DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything associated with the show… I just like playing with the characters in it from time to time. Dance Monkeys! Dance!
RATING: T for Teen
SPOILERS: Thru US Aired Episodes (sort of… no real spoilers in here, just wishful thinking)
PAIRINGS: N&Ms (Nick/Mandy)
WORD COUNT: 2762
SUMMARY: Nick is excited to head home a little early for Xmas this year. But he was even more excited about his travel companion.
A/N: This is my second favorite pairing on CSI, and I am always coming up with little ideas for them. I realized the other week that I had never written a Xmas Fic and so I tried to find something that would work. N&Ms had the most aggressive bunny, so here it goes. I hope you enjoy it.
REVIEWS: Reviews are the way I know if people are enjoying the work or not. So, if you leave one, THANKS! And if not, I hope you found at least a little something to brighten your day, and thanks for taking the time to read.
The whole drive home Nick grew more and more excited. Not only was it three days before Christmas, but he had the entire week off. Originally he was going to have to wait until Christmas Eve for his annual trek to Texas, but Riley stepped up and took the rest of his shifts. He was ready for a whole week away from the crime and grime of Las Vegas. But more than that, he was ready for a whole uninterrupted week with Mandy.
Since they began dating it had been necessary for them to keep their privates lives separate from their professional lives. After the furor following the revelation of Grissom and Sara's relationship, Nick and Mandy agreed to keep it that way. They made sure their days off were occasionally the same, and they treasured their time outside of the lab. So, when Nick saw the vacation schedule for December, he was beyond thrilled to learn they would both be off for Christmas.
Taking Mandy home with him was something Nick had been thinking about for a long time. It wasn't because of the traditional "meet the parents" moment. No, they had gotten that one out of the way from the get go. His parents paid him a surprise visit shortly after they moved in together, so that first meeting took care of all the awkwardness. But going home to Texas was something else entirely. Something big.
Walking in the door, Nick was surprised to find the air filled with loud music and the tell-tale smell of cookies. Both were signs Mandy was upset about something. With a shake of his head and a smile, Nick instantly knew she was nervous about their trip.
"Hey! Whatcha makin'?" Nick called out, trying to locate his anxious girlfriend.
Nick was about to open the oven to get a peek when he got the fright of his life. A hand reached out and pushed the door closed and a voice hollered, "Get out of there!"
"Damnit! Where'd you come from?" Nick tried to get his heart back down in his chest as he looked into the face of Mandy's little sister Angie.
"A fine hello to you, too. Now stay out of the oven. Those aren't for you." Angie left him in the kitchen and walked back into the dining room.
As he rounded the corner Nick found not only Angie, but Mandy and their older sister Annemarie. They were all dressed in pajama bottoms and ratty t-shirts. Nick was not unaccustomed to seeing the three women together; he just wasn't expecting to see them all this morning.
"What's going on?" Looking around, he saw that each was working on a separate task as they sat around the table. Mandy was chopping walnuts, while Angie was stacking cookies from the cooling rack inside the tins around her, and Annemarie was busy stirring ingredients in a large bowl.
"Looks an awful lot like baking to me. And we're fine, thank you. How're you?" Annemarie's flippant response sounded remarkably like Mandy, only with a slight rasp in her voice. Nick learned early on that smart ass was a genetic trait with the Webster girls.
"Okay, I can see you're baking…b-but why? Why now?" Nick expected to find Mandy packing a suitcase, not tossing walnuts into the bowl one of her sisters was stirring.
"Well, we always do our baking Christmas week. Have as long as I can remember." Mandy wiped her hands off on a towel and got up to answer the timer going off in the kitchen.
Calling back over her shoulder, Mandy reminded, "And only three layers, Ang. We don't want another tin of cookie mash this year."
Instead of waiting for her to return, Nick quickly followed Mandy into the kitchen and caught up to her as she removed the first cookie sheet from the oven. Before she could turn to get the other one, he put a hand over her arm to stop her. "Mandy, what's going on?"
Shaking her head, Mandy shrugged and answered, "I told you…we always do our baking this week. Hell, we've been at it since five this morning, because Annemarie has some school program for the kids tonight. So, they came over for dinner and spent the night."
"This is crazy!" Nick caught himself raising his voice and did his best to control his frustration, lest the sisters come into the kitchen to investigate. "Mandy, we've got to get on a plane in…" He checked his watch and calculated exactly how much time they had left. "…in seven hours. And apparently neither of us has packed yet."
"What are you talking about?" Mandy looked totally confused. "Your flight doesn't leave until Wednesday morning. And what's with this 'we' talk?"
"I changed our flight when Riley took the rest of my shifts, and I know I told you when the new reservation was. I printed it up and put it right here on the-…" Turning toward the refrigerator Nick expected to find their flight itinerary, but found nothing except a few random magnets. "I know I put it up here." He looked around and tried to figure out what happened. "I used that magnet with the picture of us at-… Where's the picture frame magnet?"
Mandy pulled the last cookie sheet out of the oven and squinted as she worked out in her head what happened. "Um, I picked that one up from the floor sometime last week. I think the magnet fell off the back of it. The picture's sitting on your desk. But you still haven't said what you meant by 'we'."
Shaking his head, Nick looked at her with disbelief. "When we talked about going home to Texas for Christmas, you said it sounded like fun. Didn't you understand?"
Mandy picked up the spatula and began to move the cookies from the sheets to a cooling rack as she absently spoke to him. "Understand what? You're the one who said you go home to Texas every year at Christmas, even if it has to be the day after, and that everyone is there so you can all celebrate as a family. Sounded like a lot of fun, and I certainly wasn't going to tell you to stay here with me."
"Why would I need to stay here if you were going with me?" Nick took the spatula from her hands and turned her by the arms to look him directly in the eye. "I bought tickets for both of us to go home to Texas. I wanted to take you home with me, so I could share the experience with you. I wasn't about to waste a whole week off together by going home alone." Pulling her in closer, he held her hands to his chest. "I'm not going anywhere without you, if I can help it."
It took another moment before the whole thing registered in her eyes, and when it did Nick watched as her bottom lip began to tremble, just a little. "Really?" He heard the catch in her voice, and smiled as he nodded his head. "I thought-…"
Nick couldn't believe his ears. "What? Did you really think I was going to leave you alone at Christmas?"
"I just…I guess I didn't think we were, you know, doing the family thing yet." She seemed so fragile in his eyes and Nick couldn't even imagine all the things that must have been going through her head.
He laughed at the humor of it all and then asked, "You mean…other than you talking to my mother every other week? Or your sisters bein' here every time I turn around? Or your brother borrowing my truck? Or the half dozen dinners with your folks? Or the phone calls back and forth with my sisters before my birthday?" He reached in and tucked a finger beneath her chin to make sure Mandy was paying attention before he finished. "Let's face it, Darlin'… We've already done the family thing. And they love you almost as much as I do." The blush of embarrassment and the flood of relief that filled her face was the reward for his honesty.
"Well…when you put it that way." Mandy cringed at her own ridiculousness and then fell into Nick's chest as she wrapped her arms around him. "Makes me look a little silly, huh?"
Nick settled her into his arms and held her close when he smirked, "Not nearly as much as those PJ's."
"Hey!" She swatted his backside before breaking down into a fit of the giggles.
"What? I didn't even mention the flour in your hair, or the batter on your nose. Which are kinda sexy, really." Mandy squeaked with his response and they held each other tightly as they stood in the kitchen.
Before they were ready to let the moment pass, Annemarie marched into the kitchen. "Okay, you two can stand there all day being cute and miss your flight, or…" They both turned to look at Mandy's older sister as she barreled past them. "Nick can help me clean up this mess while Angie and Mandy pack your bags."
Nick screwed up his face into a question mark and asked, "Well, I could go either way, because your sister is pretty danged cute." Mandy poked him in the side just as Annemarie tossed a towel into his face. "But I get the impression I've been out voted."
"Get used to it, Cowboy," Angie cracked as she took Mandy's hand and pulled her out through the kitchen door.
In no time at all, the rest of the cookies were taken care of and the kitchen was all cleaned up. When he turned around to ask Annemarie what was next, Angie was already there with their bags and rushing her big sister out the front door.
Looking down at his watch, Nick suddenly felt a very real sense of urgency. With under four hours left until their flight took off, they were seriously running short on time. And he still had to shower and get his carry-on packed properly.
Standing in line for final boarding, Nick finally felt comfortable that everything was going to be fine. In one hand he softly held Mandy's in his grasp, and in the other were their boarding passes. In just a few short minutes they were going to be in the air on the way to Dallas.
As he handed the passes to the gate attendant, Nick began to sweat. There was no turning back now.
It took several minutes before the rest of the passengers were safely seated in the back of the plane. And just his luck, the first class cabin was filled to the brim.
By the time the seat belt light was finally turned off after takeoff, Nick was fairly certain eternity could be shorter. Before he could do or say anything, Mandy was taking off her belt and about to get up.
"What are you doing?" Nick asked in a rush.
"Something I don't really want to broadcast…if that's okay with you?" She shook her head as she walked toward the lavatory, and Nick felt like a complete dork.
Holding the bridge of his nose in disgust, Nick must have had a pained expression on his face. The flight attendant stopped and asked, "Are you all right, sir? Can I get you something?"
Nick looked up into the concerned woman's face and tried to force a smile. "I don't suppose you have an anvil to drop on my head?" Seeing her confusion, he explained. "Sorry… My life feels like a cartoon right now, so I thought it might help."
She gave him a knowing smile and said, "Fresh out of anvils. The Roadrunner in the first row got the last one. How about something to drink? It might help you relax." She gestured in the direction Mandy had left. "A little champagne might help both of you, I think. Besides, it can't be all bad, if you've got each other."
And with those words of high-altitude wisdom, Nick was finally able to relax.
When Mandy sat back down beside him, she instantly noticed the change. "You seem a lot calmer now… You aren't hitting the liquor already, are you?"
"Nope." He smiled and threaded his fingers through hers, staring at their clasped hands resting on the divider between them. "But I'm hoping we might need a little champagne before it's all over." He turned just in time to see her crinkled up nose and laughed.
The rest of the flight was absolutely perfect.
The Stokes home was practically filled to the rafters with their grown children and their spouses, grandchildren, cousins, and random friends from across the great state of Texas. With sports blaring from the television, Christmas music playing on the stereo, children hollering from every corner and the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, any bystander would have thought the big day was already happening. But for Jillian Stokes, it just meant the kids were home. It had always been that way, even when her own children were still small, the house always teemed with life.
However, there was still something missing. Someone else might not have noticed, but the absence of her baby boy was always foremost in her mind.
Nick had long since made a life for himself out in Nevada. A life that only had time for one visit a year, at or near Christmas Day. His work was horribly important, and his schedule did not always permit his presence on the big day, but he always made the time to come home for at least a couple days. And this year was no different. The only thing different about this visit was that he wasn't coming alone.
She and Bill had already met the young woman, under less than ideal circumstances, but they instantly found an affection for her. Mandy was a bright, kind, compassionate, vivacious and naturally beautiful girl. She was everything they ever wanted for their youngest child. The only fault they could find in her was the simple fact she didn't live in Texas.
Bill and Jillian knew once Nick found a girl in Nevada there would never be a chance he would return to Texas. But they just couldn't fault her for that, because she seemed to make him so very happy. And when his sisters began talking about the young woman as well, Jillian knew she was there to stay. Nick had never introduced his sisters to any of his other girlfriends, and he certainly never trusted the girls to talk to any of them unsupervised. But this young woman was not only talking to the girls, she was collaborating with them on his last birthday.
When the kids began pounding their way to the front door, Jillian knew the time had finally arrived, even before the oldest of her grandchildren shouted throughout the house.
"PAPA'S BACK WITH UNCLE NICKY!"
Bill had gone to the airport to retrieve their prodigal son, and the children had been standing watch for his return for the last hour. She knew the Stokes Early Warning System would work better than any phone call, so she never bothered to have Bill call when they were on their way back to the house.
Her youngest daughter stepped in to stand beside her and nonchalantly said, "Oh, did you hear? Daddy's back with Nicky."
"Thank you, Teresa. I never would've known if you hadn't told me." She gave a wry grin with her answer.
Jillian put the last of the carrots she was cutting away and went to the sink to wash up. By the time she heard Nick's bellowing call to the whole house, she was wiping her hands off on the dish towel.
"MOM!!! Come on out here!"
Fighting her way through the throng of family members all rushing to get their first looks at the new girl, Jillian slowly made her presence known.
Nick smiled at her as she came into view, and she noticed a little of the devil shining in his eyes before he spoke. That look always worried her in the past, and it still did.
"Alright, I only wanna to do this once, and after that it's all on you." He turned to smile at the young woman beside him as he took her hand in his. "Everyone…this is Mandy." Jillian watched as something more than the devil entered his eyes when he looked at the blushing brunette at his side. "My fiancé."