Next Christmas, Catherine will invite Gil and his mother to join her, and Lindsey and Lily, for lunch. She will cook a dinner with all the trimmings, and Lindsey will make mince pies for dessert. The lights on their tree in the living room will be set to twinkle all day, and a bunch of red flowers will be the centrepiece of the table. Everything will be perfect, because Catherine will be determined that it is so. Because she will have a surprise present for Gil and she won't want anything to ruin it.
Next Christmas, Gil and his mother will arrive at Catherine's house earlier than planned, arms laden with presents. Catherine will greet them with an amused smile and insist that they shouldn't have gone to so much trouble. They will shrug that off as they place the gifts under the tree, admiring the twinkling lights as they do so. And as he stands, Gil will secret one present in his pocket, because he and Catherine will be alone when he gives her that one.
Next Christmas, Gil will be blushing bright red as his mother recounts stories of Christmases from his childhood; Lindsey won't be able to stop giggling at the image of a young Gil Grissom dressed as an elf for a party and, as Catherine watches her family laugh together, she will smile with total contentment. And her smile will widen with anticipation for what she has planned.
Next Christmas, Gil will catch Catherine's eyes across the table as their mothers and Lindsey laugh hysterically about stories of his past. He will read the happy gaze he sees and know it is a reflection of his own. And as her smile widens, his will too, as he thinks about what sits in his jacket pocket.
Next Christmas, Catherine will just about survive the agonising wait to be alone with Gil. With each present that is opened, she will count down to an opportunity to steal him away. It won't be because she isn't enjoying herself – because it will be one of the best Christmases she has had – but she will grow increasingly impatient to get to the surprise. Especially as she watches everyone she loves interact so naturally.
Next Christmas, Gil will watch Catherine closely while they are all opening presents. He will notice that, although she is smiling, she appears distracted, and almost anxious. He will wait until all the presents are done and the others are occupied and then he will take her hand and lead her through the house to her bedroom where they can talk without risk of interruption.
Next Christmas, when Gil asks her if she is okay, Catherine will assure him that she is, and then encourage him to sit on the edge of the bed. She will sit beside him, heart pounding in her chest because it knows what she is about to do. She will lean across to her nightstand and remove a small box from the drawer. Then she will meet Gil's eyes, and explain that she has been waiting to be alone with him because she has something she wants to ask him.
Next Christmas, Gil's immediate response to Catherine's question will be a burst of laughter. He will instantly regret it when he sees hurt and confusion cross her features and will apologise repeatedly, reassuring her that if she will just give him a moment everything will make sense. He will see trepidation in her soft blue eyes as he stands up, but he will kiss that away before he leaves the room.
Next Christmas, Catherine will wait for Gil to return, with a still racing heart and a lump in her throat. Her mind will replay what just happened as she tries to work out what is going on and as it replays the kiss, she will smile. Because there will be only one explanation. And when Gil walks back into the room with a small box in his hand she herself will let out a laugh.
Next Christmas, Gil will bend down on one knee in front of Catherine and repeat to her the question she asked of him. She will smile widely, her eyes watering, and she will answer him with a breathtaking kiss. When they part for air, he will remove the ring from its box, and place it gently onto the appropriate finger on her slender hand. And she will do the same for him, reiterating her earlier words about how she knows it is unusual for the woman to do this.
Next Christmas, both grinning with amusement at their synchronicity, they will slip into each others arms and forget for a moment that there are other people in the house. There will be just the two of them and their newly made commitment to each other.
Next Christmas, they will share their news with friends and family: Relate the story of how they literally bumped into each other on a street one Christmas past; of how they decided to get each other the same thing this year as a Christmas present; and tell them of the hopes and dreams they have for beyond that Christmas future.