by Alison Nixon
Spoilers: One reference to S2, one to S3
Archive: Except for www.grissomandsara.com, please ask first.
Disclaimer: The usual. None of the characters are mine. They belong to Anthony Zuiker, CBS, et al.
Feedback: Of course! Let me know what you think.
Author's Note: There's something about the thought of Thanksgiving and the Geeks that gave me the warm fuzzies, so I decided to write something. I intended to have to post this on Thanksgiving itself, but the time got away from me. So think of it as... well... I have no idea. <G> (P.S. The quote in the summary is from "The Game of Love" - Santana, featuring Michelle Branch.)
Summary: On the day of giving thanks, "it just takes a little bit of this, a little bit of that..."
It just sat there. Staring at her. Pasty-white. Bulbous. The epitome of scorn.
Did you think you could conquer me so easily? Greater women than you have sparred with the real thing and lost--did you imagine you'd fare better because I am made of humble soy? Not likely. I predict that there will be little to give thanks for in this house today.
I don't want to hear it, okay? I've got two hours before he gets here, and you will not ruin this for me.
Sara squeezed her eyes shut. Okay, okay, she thought, her mind going a mile a minute, just relax, you can think your way through this.
So what if this is the most tofu I've ever even contemplated cooking at one time? So what if I have to mold 6 pounds of it into a turkey shape like some culinary Rodin? Just remember. When in doubt, spice it and stuff it.
Freshly fortified by this whispered tip from some sweet old lady at 1-800-Butterball, she launched herself at the cabinets above her sink. There was little time for idle contemplation; like a contestant forced to clutch at dollars in a game show wind tunnel, she could focus on the frenzy of accumulation. That meant whatever her eye hit upon, she grabbed. Salt, pepper, ginger, rosemary, sage and thyme-the glass container of each hit the laminate countertop with a hard smack. Then she pursued the whole seed spices: coriander, celery seed, peppercorn, fenugreek. She knew she should stop soon; flavor pandemonium was imminent. But how could she when she still lacked that certain something, that one thing she hardly knew she was looking for even though it would make all the difference? Slightly crazed, she peered into the depths of the cabinet as her nails played a tense staccato against its wooden surface. Was that a bottle she spied, hidden way back in the corner? It was indeed. Sara's face lit up like a rocket. Hello, cumin, my new friend. So what if she had never used it before and had no idea what it smelled like? Mere details. What mattered was the sound of it. "Sara... I must admit that I'm impressed. Tell me, what is your secret?" A slow, lazy smile across the table at him..."Cumin." Her face burned as she imagined the look on his face. A woman with mysterious spice knowledge--what man could resist that?
After permitting herself the tiniest of womanly sighs, she brought herself back to the task at hand. Looking down at her stove, she could see the vegetable broth simmering along, wafting its tempting smells into the air. It had become a familiar sight in her kitchen over the past year. Almost anything meatless tasted better if she ladled enough broth on it, and she was a very good ladler. Trusting that the broth would at least act as a unifying element, she unscrewed the various bottles with lightning speed, afraid that any hesitation might make her lose her nerve. The whole enterprise was quite risky; there were spices here that she had never even used before. If she hadn't been so vulnerable that day about getting a life, she would never have let that chattering saleswoman talk her into buying so much. But given that she had been vulnerable, at least the saleswoman had known her wares: as predicted, despite having sat on her shelves for close to eight months, the glass containers had indeed kept the flavors remarkably fresh. That was something to be grateful for. So was the result of another successful sales pitch that was already sitting on her countertop--a mortar and pestle. As the saleslady had pointed out, a spice grinder can only handle whole seed spices, but a mortar and pestle can do it all. Smiling as she recalled the woman's unholy fervor about the distinction, Sara tossed in a little bit of everything and set to crushing and pounding with a gleeful hand.
When she was satisfied with the level of disintegration, she laid the pestle down on her cutting board and dipped her fingers into the white marble bowl. Soon, little clouds of spice and seeds began to fly through the air, hovering only briefly before they drifted down into the broth like gritty rain. She dispensed this treasure freely, unconcerned with proportions or measurements--her best cooking was done on the fly. Each time she improvised a dish, she tried to nag herself into writing things down. But the truth was she rarely did. Too much trouble... too much disruption to the mysterious alchemy of mood and inspiration. She wondered about it sometimes, though. Sometimes, during moments like these, when she was rubbing the grainy shards of some wild concoction between her fingers and savoring its rough texture, she did wonder if she might feel differently someday. Someday when she had a child who might want to keep track of her occasional magic and put it in a little box of learned things. That might be nice. That might be very nice. In the meantime though, she chided herself gently, what she was rubbing together really belonged to the broth. Laughing a little at these thoughts of her future family life, she shook her head and released another cloud.
A bit later, after the last of the mixture had been flung into the pan, Sara lifted her last-minute inspiration to her nose. She had saved the cumin for last, and she smiled as the light brown seeds tinkled against the marble, knowing that whatever it smelled like, the scent would never be quite as intense as it would when freshly crushed. The pestle struck the mortar once, twice. By the third blow, the scent was everywhere and she knew she had made the right choice. Intense, bright, it was a heady mixture hinting chaotically of nutmeg, curry, and coriander, and some other things she could not name. Basting was cumbersome work, but the cumin made it worth the trouble-it would give the broth just the right kick. And if she applied it well enough, brushed layer by brushed layer, all that heat might even crackle the surface like a crispy roast. A mock turkey with a gorgeously brown mock "skin." Yes indeed, things were definitely looking up. With a little luck, by the time she was done Grissom would barely be able to tell the difference.
Of course, she did realize that the odds of that happening would improve if she actually got on with things. There was still much to be done, including the stuffing, that central element not even a fake turkey can do without. Mindful of this, Sara surveyed her ingredients one last time and reached for her favorite chopping knife. Of course, the knife would have to get stuck halfway through a rather thick parsnip, and refuse to budge. At first she was tempted to fling the whole thing to floor, but her wiser self quickly prevailed. Given the ingredients involved--onions, parsnips, carrots, chestnuts, pine nuts, and cranberries--she didn't have time to hand-chop, anyway. And besides, she muttered, finally tugging the knife out of the parsnip with a grunt, a smart cook knows when to whip out the serious hardware. Serious enough that after only a few judicious punches of her index finger, the machine had properly chopped, diced or shredded everything.
The olive oil had already been poured and as its heat rose, she added each vegetable in turn. Soon the sage and thyme found their way into the pan as well, along with a little salt and pepper, some herb stuffing mix and a splash of toasted sesame oil. Sara swayed slight, stirring at regular intervals with gentle, almost meditative movements. As the minutes passed, the lighter vegetables began to turn translucent, and the denser ones began to soften. Her hand continued its rotations around the skillet, sifting and remixing, again and again. She thought of him, and wondered what he was thinking about right now. She hoped it wasn't about regrets.
He almost heard himself mumble her name into the pillow, just like he almost felt himself gather it more tightly in his arms. Lying there, flat on his stomach with his head turned to one side, the position best conducive to his happier dreams, he couldn't help but cradle its softness as a hedge against the fading edge of deep sleep. Its comforting bulk was in the exact position he wanted, wedged just right underneath his upper body... his nose was buried in its clean scent, his head dead center in its down... he almost heard his own contented sigh. Perfect, really... except for that nagging something. Something that said he should be up. Why, though? What reason could there be to leave this ideal rest?
He looked up from his desk, startled.
"It's 6am, Grissom. Do you know where your turkey is?" A low laugh.
He blinked at her, unsmiling. "I think I can spare one bird's life this year. With all this paperwork that I have to take home, I doubt I'll have time to bother."
Although she could have crossed into his office, she continued to lean against the doorframe with a smile that rose and fell like the tide.
"Well, I know I'll be sparing a bird. Hard to call yourself a vegetarian if you'll eat a turkey one day of the year, but you won't eat a cow on every other day of the year, huh?"
He nodded, shrugging.
She shoved a hand into her front pocket, and cast her eyes down at some indeterminate area of the floor. "I was going to just be lazy and have a turkey, so that it would feel like a real Thanksgiving, but then I decided not to. I mean, there are other ways to go about it, right? Plus, it'll be a new experience, a challenge... that's not a bad thing, I think."
He could tell from the look on her face that she expected him to say something, but what? Was he supposed to commiserate with her on the difficulty of preparing Thanksgiving for a man who didn't share her vegetarianism? She'd been seeing the guy long enough; surely he could handle her food preferences by now. He frowned and picked up his pen, hoping she would take the hint.
"I mean... I looked up some things on the web. There's something called a, what was it, a..."
"Tofurkey." The metal clip of the pen glinted slightly as he gestured with it. "About 5 or 6 pounds of soy tofu or seitan, which is really wheat gluten, molded into a turkey shape and stuffed with..." He caught himself before it could turn it into a real conversation. "With... whatever."
She didn't seem to notice the withdrawal. "Yeah, that," she smiled. "I'll probably pick up one of those on my way home. Or I could always make one myself. I've never had anything like that before, but I'm sure it's fine." His head was bent back down, but he could still feel her eyes on his face. "Lots of people eat them, right?"
"So... it has to be the real thing?"
He sighed. "Yes... No... I don't know, Sara. It hardly matters what I prefer, does it?" He tried to look past her. " But, if you must know... no, I don't suppose that I can't imagine a five-pound chunk of soy product tasting very good."
"But... that depends, doesn't it?"
He let his eyes be pulled back, and stared at her. "I doubt it. No matter how much you pretty something up, it is what it is."
"Maybe." Her mouth was set in teasing lines, but her eyes were...
"Do you want to find out?"
He dropped his gaze back to his desk, full of colored forms jammed with black boxes and lines, each making some blunt request for answers and explanations. His eyes closed as he breathed, suddenly tired. What was it that she expected?
"I would have thought you already had plans..."
"Grissom... if I did, would I be asking you?"
Still smiling, but with a little more tightness than before.
"Thank you, but... I'm sure you'd rather invite... someone else."
Her eyes narrowed reflexively, but not quite quickly enough to hide the hurt. "Oh yeah, right, I forgot." Her voice was like a sting. "I deserve to... have a guest, too. Thanks for reminding me. Guess I should go and... make a call." He barely caught the rest; she was already past his door. "Happy Thanksgiving."
The pen glinted again as he opened his mouth. She was staring at him again, her slimness angled towards the hallway, poised for flight.
"What shall I bring?"
He opened his eyes, slowly. Told her I'd be there at four. There, at four, with all the sides and fixings, to make up for having been a jerk about her invitation. Homemade sides. Homemade fixings. His eyes searched for the clock on the nightstand, fearing the worst. The plan was to lie down for only a moment; it had not been set. An hour--what the hell could he make between now and then? Damn.
Paradoxically perhaps, he considered grocery shopping a semi-relaxing activity. He liked to cook, after all, and with his hours, the stores were usually empty when he made his way up and down the aisles at 7am or so. But given that he was pretty sure he'd never had to venture into a market on a major holiday like this, who knew what madness awaited him? Well, I know now, he thought blackly as he scanned the parking lot. Here we go...
He started off at a brisk pace, going with the assumption that if he speed-walked his way to the gourmet specialty shop tucked in the far corner, he might not have time to really notice all the unfortunates rifling the shelves around him with panic-tinged eyes.
"What do you mean you only have Arnold herb stuffing left?"
The sturdy woman, her wispy hair half-fallen from a messy ponytail, was yelling at a prepubescent stock boy, a gangly sort who looked like he was going to cry.
"You people know that everyone uses Pepperidge Farm! What is wrong with you? Don't you know how to do inventory? I am not leaving here without what getting what I came for, so you better go look for it in the back right now."
"Isn't... isn't it a little late to be making stuffing, miss?"
The wave of red had already crept halfway up her neck. "Are you trying to tell me how to run my house now? Are you? 'Cause if you are--"
Grissom made his escape at a fast clip, nearly losing his balance in the process. His legs weren't built for speed on slippery surfaces, and aside from their usual slickness, he could see that there were several condiment spills greasing his way. Most were accidents, surely, but he guessed from the placement of a few items that the stock boy might have ducked just in time more than once.
You know, if they want people to calm down, they might want to start with that music. The entirely unnatural pitch of the Chipmunks' "Christmas Time Is Here" had been jabbing at his eardrums ever since he walked in. It's like listening to three cats screaming, and not even in tune. Yep, this will be fastest shopping trip of all time. He squinted at the signs, and finally saw it up ahead--The Gourmet Garage. Risking his stability once again, he picked up the pace, just managing to avoid stepping in some cranberries that suddenly tumbled out into his path. He turned instinctively to look. Down the aisle to his right, a little boy was wreaking havoc-he had ripped open a bag of cranberries and was currently stomping his way through most of what had hit the floor. Grissom watched him, fascinated by the utterly serious look on the child's face as he put each berry to death. He might have lingered there in spite of his hurry, but a slight vibration in the floor warned him of her approach. The same sturdy woman with the hair problem was stalking up the aisle towards the boy, her face now as red as her neck. The child's immediate destiny was fairly obvious. The fate of the poor stock boy, who was now being dragged along behind the woman by his knobby arm, was a mystery probably best left unsolved.
Grissom resumed course and soon found himself at the Garage, which was surprisingly quiet compared to the rest of the store. It was a fairly expensive place, full of the usual imported foods, fancy brands, and a variety of specialty dishes that were hand prepared on the premises. Expensive, but very good--whenever he didn't feel like making anything himself or going out to eat, this was usually where he ended up. He assumed Sara would like it, too, although it was hard to tell from the random things she ate while at the lab.
He made his way around the space, trying to see what had been prepared specifically for the holiday. As it turned out, the selection was deep and wide, and not entirely traditional. Given the temptation, the little rustic woven basket he had picked up near the Garage entrance (a step up from the anonymous plastic things used elsewhere in the store) was nearly filled in no time at all. Sweet potatoes made with Kentucky bourbon, curried autumn vegetable stew, cranberry chutney, baked fennel with Gorgonzola, caramelized Brussels sprouts with pistachios, rosemary mashed potatoes with yams, garlic and Parmesan. His smile faded a bit. Garlic... Working his tongue anxiously, lips parted, he lifted the container out of the basket. How much can it have anyway, he reassured himself finally, shoving it back inside. And what am I, some sixteen year old? Jesus.
He sighed slightly, taking a moment to switch the basket to his left hand. That was enough regular food; it was time to contemplate dessert. He had to give this place credit--there were probably more kinds of pie here than he had ever seen outside of a county fair. Just reading the various labels was dizzying work. Fortunately, he at least already had a pie category in mind. Pecan--the excellent alternative to pumpkin. He counted at least four varieties of pecan pie in the case, and he examined them all before settling on the Honey Crunch version. The thing practically glistened with bits of toffee crunch, even through the plastic wrap, which probably explained the advice on its label regarding the use of a microwave or oven to maximize the "Mmmm factor." The image of some bleary-eyed store clerk patiently typing the words "the Mmmm factor" into a set of labels and trying to decide how many M's to use, tempted him to laugh, but he wasn't sure he wanted to be the guy who talks to himself in the supermarket just yet.
Grissom had already turned toward the ice cream freezer when he noticed it, tucked into the corner of the dessert display. Pumpkin crème brulee, something he simply could not pass up. Crème brulee was a particular favorite of his, and something he had never been able to make successfully at home, at least not to his own rather improbable standards. That relegated it to a treat during dinners out, and he didn't do nearly enough of that anymore to have it as often as he might have liked. Now that he thought about it, he'd never seen crème brulee at this place before. A true reason for the giving of thanks, he quipped, smiling slightly. Two of the oval shaped dishes joined the rest. By now, adding ice cream to the pile seemed like overkill, but... it was tradition, he rationalized. What was Thanksgiving pie without some kind of topping? Ice cream or whipped cream, it had to be one of the two. Out of his hands, really, such obedience to social custom. Besides, Sara would be disappointed if he showed up without it. Or... something like that, anyway. Once again, the selection was daunting, but with pecan pie involved he figured that it was probably best to keep it simple. Only the vanilla found its way into his good graces.
He juggled the basket again, moving it back to his right hand. The thing was heavy and filled to the brim, a sight that made him wince. This is ridiculous. What am I trying to do, impress her with food? She'll probably think I stocked up on all this because I'm afraid of her cooking... Of course, he was afraid of her cooking, but there was no need to advertise that fact. He was on thin ice as it is after the way he'd handled her offer, the one he still could not quite understand. Was it an impulse, or had she been thinking about it for a while? He really had no idea; she wasn't always easy to read, although she probably thought she was, at least with him. She seemed so... intense... the whole time they had talked. Or argued, or sparred, or whatever word best described that exchange. Maybe that's what all the food is for, he thought, reviewing his cornucopia one last time. An apology. And the hunter brings in the spoils to excuse his absence from home... He smiled again, the usual bare lift of his lips, but this time he laughed too, just a little. After adjusting the weight of his spoils yet again, he turned and finally headed for the registers.
The combination of translucency and softness told her that the sauté was done, which meant that she really couldn't put it off any longer. The thing had to be dealt with. After taking a cleansing breath and doing a couple of quick neck rolls to loosen up, Sara lifted up the five-pound bag of flour which she had used to press out the excess water from the soy, peeled off the cheesecloth and shoved a finger into the bulky mass to gauge how much elbow grease would be required. The guidelines she had seen on the net had recommended using extra firm tofu, and her poke test confirmed what she had expected: this was going to be tough work. Lucky for her, she was a tough girl.
The first step was to separate the mound into two clumps, which she did easily enough. Then while first clump waited its turn on the cheesecloth, she proceeded to punch and pound the remaining soy left in the colander into a hollowed-out bowl that was about one-inch thick. The hollow was created for the stuffing, of course, and she happily fed the belly of her beast with it, pressing the fragrant mass lightly with the back of a spoon to pack it down well. Grabbed the leftover tofu, the piece that was to form the bottom of the turkey, she pressed it firmly down on top of the stuffing. Hey, that wasn't so bad, right?
The trouble began when she had to turn the colander over and lay the whole thing down on its bottom. Somehow, don't ask how, she just knew that the stuffing wasn't supposed to start spilling out of the turkey's gut like... well, like something she would rather not think about right now. She must not have pinched the edges of the top and bottom layers together well enough; the poor thing was bursting at the seams. Sara rushed to push the spillover back inside the cavity on one side, only to see it fall back out again from the other side. This evoked a stream of violent curses, but her fingers never stilled as she whirled around the bird like a fiend. Finally, after much poking and shoving and pinching, it held together. The satisfaction she felt was palpable--until she wiped her brow with the edge of her t-shirt and saw the huge grease stain. One of her favorite T-shirts, too. Crap. Gritting her teeth against the surge of irritation, she took a few deep breaths. Okay, no problem, no problem. It'll wash out, and I was going to take a shower before he got there anyway, right? Right.
Of course, while the grease might not have been a problem, the emergency repair work was. All of that urgent care had left the main body of the turkey looking like the art project of a mental patient. Deep finger indentations, fingerprints impressions, misshapen seams, gouging--the thing was a latter day Frankenstein. Despite the fact that she was practically breathing fire by this time, Sara dug deep. Very deep. For the next ten minutes, that lump of soy received the spa treatment of its inanimate life. She smoothed, she reshaped, she cupped, she caressed. She spread the love so well that by the time she stepped back to admire her handiwork, she had the large, smooth oval she needed. Relieved, Sara drew the back of her hand across her moist brow and drew back a slew of sweat. Good thing that there wasn't a mirror nearby-she might have scared herself.
Now, she thought grimly, here was where the artistry would come in-that extra pound of tofu she had set aside. There were wings and drumsticks in her future, which had to be both proportional and life like. The tofu argued mildly, but Sara quickly started rolling it between her palms, squeezing and pressing it with a vengeance. After a few minutes, when it seemed like the first drumstick was as pleasingly plump as it was going to get, she set to working on the second one, and then the two wings. In a flurry of hands and beads of sweat, she struggled to attach each one, using a little bit of the basting liquid as an adhesive here, and forcibly squishing things into place there. She worked quickly, not stopping until all four pieces were in place. Only at that moment, did she step back to take a good look.
Well, she supposed, it was... acceptable, something between outright disaster and total success. Bird-like, but not quite like any bird she had ever seen, at least not while was awake. Proportional, but not quite in any normal, non-drug induced sense of that term. Attractive, but less as edible food than as a piece of culinary performance art. Sara's Thanksgiving Surprise. Maybe she should have signed it somewhere. She could have, since she could be pretty sure Grissom wouldn't be eating it. She wasn't sure she would eat it, if it came down to that. The garbage can was fully removed from beneath her kitchen sink with its lid already pressed open by her foot, ready to receive all six pounds of the thing, when she stopped in mid-throw. Like the man said, "no matter how you pretty it up, it is what it is." My variation? It is what it is, appearances be damned. Sara lifted her chin and squared her shoulders. She put her creation back down on the cutting board, and pulled out her roasting pan.
The bird was in.
He was just getting ready to knock again when she swung the door open. After backing up a few steps, she stood in place facing him with her hand on the knob. Even from this distance, at least a few feet away, he could see the slight glow. Was the glow real, or merely imagined? Hard to tell amidst the range of distractions she presented, some familiar, some not. The distraction of the dress was certainly... unfamiliar. A bluish gray, thin-strapped affair, alternately tight and loose in just the right places, it left her wonderfully bare around the neck and shoulders, as well as down the length of her arms. Nothing too risqué, nothing too overt, but probably all the more dazzling because of it--just enough smooth, creamy skin to keep his eyes ranging over her in some determined catalog of each little inch that had never seen before.
He had to remind himself to actually say something.
"I come bearing gifts."
Her eyes drifted to the grocery bags he was carrying.
"That seems... suspiciously non-homemade to me, Grissom. I'm not sure I should even let you in here with that."
"Not homemade, but handpicked." He tried for an ingratiating smile. "I'm sorry, I know I said I'd cook, but... I overslept and... well, I ran out of time."
"You do realize that is just about the lamest excuse in life."
"Yes, I am." Her smile was absurdly sweet as she turned on her heel and began to walk away. "So are you coming in, or did you plan to eat in the hall?"
He found her again in the kitchen, where she was leaning against the countertop, reaching up into the cabinet. They could serve out of the plastic containers from the market, she supposed, rising on tiptoe to get a better angle on the highest shelf, but that was hardly the kind of Thanksgiving she had in mind. As she grasped at the cool ceramic edges of the various platters and bowls, she listened for the sound of footsteps. He did have bags; he would want to set them down on the countertop nearby. And yet, there were no such sounds of approach, although she could feel his presence behind her, somewhere. What's he doing? Memorizing my ass? She suppressed a laugh. I ought to wear dresses more often.
"Anytime you want to bring that stuff over here, feel free. I don't know about you, but I'm hungry."
She turned before he was ready, and caught the blueness of his eyes in the middle of what was probably not his first head to toe stare. He looked away, mortified, and set the bags to swaying gently as he angled his body towards the living room in an effort to recover.
"Its blooming season ends in late August... early September. When did the last one fall?"
"The very end of September, believe or not. I don't know why, but the last one hung in there for dear life. I'd come in every morning and check it, expecting to see the petals on the floor or on the sill, but it kept surprising me." She had turned in the direction of the orchid as she spoke, but now she pivoted back to him with a curious smile. "The leaves look good, though, and the roots... I think the next season is going to be even better."
He hadn't noticed the delicate trail of flowers that wound their way along either side of her dress until now. He never failed to notice her smiles.
" 'Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?' "
"Forget silver bells and cockle shells," she said dryly, crossing her arms. "Only with the patience of Job."
"Job was such a good man, though. Subjected to great trials, but always faithful."
"Job was a sap. He should have been railing against his fate, not letting God off the hook for torturing him."
Grissom crossed the distance between them as she spoke, and lifted the bags onto the counter with a quiet chuckle. He stood facing the counter; she stood with her back to it, elbows resting on its edge. It was a strange pose in which to have a conversation, but somehow, not strange at all.
"No Christian charity, Sara? To err is human, to forgive-"
"To forgive is to allow store-bought food to mingle with the turkey I so slavishly prepared."
"First, it's not a turkey," he corrected her with one eyebrow raised in reproof. "And second, where is your little experiment anyway? Did you at least use some meat-flavored marinade on it?"
"Of course not! This was supposed to be a truly vegetarian turkey, so no cheating allowed, remember? I used vegetable broth," she said proudly.
"So, what is this going to taste like?" He frowned. "A giant turnip?"
He laid one finger against his mouth as if deep in thought.
"A giant carrot? No, no, how about one huge kernel of corn?"
She opened her mouth to tell him where to stuff his wit, but decided to let her actions speak for her instead. Stepping around him briskly, she grabbed her oven mitts. Oven mitts with dancing dogs on them, which made for an interesting contrast with her dress. Grissom opened his mouth, but her glare silenced him before he could get started. Bending at the waist, she tried to see through the small square of clear glass set into her oven door. I hope nothing's fallen off-one of the wings was looking a little wobbly. She said a quick prayer, and reached inside. Her movements were slow and steady; the last thing she wanted was to jar something loose. When she had backed away from the appliance sufficiently, she straightened up with a triumphant grin. Her bird was still a bird.
Her brown eyes were wide as she watched him, absurdly anxious to see his reaction. He tilted his head first to one side and then the other, examining every inch of the thing with the intentness he usually reserved for evidence. Finally, inspection complete, he looked at her and nodded.
"I was mistaken, I apologize. A giant turnip, yes, but browned to perfection."
She would have stamped her foot, but she had her bird's limbs to worry about.
"You know, tofu feels awfully hard when its been baked and stuffed like this. Might knock you out cold."
His eyes were a little too sympathetic for her taste. "Why don't you just let me take that from you?" Dishtowel in hand, he approached and lifted the pan from her, quickly placing it on the stove.
"Goodness, there are legs and wings and everything. Did you, ah, sculpt this yourself?"
She stared him down. "Yes, I did. Life-like, isn't it?"
His next comment was lost in a well-timed cough and he took the opportunity to get them onto safer ground by gesturing at the bags. She wasn't fooled by the maneuver, but it wasn't as if she wanted to dwell on her tofu, either, so she went ahead and began digging through what he had brought. When it was all finally out on the counter, every last piece of it, she turned to him with her mouth open.
"I can't believe you brought all this food. How are we going to eat..." The words came slowly. She seemed taken aback, her face set into a frown.
"Is it too much? I mean, I know it is, but I was just trying to..." Confused, he contemplated what now seemed like a wasteful display of... whatever he had hoped to convey. "We don't have to open all of it... you might not even want this kind of thing, I shouldn't have..."
"I want it."
Somehow, she had maneuvered herself closer without his noticing. She gave him a soft nudge with her shoulder. He absorbed the touch, instantly regretting the two layers of clothing that kept him from feeling even that innocent contact with her bare skin. Burying the impulse as best he could, he worked to clear his eyes of its irrational traces by the time he looked up from her shoulder back to her face.
"It's great, Grissom. Thank you."
She made sure to coax a relieved smile to his lips before letting him look away again, and then proceeded to set out their meal.
"But I want to carve."
"It's my turkey, and if anybody's going to slice into its hide, it'll be me."
"Carving is the man's job-it's tradition"
"Given the low opinion you have of my bird, I can't imagine why you'd want to slice it. And screw tradition, anyway."
"Men, meat and knives, Sara. Don't question it." The challenge in her eyes was unnerving. "And yes, even mock meat..." He insisted. "Look, just hand it over, all right?"
This latest eye roll was even more pronounced than the one she had delivered a few weeks ago after their disastrous pre-court conversation, but since this one was leavened by an indulgent smile, Grissom figured she wasn't really annoyed.
"Thank you." He bowed slightly before turning to the turkey, shaking his head and starting to mumble. "Why does everything have to be such a struggle?"
The knife had made the first critical cut and he was bent over the table, lost in the mechanics of his work as he began to lift a generous slice of tofu and stuffing free of the bird. The ruby color of the cranberries stood out like a handful of jewels, and he studied them closely, anticipating how their color would translate into a taste on his tongue. He had spoken softly, under his breath, with more puzzlement than rancor; he didn't even think she had heard.
"Are you talking about the turkey, or me?"
When he raised his eyes past the rim of his glasses up to her face, the look she gave him made the slice begin to slip from its precarious position in mid-air.
"Ah... the turkey."
She held out her plate towards him to catch the carving before it slid completely from his grasp.
"Besides... I thought you liked it like that."
The tofu landed on her china with a fat plop that scattered the stuffing every which way. From her vantage point over his head, which he had abruptly lowered again, she could see the first hint of redness in the softly rolled edges of his ears. He had very cute ears.
He exhaled slowly without speaking, but as he drove the knife back into the body of the bird in search of a piece for his own plate, she could have sworn she heard a low laugh.
Sara lowered herself into her seat and reached for one of the sides.
"Do these mashed potatoes have garlic in them?"
He got the slice he had just finished carving onto his plate just in time, and landed in his seat more by luck than a clear sense of how to get to the place his mind had instructed him to go.
"No, not at all."
"Who's this singing with Santana?"
Sara swallowed hard to keep from the food from spurting out of her mouth. "You know Santana? I thought you stopped listening to new music after Pink Floyd broke up."
"Sara. Pink Floyd has never broken up; they just go on extended performance hiatus... from time to time. Like all truly great bands," Grissom noted calmly. "As for Santana, sorry to disappoint you, but he's been around a lot longer that you think. The guy's probably older than I am."
"Is it possible?"
He was somewhat mollified to see that she couldn't pull off false innocence nearly as well he could.
"Yes, you child, there are men older than me who walk the earth."
She leaned back against her chair with a sly smile. The curled ends of her hair swept rakishly along the top of her shoulders as she shrugged.
"If you say so."
When she had stopped laughing, he repeated his question.
"So... who's singing?"
"Michelle Branch. You probably haven't heard of her, but she's one of those young post- Britney Spears types." Sara looked at him doubtfully. "Okay, so that whole explanation probably went right by you. You kind of have to know who Britney Spears is to... get how Michele Branch is different and why a guy like Santana would want to work with one and not the other." She gave up, waving a hand. "Oh well."
"I know who Britney Spears is, Sara. She's kind of hard to avoid, unfortunately."
"This is true."
She weaved her torso ever so slightly, following the music's beat. "I like this song. I didn't at first, but it grew on me." She grinned. "I think it's the lyrics, and the fact that those high notes sound awfully good sung in the shower."
Grissom listened to the girl's pure voice soar.
"Yeah, I can imagine." She asked the question without asking, her smile growing wider. He sighed. "I meant... never mind." He listened again, trying to ignore Sara's study of him. "Is she singing about a candy store?"
She laughed. "That's my favorite part. She wants to know why he doesn't come around anymore... why she's been left 'crying outside the door of your candy store'... your candy store, your 'loving store.' She's got it bad." Her fingers twisted the fork in her hand back and forth. "Silly, I guess, but still... cute."
He watched she began to pick out a stray cranberry here and there, loading each one onto the gleaming tines.
"Why did it have to grow on you?"
She looked up, tapping her fork again the rim of her plate idly. "Well, I like her voice and everything, but the first few times I heard it, I kept thinking he should have asked this other young singer to do it. I think my head was full of her stuff at the time, you know?" The tapping continued. "Vanessa Carlton's just as good. Writes all her own songs, too. Usually, I'm not a big fan of teen artists, but she's pretty poetic for an 18 year old. She writes things I can relate to."
He looked skeptical. "Like what?"
"Like the idea of being ready to walk a thousand miles to... get where you're going." She speared another cranberry with a tiny clink of metal against china. "That kind of thing."
"The journey of a thousand miles?"
He said it with a whimsical air, but when she looked up from what was still on her plate, he was watching her.
"Funny how that saying doesn't give you any idea of how many steps it will take to... cover the distance," she said thoughtfully, looking away from him. "It mentions the first step, but everything depends on the physics of how you travel. It could take a thousand more to get to your destination..."
Grissom brought his napkin to his lips and wiped them slowly.
"Or it might take a thousand less."
"A thousand miles covered at once?" She shook her head, laughing faintly. "Not likely."
"Theoretical physics... isn't that your field?"
The soaring voice drifted between them again, lingering far longer than they expected. They looked at each other, measuring the distance with their eyes, trying to decide how best to travel. Grissom stood suddenly, his eyes still focused on hers.
"I'm pretty sure the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special is coming on in a few minutes. Why don't I... get the dessert ready, and bring it to you?"
She almost seemed to not have heard. Then, after a moment, she nodded.
She wandered over to her sofa and sank into it with a sigh. As he readied the pie and took out the ice cream, he turned his head to look at her. She was staring at her lap, running her hand over her leg rhythmically, as if she was trying to smooth some stubborn wrinkle out of the material. He smiled when he noticed that her other hand was playing with the remote to the television she still hadn't turned on. The microwave pinged; he pulled out the two slices of pecan-flavored ooze and dropped two generous scoops of ice cream on top of each. By the time he reached the sofa, the cold whiteness had begun to melt at the edges, giving into the insistent warmth of what lay underneath. He aimed himself well this time, body and mind heeding one another rather better than before. Perhaps that explained how they ended up pressed against each other from shoulder to elbow, from hip to thigh. He leaned his weight against her slightly; she leaned back, rocking slightly until their contours fitted comfortably. After some adroit work with her feet, she freed herself of her shoes and tucked her legs up onto the couch. As she took her dessert from his hand, she looked up at his face, which all of their positional give and take had now brought very close to her own.
She pulled her head back a little bit, her lips tingling from the sudden contact.
"I thought you said there wasn't any garlic in the potatoes."
He pursued her until her lips tingled again. "Happy Thanksgiving."
- The End -