Author's Note: Written for the theatrical_muse challenge, If you were left on a desert island, what three things would you take along?
It would have to be Nick who asked the question. "What?" he asks when the groans start. Sara throws a peanut at him, which he ducks with ease. He has that little boy lost look on his face, the one that melts half the female lab techs in a wave of maternal sympathy and makes the other half's panties wet.
The jury is still out on which camp Catherine falls into.
A familiar little smirk playing around the corners of his mouth gives the game away. Everyone sees it. Everyone's meant to see it. That's the point. Everyone's meant to see it, and meant to think that Nick's in on the joke, that he doesn't mind the teasing or the dissing. Good old Nick, the butt of every joke and put down.
Catherine wonders if she's the only one who sees the flash of hurt in his eyes when Grissom says, dryly, "Very original, Nick."
Maybe she imagined it because no one else seems to have picked up on it and they are all trained observers after all, even if tonight it seems that she's the only one doing the observing. The only one in any state to do any observing. She watches them all as they sink another round of breakfast beers and slowly unwind from the case that drove them here.
That's how this silly game started, and for once even Grissom is unwinding enough to participate. So far they've had Sara's 'what animal would you be' question, which, dumb as it was, earned no groans, probably because the rest of the team was so shocked at Sara actually participating; Warrick's slightly more cerebral 'what would you say was the defining moment in your life' question and now Nick's 'what three things would you take to a desert island' question.
So far no one's biting, and she makes the mistake of catching Nick's eye. He gives her a hopeful look and she sighs, and places her soda on the table. No beers for her, not when she has a perky child to pick up from the sitter's later today.
"What would I take to a desert island?" she repeats slowly. He nods and that grin spreads over his face as he ignores Warrick's groan next to him. She thinks there's a trading of elbows there, given the way that Warrick jumps, then frowns at Nick, who tries, unsuccessfully, not to grin harder.
For some reason the whole exchange makes her smile.
She considers the question for a moment, thinks of the things she couldn't live without. The first thing is easy. "I'd take Lindsey," she says. No way is she going anywhere without her baby.
Warrick frowns again, slightly disapproving. "You'd take your daughter to a desert island?"
It stings more than it should, probably because so far Warrick is the only one who hasn't seemed to judge her child rearing choices. Sara never approves of anything she does, although Sara knows nothing about children in general and child rearing in particular. She and Grissom are still at odds over her accepting Sam's cheque; he won't see she did it for Lindsey because she wants her daughter to have a better life than she did.
Nick... She knows Nick well enough now - knows enough about Nick now - to realise that his getting squirrelly whenever she mentioned leaving Lindsey with a sitter was less about her and her daughter than it was about his past. She no longer takes offence anymore when he gets that look - if anything, she feels a mixture of pity, grief and rage on his behalf - but she's not his parents and Lindsey isn't him. She's not going to make the same mistakes with Lindsey. No way in hell.
So, Nick she understands but she expected more from Warrick. That's probably why there's a brittle edge both in her voice and in her smile as she replies, "We're a team."
He's smart enough to back off then, refusing to hold her eyes and staring down into his drink instead. Survival instinct is a wonderful thing. For those that have it.
Nick apparently doesn't, because he ignores the sudden tension in the air to ask, "What else?"
She casts a quick, irritated look in his direction, only to find that his head is down too, with his drink getting all of his attention. At least until he slides his eyes sideways at her and gives her a quirky little smile, half apology and half something else. Maybe she was wrong about his instincts. They seem right on the ball.
The tension drains out of her. They're all on edge tonight, treading carefully around raw edges and trying to pretend they're not there. She shouldn't need Nick to remind her of that. Maybe she should just switch to beer.
She returns Nick's smile. "Um... desalination plant."
"Drinkable water." He nods seriously, although his eyes are now tracking the waitress who is heading in their direction. He really must be on the ball tonight, because in spite of the ratio of waitresses to customers he orders and gets another pitcher in very short order. She'd bet he could have the waitress's phone number too if he'd shown the slightest interest. She makes a mental note to check the napkin under his glass on the way out. It's been too damned long since he had a date.
"Okay, Cath. What's the final choice?" The question comes from Warrick, who's reaching for the ice-cold pitcher, the look on his face that of a man thinking too damned hard about being somewhere hot and thirsty. The last of any enmity she feels towards him fades as she watches him take a long swallow. She catches his eye over the edge of his glass, and he pulls it away long enough to give her a rueful smile.
"Let me guess," she quips. "Yours would be a six pack?"
"Six pack and someone to share it with," he shoots back, giving her that familiar little flirty look. There's not much heat in it, but it's been a long time since she's regretted that.
The last choice takes her some thought, choosing and discarding a dozen items along the way until she hits on a perfect idea. Assuming they let her get away with it. "A crate of those NASA meals - the dehydrated ones."
"That's cheating," Sara protests rather predictably, probably because she wishes she'd thought of it first.
"*One* crate," she smirks.
"Can we get a ruling here?" For once Sara doesn't sound pissed, even if she's taking this a little too seriously in Catherine's opinion, but it's Grissom she turns to, not Nick whose idea it was.
Grissom blinks at her and turns towards Nick, the move somehow so Grissom-like that she has to stifle a smile in case Sara takes it the wrong way. Of all of them, it seems that Sara's edges are the most raw and she feels that familiar mixture of irritation and sympathy at the other woman's attitude.
Nick shrugs and smiles, already most of the way into his third beer and nicely mellow. Nicely lounging against the table too, looking far too damned young to justify the thoughts running through her head.
Grissom turns back to Sara, gives her that little smile of his and echoes Nick's shrug and, for once, Sara keeps her seething mostly to herself, giving Nick a jaundiced look before an evil little smirk crosses her face.
Catherine perks up. Sara being evil is always a joy, as long as it's not aimed in her direction.
"Your turn, Nick."
That's it? For a second she's mildly disappointed, after hoping to be entertained, but the light of battle hasn't left Sara's eye yet and she foresees much teasing of Nick in his immediate future. She's sure Nick does too by the way he pauses, eyeing Sara warily over the rim of his glass, before taking another swallow of beer.
"That's easy," he says when he's finished, and is wiping the foam away from his top lip. "I'm taking Catherine."
The look Sara aims at her is deliberately comical, and she finds herself returning the other woman's grin, realising that maybe Nick isn't the only one who is going to be teased for the rest of the evening.
"Is that right?" she drawls as she meets Nick's amused eyes.
He raises his glass at her in a sloppy, mock salute. "Hey, you're a woman with a plan. Could do a lot worse than that."
She says nothing as she sips her drink and tries not to return Nick's smirk. He's not easy to resist when he turns the charm on like that and there are worse people to be stranded on a desert island with.
Hell, he can bring the six-pack.
Summary: Sitting back and shooting the breeze, CSI style.