Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. All others belong to me, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

This is in response to an improv challenge at the Unbound forums; the first and last lines were given, and the word limit is 1,000. Up until now I have kept within the word limit of these challenges, usually having to pare down a story to get it to fit, but I am pleased enough with this one that for once I will go over. It's basically fluff, and fairly obvious, but I had such a good time writing it. Inspiration came not only from the given lines, but from a cast photo I saw on the Like a Moth to a Flame site, found at members.lycos.nl/loveofmylife/gal-candids.html.

Spoilers: nothing specific besides a nod to "Let the Seller Beware", but it is a futurefic.

Attention: this story is rated US, for Unabashedly Sentimental. You have been warned!

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August 2005

Grissom remembered warm summer nights in Boston, and wine in yellow plastic cups; he'd sneaked a sip when no one was looking, and the taste had been sour and surprising on his tongue. He remembered barefoot people dancing on the grass to tinny music spilling from the speakers someone had dragged out into the backyard, and the scratch and skip as the needle hit the end of the record. He remembered sitting and watching the adults laugh and talk, and the fascination of the ants' nest he found near the fence, and the sound of his mother's voice--a touch too loud, but nobody minded.

This present wasn't all that different, he mused--the people were about the same age, the party was for the same reason, and while the music was different and the wine was probably much better, he'd found himself an anthill to observe while the celebration carried on. Though if there was marijuana at this party, the smokers were much more discreet.

A smile touched Grissom's lips at the sight of Brass herding the groom and his three attendants into a group for a quick photo. They were all grinning broadly, buzzed on champagne or joy or possibly both, and they slung arms around each other and laughed as Brass' little camera hummed and flashed. They all looked very good, Grissom had to admit; the three men in suits, with the groom especially natty in his silk tie, and Sara in something velvety and asymmetrical--and, if he were honest, very distracting. Then Greg bounced away to find his bride, and the moment was gone.

Grissom sighed and shifted in the chair that was a concession to both his knees and his suit. The ants had grown scarcer as the sunset faded, and while some interesting species of moth were beginning to circle the lights, he just didn't feel like getting up to take a closer look.

Almost thirty-nine years ago...boy, that's depressing. His mother had scrimped for months to save enough money for their trip to Massachusetts, but she wasn't about to miss the wedding of her best friend's daughter, financial difficulties and hearing loss notwithstanding. Grissom had found the plane trip exciting, and his mother had taken him to the natural history museum, and--treat of treats--the bride's father had taken him to a Red Sox game. But in the end he'd been a little bored, sandwiched between adults preoccupied with the wedding, and after the ceremony had sat in the summer dusk trying to forget that the wedding day was also his birthday. No one else seemed to have remembered it.

A shout brought him out of his memories. The ancient man sitting in state with his equally ancient wife had risen to his feet, gnarled hands firmly clasping his cane, and was saying something loud in Norwegian. Most of the guests looked puzzled, but a few were laughing, and Greg--one arm around the merry-eyed girl who now wore his ring--threw back his head and shouted a reply. The old man roared approval and sat back down, gesturing for the party to continue. As Greg led his bride onto the square of lawn cleared for dancing, Grissom saw the old woman smack her husband lightly on the arm and whisper something that made them both chuckle.

Nick plopped down in the empty chair next to Grissom, panting a little and unknotting his tie. "Wow, the Sanders sure know how to throw a party, huh?"

The question didn't seem to require an answer. The two men sat for a while, watching dancers fill the square, listening to the music; Mr. Sanders had hired a jazz trio. It was certainly easier to dance to than Greg's heavy metal, Grissom reflected, amused.

Then Catherine came by and tugged Nick to his feet, dragging him off to dance with her, though she didn't have to drag hard. Grissom watched Sara and Warrick arguing cheerfully about something, and eventually she went and talked to the musicians, and Warrick was summoned into the midst of them, shaking his head, to take over the keyboard for a while. Grissom kept his eyes on Sara, admiring her as she applauded exaggeratedly, absorbing the restless grace of her. His jaw tightened when a tall young man--one of the bride's brothers, if he recalled correctly--asked her to dance. To Grissom's dismay, she smiled and agreed, moving into the man's arms and letting him guide her into the midst of the dancers.

Don't be foolish, he scolded himself. She's a grown woman. Her choice in dance partners is not up to you.

But the young man was flirting with her, Grissom could tell. He bent his head towards her ear and said something that made her laugh, and Grissom frowned in annoyance. What does he think he's doing? He's too young for her. He barely looks twenty-five.

Annoyance drove Grissom to his feet, and he set his glass down in the grass and made his way into the group of couples swaying to the lazy tune. Tapping the young man's shoulder, Grissom gave him a polite smile. "Mind if I cut in?"

The kid was gracious, Grissom had to give him that. He let Sara go without protest, and Grissom put his arms around her, only to find that she was quivering with laughter. "What?" he asked, his mouth curling in an inadvertent smile.

"I knew that would get you out here," Sara said, embracing him in turn, her eyes sparkling. "Mr. I-Don't-Want-to-Dance."

"I changed my mind," Grissom said with dignity, nonetheless amused at how she had played him. And content. Nobody knows me like she does.

They danced wordlessly for a few minutes as Warrick wove in and out of the melody; then Sara shifted so her head rested on Grissom's shoulder. "What were you thinking about over there in the corner? You looked pretty grim."

Grissom shrugged his other shoulder. "Nothing. Just the past." He rubbed his cheek against her hair and watched Greg and his lady dance by, both flushed and smiling. Another bride appeared in his mind's eye, her dress white cotton instead of satin, her hair long and straight instead of a cloud of curls, but her face just as kind. She'd found him alone in the shadows of the yard, and had pulled from behind her back a slice of wedding cake with one small lit candle in it.

He still had the candle somewhere, probably at the bottom of a box. Thirty-nine years next week...

"Marry me," he muttered into Sara's hair, and felt her chuckle.

"You already asked me that," she reminded him, tapping her engagement ring gently against the nape of his neck. "Twice. And I said yes. Both times."

He pulled back his head to grin at her. "So say it again."

She shook her head, and laughed again, and rested her chin on his shoulder. "Yes," she murmured, so only he could hear.

When the song ended, they wandered over to the buffet table. "What do you want for your birthday?" Sara asked casually, choosing two cream puffs and a strip of green pepper.

Grissom raised a brow at her selections and picked up a plate, lifting the other hand to briefly cup her face and brush his thumb over her cheekbone. "I've got everything I want."

The skin he had just touched flushed, and Sara gave him a wide, pleased smile, but persisted. "Seriously, Gil. What would you like?"

Grissom surveyed the table and picked up one of the small savory pastries that no one could identify but everyone seemed to love. A smirk crossed his face as he anticipated her reaction to his next words. "Well, I could really use another racing roach..."

He chuckled as Sara's nose scrunched up in laughing disgust. "Ewww!"

End.