Casa Caliente 8: Auld Lang Syne

Chapter One


Grissom set the phone down, stood, and pulled his slacks on, moving quickly but methodically. He fished in the armoire for a shirt.

On the bed behind him, Sara shifted the pillow behind her and fidgeted a bit. The nightstand clock read one twenty-two PM and a faint bit of overcast light came through the French doors of the bedroom.

“Please?” she asked huskily, pursing her mouth in a pout.

“Sara, no.”

“Grissom, come on! We’re a partnership, right? A duo, a pair, a team. And as a team, it’s only fair to take turns. We do that with a lot of other things around here: dishes, laundry, litter box duty . . . I don’t see why we can’t apply that to this!” she insisted softly, but urgently. He fished out a pair of socks and dropped himself into the new rocking chair to put them on.

“Because the only place in this house where we DON’T have parity is this bedroom. Here, I’m in charge—you know that, I know that; it’s the way it is. And I’m not going to . . . indulge.”

“That’s not fair! I did it to YOU and you didn’t seem to mind!”

“That was . . . different,” came Grissom’s reluctant admission, tinted with embarrassment and lust.

“How?”

“Sara, it just WAS. I’m telling you here and now that I’m not going to spank you and that’s final,” Grissom finally snapped, exasperated. “I don’t hit women, not now, not ever. I’ve seen too much of the aftermath for something like that to have any intrigue for me.”

He grabbed his boots from under the bed.

Sara drew in a calming breath. She loved Grissom dearly, but sometimes she wanted to howl, particularly when he got stubborn about the wrong things. She tried again, softly.

“You know as well as I do it’s not about abuse. It’s about power, and play, babe. About the way you love to control me, and the way I love you to control me. And let’s be honest, Grissom—you’ve never hurt me. We’ve bounced on the mattress, we’ve slammed on the carpet, we claw each other and get into some really wild stuff sometimes—a spanking isn’t even close to what we’ve already DONE with each other.”

He paused, considering the truth of Sara’s straightforward words. In all the time they’d been together in a physical sense, they’d certainly done a lot of things he’d never thought he’d get a chance to do, much less with a gorgeous, generous, loving partner. The naked picnic in the back yard was one. The time Sara had lured him into a quickie right on top the kitchen table between their dinner dishes. The night they’d made out at the movies . . . Grissom shifted, fighting his sudden surge of below the belt enthusiasm at the memories. Sara propped her head up on her elbow and watched him continue to get dressed.

She hated it when a phone call interrupted important discussions like this, but Grissom was the only entomologist around, and crime scenes didn’t wait, particularly those with insects. Sara rose and padded out to the kitchen to make him some coffee for the road, thinking hard. There had to be a way to convince him. There HAD to be.

She drummed her fingers on the countertop, only half listening to Grissom packing up things in the garage. Sara closed her eyes and laid the current problem out in her head, point by point, trying to see a logical solution.

Point one—she wanted her turn at being spanked. Sara briefly let a smile flicker across her face at the memory of Grissom’s experience under her palm. Oh he’d liked that well enough, yes. Despite his strong Alpha male bravado and wonderfully pragmatic ways he had his little weaknesses, his hidden kinks. Hell, his penchant for stocking bondage alone would make Catherine shiver, and Nick turn pale if they ever found out.

And there were other things . . .

Sara also knew Grissom had a temper, and that he kept it under scrupulous control most of the time, but she had seen it flare out in white-hot bursts, all the more frightening for their scarcity. An angry Grissom was one hell of an intimidating thing to see: his eyes would narrow to blue laser intensity, his brows drawing together, his fine mouth curling into a faint scowl.

And the voice—that cold, cutting low tone that warned of impending doom. She’d heard that once or twice in her life, always grateful it wasn’t directed at herself. That sort of fury needed checking. Sara understood that, comprehended Grissom’s desire to keep his potential for rage in check.

But this was so different.

This was about THEM. About the subtle trust, the edge of desire and conflict that drove the two of them to loving madness. Weeks would pass in delightful, warm, happy intimacy for them: happy, hot, straightforward sex, kisses and cuddles while slowly building underneath it all, the lovely darker desires would begin to rise again. Sara knew the signs within herself, could see them in Grissom as well. Harder kisses, a bite here and there, a sharp whispered comment of utter profanity as the cravings grew within them both.

And when neither of them could take it any longer, Grissom would look at her in that certain way, and she’d know, shuddering in the sheer pleasure of anticipation.

Let the games begin.

Grissom came into the kitchen and Sara jumped, shaken out of her reverie by his appearance. He avoided her glance, but took the coffee she offered and gave a grateful grunt. Sara said nothing. Grissom sighed.

“This case will probably take me right into the shift tonight,” he told her with regret. She nodded. Grissom reached over and lifted her chin, forcing her to meet his slightly stern expression.  “Don’t sulk, Acushla. You know as well as I do what’s . . . coming.”

Sara lifted her chin out of his hand in a dainty, defiant move.  “Yeah. New Year’s, Grissom. Time for changes,” she warned.

  
***   ***   ***

  
“Catherine, have you seen this?” Nick demanded, pointing to the posted notice on the break room wall. She nodded, a slow smirk crossing her face before she sipped her coffee. Nick sighed harshly.

“Great! A formal New Year’s Eve party at the Tangiers, co-sponsored by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Las Vegas Police Department! Do you KNOW what that means?”

Catherine paused a moment and thought.

“Let’s see—about three hundred law enforcement people dressed to the nines, eating hors doeuvres and drinking champagne while engaged in political intrigue and small talk?”

Nick blinked for a moment, but charged on,

“Well yeah, but it also means I’ve gotta go rent or buy a formal suit! Man, I hate those things—“ he griped, rubbing his face and growling at the paper, as if it had personally mocked him somehow. Catherine rose and sauntered over to him, laying a consoling arm over his broad shoulders.

“Nick, Nick, Nick—let’s keep the words of ZZ Top in mind here. You’re a good-looking guy, and in the right outfit, I guarantee you’ll be devastating. Think of the swath you could cut through the secretarial pools of both branches here—“

Nick grinned a bit at that happier image, his eyebrows going up along with the corners of his mouth. Catherine nodded approvingly.

“Yeah, but I’m no good at that kind of shopping, Cath—jeans and tees are more my style.”

She nodded, a gleam in her eyes as she checked her watch.

“I know, but we’ll hit the shops in the Forum after we’re off the clock and I’ll get you into Hugo Boss or Armani so fast your head will spin, Stokes.”

“Armani—that’s Italian for waaay out of my price range, Catherine!” Nick protested weakly. She patted his shoulder commiserating and laughed. Sara strode in and made a beeline to the coffee pot, pouting when she noticed it was nearly empty. Catherine eyed her carefully.

“So, Sara—got your Astrabellas ready to go? Something sultry, slinky and black to haul out of the closet and dazzle the masses?”

Sara shot her a puzzled look; Nick tapped the posted notice.

“New Year’s Eve bash, Sare . . . semi-mandatory if you want to get ahead.”

“Got a head already, thanks. I’ll pass.”

“No you won’t,” Catherine announced firmly, the mental circuits in her matchmaking software firing up so clearly that Sara would practically see it glowing though her eyes. Catherine advanced on her, giving Sara the once over. Speaking softly, she murmured,

“As night shift supervisor, Grissom HAS to attend. He’s going to hate every minute of it and try to leave early like he does for every social function he’s ever been required to attend. However, he does look good in his tux and—“

“Grissom has a tux?” Sara demanded, loudly enough for Nick to saunter over and look from Catherine to her and back again.

“You’re kidding? Grissom already OWNS a monkey suit?” he scoffed, white teeth flashing. A quiet voice from the doorway cut through the skepticism.

“Actually, it’s a charcoal, two button single breasted, one hundred percent worsted wool tuxedo with satin lapels, Nick,” Grissom corrected mildly. The younger man flushed brick red, swallowing painfully.

“Ah, listen, Griss—“

“Greg’s been trying to page you.”

Nick slunk away as Grissom turned to shoot Catherine an irritated glance. She met it coolly, a smile in place.

“You ought to pull it out of mothballs early and let it air out, you know,” came her comment as she tugged Sara’s arm and they sailed past him. Grissom frowned.

“My tux?”

“Your libido—“

  
***   ***   ***

  
Sara had dutifully filed her request for personal leave and received approval; her surgery was scheduled for January 6th.  Grissom brought her the signed form himself as she sat in Trace Lab One, carefully sorting through sections of carpet from a suspicious domestic dispute. She glanced over the paper and gave a pragmatic little nod.

“Thanks. I can call the hospital and get squared away for next week, which is probably enough time to get this stupid carpet done. Fifteen samples and all of them are so saturated with pet urine it’s hard to find traces of anything else,” the frustration in her voice didn’t quite mask her anxiety, and Grissom gently brushed her hand with his.

“Sara . . .” he began softly, his voice low. She didn’t look at him, knowing if she did that gentle blue-eyed glance would melt away her resolve. Instead she flashed a quick and artificial smile at him instead, then checked her watch.

“Whoa! Listen, Catherine’s taking Nick shopping and she asked me to come along, so I’ve got to go. Don’t want to let her down.” She finally risked a peek at him and added, “It’s not kind to disappoint people.”

His mouth twitched a little, but she couldn’t tell if it was to frown or smile. She squared her shoulders.

“And I’ll need a dress for New Year’s—Catherine tells me I’m going, whether I like it or not.”

His mouth slid into a quick, hard frown, and seeing it, Sara realized the potential advantage of the moment. She smiled and began to pack up the carpet samples. Carefully she handed the box to Grissom, adding,

“She says she’s going to fix me up, but good, whatever THAT means.”

His frown deepened, and Sara sailed out of the door of Trace Lab One feeling quite smug for the moment.

 

Within half an hour, Nick, Catherine and Sara were walking down the huge airy atrium of the Forum. Nick seemed lost, but Catherine led them unerringly through the crowds to the elegant brass and marble doorway of Ellington’s.

Nick eyed the shop warily, but Catherine pushed him through the door while Sara trailed behind. The lush interior was done in burgundy and gold, with thick carpeting and tasteful Art Deco trim along the molding and wainscoting. A painfully thin blond clerk appeared, eyeing Nick and sizing him up in a glance.

“My name is Trevor, and how may I assist you today, sir?”

“Ah, yeah. I need a tux—“ Nick began uncertainly.

“Morning, Trev. We’re in the market for a well-cut two button tux in mid-weight wool, anything from house brand to designer label within a moderate price range, please,” Catherine spoke softly but with authority. The clerk smiled and gave a slight bow to her.

“Certainly, Ma’am. Are we accessorizing as well?”

“Yep. Cummerbund, shirt, tie, the whole nine yards. What’s your waist these days, Nick?”

“The gentleman is a thirty-four, with an inseam of thirty-eight. This way, sir,” Trevor remarked before Nick could even open his mouth. Sara laughed.

“Now THAT’S a clerk with a good eye,” she pointed out. Catherine nodded as the clerk led Nick off to a dressing suite on the other side of the shop.

The two women browsed for a while; Sara through shirts, and Catherine around the bow tie display. Finally she smiled at Sara.

“So. New Year’s. You and Grissom.”

“And three hundred other people, yeah.”

“Quiet, I’m thinking. The trick is to nab two of those big tables early unless they’ve got place cards out. They usually seat about twelve, so two of them would cover the lab night shift and their dates. The key to romance is proximity. Well, that and good lingerie.”

Sara thought of her drawer full of new silk panties and said nothing. Catherine glanced at her.

“What have you got to wear, Sara?”

“Um . . . I’ve got two dresses.”

The look Catherine shot her made it clear that this was not only pitiful, but also ridiculous. Sara tried again.

“Two FORMAL dresses, one sort of green grey, backless and mid-calf. The other’s a really old black and pink Gunne Sax from my mom . . .”

“Scratch THOSE,” Catherine snorted. At that moment Nick emerged, tugging on his sleeves and looking around for them. The suit was darkly elegant, even with the tee shirt underneath it.

“So?” he demanded, slightly nervous, slightly eager.

Sara and Catherine circled him.

“Ooooh, Nick. You DO have a nice set of shoulders,” Sara observed. He dimpled a smile. Catherine shook her head.

“The suit’s good, but not great on you Nick. The cut is just a hair off under the arms; you’re going to have trouble with the sleeves every time you lift your hands.”

Next to her, Trevor nodded in agreement. He waved Nick back into the dressing room as Catherine absently picked up a pair of socks and turned back to Sara.

“So you need a dress. Something designed to show off your legs, of course, since they’re one of your best assets. You do have shoes, don’t you?”

Sara gave her colleague a grin and managed a one shouldered shrug as she softly admitted,

“Ooh yeah. I’ve got shoes. I actually have a pair of Astrabellas. From three years ago, before the company took off.”

Catherine shot her an approving look just as Nick came out again in a sleek, black Ralph Lauren number that gave him a boyish, yet sophisticated look. The trim lines accented his lean physique, and the cut this time was perfect. Nick grinned as Catherine ran her hand over the lapels.

“Hubba hubba! Mr. Stokes you are going to knock them dead!” she announced gleefully. Over Nick’s shoulder, Trevor managed a quiet smile of a job well done.

  
***   ***   ***

  
By the time Sara returned to the house it was nearly noon and she was yawning. Quietly she let herself in; Figaro sauntered over to her, his tail flicking back and forth. She gave him a quick pat after she hung up her coat. A peek in the bedroom revealed the familiar bulk of Grissom, asleep, and a pang went through Sara as she took a moment to study him from the doorway. He was curled up, clutching her pillow although she didn’t know if that had been a conscious choice or not, and his breathing was slow and deep.

There was something endearing about catching sight of him in an unguarded moment like this; his big-boned sprawl reminded her of a contented lion. His hair and beard were slightly rumpled, and the sweet curve of his cheek lent a boyish softness to a face that was often grave. Sara smiled.

A quick brush of teeth and change of clothing later she slipped into the bed, moving slowly, but Grissom sensed her arrival and sleepily reached for her, enveloping Sara in a warm embrace as she wiggled down under the blanket. Peaceful relaxation flooded through her, and Sara let herself slip into sleep, contented that despite her disappointment all was right in the house for the moment.

 

Work. He looked at his desk, at the familiar objects and files and layout, knowing what it was and where it was, but also aware that things were also not as tangible as he wanted. Slightly frustrated, he rose and moved into the hall, looking for some confirmation of his situation.

Long halls, glass walls. Familiar enough. He walked to Greg’s lab and looked in, prepared to speak and froze. Greg blinked at him expectantly.

“I have twenty twenty fours,” he announced, whiskers twitching as he spoke. All Grissom could do was nod. The twenty twenty fours were important, suddenly very important. Greg was a lab rabbit. A tall, thin, white furred lab rabbit with lop ears. Twenty twenty fours. Grissom turned and went back down the hall. He watched Catherine head towards him, a violin in her paws. Her smile was full of sharp teeth.

“Wer gab weg die grünen Drachen?” she demanded, her fox tail waving to and fro impatiently. Grissom blinked, trying to recall who gave away the green kites, but all he could remember were the blue kites, and the twenty twenty fours. Catherine’s vixen gaze narrowed, and her fur bristled. Pushing past him, she thrust the violin in his hands and stalked off, her pointed ears twitching.

Grissom walked further down the hall, feeling urgent now. The violin in his hands turned into Sara’s plant, and then into a pair of green kites. He tried not to step on the trailing tails as he made his way to the break room. It turned into a supermarket—the condiment aisle.

Warrick was there. He glanced up, his coyote-green eyes wide as he nodded to Grissom and took the kites. In one long leap he jumped to the top shelf, his tail trailing over the relish and catsup bottles as he disappeared. Grissom made his way to the end of the aisle. Ronnie, from QD stood on his haunches, blinking and chewing on the stalk of bamboo, his black ears twitching. Grissom passed him by.

The next aisle was full of sand. Grissom watched it pour off of the shelves in long sifting cascades, sparkling in the light, looking dull and heavy. Grissom tried to step through it, but it pulled on him, and he struggled against the tide. On the far end of the aisle was the doorway back to his office; he could see the shelves of jars, the stacks of journals waiting for him. He tried to wade through the sand, but it mired him.

“I WANT the blue kites, Grissom. Cometas azules!” Sara insisted from the doorway. He felt a hot rush of desire charge down through his spine, felt the muscles of his stomach tighten as he looked at her lean furry beauty. Delicate paws, big bold brown eyes; Sara the panther paced the doorway, snarling a little. With one final push he made it through the sand and grabbed the doorframe, pulling himself up and into the office. Before he could reach for Sara he caught a glimpse of his reflection.

Just his human self. Naked.

  
***   ***   ***

  
“I HAVE a suit, so don’t look at me like that—“ Warrick grumbled at Catherine. They were checking plant tissue evidence through a microscope. His partner merely batted her eyes and waited; Warrick sighed.

“Fine. It’s a St. Lauren black crepe with a standing collar shirt and a gold bolo tie, all right? No cummerbund but French cuffs and I wear my Brunos with it.”

Catherine gave an appreciative sigh and Warrick pinkened slightly in the face of such admiration. For a moment they continued working, Catherine writing up notes and Warrick changing slides; she concentrated until he cleared his throat.

“So what’s your plan?”

“My plan?” She tried to sound innocent, but Warrick gave her a twisted grin, patient and endearing.

“Your plan for Big G and the double S, Catherine. Don’t deny it, you’ve got that look on your face.”

“Ah, THAT plan. Well, part of it is going to hinge on what she and I can find at Rothschild’s, but I’ve no doubt I can find something that will pique a certain supervisor’s interest in her. Remind him that there’s more to Sara Sidle than just her brain.”

“Like her incredible legs,” Warrick murmured appreciatively, “And her sleek hips, and her mighty fine boo—“ Catherine clapped a hand over his mouth, her irritation only ten percent genuine as her eyes twinkled.

“Down, Brown. Let’s remember who’s supposed to be zooming who here.”

He laughed against her hand but nodded faintly. Catherine pulled her fingers away again.

“We keep them in proximity all the way through midnight. I get some champagne into both of them; make sure they’ve had a dance or two together, and voila! An evening to remember.”

“Devious. So when do the rest of us get to have any fun?” Warrick complained mildly as he picked up a specimen slide on the microscope table. Catherine shot him a look that smoldered so hard he wondered why the alarm overhead didn’t go off.

“Oh I know a LOT of ways to have fun, Warrick, believe me.”

For the first time in years, he fumbled, dropping a slide to shatter in tinkly pieces on the tile floor.

  
***   ***   ***

  
“Sara?” Grissom’s tone was striving to be reasonable and failing just a bit. She turned to look at him with a hint of impatience, holding the sack of garbage in her hands as she stood before the can.

“It’s fine,” She snapped, suddenly tired of his placating manner. They’d been doing okay ever since he’d protested about no reciprocal spanking, but the holding pattern was wearing thin, and Sara wished Grissom would understand that things weren’t going to change until they finished their discussion. With more force than necessary, she lifted the lid of the can and flung the trash in, taking some satisfaction in the thump of it.

Grissom crossed his arms, watching her.

“I’m sorry I forgot to take the trash out. It DOES happen.”

“I know that. I’m not mad.”  About that.

“Then why are you slamming around like you’re going to level Tokyo ?”

Despite herself she grinned at that image; Godzilla Sidle, stomping through high rise buildings in a rampage of fire and fury, kicking over bullet trains simply because she could. Abruptly she swung and looked at Grissom, not willing to tackle the real issue just yet.

“Why didn’t you tell me your aunt was murdered, here in the garage?”

He went pale, and for a moment Sara felt a surge of panic as his stunned expression. Grissom’s mouth tightened, and he glared at her.

“Who the hell told you THAT?”

The venom in his tone shook her, but she held her ground, curious and feeling slightly justified in her OWN anger. She wasn’t superstitious, but Sara felt a fact like that should have been brought up when she first moved in. She crossed her own arms, mostly to rub the goosebumps rising up under her sleeves. Grissom’s expression closed up as she said nothing. Finally he drew in a breath and half turned from her.

“Doreen’s death is ancient history, Sara, and I suggest you drop it before we have a problem here.”

“Grissom! It’s my house too, and it would have been nice to have been told! I have a right to know!” she heard herself blurt.

“No you don’t. Doreen’s dead and that’s all that matters,” he replied defensively. Had she been calmer, Sara might have tactfully let the subject go without another word, but her pride and her frustration surged up, and she lifted her chin defiantly.

“Gee, I guess that’s another thing you get to have the last word on, huh? You make these decrees and I’m supposed to just take it, like some subordinate, some underling not worthy of consulting—“

Grissom swung around, suddenly cool; she could see his jaw tighten even as he ran a hand across his beard.

“Stop it, Sara. You’re not an underling and you damn well know it. You’re deliberately provoking an issue that’s not open for discussion. In the meantime, we’re standing out here while dinner’s getting cold, so let’s go inside, all right?”

It wasn’t a pleasant meal, but Sara, having come this far, wasn’t quite ready to let go of her stubborn stance. There was something almost exciting about seeing Grissom sullen, and Sara remembered feeling the same sick sense of frightened exhilaration years ago. She and Tom had found a huge hornet’s nest hanging on the eaves of the Inn, and had taken turns poking it with a fishing pole, slowly getting the tiny winged fiends in an uproar. Their mother had come out to see what was going on and had been stung three times, much to Sara’s everlasting guilt.

She felt an echo of that guilt now, but more than that, the churning sense of uncertain anticipation that not only made her throat clench a little, but sent hot throbs between her thighs. Grissom ate quietly, not offering much in the way of conversation, limiting himself to the barest responses. By the time they finished the dishes and got ready for bed, Sara found herself wishing she could apologize, but couldn’t figure out what for. Her question had been reasonable—MORE than reasonable, and under that, the earlier unfairness of not having Grissom reciprocate that sensual trust still galled Sara.

Grissom lay awake in the curtained darkness, waiting for her to come to bed, his jaw aching with tension. His mind couldn’t push away the decades-old casefile that Sara’s sudden accusation brought back to focus, and the hot surge of guilty anger rose up again through him. Cold crime scene photos flashed in his mind, images; a face he’d seen full of life once, of smooth hands that had stroked his hair and patted his back.

The evidence had said one thing loud and clear, but the official report said something else.

The weight of that old moral inconsistency still troubled Grissom deeply, and by the time Sara quietly climbed into bed he knew he couldn’t sleep. Waiting until she had pressed her slender back to him and slowly dropped off into slumber, Grissom took a deep breath and rose. He dressed and left the house, driving out into the early morning drizzle of a cold December morning, his mind preoccupied with the painful memory of case # 79-19483353 as he reached the Stratosphere coaster, and pushed down the restraining bar of the X-Scream.

Alone back at the house, Sara continued to muffle her tears in the pillow as Figaro paced back and forth in distress, waiting for someone to open his can of Fishie Nibbles.

 

                                        Auld Lang Syne 2        
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