"Here, hold this."

Gil took the proffered garland and held it above his head while Greg balanced somewhat precariously on the step ladder with a staple gun in one hand. In the back of his mind, Gil was trying to remember if he'd ever run across a crime scene with this kind of situation. He remembered a number that had involved staple guns, though most had been ruled as accidents. There had been the one with the Christmas tree but that had involved a hacksaw and twine.

"This isn't necessary, you know," Gil commented calmly. His words fell on deaf ears. He knew exactly the kind of response that comment was going to get. This was not the first time they'd had this argument recently.

Greg glared down at him briefly before turning back to the garland. He wielded the staple gun with more force that was strictly necessary. "Yes. It. Is." He punctuated each word with a click of the gun.

"Your parents will understand if the apartment isn't brimming with 'festive cheer'." That's what Greg had been calling it all weekend, while they forced themselves through crowded stores hunting for last-minute decorations and enough food to feed twice the number of people that were coming.

Originally they'd planned to spend this Christmas, their first as an official couple in the apartment they now shared, together with Greg's parents in San Francisco. It would be Gil's first time meeting them face-to-face, though he'd talked to them enough over the phone and through Greg that he had no worries about how they'd receive him.

Unfortunately those plans had fallen through and now Greg's family was coming to visit them in Las Vegas. Then they'd spent every free moment they had between work and sleep wrapping gifts and hanging decorations.

There was a tree in the corner of the living room, plastic thankfully. Gil didn't think he could deal with cleaning up pine needles, not after everything else they would have to take down in two weeks. The decorations on it were all Greg's work, and Gil had to admit Greg had done a spectacular job. There were white lights on the tree and tinsel. Plastic balls in silver and red hung at random intervals, scattered among the snowflakes and snowmen ornaments Greg had insisted they buy.

Greg had a certain flair for decorating that shone during Christmas. The apartment certainly looked a lot more festive after Greg's attention but the effort left Greg anything but cheerful.

"Of course they'll understand," Greg gritted out while he fought with an uncooperative section of garland. After a few tugs he got it untangled enough to hang properly. "They didn't want us to go to any trouble. They said we didn't need to worry, which is exactly why we have to."

No matter how much time he spent with Greg, Grissom didn't think he was ever going to fully understand his young lover. Each time he thought he understood Greg, a new quirk would pop up to surprise him.

That was probably one of the reasons they worked so well together. Greg was an eternal mystery to him, one that he was intent on solving.

Greg at least understood him and answered the question bubbling in Gil's head without him having to ask.

"It's not Christmas if there aren't decorations. If you'd seen my parents' house you would have understood. They always go all out this time of the year."

"I really wouldn't mind if you wanted to visit them. Termites have never bothered me."

Greg shook his head. "My parents would be mortified if you saw the house in that state. I don't think they even want me there if it's not decorated." A goofy smile crept across Greg's face and he relaxed for the first time that week. "It was great when I was a kid. My mom loved Christmas as much as I did, and we'd drive my dad nuts whenever we drug down all the decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Mom would make him set up the tree for us and put on the lights, and then me and mom would take turn hanging ornaments on the tree. Papa Olaf would come over sometimes and help us, or he'd sit in the kitchen telling my dad how incorrigible my mom had been when she was a kid."

"Sounds like fun." Gil couldn't help but smile whenever Greg looked like that, with wonder and happiness dancing in his eyes. "We'll make it up there next year."

"You bet we will. Now hand me the mistletoe."

Grissom handed up the sprig of green plastic. Greg stapled it to the center of the doorway, in the middle of loops of garland and bows.

Gil had been skeptical when Greg had started going after the doorways, but he had to admit the final results looked good. Maybe they'd decorate again next year, even if they were going out of town for Christmas itself. Greg seemed to really enjoy it, as much as he stressed over it, and it would be a little silly to buy all these decorations and only use them once.

"There." Greg climbed down off the ladder to survey his work. "Perfect." He beamed over at Gil. "Isn't it nice?"

"Lovely," Gil assured him.

"Now what?"

"A break," Gil insisted. He removed the staple gun from Greg's grasp, flicking the safety back on before setting it aside. With one hand on the small of Greg's back, he led the younger man into the kitchen.

Greg looked dubiously around the apartment, scanning for something else that needed done.

"You need to sit down for a few minutes," Gil ordered sternly. "You've been on your feet for the last three hours."



Greg sat at the kitchen table with a pout. Gil pulled a carton of eggnog out of the refrigerator and poured them each a glass before joining Greg at the table.

"What was your childhood like?" Greg asked suddenly, leaning forward at the table in interest. "Did you have anything special you liked to do? What're your favorite traditions?"

The question caught Gil slightly off-guard. He sipped his eggnog as he considered it. There wasn't anything that immediately came to mind.

"It was quiet, I guess," Gil answered slowly. "It was just my mom and I most of the time. We were more sedate about it than most people."

Greg frowned. "You didn't decorate?"

Gil's brows furrowed as he tried to remember. There were decorations, he knew. Nothing flashy like they sold in the stores nowadays, but he remembered helping his mom set out stuff.

"It was mostly old ornaments." The image of a ceramic church came to mind, it's windows 'stained' with tiny sprinkles of glass glued on. He'd made it in church when he was very young. His mother put it on the center of the mantle every year. "They blended in. I think we only had a single box of decorations."

"Do you have any of them still? We could put them out."

Gil tried to remember what had happened to the box. There had been so many boxes he'd had to sort through after his mother had died. He couldn't remember what had been in them, let alone where they had all gone.

"They're with my aunt," he answered after a few minutes. Aunt Clarice had asked for them specifically. "She has them all."

"You didn't keep anything?" Greg sounded confused.

Gil shrugged. "There wasn't anything that I had a particular attachment to. They went to good use with my aunt. Most of it was things from their childhood."

Greg frowned but didn't say anything. He reached across the table and took Gil's hand in his.

"How about the tree? Was there any way you liked it decorated?"

He shook his head. "Mom always did that. I think we just did the standard – lights and ornaments. Nothing fancy."

Greg's brow furrowed in that way that meant he wasn't going to let go of an idea. Gil found Greg's strange tenacity rather cute.

"Food." Greg seemed to have latched onto digging up Gil's childhood. "There has to be some kind of food she made at Christmas that you liked?"

Now that Greg mentioned it, he could remember one tradition they'd had. Trust Greg to remember something Gil had forgotten.

"Kimmelspritz," he answered with a smile. "She always made Kimmelspritz cookies."

"Cool." Greg was energized again. "What do we need?"

He'd never made them himself, but he could remember the distinct smell of them cooking. "I don't know. I don't have the recipe."

"What about your aunt?"

Gil smiled. "She would." He got up to search for his phonebook. He knew he had Clarice's number written somewhere. He'd called her within the last year.

"We're going to need a spritz press and some caraway seeds," Gil commented absently. He couldn't remember if the recipe differed from normal spritz or not.

Greg groaned. "The grocery store is going to be horrid. I hope you know you're expected to save me from the old biddies with their squeaky carts."

He found the phonebook in the back of his desk drawer and laughed. "Yes, Greg. They're not that bad."

"To you." Greg was smiling even as he tried in vain to sound indignant. "They don't like me. I swear one hit me with her purse when I was in Target Wednesday."

Gil arched an eyebrow.

Greg's efforts to hold in his laughter failed. "I may have been on the phone talking to Nick about ideas on gifts for his current girlfriend."

"And how lewd were you being?"

When they had first started dating, Gil had often wondered if Greg had any sense of public decency. After having gone out with him on numerous occasions, Gil could now say with certainty that Greg did not. He had no qualms about being open with their relationship, or public displays of affection, or even, as he was sure had happened at Target, in discussing more eclectic sexual practices over the phone in the middle of crowded stores.

It added a certain sense of amusement to their relationship.

"You could stay here and finish decorating while I get groceries," Gil offered.

The look Greg gave him was one of undying love and admiration. "My hero!"

Shaking his head, Gil dialed his aunt's phone number.