4:11 pm, December 25:

As Catherine drifted into the world of consciousness, she cracked open her eyes and squinted at the unusual brightness in the room. She then became aware of the cool air in the room and snuggled further into the blankets, desperately wanting a little more sleep. Her eyes closed again, she rolled onto her right side, and slid her palm-to-palm hands between her cheek and the pillow. As something on her hand scratched her face, she tensed, and her eyes shot open. Something was on her finger that wasn't there yesterday. A ring. Hmm.

VVVVV

2:23 am, December 25:

"Big plans for Christmas?" Catherine asked Gil as she handed him a mug of coffee. They hadn't received any new cases yet--it seemed as though even the criminals were taking a break for the holiday, thankfully--so they sat in his office catching up on the backlog of paperwork. Again. In the wee hours of Christmas Day. Again.

"Not unless you know where I can find a special woman to spend the day with," he smirked over the rim of his mug.

They'd been flirting and dancing around each other for twenty years, even more so in recent weeks.

"I might know of one," Catherine grinned as she took off her glasses and slowly twirled them between her thumb and forefinger. "She's a pistol, though. Don't know if you can handle her." Her eyes danced as the corners of her mouth turned upward.

"I'll handle her just fine. I love a challenge."

Their banter was interrupted by a commotion in the hall. Catherine tossed her glasses on the open case file on the desk, and they both jumped from their chairs, practically running to see what was going on.

The sight--and sound--was something to behold. David Hodges was being helped through the halls of the crime lab by Greg and Nick. And he was singing horribly off-key.

"Man, I told you Grissom and Catherine would be here," Nick said to Greg when he saw their supervisors.

"Greg?" Grissom asked.

"Sorry about the Not-So-American Idol, but I can totally explain," Greg replied hastily. He paused a beat, Grissom and Catherine continuing to stare. He shifted uncomfortably under their scrutiny, losing his grip on Hodges' arm, the plastered lab rat pitching forward violently, Nick's vice-grip grasp on his other arm the only thing keeping him standing. "You know how almost everyone is working tonight? Well, we decided to have a little party, but somebody spiked the punch."

"And that explains Hodges'…rendition of 'Santa Baby?'" Catherine questioned, biting back a smile as Hodges sang even more obnoxiously.

"Sort of," Nick replied. "Bobby D. bet Wendy fifty bucks that she wouldn't sing to Hodges."

"And kiss him, too…Hodges," Greg added.

"Was Wendy drunk, too?" Catherine asked.

"Only slightly," Nick told them. "She was well aware of what she was doing, though. Said something about it being the easiest money she'd ever make," he grinned. "I think she's got a little crush on my man, here," he said, patting Hodges on the chest with is free hand.

"So, let me get this straight," Catherine said as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Wendy got fifty dollars to sing to and kiss Hodges, but he's the one who's three sheets to the wind?"

"Yep, and now his favorite song is 'Santa Baby,'" Nick finished. "Though I gotta admit that Wendy was pretty good."

"I'll say," Greg added.

"Too bad he won't even remember this later," Catherine chuckled, unable to maintain the stern demeanor any longer.

"We got pictures," Greg snickered as he turned to Nick. "Hey, do you think Archie got that on video? We could put it on YouTube."

"I love YouTube," Hodges slurred, taking a break from his song.

"I don't know. Let's get him situated, then we'll find out," Nick replied.

Grissom, who had said only one word during the conversation,--Greg's name, actually--spoke up. "Two things: you know I don't usually condone behavior like this in the lab or while on the clock." He paused, letting the uncomfortable silence of guilt settle over the three younger men, staring at them over the rim of his glasses, one eyebrow raised. "And the second thing," he began sternly before eventually breaking into a smile, "why weren't Catherine and I invited?"

Nick and Greg shared a glance, hoping that the other would have a reasonable excuse. Neither one did.

Hodges took the silence to mean that everyone had stopped what they were doing so they could listen to his self-proclaimed vocal abilities. He sang at the top of his lungs, slurring most of the words and adding in a few punctuating hiccups. Truth be told, it was worse than before. Vocal inabilities was more like it.

Grissom chucked and shook his head. "Get him out of here," he said to Nick and Greg.

They hurried past their supervisors--pulling Hodges along with them--not waiting for Grissom to change his mind.

Catherine glanced at Gil and smiled.

"What?" he asked.

"I'm really impressed with what you just did."

"Well, it is Christmas," he smirked. "Besides, we're getting in on that party."

VVVVV

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