A/N: Thanks goes to my wonderful beta, beaujolais. She happens to share in the same enthusiasm for the snarky yet loveable homicide detective, and without her help I'd be lost. Any mistakes are solely my own.
Disclaimer: CSI and its related characters belong to CBS, Alliance Atlantis, and the show's creators; no copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers: A Bullet Runs Through It Parts 1 & 2
xxxxxxIn The Spirit
What was different about the Holidays this year, that hadn't been evident in the past?
Jim Brass should've been extremely happy to be alive and satisfied about the fact that he had survived another year fraught with higher than normal – yet strangely interesting – caseloads.
Death, while residing in Las Vegas, always served up something different and he had to admit, it kept him on his toes. Not to mention the several fierce paper cuts and on another occasion a slight bloody lip – all made possible by a female suspect who hadn't responded well to his interrogation charm.
Ah, well, next year would hopefully be a better year and if the paper-cut-incidents decreased in percentage then it would turn out to be spectacular.
But there was something missing, and he couldn't quite place his bandaged index finger on it. As he mulled it over while making his way through the bustling PD building, he realized that emotionally, he just wasn't in the best of celebratory moods.
The crime lab seemed its usual morose self. Or maybe he was just projecting those emotions unto others? Either way, the lab never seemed like a cheery place to wander through as he looked for one of the criminalists to share a break with.
A sudden thought occurred to him – perhaps someone had brewed a fresh pot of coffee and maybe there would be a box with a few bear claws in it sitting nearby, waiting to be eaten. That fleeting thought brought him out of his melancholy stupor somewhat – until he rounded the lab's break-room doorway and entered to find Greg Sanders in the midst of "decking the halls".
"Sanders, what are you doing?"
The ex-lab-rat-turned-CSI visibly startled, dropped a delicate glass ornament – but caught it in time before it came in contact with the floor – and turned at the sound of Jim's voice.
"Aw, Captain, don't tell me your Holiday spirit has deserted you."
Jim, relishing the younger man's discomfort, leaned a shoulder against the doorframe and grinned slightly. "It's packed its bags and moved onto a more deserving soul."
"Scrooge." Catherine brushed past him with a pout on her face, and lightly smacked him on the arm.
"Bah . . ."
"Jim, it's Christmas," Catherine interrupted him with a smirk and shared an amused look with Greg. "a time for holiday decorations, spending time in each other's company, interoffice Secret Santa festivities and let's not forget the office Christmas party. Gil does make a mean Egg-Nog."
"Well, I don't know if you're aware of this or not but I happen to wear a badge, carry a gun and for those unruly customers, a pair of fashionable bracelets." He realized the gist of that statement and looked at Catherine, who caught him off guard with a slightly mischievous gleam in her eyes. He knew what she was probably thinking and he cleared his throat, including his rampant imagination. "While you guys carry those snazzy field-kits and wear some stylish mesh vests. In other words: I am the law and you're the 'Geek Squad.'"
Greg stopped and glanced at Jim with an incredulous look. "I am the law . . ." He did his best Stallone impersonation and Catherine elbowed him playfully. "Hey, we don't appreciate the nickname . . . all that much. Right, Catherine?"
"Not sure I do. But I think Sara said it best: 'Geeks should be revered.'"
Jim blinked several times, these people always managed to drape the veil of confusion over his head. "Anyway, as I was saying . . . I'm not technically a member of the 'Squad.'"
"You were inducted when you held the distinction of being our former supervisor," Greg spoke up and grimaced. He shared another look with Catherine and tried to amend his reply, "Shit, that didn't come out the way . . ."
"No, it didn't, but I understood the underlying meaning of your sentiment." The detective wasn't about to let him off the hook so easily. Even though he had tried to move on, it was still a bit difficult when those memories crowded in on him during the Holidays. Maybe that's what it was: he had been letting the guilt eat him alive. And the thought of Officer Bell's blood still on his hands had served to add to the hate he had long ago reserved for himself. He felt entirely alone and wanted to keep it that way. Jim wasn't about to let his dark thoughts put a damper on his friends' good cheer, though.
Greg steered the room's uncomfortable silence in another direction, "Well, your name has already been chosen by your Secret Santa."
Jim looked up and seemed surprised. "When was this?"
"While you, Grissom, and Sara were collecting a statement from the witness in your current case," Catherine replied.
"Don't worry. You'll get your chance at drawing out a name, Sir."
"Greg, we've worked together . . . how long?" The younger man looked at him strangely. "It doesn't matter. Call me Jim or like everyone seems to refer to me, Brass. Save the titles for Grissom."
Once again Catherine and Greg stopped what they were doing and in unison turned to look at the detective, but he was gone. The younger man shrugged his shoulders and continued adjusting the lights on the small Christmas tree.
Catherine remained staring at the spot Jim had occupied, wondering what on earth was bothering him. She knew very well that a man such as him would always be cynical about anything in general; that was made obvious to her, the minute he had first introduced himself. The dark mood and quiet attitude he had been exhibiting lately had her concerned.
Well, she decided that she would have to do something nice to lift his spirits, and being designated his Secret Santa had instilled in her some of the extra courage she would definitely need.
Across the hallway, Jim's shoulders sagged in utter disappointment – due to the distraction he had failed to prepare a mug of hot coffee, or even mount a search for those bear claws. Oh well, break time was over, so he went off in search of the lab's exceedingly-eccentric-DNA-lab-tech: David Hodges.
He stepped into the central workstation and winced at the sound of a curse word. "What seems to be the problem?"
"Oh, hey, Captain. How long have . . . You haven't been standing there that long, I hope."
"No. Have you got those results ready to hand over to me?"
"Um, see, that's the problem. The printer seems to be out of paper." Hodges grinned out of embarrassment. "We can talk on our way to the supply closet, if you'd like."
"Yeah, sure." Jim stepped aside and sighed in frustration. "So, what did you find out?"
"Well, the toxicology reports came back negative for traces of poisons, but I did find something that piqued my curiosity. There were very high levels of carbon monoxide gases in the blood stream, which suggests your victim died of accidental asphyxiation."
"Leave the COD to Doc Robbins; besides we did find the victim in the garage inside her car with the engine running." Jim held his reservations about "accidental asphyxiation" to himself.
"Uh, right. Other than that, the DNA is what I was awaiting the results on."
Jim slowed his pace and stared at the back of Hodges' head as he crossed the threshold of the supply closet. He stood there hoping for an immediate explanation and when the tech took his time in providing one, he cleared his throat and pressed on, "Who requested a DNA test? There wasn't a witness who came forward and the victim was found alone in her vehicle."
"Ah, that would be Grissom. Doc Robbins suggested one be performed; during his preliminary autopsy he discovered that your victim was pregnant."
Figures, a crime such as this would have less than an ordinary motive and it wouldn't turn out to be a suicide. The husband, or boyfriend, or whatever he was to this woman, would pay for such a heinous assault on her and the unborn child. Jim would make sure of that.
Jim was jolted out of his angry reverie when Hodges began to expound on the merits of different paper stock for his lab's printer, when the DNA tech stepped out of the room. Jim watched him walk away and rolled his eyes.
The detective detached himself from the tech's presence, and the younger man said over his shoulder, "Come back in a few minutes and I'll have those results for you, Captain."
Jim sighed in frustration again, and began closing the door behind him. Sensing someone else's presence, he looked up to see Catherine standing there with that mischievous twinkle in her eyes again. "Hey, Jim, got a minute?" She had her hands clasped behind her back and watched him for a few minutes.
He smiled more out of nervousness than in greeting. "Sure. Do you need something, Catherine?"
She remained silent and unclasped her hands in response. Jim's eyes grew a shade wider when he noticed what was she was holding in between the index and thumb of her right hand.
"Is that? Are you?"
"There are some awful rumors floating around that a certain homicide detective's holiday spirit is gone."
He stared at her for a few seconds, his brain not having processed her remark quickly enough. She's talking about you . . . Well, Catherine did say something about enjoying each other's company. Jim knew that would definitely lift him out of the dark mood he currently found himself in, but giving her a hard time beforehand would most certainly be good for a laugh . . . or two.
"I'd love to be in Detective Richmond's shoes right about now; the man has been such a Grinch the past few weeks."
"What?" Catherine looked stunned.
"He's out getting some doughnuts for the guys, but I'm sure he'll appreciate the . . ."
"This isn't . . ."
Jim eyes gleamed in amusement. He suddenly reached across the open space, and grabbed Catherine by the wrist. She yelped in surprise as he pulled her into the supply closet with him. "But this is . . ."
Before the door shut completely behind him, she cried out, "Hey! The . . . "
"Leave it. Someone else might put it to good use, like I'm about to," he growled into her left ear. "Merry Christmas, Cath."
"Merry . . . oh. Ooh, Jim . . ."
Gil Grissom paused in his tracks when his ears registered what he thought to be a muffled giggle in the room to his right. He listened for any more noises and not hearing any, he decided to continue with his trek toward his office. But something caught his attention, there; by the bottom edge of the room's door. He stooped down to pick it up and smiled.
"Most interesting. A sprig of Phoradendron Serotinum."
Grissom searched the corridor behind him, then turned around and spotted her strolling into his office, deeply immersed in a case file.
"Oh, Sara . . ."