Disclaimer: As many wishes as I make, Brass is still not living next door. CSI doesn't belong to me either.
Author's note: I wrote a fic last fall, called "The favor" in which a desperate Brass asks Sara to babysit for his grandson, who Ellie left with him before disappering. Eight months later, and she hasn't come back. Thanks to belismakr for the beta'ing and reasurances, and jenbachand for brainstorming help. This was written for the Holloween challenge at Geekfiction. I was to include bite sized Musketeers and a Ouiji board.
"What am I doing here?" Brass muttered to himself. He didn't know if he had ever felt more out of place in his life. The only people standing near him were housewives with young children and out-of state-tourists working hard at not looking like they were tourists. His only consolation was that no one he knew would be caught dead here- 'here' being the ritzy shops of the Venetian.
A high pitched squeal from the stroller he was pushing reminded Brass of exactly what he was doing. It was three days before Halloween, and he was taking his grandson trick-or-treating. True, this was a less then conventional way to go about it, but when he had heard one of his neighbors mention the 'Safe Tricks or Treating' event at the Venetian shops he decided it was the best alternative. At ten and a half months old it wasn't like Michael would remember this holiday, but Brass didn't care. He wanted to give his grandson all the normal childhood experiences he could. Michael was already going to miss out on so much without having parents.
"You know you're not actually eating any of this loot, right kid?" Brass leaned down and snatched a bite-sized Three Musketeers out of Michael's hand. The infant had been trying to fit it, along with all of his fingers, into his mouth, and it was covered in drool. Finding the nearest trash can, he threw the gummed piece of silver foil away.
"Captain Brass?" As he entered the next shop he was startled to hear someone call him by name. At least no one he worked with closely would address him so formally. It was probably just a... it was Lindsey Willows. Yup, the gods were not on his side today.
"Lindsey, what are you doing here?"
"I work here. Two days a week after school, and on Saturdays. I'm saving up, because I can drive in a year and mom says she's not just handing me the keys to a car. If I keep my grades up, she'll match whatever I can earn, dollar for dollar."
"That sounds fair."
"Whatever," Lindsey answered, pinching her lips together. She looked down, and for the first time noticed the stroller that Brass was pushing.
"Is this Michael?" she asked.
"How did you... never mind. Your mom, of course." Brass shook his head.
"He's cute. Does he look like his mom?" Lindsey bent down and shook the plastic rattle that was hanging from the stroller by a colorful plastic chain. Michael jabbered nonsensically and tried to grab at the toy.
"Yeah," Brass answered, uncomfortable.
"Did she…" Lindsey began, only to be interrupted mid thought.
"I hope you didn't forget anything, because if you did you are out of luck." Brass wasn't sure if he was relieved or mortified when Catherine appeared at his side.
"Did you remember…"
"Your game? Yes, I did." Catherine handed her daughter a small suitcase and a paper shopping bag. Brass could see the familiar box of a Ouija board peeking out. "I don't see why you couldn't take all this to school with you today."
"Like I could fit this all in my locker?" Lindsey wrinkled her nose, but tempered her attitude by giving her mother a quick hug before disappearing through the doorway in the back of the store.
"Hey Cath," Brass said when they were alone.
"This is pretty close to the last place I'd ever dream of seeing you, Jim." She bent down to greet Michael; when she stood up, the baby was in her arms.
"I'm sure many people would express the same opinion." He noticed that one of the baby's socks had fallen off, and after retrieving it he returned it to Michael's foot.
"Cute outfit," she commented, observing the grinning black face on the orange onesie.
"It was a gift from a friend." Sara was the only one he had told about taking Michael out, and she had left the outfit in a plain box on his desk one morning after work. "There was a hat, but he won't keep it on."
"You didn't feel like dressing to match?" she asked teasingly, one sculpted brow arched.
"Yeah, right. That was going to happen." The last time he had worn a Halloween costume he had been eleven. That was the same day he had his first run in with the law: after egging Mr. Brinkman's yard he had, quite literally, run into a cop.
"I don't know. You could have dressed as a farmer. Or if you had kept that purple suit from last year you could have been a pimp." Oddly enough, she could picture that quite easily: the suit, some thick gold chains, maybe a hat to match. The idea made her laugh, and Brass glared at her.
"And what are you dressing as for Halloween?" he asked as he reached out and took Michael back from her.
"Do you really want to know?" she queried, the laughter still in her voice.
"Nothing that would get you arrested, I hope," he shot back.
Catherine debated an appropriate answer; honest or flirting? The truth was that she would probably spend the evening alone, curled up on the couch, wearing nothing dressier than jeans and a T-shirt.
"I guess you'll have to come trick-or-treating in my neighborhood to find out," she finally answered.
"Maybe we will." He settled the baby back into the stroller, taking care to buckle the seatbelt and pull up the tiny orange socks.
"I'll be around," she promised.
Brass nodded, and started for the store's entrance. He and his grandson had some more candy to collect. A trial run, it now seemed, for Monday night.
"Brass?" Catherine stopped him before he got lost in the crowd. "I like the sticker."
Brass looked down at the glow in the dark art that some bored teenage had stuck on him at an earlier store. i Trick or Treat- Always have a Buddy. /i