"You have got to be kidding me," Sara mustered, hanging up the phone.

            "Hmm?" Catherine raised her head from her glass of eggnog and glanced curiously at the other woman.

            "I can't believe this!" Sara threw her hands up in the arm, drawing the attention of the rest of the room.

            "What?" Catherine asked again.

            "Grissom!"

            " 'Grissom,' what?" asked Nick, stepping over a plastic Barbie Ferrari and approaching Sara and Catherine.

            "He's not coming!"

            "Who?" called Greg from across the room.

            "Grissom!" chorused Catherine and Sara in exasperation.

            "He's not coming?"

            "No!" Sara rolled her eyes to the ceiling. "He just left the lab and told Doc Robbins that he was heading straight home."

            "He's not going to come to our team Christmas party? At all?" Nick asked incredulously. "Man, that's above even his usual Grinch-quotient."

            Catherine shrugged. "Maybe he converted."

            Sara gave her a repressive look. "Converted from what, Cath? He wasn't anything to begin with."

            "Oh. Yeah."

            "Well, this is just totally unacceptable," Greg spoke up, shouldering his way past Nick and Warrick. "He can't just go home and go to sleep or something."

            "No kidding." Sara turned away from the phone and picked up her cup of soda. "This bites."

            "Uh, Sara," Warrick offered, "it's not like he usually adds much to the party, anyway. If he wants to be a party pooper, let him – and we can all make him feel bad at work on Saturday."

            Heads nodded all around and Catherine said, "Good point. Look, we've got eggnog, presents, and popcorn balls here – all the ingredients needed for a good time."

            Sara nodded, acknowledging Catherine's comment but not feeling appeased. "Right." She flicked at the ball of fluff on the end of her Santa hat in annoyance and shrugged, then took a sip from her glass and moved away from the table holding the phone.

            She did try to convince herself, but ultimately she just couldn't stomach the thought that he didn't have to come to these annoying parties while she did. "No way," she muttered, then turned to Catherine, who was still standing nearby. "This isn't cool. Listen, Cath, I'm getting really tired. I think I'm going to just head out, and do presents with everyone some other time."

            "You can't! Sara, it's only nine o'clock; you can't leave the party now. You're not really tired," Catherine said with a knowing look. "Either you're just trying to escape the party because you hate parties, or you're going to go bother Grissom."

            "Good thing it's none of your business," Sara said brightly, "isn't it?" Moving to the closet where her coat was stashed, she asked over her shoulder, "Is everyone ok for rides? I'm not drinking, so you know if anyone needs a lift they can call me."

            "Call you where, exactly?"

            The sly look on Catherine's face didn't escape Sara's notice. "Why, on my cell phone, Catherine. Just tell them that, ok?"

            "But Sara . . ."

            "Bye!"

            Before Catherine could manage anything farther, Sara was gone in a blast of cold air. "What was that about?" Warrick asked, coming up behind her.

            It took restraint, but Catherine decided not to cause any mischief. "She's going home. Dead tired, you know."

            Warrick blinked, looking confused. "Uh…oh."

            Sara shivered as she stood on Grissom's doorstep, banging the knocker loudly to no avail. Switching to her fist, she called, "Grissom, you damn well better be in there, if you're not at Catherine's party!"

            "I'm here," an annoyed voice finally informed her through the door. "Hold on."

            She was tapping her foot in impatience when his door finally opened, revealing Grissom at the most casual she'd ever seen him. "Hi," she said slowly. "You're wearing jeans."

            He looked down. "So I am. And you're wearing a Santa hat. I assume you didn't knock on my door to tell me those things?"

            Humbug. Deciding to take a firmer attitude, Sara raised an eyebrow sardonically. "No, I didn't. I came here to celebrate Christmas."

            A look of confusion crossed his face. "The party's at Catherine's house, Sara – not mine."

            "I know."

            "So then . . . why are you here instead of there?"

            "Because," she said, smiling as she pushed past him into the doorway, "if you don't have to sit through another drunken CSI party that you don't enjoy, then I don't have to, either."

            "No one ever said you had to go."

            "No one told me you weren't coming," she retorted.

            "What does that matter? Whether I attend or not, you have no obligation to go."

            Sara shook her head. "You're not following me."

            "Obviously."

            "If you don't come to these parties, then there's no one for me to hang out in the corner with and bitch to about how much I hate 'events like this'."

            "True." Somewhat reluctantly, he relieved her of her coat and led her to his living room, where he had been relaxing before the doorbell rang. "But since you're no longer at the party either, you don't need me."

            Crossing her arms in from of her, Sara ignored his point and surveyed the room, which was sadly lacking in its decoration. "You don't even have a tree?"

            "I have one." He gestured to an end table, where a two-foot high plastic tree sat. "But there's no need for a full-sized one, since I'm the only one who sees it."

            "Well, I'm here now."

            "Sorry, but I can't exactly go acquire one now."

            "Eh," she said with a shrug, "I guess you're excused. So . . . what have you been up to tonight?"

            "Um, nothing, really. Just watching television and relaxing."

            Sara peered over the back of his couch. "Beer?"

            "Uh, yes?"

            "Now this looks like a good way to spend Christmas Eve. Beer and the Grinch."

            He glanced at the muted TV, noting that the Dr. Seuss cartoon was back from its commercial break. "Theodore Geisel had phenomenal talent. I like to catch it when I can."

            "In other words, you like green eggs and ham."

            He cracked a smile, finally. "I guess you could say that – but then, I've never met Sam-I-Am."

            "He's overrated." She winked. "Getting old these days, you know? Can't make it to the top of a train or a box without complaining about his arthritis."

            "You worry me sometimes, Sara." He shook his head with a laugh. "But at least you know who Ted Geisel is."

            "Well duh. Anyone over the age of seven knows that 'Doctor Seuss' wasn't his real name."

            "But not so many know what his real name was." Grissom gestured to the couch. "Make yourself comfortable." At Sara's surprised look, he gave her a what-can-you-do shrug. "If we're going to debate Dr. Seuss, we might as well sit while doing it."

            "You're such a charmer," Sara replied sarcastically. "Make me feel really welcome."

            Grissom gave her a considering look, then took a step back and made a sweeping bow. "Please be seated, Miss Sidle, for your Christmas Eve entertainment." Straightening up, he grinned. "That better?"

            "Yes," she said primly, lowing herself onto the overstuffed cushions. " So this is it? This is your night?"

            "I enjoy solitude, Sara. I prefer the Grinch and a cold beer to a packed party and eggnog."

            "Me too." She cocked an eyebrow at him, "Speaking of which, have you got another beer?"

            "You drink beer?"

            Sara gave him a look that bordered on pitying and nodded. "Uh, yeah, Grissom. I do. Is there a problem with that?"

            "No, no. I just thought that most women didn't like beer."

            "Gimme." She held out her hand, giving him an expectant look, and nodded toward his beer bottle. When Grissom, looking suspicious, slipped it into her hand, she smiled. "I definitely drink beer." With that, she upended the bottle and drank the half-bottle of beer that was left.

            Grissom couldn't help giving her an approving look. "I'm impressed. I guess you do like beer."

            Sara smiled. "So, how far into the movie are you?"

            "What? Oh, he's only just started looking down on the town – there's a good twenty minutes left to the story itself, and then they're doing a special behind-the-scenes sort of thing."

            Sara patted the seat next to her. "So, sit down and let's turn the volume back up."

            "You're planning on staying?"

            "Duh." Without waiting for him, she reached for the remote control and turned the TV's sound back on. Leaning back against the cushion, she began to listen to the narrator speak:

            The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

            She felt the cushions beside her give as Grissom sat. "Ever wonder if people think you're a Grinch?" she asked, not looking at him.

            "No." Grissom sounded surprised. "No, not really. I don't feel like a Grinch – do I act like one?"

            It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

            Sara smiled. "Checked your shoes lately?"

            "Very funny." He propped his foot up on the coffee table, displaying his slippers to her. "These are nice and loose, thankfully." Looking thoughtful, he said again, "Do you think I act like a Grinch?"

            Sara didn't answer him immediately, only looked down at her own feet. "These pinch a little," she said with a small smile. "Maybe I should take them off."

            "Be my guest." Grissom waved his hand over the room. "My living room is your living room. I think I even have an extra pair of slippers, if you'd like to borrow them."

            She nodded, "Yeah, actually. That'd be nice." As Grissom stood up to go find the slippers, she added, "I think I am, sometimes."

            "What?" he asked over his shoulder while digging under a bookcase. "A Grinch?"

            When he turned back to her, Sara shrugged. "Sometimes. Like when I leave a Christmas party full of my friends because it's just not fun . . ."

            ". . .  or when I no longer find it necessary to put up a Christmas tree, because no one will see it anyway?" Grissom supplied. "I guess I do know the feeling."

            Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown

At the warm lighted windows below in their town.

For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath

Was busy now, hanging a mistleoe wreath.

"And they're hanging their stockings!" he snarled with a sneer.

"Tomorrow is Christmas! It's practically here!"

"Exactly," Sara said with a laughing glance at the screen. She shrugged. "I don't know. I mean, it's not like I hate Christmas or anything; it's just that I don't get all excited about it either. And I feel like I should be dancing around hanging wreaths and stuff."

"Here." Grissom handed her the slippers, waiting as she slipped them onto her much-smaller feet. "Very nice. Can't worry about them being too tight now.

"But you know, it's not like either of us doesn't want everyone else to enjoy the holiday," he added. "There's a difference between not being excited about it and not liking it."

"Mmm, I guess so. But then, it's not like I wouldn't like to be excited about it."

And THEN

They'd do something he liked least of all!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,

Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.

They'd stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing!

"I'd like to be a Who in my next life," she sighed, wiggling her toes inside the soft slippers. "And have singing in a circle be the highlight of my year."

"No you wouldn't."

"Oh, really?" Sara turned toward him, bringing her legs up to sit Indian-style on the couch. "And why do you say that? You don't think I'd look good with blond hair and antennae?"

The mention of bug parts wrung a smile out of him, as she'd intended. "I think antennae would look very attractive on you, though I don't know if I could say the same about blond hair. But you know, you'd be bored by sweetness and light. So would I. Just think – sure, you could be Cindy-Lou Who, but then you'd never get to see the real world, you'd never have to stretch your brain." With a self-effacing smile, he said, "Stuff like that's poison to people like us."

"You think we need death and violence to thrive?"

"No." He was about to go on about that topic, but interrupted himself. "Would you like another beer? Something to eat?"

She considered that for a few seconds. "Let's make it a full non-Christmas celebration. Got any pretzels?"

"Pretzels and beer?" Grissom asked with a smile. "Do you want to play some darts, while we're at it?"

"We can hold off on that for now. Just the food and drink will do."

While Grissom disappeared into the kitchen, Sara returned her attention to the screen, where the Grinch was looking highly displeased with something.

Then he got an idea!

An awful idea!

THE GRINCH

GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!

"I know just what to do!" The Grinch Laughed in his throat.

And he made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.

And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great Grinchy trick!

"With this coat and this hat, I'll look just like Saint Nick!"

Listening to this, Sara was reminded of her own Santa hat, and reached up to remove it.

"Leave it."

She turned to look at him as he approached carrying two beer bottles and a large bowl of pretzels. "It makes the irony complete to have you wearing it. We couldn't be properly bitter without it."

"And god knows we need to maintain our bitterness."

"For the time being," he said, lowering himself back down to the couch, "it's a comfortable cloak to have." He joined Sara in watching the action for a moment, then added, "Besides, you match the story."

"So you're calling me a Grinch, after all."

He smiled playfully. "But a nice one."

"No such thing, Grissom. But I'll leave it on for now, just to keep you comfortably cloaked. Let's get back to what you were saying pre-food: why don't you think I'd make a good Who?"

"You mean besides the hair thing?"

"Yeah, besides that."

"Well my point was basically that both of us would go mad stuck in a little village like Who-ville. Where there's no conflict, there's no challenge."

"So you think we thrive on challenges, then?"

"You could say that." He reached down for the bottle opener and popped open both beer bottles. "I can't imagine myself being content to go about with a permanent smile on my face. It'd drive me crazy after a while."

Sara shuddered theatrically. "God, the horror – Grissom smiling!"

"I try it every now and then, with limited success."

"Sounds to me like we're both Grinches, anyway. But I'll accept that we wouldn't make good Whos, either. Either way, it doesn't help us get any cheerier tonight."

"Have another beer." Grissom hoisted his in her direction. "The cheer will come with large quantities of alcohol."

"Very funny. Trust me, the last thing you want on your hands on Christmas Eve is a drunk me." She then proceeded to defy her own words, taking a big gulp of the alcohol. In front of them, the story of Who-ville continued to play out:

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.

All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care

When he came to the first house in the square.

"This is stop number one," The old Grinchy Claus hissed

And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.

"No snow here," Sara said glumly.

"We live in southern Nevada. Does it surprise you that there's no snow?"

"Well, no," she said with a shrug, "but it adds to the atmosphere of Christmas. Or something."

"You know . . ." Grissom took a bite of his pretzel, then propped his feet up on the table in front of them. "Maybe part of the problem is that you're trying to conform to what Christmas is 'supposed' to be like."

"You mean like snow and trees?"

"Yes, those," he said with a nod. "Also the whole 'be of good cheer' thing. Frankly, I consider anyone who can be cheery this whole season to be a great actor, not a particularly happy person."

"Nick?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.

"Well, he's a different story. He's the minority."

"But my whole point is," Sara said determinedly, "that if everyone else can fake the good cheer and decorating and so forth, why can't I?"

"Because you're not such a good actress?"

Sara tossed a half-eaten pretzel at him and took another swig of beer. "Oh, like you're Clint Eastwood or something?"

"Much to my disappointment, no, I'm not. I didn't say I was any better off than you – I'm just using you as a case in point."

"Yeah, well, I can think of better ways to be used by you," she mumbled to herself. Out loud, she said, "So you're basically saying that there's nothing wrong with us; it's everyone else who's phony?"

"Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!", Boris Karloff was informing them.

Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!

And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,

Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!

"There," Grissom said, gesturing at the TV. "Neither of us would ever do something like that. That's my point – maybe we just celebrate in our own unique ways."

"Moving past the fact that neither of us is going to be slipping down a chimney anytime soon to begin with . . ." She sighed. Do you really feel like you're celebrating?"

Grissom thought about that for a moment. "In all truth, what's to celebrate? I'm not religious anymore anyway, so I'm not celebrating the birth of Jesus; there's no one to give me gifts, so I'm not celebrating the spirit of giving, or even of commercialism."

"You are a Grinch!"

"Guilty as charged, then," he replied, giving her a helpless look. "But I can't change reality."

"You could change your image."

"But why would I bother to?"

"I don't know!" Sara looked around the room. "I mean, it's the whole 'fake it 'til you make it' thing. You could hang up some stocking on the mantle, just so that they're there. You could . . ." Her voice trailed off. "Well, I can't think of anything else, but you get the idea."

"And I suppose I could indulge in some 'roast beast,' too?" he asked, looking toward the cartoon.

"No," she said with a firm shake of her head. "Stay away from the beast – I hear it's tough, anyway." Holding up her beer bottle, she added, "I'm ready for a refill."

"You probably shouldn't be drinking so fast – a beer and a half in less than half an hour."

"I probably shouldn't, you're right. But it seems I am, so why stop now?"

"Good point." He glanced at his own bottle, which was sitting on a coaster near his feet. "I might as well get another for myself, too."

"See," Sara grinned, banging her fist on the arm of the couch for emphasis, "now this is my idea of having fun on a holiday!"

"Beer?"

"And pretzels," she said with a deadpan look. "And you, and the Grinch."

"And that was my point," Grissom told her patiently. "We're celebrating right here – even if it doesn't resemble a Norman Rockwell painting."

"We're celebrating?" Sara looked around the room doubtfully. "I don't see any decorations of any kind – not just Christmas."

Grissom pointed to the television. "I'll direct your attention to the Grinch for an answer to that comment."

Then the last thing he took

Was the log for their fire.

Then he went up the chimney himself, the old liar.

On their walls he left nothing but hooks, and some wire.

And the one speck of food

The he left in the house

Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.

Sara turned back to him. "That was supposed to give me an answer?"

"Look around, Sara – do you see bare walls or no food?"

Sara rolled her eyes. "Ok, you're reaching. The fact that you have bugs on your walls is supposed to indicate that you like Christmas?"

"Ah, ah, ah," he said, wagging a finger at her. "You're making leaps in logic."

"Consider me leapt, then. Now, try explaining it again."

Grissom shook his head. "You know . . . do I really have to? I don't see much point in this discussion to begin with, because I'm perfectly happy with the way that I handle my holidays. I understand that you're depressed about it, but I mean, you're here, aren't you? You're doing something with another human being. You're even conversing with that other human."

"Oh, and I suppose that's big for me?"

He gave a careless shrug. "I'm just explaining things as I see them."

"So you're saying that I'm depressed and that it's highly unusual for me to socialize?"

"I have no idea if you're depressed. I was generalizing based on an exaggeration of the impression you're giving off."

"So you think I'm depressed." Sara wasn't going to drop this topic without getting a response out of the incredibly annoying man next to her.

"Are you?"

"No!"

"Then why aren't you cheerful?"

"Because I'm  . . . wait . . . Grissom, what the hell are you talking about, anyway? Didn't we just discuss how you're not cheerful either? So I guess that means that you're depressed too."

Grissom's face cracked into a reluctant grin. "You're so easy to antagonize. I'm teasing you, you know." He gestured toward her head. "Your face is getting red."

"You can be such a jerk sometimes!"

"And yet you're still here with me," he observed.

"Oh, yeah." Sara let herself fall back against the back of the couch. "The story of my life."

"Being here with me is the story of your life?" Grissom gave her a puzzled look. "Have you ever been here before? I don't seem to remember it happening."

"Maybe you were too drunk to remember." Sara gave him a perky smile and stood up. "I'm getting another beer. You up for it?"

"You don't know where I keep my beer."

"Sure I do. Like I said, you were to drunk to remember." Grissom gaped at her, at a loss for words, and Sara burst out laughing. "Gee, Grissom, you're 'so easy to antagonize.' I'm playing with your mind – I plan on finding the beer through logic. As in, the bottles were cold when you brought them out, so I theorize that they were in a refrigerator, which would generally indicate that they came from your kitchen."

Giving her a persecuted look, he said, "Go ahead, then. I'll watch the end of the movie."

"It's over?" Sara's eyes jumped back to the television.

"No, but almost. Go beer hunting now, and you'll miss the whole circle-singing thing you were so fixated on."

Knowing that he was right, Sara put her thirst on hold and returned to her seat on the couch, an inch closer to Grissom this time. Together, they watched the climax of the story:

"All the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!"

"That's a noise," grinned the Grinch,

"That I simply must hear!"

So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear.

And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.

It started in low. Then it started to grow...

But the sound wasn't sad!

Why, this sound sounded merry!

It couldn't be so!

But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville!

The Grinch popped his eyes!

Then he shook!

What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,

Was singing! Without any presents at all!

He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming!

IT CAME!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

A soft smile was curving across Sara's face at this, Grissom noticed. Ah, so the woman did have a soft spot! "See, there's more proof. No presents, no decorations, and they're still happy."

"Mmm." Without thinking, she allowed her head to loll to the side, coming to rest against Grissom's shoulder. They stayed like that for a few seconds, watching the images splashed across the screen in front of them.

And what happened then...?

Well...in Who-ville they say

That the Grinch's small heart

Grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight,

He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light

And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!

And he...

...HE HIMSELF...!

The Grinch carved the roast beast!

Sara was still smiling when the credits rolled, half because the story always made her go a little mushy and half because she was belatedly realizing that she was in physical contact with Grissom and he wasn't protesting.

"Shirt getting a little too tight?" Grissom asked, craning his head to the side to look down at her.

Her mouth dropped open and she gave him an incredulous look. "I beg your pardon?"

"Your shirt. If your heart were to grow three sizes, your chest would have to expand – and it doesn't look like you've got a lot of room to grow in that shirt."

Sara continued to stare at him, just long enough to make him squirm, and then doubled over in near-hysterical laughter. She didn't feel drunk, but the beer she had consumed seemed to be having some effect on her. Grissom had been right – she really was feeling rather more cheerful after all the alcohol. Gasping to catch her breath, she fought to stay upright as the laughter used the energy that she normally used to stay upright.

Grissom was bemused enough by her sudden giddiness and by his own temerity that it took him a moment to react when the upper half of her body, curled nearly into a ball now, rolled onto his lap and continued shaking. He stared down at her, trying to process what was happening, but couldn't get a hold of the right thoughts. Within seconds of Sara's movement, Grissom, too, was reduced to helpless laughter.

"Why are we . . ." he gasped. "Why are we laughing?"

Sara shook her head against his thigh and managed, "I don't know!" before she dissolved back into giggles.

Grissom fought to get his breathing back under control, leaning against the back of the couch and tilting his head back, but succeeded only in straining his neck.

Sara chose that moment to look up and, noting the uncomfortable look on his face, tug on his arm. "Don't even bother!" she ordered. "Just let yourself laugh. Come on!" Pulling on his arm again, she forced his upper body down to her level and threw her arms around him, laughing harder than ever.

When Grissom sat back up slightly to relieve the tightness in his back, Sara was still clinging to his neck and laughing uncontrollably. She buried her face in his shoulder and struggled for any shreds of self-control that remained in her body. "Sor . . ." She raised her head to take in a gasp of air, then tried again. "Sorry!"

The comment didn't sound very apologetic, coming from someone who was still laughing, but Grissom got the gist. Wrapping his own arms around her back, he couldn't resist giving her a hard squeeze. "Well," he whispered into her ear, "I feel cheery! Maybe we just don't laugh enough."

Still hyperventilating, but otherwise recovered, Sara pulled back and grinned at him. "Could be. Interesting theory – but you know, one instance does not a theory make. The conditions would need to be duplicated before we could validate that as a possible conclusion."

"Duplicated conditions?" He raised his eyebrows. "Sounds challenging."

"No." Sara shook her head. "No, it wouldn't be that challenging at all – once you got the participants over their hesitance. Experimental subjects are notoriously jumpy."

"True. Maybe some purposeful deception would be necessary to ensure natural results."

"Deception?" Sara raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms, smiling widely. "What kind of deception?"

"Well, for example . . ." Grissom shifted further up the back of the couch, dragging Sara with him, until he was in a full sitting position and she was awkwardly perched on his knees. "For example, the experimenter could get the subject into a discussion of holidays and holiday cheer. Maybe supply some concurrent props, like a seasonally appropriate cartoon . . ."

"Oh really." Sara gave him a knowing look. "So this experiment could be carried out with the experiment-er pretending to be a fellow experiment-ee. Interesting." She pulled away from him and tried to glare, but could only manage a semi-serious look.

Grissom's eyes crinkled at the corners. "Yeah. It might take an elaborate set-up to get the experiment-ee to attend the experiment and cooperate with the investigator . . ."

Sara's stern face morphed into a look of disbelieving mirth. "You set me up!"

"Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say I 'set you up,' but . . ."

"You did too. You set me up, Gil Grissom!"

Grissom dropped his arms from her back and put his hands in the air as though surrendering. "Possibly."

"Ok." She nodded, giving him a considering look. "And exactly what results were you hoping to get from this . . . experiment?"

"It's basic biochemistry, really . . ."

"Grissom!" Faking a shocked look, crossed her arms in front of her and pursed her lips prudishly, but ruined the look by not moving off of his lap.

"You didn't let me finish," he protested. "I was going to say that it's basic biochemistry – seeing how much alcohol it takes to make a woman start laughing hysterically."

"You are such an asshole sometimes," Sara sputtered. "You did not really . . . it wasn't . . . did you?"

"What do you think?"

"Stop playing with my mind, damnit – it's screwed up enough as it is. Come on," she wheedled, "tell the truth."

Grissom shrugged. "Does it matter? You're here and you're happy. You're probably drunk, too, for that matter."

"So I'm supposed to just sit here, knowing that you arranged for all this in some completely convoluted way?"

"It was only partly convoluted," he said, moving his arms back around her. "And it's a tried-and-true strategy."

Sara gave him an irritated look. "What is? Playing with my head?"

"No." He tightened his arms. "If they won't give up their inhibitions anywhere else, then you bring them on your turf and, when they least expect it . . ." He purposely paused, waiting for Sara to say something.

"When they least expect it, what?" she finally hissed, exasperated.

"When they least expect it," he repeated, bringing his face closer to hers, "you give them what they wanted, but wouldn't take, all along."

Before Sara had a chance to react to his statement, Grissom kissed her, catching her by complete surprise. Without hesitation, she kissed him back, his machinations forgiven, at least for the moment.

When they pulled away from each other finally, Sara looked at him quizzically. "Who said that was a tried-and-true strategy, anyway? It's not exactly . . . logical."

"I call it the 'Sam-I-Am' strategy," Grissom said with a wide grin. "The only difference is that I tricked you into trying me, not green eggs and ham."

"Cute." She smiled back at him, then stood up. "And you didn't even have to chase me through a train or a box. And no mice were involved."

"Indeed." Giving her what he hoped was an innocent look, he stood up and moved toward her. "But I may have to chase you through a house," he announced, taking a big step closer to her.

Sara squeaked and ran around the corner, peering back out at him. "Just keep going, dear," Grissom called to her, sounding more lighthearted than she'd ever heard him. "My bedroom is to the right."