Epilogue: The Times They are A-Changin'
Busy as they had been in executing what had ostensibly been the reason they were out in the middle of the rainforest in the middle of the night in the first place, midnight had come and gone and the new year begun without either Grissom or Sara knowing or realizing it.
There had been no fireworks, no ball dropping on Time Square. Of course there hadn't been murder or mayhem either. Just the mad rush and hurry of collection until the early hours of the morning. When exactly the two of them had collapsed onto their makeshift bed and fallen asleep, neither had known. And while the tarp and thinly blanketed ground had not exactly proven all that comfortable, they'd both been so exhausted that ultimately a bed was a bed. Besides, they had both slept in far worse conditions. At least here they had each other.
Just before dawn, Grissom stirred to find himself laying flat on his back with Sara using him as a pillow. Apart from the fact that his arm had gone numb and he had a rock pressing into one of his ribs, he didn't really mind.
It was certainly more enjoyable of an experience than the last time he had slept out in the field with only mosquito netting and the stars overhead. The company was certainly far better. Although the level of snoring was about the same.
So between the noise of Sara still sound asleep and the chorus of the insects they hadn't managed to capture earlier, it wasn't exactly a silent night. And yet a sense of peace and tranquility lingered all the same.
The trees surrounding them were strangely still. The as yet predawn hours as calm as the evening had been before and yet so unlike that night when he'd arrived in Costa Rica and stood under these same stars with Sara for the first time. Then the wind had rustled through the canopy around them until it was as if the trees were whispering to each other in earnest. Their shiver and dance had added another layer to the melody of the forest.
They were the Christmas winds. Sara had once explained how Ticos looked forward to them every year as they brought much welcomed relief from the seemingly omnipresent heat and heralded the beginnings of the dry season and a reprieve from the wet. They were winds of change much like the Santa Anas he remembered from all those years of growing up in Southern California.
And so much had changed even in just the last dozen days since that night. Still, Grissom knew there were more changes to come. Life was like that.
There really was no constant in the universe but change, as trite and clichéd as it might sound. But instead of fearing or dreading it, Grissom welcomed it. For while he was unsure of what the new year would bring, he was happy to know that he and Sara would face it together.
He drew her sleeping form tighter to him and bent to place a kiss into her hair. Sara stirred only long enough to softly sigh and nuzzle ever nearer.
There were indeed times when dreams paled in comparison to reality. This was certainly one of them.
It wasn't until the last handful of days that Grissom quite appreciated the fact that all his weeks of imagining what it would be like to be with Sara again were not half as arresting as it proved to actually be with her. In the beginning, he thought that after the first couple of days it would lessen - that sense of wide-eyed wonder and breathless disbelief, and that a sense of normality, of the routine would return. It hadn't. Instead, when he least expected it, the simplest of things would start the rush and flush and blush all over again.
Perhaps Stephen was right. It was something that never did get better with time - this being and loving Sara like this. He thought, too, that it was equally true that he really didn't want it to.
Sara had to admit that even after his repeated insistence that he didn't need or want to be boss, that over the next several days and weeks it was still strange to see Grissom taking directions and instructions. Although the foreignness seemed to be all on her side, for it appeared that he had no problem whatsoever shifting from the role of mentor and keeper of all knowledge (no matter how esoteric) to that of student.
Grissom was willing and eager to do anything. No task was too menial, boring or time consuming. Nothing was beneath him. Initially, she was surprised at some of the things he was willing to do, but she probably shouldn't have been. True, she had heard plenty about Grissom's Take one for the team lectures over the years, mostly from the guys whom she would have thought to have been too tough to complain about such things when the time came to collect the more unsavory sorts of specimens.
But Grissom didn't complain about having to collect bait for or setting up the dung or other traps, even though Bernie or Luis would have gladly done it if he had asked or insisted. Except Grissom hadn't pulled rank, hadn't asked for special privileges or treatment because he had the Ph.D. at the end of his name or because he'd been practicing science long before either of the young men had been born. In fact, he never complained about grunt work, or the heat or much of anything at all. He cooked, cleaned, cataloged, collected, photographed, hiked all over. In some strange, twisted way that was yet so quintessentially Grissom at the same time, he enjoyed it. After the first couple of weeks of getting used to the heat and humidity and once he had grown accustomed to the rhythms of a very different sort of day, he seemed to have more energy than Sara had seen him display in years.
If the number and quality of his questions were any indication, he was genuinely interested in the work, fascinated by it all. But then Grissom had always been the sort who preferred questions to answers, the quest to the grail. And here he was in the middle of a great jigsaw puzzle that science was only beginning to tackle.
And yet, there was still an element of distance, a healthy sort of objectivity and proportion that tempered some of his more obsessive tendencies. Yes, he liked the work, was eager to do it, enjoyed it, but at the end of the day, he was able to put it aside in ways he hadn't been able to do in Vegas.
He worked hard as he was always wont to do, but he began to play hard too.
He joined in the sometimes impassioned dinner debates - sometimes arguing in English, sometimes in his rapidly improving Spanish, about everything from the state of science in society to the likelihood of a particular sports team actually having a winning season for once. Sara stayed out of the latter discussions, thinking perhaps it better that none of them should hold their breath. After dinner there were sometimes games: cards, chess, Speed Scrabble. A few Sunday afternoons had been taken up with dung beetle races much to everyone's eventual amusement. Other nights were spent in quiet reading or in listening, when there was no fútbol on the radio, to what would have been labeled in the U.S. as oldies music but what currently made up most of the contemporary musical fare on Costa Rican radio stations. There was frequently laughing, some good-natured teasing, too.
Sara didn't mind that she and Grissom didn't spend every waking moment together. They had never had the sort of relationship where that was necessary. Besides she was happy to see him interacting with the others, opening himself up more.
That wasn't to say that she didn't enjoy or take advantage of the time they had alone. They worked well together, as equal partners as they had in those last years in Vegas before she'd left. She enjoyed the little moments, the laboring side by side on the simple and sometimes mindless tasks.
Still, no matter how busy the days or how much there was to be done, they each took the time to be with each other. There were the occasional walks. The nights spent after the generator was shut down reading together or talking about everything and nothing or simply touching and being together.
Ultimately, Sara knew Grissom was, for lack of a better word, trying.
Or as he had one day told her, practicing.
When she had inquired after what exactly he was practicing, he'd told her going with the living. She had smiled at this and his still slightly chagrined admission that it wasn't always that easy a thing to do.
Sara however thought he was doing a pretty good job of it in any case. Besides, she knew it took a great deal of courage to simply allow oneself to be human - in all that entailed.
And she loved and admired him all the more for it.
There were small, subtle changes, too. Ones that probably only Sara could or would have noticed, having had worked and lived with and loved him for so long. And yet with all the changes, Grissom was still himself, and also so at ease and alive and comfortable in ways that she'd hardly ever seen him.
He'd begun to wear his shirts with a few less buttons done (a change she much appreciated). The harsh lines had faded from his face and the dark circles were gone from his eyes. Instead, his eyes blazed brighter. He smiled easier, laughed freely. And he'd acquired a sort of quietness and calm, too.
It was a wondrous thing to behold.
But what Sara didn't know, didn't realize, was she was doing the same.