Gifts from a Wise Man

AN: Here is my entry for the CSIFO December 2011 Fan Fiction Challenge (csiforeveronline dot wetpaint dot com)

The story will have to do with Secret Santa at the lab. Here are the requirements:

1) Sara gets Grissom OR Grissom gets Sara.

2) Mistletoe must be involved in some way.

3) One character must say "Ho Ho Ho"

Saturday, December 20th, 2003

Small hands slapped Gil Grissom's away from the bow tie he was fiddling with.

/Stop it! If you keep messing with it, you'll have to retie it,/ Betty Grissom scolded before she straightened the deep red tie again. She gave a proud smile as she stepped back to gaze at her son who was decked out in a tuxedo for the LVPD Holiday Ball. A gold-shot black vest, deep red kerchief, and boutonniere made of mistletoe added a festive air to his otherwise all black ensemble.

A nervous smile curled his lips as the nightshift supervisor drew in a deep breath to try and calm his nerves. This is what you've planned and worked for since Thanksgiving, Grissom reminded himself gruffly. Tonight you will know — one way or the other. Slowly releasing the air from his lungs, his blue eyes focused on his mother's laughing gaze. /You are enjoying this far too much, Mom,/ he lovingly scolded before bussing a kiss against her cheek.

/I think I'm entitled to enjoy this,/ Betty retorted, making a face at him. /I was starting to think you'd never find anyone, not since you broke up with Julia–/

Grissom's hands moved sharply. /Don't go there, Mom!/ Closing his eyes for a moment, he sighed and continued in a gentler "tone." /I would have been settling for second best with Julia . . . and that wouldn't have been fair to either of us./ A wistful smile graced his face as his gaze went distant. /If I'm lucky enough to regain Sara's trust . . . to have a chance to show her what I feel . . . to not be too late . . ./

His stuttering hands were stilled as his mother gripped them in hers, and his gaze refocused on her brown eyes and knowing smile. /If it's really love, you can never be too late, Gilbert./ She gently patted his cheek before turning him toward the door. /Now you'd better get going – this is no night to be fashionably late!/

Grinning at her tease, Grissom shrugged into his overcoat, patting his pocket to ensure that the final Secret Santa gift was still safely in place. Then he wrapped his mother in a warm hug, kissed her forehead and strode out the door.

Thursday, November 27th, 2003

Betty quietly studied her brooding son as he sipped his after-dinner coffee. Something had been bothering him for several weeks now, but he'd managed to deflect her gentle inquiries up until now – mostly by avoiding being in any place truly private with her. Not that she hadn't enjoyed the various restaurants he'd taken her to for their customary weekly meals, but they had definitely not been conducive to the motherly grilling that she felt was going to be required to get at whatever was bothering her boy. But today was Thanksgiving, and she'd insisted on cooking for them. It was their first major holiday since she'd moved to Las Vegas, and she'd used that mercilessly to get him to acquiesce.

Setting his cup down, Grissom arched a sardonic eyebrow at his mother. /So when does the inquisition begin?/ His lips twitched in a small, knowing grin as he watched her attempt to look oblivious. /You've been trying to ask me "what's wrong" in various ways for weeks now, Mom. And the guilt trip you laid on me to have a home-made Thanksgiving dinner was a very well played touch./

With a huff, the elder Grissom gave up all attempts at pretense and settled for good humored bluntness. /Then tell me what has you so down in the dumps, Gilbert,/ she demanded. /You've been more depressed than you were before you decided to have the surgery to repair your hearing. So talk./

For a moment she thought he was going to refuse, noting the stubborn clench of his jaw and the tightness about his eyes. Then he exhaled, his shoulders drooping, and a deep sorrow shadowed his gaze.

/I made a big mistake with S – someone, and now I don't know how to fix it. It might be too late to fix it . . . and I think . . ./ he paused, gulping as he recalled a conversations from more than thirty years ago, /. . . she's the one that holds my heart . . . and I was too blind stubborn to see it./

All humor fled Betty's face. /Love can never be too late, Gilbert. Now tell me what happened between you and Sara, and let's see what we can do to fix it./ A soft smile graced her face as she saw his astonishment. /Gilbert, you have mentioned her before, and the look on your face is definitely not the same as when you talk about Catherine, or any other woman, for that matter. Plus you started to sign an "S" before changing it to "someone," m'dear,/ she teased gently, watching him blush at making such a mistake.

So, slowly and carefully, he told her all about Sara Sidle: how they had met five years before at a conference in San Francisco and her intelligence and spirit had captivated him; how he'd asked her to come to Vegas to help him when Holly Gribbs was shot; how the attraction had still been there, but he was now her boss and there were rules at the time that prohibited something more; how he had then doubted that she felt the same as he did as he watched her flirt with other men in the lab, on the team; how she'd nearly left the lab because she thought he didn't care, that he didn't pay attention to her; how Phillip Gerard had taunted him about her 'boyfriend' that he'd known nothing about; how he'd pulled away from her, from everyone as his hearing slowly failed, terrified of them knowing, not wanting their pity; how she'd been hurt in the lab explosion; and how, when he was having to reprimand her over her dangerous actions following that trauma, she'd asked him out – and he'd turned her down.

/Gilbert! Why on earth would you say no?/ Betty asked in astonishment, seeing beyond his terse words how much this woman had gotten under his skin and into his heart.

His hands flew in the ASL equivalent of shouting. /Because at the time I thought she was trying to turn the conversation away from what she'd done going after a suspect on her own? Because I was leaving to see Dr. Roth and confirm the surgery? Because I didn't know if the surgery was going to work, and I couldn't bear the thought of being a burden to her? Or maybe because I'm a blind idiot that didn't get my head out of the microscope to really see what was happening?/ At the end of his tirade he dropped his head into his hands.

Shaking her head in astonishment, Betty rubbed a gentle hand on her son's back until he raised his gaze back to her. /But the surgery worked, your hearing is better than ever . . . why haven't you said something to her since?/

Grissom sighed heavily. /I hurt her when I turned her down, Mom, badly, and the ease we used to have is missing, it's like it's just . . . gone. She still works with me, but it's as if there's a wall around her, and I can't get through it./ His hands scrubbed over his face for a moment before he continued. /And now there's this blasted promotion that both she and Nicky have put in for, and she's worried that I'll somehow hold whatever happened or didn't happen between us against her. And if that wasn't bad enough, I had to give a case that she and Nick had started to Catherine, because Cath had an edge with the suspect that we needed to exploit . . . but Sara saw it as my not trusting her. I can't seem to do anything right anymore, and I don't know how to undo the harm I've done without it looking like I'm being inappropriate./

Frowning in thought, Betty signed, /Somehow you need to get past the pain and hurt, but this needs more than words, more than actions. You said last time you sent a plant in apology, and that worked?/ She smiled at his tentative nod. /Christmas is coming up, Gilbert, so that gives you a little less than a month to come up with an appropriate gift, don't you think?/

/Christmas . . ./ His eyes widened as an idea began to take root. /We always do a Secret Santa exchange for Christmas . . . if I get Sara, I would have a whole week to try and show her that I know what to do now . . ./

/But, Gilbert, isn't the drawing random for the Secret Santa?/

An impish grin curled his lips. /Yes . . . but I prepare the slips for the drawing./ His eyes twinkled as hope grew in his heart.