A Renaissance Affair
Time Frame: Mid-Season Five, after "Unbearable" and Grissom's infamous dinner invitation to Sofia.
Disclaimers: I still don't own these characters, darn it, I'm just borrowing them for a while.
Notes: The end! I haven't used my art history degree this much since I graduated college ;) Thanks for reading and reviewing… I'm glad you enjoyed it!
This chapter contains sexual content and I have revised the story rating accordingly. Please respect the rating and do not read further if you find this type of material offensive.
Greg is so delighted with his matchmaking skills that he forgives me for keeping him in the dark about the breakfast meeting. Even more surprising, he keeps my impending dinner date completely to himself. When Jacqui comments that he's in an unusually good mood for a guy who reeks of decomp, he just shrugs, sends me a sly grin and tells her that he has abnormally high serotonin levels.
The remainder of the evening passes quietly and I manage to complete my shift without dissolving into a nervous, foul-smelling puddle.
The trip to the grocery store is mercifully quick. The check-out lines are short and I only have to suffer the disturbed stares of a few early morning shoppers before I can escape home with my bag of lemons. After completing my post-decomp cleansing regimen I take a sleeping pill, which I almost never do, because being sleep-deprived on my first date with Grissom is simply not an option.
I wake up sufficiently rested and scour the insides of my closet in search of the perfect outfit. I don't want something conservative, nor do I want something overtly suggestive. There's got to be a happy medium that will enable me to look like myself, just better. I finally settle on a chocolate brown jersey halter top and matching skirt. Greg recently pronounced the ensemble 'ferociously hot' when I wore it to one of his infamous disco parties. Hopefully it will have a similar effect on Grissom.
I slip into my naughty black underwear, not because I think that Grissom will actually get to see it, but because wearing it makes me feel slightly dangerous.
I'm just putting the finishing touches on my make-up when I hear Grissom knock. I take a steadying breath, grab my purse and open the door. If there had been any question as to whether or not this was a real date, his appearance confirms it. His nod to the occasion is a dark grey sport coat paired with a cream button down top and black pleated trousers. His black loafers gleam and I get all gooey inside at the thought of him sitting at home meticulously polishing his shoes on my behalf. The attention to detail is just so deliciously…Grissom.
My fingers itch to straighten his glasses and smooth his lapels, but I project an aura of outward calm. "Hello."
"Hello yourself. You look very nice." He leans so close that I can feel his beard tickle my cheek and I gasp involuntarily at his nearness. He sniffs my hair, slowly inhaling its scent. "Mmmmm. Lemony fresh."
I smile against his warm skin. "Did you expect anything less?"
He draws back slightly, just enough so that his eyes can meet mine. Our lips are inches apart and I feel as though I have never been more aware of Grissom as a man in my entire life. It would be so easy to let myself drift forward and taste him. So incredibly easy. From the look in his eyes he's thinking the same thing, but he chooses to stand still. In a sotto voice he replies, "I've learned never to assume anything when I'm around you."
We're thirty seconds into the date and I am already utterly charmed. "So, where are you taking me?"
His eyebrow lifts suggestively. "It's a surprise."
Soon we are in his car heading away from town, but I still have no clue as to our destination. I roll down the window and let the cool night air fan across my face. "Any hints?"
He smirks. "No."
We talk idly of restaurants we like and I try to pin him down on his selection for this evening, but to no avail. Finally we pull onto a narrow gravel drive and pass a smattering of evergreens and cacti. The smell of moist dirt and vegetation rises from the earth and I feel as though the city of Las Vegas is a million miles away. After a few minutes we reach an open clearing and stop. Before me stands an elegant ranch-style wooden building that flows into an outdoor patio pockmarked with brick fire pits. Paper lanterns hang haphazardly from green wires and in the distance I can hear the muted tones of an accordion. An old wooden sign proclaims 'Giorgio's.'
Ever the gentleman, Grissom gets out of the car and walks around to open my door. I place my hand in his and he gently pulls me forward and closes the door behind me.
I look at the sign, then back at him. "Italian?"
"It seemed like an appropriate choice."
"I love it!"
"I'm glad," he returns quietly. Still holding my hand, he ushers me in the door.
I forget sometimes that Grissom has a highly developed sense of humor. After I made such a moron out of myself trying to explain what 'still interested' meant, I should have known he wouldn't be able to resist somewhere Italian that specializes in pasta. I have to admit, I was expecting him to take me somewhere quieter, more expensive, more intimidating.
We sit outside near one of the fire pits, surrounded by red-checked tablecloths and empty Chianti jugs that double as flower vases. It's hokey and unexpected and I really do love it. It makes me wonder about the facets of Grissom's personality that I have yet to discover.
"I can't believe that our waiter is named Guido!" I lean forward and whisper after we give our orders.
"I think all of the waiters here are named Guido. They are distinguishable by their distinctive gold jewelry."
I look around and realize he might actually be right. "How did you find this place?"
"Of course." We share a laugh, amused as always at Jim's peculiar knowledge of Vegas kitsch.
Our waiter returns with our bottle of red wine and there's a moment of silence while he uncorks it with a flourish and lets Grissom take a small taste. Once the vintage is proclaimed to be excellent, Guido fills our glasses and gravitates to another table.
I move to take a sip, but Grissom's hand stills mine. "I think a toast is in order, don't you?"
"By all means." I place my glass on the table and wait for him to continue.
He aerates his wine, considering me as his hand shifts the stem of his glass in rhythmic circles. "'The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that costs.'" He raises his glass a fixes me with a warm stare. "To taking the first step."
Our glasses touch, and the sound rings clearly over the crackling fire.
I take a sip of wine and consider my companion. His choice of quotes is illuminating. I guess for him it always has been about taking that first step. It's never been about his willingness to share a meal with me. It's been about his willingness to be with me. For Grissom, saying 'yes' to dinner means saying 'yes' to the possibility of happily ever after. He can't do the former if he isn't willing to do the latter. I suppose neither one of us has ever been capable of doing anything in moderation. Why should dating be any different?
Still, I'm shocked at how relaxed he is tonight. Even considering how playful he's been since he asked me to breakfast, I expected awkwardness, or at least some element of hesitation. But the transition from professional to personal has been seamless.
My hand reaches across the table and covers his, our thumbs mingling in the firelight. "So, are we really going to talk about art?"
"If you like."
"And if I want to talk about something else?"
"We can do that, too."
I want to ask. I need to know. And yet, as I sit here staring at him, I wonder how much it matters. He's finally taking that first step. Is it really so important to know why?
I think back on years of miscommunications and missed opportunities and I realize that yes, it really is. Even if I don't really understand the answer, I'm doing myself a disservice if I don't ask the question. We aren't prone to sharing the inner workings of our minds, let alone our private feelings, but we have to start somewhere. I suppose I should thank my PEAP counselor for cluing me in to the importance of basic communication in human relationships.
"I need to understand something if this thing between us is going to move forward."
He nods, and I can't help but feel that the gesture is more fatalistic than encouraging.
"You have treated me like your own personal chew toy for the last five years. You pull me out when you want to play, then throw me in the corner when you get bored. Or scared. Or whatever."
He opens his mouth to speak and I wave him off. "Don't even try to deny it, Grissom, we both know it's true. Bottom line is that you did it, and I let you, which doesn't reflect highly on either one of us."
Surprisingly, he lets that pass. "And your question is what?"
"You've been leading up to tonight for months. The smiles, the veiled compliments, the innuendos. We've partnered on more cases in the last two quarters than in the prior two years. Which, incidentally, is when I first asked you out to dinner and got shot down. What's changed? Why now?"
He takes a deep breath and looks at his watch. "Twenty minutes," he pronounces, then takes a deep drag of wine. "I wondered how long it would take you to bring this up. As usual, you've exceeded my expectations."
"I'll take that as a backhanded compliment."
He grins and fiddles nervously with the stem of his glass. For once I'm not going to overtalk. If fact, I'm not even going to talk. I will sit here all night and wait for an explanation.
"Honestly? I'm not sure. I woke up one day last year and it was like you weren't there. I saw you at work, but everything was so strained. You were so unhappy, so angry. I wanted to talk to you but I didn't even know where to start. And when I finally scraped up the courage to try, you were always off with Greg or Nick."
"We're just friends."
"I know that." He looks almost sad. "But we used to be friends, too."
He's interrupted by the arrival of our entrees. I've opted for the pasta puttanesca while Grissom has embraced his inner carnivore and selected a thick steak slathered in balsamic reduction. Conversation ceases for a moment while we load up on freshly cracked pepper and grated parmesan cheese.
I want to tell him that it's his fault we stopped being friends. That he's the one who pulled away and started avoiding me. But somehow it just seems like water under the bridge. I can't pretend to know what it must have been like for him to lose his hearing, so I can't blame him for retreating from the world for a while. We all deal with personal pain in different ways. I'm just glad that he conquered his internal demons decided to rejoin the living.
"Picking you up at the police station last summer was the beginning, I think. But it was your comment that you moved to Vegas for me that really did it."
That's unexpected. There have been so many moments over the years and he picks that one? Confused, I chew on my entree and wait for him to continue.
"I couldn't respond, nor could I get the conversation out of my mind." He stops eating and stares at me with complete concentration. "I haven't reciprocated, Sara, and for that I deeply apologize. I think I always knew why you'd come, but we never talked about it and after a while it seemed easier to believe that you were here for the Lab. That Vegas was a pit stop on your way to something even more prestigious."
I can't believe my dinner invitation didn't clue him in, but I suppose he managed to rationalize it away as some sort of post-explosion existential crisis while he was recovering from his surgery. He can be so freaking clueless when he wants to be. I grip his hand tightly. "I'm here to stay, Grissom."
He squeezes back. "Yes, I believe that you are."
"So that's why you came to my apartment when I got suspended? To reciprocate?"
"I felt responsible."
My hand snaps back. "I'm responsible for myself, Grissom. I have been for a very long time."
"No… I…" He takes a deep breath. "I care about you. That makes me feel responsible for you. When I heard about the confrontation with Catherine and Ecklie I wanted to help. I needed to help. I realized it was time that I… that I started…"
He looks relieved. "Exactly."
"Well, if I haven't told you lately, you're succeeding."
His quirky grin is back in force and I think he might actually be blushing underneath all that facial hair. "When you accused me of being emotionally unavailable you were right. I don't want to be that way any more. God, Sara, I wish I could tell you how liberating it is to sit across a table from you and finally have this conversation."
This time he reaches for my hand and I meet him half way. I have this insane need to touch him, to feel his pulse beating in tune with mine. It is a curious, intimate feeling, and I sense that it will never leave me.
"I have a new toast."
He arches an eyebrow.
"To Stephen Jay Gould, may he rest in peace, and his theory of punctuated equilibrium. I think you are proof that evolution occurs in rapid bursts."
"Very apropos," he murmurs. "I will most certainly drink to that."
So we do. We then toast Greg, for trading shifts with me. And then Greg again, for having such excellent taste in coffee. And Brass, because the restaurant is so bad it's good.
Then I have an interesting thought. "Are you trying to get me drunk?"
No reply. Just a small, secretive smile that is so delectably guilty I want to lean over and kiss it off his face.
"Are you?" I ask again. My voice is low and throaty and almost unrecognizable.
Admitting nothing, he adroitly changes the topic of conversation. "So, what did you think of the books?"
Silly man. If he wants to play this game, I'll let him. "You know, you never told me where they all came from. Mike says they're quite valuable."
"You showed them to Mike?"
I give him a flirty grin. "You know how I like to suck up to my professors."
Now I'm getting his patented look of disdain.
"Oh, cheer up. He's a nice man and we've become good friends. He's besotted with a woman in Boston named Caroline so you have nothing to worry about."
Grissom grumbles and spears his steak.
"Did you study Italian art in college?"
"No, I was taught by my grandfather. I inherited his library when he passed away."
Grissom so rarely talks about his family, or references his personal history, that I put down my fork and just listen.
"My father wasn't in the picture, so my mother used to send me back east to visit her father at least once a year. She felt it was important that I have some form of positive male influence in my life."
"And he liked Italian art?"
"It was his life's passion. He was a professor emeritus at Yale and quite distinguished in his field. He authored the definitive textbook of his generation." Pride is evident in Grissom's voice and it's clear that he loved his grandfather very much.
I imagine him as a young boy, taking his cue from someone born at the turn of the century, and I wonder how much of his grandfather lives on in him. "What did he teach you?"
Grissom grins and looks skyward, considering my question, then returns his gaze to earth, to me. "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."
"Wait!" Awareness ripples through me, and I know that I've read that quote before. It's Leonardo Da Vinci. "You gave me two of his books. He wrote the biography on Da Vinci, and the primary sourcebook on Italian Renaissance Art. His name was Benjamin Clark."
Grissom nods, pleased as always at my ability to store knowledge. "He was a good man."
We linger over cappuccino and biscotti and Grissom tells me stories about his grandfather and his unquenchable desire for knowledge. It was he who instilled in Grissom the passion not only to learn, but to teach.
The absent father is clearly not open for discussion, but he eventually does talk of his mother and her own love of art. He tells me that she prefers modern art to 'moldy art,' and has focused her attention on works of the 20th century.
"She's retired now, but for many years she ran a gallery in Venice on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. I think my grandfather appreciated the irony of the location, even if she didn't." He looks at me strangely. "Am I amusing you?"
I guess he wants to know why I've developed a perpetual smirk. "I just find it really funny that you are descended from a bunch of liberal arts majors. I always figured you came from a clan of scientists. I had no idea you were such a rebel."
He waves a finger in my direction. "Never assume, Sara."
I smile mysteriously. "So you keep telling me."
Eventually the fire pits burn down and one by one the other patrons evaporate. I look around and realize we're the only customers left on the patio. "Guido is half-asleep over there. I think it's time to go."
The check was paid a while ago so we discreetly grab our belongings and head outside.
"Are you tired?" he asks when we reach his car.
"Please. Shift isn't even half over yet."
Grissom nods in understanding. "Would you like to go somewhere else? We can take a walk."
"We could. It's a bit chilly, though." The desert air is quite cool now that I'm not sitting by a fire, and I rub my bare arms for warmth.
Next thing I know he's taking his coat off and wrapping it around my shoulders. It's toasty warm and feels like a hug. He keeps his hands on the lapels, effectively trapping me in a warm cocoon, and I find myself leaning forward to the point that we are practically in an embrace. He smells faintly of charcoal and cappuccino. "We can go back to my place," I offer tentatively, not wanting to sound presumptuous. "I actually have an open bottle of Shiraz left over from dinner last night."
His trembling "okay" is reminiscent of my response to Greg when he offered to trade shifts last night. Eager, nervous, excited.
The ride home is silent, but comfortably so. I keep thinking that I should be freaking out about this, about the fact that I'm inviting Grissom into my home for completely non-professional reasons, but I'm too amped to care.
My apartment only has one light on, a small Tiffany, and by tacit agreement we leave it that way. Moonlight from the window blends with shades of gold and green, dappling the floor like a forest.
While I get the wine out Grissom circles my apartment like an animal marking its territory. He scans bookcases, photographs, magazines. At first I'm kind of confused by his behavior, but soon I get it. He's nervous, too.
I finish pouring what's left of the Shiraz into two glasses and park myself on the couch. "So, who would you want to paint your portrait?" I throw out for fun in an attempt to lighten the mood.
"Warhol," he replies immediately, joining me on the sofa.
The thought of Warhol mass producing Grissom like a bunch of tomato soup cans is highly amusing. "Come on, be serious."
"Asked and answered. Now I get to ask you a question." He takes his time, thinking of something that's guaranteed to make me reveal the inner workings of my mind. "If you couldn't live in the present, when would you like to live and why?"
"In the future. As you may have noticed, I don't like to look back."
His faint frown suggests that he has something else in mind.
"What? Certainly you don't think I belong in 16th century Italy."
He shakes his head. "No, not at all, although I do imagine you would have appreciated the interest in science."
"You've always struck me as an old soul, like me. We should have been born a hundred years ago, at least."
I take a moment to digest this thought, and I must say that I find it quite encouraging. Not so much because he sees me as an old soul, as I'm really a modern technology-loving science nerd, but because he considers it a foregone conclusion that we would still be together.
His hand reaches forward and cups my cheek, turning my face closer to the light, to him.
In all the years that I have known him he has never touched me this intimately. My pulse quickens, and I wonder if he can feel the erratic beat of my heart.
"I'd sacrifice the benefits of modern technology just to live in a time when Sargent could paint your portrait."
"Sargent? He painted society women." I'm trying to stay on topic, but all I want to do is lean into his hand and close my eyes. "Is that really how you see me? As some repressed Victorian society type bound in a corset and swathed in layers of black?"
The heat in his eyes is so ravenous I think that's exactly how he sees me. Furthermore, I think he'd like nothing more than to spend his days personally divesting me of such a ridiculously uncomfortable wardrobe. And oh, how I would like to let him.
"That's not what I meant," he continues in a businesslike tone, his hand falling away from my face. "You have a graceful neck and you look beautiful in black. Besides, you don't have a repressed bone in your body. I'm sure that women back then would have earned the right to vote a lot faster with you around."
Grissom's particular brand of flattery is an aphrodisiac. I think what is most endearing is the fact that he doesn't even seem to be aware that he's doing it. His compliments are delivered as scientific facts, as though there is a library of empirical evidence in his head and he's just relaying the obvious conclusion. By the time I've registered that he's said something nice he's already moved on to a completely different topic.
Tonight is no exception. I'm trying to process the fact that he's just called me beautiful, and he's talking about the suffrage movement in America. "How do you do that?"
"Drop a bombshell like that and keep talking like you've just commented on the weather."
"I'm just stating the truth."
Now I'm just speechless.
"You're a beautiful woman, Sara. Hasn't anyone ever told you that before?"
"Just you," I mutter softly, thinking of an offhand comment at an ice rink so many years ago.
He's staring at me with an incredulous expression on his face. "No one has ever told you that before?" He actually seems angry. Not at me, but at the world.
"Does Greg count?"
If anything, my attempt at humor has just made him more upset. The fingers in his right hand have formed a fist around the stem of his glass.
"Grissom, it's okay." And it really is. If I wanted to be called beautiful, I'd put a lot more effort into my daily appearance. "Men call Catherine beautiful, not me. I've always been one of the guys and I prefer it that way. I'd much rather be complimented on my mind, and that's happened plenty of times."
He still sounds indignant. "You should be complimented on both."
"Well, that's why I have you."
"Yes, you do."
I think he actually just harrumphed, and I wonder if that's something he picked up from his elderly grandfather. It's just so funny, the thought of Grissom getting all bent out of shape because men don't tell me that I'm beautiful. Doesn't he get that I don't care? I just want attention from him?
"I don't know why you're smiling. This isn't funny."
"Yes it is."
"No it's not."
"Yes, actually, it is."
"No, actually, it's not."
I laugh out loud. This is such a stupid conversation. "I love you, you know that?"
Grissom is looking at me like I just delivered a roundhouse kick straight into his solar plexus.
"Well, I mean, I love that you're protective and care about my delicate female sensibilities. It's very sweet. Endearing, really, considering that unlike you I actually carry my weapon and practice using it regularly at the firing range. If anyone in this relationship is going to get protective, it probably should be me. Not that we're in any kind of official relationship or anything." Damn it. Where's the Immodium! "Oh, look. We're out of wine. I'll get more."
I jump off the couch and move into the kitchen area so fast Grissom probably just got whiplash watching me make the transition. Like I need more wine. But hey, if I get Grissom to drink most of it, he won't even remember this conversation tomorrow.
I root around my bottom cabinet until I come across my secret stash. I don't have many bottles of good wine left, as I haven't been back to San Francisco much since I moved to Vegas, but there are a few. I think my first official date with Grissom is a worthy sacrifice. "Pinot or Syrah?" I call out to the living room.
"I'm fine, thanks." His voice is right behind me, so close that I can feel it reverberate down my spine.
I turn around and find him standing just a foot away. Amazing how such a large man can move so quietly. "Oh, um, okay. Do you want something else instead?"
He's got that predatory look again. "The feeling is mutual."
Wow. This is so much better than the comment he made in the car a few weeks ago about it being hard for me to find an intellectual equal. So much better. My mouth moves before my brain has a chance to catch up to it. "Does this mean you're finally going to kiss me?"
He steps toward me, smiling a positively devilish smile. "I'd like to, very much."
"A wise man once told me that being willing is not enough; we must do."
I guess that's all the invitation he needs. His fingers are on my shoulder, my throat. The pad of his thumb drifts up, then down, softly grazing the pulse point on my neck. I feel his warm breath across my cheek. The soft hairs of his beard caress my face.
His lips meet mine. They are tentative at first, chastely asking permission. He samples me slowly, deliberately, tasting the contours of my mouth. Our tongues touch lightly, then retreat. Again.
My arms rise of their own volition, clinging to his broad shoulders.
I surge against him and the kiss deepens. It's wetter, hotter than before. Our heads tilt, the angle shifts. He plunders my mouth as his hands grip my waist and pull me tautly against him.
He's hard, so incredibly hard, and the solid pressure of his arousal against my stomach is delicious. Unbridled lust unfurls inside me, coursing through my bloodstream. He is devouring me whole and it is not enough. I don't think it will ever be enough.
Hands which at first were tentative now map my body with carnal intent. Nails scrape my back and unhook my bra. Calloused fingers knead and cup my unfettered breasts. I gasp against his eager mouth. Our tongues duel and I press against him harder, harder.
My body is on fire. Extremities are heavy and swollen with need, pulsing in tune with my rapidly beating heart.
My mouth breaks free just long enough to beg him, "Please." My voice whimpers urgently. "I can't…. " I am beyond rational thought. There is only need. And want. If he doesn't take me now I will explode.
For once I'm glad that my apartment is the size of a shoebox and my bed is only a few feet away.
There isn't time for ceremony. I rip at my shirt and bra, dropping them to the floor in a heap. My skirt follows shortly thereafter and soon all I am wearing is a black lace thong. I move to take it off but I am stopped by the strangled sound of Grissom's voice behind me.
I turn and find him naked, too. He is magnificent, and the heat in his eyes is nuclear.
He pounces. There is no other word for it. We fall to the bed in a tangle of naked limbs and all I can think is that this is the man who hurled coffee pots and threw Eddie up against a wall. He is feral, confident and brutally male. I shut my eyes and writhe beneath him, keening as he rips at my thong and rakes his fingers through my wet fur.
"Look at me," he urges.
I can't. It's too much…. I can't….
"Sara." My name is a curse, a benediction.
I comply and encounter raw, untamed need. His eyes have never been this bright, this blue. I am lost in their depths. Our lips meet again only this time the kiss is gentle, soothing.
He slips inside me and I wail at the sense of completion. He begins to move slowly, then with greater assurance. My hips rise to meet his and our rhythm becomes fierce, primal.
My nails dig into his back like grappling hooks.
At first I could not look him in the eye. Now, I cannot look away. With each pounding thrust he imprints himself on me further. No man has ever possessed me so completely. I am begging, pleading, yearning for something that I'm not even sure I understand.
My walls grip him like a thunderclap and soon he collapses on top of me, completely spent, panting. Our kisses taper off, becoming soft, slow, chaste. He murmurs something unintelligible, presses one last kiss to my brow, and rolls away.
We lie on our backs, holding hands, staring at the ceiling. Time expands and our breathing slows. My heartbeat returns to normal.
I am tired and sore and scraped and raw and I feel fabulous. I look over at my boss, my friend, my…lover. "I feel thoroughly debauched."
He smiles, weakly lifts my hand and busses the pulse point on my wrist.
"For the record, I've never had sex on the first date. Actually, I don't even think I've done it on the second or third. I don't date much and when I do I don't just... Well, I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea." I'm overtalking again, but this time it's not due to nervousness. I don't think I'll ever feel nervous around him again.
He lets me ramble, chuckling as he continues to trail a line of soft kisses down the length of my arm.
Then it occurs to me. "We didn't use…"
We regard each other with twin expressions of horror.
He sobers up quickly. "We'll face it together."
I roll on top of his chest and lay my head down over his heart. He absently plays with my hair, combing through the damp waves with his fingers. The faint aroma of lemons wafts through the air.
"Do you think…?" He asks quietly.
I do the mental math. "Maybe. It's possible, but not probable."
I think about the concept of a baby Grissom, and the fact that little embryonic cells could be multiplying as I speak. The prospect is not as terrifying as I would have thought. "Would you be upset?" I whisper against his sternum.
He drops a kiss on the top of my head and wraps his arms around me. "I would be honored."
We share a shocked smile. I don't think either one of us could have predicted the outcome of our evening, yet in retrospect I don't know how it could have ended any other way. Like I said, we don't do anything in moderation.
If it's a boy, I think Gregory Michael Grissom has a nice ring to it.