Going with the Living
Beginning a new life together after a long and difficult separation is indeed a wondrous thing, but Sara and Grissom soon discover it is not without its problems, pitfalls and perils, particularly if the undertaking occurs in the middle of the Costa Rican rainforest.
Takes place immediately following "Postscript" and "An Ordinary Day," post episode 910 "One to Go," circa December 2008.
A/N: A WIP. Not to be confused with a previously released story by the same name.
For Frank - Occasional muse, frequent instigator and fairly all around pita -- a story about the pleasures and pitfalls of beginning again, for the one person who never lets me forget that having to start over isn't always a bad thing.
I can think of no one else I'd rather share the journey with than you.
One: Dr. Grissom, I Presume
"Sara, have you seen what Ana --" came the unexpected query from behind the two of them.
Sara started slightly. She reluctantly disengaged herself from Grissom's embrace and hurriedly attempted to wipe the tears from her face with the back of her hand as she turned. She was about to offer introductions, explanations, something -- anything, but the interloper, who did not appear the least bit surprised or fazed to see Grissom standing there with her, beat her to it.
"Dr. Grissom, I presume," he said, striding towards them. "Stephen. Stephen Baird." Stephen extended a hand, regarding Grissom with what Sara knew to be his usual, if somewhat jocular familiarity, as if nothing at all was amiss or unusual, as if unannounced visitors popping out of the rainforest were to be expected. Which was about when Sara realized that was exactly what had happened. Stephen's next words of "Ana said we should be expecting you today," confirmed as much.
Well, she thought with a wry sort of smile, that explained why Ana had been suddenly so adamant in insisting that Sara stay behind that day to help Stephen, and why Stephen, whom she had never seen regard his wristwatch as anything but just something he wore out of habit rather than necessity, had repeatedly checked it the entire time when they had been out in the field earlier.
She was only half-heartedly listening as Stephen was saying, "She's sorry she couldn't be here to meet you in person but she had to go to town today," for Sara was far more occupied watching Grissom silently appraise Stephen with that same sort of penetrating gaze she had frequently seen him use when he met people for the first time. There wasn't anything dubious or suspicious about it as the act was merely the result of more than twenty years of habit.
She wondered what Grissom made of him.
But Grissom for his part was at the moment listening to Stephen with the same focused intent he had acquired from the time when he was losing his hearing and had to read lips in order to keep up with conversations.
"With the holiday coming up, we've been having some issues with our usual suppliers in town that sadly only she can take care of." Stephen leaned in almost conspiratorially before adding, "She knows better swear words in Spanish than I do. Seems to work. Anyway," he turned to Sara, "Why don't you take Dr. Grissom to get settled in before everyone else gets back. I'll put up the camera and the rest of the specimens you were working on."
After being struck virtually dumb for the last five minutes, Sara finally found her voice. "Did Ana want to put him with Bernie and Luis?" she asked with a businesslike nonchalance she didn't really feel.
Stephen chuckled. "Those two suit each other just fine, but I wouldn't inflict that punishment on anyone else. Dr. Cole's old tent is empty. Might as well get some use out of it." He paused in the act of turning to go. "I'll... uh, ask Luis and Bernie to move your things over as well once they get back, Sara," he said with a casualness she knew better than to believe. But his next words left her looking aghast: "Bridget's been complaining about your snoring keeping her up all night."
The glance that Grissom was suddenly giving her was more than a little amused. His grin bore all the smug satisfaction of the vindicated. She shook her head dismissively to indicate that Stephen's words proved nothing, absolutely nothing at all.
Stephen gave Grissom's hand one last welcoming shake saying, "It's a real pleasure to finally meet you, Dr. Grissom. You know Sara's told us a lot about you," before disappearing as quickly as he had appeared.
It was Grissom's turn to give Sara a curious look. To which she made no immediate reply. Instead, she waited to make sure Stephen was well out of earshot to ask, "Does this mean I have to go back to calling you Dr. Grissom again?"
The attempt at a tease felt good -- familiar and seemed to dispel a little of the tension she was feeling at the strangeness of Grissom's unexpected arrival. And Grissom seemed to appreciate it. Or at least he took it with his customary good grace.
"Please, no," he sighed. "I hated being called that eleven years ago."
Sara smiled at this.
And then they were alone again, just the two of them, and for a few long moments they just stood there simply staring at each other as if a sudden sense of shyness had settled over them. It wasn't awkward exactly, but the shock and surprise really hadn't had a chance to wear off just yet, at least not for Sara.
She thought that Stephen's untimely interruption would have made Grissom's presence all the more real, but it still felt unreal for Grissom to really be there.
The last handful of minutes seemed more like a dream than anything. And yet Sara could still feel her lips and cheek and palm tingle slightly from where he had so recently kissed her.
It had been so overwhelming, those first few moments, with the flood of a half dozen different feelings surging all at once: a breathless sort of joy, the desire for connection and confirmation, the wondering and longing and having all at once.
Neither of them had much seemed to know what to say then. Although there had been so much Grissom had wanted to say, he could not seem to heave his heart into his mouth and all sense of reason or rationality had left him. So he had simply held her, relishing the warmth of her, the familiar scent of her slightly tinged with that of sweat and a strange sort of earthiness, tasting the tart saltiness of her tears from when his lips brushed against her cheeks.
Sara hadn't faired much better. The still damp eyes that had peered up into his when she finally pulled away retained the trace of disbelief and her fingers had lingered at the base of his neck as if she needed that very tangible proof that he was indeed really real.
It may have been minutes or merely moments then. But it seemed that the instant both of them had finally chosen to say something was when the sound of Stephen calling for Sara had interrupted them.
Truthfully, she had been more than a little taken aback at Grissom's reaction. While his palm had slid from her neck and down her spine before coming to rest at the small of her back when she had turned to acknowledge Stephen, Grissom did not look the least bit startled or chagrined at the intrusion, nor did he bother to remove his hand except to take Stephen's.
It still rested there, his hand, at the base of her spine.
"Why - why um, why don't we..." Sara began to stammer as he reached up to brush the wetness that she had missed from her cheeks. "Get you... uh settled in."
He smiled his consent and went to retrieve his pack from where he had so hastily discarded it earlier. When he turned back to face her, she was holding out his hat for him. He took it and was happy to find that she continued to extend her hand as if waiting and wanting for him to take it, too.
The warmth in her fingers, the way her palm pressed against his, felt wonderfully familiar.
She tugged him forward.
After a moment, she said, "Do I even want to know how you managed to get here?"
"Airplane. Bus. On foot," he succinctly replied.
"You know what I mean."
Grissom thought about it. Tendering his resignation. Telling the team. Feeling like that last case would just never end. The hurried packing. The unsaid good-byes. Then the long evening flight from Vegas to San Jose. His ignoring Dr. Velasquez's suggestion to spend a night in a hotel when he first arrived because he had been so intent on seeing Sara. The seemingly even longer bus ride out that followed. The two hour walk through the heat and humidity of the forest. At least, he hadn't had to travel by boat, he ultimately mused.
But it had been worth it -- all of it worth it, just to see her smile.
He finally settled on a bemused sort of "Let's just say you weren't all that hard to find, dear," before adding, "And Dr. Velazquez was very helpful in arranging things."
Sara pursed her lips, shook her head at this and muttered, "And keeping it quiet," almost under her breath.
"Besides," he added. "You know what they say --"
"Desperate times call for desperate measures."
"I have never known you to be desperate," she countered.
He had been and wanted to tell her as much.
But they had stopped in front of a large canvas tent. Sara was in the process of working free the knots securing the ties. She tied a flap back and proceeded to step inside.
Grissom did not immediately follow her. He stood there, pack slung over one shoulder and hat in hand, looking, when Sara turned back to him, if she had to name the expression, shy. She examined his expression curiously. For a man she had never seen so nervous, not once in all the years, he was wearing that look for the second time that day. She re-crossed the narrow space between them and reached up to finger the line where his hat had cut into his hair.
"Gil," she barely breathed.
"I wanted to write," he confessed softly. "Honey, but I..."
Her hand slid to his cheek and her thumb began tracing its familiar way along the skin just above his beard as she said, "I've also never known you to be at a loss for words."
The truth was, Grissom rued, he had often been struck that way around her over the years and far too often when he needed those words the most.
"This time borrowed ones wouldn't do," he replied.
Sara nodded knowingly. Then said, "Are you hungry? Dinner's not for a couple of hours yet. And before you ask, it's not my night to cook, so consider yourself fortunate."
The self-deprecating remarked netted her a soft smile from him. "I'm fine," Grissom maintained.
"Feel like you swallowed a whole rabble of butterflies?" she asked and to his "Yeah," she admitted, "I know that feeling." Then added almost in the same breath, "You have to be tired."
"I'm okay," he insisted and while she doubted it, she knew better than to and had no intention of arguing with him.
"How about a shower? I know you're hot, because you never --"
"And I thought I was nervous," Grissom interjected before she could continue.
Which was when Sara realized that her solicitude had quickly degenerated into almost anxious babbling. It had been a long time since her nerves had made her over-talk around him, but this was all so new and strange and frankly unbelievable.
"Well, you've had a bit more time to get used to it all," she replied.
"Does that mean you gave up on the idea that --"
"I'd ever see you again?" Sara finished with an emphatic shake of the head. "No."
Still a little leery that he might misconstrue her words to mean that she wasn't pleased to see him, she gave him a bright smile and said both earnest - and honestly:
"I'm glad you're here."