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The Body in the Bathtub
Author: Summer Reign
Grissom returns to Las Vegas. Think surprises, bugs and Naked Santas.
Title: The Body in the Bathtub
Author: Summer Reign
Disclaimer: I've had custody for a while now. Can I keep them?
Summary: Not an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery or a Christmas story. Just a little fun and hijinks with our favorite couple.
She knew something was up from the nearly crazed way Hank greeted her at the door. Either he had to pee really, really, really badly (which didn't happen that often since, by Sara's calculations, the dog walker should left just an hour before)…or…
Santa Claus was naked and sleeping in the tub.
For a moment, she did not move. Then, Hank pushed his nose against the back of her knee and she was forced to make way for the very determined dog.
Grissom. The last time she "saw" him was three weeks ago. The expedition he was on was moving to an even more remote location and their Skype conversations were temporarily coming to an end. His hair and beard had looked—fluffy—even in the sometimes fuzzy video feed she received. But, in real life, they were amazingly out of season.
She bent down and put her hand in the water. Cold. Hypothermia-inducing cold. Sara pulled the plug to make room for the hot water she was replacing it with. She made sure it wasn't scalding and turned it on full blast.
That woke him. He bolted upright.
"Hi, honey," Grissom said, through sleepy blue eyes.
"Ho, ho, ho," she replied.
He put a hand up to his beard. "I know. I need a shave."
"And a haircut."
"I thought you liked my hair longer."
"Longer—not, 'My wife will need therapy for impure St. Nicolas thoughts'- long," she said, still marveling at the fact that his hair was not only long and curly but…so, so white. She had long since stopped wondering why a man with such a mane was nearly hairless everywhere else. And, his lack of body hair was now her saving grace. If she were to think about Santa in a pervy sort of way, she would imagine him to have a very hairy back. Grissom, luckily, was smooth as silk.
Mr. Silky Smooth laughed and was about to hoist himself out of the tub when she pushed him back down.
"Stay. You need to warm up. You know," she drawled, "falling asleep in a bath full of freezing cold water is a recipe for disaster."
"It wasn't freezing when I got in. You must have taken too long getting home."
"I didn't know I had anyone waiting for me."
She supposed, if she could really have seen his face among the cottony cloud it was covered with, he'd look a tad sheepish. Part of her received a small amount of satisfaction from that; the other felt guilty. Grissom was simply…Grissom. And it was never her intention to change him. Much.
However, their last Skype conversation came after a rough day at work. Not only had she pulled a double, but Hodges had "run into" Lady Heather. Correction: Heather Kessler, PhD (Doctor [!] of Pornographic Hedonism).
Of course, he "ran into her" at a course she was teaching. One of those adult lecture series. This one, clearly capitalizing on the newfound popularity of color charts and crappy prose: "Sadomasochism: It's Not Just Black and White Anymore."
Never let it be said that the woman didn't know how to make a buck. But, that wasn't what bothered Sara. It was Hodges constant fawning praise over the Magnificent Doctor. How interesting, beautiful, intriguing, exciting, etc., etc., etc. she was, is and always would be.
Sara left work—uncharacteristically feeling like the lone bowl of Cream of Wheat on a buffet table overflowing with French pastry.
And then, Mama Grissom called. Wanting to know when her boy was coming home. Even with her sub-par signing, Sara's fingers quickly gave her the standard answer: soon.
Soon. Meaning: I dunno.
Soon. Meaning: I wish I did.
Soon. Meaning: Maybe never because, apparently, even with him hunting me down halfway across the world, I'm just not interesting, beautiful, intriguing, exciting, etc., etc., enough to tear him away from a superior intellectual challenge. And never would be.
So, in the middle of a pity party, she listened to him uber-enthusiastically recount the latest find on their archeological dig. And he never really noticed her eyes glazing over. Not when they did so through boredom and certainly not when they did so because of unshed tears.
She was nearly 40 and still so in love with this odd man she missed so much. And, yes, he loved her. Just in a different way.
When it was time to say goodnight, after he broke the news about going to an even more remote area of Peru, she dropped the self-censor and asked him the first question to cross her mind: "Don't you ever just want to kiss me goodnight?"
He had that deer in the headlights look again. Followed shortly thereafter by the confused look. Then, surprisingly, the pissed-off look.
"All the time," he said. "But, airplanes fly in both directions."
And, then, maybe—just maybe—he did noticed Sara's glazed eyes.
"I'm tired, Gil," she said, ending the conversation before she started shrieking about those airplane rides she took on a monthly basis: the jet lag, the post-trip stomach issues, the aching loneliness she felt on her return. Versus the two short trips home he had made over the past year which consisted, mostly, of catching up with everyone else first and complaining about the way she painted their bedroom green.
"Love you," she muttered. Because…well, that's the way their conversations ended.
And he muttered a quick "love you, too" before signing off.
They had conversations after that. Cell phones without video capacity were good for things like that. Except connections were not great in remote areas and static and audio-drop-outs were not conducive to long, heartfelt discussion. Still, they tried to keep in touch nearly every day, steering clear of controversial subjects like…being together.
And, now, weeks later, Gil still looked like he didn't know what, if anything, he should say. So, Sara did what she always did: she let him off the hook.
She kneeled down, picked up a sponge and soaped it up. Then ran it over his shoulders. He lay back against the tub and closed his eyes. She ran the sponge down the center of his chest and kissed his hair. Softer than ever…
"I've missed you," he muttered.
"I've missed you, too," she said, dropping the sponge and encircling him from behind. Her knees were killing her but she ignored them. "How is the dig going?"
"We'll talk about that later, okay? I'm…this hot water is making me really sleepy."
"Then rest," she said, gently pushing back the long, snow-white hair from his forehead. Shirley Temple's curls had nothing on Gil Grissom's. She smiled at the thought.
He opened one eye. "I may fall asleep again."
"I'll get you up and drag you to bed."
"Well, I am tired….you may drag me to bed but…"
Sara rolled her eyes. "I'll take a rain check on anything else. Just having you home, right now, is enough."
She thought back to another time and smiled. "Do you want me to help you trim your beard tomorrow?"
"Oh, no. I'm going to the barber first thing in the morning. I have to look presentable for the Grand Opening."
"Yes. Didn't I tell you? Las Vegas is opening a Bug Zoo. Tomorrow. They've had one in British Columbia for years. 50 insect species on display. 50 species to learn about. I bought you a ticket, too."
A bug zoo. Grissom's own personal 50-themed turn-on. In glorious Technicolor.
He didn't come home just to kiss her goodnight, after all.
It really had seemed like the perfect plan, at the beginning.
They had applied for a grant and been rejected. The resubmission process took nine months. Ecklie, in the meantime, "needed someone."
Yes, they were on a wonderful, extended honeymoon. But, Grissom was staying away from things she knew he was interested in doing, because he knew she wouldn't be. And Sara was feeling…unsettled. She felt she had left behind some unfinished business she was itching to complete.
Yes, life had thrown her for a loop. But, it wasn't the first time that happened. And she had vowed a long, long time ago that nothing would hold her down for long. The way she left things seemed to break that promise to herself and everyone she cared about.
So, they worked out the perfect (temporary) compromise. He'd accept some offers he really wanted to accept, and she would go to Vegas and…kick ass.
But, temporary had somehow turned… permanent? She didn't think so, but things really didn't seem to be heading toward them being together in that intense way they had when they first married. The fact was- he enjoyed this arrangement. He was always interested in what he was doing. Like a kid in a candy store. And he enjoyed his time with her, too. No doubt about it. But, the extended periods of her not being with him, bodily, didn't seem to bother him much.
That fact was beginning to bother her.
But, he wasn't a "normal" man. His intellectual pursuits trumped everyone and everything else. And she knew that from the beginning. Above all, she wanted him to be happy in their marriage. And, she was doing what she was probably destined to do.
So…life would go on. Maybe not perfect but…better than it had ever been before.
She called up Russell, in the morning, to ask him if she could either come in later, or perhaps—just perhaps—take the night off. He laughed, telling her it had all been taken care of.
"Why do you think you pulled a double the other night?" he said. "I like to encourage romance whenever possible. You enjoy that husband of yours. Sounds like a nice guy, by the way. I'm looking forward to meeting the Legend of the Lab."
Grissom had, apparently, been making phone calls behind her back.
She would yell at him but…he already left. Presumably to get someone to take a weed-whacker to his beard.
Her ticket for the Grand Opening was on the kitchen counter. She supposed that meant he was getting some sort of sneak-preview and they wouldn't be walking in together.
Sara sighed and looked at the ticket for the details Gil didn't provide. It was a late luncheon type of thing. Good thing she looked. She had assumed it was an evening event.
Sara filled Hank's dish and placed it in front of the dog, patting his behind, as she always did after breakfast was served.
"So, Hank…how formal do you think the opening of a Bug Zoo is?"
Hank was too busy scarfing kibble to reply.
"Okay. I'm on my own, here."
Simple dress and heels would do. She smiled to herself. She really did, for a moment, wish she had a Mrs. Claus kind of outfit. Would serve Gil right by being away so long he turned into a jolly old elf before her eyes. Would serve him right if she just stayed home and told him, later, that she thought it had been a nighttime party. And…since he didn't actually tell her anything himself…
But, who would that hurt, really?
She went into the bathroom to wrangle her hair into shape.
What did she expect from a bug zoo, anyway? Sara hadn't really given it any thought. But, the grad student at the door with a giant millipede "mustache," was certainly not on her mind. Or the scorpions as big as a hand. Or the absolutely gigantic cockroaches…which seemed to be a favorite of her hubby's and (her stomach clenched at the thought) would probably be the first things he encouraged her to touch.
Decomposing flesh was more desirable.
Where was he, anyway?
A pleasant, somewhat canned voice, told them all to make their way into the auditorium. She handed her ticket at the door and was escorted to a seat in the front row. Paid to have friends in buggy places.
"Mrs. Grissom?" someone said and she stopped herself from looking around for her mother-in-law.
"Um, yes?" Sara responded, looking up at a fresh-faced, currently bug-free student.
"Your husband wanted you to have this."
She took the small box from the young man. On the top was a familiar scrawl:
To my favorite student…
She opened the lid. Inside, was a ponytail holder.
She smiled to herself and knew that whole eyes glazing over effect was happening again. This was why she was willing to put up with any living arrangement. And, also why it frustrated her. A small gesture from Grissom was worth 100 grand ones from anyone else. Because, in his mind, they made perfect sense. And, even if they were sometimes puzzling, knowing the effort it required for him to get it "just right" completely touched her heart.
Sara quickly scooped up her freshly flat-ironed hair and put it up in a ponytail.
And waited for her teacher.
And, apparently, he had more surprises in store.
She didn't get Santa Claus this time. She got…a man significantly younger. Hair slightly longer than normal but definitely Grecian formula-ed into his original ash-brown mixed with some gray. And the beard was very neatly trimmed and slightly colored, as well. She almost laughed out loud.
I know your secret, Gil Grissom. Just as you know how much gray is tingeing my hair lately.
We all do what we have to do.
And, then, she listened to his lecture on the Wonderful World of Bugs. And, in spite of herself and her innate insect-related squeamishness, she enjoyed herself…especially when he recounted a tiny little personal anecdote about having a thing for bees because he proposed to his wife while studying Colony Collapse Disorder. The audience laughed when he told them she got bitten before she could give her initial answer. They applauded when he told them how he bravely asked again and she accepted. He left out the part about the big, brave question being, "so…uh…what do you think?"
It all was a very, very big hit. She couldn't get to the famous Dr. Grissom for quite some time, after the initial presentation, but she didn't mind. Instead of looking at the insects, she just watched him for a while. Picking up bugs, telling people about them—encouraging children to overcome their fear of harmless species. He was relaxed, knowledgeable and downright entertaining.
And it wasn't just the Grecian Formula that made his eyes look extra blue and excited. It was the fact that he was totally and completely in his element.
Grissom saw Sara standing there and excused himself from the small crowd gathered around him. He uncharacteristically enclosed her in a bear hug that nearly took her breath away.
He backed away and she put her hand up to his face.
"Santa has left the building," he said, smiling. She just looked into his eyes. Sometimes, she found it hard to believe that, even more than a decade later, she still absolutely adored this strange man.
"I see you got a little more than a shave and a haircut."
"I…have planned this job change for quite some time. And, when I actually walked into the place, yesterday—before going home—I thought my new employer was going to end up on Doc Robbins' slab. A good portion of my lectures will be geared toward children, but I'm not sure he wanted them climbing into my lap and telling me they want a bike for Christmas. He was much happier when I showed up this morning. "
"I can imagine."
"I'm sorry I kept this from you. I didn't want to get your hopes up while I negotiated some research opportunities into the contract. But, it finally was approved. You can join me and we can work together—part-time or full-time, or no time, if that's what you want," he said, and chose his next words very carefully. " I know how important working at the lab is to you."
She narrowed her eyes as she looked at him. He knew how important working at the lab was to her? Well, it had been important—to prove a point to herself. It WAS important work but…
Distance. It made the heart grow fonder but also led to a lot of unintentional miscommunication.
They would need to talk. A lot.
Work out a lot of things. Get that communication back on track. Dispel the mutual insecurities.
But, first thing's first…
She grabbed his hand and moved him into the first darkish, empty-ish space she could find. Near the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach display (already a turn-on for him).
And she firmly planted her lips on his.
"Good night," she whispered against his mouth and felt him smile.
They both knew the sun was still cheerfully streaming down on the bug zoo.
He gave her another bear hug and kissed her back.
"A very good night, Sara," he said.
And they both headed off to check out the Butterfly Pavilion.
A/N: So, I sort of knew what I wanted to write. Sort of.
But, I work in a place where I get electronic copies of scientific stuff. And one e-zine had an article about the Bug Zoo…and, that planted the real seed for this story. That, and recent pictures of William Petersen's incredible hair/beard. I mean…wow. Talk about rather freakish inspiration!
Anyway, it's been awhile but … I hope the few of you out there still devoted to GSR like it!