Archive: Please ask first I might say yes.
Disclaimer: The characters of CSI were created by A. Zuiker, and are the property of CBS and its affiliates. All other characters depicted in these stories are fictional; they are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author. Although the locales in this story are real, all events, incidents and characters are pure invention.
Summary: Softball and peril.
In the dead hours of the early morning, Desert Palms hospital was fairly quiet; Grissom had no trouble finding a parking space close to the front. He and Sara made their way up to the second floor easily. The muted sounds of monitors, intercoms and elevators were softer at night; when they stepped onto the second floor waiting area they saw Greg slumped on one of the sofas, arm over his eyes.
Quietly Grissom walked over as Sara dropped her focus on the stroller, where Wyatt was sound asleep, snoring a little wheezily. She squatted down and managed a crooked smile at the toddler, then looked over to Greg and Grissom.
"-Yeah, Brass left a while ago. Normally assault's not his jurisdiction, but they're calling it attempted murder, so he stepped in-" Greg was sitting up now, staring at his hands dangling between his knees, looking gaunt. "-I appreciate it. He's a good guy."
"Yeah," Grissom agreed softly. A nurse passing by dropped a hand on Greg's shoulder in a quick gesture of affection, and Greg flashed a bleak smile up at her before she walked away. Grissom raised an eyebrow and sat down next to him.
"My mom used to work here, so a lot of folks know her. They're giving her the best right of everything."
"Have you spoken to the doctors?"
Sara picked up a pacifier from the floor and looked around for a drinking fountain. There weren't any, so she stuck it in her pocket.
"Yeah. They're hanging onto her for a couple of days-it all depends on how the concussion goes. They're pretty optimistic, but it's going to take some time." Greg hesitated a moment and added, "Did you know Nick processed the scene?"
Grissom nodded. "He was backup for the weekend. It's in good hands."
"Some of the best-" Greg admitted before rubbing his eyes again. "So-Sara's taking my son for a while, right?"
"We both are," Grissom admitted lightly, trying not to grow red under Greg's delighted scrutiny. The young tech shook his head in a chiding fashion, his smirk wide.
"Finally stopped chasing Sara long enough to let her catch you, huh?"
"Greg-" Grissom began, slightly annoyed and then stopped, not sure of what to say. Greg flashed him a humorous grin, so full of his old good nature that it was impossible not to smile back.
"Well you know how it is with us science studs-if I had to lose her, I'm glad it was to the only guy around here better than me-" came the tease. Grissom harrumphed a little at that, but Greg only laughed and picked up the diaper bag at his feet.
"Okay, round 'em up-Sara, Grissom, let me lay down the amazing schedule and complicated life of Wyatt Peter Sanders-"
*** *** ***
"It's the only place big enough besides the porch or back yard for it, so yeah. We can move one of the sofas back a little to make room. Can you set it up?" Sara asked a little breathlessly. She had Wyatt on one hip and the diaper bag on the other; the toddler was looking up at her with big amazed eyes, one tiny fist in his mouth. Grissom dutifully unlocked the front door and lugged the folded playpen in. He carried it to the living room and pushed the coffee table out of the way. Sara followed him into the house and set the diaper bag down.
"Okay, soooo this is our house, which is going to be yours too for a while-" she told the baby boy. He kept his gaze on her and she gave a little sigh.
"I don't think he needs the grand tour, Sara. He IS only 14 months old you know," Grissom shot over his shoulder in amusement. She made a face at him and shifted the boy around, moving to undo his jacket.
"Talking to him is soothing, okay? I know he's not getting every word, but I think he needs to get used to the sound of our voices, and besides, it's helping me get organized-" As she spoke, Sara managed to peel his little jacket and cap off; Wyatt wriggled a little, clearly delighted to be free of the constraint. Sara set him down in front of one of the sofas; immediately Wyatt put his hands on it and stood up, swaying a little, surveying the new landscape. Grissom clicked the bars of the playpen down and stood back, satisfied.
"The pad's a little thin. Can we use your mom's afghan in it?" he asked Sara, who smiled at him and nodded. Grissom pulled it off the back of the sofa and carefully dropped it into the playpen, working it neatly around until it covered the bottom nicely. Wyatt crawled his way down the side of the sofa, then toddled over to the pen and clutched at the netting with his little fingers. He crowed.
"Maba?" Grissom asked. Wyatt looked alllll the way up at Grissom and blinked. The baby pulled himself up to his feet and bounced a little, flexing his knees and smiling again.
"Sara?" Turning to her, Grissom's brows went up. She shrugged back.
"Sorry, baby linguistics aren't my area. Could be 'my bed', 'my bottle', 'my mama'-your guess is as good as mine, Grissom."
"Let's take him though the hierarchy of needs. Is he wet?"
Sara fought not to smile. "Fine--You check."
Grissom hesitated, then sat down on the living room carpet next to Wyatt. The baby regarded him for a moment, then clumsily walked over to him, little hands outstretched. Grissom flinched as one swipe sent his glasses tumbling. Wyatt patted the beard, utterly enthralled by it.
"Okay, yes it's a beard, Wyatt-" Grissom muttered, fishing for his glasses with one hand while trying to unbuckle one of the shoulder straps of the baby overalls the child wore. Wyatt burbled.
Sara watched as Grissom put his glasses back on, shifted Wyatt and peeked down the back of his overalls.
"Clean, so far. So Maba is not 'I'm wet.' Let's try setting him in the playpen."
Grissom stood, and picked Wyatt up gingerly, holding him out in his big hands and staring at the baby. Wyatt kicked, clearly delighted to be suspended in space, but Sara made a little noise of protest.
"Grissom! Bring him in closer-you're holding him like he's some noxious piece of evidence!"
Uncomfortably, Grissom did as commanded; immediately Wyatt began patting his beard again and Sara snorted.
"He is SO into your facial fur, babe. I bet he'd love Doc Robbins too."
"Ow-" came Grissom's grunt as little fingers tugged. He carefully reached one hand up to detach his face from Wyatt's grasp, and turned to lower the baby in to the playpen. Wyatt looked around the pen and his lower lip began to quiver; seeing the warning signs, Sara quickly opened the diaper bag and fished out a bottle.
Grissom lowered the juice bottle to down to Wyatt's hands and the baby sighed. He flopped down, sucking away happily, and Sara came around to the sofa, sitting to watch. Grissom sat next to her, blinking a little before checking his watch.
"It's almost three thirty, Sara. If you'd like to take a nap, now would be the time-"
"Let me finish unpacking those bags from the back of the car then, I'll do that. Grissom-" her voice trailed off uncertainly. He looked up at her. "Are you sure you know how to change a diaper?"
"Sara. I process crime scenes for a living. I'm more than capable of dealing with urine and feces."
"Yeah, well you say that NOW-" she muttered, stepping out the front door. When Grissom turned back to look at Wyatt, the baby had rolled over and was on his hands and knees looking through the mesh at-
--A bewildered Figaro. The cat cautiously padded over to the mesh and stuck his nose to it, whiskers twitching. Wyatt lunged, but the mesh held him back. Figaro jumped back, then stopped to wash his face, as if exposure to the baby had somehow contaminated him. Grissom watch in fascination as Wyatt pressed his little face on the mesh, trying to reach the cat.
"M-m-m-m-m-m-m-" he growled insistently, tiny fingers weaving through the nylon. Figaro gave him a haughty look and jumped up on the sofa next to Grissom. Wyatt watched the leap in fascination, his big brown eyes blinking. Sara brought in two handfuls of grocery bags and hauled them to the kitchen. She called out through the archway.
"You MIGHT want to unpack some stuffed animals and toys, Grissom-"
Grissom reached in the diaper bag and fished out plastic keys on a ring, a squeaky duck, a cotton rabbit and a disk with buttons and lights. Fascinated, he set them into the playpen, and Wyatt ignore them all, trying to grab Grissom's arm. Reluctantly he tried to peel little fingers off his sleeve, but Wyatt began to chuff in a pre-cry build up that even Grissom could recognize. Giving in, he picked the boy up and carried him to the sofa, sitting with the baby on his lap.
Wyatt reached for the glasses and beard once again.
"He's persistent, I'll give him that-" Grissom muttered as Sara came out with a box of zwieback toast. She handed a piece to Grissom, who absently bit on it and winced; Sara glared.
"That, bright man, is for the baby."
"This is stale, Sara. What child in his right mind wants to eat something this dry and tasteless?" Grissom complained, making her laugh. Carefully she fished the toast from him and handed it to Wyatt, who promptly threw it at her.
"I rest my case-" Grissom pointed out, his eyes twinkling. Wyatt seemed to think it was funny as well; he rocked a little and broke into a broad grin, showing four big teeth. Sara picked up the flung toast and stared at it.
"Okay, so it does seem pretty... nasty, in an oversized crouton sort of way ... but you heard Greg. The kid's a chewer. What have we got?"
"Hang on-" Grissom handed Wyatt over to Sara and headed into the kitchen. Wyatt reached for Sara's hair, his little fingers surprisingly gentle as he tugged on a curl and tried to bring it to his mouth.
"Hey short stuff-that's not edible," Sara protested softly, stroking the baby's back and hefting him to one hip. Wyatt molded to her easily, and Sara stepped into the kitchen to find Grissom opening one of the utensil drawers. He held up a large round cork and handed it to her. Sara stared, slightly appalled.
"Grissom-this is a sink plug!"
"Sara, it's made of rubber, so it's nontoxic, it's too large for him to get completely into his mouth, and it's washable."
She shot him a look, the slow skeptical one that Grissom knew so well; where faith and cynicism were warring inside. Slowly, Sara handed the plug to Wyatt.
He took it in his baby hands, grabbing it eagerly, shoving it in his face without even looking at it. His baby teeth against the rubber made a soft little squeaky sound, and Wyatt laughed, a genuine baby burble of absolute delight.
Sara said nothing, sailing out of the kitchen, leaving Grissom to grin in triumph.
*** *** ***
The soft knock on the front door roused Sara, who made her way to answer it, peering through the window to check on the visitor. A rush of concern and warmth hit her stomach at the same time when she recognized Jim Brass standing uncomfortably on the porch. She pulled open the door and checked her watch: a little after seven.
"Hey Sara. Just thought I stop by before heading in and check on the little guy-"
"Uh, yeah, great. Come on in..." she blurted, waving an arm at the living room. Brass stepped in, giving the room a once over, his smile soft. His focus ended on the playpen where an exhausted Wyatt lay on his side, slumbering away. Leaning over the pen, Brass touched the boy's sock-covered foot gently.
"Looks like you have a quiet Wyatt for the moment-"
"Yeah, he's been out for about an hour. So-what's going on?" Sara asked, coming to join him at the playpen. Brass sighed and turned to face her.
"Greg's ex is schizophrenic, at least that's the initial diagnosis from the psychiatric evaluation team. We questioned her, briefly, but she couldn't get through even the most basic answers, so for the time being she's being held for observation and treatment over at St. Luke's. From Greg and a few other eyewitness accounts we know Sondra had an accomplice in the car, who took off on foot after the assault so we've got an APB out. Until we find the guy we've got Greg's house under watch. Other than that..."
Sara frowned, brushing a stray strand of hair back behind one ear. Brass looked around again, smiling.
"Nice place. I can see touches of both of you around here."
"Thanks-you're the first person to visit. Want some coffee?" she offered gently. Brass shot a look back at Wyatt and nodded.
When Grissom came out ten minutes later he found them in the living room talking softly. Brass looked up, his expression mild but a wicked twinkle in his eyes.
"Ah, the significant other. You crazy kids with your modern, cohabitating ways-so when are you getting hitched?"
"He hasn't even proposed yet-" Sara replied, looking away to hide her grin as Grissom growled a little.
"Three months to go," he peevishly admitted. "I have a statute of limitations imposed by Sara's father and I'm honor-bound to stand by it."
"Ah," Brass nodded in sympathy. Grissom would have said more, but Sara rose, patted his cheek and yawned a little.
"I'm off to pick up the dry cleaning and some supplies-"
"And I've got to get a few hours of sleep in before court late this afternoon," Brass sighed, rising off the sofa. Grissom cast a wary glance at the still-sleeping Wyatt, who was clutching the stuffed rabbit by the throat. Brass followed his glance and grinned.
"So, how many diapers have you changed on him, Gil?"
"None so far, but I'm well aware that those hours are numbered-" came the wry reply. Brass's grin widened and he followed Sara out, leaving Grissom to settle down on the sofa with a copy of Moth Hunting in the American Southwest.
For a while things were relatively peaceful. Figaro curled up next to Grissom, dropping off into a tight cat ball of sleeping fur. Twenty minutes passed, and Grissom dozed a bit himself, dreaming of moths before a loud cry roused him. Blearily he looked over at the play pen, where Wyatt stood swaying a little, fingers gripping the mesh, teary-eyed.
"Oh-kay-" Creakily Grissom got up and fished Wyatt out, realizing a moment too late that the toddler's overalls were saturated, pungent and leaking. Wyatt didn't help by sinking his fingers into Grissom's beard again. Desperately, Grissom glanced around and spotted the diaper bag with relief. He carefully set Wyatt down on the coffee table and pulled the bag up and open, fishing into it with one hand as he gripped the baby's waist with the other.
"Diaper, diaper-got it. What else? Isn't there supposed to be powder?" he grumbled. Carefully he laid Wyatt down; the baby fretfully complied as Figaro slunk away. Wincing, fervently wishing he had latex gloves on, Grissom gingerly unsnapped the bottom of the overalls and peeled them off to reveal a swollen diaper, fully expanded and reeking of everything Wyatt Sanders had ingested in the last few hours.
"Ohhh, Wyatt. You saved this all up until Sara was gone, didn't you?" he accused the little boy. The toddler said nothing, waving his arms slightly and Grissom sighed. He fished out the wipes, drew in a deep breath, and got to work.
It wasn't as bad as he thought, actually. The odor was noxious, and the actual cleaning wasn't fun, but philosophically Grissom realized that years of exposure to decomp had sort of inured him to mere diaper changing. He'd managed to wipe down Wyatt's posterior fairly quickly, and set the clean diaper under it when a soft spatter made him glance down and true annoyance set in.
The stream died down, but not before wetting Grissom's shirt, part of the sofa and the carpet. Wyatt grinned, pleased with himself.
"Nice aim," came Grissom's deadpan observation. With a sigh, he stared at the tape tabs on the sides of the diaper, wondering exactly how they worked. As he tugged them, Wyatt began to wriggle, and Grissom found his hands full as the baby slithered away, rolling to the edge of the table and standing triumphantly, gloriously naked from the waist down.
"Get back here kid-"
But Wyatt toddled off with surprising speed, his little bottom bouncing as he headed towards the kitchen. Muttering an oath under his breath, Grissom got up and followed quickly. He scooped Wyatt up, making the baby squawk in protest, and brought him back out through the kitchen arch just as Sara walked into the house, wrinkling her nose.
"Need air freshener. You are SO lucky I added that to my shopping list-um, Grissom? Why is Wyatt--?" she asked, trying not to laugh at his semi-nude little bottom sitting on the shelf of Grissom's hands as he held the boy to his shoulder.
"--Streaking? A case of heredity over environment would be MY guess."
"Reaaaally? So you suspect Greg does a lot of streaking?"
The sour look Grissom shot her was priceless; Sara took squirmy pant-less Wyatt and carried him back to the coffee table as Grissom went to change his own shirt in the bedroom. When he returned, Wyatt was decent again in a fresh diaper and new overalls, and toddling in a clumsy run from chair to sofa to bookcase to fireplace in a happy busy ramble. Sara hovered like a hawk, poised to snatch him from danger.
"Jeez, this is harder than playing first base-Wyatt, no honey-Grissom, would you take the fireplace tools out to the garage?" She called, gently peeling the poker out of the baby's grasping hands. Grissom shifted them, then pushed the playpen forward so that one side of it rested against the glass fireplace screen, blocking the toddler's chance of opening it.
"I think we need a baby gate," Grissom sighed as Wyatt tottered around the end of the sofa and looked eagerly towards the kitchen. Sara nodded, scooping the boy up and kissing his neck; immediately Wyatt laughed, little hands flailing. Grissom took that moment to carry the fireplace tools out and when he came back Sara and Wyatt were on the carpet playing tug of war with the stuffed bunny.
"Mine!" Sara teased. Wyatt held on to one grimy foot of his favorite toy and shook it excitedly.
"Awa!" he yelled "Ammmmm!"
"That's telling her-" Grissom encouraged him. When Sara glared up at him he tried not to smile; when she was annoyed she was adorable.
"Don't you have an errand to run at the Tangiers?"
"Yes I do. Let me round up my documentation. I'll be back soon and give you a break, all right?"
Sara's expression softened, and she resumed tugging on the rabbit. Wyatt squealed and gave a hard yank, pulling it from her grasp completely. He landed on his well-padded butt, the fuzzy bunny in his face.
"To the victor go the spoils-" Grissom enthused for a moment, then turned away before Sara threw something at him.
*** *** ***
"May I help you?" The tall man in the well-cut suit asked as Grissom stood waiting at the information counter. He turned and briefly eyed the man's badge, then smiled up at him.
"Yes you may, Mr. Tranagi. My name is Gil Grissom and I'm here to discuss the matter of box 1530 with whomever's in charge of security here at the casino."
The floor manager looked down at the cat carrier skeptically; Grissom said nothing, keeping his pleasant expression until Tranagi sighed and motioned for him to follow. They strode down a hallway just off to the left of the main entrance, a hallway with unmarked doors. At the end of it was a steel door with a card key system. Tranagi pulled a card and ran it through; the door opened on smooth hinges.
Inside was a wall of safe deposit boxes behind a plexi-glass wall with a metal detector doorway. In front of the glass wall was a small table with a computer, printer, and a few chairs. Grissom carefully set the cat carrier down on the table as Figaro meowed nervously. Tranagi smiled at the sound.
Grissom did. He slid a finger through the wire grid in the front of the cat carrier and Figaro brushed against it, glad of the reassurance. After a few long minutes, Tranagi returned with a long cool redheaded woman in black. She eyed the carrier but said nothing.
"Mr. Grissom, this is Miss Verity Lamb and she's in charge of the vault room."
They extended hands and shook formally; Miss Lamb managed a frosty smile as Grissom handed her his driver's license. She scanned it on the computer then handed it back. Tranagi left.
"So you're here on the matter of box 1530 . How intriguing; the lease for that one's been going since 1956."
Grissom blinked a little, but nodded. He held out a folder to Miss Lamb who thumbed through it. "I don't understand... a rabies certificate? A feline leukemia inoculation?"
"Those are the records of F. Grissom, whom I brought with me for verification. The F stands for Figaro. Apparently when your computer system did a database search for the most current address on F. H. Grissom it found his in the local government one."
Miss Lamb frowned a little, peering first at the papers and then at the cat carrier. She moved to the computer and hit a few keys; a scrolling screen went by and she sighed.
"Oh dear. Yes, it seems the address listed by the original F. H. Grissom was 10867 Caliente Way , which is a match to your cat's address here on the veterinarian's filing."
Grissom looked at her, and she gave a little frown as she added, "I don't believe in coincidence though. Call it the consequence of working in a casino. What is YOUR connection to box 1530 ?"
He nodded to the folder still in her hand and Miss Lamb flipped past Figaro's documentation to find a birth certificate, a tax return and a death certificate neatly notarized. She nodded, satisfied.
"So you're the box holder's son, of course. Thank you for the proper paperwork. Well, as our letter laid out, Mr. Grissom, you have the option of closing out the account and clearing the box, or keeping the lease going if you wish."
"Before I make that decision, I'd like to examine the contents," He smoothly replied. As if expecting this, Miss Lamb nodded again, clicking on the keyboard again and holding out an electronic thumb pad. Grissom dutifully pressed his right thumb into it and the computer uttered a series of tones. Miss Lamb handed him a thin black keycard with the logo of the Tangiers on it.
"You're free to go through the detector and examine the contents of your box; however-" she finally smiled again, "-I'm afraid F. Grissom must stay here. The buzzer near the door is to let me know when you're through." She gave a nod, excusing herself.
Grissom frowned but nodded, taking a moment to mutter to Figaro, "Be patient." He waited until Miss Lamb had left the vault room, then walked through the doorway in the plexi-glass and moved down the wall of boxes. 1530 was higher up, nearly at shoulder level. Grissom slid his card into the slot and the small light on the door went green; he pulled it open, then tugged on the handle behind it. Immediately a long flat box slid out and into his waiting hands.
Carefully, Grissom pulled out one of the hip level shelves and set the box down, surprised to find his palms slightly clammy. He forced himself to take a breath. It had been well and good to collect the documentation for this moment; an exercise in detection, but the sudden flood of emotion stunned him. Grissom felt anger and hope, dread and delight. Gripping the box edges tightly, he took another deep breath, then gently lifted the lid.
Papers were the first thing on top. A tiny bundle, tied in a frayed green ribbon, the paper old and slightly brittle. Curiously, Grissom undid the flat bow top open the packet and found himself staring at three photos. One was of a baby in a hospital blanket, sleeping; he flipped it over and saw lacy handwriting, unfamiliar to him.
His chest panged as he realized it was a photo of Truman. The next one had a dark-haired girl in white satin linked arm in arm with a young, lanky Howard Grissom. The girl looked happy; Howard was looking away from the camera with a twisted smile. On the back was a single brief notation:
Nuestra boda, de abril el 9.
Grissom closed his eyes for a moment, then made himself glance at the last one: it showed a barren little grave with paper flowers on it, and a wooden cross draped with lace.
Nuestra hija preciosa Guadalupe, ahora con el Dios.
He stared stupidly at it for a long time, and finally set the packet aside, mind slightly numb. His hands reached into the box and pulled out a yellowing folder; flipping it open Grissom found himself staring at an ornate deed for what appeared to be a silver mine. The gold-embossed seals and fancy engraving indicated that the Valhalla-Seaton mine of Purgatory Nevada was the sole property of Howard Forbes Grissom as of July 1962.
Grissom studied it for a moment, then shook his head and gently laid it on the photos, glad to obscure them from sight for a moment. He reached deeper into the slender box and found himself touching the velvet edge of a jewel case. Pulling it out, Grissom opened it and drew in a startled breath.
The sparkling ruby heart pendant caught the sterile light of the vault room and seemed to glow. He picked up the necklace from its box, admiring the dime-sized stone and the thin gold chain it hung from; an impossible delicate thread of great craftsmanship. The velvet case held no papers or labels of any kind.
Grissom peered into the box, but there seemed to be nothing else in it until he tipped it forward, and a single sheet of paper slid forward from the dark recesses. It was a three page letter typed from a manual typewriter in phonetic Chinese and dated 1959; although Grissom had no idea of the content, it was addressed to Mr. H. F. Grissom and signed at the bottom, Zing Fu Cho.
He looked down at the odd collection in front of him, feeling an odd sense of puzzle pieces without edges as questions flooded his mind. Nothing seemed to fit with anything else, and thinking hard, Grissom lightly touched each piece again. Distantly Figaro meowed; that little plaintive sound broke the spell, bringing Grissom to a quick decision. Scooping up the contents, he pocketed the jewel case and tucked the papers into his inside jacket pocket, then stepped to the buzzer, pressing it hard.
Miss Lamb came through the door again, her mild expression waiting for his decision. Lightly he shook his head. "I've decided NOT to keep the lease on the box, Miss Lamb."
She moved to the computer and tapped a few keys; a paper slid out of the printer next to it. "Certainly, Mr. Grissom. We've appreciated your family's business for the past forty eight years and wish you the best. If you'll sign here, we can close out your account for box 1530 ."
Within a few minutes, Grissom and Figaro were back in the Denali in the parking garage. Grissom got behind the wheel but didn't start the car. Instead, he opened the carrier and took Figaro out, gently stroking the cat, scratching him softly behind the ears. Figaro relaxed into the caresses, purring a little as Grissom sighed.
"Evidence, Fig. I've got six pieces of that that don't make any sense. They're the answers-now I need to find the questions."
Author's Note: I did my part in updating-I know you'll do yours in reviewing, right?
Previous | Story Index | Next