Casa Caliente 3: NLOL and TTOTM

Chapter One


“—And of course they WEREN’T termites, but Lucille didn’t believe me even though I’ve told her time and again that flying ants are nothing LIKE termites, and do you think she’d listen to me? Oh NOOO—ever since she and that no account husband of hers got their lawn reseeded, they both think they know every damn bug under the sun. Lucille’s like that—you know, the kind of stuck-up snooty who calls a cockroach a wa-ter-bug, even though everyone else on God’s green earth KNOWS what the hell it is—“

Gil wished he were deaf.

At least for the duration of this flight home from his last minute quick consultation in San Diego he wished it; so far he’d tolerated the nonstop prattle of his octogenarian seatmate with a few disinterested nods, hoping she would get the hint, but she persisted, rolling on and on and ON with her tirade against the hated, mysterious Lucille as the cottony clouds passed by below them. Grissom discreetly checked his watch, knowing there were only a few minutes more until they approached Las Vegas and he could escape the relentlessly vindictive mandibles of Nonnie Harris, Seatmate from Hell, apparently.

More pleasant thoughts occupied him—images of Sara. THOSE were worth dwelling on, Gris knew, and they were becoming more persistent in jumping to mind as time passed. It had been a little over two weeks since their last weekend together on Caliente Way , and he found he missed her terribly.

Not just for the sex, which was always still amazing enough to make him stiffen at the mere memory of it, but all the other things that were a part of being with her—the long discussions, the tight, soul-reviving hugs, the laughing look in her deep brown eyes, the way she laughed or brushed her hair and sang while she did it.

Even doing laundry with her was unexpectedly erotic, he mused. He remembered one specific memory with beautiful clarity: watching her sort whites from colors with an intensity she usually reserved for processing evidence. Nothing escaped her scrutiny.

“It’s pastel, it goes with colors.“ she’d tugged the dainty bra from his fingers and tossed it into the big pile on her left.

Grissom recalled his mouth twitching as he watched it land on his boxers in a lovely juxtaposition; mute testimony to their relationship. Sara had followed his gaze and laughed.

“That’s rather suggestive, isn’t it?”

“Weekend Still Life series one: Bra and Boxers, Las Vegas , Two thousand four, unsigned but in the unmistakable style of Grissom/Sidle—“ he’d rattled off impishly, making Sara laugh into a towel. She’d arched an eyebrow at him and he’d held his hands out in a frame around the laundry, pursing his mouth thoughtfully.

“Atypical subject but rife with hints at passion amid the trappings of suburbia. Executed in Palacio acrylics on natural Egyptian cotton canvas. It’s evident that the artists intend an ongoing series in this mode given the depth and clarity of their vision—“

“Stop it!” she’d giggled helplessly as he’d batted his eyes at her.

“But it’s such an artistic breakthrough honey—an epiphany of undergarments—“

“It’s LAUNDRY, Gris, not some exhibit at your mom’s gallery. Stop trying to get out of folding your shirts and hop to it there, pal.”

“You know you’re stifling my creativity, Sara. The appropriate knee jerk reaction would be for me to become all broody now, grow a beard, and read Carlos Castaneda and Herman Hesse, while bemoaning the lack of emotional support for the artist and his vision—“

Sara had snorted, neatly dumping a cupful of bleach into the ancient Maytag before turning to look at him with a soft smile.

“You know, a beard would tickle.“

And so on the strength of Sara’s smile half a month ago here he was, sporting the solid beginning of scruff along his jaw line, and still surprised at his own reflection every time he saw it. He looked at his profile in the glass of the airplane window and sighed.

Next to him, the old lady sighed too.

“It looks God awful, son—like you rubbed glue and cat fur on your face. Not trying to be mean here, but a heavy man like you shouldn’t try to grow a beard; it just makes you look like a young Santa.”

His crestfallen expression made her snort a little, and she reached one claw up to pat his arm.

“Oh please, boy, get real! The only two men who ever looked good in beards were Abraham Lincoln and Robert Goulet, and you ain’t either one, so suck it up and stop looking like a stomped on a kitten or something.”

On vindictive impulse, Grissom flashed a quick series of hand signs at her—

//I think YOUR beard’s pretty impressive//

Nonnie Harris shook her head.

“Jesus Jumped up H on a sidecar, a deafy—Christ, no wonder you’ve been quiet all this time. Well it takes all kinds—“ Grabbing Grissom’s face, she pulled him close and shouted, “I SEE YOU’RE DEAF, HUH?”

Startled, he blinked under the assault of Lifesaver peppermint and acid reflux that coated her breath. She sucked in another lungful, preparing to yell again, but at that moment the seatbelt sign went on, and with a sigh of relief, Grissom pointed at the light. Nonnie squinted at it and let him go.

“WE’RE GOING TO LAND—“ she shouted helpfully. Grissom rolled his eyes and signed again.

//No—sh--// he paused, and changed the signs midstream, //--kidding.//

The spiteful streak within him died though as Nonnie patted his arm and smiled, watching his fingers form the words she would never understand. She reached for her handbag, and Grissom glanced out the dark window, longing for home.

  
***   ***  ***

  
Sara glanced in the mirror and ran a hand through her hair nervously, wishing the curl would stay, but it was already falling out despite her efforts. The locker room was empty and she was grateful for that as she looked at the tiny calendar tacked up on the door of her locker, noting the discreet letter P scribbled in today’s date box with a sinking feeling.

Not something she wanted to have to tell Grissom, especially after almost fifteen days apart, but trying to deny the realities of the situation wasn’t her style, and she knew it was something they’d have to cope with eventually.

Hank had been—squeamish, which seemed odd considering the job he did, but Sara knew his attitude was pretty typical of most men. She glanced at the upper shelf, letting her gaze rest on the dark blue box there and sighed to herself as the low dull throb of cramps began to tighten around her lower back.

As she stepped out of the locker room, she glanced over at Grissom’s office, trying to do so inconspicuously, and was quickly thrilled to see the light on. Through the glass she caught a glimpse of his back; Sara hurried to his doorway, clinging to it in an effort not to launch herself at him.

“Hey! Glad to see you’re back—“

He turned, and in one brief unguarded moment, she caught the full impact of his bright-eyed smile: tender, hungry, adoring. Then he made a supreme effort and his expression faded away to a neutral nod.

“Got in a few minutes ago, Sara. How was the wedding?”

Sara stepped in to the office and ran a hand on the corner of his desk, desperate to touch SOME thing. While she could master her expression, her body wasn’t so easily controlled. She wandered closer.

“The cops broke up the reception, so it was pretty typical for Sorcha—Hey! I see you’re growing a beard—“

He ran a hand along his jaw, wincing a little at the memory of Nonnie Harris’s assessment, but Sara’s brown-eyed stare glowed.

“—Yes, well according to my seatmate on the plane I look pretty bad.”

“Your seatmate was blind or stupid or BOTH,” Sara breathed back quickly. Her hand came up, but she caught herself and pulled away, all too aware of the glass walls around them.

“I might shave it—“

“—Please don’t,” Sara pleaded in an undertone.

Grissom looked at her steadily, a hint of a smile around his mouth.

“If that’s what you want—” he acquiesced softly. She gave a small tight nod, not daring to say more. At that moment Catherine breezed in and dropped her hands on her hips, grinning broadly at the sight of him.

“Well well—looking rather rugged aren’t we?”

Reluctantly turning his gaze from Sara to Catherine, Gil gave a one-shoulder shrug.

“Suggestion of a noted colleague of mine—“

Catherine snorted. “Just because Robbins has one—whatever. Looks pretty good on you.”

“Thanks. What’s currently happening with our caseload?”

Catherine sighed and Sara stepped out again, suddenly aware of a little trickle beginning deep within her. She sighed.

  

***   ***   ***

  
“Robbery gone bad—four dead, four wounded and two escaped perps. We’ve got one in custody, but he claims he didn’t shoot any of the victims,” Brass rumbled, staring into the broken floor to ceiling windows of the electronics store. Grissom and Warrick looked around the showroom floor, taking in the bloodstains and shattered glass.

“These windows are usually safety glass, reinforced to building code—to shatter 
one . . .“ Warrick began.

“—Shotguns,” Brass confirmed soberly. “The three gunmen hit the place about three minutes to closing, not realizing there would still be several customers here along with the clerks. So far we’ve confirmed dead, Shelly Whorley, Delia Campos, David Lynch, Nonnie Harris—“

“Did you say Nonnie Harris?” Gil turned his head rapidly to look at Brass, who checked his notes.

“--Yeah, from San Diego .”

“In her seventies, Caucasian?” Gil persisted.

 Brass nodded again. “You know her?”

“I sat next to her on the flight in no more than four hours ago.”

Brass winced. “Not a good coincidence.”

“No. I’ve got to take myself off the case, Jim. The defense would play up the potential bias of knowing a victim personally, no matter how brief the contact.”

Brass nodded and Warrick drew in a deep breath as he glanced at Gil.

“Okay. Give me Nick and Catherine then so Sara and Greg can be on standby with you.”

Nodding, Grissom shot one last glance at the scene and took in Brass’s stare at his face.

“Going for distinguished these days?”

Grissom tossed off another shrug and Brass smiled gently.

“More trouble than they’re worth, Gil—“

“Like a lot of things in life, Jim—“

With that parting shot, Grissom climbed into his car and drove off.

  

***  ***  ***

  
Sara glanced up from her clipboard, wondering what had tripped her personal radar. The odd little feeling that she was being watched felt like a tickle on the back of her neck, and she looked around cautiously, trying to find the source. Here in the hall leading to the garage the glass walls were darker, and she knew only authorized personnel were permitted beyond this point, so the sight of an unfamiliar woman wandering her way startled her. Sara caught her eye and smiled; the woman smiled back.

“Can I help you?” Sara asked, stepping in front of the woman.

She was older, Sara noticed, with thick, curly white hair in an impish pixie cut. Her figure was trim, and neatly encased in a smart skirt set of pink and gray wool knit with a handbag on her arm that matched it. It was her smile that won Sara over though, a mischievous turn of her lips, hinting at secrets that might or might not be shared.

She nodded. “I tink I am loss,” she told Sara.

“Ohh—“ Sara quickly caught the loppy speech cadence and recognized it as typical of the hearing impaired. She stepped closer glancing at the visitor’s badge clipped to the woman’s collar, verifying it was legitimate.

“Where were you going?” Sara asked, making sure to look at the woman as she spoke.

“Docto Grissom’s office,” came the low reply. Sara blinked, surprised.

“Oh---well it’s this way—“ She waved, and then stepped ahead to lead, guiding the woman back down the confusing corridors to the central hub of the Lab and ultimately to Grissom’s office. It was dark, and Sara flicked the lights on as she stepped in.

The older woman looked around the office and Sara caught the slightly exasperated expression that crossed her face.

“Goo God, mow jars—“

The nagging suspicion tugging at Sara grew and she looked more closely at the woman, noting the familiar blue eyes with laugh lines. Moving into the woman’s line of vision, she blurted, “You’re his mother, aren’t you?”

Smiling, the woman nodded, holding out her hand, which Sara took and shook. It was cool and surprisingly callused, the nails painted a light pink.

“Olibia Grissom,” she intoned carefully, searching Sara’s face and apparently liking what she saw. Sara smiled broadly.

“Sara Sidle. I work with Gris—your son,” she added hastily. Olivia nodded, scrutinizing her carefully.

“Yet, he mentioned you,” she murmured with an enigmatic smile, “More dan once. It he here tonight?”

Sara, not sure what to make of the first part of this startling comment, glanced around, but the lab was fairly empty at the moment except for the dour frame of Hodges a few rooms up and Bobby down the hall in ballistics. When she looked back, Olivia was still smiling at her head cocked to one side.

“You are tunning—and I dess dis mean he’d NOT gay—Tank God!” came the sigh of relief.

Sara stared at her, and Olivia lightly flopped her hand, letting the wrist go limp in an exaggerated gesture easily recognizable.

Sara bit her lips, struggling hard with a mild case of sudden and inappropriate giggles, but the older woman patted her arm, and on her face Sara could see the same struggle for dignity. She knew she had to say SOME thing reassuring.

“Mrs. Grissom—“

“—Olibia,”

“—Olivia, I can pretty much assure you that your son’s straight—“ Sara announced in as serious a tone as she could, but it was a losing battle in the face of Olivia’s sweet, familiar smirk. Both women burst into giggles at the same time, Olivia clutching the back of the office chair for support as Sara wrapped her arms around her own waist and rode the chuckles out.

When she finally caught her breath, she found Olivia wiping her eyes, still smiling.

“Ohh da did me goo—aldo I tuppose I’ll hab to top teasing him now.”

Sara nodded and looked up, a shock going through her system as she recognized the figure coming down the hall towards them. He was quick and suddenly--

Grissom stood in the doorway, his gaze first on her, then on his mother. Swiftly his hands flew, right one open and skimming down his jaw.

//Mom?//

Olivia rose and Grissom stepped forward, picking her up in a quick hug, kissing the top of her head. Watching, Sara felt a pang on a heart chord at the sight of him so unabashedly animated with someone else. Olivia batted at her son’s head playfully as he easily swung her around.

“Top! Top and pu me down, Gil!”

Smirking, he did, receiving a nose squeeze for his trouble. Sara tried to discreetly slip past the mother and son reunion, but Olivia snagged the sleeve of her lab coat, stopping her from making the graceful exit. Grissom pinkened slightly in the face of his mother’s scrutiny.

“Mom, this is Sara—“ as he spoke his hands flew in quick signs.

//Don’t you DARE tell her what I said about her to you! One word and you’re dead meat, mom.//

Olivia arched an eyebrow at his slightly desperate expression, well aware that she was suddenly and deliciously in the catbird seat. She signed back quickly.

//Blackmail time!//

//Mom--// came the warning followed with a quick frown. Puzzled, Sara watched until Grissom looked at her, struggling to keep his expression poker-faced.

“I guess you’ve met my mom—“ he blurted quickly. Sara nodded, rubbing her nose to hide her grin.

“Yes, sure did. Well, I guess you two have a lot to talk about, and I’ve got a car to process—so—“

“So—I’ll see you later—“ Grissom told her, trying desperately to catch her glance. Sara turned away though and walked off down the hall as he watched. When he turned back, his mother was watching him keenly. Her hands fluttered.

//You are SO doing her.//

//Mom!//

 


                                       
NLOL and TTOTM 2                                                       
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