Title: No Rest for the Weary
Disclaimer: I still don't own them, sadly. I just love 'borrowing' them and doing stuff to them J
A/N: Here I am, back with my second attempt! I was a little reluctant to start posting this one, since it is currently still a 'work-in-progress.' I hope, though, that as I post I will continue working on the story, moving it further ahead, so that there won't be too much of a time lag between chapters. This one is perhaps a little more 'fluffy' than Theft of Reason, but there is a case in there somewhere—I promise! I hope everyone enjoys this story J Once again, I owe Grissom HUGE thanks for being such a wonderful beta and friend J
Chapter 1: Bugs
Gil Grissom opened his eyes, rolled over, and looked at the clock. From the intensity of the light sneaking in around the edges of the closed blinds, he knew it was too early to be awake. Reading the numbers glowing on the face of the digital clock on his nightstand confirmed that he was right. He groaned and sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.
He sat there for a moment, rubbing his eyes. He was wiped out. He and his team had wrapped up a messy double murder earlier this morning. They had been working on it almost three days straight with very little sleep. Grissom had come home and crashed a few hours earlier. He had slept for maybe two solid hours before he had realized that he suddenly could no longer breathe through his nose. He had tossed and turned restlessly for another couple of hours after that before giving up.
Now he felt like hell. His head felt oddly full and heavy, and throbbed with dull pain; his throat was dry and scratchy. Grabbing a tissue, he sneezed and then began coughing—hacking, congested waves emanating from his chest. After clearing his nose and throat, he admitted to himself that he must have caught a cold or something. He toyed with the idea of calling in sick, but he had never done that in his twenty years of working at the LVPD criminalistics lab. There was very little that could keep Grissom from work.
He glanced at the clock again. There were still almost eight hours until the start of the graveyard shift. He decided to take a couple of antihistamine tablets and try to catch some more sleep before he had to head to work. Still sitting there, he felt a sudden chill ripple across his bare chest and back. Shivering in response, he mentally blamed the air conditioner setting. Finally pushing himself to his feet, he walked into the bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. Popping two pills out of a small foil tray, he swallowed them with some water. Settling into bed again, he lay on his back waiting for the medicine to take effect.
* * * * * * *
Grissom hadn't given the pills much time to work. He had quickly become uncomfortable and irritated lying in bed, unable to breathe freely, so he had given up the quest for sleep once again. Now he was sitting in the kitchen, eating the scrambled eggs and toast he had prepared. He had been hungry before, but now the food sat uneasily in his stomach. Taking a deep breath to will away the queasiness, he realized that he was starting to feel drowsy—a common side effect of the medicine he had taken. He debated going back to bed for one last try when the phone rang.
"Grissom," he said, picking up the receiver.
"Gil, it's Jim."
"What's going on?"
Jim thought his voice sounded odd, but didn't comment on it. "Sorry to disturb you—I know you and the guys just got off that double—but we have a DB out in the desert."
"Can't days handle it?"
"No, we need you."
"Insect activity?" Grissom asked, finally figuring it out.
"Yup, plenty of your little creepy crawly friends."
"Tell me where," Grissom said, exhaling tiredly. He listened to Brass' directions, then promised, "I'll be there in half an hour."
"Thanks, Gil," the captain responded, and hung up.
Feeling a bit fuzzy now as a result of the antihistamine tablets, Grissom decided a shower might help wake him up and even steam out some of the congestion in his head and chest. He had just enough time for a quick one before he had to start the twenty-minute drive out to where Brass was. He knew that with insects already on the body, time was a key element. Putting his dishes in the sink, Grissom headed for the bathroom.
* * * * * * *
Grissom pulled up near the two police cars, with their red and blue lights flashing silently. The two uniformed officers who belonged to the cars were standing near the yellow crime scene tape they had strung around the perimeter. Brass walked up next to the open window of Grissom's dark blue SUV.
"Morning," he said as Grissom turned toward him. "Dead guy's over that way, about twenty yards, and I have to go. Another call in town. No rest for the weary, as they say. Keep me informed."
Grissom nodded. "Thanks, Jim," he offered as the police captain headed toward his unmarked car.
The criminalist climbed down out of his vehicle. He pulled off his sunglasses and reached inside for a tissue. He had thought ahead enough to throw a fresh box into his front seat.
Sara Sidle parked her own Yukon a short distance from Grissom's, facing the opposite direction. He hadn't seen her yet, but she watched him emerge from the driver's side and blow his nose into a tissue. Then she saw him pull his "FORENSICS" windbreaker tighter around his body and snap it all the way up to his neck, as if he were freezing. Meanwhile, Sara herself had tossed her lightweight jacket into the SUV, but was still sweating in the severe desert sun. She grabbed her field kit and camera and headed over to Grissom.
"Hey," she said. Now that she was closer, she could tell that something was definitely wrong. He had his arms crossed in front of him, and he was shivering. Raising her gaze, she noticed that his normally alert blue eyes were glassy and his face flushed. "Are you okay?" she asked him.
"You look like you're…cold."
He didn't answer, but she could see his body convulsing with shivers.
"Grissom, it's 110 degrees out here," she explained, concern flooding her voice. She reached up and placed a gentle hand on his cheek, and then moved it to his forehead. Her brow knitted as she felt the intense heat radiating from his skin.
"Chalk again?" he asked, trying weakly for sarcasm.
"No, fever," she replied. "Which you have, big time."
"I'm all right," he told her, his voice low and nasal.
"You don't look all right. You should be home in bed."
"Maybe, but I can't be. Because this guy is covered in insects, and I'm the only one who can do the linear regression."
She knew he was right, but she was still worried; he looked quite ill to her. "Then let's get going," she said, walking in the direction of the body.
Grissom took his kit out of the back of the Yukon and followed closely behind Sara. She held the yellow tape up as he ducked underneath.
"Did Brass call you, too?" he asked.
"Yeah, and Catherine, I think."
"Sorry you had to get woken up, too."
"It's no problem," she said, smiling. "You know I don't need much sleep."
She began searching the sand surrounding the victim for any signs of what had happened.
"He wasn't killed here," Grissom announced, hunkering down by the body and snapping on a pair of latex gloves. "Not enough blood."
"I've got tire tracks and shoe prints," Sara said, clicking some photos with the camera that had been over her shoulder. "Some are fresher than others—could belong to the vehicle that transported him here."
"Good," Grissom told her, then he got several specimen jars out of his kit and started collecting the various maggots, flies, and beetles that were crawling all over the dead man.
After working for a while, Grissom had a large beetle between his tweezers and was studying it. Then, suddenly, it seemed that the medicine he had taken fully kicked in, freeing up his airways. The sickly sweet smell of the rotting corpse assaulted his nostrils all at once, strong and clingy, and his stomach lurched uncomfortably in response. He tried to quell the growing nausea, but it felt beyond his control. He had experienced the scent of decomposing flesh many, many times; he had thought he was immune to it. But now it seemed different. He wasn't used to his body reacting this way at crime scenes, and although he was trying, he was afraid he couldn't stop it. "Sara," he called softly.
She almost didn't hear his quiet recitation of her name, but she caught the weak word, and turned in his direction as he said it again, "Sara…"
Glancing at him, she caught the helpless, panicked look in his eyes, and noticed that his face was no longer flushed, but had gone a sickly ashen gray. He seemed frozen to the spot, and she didn't think even he could hold back the inevitable right now. Knowing exactly what was going to happen, she began walking quickly towards him.
"I think I'm going to…" he gasped.
"Not here!" she told him, slightly alarmed, pulling him hard by his arm and getting him up. "They'll see, and you'll ruin the evidence." She dragged him off to a nearby thick scrub of dry bushes and leafless trees. The vegetation grew down into a dip quite a bit lower than the surface of the sand, and there was a two-tiered metal barrier to prevent people and vehicles from slipping down the side of the indentation. Sara stood Grissom next to the barrier and pushed him gently forward. "Fire when ready," was all that she said.
She had barely gotten him into position when his protesting stomach began to violently empty itself of everything he'd eaten in the past six hours. Sara looked away, but kept a hand on his back, rubbing gently up and down. She wanted to offer him assistance and comfort, but didn't think she needed to see all the messy details. She could hear it all well enough as it was.
It was all over fairly quickly. Sara turned back around when she heard Grissom clearing his throat and mouth of any bitter remnants. She found him wiping his face with a handkerchief he had had in his pocket.
He met her eyes, his face pale, drawn, and sweat-drenched. "I'm sorry, Sara," he offered shakily. "That was completely…inappropriate." He glanced away, ashamed.
Sara felt a huge wave of sympathy for him. The poor guy—here he was, sick as a dog, dragging himself down here when he should be home in bed, because they needed his entomological expertise, and he was mortified because he had shown her a weakness he thought he shouldn't have. She knew this wasn't normal behavior for him. He was nothing if not professional at every crime scene, regardless of how brutal or blood-soaked the display, or how putrid the odor.
Sara had always thought that, next to Grissom, she had the strongest stomach of the bunch of them. But even she had lost it once. It was a year or so ago, and she and Nick had been examining the clothes from the body—actually it had been less a body and more just the remains—of a victim they had dubbed "Liquid Man." The smell of the liquefied corpse was more horrible than anything Sara could remember, and she had turned away from the table and vomited into the nearest wastebasket. She had pleaded with Nick not to tell, and so far he had kept his word. The only other person who could possibly have known about it would have been the janitor who cleaned out the small garbage can. But Grissom's situation today was different. She knew he was really sick, even if he wouldn't admit it.
Her hand was still on his back and she moved it to his shoulder, squeezing reassuringly. "Hey, it's okay. Things happen. You're not feeling well. I know this had nothing to do with the crime scene."
When he turned back to her, she couldn't believe how awful he still looked. If possible, he looked even worse than before. Sara had always thought throwing up was supposed to make you feel better. At least it had in her experience. But it obviously hadn't worked for Grissom. The only color that had come back to his sweaty face was some redness high on his cheekbones. His eyes were shadowed and subdued, exhaustion pouring out from them. If he felt even half as bad as he looked, Sara could only imagine how miserable he must be, and she wanted to do something, anything, to help him feel better, but she didn't know what she could do. Then she thought of something. "Stay here," she told him. "I've got some water in my truck. I'll be right back."
Quickly covering the distance to her SUV and back, Sara approached him with a bottle of water and a few paper towels. He was still standing in the same spot, leaning over the top of the barrier. He had not straightened up yet, wanting to make sure that he wasn't going to be sick again.
She unscrewed the cap on the bottle and poured some water onto the paper towels. The water was not chilled, but fairly cold, thanks to the air-conditioned interior of her Yukon. Leaning toward Grissom, she held onto his arm with one hand as she gently wiped the wet paper towels over his entire face with the other. She even ran the towels over the front and back of his neck, hoping the brisk wetness would be somewhat refreshing, and maybe cool him off a little. When she was done, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, and she thought he looked the slightest bit more like himself.
She reached toward him and brushed some damp hair away from the side of his face. "Better?" she asked.
"Yeah, thanks," he said, opening his eyes and glancing at her. He didn't quite smile, but the hint of one hovered at the corner of his mouth.
Sara was happy that she had helped him, even if it was just the tiniest amount. "Here," she offered, handing him the two-thirds full bottle of water.
He took it and rinsed his mouth out several times, sloshing the water around and then spitting it over the side of the scrubby indentation. There was still some liquid left, and he drank it, sipping cautiously at first and then downing the rest in two large gulps. He put the empty plastic bottle in his pocket, and then finally, slowly, straightened up.
"You ready to go back to work?" she asked him. "I'm almost done with the prints and tire treads. How are you doing with the bugs?"
"Practically done there, too. I just need one or two more specimens."
"Okay, then let's finish up and get back to the lab."
They returned to where the body lay, and Grissom resumed his position squatted next to it, picking up where he had left off as if nothing had happened. The beetle he had been examining earlier had scurried away from the tweezers he had dropped when Sara had desperately tugged him off to the side. The insect had probably made a beeline straight back to the beckoning meal of flesh in front of it. Grissom could never find the exact same one, of course, so he picked up another of the same species and lowered it into a plastic jar. As he squinted at another insect he had grabbed between his tweezers, his head started throbbing. He rubbed his eyes with his free hand, and then quickly tried to get samples of the last few larvae he needed.
They were completing their respective collecting as the young coroner stepped under the crime scene tape. "Are you finished with the body?" he asked.
"All yours, David," Grissom said, gathering the last of his equipment.
As the two CSIs walked back to the cars, they saw Catherine pulling in. They acknowledged her, and then Sara walked in her direction while Grissom went to load his insect-laden kit into the back of his Yukon. "Hey," Sara greeted.
"Hey," Catherine replied. "What's going on?"
Glancing at her watch, the younger woman said, her tone teasing, "Aren't you a little late? We're already done here."
"Yeah, sorry," Catherine replied. "Brass called me about an hour and a half ago. I had to line up someone to pick up Lindsey from school. I got here as soon as I could. So, what have you got?"
"Not much. A DB, male, probably been here a couple of days, covered with insects. We don't have an ID yet."
Grissom joined them at that moment, and Sara continued before Catherine could even get a good look at him, "Oh, and Grissom's sick."
"Sick?" Catherine wondered, turning to stare at him.
"Yeah—coughing, sneezing, fever, chills, you name it," Sara rattled off.
"Sounds like the flu."
"And he just had a little reunion with his breakfast over by the side of the crime scene," Sara added quickly.
"Really?" Catherine's reaction was equal parts complete surprise and extreme concern.
Sara nodded, while Grissom glared weakly at her. She hadn't told Catherine about the little "incident" to embarrass Grissom, but to let Catherine know how serious the situation was. Sara knew Grissom wouldn't take proper care of himself, so it was going to be up to her and Catherine to make sure he got well and didn't make himself any sicker.
Now that Catherine had had a chance to study Grissom, what Sara had said was quite obvious. Catherine, too, noticed how his coloring was off, how his eyes looked, and how he seemed to be pulling his jacket closer around himself in the middle of the stifling desert. She also repeated Sara's earlier gesture of touching his forehead and face, using her experienced "mother's hands" to gauge his temperature. "She's right, Gil," Catherine began. "We need to get you home and off your feet, pronto."
Grissom and Sara shook their heads simultaneously. "He can't go home," she explained. "He has to do the insect regression on our vic. We need to know when he died."
"How long does that take?" Catherine knew he had done work like this before, and that it was tedious and complex, but she wasn't sure how much time was required.
"Normally, a few hours to get things started," Grissom replied.
"I don't think you're gonna make it a few hours, Gil," Catherine intoned gently. "You look like you're about to collapse right now. You're burning up with fever, exhausted, and I'm sure dehydrated, too. How can you handle the kind of intense, time-consuming work that it takes to do your insect regression?"
"How I feel doesn't matter, Catherine," Grissom told her. "All that counts is the evidence, and it can't just wait around until I'm better."
She knew it was true. She had never fully understood the process that Grissom used to find out how long a person has been dead by studying the types and ages of the insects found on the body. In fact, she would venture a guess that no matter how intelligent they were, no one at CSI, save Grissom himself, understood it all either. She also knew that Grissom was one of only fifteen or so entomologists in the whole country who could do one of these "linear regressions." That's why Brass had needed him today, and that's why the very ill scientist would be knocking himself out in the lab for hours when he should be home resting in order to fight off whatever tough strain of virus had gotten him in its grip.
After her moment of thought, Catherine spoke again, "Okay, are you two sure you got everything you need from this scene?"
Both Sara and Grissom nodded in the affirmative.
"Great, let's head back to the lab. I'm with you, Grissom, and I'm driving." She cut him off with a look before he could protest. "Sara, would you mind making a stop before meeting us back at CSI?"
"Of course not," Sara replied. "Where do you need me to go?"
"Come on, I'll tell you as we walk." Catherine stepped to Sara and put her arm around her shoulders, turning them both in the opposite direction. Then she called to their boss over her shoulder, "Grissom, get in the car. I'll be right back."
He obediently trudged around to the passenger side and climbed into the SUV as the women headed off to Sara's matching vehicle.
After speaking to one of the officers and arranging for the return of her own SUV to the CSI lab, Catherine joined Grissom and started up the engine, adjusting the seat to fit her smaller frame. She handed him a bottle of water saying, "A little gift from Sara." As they began their dusty drive back to the main road, Catherine heard Grissom sneeze three times into a tissue and then start coughing.
She grimaced and glanced over at him. "You've definitely caught a nasty bug there. Did you take anything for that this morning?"
"A couple of antihistamines," he replied, his voice made deeper by the congestion.
"Did you bring the rest of them with you?"
"Actually, I did." He patted the front of his jacket over the location of his shirt pocket.
"I think maybe it's time for another round of medicine, don't you?"
"I can't take these right now because they make me too drowsy. I need to be as alert as possible when I work with the insects. I need a clear head for calculations."
"I don't think your head is all that clear as it is, Gil."
He coughed again, and then nodded. "You're right, but I have to do my best." He cracked open the bottle of water and took a couple of sips.
"I think I still have that mentholatum in my purse," she suggested.
He made a face. "I can't use that stuff, Catherine."
"The smell of it makes me sick."
"You're already sick," she quipped.
"You know what I mean," he said, giving her a look.
"You didn't seem to mind that day you were in the holding cell in Mulberry."
"That was different," he insisted. "I used your menthol to fume that print of Millander's. I did not rub it on any part of my body."
He sneezed again, twice.
"Really, Gil," she began, her tone softly serious now, "you can't work in the lab in this condition. You'll contaminate the evidence."
He tried, but he couldn't come up with a logical rebuttal, so he remained silent.
But Catherine had already thought ahead. "It's okay. I told Sara to pick up some stuff at a drug store. She's going to bring you some decongestants that won't put you to sleep and something for that fever."
"Thanks, Catherine." He took another pull on the water bottle. He was thirsty and his mouth was very dry, but as he felt the water sloshing around in his empty stomach, it lost its appeal. He screwed the cap back on and placed the bottle in one of the cup holders.
"That's just to get you through your work with the insects," she informed him. "After that, you're going straight home to bed."
"The shift won't be over," he protested. "I never call in sick."
"You're not 'calling in sick,' Gil, you're 'going home sick.' There's a difference. It'll only be after you've done your part for the case."
"But I need to be there. I'm the supervisor," he argued weakly.
"You know I can do that job better than you," she pointed out. "I'll be there. Or Sara or Warrick could take over. It'll only be for a night or two."
"I'm not worried that you can't do my job, I just don't want you to have to do it. It takes a lot of extra time—time I know you'd rather spend with Lindsey."
She blew her breath out in annoyance. Grissom could be so exasperating! Here he was, getting all sweet and thoughtful on her when she was trying to tease and chastise him. "Yes, I would rather be with my daughter," she replied. "But I think I can handle it for a couple of days until you're feeling up to it. If you don't take it easy, you'll end up getting sicker instead of better."
Grissom was too tired to talk about it any more. He just stared silently out the front windshield, trying not to think about how completely exhausted he was or how much his head hurt.
Catherine looked over at him and saw that he had given up the discussion. "What is it about you and missing work anyway, Grissom?" she ventured, keeping her tone light. "Are you going for a perfect attendance award or something?"
He graced her with a half-hearted glance, and seeing his face straight-on just reminded her how terrible he looked and how bad he must feel. She tried to be less teasing and more sympathetic as she said, "Never mind. I know—your work is your life. But you're not up to 100 percent, and I just want you to spend some time taking care of yourself."
"I appreciate it, Cath, but right now I'm needed at the lab, and so I have to be there."
"That's why we're heading in that direction," she replied. "But if you don't mind, I'm going to make sure you don't push yourself too hard while you're getting the job done."
"I don't mind," he told her, knowing that Catherine's words came from a place of deep friendship. He was grateful that she cared about him, even though he didn't show it as often as he should. He just hoped she knew she could always count on him for the same.
* * * * * * *