by Sara Grissom
Archive: Please ask first I might say yes.
Disclaimer: They're not mine.
Summary: Mayhem on the open road. Sequel to Camping Trip.
Chapter 6 - DAY THREE--LUNCHTIME ON PLANET EARTH
The five of them each took their turn in the shower and got dressed, then they all pitched in to clean up the feather mess from the ripped pillow.
After much debate on where to hide the evidence, Grissom finally just shoved it into a dark corner under the bed.
By nine o'clock that morning, they had checked out of the Motel Six and were back inside Catherine's SUV.
They stopped for breakfast at a nondescript café in a very small town.
"Why is everyone staring at me?" Nick wanted to know as they finished their breakfast. "I mean, I am handsome and all... but it's more than just women looking at me here."
"Maybe the men think you're good-looking, too," Catherine offered with a wink.
Nick was mildly creeped out by that thought.
Warrick laughed. "Or maybe they're just not used to visitors."
"Or maybe it's that black eye of yours," Grissom suggested.
"Black eye?" Nick repeated. He looked to Sara to tell him the truth. "Do I really have a black eye already?"
Sara gave him a slight smile. "I wasn't going to say anything."
Nick miserably slouched in his seat, trying to hide the bruise behind his hand.
Feeling a moment of pity for her friend, Sara snuck a hand into Catherine's purse and opened the makeup bag, her fingers smartly locating a few particular items. "Come on, Nick. Let's cover up that black eye."
"How?" he asked curiously.
"Makeup," Sara answered simply, standing up and poking something into her pocket.
The others snickered.
"Aww, man!" Nick reluctantly followed her toward the restrooms, noticing a maintenance sign hanging off one of the doorknobs. "Great. The men's bathroom is closed for cleaning."
"Women's bathroom isn't."
Nick looked at the women's restroom door with disdain. "Aren't there any other options?"
"Well... we could do this at the table for the entire town to see," Sara replied. "Or you could just let people gape at your black eye all day."
Nick thought about it. "Women's bathroom," he finally mumbled, pushing the door open.
Sara made sure nobody else was in the restroom, then locked the outer door to keep everyone else out. She pulled Nick over to a sink where the light was brighter, and opened one of the tubes of makeup she had snatched from Catherine's bag.
At the first touch of the application wand, Nick jerked back. "Ow! Do you have to jab my eye like that?"
"I didn't jab your eye--I barely touched it! Now hold still."
Five minutes later, Nick stood before the mirror and admired his sore eye--the bruise now expertly hidden under a subtle layer of cosmetic concealer. "Hey, that looks pretty good. The color even matches my own skin."
"What can I say... I'm an artist," Sara responded with a grin. "And before you ask--no, this skill is not from first-hand experience."
"That's good to know," Nick answered sincerely. "But how did you learn it, then?"
Sara tossed an empty tube in the trash and wiped a few tan-colored drops off the sink with a paper towel. "My roommate in college had an abusive boyfriend. He was always leaving bruises on her face and arms and back. She was too scared to ever report him to the police, and she wouldn't let me report him either. So I helped her in a different way--by covering the bruises she couldn't reach that would attract unwanted attention."
"You did what you could," Nick softly answered. "Sometimes, that's all you can do."
Sara gave him an appreciative smile. "Thanks, Nicky." To lighten the sudden melancholy mood that had settled over them, Sara added impishly, "I bet I could make you look real pretty with Catherine's eye shadow and lipstick."
"What?!" Nick jumped away in horror, backing up against the far wall and quickly putting a few yards of distance between himself and Sara.
Sara laughed. "I'm just joking! Don't have a heart attack!"
"Don't scare me like that!" Nick hollered. "My sisters used to do that to me when I was a kid! Gina always held me down while Becky attacked me with her raunchy makeup kit!"
Sara stared at him, her eyes very wide in surprise. "What--you couldn't overpower two little girls whose weapons were makeup?"
"Little?! They were bigger than me!" Nick peeled himself off the dingy pink wall and tried to calm his pounding heart. "It was even worse when my brother Dave helped them terrorize me. They'd probably still be trying to do that to me if I hadn't moved to Vegas and left them behind."
With one more snicker, Sara unlocked the door and held it open for Nick to follow her out. They headed back to the table they had left the others sitting at.
Grissom gave Sara a smile as she sat down, his arm automatically sliding around her waist.
Warrick opened his mouth to tease Nick about wearing makeup, but he quickly decided against it when he saw Sara's warning glare.
Catherine ignored the glare and asked Nick not-so-innocently, "Want some mascara too?"
"Why don't you take your mascara and shove--"
"Ahem!" Warrick cut Nick off and ended the bickering by clearing his throat and addressing his other companions. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I kinda want to explore this sleepy town today."
"Yeah, I think I saw a retro-shop earlier when we rolled in," Sara answered. "I want to see what they've got."
"You need some pink platform shoes?" Grissom teased her with a playful smile.
Sara wrinkled her nose. "Uh... yuck. Even if I did wear platforms, pink is the very last color I'd choose."
"Actually, Sara, it might interest you to know that many guys prefer women who wear pink shoes," Catherine informed her. "In fact, way back when I was a stripper--"
"Uh, shopping sounds good," Nick hurriedly agreed with Sara, deliberately interrupting the rest of Catherine's sentence. "Let's go. Now."
They each tossed in a few dollars to pay for their food, then ignored the curious stares of everyone they passed on the way out.
The inside of Jasmine's Vintage Apparel was much more impressive than the outside. Beyond the front entrance, the store was divided into two large sections, with men's merchandise to the left of the doors, and women's merchandise to the right.
Both sections boasted more than mere clothing; small wooden signs advertised areas containing miscellany of seemingly endless variety.
Between the two sections was a half-circular counter, where a young sales clerk sat by the cash register, painting her fingernails while chatting on the phone and completely ignoring her newest customers.
Catherine shrugged a shoulder and turned to the right.
With a quick kiss and a "See ya", Sara left Grissom's side and followed Catherine to the feminine part of the shop.
Nick and Warrick gave Grissom sympathetic pats on the shoulder, then dragged him off to the men's section.
After picking through a few racks of peasant blouses and finding nothing to her liking, Catherine browsed a shelf of old romance novels.
The books were slightly used already, but their condition was acceptable and the prices were quite reasonable.
Catherine tucked a few books under her arm, pleased that she'd found something to replace the novel she'd been reading yesterday before it had gotten demolished in the car.
I should make Gil buy them for me, Catherine thought to herself. It's his fault my other book got ruined. Even if he does deny it.
Sara reached up to a shelf and picked up a plastic headband with two fuzzy brown balls on springs protruding from the top. "I used to have one of these as a kid," she reminisced, setting the antenna headband on her head and looking into a nearby mirror.
"Nice," Catherine said with a grin, standing next to her. On impulse, she picked up a similar yellow headband and attached it to her hair.
She studied her reflection, eventually wrinkling her nose. "Guess I'm too old to get away with wearing one," she concluded, setting the springy object back on the shelf.
"Not me," Sara replied a bit smugly, adjusting the headband into a more comfortable position. "Why don't you get one for Lindsey?" she suggested. "I bet she'd have fun with it."
"You're right," Catherine agreed. "She'd love it." She grabbed the yellow headband again, choosing to carry it this time rather than wear it.
Sara followed her further down the aisle, the fuzzy spring-set balls swaying happily atop her head.
Warrick picked up a colorful beanie hat and flicked the plastic red propeller on top. The propeller spun quite cheerfully in a circle until it lost its momentum and wound down to a standstill.
Warrick moved to put it back on the shelf, but changed his mind when he saw Nick standing in front of a mirror and trying on a hippie-version of a cowboy hat.
He plucked the cowboy hat off Nick's head and dropped the beanie in its place, flicking the propeller once more.
Nick raised an eyebrow at the offending object spinning above his hair. "Over my dead body."
Warrick laughed. "Go out in public wearing that, and you will be a dead body."
Nick gave him a pleasant but obviously fake smile, casually removed the bright beanie hat, and set it on Warrick's tasteful semi-afro. "Enjoy."
Warrick chuckled good-naturedly as he pulled off the silly little hat and smoothed the sides of his hair. "Know who this thing reminds me of?"
"So get it for him," Nick suggested. "He loves gifts, regardless of how tacky they are. He'll think you're his new best friend."
"Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of," Warrick answered mildly. It wouldn't hurt to bring him a souvenir, though. Poor guy was disappointed that he couldn't come along with us anyway. A little gift would cheer him up. "Ah, what the heck. It's not like it'll make him any wackier than he already is." With the beanie in hand, he sauntered over to the next aisle.
"Well, I think I've seen all I want to see here," Catherine told Sara after a while. "I'm gonna find out what the guys are up to."
"I'll be there in a minute," Sara answered distractedly, rifling through a short stack of bellbottom jeans.
Catherine rounded the corner and was immediately tripped over by Nick.
"Sorry, Cath. Didn't see you," Nick apologized, handing her the books she'd dropped on the floor. He poked a finger at the yellow headband in Catherine's hand. "Bug antennae?"
"Either that or alien antennae," Catherine answered in amusement. "It's for Lindsey." She pointed in the direction she'd come from, adding, "Sara found herself one. It actually looks kind of cute on her."
"Well, she doesn't look like an alien, so she must be a bug."
"And this bug is done over here," Sara told them both. "How about you guys?"
"I didn't find anything special," Nick replied. "Warrick and Grissom disappeared somewhere over there. Warrick's probably trying on more beanie hats."
Sara wrinkled her nose. "Beanie hats?"
"I'll go find them," Catherine volunteered, steering her feet toward the men's side of the store.
She was really looking for Warrick, but managed to find Grissom trying on a black leather jacket instead.
"Whoa," Catherine grinned. "Look at you!"
Grissom smoothed the front of the jacket. "What do you think?"
Catherine circled him with an appreciative expression. "Honestly, Gil... if you were my type... mmmmm."
Grissom mentally dismissed that little comment and tugged lightly at the collar. "You don't think it screams 'mid-life crisis'?"
Catherine raised an eyebrow. You're dating a younger woman, Gil. If that doesn't say 'mid-life crisis', I don't know what does. Out loud, she answered the opposite: "Nope. Not a bit. Why don't you buy it?"
"I don't know..." Grissom mumbled to himself. "What if Sara just laughs at me? She might think I look stupid..." He was about to take the jacket off when Nick called his name from behind.
"Hey Grissom--you got a specimen jar handy? I found a bug for you."
Grissom turned around, expecting to see an actual insect of some kind. But his eyes widened in surprise and amusement when he caught sight of Sara and her antennae headband.
"No jar in the world could capture a 'bug' so beautiful," he said with a loving smile, extending his hand to her. "I'll just have to keep a good hold on it."
Sara smiled back, linking her fingers with his. "Or simply give the 'bug' no reason to want to escape."
Sara fingered the collar of the leather jacket Grissom hadn't taken back off yet. "I like this. Are you going to buy it?"
"Do you think I should?" Grissom asked uncertainly.
Sara glanced at the price tag. "It's seventy-five bucks. That's actually a pretty good bargain." She looked him up and down with a smile, taking note of how the black leather nicely complemented the dark blue denim of his jeans. "If you like it, I think you should get it."
"Then I will," he decided firmly.
Sara gave him a kiss. "Good."
The group of four located Warrick, then moved to the cash register to pay for their things.
The girl behind the counter--Mandy! as her name tag cheerfully identified her--sent a very strange expression in Warrick's direction while she rang up the price of the beanie hat.
"It's for a friend," Warrick explained stiffly, not wanting even a complete stranger to think he would wear such a thing.
"Uh huh," she replied disbelievingly, poking the silly hat into a small shopping bag and handing it back to him along with the receipt.
She didn't bat an eyelash while charging Sara for the headband, though, as she was too preoccupied with giving flirty little glances to Nick, who stood off to the side.
Had they been in Vegas, Nick would have asked her out on the spot. But at the moment he wasn't even sure which of the fifty U.S. states they were currently in, and he sadly reminded himself that long-distance dating was probably not such a good idea.
Grissom put his new jacket in Catherine's vehicle for the time being, since it was really too warm outside to wear it for very long.
Catherine and Warrick left their purchases in the car, too.
Nick hadn't bought anything, so he didn't contribute to the small pile of 'souvenirs'.
Sara continued to wear her antennae headband, ignoring the funny looks Catherine kept giving her.
"Is anybody else feeling kinda hungry again?" Nick asked his companions.
"Already?" Sara asked in surprise. "You just ate breakfast an hour ago."
"Actually, it was two hours ago. We were in that store for a long time. It's almost twelve o'clock noon." As if to prove his point, Nick's stomach grumbled loudly.
"Now that you mention it, I'm a little hungry again, too," Grissom admitted.
Catherine shrugged. "I'm just thirsty."
"We also need to figure out where we are so we can plan accordingly," Warrick added. "We're starting to lose our time now."
Sara provided a solution. "Well... why don't you three find something to eat and drink at that little restaurant over there," she said to Grissom, Nick and Catherine. "And Warrick and I can find out exactly where we are."
Everyone agreed to that, and so the group split and headed in two separate directions.
"You know what I've noticed about this town?" Sara asked as she and Warrick strolled along the sidewalk looking for clues as to the official name of the town.
"There aren't any signs anywhere. Except for the store fronts and cafés, I mean. But I haven't seen one single piece of evidence to indicate that this town has a name."
"You're right," Warrick responded with furrowed eyebrows. "I didn't even really think about it before, but you know how usually when you enter a new town or state there are billboards advertising the area? Saying things like, 'Welcome to Utah', for instance?"
Sara nodded. "Yeah, I didn't see anything like that. Did you?"
"I haven't seen any place that might sell road maps, either," Sara added. "Not even a gas station."
"No gas station?" Warrick echoed. "I hope that vehicle of Catherine's has a big enough gas tank."
"Let's just ask somebody where we are."
"Yeah." Warrick looked around for someone nearby. "Uh, Sara? Where did everybody go?"
"Okay, what's the deal here?" Sara asked in confusion, also looking around. "First, there are no signs... now all the people in this town just disappear at noon?"
"Maybe we're in Brigadoon," Warrick suggested with a grin. "You know, that little village that appears in the mists once every hundred years?"
"I hardly think we're in the highlands of Scotland," Sara responded knowingly, having been quite familiar with that particular fairy-tale story. "Besides, towns don't just vanish into the fog like that in real life."
Warrick simply grinned at her. "You'll believe in Spontaneous Human Combustion, but not vanishing towns?"
Sara ignored him and visually scanned the area once more. "Oh, look--there's someone right there," she pointed out one rather elderly man shuffling toward them along the sidewalk.
"Good. You ask him." Warrick gave her a gentle push toward the man.
With a quick glare for Warrick, Sara stopped the elderly man. "Excuse me, sir? Could you be so kind as to tell us where we are?"
The old man squinted at them, then glanced around to look for anyone listening in. Satisfied that there were no eavesdroppers nearby, he motioned Warrick and Sara to come closer.
In a low voice, as if he was telling a secret, the elderly man whispered, "You're on planet Earth."
Warrick snickered loudly, giving Sara's bouncy headband a gentle nudge with his fingers.
Sara scoffed, her face coloring slightly as she elbowed Warrick. With forced politeness, she thanked the elderly man and quickly turned away.
As he followed her down the sidewalk, Warrick just couldn't help teasing her. "I wonder if Grissom knows that he's dating an alien."
"Oh, shut up."
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