Stale Toothpaste (And Other Problems of Love)
by Camilla Sandman

Disclaimer: The characters of CSI belong to CBS. I just borrow for some fun.

Author's Note: Spoilers for "Way to Go". Set at some undetermined period before, after or during, depending on how you interpret the relationship.

II

Grissom snores.

Sara doesn't notice this the first time she sleeps with him, all hurried pace and fumbled touches and years of want colliding and the echoes reverberating in her skin so loudly she could hear nothing else. She doesn't notice the second time, so intent on his mouth and all it might claim that she is spent after and sleeps dreamlessly.

The third time, then she notices. He kisses her on the mouth goodnight, but he sleeps and she thinks, at least until a noise burrows into her brain and camps out.

Grissom snores. Not dignified and not paced, suddenly becoming very quiet to the point where she thinks she might get some sleep, and then tearing into the silence with such noise it would've been better if there had been no pause at all. Then at least she wouldn't have to rediscover how annoying the sound is.

She has some violent fantasies involving smacking him with a pillow, but in the end, she lies awake in the night and listens. Listens until he rolls over and nuzzles his head against her shoulder and is finally, finally quiet and she thinks she might not have to murder him after all.

She makes sure she falls asleep first next time and dreams of steam trains.

II

Sara leaves the toothpaste cap unscrewed.

He doesn't mind a toothbrush moving into his bathroom, purple against his blue. He doesn't even mind that she sometimes uses the wrong one. After all, he does let his tongue explore her mouth, and it feels cruel to deny his toothbrush the same. But stale toothpaste he has to clean off before he can get to brushing his teeth, that he does mind.

He's never had a toothpaste waster in his house before. It feels almost like he's let in the enemy, an unbeliever of order and not-waste. He's got half a mind to convert her when he joins her in bed and is even considering what sermon would be most fitting.

Then she kisses him with her mouth still tasting of peppermint toothpaste, and when he slides his tongue across her teeth, she makes a noise at the back of her throat that demands all else be forgotten.

In the morning, he buys a new kind of toothpaste with a cap that opens and closes just by pushing and feels victorious.

At least until she keeps forgetting to close the cap after use.

II

Grissom sorts her magazines.

Sara finds it a little cute at first, and when he has to leave earlier than her for a case, the stack is the only reminder he was there, the sheets already cold. But soon she discovers he sorts by date and she sorts by name and she's grown used to remembering articles by where they're published and not when. It takes more time to track down articles she wants to re-read, and there's always at least one.

She considers saying something, but subtle hints work badly on Grissom and frank words feel uncomfortable on her lips. He wouldn't mind, she's sure, but he would be conscious of all he did at her place ever after and feel more like a ghost than a boyfriend.

If boyfriend is even the right word. She's not sure of Grissom's definition. She's not even sure of her own.

In the end, she leaves Post-Its marking pages she'd like to find again, and doesn't even mind that Grissom sometimes draws on them.

II

Sara never has any food.

The first time he stays over at her place, he can't sleep and Sara, as always, has fallen asleep before him. He doesn't wake her, but gets up to leaf through her forensic magazines by the TV, and eventually to hunt through her fridge.

There is only left-overs of fast food, "food" only in the loosest sense, and one lone bottle of water.

He drinks that and feels sorry for himself all the way to breakfast, when she takes him out and they share a meal in public, feeling conscious for every exchanged smile.

The second time, he smuggles food in and eats it while she showers, feeling stealthy all the while, at least until she kisses him and tastes the butter on his tongue.

II

Grissom wears silly shirts.

She doesn't really pay them much heed at first, more concerned with getting him out of clothes in general than what clothes he might put on after. But when the first intensity fades and becomes something more comfortable and almost quiet - sleeping together with actual sleep, touching each other without it being foreplay, kissing becoming familiar and habitual - then she wonders if she was blind earlier. (Perhaps the hat should've been a warning sign, but she ignored that.) His choices are certainly not subdued, not something she would expect of Grissom at all and she half wonders if he has an evil twin that has seduced her for some nefarious plot to take over the world of entomology and take revenge at the world of fashion at the same time.

In the dark of night, she dares think maybe he doesn't need an evil twin. He just might feel comfortable enough around her to share terrible shirts with her without fearing she'll walk away. It's enough to make her smile at him and even get a certain affection for them, in a sort of love-hate way.

She still keeps a pair of scissors sharp.

II

Sara is redecorating his bedroom.

Little things left at the dresser at first, nick-knacks moving into a neighbourhood of beetle specimens. Bedside table next, gaining some photographs and a vase. The bed gets a new little pillow and he decides to get a matching set, mostly for the symmetry. He feels almost at siege, under heavy bombardment of Sara-stuff and at war with his own desire to surrender.

If there's lace brought in, that'll be his Waterloo, he decides.

There is no lace. Instead, he gets her a bedside table, she gets stuff to put on it, and they get a lamp together.

II

Grissom is still careful with what he says.

For all the sex and all the time spent together, he still guards his mind carefully. She finds herself pushing him, invading his bedroom to see if he'll deny her, doing little things she knows will annoy him sometimes simply to see if he will say. If he'll say, then she'll know.

It's not love until they've had their first fight over a small, insignificant, annoying detail, she has decided. The big things - the secrecy, the problems their careers might be in, the future in general - those their relationship will be tested against soon enough. She'd like to know he dares test it.

She'd like to know she does too.

II

Sara loves him.

Sometimes, he almost hates her for it. It would be so much easier if she didn't, if it was just an inappropriate crush or issues of the past she tried to solve with his as avatar. Then he could ignore it, live the life he's used to be, be the Grissom he's used to, not having to adapt to another human being.

But she does love him, for everything else that might be at play. No one would endure his snoring without complaint if it wasn't love. He knows he snores well enough, has even taped himself at night in a sort of snore experiment to establish the truth. Sara says nothing.

He says nothing, remembering the tale of her parents and how they always fought. This is different. He wants her to know she is not her mother and he is not like her father and that end will not be their end. When she trusts that, then they can fight and make up and grow old together and breed award-winning cockroach racers.

He's quite sure love will be needed if she's to agree to the roaches.

II

Grissom loves her.

Sometimes, she almost hates him for it. It would be so much easier if he didn't, if he was just a thoughtless bastard who hurt her, some guy who liked her but not enough. Then she could move on, live a life she decided on, not having to adjust it to share with another human being.

But he does love her, for all he might have been a bastard about it. No one would stock her fridge with all vegetarian food to make sure she eats properly if it wasn't love. She knows he likes meat, has even seen him eat it happily in the past, but he never complains about the lack of it of her place.

That just leaves his place.

She's quite sure love will be needed if he's to agree to what she wants to do his fridge.

II

"Grissom?"

"Mmm?"

"You snore."

"You ruin my toothpaste."

"I'll buy you new."

"I'll buy you earplugs."

"Good."

"Sara?"

"Mmm?"

"How do you feel about roaches?"

FIN