"Is someone going to tell me what's going on?" Catherine laughed.
Blindfolded, impatient and intrigued, she was sitting in the back of Warrick's car, aware that they were travelling, but having no idea where they were going. Sara and Nick were sitting either side of her making sure she didn't remove the blindfold, and refusing to answer any of her questions.
"I did have plans for today, you know," she continued.
When silence was the only response she raised her hands to the blindfold. Instantly a hand wrapped round each of her wrists and her arms were lowered.
"Oh, so you are still here," she smirked.*****
Twenty minutes earlier...
"What are you two doing here?" Catherine asked as she walked out of her hotel room bathroom to find that Warrick and Nick had joined Sara in the room.
"Cath, you look beautiful," Warrick smiled.
Catherine frowned. "Thank you... What are you doing here? Is Lindsey okay?"
"Lindsey's fine. Everything's fine," Nick assured her. "We have a ... surprise for you."
"Yeah. A Christmas present," Warrick added.
Catherine looked from one man to the other suspiciously then said: "I don't really have time today... I'm a little busy."
"Tough!... Has to be done today," Nick stated categorically with a grin.
Catherine's eyes widened.
"What Nick means," Warrick cut it, "is that it won't work if we don't do it today. We can't give you a Christmas present after Christmas."
"But - "
"Grissom knows all about it. There's plenty of time... You don't have plans as early as you think you do," Warrick smirked.
"What?" Catherine asked, now totally confused.
Sara stood up from her seat on the end of the bed. "Cath, just trust us!... Now stand still while we blindfold you."
"Whoa!" Catherine protested, stepping away from them.
Warrick placed his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. "Would we do anything to hurt you?... I know you thought you knew what you were doing today, but there's been a slight change of plan - "
"Warrick - "
"It's nothing bad. Grissom has a present for you, and we are to take you to him. It was his request that you be blindfolded so it doesn't spoil the surprise. You gonna argue with the boss?" he smiled.
Still looking unsure Catherine gave in. "Okay. But if I don't like this, I'm never gonna trust any of you again!"
Warrick chuckled. "I'll take that risk."*****
Three weeks earlier...
Grissom stood at the head of the table in the break room. Warrick, Nick, Sara and Greg sat round the table, their attention focussed on their boss.
"So you all know what you have to do?" he finished.
All four other heads nodded.
"Right... So it's all sorted then." He sat down, smiling proudly, then gradually uncertainty clouded his smile. "Is it going to work?"
"Of course it will," Sara assured him.
"Why wouldn't it?" Greg asked confidently.
"What if she doesn't trust you?... If she won't go with you, then we've got a problem."
"She trusts us," Nick exclaimed. "Don't worry."
Grissom frowned. "I don't mean to imply that she doesn't trust you, but we need to be prepared for every eventuality... So, ask her to go with you, if she argues tell her its all my idea then she'll co-operate."
"You think very highly of yourself," Warrick smirked.
Grissom smiled. "With good reason, I believe."
The door to the break room opened and Catherine entered smiling brightly as usual. When she saw them all sitting there she frowned.
"Am I late?" she asked, glancing at her watch.
"No," Grissom replied smiling pleasantly.
"We were early," Sara added.
"Oh... Okay... You know, there are three weeks til Christmas but already there are more lights in my street than on the Strip," she commented sitting down. "So what were you talking about?"
"Christmas," they all answered simultaneously.
Catherine nodded slowly, eying them all suspiciously. "Anything in particular?"
"Two-thousand-and-three," Grissom replied.
A wide smile swept across Catherine's features and her eyes met Grissom's. "Ah! An excellent year."*****
One year and forty-nine weeks earlier (25th December 2003) ...
"Linds?" Catherine replied to her daughter with the same tone she had used. It was usual with children at Christmas that even though they had just received hundreds of presents, there was still something they wanted. Catherine felt confident that was what Lindsey was building up to.
"Can we go to New York for Christmas next year?"
But she had not expected that. "Erm... Maybe... Why?" she replied trying to recover from her shock.
"Because there's more chance of it snowing there," Lindsey pouted.
"And you'd like it to snow at Christmas?" Catherine asked, still confused as to where this had come from.
"Duh!" Lindsey replied in the now all too familiar pre-teen fashion.
"Oh... Sorry, I never realised you were bothered by the lack of snow."
"It doesn't bother me exactly," Lindsey explained, sitting on the edge of the coffee table to be opposite Catherine. "I love Christmas. It's just... well, it's always snowing in movies and it looks like so much fun, you know, building snowmen, having snowball fights... And it would give me a real chance to wear that hat and scarf that Grandma sent me when she obviously didn't realise I live in the middle of the desert!"
Catherine gave a slight laugh. "Okay. Let's go build a snowman."
"Mom! You're not taking this seriously!" Lindsey exclaimed standing up and folding her arms.
Catherine laughed again. "I am honey. If we leave now, in an hour or so we could be building snowmen, having snowball fights, skiing, snowboarding... whatever you like!"
"In Vegas?" Lindsey scowled.
"Mount Charleston... It's beautiful, Linds. You'll love it. If I'd realised you were so fond of snow, I'd have taken you sooner."
Lindsey's eyes widened. "Really?"
"And we can go?"
Catherine nodded. "Really... And perhaps our guests would like to go with us?"
"Really?" Lindsey screamed again, and at Catherine's nod, she looked round the room at the rest of the night shift, who all replied to the hopefulness in her face with affirmative nods.
"But you'll have to stop asking `Really?' and go get ready."
Lindsey squealed with excitement, threw her arms around her mother then ran from the room.
"And don't forget your hat and scarf!" Catherine called after her, laughing at how excited she was. She turned back to her guests. "Are you sure this is okay?"
The four younger members of the team assured her that they were looking forward to it then excused themselves to go and get warm clothes, arranging to meet later. When Grissom didn't leave Catherine could sense that he was going to pull out.
"You gonna be warm enough?" she joked, trying to cover the strange feeling of disappointment that had overwhelmed her.
He stood and stepped towards her. "I was thinking I probably shouldn't go."
Catherine forced a smile and nodded understandingly.
Unexpectedly, Grissom continued. "... Because I'm really good at snowball fights and I wouldn't want you all to feel inadequate," he smirked.
Catherine's eyes met his as she laughed. After a moment's silence, Grissom spoke again.
"In answer to your question... I always keep a warm coat in the car, so I'm sure I will be warm enough. So, if you like, I'll give you and Lindsey a ride."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course," he smiled.
"Okay. Thanks," she smiled back.
"Don't mention it."*****
Two and a half hours later...
Hiding behind a snow covered tree, Sara, Lindsey and Catherine were bombarding Nick and Warrick with snowballs. Grissom had excused himself fifteen minutes ago to use the nearby hotel's bathroom, and since then the male team's chances of winning had depleted, and were now slim to none. Noticing Grissom walking back towards them Catherine said that to even out numbers she would sit out the rest of the fight. She met Grissom before he reached the group.
"Thought you'd got lost," she smiled.
"I considered it," he shrugged.
Catherine raised an eyebrow. "So you admit you're not actually the Snowball King of Nevada?"
"I never claimed to be," he smirked.
Catherine rolled her eyes. "The typical Grissom logic," she smiled. "Are you having fun?"
Grissom's brow creased as he wondered what had prompted her question. "Of course I am... Why do you ask?"
Catherine shook her head. "No reason. I was just checking."
"Cath!" he warned moving his head to be in her line of vision where she had turned away.
"It's nothing... Just earlier - at home - I thought you were going to pull out... Didn't think snowball fights would be your thing."
"Well, I haven't had one for many years, but I'm not totally against them," he smiled. "I am a little cold, though," he admitted, causing Catherine to giggle. "...Particularly my hand," he continued.
"Well perhaps you should keep warm gloves in the car as well," she smirked.
"Or maybe I shouldn't have stood talking to you with a snowball in my hand," he laughed as he threw the snowball at her and ran.
Her eyes widened. "Why... you..." she shouted grabbing a handful of snow as she ran after him.
He felt several snowballs hit him on the back as he ran, then something much heavier hit him as he stooped to gather his own snow.
"Catherine!" he screamed, stumbling forwards then landing on his side with Catherine wrapped round his back laughing.
"That'll teach you!" she chuckled.
"Really?" he asked, throwing a fistful of snow over his shoulder at her.
"Ooh! Fighting talk, eh?" she giggled, pushing a snowball onto Grissom's nose.
"My God, that's cold!" he exclaimed cradling his nose. "Not to mention dangerous! You of all people should know - " He stopped when Catherine took advantage of his distraction and moved to be sitting on top of him.
"Lecturing me? Now? Really?" she said, mock seriously.
"Well, you - "
"If you don't shut up, I'll have to teach you a lesson!" she threatened.
"Sounds kinky," he smirked.
At that Catherine burst out laughing.
"What?" Grissom asked innocently.
Catherine shook her head, tears streaming down her face. "Nothing," she just managed to get through her laughter.
"Cath, you're crying laughing, I doubt it's nothing," he argued.
Catherine wiped her eyes and tried to explain. "It's... Well, you... When you said `kinky'... It sounded... weird," she chuckled.
"That's the only thing here that strikes you as weird?"
This was said seriously enough to stop her laughter. "Are you referring to the fact that I'm sitting on top of you?" she asked.
She suddenly felt nervous. Caught up in the moment, their current positioning had been natural. When reminded of their reality, however, the potential awkwardness glared at her. Yet still she didn't want to move.
"Do you want me to get up?" she offered.
"Do you want to get up?"
"I asked first."
"Yes I did!" she protested.
"No! `No' is my answer," he stated simply.
Catherine's nerves tripled. "Oh... You're full of surprises today, aren't you?" she laughed anxiously.
Grissom shrugged. "It's Christmas."
Catherine nodded solemnly. "But that doesn't change our situation - work."
"I know... Do you want to get up?"
Catherine looked into his eyes. "No," she laughed.
"Now what are you laughing at?" Grissom smiled.
"I feel like I'm in one of those cheesy, predictable Christmas movies Lindsey's been watching."
"So, now would be when we - predictably - kiss?" he asked.
"No... We'd probably be about to kiss, when we'd get interrupted," she explained leaning forward, her face getting closer and closer to his. "... It's too early in the story for us to actually kiss."
"It's a good thing we're not in one of those movies then, isn't it?" he said, pulling her to him to close the gap between their lips.*****
Two years later (25th December 2005) ...
"Mom!" Lindsey cried, running up to her still blindfolded mother and throwing her arms around her. "It's about time you got here!"
Catherine had been carried from the car into a building. She was not permitted to walk in case the material under foot revealed to her where she was. Finally Warrick had put her down in this room, where she could sense that there were many other people, but so far only one of them had spoken to her.
"Lindsey?... Okay, somebody tell me what's going on!" she demanded.
Lindsey giggled. "If you wanna know, just take the blindfold off."
"I've been trying to do that all the way here, but I was virtually pounced on each time," she said pointedly, directing it to where she sensed Nick and Sara were standing.
Lindsey smiled. "That was all part of the plan."
"So you're in on it too?"
"Of course," Lindsey replied sweetly. "But you can take the blindfold off now."
"Mom, you can take the blindfold off," Lindsey repeated.
"I'm not sure I want to," Catherine explained, her brow creased with worry.
Lindsey took her mum's hand in hers. "You'll love it. I promise," she said softly.
Catherine looked down towards her daughter and nodded confidently before reaching behind her head and undoing the blindfold. Initially the change in light level caused her to shield her eyes whilst they adjusted, but once her vision returned to normal, her breath caught as she took in the sight before her.
She was standing at the back of a large room with tall windows along both sides. Light curtains draped beside each window, tied back by silk ribbons, adorned with delicate white flowers. Four rows of chairs were assembled in the centre of the room, with a makeshift aisle down the middle. Matching flower arrangements edged the rows, and white petals lined the aisle, whilst the seats were filled with friends and family, all watching and smiling.
"Wh - How - ?" she stammered trying to take it all in.
"Do you like it?"
Grissom's voice behind her startled her and she turned round.
Catherine smiled widely. "Mount Charleston... How did you know?"
"A little bird told me you'd said it would be a lovely place to get married. After my initial anger that you had never mentioned it to me, I thought it would be better if you didn't know. I thought it would make a nice Christmas present," he smiled.
Catherine laughed a little as a tear rolled down her cheek.
"Hey! Don't cry," Grissom said, gently erasing the tear with his thumb. "Your make-up'll run."
Catherine laughed again, and more tears escaped. "How on Earth did you do this?" she asked, her amazement evident in her tone.
"With a little help from our friends," he grinned. "Actually, it was a state-wide conspiracy. Every single person involved in this wedding - except you, of course - was told that the venue would be different, but that you didn't know that... I revisited every florist, caterer, cake decorator that we'd hired and adapted all our arrangements to fit this venue... It was actually a lot of hard work!" he joked. "And I'm pretty exhausted, so if we could just get this ceremony part over with - " he laughed.
Catherine hit him playfully. "Thank you... It's the best Christmas present ever."
"Ah, but it's about to be outdone."
Catherine frowned, not following his train of thought.
"Because for your other present you get me. As your husband, for the rest of your life," he grinned proudly. "Now that's got to be better than this."
"I guess we'll have to see," Catherine joked. "I mean, Christmas presents are going to be a disappointment from now on. You've got a lot to live up to."
Grissom laughed with her. "Well, I'll enjoy trying... I love you."
"I love you too... Now get down that aisle and wait for me to make my entrance properly," she ordered patting him on the bum and sending him away from her.*****
Two minutes later...
Grissom watched as his bride walked towards him, her long cream gown beautifully decorating her figure. He could see tears still glistening in her eyes, and it made him happy to know he had made her that happy. As happy as she had made him when she agreed to be his wife.
As she stepped up beside him he turned to face her and looked into her eyes. This was it: the moment he had waited many years for; the year he got the only thing he'd ever wanted for Christmas.