Author: Summer Reign
Spoilers: This story is set mid-season 5, post-Snakes, pre-Nesting Dolls.
Disclaimer: CSI and all characters therein do not belong to me. Surprise.
Summary: Some men give women perfume for Christmas. Not Gil Grissom...
Grissom walked into his office at the beginning of his shift and didn't delete his favorite expletive. It rang out loud and true in the silence of the room. He pulled a step stool from the corner of the room, stood on it and tore down the offending plant life hanging from the ceiling over the outer edge of his desk.
He put the step stool back and dumped the sprig of mistletoe, with its red velvet bow adornment, into the trashcan.
For the third time that week.
The first time, he found it somewhat amusing, mildly flattering, and yet slightly annoying.
She had walked into his office later in the day revealing no outward signs of distress over the missing mistletoe.
The second time, it was just plain annoying. Especially since she had been humming "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" to herself on and off all day.
The third, it was both annoying and insulting.
Of course it was Sara. Of all the women in the lab, she'd made her feelings abundantly clear where he was concerned. On numerous occasions.
And they had been getting along lately. But give that woman an inch and she took a mile. She just couldn't trust him to make the moves in this relationship. He had tried but he needed to go at his own pace. And he had plans, big plans, for moving this relationship in the direction he thought she wanted it to go. But she just couldn't wait. She had to try to force the issue by physically pushing the boundaries under the guise of some foolish, outdated Christmas tradition.
But this was a place of business and he wouldn't be manipulated into anything, least of all revealing his feelings with a potential audience of his subordinates as witnesses.
No. He had to confirm his suspicions and finally deal with Ms. Christmas Spirit Sidle.
"You wanted to see me?" Sara asked, standing in the doorway. She was dressed casually but her hair was a little more "done up" than usual, with soft waves framing her face, and her lovely features highlighted by a little more makeup than normal.
"Yes, come in." She walked in and, as she did, she looked directly at the duct tape still half-hanging from the ceiling. He had just needed to pull down the plant; he didn't bother with the tape that held it. She smiled.
"Interesting choice of office art, Grissom."
It was her. Her eye went right to the spot and she probably would have taken full advantage of the situation if that damn weed were still up there.
"I was under the impression that you were the one who never left home without your duct tape, Sara."
"I don't. It's good for almost everything." She smiled and a small blush graced her cheeks as she looked down at the hands she had crossed in her lap.
"Including taking off a layer of ceiling paint when it's removed," Grissom grumbled, looking down at his notes. He started talking about a report Sara wrote, having no real interest in her findings, since they were consistent with what they suspected all along.
No, he got the only answer he really needed from her.
He had just assigned cases to Greg and Sofia. It was now Sara's turn.
"Sara, David is finished processing whatever could be processed of the decomp brought in yesterday. I need you to sift through the rest and catalog any evidence you can find."
"But, Grissom…" she started.
"Again, Sara?" he said, looking at her over the rim of his glasses. "We had this discussion once before. I'm handing out assignments. Nothing here is up for discussion."
"I know but…" she had a big frown on her pretty face and it took a bit of strength on his part, but he stuck to his guns.
"No buts. No discussion."
"Hey, Gris, I can switch with Sara. I mean, she does have…" Greg started, but Grissom was on a roll.
"No discussion from anyone. Go to work." And with that, he took his clipboard and left the room.
By the time Grissom got to his office, his resolve was wavering.
He sat at his desk and leaned back in his chair, staring at the ceiling with its duct tape decoration.
She was wearing some peach colored lip color. He wondered if it was flavored. He wasn't likely to find out now. That decomp was kind of a cross between the 'boiled' young man she and Catherine had worked on once before and the totally decomposed 'soup' she worked on with Nick.
Funny. He hadn't realized just how many of those cases she had processed. Without complaint. If anything, she usually complained when she wasn't allowed to finish a job or have a more active role in one.
Maybe he should have heard her out.
Or maybe she should have thought twice before she snuck into his office—three times—to hang mistletoe over his desk.
He picked up his paperwork and got started.
Seven hours passed rather quickly. Grissom had been in and out of his office several times and was relieved to find no mysteriously appearing mistletoe. Of course, Sara was probably up to her elbows in decomp, so she couldn't exactly go out and buy more. That is, if she were inclined to be romantic. And he had a feeling he put an end to that.
He frowned and wondered why the expression 'cutting off your nose to spite your face' was playing on an endless loop in his mind.
Grissom heard a knock on his office door and before he could tell the person to come in, Catherine had entered, and plopped herself comfortably in a chair.
"Come in, Catherine. Make yourself at home," Grissom said.
"Don't mind if I do," she said, without batting an eye.
"Court?" he asked, taking in her beige suit.
"Yes. I'm sure it will be a great relief to the jury to have at least one sweet smelling CSI present."
Grissom just stared at her. "Oh…kay."
"As opposed to the other CSI who, in spite of her use of over two dozen lemons, still, frankly, reeks. What did that jury ever do to you, Gil?"
A little lightbulb went off in Grissom's head. "Sara has court?"
"Uh, in the words of my daughter…'duh.' Maybe the real question is what did Sara ever do to you to deserve having to walk into the courtroom in that condition?"
"You don't understand," he said, unable to look at Catherine's forthright gaze and choosing to glance at his paperwork instead.
"Oh, yeah, I do. I've been seeing it for days. I just thought…hey, it's none of my business and you will probably laugh it off as part of the foolishness of the season. But, I forgot who I was dealing with. It really bothered you, didn't it? I should have seen that one coming. But, the one thing I really didn't expect was that a smart guy like you…a genius even…could possibly add two and two together and end up with nine hundred and thirty eight as the answer."
"What are you talking about, Catherine?"
"How do you know about the mistletoe?"
"I know who put it up there."
"Sara," he said.
Catherine shook her head. "I saw the culprit. Several times this week, as a matter of fact. But, let's go back and examine the evidence, like…oh, I don't know…professional Crime Scene Investigators? Shall we? Where has the mistletoe been placed each time?"
Grissom rolled his eyes and lifted his finger to the ceiling.
"Right," Catherine said. "And where does Sara usually perch when she comes into the office?"
"In the seat you're in, or…" he trailed off.
"In the doorway," Catherine finished his thought. "The traditional place to hang the stuff. And this mistletoe was hung directly over a spot where someone could take advantage of it only if they usually plant their ass on the side of your desk."
"I think pretty much everyone here knows that kissing you underneath the mistletoe would make Sara's Christmas, New Year's, Fourth of July and freaking Arbor Day…but she would never do that to you. Not at work. And since you obviously think that hanging up mistletoe deserves the crime lab's equivalent of the death penalty …I feel the need to tell you you're punishing her for someone else's lack of professionalism."
"Sara didn't put the mistletoe in my office," he said, and the minute it was out of his mouth, he knew, in his heart, it was the absolute truth.
"And you know who did?"
"Sofia." Catherine didn't pussyfoot around.
"Yes, Ms. Professionalism herself. What, she's worked under you—pun intended—for a month or so? Yeah, that's enough time for an operator to make a move on her boss."
Grissom thought back over the past three days. On the day of the first mistletoe hanging, Sofia had tried to come into his office but he was speaking with Greg. The second, she was processing a murder on the strip and didn't really have much time in the lab at all. And today, well…he was so sure Sara had put the mistletoe up there, he never thought to look for a reaction from Sofia when she came in to…sit at the edge of his desk…and talk with him for a while. And it was ten days until Christmas. She had ten more chances to put up more mistletoe.
"She puts it up at the end of my shift," Catherine said. "Doesn't even bother hiding it. Just goes in there with the thing in her hand and leaves a few minutes later with just her roll of duct tape. So, is she next in line for a juicy decomp or are you mentally practicing your puckering as we speak?"
He opened his mouth, then closed it when he realized he couldn't manage more than a little self-righteous sputtering in response to Catherine's accusations. She smiled wryly and started smoothing out her skirt.
"Ah, that got a rise out of you, I see. My work here is done. Well, not quite. Just a word of advice, my friend. Whatever you decide to do with Sofia is your own business but you really should back off from what you've been doing to Sara. I'm the first one to tell you to go after her when she deserves it, but, man, she doesn't deserve it this time. And, for what it's worth, I don't think she has the greatest or most joyous of holidays any year since she's usually mopping up some crime scene while we're all among the bosoms of our families."
Grissom cleared his throat. "Thank you, Catherine."
She got up and went to the door. "I gotta run. Court, you know."
She left and Grissom let out his favorite expletive again, followed by a truly agonized groan.
He saw Sara through the windowed wall of the breakroom. She was sitting there a few hours after her scheduled court appearance. Her hair was different then it was had been the last time he saw her—pre-decomp. It was now decidedly curlier but pulled back in a ponytail. He supposed the showers she took destroyed the more formal hairdo she had when she came in to work last evening. She was now dressed in a dark green suit and playing with something in her hands. A cup of coffee sat in front of her. He didn't know why she hadn't gone home but he knew she had the night off and was probably there to do her paperwork before taking off. In any case, he was glad she had come back.
He went into his office, pulled out the envelope he had waiting there, then returned and sat across from her. She didn't look up.
"You look nice," he said.
"It was unintentional," she said.
"I…uh, how was court?" he asked, resisting the urge to sniff the air deeply. He didn't smell anything at the moment but he was kind of immune to it all anyway.
"Well, I was let go rather quickly. Catherine is still giving testimony. I'm sure it was nothing personal," she said with a small smirk, still not looking up. In her hands was an eight-inch, foil-wrapped chocolate Santa. She was running her fingers over the wrapping.
"From Greg?" he asked.
"I think so."
"You're not sure?"
"No. It was hanging on my locker when I got back. They've all gone home so I can't really ask, but it's something he would do." She opened the foil and broke off a piece of Santa's boot and put it in her mouth.
"Sara. If you aren't a hundred percent sure who gave it to you, should you be eating that?"
"You're thinking poison?" she asked, deliberately taking a piece of the other boot and putting it in her mouth and then holding the candy out to him. "Suicide pact?" she asked, finally looking him in the eye.
"That's not funny," he said and watched her wrap up her chocolate and take a sip of coffee.
"Sara. I'm sorry. I'm…so sorry. I forgot about court completely."
She shrugged. "It's my job. I would have preferred not to do this particular part of it because of circumstances but, still, it's my job."
He looked at her. She was no longer looking at him and had taken to smoothing the foil over her Santa again. Was she really letting him off the hook or trying to convince herself that he wasn't as guilty as he knew he was?
"I have something for you, " he said, "It's a little early but… Merry Christmas, Sara," he said, sliding the envelope he brought with him over to her.
"This doesn't look like a card," she said.
"It's not. It's a gift."
"Do you give anyone else in the office a gift? Someone told me you didn't."
"I get Catherine chocolates and the guys booze. You're the only one I get something personal for."
She gave the tiniest of smirks. Well, he guessed that entomology textbook wasn't that personal but…to him, it was.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because I want to."
"But you don't even like me," she said, finally letting go of the chocolate and running the very tip of her finger across the edge of the envelope.
"That's not true."
"Well, you do a good job of hiding the fact, if that's the case."
"Open your envelope, Sara."
She still didn't pick it up; she just stared at it absentmindedly.
Still she made no move to pick it up or to look at him. He reached across the table and took her hand in his.
"I'm sorry, Sara. I thought…" he took a deep breath, "I misjudged a situation completely and I should have known better. And it was something I had mixed feelings about to begin with, so…I dealt with it inappropriately."
"You knew about the mistletoe?"
"Catherine told me."
He raised an eyebrow.
"I wouldn't do that to you. I know how private you are and, besides, I may have been verbally blunt about what I feel, but I would never just throw myself at you," she gave a mirthless laugh. "Even I'm not that much of a glutton for punishment."
He took her hand and put it to his mouth, mindlessly brushing a kiss against her knuckles. That got her attention and he didn't flinch when her surprised gaze met his.
"Grissom…someone can see."
"I don't care," and he didn't. "Just open your present. Please."
She slipped her hand out of his, gave him a confused look and then picked up the envelope. She pushed her fingernail underneath the flap and slipped out the handwritten note inside. Grissom reached his hand out and placed it over hers.
"No. I've changed my mind. You deserve to hear this from me. Sara, my present to you, if you choose to accept it, is a holiday dinner. Tonight."
She moved her hand away from his and looked at the paper.
'Please join me for a holiday dinner tonight.
Grissom shook his head. Damn it, he didn't really do romantic unless he was quoting someone else.
"Will you join me?" he asked.
"I don't know."
"Am I too late?" he asked, hoping—yet knowing—she wouldn't hear the fear in his voice. He had trained himself too well to give away emotions that easily.
She looked him in the eye for a moment. The soft expression in hers gave everything away.
"No," she said in a voice barely above a whisper. "If I thought you really meant it, you would never be too late."
"And what makes you think I don't?"
"Maybe you feel your actions backed you into a corner and you think I'm going to bolt."
"Not this minute but I've been giving it some real thought. I won't lie to you. There's a point when this unrequited thing gets very self-destructive, and I can take my PEAP counselor's mumbo-jumbo and try and make it my own, but—I'm just saying the words. At the end of the day, I'm leading an incredibly sad life and maybe the ultimate decision to change it is mine."
"You haven't backed me into anything, Sara. I've been planning this dinner for awhile. Since our last real talk. I almost asked you to dinner right then and there but, I guess I took too long and the moment was gone. Then I thought about Christmas…and new beginnings. I was going to ask you for a Christmas Eve dinner but, I will admit, I decided to move the date up a little. But it's definitely something I want. Have wanted, for a very long time. If you decided to leave tomorrow, I'd still want to spend time with you tonight. And if you never leave, the same would hold true. Please say yes?"
"Pick you up at 8?"
"Sure. Um, how should I dress?"
"A little formal, if that's all right with you."
She nodded again.
"It's a date, then," he said and smiled at the surprise on her face. "Sara?"
"Leave Greg's Santa at home tonight, okay?" he said, feeling a little shy but playful at the same time.
"Yeah," she said softly. "I will."
He reached over and squeezed her hand. "Thank you. I'll see you later."
Grissom went back into his office, originally planning to put away his paperwork and hurry home to set his plans for the evening in motion. But he felt…incomplete. The moment was unfinished.
He picked up his cell phone and dialed Sara's number, even though he knew she was still in the breakroom.
"Griss?" she said in lieu of her usual greeting. He gave a wry smile at the tone of her voice. She thought he had changed his mind already.
"Sara, I forgot to show you a report Greg handed me while you were…preparing for court. Can you come to my office and take a look at it before you leave?"
"Yeah. I'll be right in."
And thirty seconds later, she was walking through his door. He sat behind the desk and watched as she approached and took a seat. She was lovely. And, soon, she'd be his. In spite of everything. The realization was almost overwhelming.
"Grissom? The report?" she said after a few seconds.
"Ah, yes," he rummaged through the pile of paperwork on his desk and gave her a random file. She opened it and started flipping through the papers while he got up and went to his door. He quickly turned the lock and made sure all the slats on the blinds were down.
"What am I looking for, Grissom?" she asked, turning to look at him. He chose that moment to turn off the overhead light, leaving them in a room lit only by his desk lamp. She stood up. "Grissom?"
He walked over to her, took the file from her hands and placed it on the desk.
"I think," he said "the reason I was so annoyed about the mistletoe was not because of the tradition itself or even you 'forcing' me into a situation that might be potentially uncomfortable…but because I felt you might be stealing my thunder. I was so proud of myself for making plans to make the first move this time and thought…well, hell, while I was still thinking about it, she went ahead and did it."
Sara stood there, wide-eyed as he put his hands on her shoulders and moved her about six inches to her right and four inches away from him. He then took another step toward her.
"Mistletoe is a fine tradition," he said, looking up at the ceiling.
"But, Grissom, there's no mistletoe up there. Just duct tape," Sara said, her expression open and hopeful.
"Ah, Sara. Do I need to process the duct tape to prove the presence of mistletoe DNA or can you just close your eyes and believe?" He put his hands on either side of her face and watched as she slowly closed her eyes and parted her lips slightly.
He moved forward and pressed his own lips against hers. They were soft and wonderful and tasted a bit…citrus-y. He moved his hands into her hair and drew her even closer. There…right at that moment…she stopped taking the soft kisses he was placing on her mouth and started giving them back, reaching her hands out and placing them tentatively on his waist. She pulled her face away from his for a moment.
"What if someone sees us?" She asked.
"Door is locked, no one can see a thing," he said, gently sucking on her lower lip.
"What if they break the door down?" she asked against his mouth.
"Then I will tell them we're participating in a time-honored tradition and I'll kiss everyone else who comes in the office and stands under this thing…even old Conrad himself, if I have to."
He finally got a small giggle out of her and she wrapped her arms tightly around his waist and put her head on his chest for a moment. Her hands ran up and down his back and nothing felt so good in a really long time.
"Do you feel it?" he whispered in her ear.
Another small giggle came from Sara. "Um, that's rather a loaded question, don't you think?"
He laughed himself and drew back a bit, his hands taking up their original position and his thumbs caressing her cheekbones. "I meant—do you feel our lives changing? Right this very minute?"
It was probably the single most romantic, original sentiment ever to emerge from his mouth, and he prayed she wouldn't laugh. It wasn't Shakespeare but he hoped she'd take it the way he intended.
She looked at him again, a slight sheen of tears in her eyes telling him she felt the moment as deeply as he did. "I feel it. New beginnings, right?"
He just nodded his head once and went in for another kiss.
This time, he tasted coffee-laced chocolate.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, as he and Sara kissed deeply and drank each other in for the very first time, he thought if a certain someone brought in any more mistletoe, he wouldn't throw it out. He'd take it with him and put some in his car for when he picked Sara up for their date. And then put some in every doorway of his apartment. And finally, he'd buy a big batch of the stuff and hang it from the headboard of his bed with a big old sloppy duct tape bow.
And instead of getting a decomp for her efforts, he just might send Sofia a thank you note that would confuse the hell out of her.
A/N: May you find a bit of romance in your stocking this year. Merry Christmas, everyone.