Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or the settings. Please don't sue me. Characters may be slightly OOC, but it's all in the name of humor.

The Gift

"Grr, stupid-piece-of-hairy-nugget stapler!" Sarah cursed. She hated doing all the paperwork that went with the job. The job of the C.S.I. was to speak for victim, not file, staple and write for them. She supposed it all went hand in hand. In any business there was bound to be paperwork. But did there have to be crappy-assed staplers as well? A voice in her head went off. Just as she let go her curse, Grissom popped his head in.

"Everything OK?" he asked. It was late, and Sarah was pulling a double so she could take off for her birthday the following week.

"I'm just trying to staple," she whined, "is that too much to ask?"
"We'll have to do something about that," Grissom winked at her and left quickly.

:The following week:

Gil Grissom rushed into the break room to hand out assignments. He had been on a phone call and didn't realize what time it was. Catherine, Nick, and Warrick were already assembled. He mentally noted Sara's absence, but didn't say anything. It was her night off tonight. Apparently, one of the boys had forgotten.

"Hey where's Sara tonight?" asked the green-eyed Warrick.

"It's her birthday 'Rick, remember?" Nick reminded him.

"O yeah, Sweet. I hope she's celebrating in style," Warrick smiled."

"Okay Nicky and 'Ricky', let's get back to business," Grissom brought the attention back to himself, "both of you are on a stolen garden gnome, over in suburbia. Make it good and short so you can come back and help me and Cath with evidence."

"Stolen garden gnome? That's not our jurisdiction," Warrick piped up again.

"This is one in a series of gnomes and other assorted garden statues. I don't make this stuff up people. The neighborhood is trying to take matters into their own hands I suppose, and they want their garden guardians back." Gris said matter-of-factly.

"Aw maaaaan," Nick complained, "we'd better get a head start. C'mon 'Ricky.'" The two younger guys left the premises without much of a look backwards.

"So what have we got?" ask Catherine out of genuine curiosity.

"419 over on the strip. It was a drive by shooting. Of course there were no witnesses," Grissom said grimly. A crime scene full of people and no one saw a darned thing. It really pissed him off some days.

"We'd better get a move on then, if we hope to save any of the evidence," Catherine replied. She didn't like how routine driving over and dealing with a dead body was, but it was part of the job. If you didn't grow a thick skin, then things really got to you. She grimaced, but if it weren't for the DBs and all of the other victims, she'd be unemployed. It was a grim way to look at things, but some nights it was the only way.

:later:

Grissom and Catherine worked the scene the way only two people who knew each other so well could. There wasn't too much to go on, but hopefully the fibers she pulled from the body would help out. It looked to be a gang shooting and as Grissom had surmised earlier, no one saw a darn thing. It was understandable that no one would want to say anything. They were all probably ducking for cover trying to save their own lives. But would it be too much to ask to try and get a license plate number? Catherine thought hopefully. Grissom walked over, a teenager wearing a backwards baseball cap in tow.

"Hey Cath, Johnny here says he saw a silver Honda Civic come around the corner with red hubcaps."

"Yeah it was souped up, too," said the teen, "brand-spankin' new. I bet it was the silver coyotes. They're always trying somthin'. Danny was my dog, he was my brutha, ya know?" the boy appeared distraught.

"Great, I'll get on it and check to see how many cars of that make and model were sold within the last year." She turned to Johnny to ask, "Do you know where I could find any of these 'silver coyotes'?"

Grissom didn't wait to hear an answer, instead he continued on down the strip looking for evidence. He knew that Catherine would get all the pertinent information. Several by standers watched him work from the other side of the yellow tape. In his mind he searched for a gift for Sara. It was her birthday after all. He didn't want to get something that would be too romantic despite the fact that he recognized his feelings for her. He couldn't live without her. He was pretty sure about that. Let's see, how to express it? Something red , to indicate what he was feeling and then, without the whole office knowing, something practical and equally as boring. She was a mathematician by trade. Red physics book, calculator? Hah! A Stapler. . .she was just complaining last week. No problemo.

:meanwhile:

"Yeah I got another paw print over here!" Nick called to Warrick. He took what seemed like the millionth picture of paw prints this evening, but finally also this time, there seemed to be a human print, a small child print, from the look of it.

"Nick, get over here, it looks like these tracks are leading around to the backyard," Warrick shouted back.

"O, I do NOT believe this," Nick started. It seemed like this wasn't a criminal case at all. Nick walked closer to Warrick's position. The tracks ended at the biggest tree in the backyard. It was looking more and more like some sort of elaborate prank.

"Alright, I think we've found our culprit," Nick grinned, "let's go get the shovels."

An hour later they still hadn't found the garden gnomes at the base of the tree. Sweating, Nick wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, and stuck his shovel in the ground.

"O.K. This is where the evidence is leading us, and we're not getting anywhere," Nick began a train of thought.

"I have an idea. This has been going on for quite some time. The pattern suggests that our culprit will strike again. Let's set up night vision cameras, and check them in the morning." Warrick suggested.

"It beats shoveling the hell out of this hole." Nick was quick to agree, and they both called it quits for the 'night'.

The next evening, Grissom found the red stapler without too many problems but wrapping it was another story entirely. It was too awkward. His only hope was a gift bag and tissue paper, and he knew just the person to help him out. Walking out of his office, he saw Catherine before shift.

"Cath, I need some help." Grissom said desperately. Calmly, Catherine took in the bag and the tissue paper he was holding up. Without a word she prepared the package in a flawless manner. She even tied the handles together with the two colors of curling ribbon that were proffered and preceded to curl the ribbon. Grissom smiled with delight. He knew she'd be able to help. He couldn't wait to give the gift to Sara, and in person, but not here, it had to be someplace innocuous. Grissom grinned at his own ingenuity. He had this whole thing in the bag.

"Thanks Cath," he took the bag and went to hide it in his office, just to be sure. Sara had a way of popping in at any moment.

Catherine stood there wordlessly and went to get a cup of coffee. Couldn't men do anything for themselves? Nick and Warrick strolled in for the beginning of their shift. "Any word on the garden gnome thief?" Nick grinned and explained their oh-so-unique solution.

"That should be interesting. Let me know what you find. I need to go talk to some gang members."

"Take Warrick with you, you shouldn't be heading out alone," Nick asked, concerned when it came to gang members.
"You sure man?" Warrick asked.

"Yeah, it won't take two of us just to review a tape." Just then Sara strolled in for shift.

"So what's going on guys?" She asked curiously.

"Garden gnomes and gangs," Nick filled her in.

"That is the strangest combination I think I've ever heard," Sara commented.

"Sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction," Nick confirmed, "Did you have a good evening off?"

"Yeah, but I'm glad to be back to work, I can never stay idle for long."

"We know, trust me," Nick joked. Sara shot him a look.

"Alright, we're outty," Warrick intervened as a way of dismissing himself. He followed Catherine out of the break room.

"See ya bro," Nick responded, "actually, I've got some video to go review for myself," he said, and started heading for the A/V lab.

"Yeah, I've still got paper work to do despite all of my drudgery last week. Have fun."

Sara grabbed a cup of coffee from the sludge-o-matic they called a coffee maker. It wasn't corner shop coffee, but it would at the very least wake her up. She then headed off to the piles of paper that awaited her. On her way, she passed Grissom.

"Hey Sara, let me treat you to breakfast at the diner after shift for your birthday," he said and was on his merry way before she could get a word out.

OK that was weird. When the end of shift rolled around, she walked over to the diner. Grissom was already seated when she arrived. He had a goofy grin on his face with some sort of gift bag on the table. She walked over and joined him.

"So, what's this all about?" she pointed to the bag.

"It was your birthday and I wanted to get you a gift; nothing big, just something small and practical."

Sara opened the bag and saw it was a bright, red Swingline stapler that looked like it just came out of the 1950s. She grinned from ear to ear, and her eyes watered. Her face flushed red with delight. While certainly not the first, it was a most practical gift. It was the best looking stapler, and it was all hers, not to mention it came from Grissom. By now Grissom was grinning from ear to ear.

"So?"

"I love it."

"Let's load it up and try it out." Of course it came with its own set of free staples. They tried it out on the nearest paper napkin. They stapled it a couple of times lost in the giddiness of the staple.

It was at that moment that the rest of the crew came in to join them. Grissom wasn't annoyed, but he was curious as he asked,

"How did you find us?"

"Hollie-Anne, the new receptionist let us know where you were going to be," Nick chimed in and picked up a menu to order. Sara was still very happy from receiving her stapler. She was hugging it to herself.

"What's that you got there Sar-?"

"It's my brand new red stapler, bought for me by the best boss in the entire universe." Nick went to grab it and have a look for himself.

"Um, I don't think so Nick. . .this puppy's mine. I may even sleep with it tonight." Sara lightly slapped his hand away.

"I just want to look-" Nick began to whine.

"Children, children," Catherine began as she and Warrick joined the table. "Hey, happy birthday Sara. Thank God it's Friday," she intoned. Everyone squeezed over as they joined those already seated in the booth.

"Why, what happened?" asked Sara, suddenly curious.

"All of this running around, and-"

"And our snitch, Johnny? It was that punk's brother who committed the shooting. The evidence all points it there, and Johnny even confessed. He knew about it the night before." Warrick interrupted Catherine's tale. He was pretty miffed. Grissom let out a low whistle.

"So that little show a couple of nights back?" Grissom asked.

"It was all a put on." Catherine concluded. "So Nicky who was the Great Gnome Nabber?"

"You're not going to believe this. You were right Warrick, it wasn't a human, it was an animal but we were barking up the wrong part of the tree. Our thief is a raccoon. He would take the gnomes up to a high hole in the tree and stuff them in there. That's why the tracks ran out there, and the evidence wasn't buried. I managed to recover just about everyone's garden gnomes."

"Good work Nicky," Grissom congratulated him.

"I'm beat; I think I'm going to see if I can get an order to go." With that Nick took himself to the bar.

"So, a red stapler. How does it work, versus the standard?"

"It's awesome Cath. Maybe sometime, I'll let you borrow it."

Catherine hefted it, "It's so heavy you could use it as a hammer, or a weapon-"

"Ha, don't give her any ideas," Warrick chimed in, then his beeper promptly went off. He looked at it and said, "Aw snap. I forgot. I have a meeting with my Little. We have a before school session."

"Well, I have to go wake up Lindsay and get her off to school, you want a ride?"

"Yeah, that'd be great," as they had come in together, so they left. Sara looked at Grissom and he looked back at her. They stayed that way for a long time.

"Can I get ya some coffee hun?" The waitress asked.

"Uh no, I think I'll get the short stack to go," Sara said.

"Me, too." Grissom mirrored her order, and then asked, "did you still plan on sleeping with that stapler?"

"Depends on if I get a better offer," She smiled up at him through her lashes. Later, Sarah placed two orders of pancakes in the refrigerator, and went back to her already occupied bed.

-FIN-

A/N: Much of this story is based in fact. The gnomes are based on a true story I heard about on the news. I really did get a red stapler from my boss, that was the inspiration for the story. Those of you who have seen Office Space know all about the significance of the red stapler. 50 points to those of you who can guess where both the 'aww maaan' and the raccoon come from. I only know because my now 3-year-old nephew is obsessed.