How much did I have to drink last night and how much of a fool did I make of myself in the process?
This thought pushed through the muddled painful throbbing in David Hodges’ head as he woke up to the feel of the sunset cutting through his bedroom blinds. Closing his eyes once again he took a quick self-inventory. Headache? Check. Queasy stomach? Check. Socks and boxers and nothing else on? Check. Vague feelings of apprehension mingled with . . . smugness? Okay, that was new, he decided. Generally hangovers didn’t come with a sense of self-satisfaction; at least his didn’t. He hadn’t actually been hung over since his wedding reception lo these twelve years past, and even then when he had a damn good reason to feel smug, he hadn’t. Waking up with Isabel had only left him feeling glad that someone a bit more sober than himself was around to order coffee from room service.
Hodges rolled to his side and thought about getting up. Checking the clock with a groan, he realized he had enough time to get ready for work or call in. The debate took only a few moments and he heaved himself up to a sitting position, wincing and wishing he didn’t feel this sense of panic.
he’d had a
little to drink at
His eyes flew open, his stomach gave an alarming lurch, and suddenly David Hodges remembered exactly why he was feeling smug. He shot to his feet and made his way gingerly to his bathroom, nearly yelping as he flicked on the light, which cut through his pained senses like a hot knife. Bracing his hands on either side of the sink, he forced himself to open his eyes, working through his squint to look at himself in the mirror.
Hair in sweaty flyaway shambles, face a lovely shade usually found on the belly of a dead fish, and his dark beard stubble working through it to give him that terrific prison con look popular with winos and child molesters everywhere. Hodges groaned a little.
“So it’s either shave and risk cutting my throat, or perhaps starting the grunge Forensics look, which will go over SO well with Grissom.” He commiserated with his reflection. Then he looked again, and saw it. Unbelievingly, he tipped his head to the right, making it throb anew as he noted the unmistakable mauve tint of a serious hickey.
*** *** ***
How much did I have to drink last night and how much of a fool did I make of myself in the process?
Mia Dickerson lifted her head from the pillow and groaned; wishing the dampness under her cheek was only sweat and not drool. She blinked muzzily, trying to put her bedroom in focus and not succeeding too well. One hand slid to the side of her face, which stung a little, and even that slow gesture seemed to take forever. She noted with interest that she HAD managed to hang her dress up, but she herself was now tangled in her slip and had on only one fuzzy slipper because the other one was across the room.
Her eyes flew open wide, and Mia burped as she suddenly remembered. David Hodges. The bottle of Krug, and David losing his damned superior act with every glass, making her laugh, laughing himself. Oh God—
Mia rolled back across the mattress, reaching blindly for the wastepaper basket next to the nightstand, and for a long noisy minute, she temporarily stopped thinking about anything but letting her outraged stomach empty itself. Once done, she clung to the rim, breathing hard and feeling the wave of despair roll through her.
Getting trashed at a retirement party wasn’t bad in itself. Everyone had been drinking, most of them in their familiar little cliques around the tables. She doubted anyone had been paying attention to her indulgences except her partner in crime. At least—she hoped not. Rising unsteadily, Mia carried the wastepaper basket to the toilet and emptied it, then filled it with hot water from the shower and poured that into the toilet too. As she sprayed a heavy layer of Lysol inside the plastic trashcan, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the bathroom mirror and stopped.
She looked utterly rumpled, with smeared makeup and tangles that would take serious work with a pick if she were going to make into the lab tonight. And something else—
Rubbing her jaw line, she saw that the soreness there was a rash of whisker burn, extending almost to her ear.
*** *** ***
The lab was a busy hive of activity tonight; several shootings, a high-speed chase ending in fatalities, and two mysterious deaths at an ice cream parlor. One--the chase--had overlapped into the night shift, and evidence was coming in twice as fast as it could be processed. This made the CSIs on duty grumpy, but for at least two of the lab technicians, it was a godsend. Work meant no time to brood, or worry or think about anything but what was under the microscope or spinning in the centrifuge.
At least that was the theory.
Hodges chafed a little, wishing he could loosen his tie and knowing full well he couldn’t. It irked him to resort to something so uncomfortable to hide the little nip on his skin. Part of him wanted to flaunt it, childish as that might seem. He wasn’t Sanders after all, taking pride in flashing the evidence of a PDA like a merit badge in Making Out—but seeing it, knowing Mia Dickerson’s beautiful hibiscus bloom of a mouth had put it there made him slightly crazy. Tenser than usual.
It was coming back to him now in odd moments, disjointed memories of the night before. Seeing Mia in her frosted peach satin dress, the way it clung to her long body as she strode into the banquet room. Switching the place cards to sit near her instead of being sandwiched between Franco and that new guy from QD.
He looked up, a small smile crossing his face as he snapped his gloves off and tossed them in the nearest waste can. She’d liked his tux. Well, obviously she’d liked a lot more than just his tux—
“Hey Hodges, can I get the results of the Cory case sometime TONIGHT?” Nick Stokes demanded, breaking into his reverie. Looking over with annoyance, Hodges shot what was supposed to be a quelling glare at Nick.
“Yes you can. Whether you WILL is a different question altogether. You may not have noticed it, being in your own little ego-driven Hardy Boys mode there, but the entire lab is a wee bit backed up tonight.”
“Hardy Boys, huh?” Nick rolled his eyes. “Great. I’ll be Joe and—“
“—Let me be
Frank, oh snicker chortle, heeheehee.
Here, take your fiber. It’s a long double strand polyfill most
in stuffed animals of the cheaper
“Okay, gotcha—hey, what’s with the tie? Didn’t you get enough of playing dress-up last night?” Nick muttered, scanning the sheet that Hodges handed to him. He didn’t catch the other man’s sudden twitch.
“Worry less about my neckwear and more about your case, okay? I’ve got work to do here.”
Nick loped out slowly; he turned and shot him a meaningful look. “Yeah, whatever man. All I know is you’re not fooling anybody, Hodges.”
A little unnerved by this last remark, Hodges risked looking through the layers of glass over to the DNA lab at the exact same moment that Mia Dickerson was looking from her side at him.
*** *** ***
She worked. The job wasn’t always easy, and for that she was grateful, putting her concentration in getting things as perfect as possible. It almost helped to have chaos around her; the cocoon of familiar sounds and voices kept Mia focused on the pipettes, the slides, the machinery.
His eyes. God, it was the first time she’d ever really seen how expressive they were, taking in everything with sharp clarity. He looked good in a tux, too—the man had a set of shoulders, and when he wasn’t slouching, he could carry off a sort of elegance.
Yeah that was whole
‘nother side of David Hodges right
there. Sly. Funny. Damn it, attractive. They’d been stuck at the
near the kitchen doors, back in the peon seating section, and yet in
semidarkness he’d jacked the one hundred and fifty dollar bottle
of Krug that
was MEANT to go to
The good stuff.
And it WAS good. Not that she was any connoisseur of champagne but still—rich, tart and tingly, she could still remember the flavor on her tongue. Liquid gold, and a taste she wasn’t going to afford again any time soon.
Mia tipped her head a little, praying that the concealer and foundation were doing their job. The lighting in the lab wasn’t the best anyway, but she was still a bit nervous about anyone noticing or commenting, either on her face or her behavior last night, because if there was one thing Mia knew about herself it was that she wasn’t a particularly quiet drinker.
She fiddled a moment longer with the swab, dipping it carefully in the test tube, and looked up through the glass windows to see Hodges looking at her.
She dropped the test tube.
With an oath, Mia bent down under the table, trying to gather up the pieces and not slice open her fingertips through the latex. Seeing him like that unnerved her, even though she’d been working up the courage to nonchalantly glance his way. She was nearly done when she heard footsteps and the sound of her chair being moved out of the way. Another pair of knees, and hands and there he was.
“Hi.” Hodges could feel his face growing a little red. The space under the table was cramped, and dark.
“Uh, hi. Watch your fingers.”
“I think you’ve said that to me before,” he muttered, looking as if he couldn’t believe the words had escaped him. Mia thought for a second.
“No, that was watch your hands.”
“Which I couldn’t do, since they were out of my line of sight--”
“—And on my butt. Oh God.” Mia groaned, closing her eyes and fighting a whimper. “I don’t believe this. You actually had your hands on my BUTT, David!”
“It was conveniently located, right within reach, Mia—and considering where your MOUTH was, I don’t think you’re the only one feeling a little debased tonight.” He snarled, tugging on his tie and shifting his collar. Mia peered at his pale throat in the dark.
“Isn’t that a—?”
“—Mais oui, une sucon ala Dickerson, merci. Talk about taking a DNA sample—“
“Hey, you left your legacy on me too, you know!” she shot back, angling her jaw at him. He leaned closer in the darkness to get a better look at what the hell she was trying to show, and dropped his hand right on a shard of glass.
“Ow!” His yelp reverberated. Mia jumped, conking her head on the table.
With alacrity they clambered out from under the table, Mia rubbing her head and Hodges holding his bleeding palm, only to find Greg, Warrick and Sara standing in the DNA lab, looking at them with expressions ranging from broad amusement to intense curiosity.
“Lose a contact?” Sara asked lightly. Warrick shook his head knowingly.
“I’d say they were making one.”
Mia scrambled up, a protest on her lips as Greg chuckled, slouching against the doorframe.
“These two? Not hardly.”
“What do you mean
not hardly?” Hodges snapped rising
from his hands and knees. “That’s rich, coming from the man
whose idea of
romantic evening consists of a front row seat at the
Greg went red; Sara and Warrick snickered heartlessly. Mia took the opportunity to peel off her latex gloves and reach for the tiny dustbuster clamped on the wall near the biohazard box. Sara took it from her and motioned to Hodges.
“He’s um, contaminating your work station—“
Ungraciously, Mia grabbed his wrist and towed him out, leaving all three CSIs hiding their grins. Hodges permitted her to tug him three steps before pulling his arm away and glaring at her. The first aid alcove was just around the bend of the hallway and he ducked into it, flicking the faucet on over the stainless steel sink.
“Thanks so much nurse Diesel, but I can take it from here—“ he told her gruffly. Mia pursed her beautiful mouth and shook her head.
“No you can’t. That glass particulate is nearly impossible to tweeze on your own, David; we both know that. Hold still and I’ll do it for you.” She murmured, fishing in the cabinet on the wall for new gloves and a pair of surgical grade tweezers. He wanted to protest, but knew she was right, so he held still and let her tend to the bloody gash on his palm.
Fortunately it wasn’t deep, and whatever pain he felt was fairly minor. He watched her intently, noticing a faint pinkness along her jaw.
“What happened to your cheek?”
“That is whisker burn. Comes from close grinding contact with a man’s stubble.”
“Ah.” He felt his blush rise, hot and deep, rolling across his face. Mia’s touch was gentle, one long hand cradling his as the other probed for the glass shard. “Sorry. Five o’clock shadow runs in my family.”
“Strain of lycanthropy?” but she smiled as she asked it, tugging a tiny particle from his palm. He dropped his gaze to his hand and swallowed hard.
“Possibly. Listen Mia. I’m sorry. Whatever happened last night—“
“—Was pretty lively.” She finished, flashing a grin up at him. “I found my purse full of napkins with some really raunchy limericks on them. And drawings.”
“Oh God. I drew—“ Hodges stammered, blinking a little. Mia nodded.
“Ohhh yeah. I’m impressed. The one with the Shetland pony and the two roller skaters is almost worth framing.”
“Tell me I didn’t do the one with the pole vaulter and the—“
“--Yep, that too. Although I’m convinced that paper napkin and ball point isn’t really your medium,” she replied, padding his palm with gauze and taping it up. Hodges stood stock still, feeling the heat searing through his face, wishing desperately he had some sort of retort to that, but drawing a complete blank when he stared into Mia Dickerson’s soft brown eyes.
And then she smiled. It was the same saucy grin of the night before, the impish one that made him steal a half magnum of champagne just to impress her. The smile he tried to wear on his own mouth by kissing it off of her.
“There. You’re lucky all that tube had in it was sterile water. So.”
She hadn’t let go of his hand; Hodges drew in a deep breath.
“So. About last night—“
“You want to talk about last night?” she asked, her voice dropping lower, “Okay then. Last night was fun—what I remember of it, anyway. You made me laugh, and you stole champagne for me, and necked with me and most importantly you didn’t say a damn thing about that last part to ANYONE. I can’t believe it, David. You’re either gallantly discreet, or—“
“—Convinced no one would believe me even if I did,” he finished, finally managing a small smile. With his eyes downcast he looked endearingly boyish. She laughed a little.
“Whatever. In any case it was a tactful, gentlemanly thing to do, and I appreciate it.”
He raised his eyes to meet hers again, feeling his mouth go dry. Now or never. A Krug of an opportunity—
“Enough to perhaps try again? WithOUT the petty larceny this time?” he croaked. Mia gave him an appraising stare, letting her cool fingers slide away from his.
“Just what are you asking?”
“No champagne, but I can offer you art. Better art that is. The Skyline Gallery is having a Monet retrospective this Thursday, and . . . well . . . if you’re willing to do the walking tour . . .” he trailed off weakly.
She stared at him, long and hard. Hodges didn’t blink—after all, this was Vegas, home of wild, once-in-a-lifetime chances; lucky breaks; amazing odds.
“Okay. Just promise me . . ..” She leaned close to his ear and whispered, then straightened her shoulders. Mia walked away, sailing down the hallway, leaving him standing at the sink, stunned. As the exhilaration rose through his chest, David Hodges finally let her last remark sink in. He shot an indignant look over his shoulder at her departing figure.
“I never yodeled!”