DISCLAIMER: Last time I checked, the evidence was stacked against me in my claim to own even a single stock option in the many partners who make up the CSI franchise. Therefore, I plead guilty to the charge of having fun with the crew and promise to have them back in time for the next night shift to start.

- - - - -

Sara followed Grissom back to his townhouse, where she parked in the guest lot between two other big SUVs belonging to visitors from Texas. "It figures," she said to his back as he worked the deadbolt to his front door. "My Tahoe looks miniscule next to those Escalades. No wonder Nicky wants one."

"The old 'Everything's bigger in Texas' phenomenon, I guess." He pushed the door open and ushered her in ahead of him. He took off his suit coat, tie, and shoes out of habit before he pulled the door closed behind him.

She waited until they were closed inside to reply to his statement. "Or so they like to think. That's one thing I'm not at all anxious to discover for myself." She followed his example and kicked off her shoes, revealing toenails painted a surprising hot pink.

It took him a minute to figure out that she was referring not to Texas but to Nick's physical attributes. He figured out why she said it less than a breath later. So there's nothing sexual between her and Nick. He had wondered more than once. "I'm glad to hear that," he said, watching as she wandered around his home.

She stopped in the hallway outside his bedroom. She turned toward him and flashed a dazzling "come hither" smile. "I should hope so."

A print of Ansel Adams' Fresh Snow, Yosemite Valley caught her attention. "I would have expected a desert photo, maybe Canyon de Chelly, not a winter picture."

He crossed his apartment to stand beside her. "Why?"

"Las Vegas is a desert town. Adam's desert prints are just, I don't know, appropriate."

Standing this close to Sara, he could smell the tropical lushness of lime and coconut, not Sara's usual scent. Then he remembered that Catherine had given her a gift basket from Bath & Body Works for hosting Warrick's party. And Catherine, ever the romantic, had made a point of showing him its contents ahead of time. Leave it to her to make use of a detail from a ten-year old story when it suited her purposes.

He closed his eyes and allowed himself to visit the cherished memory of the first day Sara asked to meet him for coffee after class to discuss his Harvard lecture in more detail. The unusually humid, hot weather left them both dripping by the time they got to the coffee shop, which was out of iced coffee. He had tea, but Sara had a piña colada smoothie that came garnished with a slice of coconut and a wedge of lime. For the rest of the day, he reveled in those sinfully erotic scents.

Somehow, they ended up on Newbury Street in FAO Schwartz, where they had danced and sung like sleep-deprived parents to Kermit the Frog's rendition of "Coconut" playing by incredible coincidence on the store's big video screen. He wondered if she had paid enough attention to retain even the foggiest memory of that arguably most absurd part of an absurd day.

Sara was still studying the picture when he opened his eyes. "Appropriate for the town, perhaps. Maybe the winter print suits my personality better."

She turned her face to him, her brown eyes large and hazed with something he could only hope was expectation. "And why would that be?"

"I think I'm less 'hot' and more 'frosty'."

Sara sucked in a breath as she turned her body toward him. She reached out with both arms, placing her hands on his chest. "You'd be wrong."

"What else am I wrong about, Sara?" He wrapped his hands around her arms, caressing skin that was even smoother than he had imagined.

"Where do I start?" She threw back her head, laughing at him with the abandon he wanted to hear. But it wasn't her laughter that mesmerized him. Her elegant throat beckoned to him, calling him to sweep his lips from her chin to her peeking cleavage with desperate desire, shocking her into a still silence that became a moan.

"Oh-h-h, Gi-i-i-l . . ."

He pulled back, smiling at her flushed face as he restrained himself from diving in to suck at the rapid flutter of her pulse in her carotid artery. "I've been waiting to hear you say my name for a long time."

Her eyes flashed up to him for a second before she dropped them down to her hands where they lay, stark and white against the vivid blue of his shirt. "C-can't trust myself to say it very often . . ."

He tugged her to him to cradle her head in his shoulder, savoring the feel of her body molded against his. "Why not?"

"I am afraid," she said simply. When he started to ask why, she put her index finger to his lips and held it there, tempting him to take it in and suckle it. "I'm afraid that if I say 'Gil' instead of 'Gris' or 'Grissom', it will come out like it always does in my dreams."

"You dream about me?" He took the opportunity to run his tongue down her finger, then sucked the "v" between her finger and her thumb, earning a low, impatient rumble from her.

"Since the day we talked about flippers in coconut shells on the tables at our wedding reception," she admitted, her breath blazing a trail from his chin to his ear.

"He put the lime in the coconut and drank it all up," he sang to her through the blood singing in his ears.

She nibbled at his earlobe and brought her arms around his neck. "Did you pick out the gift basket?"

"Ah, um . . . no-o-o," he all but moaned as she licked the rim of his ear. "C-C-Catherine did that, and . . . it . . . wasn't . . . a . . .co . . . in . . . ci . . . dence."

"You told her about our magic day?"

Her breath on his wet skin made him shiver and he pulled her closer, ready to bury himself in her warmth and never come out. He took a deep breath and leaned his head back against the wall so he could look down into her eyes. "If I remember correctly, she cornered me one night before shift about a week after I got back from Harvard and demanded to know why I was so happy or she was going to coin a nickname for me that I would despise for a lifetime."

Sara smiled at him, her eyes twinkling with what he prayed was true happiness. "You caved?"

"Ever heard anyone calling me 'Giddy Gris?'"

"Uh, no."

He dipped his head into her bare neck to wallow in the scent of his favorite fruits on his favorite woman. "Now you know why I caved. Catherine was kind enough to show me the body stuff ahead of time, just in case I really objected, maybe. It's also possible that she would have smacked me upside the head and told me to remove my cranium from my rectum had I complained."

She moaned as he nipped against her pulse. "Remind me to thank Catherine."

He murmured his way up her throat and chin. "We can thank her together."

The kiss they shared bore no resemblance to anything he had ever experienced before. Heat between them burned away years of denial and dishonesty, leaving scars that healed in an instant as the balm of fervor and frankness soothed each hurt, each misunderstanding, each snub between them. The raw power of their apologies and admissions left him weak in the knees and he collapsed against the wall, crushing her to him for fear that when they finally had to breathe, she would vanish into the nether reaches of a dream as she had so many times before.

But she was still there when he finally had to let go, her lips swollen and smiling, her eyes glistening with tears that spilled down her cheeks. His thumb looked hard and rough alongside her sculpted face, which made him smile a little. And then he looked into her mocha eyes and saw what he had only dared to dream: Sara Sidle loved him. He smiled so broadly that he thought his face would crack, but he didn't care.

"What?" She cupped his cheeks in her warm hands, stroking his beard as she stared back at him.

"I love you, Sara." It came out so easily in the end, without preamble and without a second thought as to consequences.

Her eyes widened. "You do, don't you?"

He couldn't fault the disbelief in her tone, even after their kiss. He had been telling her otherwise, in deeds and even, he had to admit, in words, for ten years. One single kiss, however healing it might have been for him, would not assure her of the depth of his commitment to her. "I do. God help me, I have since . . . well, probably since the moment I laid eyes on you, honestly."

She pushed back a little. "It's kind of funny to hear an atheist ask God for help."

Her smile teased him into nibbling at her lips for another minute before he decided he needed to answer her. "Which just proves that I really don't want help falling out of love, because I like being in love and loving you so much."

She snuggled back into his shoulder, reaching around him to hold on with more strength than he would have credited her. "Why now?"

Maybe it was the relief of having the secret of his love out in the open, or maybe it was exhaustion. It may even have been a conscious decision to tell her the truth. "Someone gave me an ultimatum."

"Catherine again?"

"No, not this time. Someone I met a couple of years ago at a conference."

"The sex therapist?"

He looked down at her in disbelief. "How did you know?

Sara's smirk faltered for just a moment, so briefly that he almost missed it. From anyone but her, it would make him question the veracity of what she said next. From her, it was more likely the connection between him and Hank that had her off-kilter.

She grinned at him and licked a path up his neck before she spoke. "My first assignment tonight, if you remember, took me to the Mirage, where Dr. R. R. 'Hank' Fitzhenry happens to be the keynote speaker for annual convention of the Association of Professional Marriage and Family Counselors."

The Mirage. He hadn't caught it before, and now he felt like a fool for missing something so obvious and so . . . dangerous. "You ran into her in person."

"Yes."

Did he really want to follow up on their encounter? He probably should, if only so he could gage Sara's knowledge of his relationship with Hank. Wait a minute! "Is she a suspect in the Mirage case?"

"Heavens, no."

"Then how did you make the connection between her and me?"

"Please, Gil, I've known about her since she called for you once just after your conference in Arizona. You were in a meeting with the Sheriff. We had an enlightening conversation."

He swallowed hard. "No . . ."

"Relax, it wasn't about you. I was in the middle of a marital rape case. Her book on power and violence in marriage had been a good resource for me already, so I talked to an expert who just happened to call at an opportune time." She pushed away from his chest a little and looked up at him with a smirk. "What would she have said had we talked about you?"

"What did she say tonight?" he asked, deflecting her inquisition.

Her lips twitched before she laughed at him. When she could talk again, she acquiesced to his change of subject. "As I was finishing, someone tapped me on the shoulder, and when I turned to see what this person wanted, said Dr. Fitzhenry broke into a broad smile and announced to the entire casino, and I quote, 'God, the man has good taste.'"

"Before you continue, can we please sit down? I'm not sure I'll be able to take this standing up." His stomach, at least, had dropped to his toes and threatened to topple him with its weight. He kissed her forehead in apology as he led her back down the hallway to his couch.

He all but fell into the cushions, his legs stretched out and open to allow her to sit against his chest. She snuggled along his length and made him acutely aware of every nerve in his body as she continued her story.

"Then she introduced herself officially, told me to call her Hank, and asked how the rape case went in court. I have no idea how she remembered the details after two years, but she did."

"Hank is good like that. It's a gift, I suppose." He was relieved to know he wasn't the only one who marveled at Hank's memory for people's stories. "Go on. I think."

She shifted around to nibble his chin for a moment. When she resumed, she started to stroke his thighs in subtle rhythm with her words. "Hank then asked me if I'd seen you since the end of the previous shift, which I thought was a little odd. But even more odd was what she said after that."

Grissom had to end this part of the conversation sooner rather than later if he was going to have any dignity left – or at least get her to stop using her hands in such an erotic fashion before they were ready to go back down the hallway. "Which was?" he asked through teeth tightly clamped together against his building arousal.

"She said, and again, I'm quoting, 'You're the only woman who can save Gil from himself. If you love him even a little, promise me you'll do everything in your power to make him happy.'" Her hands moved closer together, playing in the folds of his hips.

He laughed a little and shook his head. "Which is why . . . oh, Hank, you are just entirely too much."

"I think she loves you." Sara didn't sound at all jealous – but then, he thought, Sara was the woman sitting between his legs doing incredibly sensual things with her hands. "Do you love her?"

He took her hands in his and raised each one to his lips, then wrapped their entwined arms around her body. "I'll be honest, Sara. I could love Hank. But I would have to get over you first, and I just don't see that happening in this lifetime. Or the next. Or even the one after that. The fourth one, well . . ."

She giggled. "Well, by the fourth lifetime, we might be tired of each other," she conceded. "The upshot of my encounter with the good Dr. Fitzhenry is that she pretty much prepared me for your phone call."

"When was this?"

Sara turned to him and gave him the most dazzling smile he had ever seen. "About thirty seconds before you called."

He swallowed hard again and could feel himself turning red with embarrassment. "She heard the whole thing."

"She gave me two thumbs up, a hug, a message for you, and some final parting advice which we will discuss after I've taken it."

"Oh, God."

"Again, an atheist invoking God? Gil, something has made you stupid this morning."

If she hadn't been stretched out and pressed into him, he would have been offended by that observation. As it was, he had a perfect excuse. "Lack of oxygen decreases mental function. You've taken my breath away since you walked into the restaurant."

"Flatterer. Hank's parting advice was to pay particular attention to the crease behind your left knee."

He sucked in a breath and tried to figure out what to say, but when he felt her lips nuzzling against the skin above the unbuttoned collar of his shirt, he went dumb again as the oxygen burned out of his brain. He could only moan as she opened the rest of his shirt and laid kisses down to his navel.

"Gil?" He felt his name against his stomach more than heard it. His stomach righted itself as he realized that everything was going to be okay.

"Mmmhhh . . ."

She unbuttoned his trousers. "We have all day to enjoy each other's company."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She drew the zipper down with agonizing precision. "In fact, we don't have anywhere else to be until 11 o'clock Friday night."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She slid his pants over his hips. "That's 60 hours from now."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She picked up his right leg a little and skimmed the pants leg off, caressing his bare leg with both hands as she spoke. "You need to sleep for 12 of those 60 hours."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She licked the up length of his right leg and back down, then up again to suck gently at the crease of his knee.

"Sssah . . .raaah . . ."

Her hands never stopped, twirling the sensitive hairs she found as though they were her sole focus. "And that's not even the one she told me about. Oh, my."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She drew the remaining cloth down his left leg, torturing him with her attention to detail as she surveyed every inch of his exposed skin with her tender fingertips. "That leaves us 48 hours."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She whipped each of his socks off in turn. "That's two whole days."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She stroked his right foot, massaging each toe, then did the same to his left foot. "We could do a lot of things in those two days."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She nibbled his left ankle, then trailed her tongue up the top of his leg to his hip. "I've been wanting to go to the lake for a picnic."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She lifted his left leg up and started down the backside, skirting around his knee. "I've been thinking about going to the zoo, too."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

She licked around his calf, making her way to his knee. "And there's this movie . . ."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He stiffened when her lips met the skin at the back of his left knee. He found his voice and his strength.

"I want you, Sara. I want you right now," he said to her as he all but tossed her over his shoulder and stood up.

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ." She sighed and relaxed in his arms as he carried her into his bedroom and sat her on his bed.

He whipped her sweater off, revealing a scrap of black lace that someone had decided was a strapless bra. "We don't have to be at work for 60 hours."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He splayed his hands around her waist, raising goosebumps as he stroked her bare stomach. "You really should sleep for 12 of those hours, even though you think you don't need to."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He found the hook and zipper of her skirt at her side and opened them, trailing one finger along her exposed waist. "That leaves us two days."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He slid her skirt down inch by inch, disclosing the hipster panties that matched the bra and baring her long, muscular legs. "I've been wanting to do some exploring of the more phenomenal features of our area."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He picked up her right foot and massaged it, feeling her bones melt before he began his own nibbling expedition of that leg. "What I'm thinking of is the hottest territory in the state."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He repeated his actions on her left foot and leg, exulting in her ragged breathing and dripping skin. "And in the United States."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He moved up to nuzzle her flat stomach, sweeping closer to her lace-bound breasts with each pass of his tongue as he grazed her hardened nipples with his palms. "And, truth be told, in the entire world."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He popped the front fastener of her bra and pulled it from under her, tossing it to the floor with her skirt and top. "This expedition could take two days."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He sat her up and took her left nipple into his mouth, holding her to him so he could focus all his attention on that one responsive place until she arched into him.

"Gii . . . iiilll . . ."

He smiled against her. "Of course, this expedition may take far longer than two days."

"Mmmhhhmmm . . ."

He lavished the valley between her breasts with attention, then suckled at her right breast until she gripped his hair and pulled him up to fuse her lips to his.

Neither one of them spoke again, instead letting their bodies communicate at levels both too simple and too complex for words. He wasn't sure where he ended and Sara began. They melded together in the heat of a passion that transcended the mere physical to rise to religious, soul-shaping regions of experience.

In what little of his brain functioned enough to think, he realized that this was the first time he had ever truly made love. Two had become one yet remained distinctly two as they touched, caressed, teased, nipped, sucked, writhed, and crashed into each other.

As good as the lovemaking had been, he knew he had discovered his drug of choice in the afterglow of their satiation. They lay together in the sweat-soaked sheets, too tired to worry about the dampness and too enthralled with the magnitude of their experience to talk. But neither of them could stay still. Instead their hands trailed up and down exposed flesh, gliding over the other's body as though to stake permanent claim on the territory.

A while later, Sara tugged him into her arms and laid her head on his shoulder. "Before I forget, Hank said to tell you that she expects you to return something to her before she leaves town on Sunday," she said, her velvet voice sleepy as she snuggled into him. "And she wants a date to put into her calendar. Is that supposed to mean something to me, too?"

He laughed and nuzzled her hair. "It will." The thought of a wedding date made him smile into her hair as he mumbled tunefully in her ear. "He put the lime in the coconut and drank it all up." He slipped his legs around hers and gathered her against him, rolling them onto their sides so they could spoon as they slept. He never wanted to sleep again without wrapping himself in her tropical scent. "I love you, Sara."

"I love you, too, Gil."

He tried to wait, but within a minute, he knew that he wouldn't be able to sleep before he completed the task at hand. "Good. So, is a date in, say, April after Easter far enough away for a tasteful wedding somewhere other than a typical Las Vegas chapel?"

He laughed at how fast she sat up and turned to stare wide-eyed at him, even though he had to duck to avoid a flailing arm as she did so. "Oh, my God, Gil. Are you asking me to marry you?"

"An atheist invoking God? Something has made you stupid this afternoon," he mocked as he reached over to pull open the drawer of his nightstand. He retrieved a small deep blue velvet box, opened it, and handed it to Sara.

"So, Sara Sidle, will you marry me?"

She gaped at the box. "There are diamonds and emeralds on this ring. Big ones."

"Yes."

She gaped at him, her eyes taking up her whole face in wonderment. "You paid attention."

He took the box from her, removed the ring, and held it up to her. "And if you look, you'll see that there are a palm tree, a lime, and a frog engraved on the inside of the band."

"This is absurd, Gil."

He grinned at her. "He put the lime in the coconut and drank it all up."

She gave him a full-blown smile and crinkled her teary eyes at him. "I guess we've been pretty absurd from the get-go, huh?"

"Yes. And in case you're wondering, I brought that back from Boston with me." Seeing her speechless in front of the Bailey, Banks, and Biddle window just once had been enough for him to know what ring he would put on her finger, and for once in his life he had acted on his first impulse.

The look she gave him made him want to recite Newton's laws, the periodic table, and every baseball statistic he could think of so he could get through this conversation without ravishing her.

"Well? Are you going to answer me?"

She bounced on the bed as she took the ring from him. "He put the lime in the coconut and drank it all up."

"Sara . . ."

She slid the ring on her right hand. "He put the lime in the coconut and drank it all up."

"You're elevating my heart rate here, honey." But he had to admit he was as turned on as he had ever been in his life.

She slipped the ring off and pondered it before she tried it on her left ring finger. "He put the lime in the coconut and drank it all up."

"So?" If she taunted him any more, he wouldn't be responsible for his acts.

"YES!"

"He put the lime in the coconut and drank it all up," he sang before he kissed his fiancée.

--FIN—

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The repeated lyric comes from a Muppet Show skit that was later placed on a sing-a-long tape. Jim Henson, et al., adapted the words a bit from the original by Harry Nilsson, recorded on the EMI Blackwood label in June, 1971. The Muppet's version is available on the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Sing-a-long page on the NIS website.