A/N: First off, I don't own CSI. Secondly, this is it. Here's the final chapter. I hope you enjoy it!
Previously: Johanna set the soap back in the tray. "Prove it," she challenged, her sea green eyes shining.
So Nick did.
The days flew by in a flurry of decorating, baking, and gift wrapping. Nick helped the brothers choose, cut, and set up a tree in the family room; once it was up they all helped string the lights and hang the ornaments. Almost as soon as the tree was decorated gaily wrapped gifts were piled underneath it. Nancy and Johanna baked up a storm, boxing up cookies and fruitcake and other goodies for the ranch hands, neighbors and workers at the store.
Christmas Eve morning dawned bright and cold. Nick awoke slowly as the morning sun filtered through the curtains, brightening the room. Curled up in his arms, Johanna sighed in her sleep. Nick's lips curled up in a smile as he pressed a gentle kiss to her temple before cuddling her close to his chest. I could get used to waking up like this, he thought, not for the first time. Absently he traced the scar from the bullet wound to her neck before letting his fingers drift to the scars on her shoulder.
"Do you realize how much that tickles?" Johanna's drowsy voice broke the silence in the room. Nick kept up his gentle caressing, smiling as Johanna stretched under his ministrations. With a good long stretch and a yawn she settled against his chest, running her fingertips across his skin. "Good morning."
"Good morning. Merry Christmas Eve. What's in store for today?"
Johanna thought for a moment. "Not much besides the usual ranch work. We'll do most of the prep for tomorrow's Christmas dinner, so we don't have to do it all tomorrow morning. After dinner tonight we'll hang the stockings."
Nick frowned. "I don't have a stocking."
"Yes you do."
"I bought one for you when we were in Bozeman a few days ago." Johanna smiled at Nick's bemused expression. "What? I didn't want you to feel left out." As the sun brightened the room even more, she sighed slightly. "I suppose we'd best get up. Mom will want some help in the kitchen, I'm sure."
With a quick move, Nick rolled Johanna beneath him. "Kitchen work can wait a bit longer."
Nick knocked on the office door. "Cal, can I have a word?"
Cal looked up from the papers he was studying. "Of course, Nick. Come on in." As Nick shut the door, Cal raised an eyebrow. "Must be important."
"It is." Taking a seat, Nick was suddenly at a loss for words, even though he had rehearsed this speech for days. He was mentally scrambling when Cal chuckled.
"Son, I'm pretty sure I know exactly what you want to ask. Frankly, I'm surprised in this day and age that you're asking."
Nick smiled slightly. "My parents raised me to do things right."
Cal grinned. "That's good to hear." He leaned back in his chair, studying Nick. "I have to admit, when she first told me she had met someone I was concerned. I'm sure you've heard the horror stories about some of the characters in Vegas. But as I heard more about you, I relaxed. When you called after she was shot, that showed me how much you truly cared about her, especially when you stayed with her." Nick swallowed hard at the memories of that day. "You're a fine young man, Nick Stokes. And you have my blessing."
Nick smiled broadly. "You won't regret your decision, Cal. I promise that."
"When?" Cal asked as Nick rose to leave the office.
After dinner, games, and the traditional hanging of the Christmas stockings, Johanna went out to check on the horses and give them their Christmas treats: apples and homemade popcorn balls. Nick used her absence to finish the last of his plans while the remainder of the Andrews clan retired for the night.
As Nick put the finishing touches on the tray in the kitchen, he heard the door open. He smiled as he waited, knowing she'd go back into the family room; he had challenged her to a game of Scrabble.
He heard her footsteps go into the family room. "Okay, Nick, are you ready to…hey, where'd everyone go?"
Picking up the tray Nick made his way to Johanna. "I think the rest of the gang went to bed. Did the horses like the apples?"
Johanna smiled as Nick set the tray down beside the Scrabble board. "They did. I wish I could give Sienna her Christmas treats myself, though. Tux, too." Accepting the mug of hot apple cider from Nick, Johanna moved towards the hearth, where a comfortable fire burned. "Oh this feels good," she murmured.
After arranging a few Scrabble tiles, Nick wrapped his arm around her. "Honey, you're still cold," he realized aloud.
"That's why I'm by the fire," Johanna retorted with a grin, snuggling closer against Nick's broad chest. "I'll be warm soon."
"Good, or else I'll have to take you upstairs and throw you in the shower," he growled playfully, setting his mug on the fireplace mantle and rescuing Johanna's before enveloping her completely, kissing her with passion. Heat raced through his body as if he had stepped into the fire; everything around him faded away until all he knew was Johanna. The feel of her in his arms, the taste of her against his lips…she simply intoxicated him.
Reluctantly pulling back to his senses Nick ended the kiss. "Johanna…do you love me?"
Johanna blinked, her eyes still slightly unfocused from the toe-curling kiss. "Yes…I love you. I love you with all my heart."
Nick smiled, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Check out the Scrabble board."
A confused look flashed over Johanna's face but she turned and went to the board.
CHECK OUT THE TREE.
She glanced back at Nick. "What's going on? Check out the tree?"
He nodded. "It's pretty self-explanatory, right?" With a chuckle, Johanna nodded and went over to the Christmas tree, picking up her cider mug along the way. While she looked over the tree, Nick quietly rearranged the Scrabble tiles, making a new message.
"What's with the ribbon?" Johanna asked, fingering the bright red bow tied on a prominent branch of the tree.
Nick turned. "Come check out the board again," he answered, deliberately being evasive. He smiled as Johanna shot him a playfully dirty look as she came to stand beside him.
HANG ME IN PLACE OF RIBBON.
Her jade green eyes narrowed. "What am I supposed to hang there?"
"This," Nick replied, holding out his hand. A beautiful Christmas ornament dangled from his fingers; two Christmas trees, each with hearts within the stars at their tops, leaned
together. Silver ribbon looped around both trees twice. Etched on the top strand were the words 'Christmas together.' On the bottom strand read 'Nothing better.' The year was inscribed at the bottom of the ornament. "I figured we should have something to mark our first Christmas together."
Johanna gently took the ornament from Nick to see it closer. Flipping it over, she saw that Nick had written their names on the back. "Nick…this is beautiful," she whispered as she looked up at him, her eyes lightening to sea green.
Nick smiled, pressing a kiss to the tip of her nose. "Just like you." As Johanna went to swap the ornament for the ribbon, Nick once again rearranged the tiles to create a third message before crossing the room to stand behind Johanna. "It looks great," he said, wrapping his arms around her waist. Snagging the mug from her hand, Nick drained the last of the cider.
"Excuse you…that was mine."
"I could have gotten mine, but it's all the way over there," he gestured, "and I'm quite content right here." Dropping a kiss against her auburn hair, he nodded to the tray by the Scrabble board. "There's more cider in the carafe."
Johanna grabbed her mug back, heading towards the tray. "I should make you pour me another cup, since you so kindly drank the rest of…" The newest message on the board caught her eye.
Nick was waiting when she turned. "I love you, Johanna. I love you more than I know how to say. When I saw you in the park that first time, I kicked myself that I hadn't gotten your phone number. Fate tossed us together that night, when you came to the lab to do the surgery on Zorro. I couldn't let you get away again. Each day I fell in love with you more, and when I almost lost you when you got shot, it was like being in that box again. You're the first person I voluntarily told about being buried alive." Fishing a black box out of his pocket, Nick dropped to one knee. "I want to spend every Christmas with you, every holiday…I want to spend the rest of my life with you." Nick opened the box to reveal a beautiful bridal set that sparkled in the firelight. "Johanna Kathleen Andrews, will you marry me?"
Tears shimmered in Johanna's eyes. "Oh Nick, yes. Yes. Yes!" As soon as Nick slid the engagement ring onto her finger, she threw her arms around him. After kissing him thoroughly, Johanna looked into his eyes. "I would be honored to marry you, Nick Stokes. Very honored."
Nick smiled broadly. "We won't have a quick Vegas wedding, either. I want it done right." The clock began chiming the midnight hour, and Nick tenderly kissed Johanna, savoring the moment. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart."