Disclaimer: I don't own CSI (phooey!) Nor do I own any of the characters or such. I own my original characters and my plot. So, enjoy and Happy Holidays to everyone.
Riley's eyes focused on the dimly lit small Christmas tree that had been placed in the corner of her shared office by Langston, after saying something about although it's our workspace that there's nothing wrong with bringing a little homely touch to the place. Then again, the office had once been full to the ceiling with bugs and other creepy crawlies, so a Christmas tree was the most reasonable step up. To be honest, she really wasn't even looking at the tree, she was just getting in the mindset of forgetting the call she'd just received. Riley was just remembering bits and parts of the call.
'Can't get another for two nights.'
Riley's little mind trap was interrupted by a short rapping on the doorframe of the office. She moved her head sharply from the tree to the open door where she was greeted by her supervisor. Catherine stood with a smile on her face. "Shouldn't you get going? Isn't there someone waiting for you at the terminal?" she asked, oblivious to the phone call Riley just finished up moments before the strawberry blond headed woman had approached. Riley swallowed and shook her head slowly from side to side. She opened her mouth to clarify when she'd seen Catherine's eyebrow rise in what looked like confusion and curiosity.
"No. His flight was booked, he didn't get a ticket. Buffalo is getting ready to be hit with a hell of a snowstorm and everyone was eager to get the last flight out of there before Christmas. He can't get another flight for another two nights." She said, fiddling with the thin band of metal on her third finger, pressing the small rock into her thumb, wincing at the pain. She looked back up at Catherine, whose look changed from confusion to sympathy. She walked into the office and Riley could now see the three small bags she held in her hands. She placed them on Riley's desk and smiled at her now Level 3.
"I'm sorry, Riley. You know it's not his fault. He'd try anything to be home with you for the holidays. I mean, he turned down going home for Christmas." She said, sitting on the edge of Riley's desk, looking down on the blonde who had her bottom lip snagged under her teeth, silently nibbling on it.
"I know, and I encouraged him to go to the forensic meeting in Buffalo, because I knew it would look good for him if he ever wanted to move up. God, this entire thing is my fault. The kids are going to hate me." She shook her head, running a hand over her face. She jumped the slightest bit, feeling a hand on her shoulder and sighed, removing her hand and looking back at Catherine. She nodded towards the bags on her desk.
"They won't hate you. They don't even understand the concept of where he's at right now." Catherine was interrupted by her cell phone chirping at the alert of a new text message. She stared down the phone and scrolled through the text before standing up off of Riley's desk and putting her phone back. "My Mom and Lindsay are waiting. Oh, the plaid bag is from me and Lindsay, the striped one is from Nick and Mandy and the red one is from Hodges." Catherine explained each of the gift bags and even Riley had to crack a smile at the last one.
"Hodges?" Riley questioned, a small chuckle leaving her throat. Catherine smiled and cleared things up.
"Hodges and Wendy." Riley nodded, understanding more now that she'd heard the DNA technician's name. No way in hell would David Hodges willingly buy a present for any member of her family, well, more or less her husband. But, apparently in the season of Christmas everyone gave to everyone else...with a little coaxing from their almost, pretty much official girlfriend.
Catherine motioned for Riley to get up. "Go on and get out of here too, it's Christmas Eve. Go be with your kids and I'll see you next week." She said as Riley finally stood from her chair and shrugged on her jacket. Catherine embraced her in a motherly hug, figuring it was the least she could do considering that Riley's parents were on vacation away from St. Louis in Maui.
Riley smiled, grabbing her keys and the bags, remembering that she'd already given out the presents she'd bought, earlier that day. Looking around the office, she realized she'd had everything she needed for her long needed week long holiday break. Riley and Catherine said their goodbyes before departing their separate ways to celebrate Christmas with their own families.
Riley hadn't even had the door shut all the way to the house when she heard feet pitter-pattering towards her and two voices yell simultaneously, "Mommy!" Riley made sure to close the house's front door and place her things on the ground before she felt weights on her waist down. She smiled and wrapped her arms around the small hugging children.
"Hey sweetie." She kissed the little lanky dark blonde haired girl atop the head, followed by her older brother atop his head of light blonde hair. "Hi, kids." Before Riley could ask how the day of her six and three year olds went, they were both yelling at her, pulling at each of her hands, dragging her into the living room.
"Hi, Mrs. Sanders." The baby sitter, a girl from down the street that they'd known her parents for a while, named Ashlee smiled, as she was getting her shoes on and slinging her bag over her shoulder. "Nathan ate all of his carrots like you told him to-." Ashlee ruffled the little boy's hair emitting a giggle from him. "-and Isabelle picked up all of her toys that she'd left out from last night." She said, smiling towards the twins' mother.
Riley smiled towards the teenager. "Thanks, Ash. Oh, wait, I didn't pay you yet." Riley mentally slapped herself in the head as she jogged towards her discarded purse by the front door and snatched it off the ground, prepared to pay the sitter when she heard a soft laugh and looked up to see Ashlee shaking her head from side to side, pulling her jacket around her small frame.
"Don't sweat it. It's my Christmas present." She said, waving to the kids as they yelled bye to her. Riley smiled and led Ashlee out of the house and stood on the porch, waiting until the sixteen year old had made it safely into her own house down the street. Riley hadn't been all too sure on letting her walk home in the dark. Having the job Riley did, you never really know what kind of creeps are all around you. When she'd seen Ashlee walk into her house, Riley went back into hers, locking the front door and grabbing the bags off of the ground and walking into the living room where she'd seen her two children sitting in the middle of the floor, staring directly at the brightly lit tree that she, Greg and the kids had decorated not too long after they'd gotten back from San Gabriel, having Thanksgiving with his parents. Riley, still with the bags in hand, set the bags aside and sat in between her two children, smiling as they cuddled up to each of her sides.
"Mommy?" Isabelle looked from the tree up to her mother. Riley was running a hand through Nathan's messy hair, that no matter how they seemed to keep it trimmed, it would grow back within a few weeks. Riley looked down at the small girl, who's brown eyes were glossy with what Riley just realized were tears.
"Sweetie, what's wrong?" she asked. Nathan popped his head, looking over at his sister, knowing something was wrong. He stood up and walked to his sister's other side, hugging her empty side while their mother held her other side. Nathan looked confused, almost tilting his head like a puppy towards her.
He smiled, trying to cheer her up. "Belle, don't cry. Santa's gonna come soon and give us toys." He smiled, and Riley's eyes lit up seeing her husband's smile spread across their son's face as he attempted to bring the mood up.
"I don't want toys. I want Daddy." Riley sighed shakily. She knew that eventually one of the kids was going to start ask Riley when their daddy was coming home. She told them Christmas Eve, like everything had planned, but here three out of the four Sanders' sat by a tree on Christmas Eve, one still missing from the portrait. Nathan caught on and looked at his mother.
"Yeah, Momma. You said Daddy would be back the night Santa came. He's coming tonight and Daddy's not here." Nathan said, curiosity peaking his growing brain. Riley bit her lip and wanted so badly to tell her kids that Daddy would show up, but she knew that if she told them that, she'd be lying. At the same time, she didn't want to say 'Sorry, Daddy's not coming home until tomorrow. He'll miss out on everything.' So instead, looking around, Riley had already seen that Ashlee had helped them put a glass of milk and a couple of the cookies Riley had made with them on her day off, on a plate by the chimney. She stood up with Belle in her arms and held out a hand to Nathan.
"Come on, it's bedtime. I promise that Daddy will be here. But you guys have to go to sleep if you want Santa to come." She said, leading them up the stairs into their bedrooms. She's silently thanked Ashlee once again in her head that the kids were already in their pajamas and ready for slumber. She laid Belle down her bed, smiling to herself, realizing that the small girl had fallen asleep in her arms on the way upstairs. She tucked her in and kissed her forehead. Standing up, Riley walked to the other side of the room, seeing Nathan snuggle under the covers in his racecar bed. She listened as he talked under the covers.
"Dear Jesus. I know it's your birthday tomorrow but I want one thing for Christmas this year. I want Daddy to come home. That's all. Amen." And after he was done talking, Nathan stuck his head up from under the covers and smiled towards Riley. "Night, Mommy." He said, holding his arms out for her to hug him. Riley bent down and hugged her oldest child in her arms. "Good night, baby." She kissed his forehead and left the room, closing the door after making sure their nightlight was plugged in and turned on.
Quietly, Riley had made her way back to her and Greg's bedroom. She sighed, kicking her shoes off into the corner and peeling her clothes off from work. She didn't even want to risk taking a shower, fearing she may fall asleep and drown as she did so. She pulled her hair down and walked to the dresser, pulling out a pair of her flannel bottoms and an undershirt from Greg's drawer. She haphazardly threw herself onto the bed, instinctively grabbing Greg's pillow, inhaling his lingering scent on it. Coffee and mint. A normally strange combination to anyone else, but to Riley, it was the smell of normalcy in her life. The one thing that had stayed the same. She'd become a level 3 CSI now, gotten married, had two kids. While everything was changing, she could always look forward to lying down in bed and smelling the caffeine lingering on both her and Greg from their previous double or even triple shifts.
Riley had tried to will herself to get out of the bed, knowing that she had to stock the presents under the tree, but by the time she'd even finished the sentence in her head, her brain was fast asleep lost somewhere in her dreams.
"Mommy! Mommy!" Riley shot out of bed at the shouting voice of Nathan in her room. She was panting looking around the room, and then the panic hit her.
The presents. She fell asleep.
"Nathan, oh my gosh. Mommy is so sor-"Riley wasn't even able to finish her statement as the six year old used both of his hands to yank his mother to get her out of the bed to follow him.
"Come on, Mommy. It's Christmas!" he shouted, letting out happy giggles as Riley stumbled behind him, sleep still leaving her body as she awoke. Nathan led her downstairs and into the living room.
Riley didn't know whether it was a bad dream or if she was just tripping on some kind of asbestos that had leaked into the insulation but in front of her and under the tree lay all of the boxes that had been stashed in the closet. They piled up under and around the tree and then she heard Belle giggle and when Riley turned to the sound of the giggle, she gasped loudly, her hand over her mouth. She didn't know if she wanted to scream or laugh or cry.
Greg sat on the couch, his daughter on his lap as she pulled out little knick knacks from her stocking. His eyes moved towards Riley's and she could see that his chocolate eyes were clouding over with tears. He sat Belle down on the floor and made a beeline for his wife, wrapping her in his arms, lips covering hers. She pulled back, her hands on each of his cheeks. "What are you-"Greg interrupted her and smiled.
"Long story but I had been talking to this older man and when I told him I had a wife and kids at home waiting…he gave me his ticket. He had been waiting for the same flight and he had bought the last ticket. I asked him why and he said, because a man shouldn't be without family during the holidays. He'd only been wanting the flight to Vegas to 'gamble one last time before the man upstairs came for him' according to him." He said, his hands gripping Riley tightly. "I love you, Riley." He whispered in his ear, resting his forehead against hers.
She smiled and let out a smile. "I love you too. Oh, and thanks for saving my butt with the presents." She said, threading her fingers through his. Greg raised an eyebrow and pulled from her.
"What? What do you mean?" he asked, looking back and forth from the kids, to the tree and back to Riley.
"The presents. I fell asleep before I could bring them down here." She was sure to keep her voice down so the kids couldn't hear her. Greg's eyes widened and his mouth hang open.
"The presents were down here already. I just slept down here and woke up with Nate and Belle came running down." He said.
Riley thought for a second and smirked, looking down at Nathan, who had begun to rip open one of his boxes. She turned in Greg's arms, leaning her back against his chest. "Well, miracles do happen." She said, leaning her head against Greg's shoulder as the two parents watched their children open all of their gifts from Santa.
"Merry Christmas. Riley." Greg whispered in Riley's ear. She looked at him and winked towards him.
"Merry Christmas, Greg."
So, I was in the Christmas mood and this just came to me. Was it good? Bad? Vomit-worthy? Ha, I may do another part in Greg's point of view from the story or I might not. But all that matters is that I'm done and it's the holiday season. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and I hope everyone's safe and happy. Reviews are nice (: