of those times had been upright on her couch.

It wasn’t like they hadn’t tried to make other plans, but it was summer in Vegas, which never brought out the best in anybody, or at least in anyone they were likely to meet in a professional capacity. So that meant that one or the other or more likely both of them were pulling down an excessive amount of overtime.

Sara always thought the city had gotten themselves a bargain when they promoted Grissom and made his position salaried. They never could have afforded to pay him for all the hours he worked otherwise. She, herself, had stopped being completely forthright in reporting just how much time she was spending at work as she didn’t relish being stuck in the lab because she had already exceeded her allotted overtime hours for the month.

But she wasn’t thinking about how late it already was or how much work they still had to do back at the lab as she made a hurried sweep of the house. She was thinking about Grissom and how uncharacteristically quiet he had been all night.

While he, like the rest of the team, had been understandably subdued, a little shaken and more than a little shell-shocked over Nick’s kidnapping, over the course of the last week and a half since then, Grissom had gradually returned to his usual eagerly inquisitive self. Until this case.

For the most part, he had been strangely hands-off, allowing Sara and Sofia to handle most of the responsibilities.

Of course senseless death tended to faze even the most seasoned of investigators. No matter how stoic the exterior, how calm and even the voice sounded, how still and deliberate the hands were as they set about completing their assigned tasks, horror and disbelief always lingered.

Still Sara worried.

Finally, she located him in the last place she had expected, for the house’s rear patio hadn’t been part of their official investigation. But that is where Grissom was standing, leaning against the wooden railing and seemingly lost in watching the sun come up over the great expanse of Lake Mead that stretched off into the distance below.

She was halfway through automatically updating him on the status of the case when she stopped for he gave no indication that he was listening or had even heard her. So she simply stood there in the doorway watching him for a while before eventually quietly threading a path around the children’s toys still littering the deck to join him.

As she reached his side, Sara couldn’t blame him for picking this spot. The sight was breathtaking. The emerging golden glow only heightened the reds and umbers of the surrounding mountains and made the lake burn a brilliant blue.

But the awe quickly gave way to concern.

Sara took a deep breath. Knowing all too well that if she asked him directly if he was okay, that he would just automatically reply that he was, she decided on a less direct approach.

“I have never understood how there could exist so much beauty and so much ugliness at the same time,” she said.

“Perhaps to remind us that there still is beauty in the world,” Grissom replied knowingly. Then he turned to face her, a slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth and she was glad to find that his eyes were bright instead of withdrawn. His voice was warm, almost tender when he continued softly, “I am reminded of that everyday.”

She didn’t know how he did it, but Gil Grissom had the most perplexing habit of every once in a while catching her off guard by saying the most bewilderingly endearing things seemingly from out of the blue. Since in all the years they had known each other, Sara had yet to find a ready reply when he did this, she wasn’t the least bit surprised that she couldn’t find one now.

Instead, she decided to hazard to ask, “Come out here to think or just to clear your head?”

Sadly, it seemed like there wouldn’t need to be too much thinking involved in this incident. All of the evidence was indicating that it was a clear case of murder-suicide. As for the need to clear one’s head, Sara doubted she would be able to erase the images of those three children shot dead from her mind anytime soon.

And she had to confess that when she had stepped outside and left the confines of the overly large house, she felt more than a little relieved. With the hustle and bustle of police and investigators gone, the place had assumed a strange, almost unworldly sort of air that was almost too quite, especially when one considered that not even twelve hours before the place had likely bustled with the sounds of children’s laughter and the oftentimes petty squabbles of siblings.

“Me, I’m all for head clearing at this point,” she admitted.

“Thinking,” he said finally.

“Ah.”

“But I wasn’t thinking about work.”

Sara looked surprised, but waited for him to continue.He returned his gaze to the view. “My mother used to say that light changes everything,” he said, and then after a while, “And that the golden hours like this were where the best light was to be found.”

“Golden hours?” she queried and then recognizing the reference answered her own question. “From photography. The first and last hour of sunlight of the day. So named because with the sun so close to the horizon the light appears softer and warmer thus giving everything a golden glow.”

Grissom nodded in appreciation of the thoroughness of her explanation.

“I guess I have always thought about it being right before dusk,” she continued. “Probably because we are usually inside the lab or too busy at a crime scene to notice it in the morning.”

“Probably,” he agreed. “But she always loved the early morning best.”

“I still maintain that mornings are best enjoyed as the end rather than the beginning of the day,” Sara quipped.

Then her mind suddenly registered his use of the past tense. Abruptly her face fell and she stammered, unsure of what, if anything, to say to this unexpected and probably unintentionally conveyed bit of news, “Grissom… I – I didn’t – didn’t know.”

For while she knew Grissom wasn’t a man for sentiment, she knew, too, that as an only child who grew up mostly without any other family, he had been close to his mother and must have felt her passing keenly. That she hadn’t known, hadn’t realized, struck her hard, but then up until the last few months, the two of them hadn’t exactly been on speaking, let alone intimate terms. Besides, Grissom seldom, if ever, revealed much, at least in the way of anything personal. He was a private person, fiercely private, and while that often frustrated Sara to no end, she respected that fact about him. Or at least tried to.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t curious or in this case concerned. She wondered how long it had been and before she could stop herself asked, “When?”

“End of December,” he replied in his usual brisk matter of fact manner.

Sara tried to think back. At first, she couldn’t remember there being anything different about him over the holidays. Although it was always hard to notice anything at that time of year with staff at a premium and an influx of not always quite so merry visitors to the city. This past year, she had been even busier than usual with more than her typical share of solo assignments. She hadn’t thought much about it at the time, but Grissom had seemed to spend more time in his office then, something she was gradually beginning to see as a behavior that indicated he was upset or troubled about something other than work, rather than him simply being stuck there attempting to complete the now seemingly endless reams of paperwork that Ecklie had instituted as SOP.

He seemed to sense what she was thinking, for he added as if to indicate why he hadn’t said anything earlier, “Like you told me once before, we really didn’t get a chance to talk with all the staff changes.”

Although she knew it sounded trite, she knew no other words, so she softly said, “I’m sorry.”

He shrugged slightly.”It was to be expected.”

“Still.”

Sara reached over and covered one of his hands with hers, curling her fingers between his thumb and forefinger just as he had done that afternoon when she had told him about her family. He seemed to appreciate the gesture, for he gave her hand a gentle squeeze in reply.

“She always did like you,” he murmured.

“Your mother?” Sara asked genuinely amazed. “How? We never met.”

“She would ask about you all the time.”

“And Catherine and Nick and Warrick and pretty much everyone else you worked with I’d imagine,” she contended.

“No, just you,” he countered.

Once the realization of what his words meant had sunk in and resultant initial shock had worn off, Sara said, “I wish I had gotten to meet her.”

He turned his palm over and threaded his fingers through hers.She could hear a sense of wistful regret in his voice when he intoned, “Me too.” Then a slight smile tugged on his lips. “The last time we talked – it was about you. Well, me mostly. She told me I was,” he paused as if to remember, “I think her exact words were a moron and a coward and a fool. But perhaps not in that precise order.”

You? Why?”

“For loving you and not doing anything about it,” he replied simply. “ She said it always amazed her how the people who seemed so fearless were the ones who were the most scared. She couldn’t understand how I could face killers and rapists, criminals of all sorts, but I couldn’t face myself or my own life.”

And then, “She was right.”

“But by that time, I thought it was too late. I was too late.

“Sara, for so long I didn’t know what to do about — about us. All I knew was that I didn’t want to make any mistakes when it came to you. But then I became so wrapped up in not making any mistakes that I couldn’t – didn’t – do anything. And I almost lost you twice this year because of it.

“After you were suspended, I realized I wanted to do something and I thought if I could just keep you here in Vegas long enough, then I would have plenty of time to find a way to figure out what exactly.

“Then I went out to San Francisco.”

“To help with the Werner Case,” Sara supplied. “And you give me a hard time about working on my days off. At least I don’t travel 600 miles to do it, Grissom,” she teased. “Jack really appreciated it by the way.”

“I think Peters appreciated me going,” Grissom corrected. “Seemed to be worried about me absconding with more of his staff for some reason or other.”

Sara laughed, “That sounds like Jack.”

“It was different. San Francisco.”

“It’s been what – almost seven years now since the last time you were there. Places do change, not quite as quickly as Vegas, but they do change.”

“It wasn’t like that,” he maintained. “It felt different than I remembered. As if something was missing. Which is when I realized that the last time I was there it was with you.”

“The Mendelsohn fiasco,” she groaned almost ruefully. “Now that was a mess. Thank goodness you had volunteered to come out to help. Otherwise… I don’t even want to think about the otherwise.”

“You were fine,” Grissom replied.

“Yeah, and that is why we never did make it to dinner,” Sara lamented. “Because the case was going oh so well. What was it I wonder with us and thwarted dinner plans in San Francisco? I mean I got called in that afternoon during the conference, too.”

“That turned out to be an interesting case.”

Sara hadn’t known at the time that interesting was Grissom code for there had been a lot of insect activity, something she hadn’t quite had the stomach for then, but certainly hadn’t been willing to admit to the visiting illustrious Dr. Gil Grissom.Seven years later – five working for and with Grissom – she barely batted her eyes at all things six or eight legged – for the most part. And thanks to that entomology textbook he had given her the year before for Christmas and a great deal of reading she had done on her own during those long hours when she couldn’t sleep, she probably had a better grasp of forensic entomology than anyone else in the lab. But on that particularly wet evening in San Francisco, interesting was not the word that would have come to mind.

“Yeah, the dead bodies in the park were a whole lot of fun,” she sighed.

“Kept me off the wooden coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.”

“Is that they only reason you go to conferences?” she asked incredulous. “To ride coasters or race roaches?”

“No. They’re just one of the perks,” he replied. “Besides, the company that day was…”

“Nice?” she supplied.

“Memorable.”

But his face and tone returned serious again. “This last time, I guess I missed you. And then I realized that I had been missing you for a while.

“I came back thinking I was ready… That I could begin to court you the way you always deserved. But I was thinking, too, that there was no reason to rush it, to hurry. That I had all the time in the world.

“You would think seeing what we do everyday that I would have – should have -known better. Known better how quickly life can change. How quickly it can all be gone.

“But I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about how nice it was for us to work together again like we had in the beginning.

“And then…” his voice trailed off.

“And then…” Sara repeated as if that was all that needed to be said, for she didn’t need either of them to finish that sentence.

The memory of Adam Trent still haunted her nightmares even more than a month later. Although what she remembered most in those first frantic moments of waking wasn’t Adam Trent, but the sight of Grissom standing there on the other side of the glass looking more scared than she had ever seen him. It was an impression her subconscious seemed to enjoy having a field day with for all the time it chose to dwell on it in her dreaming hours.

Perhaps if she had been there when Walter Gordon had tried to take Grissom with him when he blew himself up, that would have been what plagued her most, but she hadn’t been, and for once her fear and overactive imagination hadn’t filled in the blanks, something for which she was infinitely thankful.

Or perhaps there just hadn’t been time yet. For there had barely been enough time to eat, let alone sleep since Nick had been rescued. Now that she thought about it, Sara realized she hadn’t had a full afternoon’s worth of sleep since the one she spent with Grissom more than a week before.

She was about to reach up and caress his cheek with her free hand, but remembering that while they were alone, that at a crime scene wasn’t probably really the time or the place, let it fall back to her side.

Besides, while Sara had long been comfortable with the simple and innocent touching bourn out of the familiar camaraderie that had grown up between herself and the other members of the team, she and Grissom had spent so many years tip-toeing around each other, always making sure never to touch – as if any touch might have inadvertently revealed what they both felt so strongly the need to conceal – that there were still moments even with all the recent changes to their relationship, that gave her pause, moments where she still wasn’t sure despite all the assurances that he had given her in his townhouse several weeks earlier, that not only was he comfortable with being touched, it was an act he welcomed and even desired from her.

But Grissom didn’t seem to precisely share her reticence – for he took up that hand, so that he was now holding both of hers in his. He peered first down at their hands and then up into her face, giving her a long almost searching look that seemed to say that if it had been a different time or place he wanted and would have done something more.

“Anyway,” he began after a long pause. “You were saying that Brass was on his way back to PD to talk to the husband’s business partner and Greg and Sofia were taking everything back to the lab.”

Sara shook her head in bemusement; he had heard her after all.

“Just the final walk through to do then,” he finished.

“Already done,” she replied, accepting without question or comment the switch back to work mode.

While Grissom’s abrupt segue had lacked his usual verbal finesse, she was more than willing to cut him some slack. She understood and appreciated the fact that he had probably done more baring of his soul in the last several minutes than he had in the last several years. That he had chosen to open up to her had meant a lot, more than she really had words for at the moment.

She gave his hands one last squeeze before moving to return to the house, pausing before the door to allow him to catch up.

He was suddenly giving her that perplexed look of his, the one where his head cocked to one side.

“It’s Sunday, isn’t it?” he queried as if just realizing it.

Sensing that another you’re working too much, Sara lecture was likely to be coming next, she nodded and said with a slight smile, “Yes, and it has been for the last…” She gave her watch a quick glance before continuing, “Six hours.”

Her attempt at levity didn’t seem to deter him. “Aren’t you supposed to be off on Sundays?” he asked, holding the front door open for her.

Sara nodded again. This wasn’t the first time he had brought up her time off lately, and she had the feeling it wasn’t likely to be the last, but not in the mood to be reminded that she was again working far too much, she decided to go on the offensive and said in an utterly nonchalant manner, “You do know, Grissom, that the simplest way to keep me from coming in on my so-called days off is for you to stop calling me in in the first place.”

Grissom appeared to weigh the merit of this suggestion for a moment before saying, “Why am I not so sure that would guarantee that you wouldn’t just show up anyway?”

She handed him his kit, before picking up her own. “I do have other things to do than just work, you know,” she maintained.

His tone and manner turned curious. “Oh?” he asked.

“Yes, a personal life… Diversions.”

He gave her a pleased smile as he held up the yellow crime scene tape so she could more easily duck under it. “I see you finally took my advice,” he said.

“Not finally, but yes,” she agreed.

“And how’s it going?”

Sara seemed to consider her answer for a while. “Good,” she replied, loading her case and then Grissom’s into the back of the remaining Denali. “Better if the phone didn’t ring all the time.”

“True,” he conceded ruefully.

Sara was surprised that he didn’t protest when she moved to climb into the driver’s seat. She had already started the engine and had managed to turn off what Grissom would have likely argued was noise on the radio before he had climbed in on the passenger side. Apparently Greg had been the last one with dial privileges, that or she had seriously misjudged Sofia’s likely taste in music.

They drove along in relative silence for a while until they came to a stop at a particularly long light, which was when Sara sensed Grissom’s steady gaze upon her.

“What?” she asked suddenly feeling self-conscious.

“I love you,” he said without preamble or explanation. As if it were the most natural thing in the world. As if it hadn’t been the first, but merely one of many times that he had spoken those particular words to her.

She gaped open mouthed at him for a few seconds, for probably more than a few seconds, and for obviously more than a few seconds too long, for the truck idling behind them let out a loud insistent honk to let her know not quite so politely that the light had changed.

When they pulled into the lab parking lot several minutes later, the shock and surprised must have still registered on her face for Grissom said, “Sara, just because I never said the words, doesn’t mean I didn’t feel them.”

At this, Sara wanted to throw her arms around his neck and kiss him, but in front of the lab was even more certainly neither the time nor the place. So she gave him a slightly watery smile instead. But he seemed to understand.

They sat there for a while longer before Sara reluctantly suggested they should go inside.

As he handed her her case from out of the back, he said, “Could you help Greg with the reconstruction and timeline work?”

“You going to have Sofia help you with trace collection down in autopsy?” Then when he had nodded, she leaned in close to him on the pretense of moving to closing the door and asked, “Are you afraid of being distracted?”

He only smiled.

“And Sofia isn’t a distraction?” came her curious query.

“No,” he readily replied and then curious himself said, “Why would she be?”

Sara shook her head at his obvious obliviousness and decided that this was also not the moment to enlighten Gil Grissom on the subject of women, especially as she registered that he was saying, “I’ll see you later?” with a not quite slight hint of insecurity in his voice, something she found more endearing than anything right then.

She thought about what later might entail: seeing the grin spread across his face as he opened the door; her stepping into the refreshing coolness of his townhouse that was at the same time warm and welcoming, especially with the fragrance of fresh cooking in the air; her feeling the weight and weariness of the previous hours fade away as they shut the door on the rest of the world and it was just them. Just them, and she didn’t have to think or worry or wonder about whether or not it was okay to reach up and caress his cheek in affection, slip her hand around the back of his neck, then pull him close and finally be able to attempt to convey with a kiss or two or more, the only answer she knew how to give to his earlier profession of love.

The entire prospect pleased her immensely. She practically beamed with it as she replied, “Yeah, you will.”

*******

Continued in The Five Cent Tour

xxxxxxx

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