She glanced up beyond the Christmas lights that now added to the permanent glow of this desert oasis, to the starry sky beyond. She had never taken an interest in astronomy; she had no idea if they were the same stars she had looked upon as a child in Montana, but they filled her with the same sense of relaxation she had always felt back then. She smiled fondly at the memory of childhood Christmases: skating with her sisters; snowball fights with the boys from the neighbouring farm; hot chocolate on Christmas morning as they opened presents by the fire.
She let out a bitter laugh at how romanticised situations could become in memory, and lowered her head just in time to narrowly avoid a direct collision with someone coming the other way.
“I’m sorry,” she said instantly, as her shoulder clipped his.
He turned to face her, looking surprised that she had spoken to him; apparently he had been so lost in thought he hadn’t even noticed the contact.
“Oh… No, I’m sorry,” he said, his blue eyes locking onto hers, sadness swirling in them, as he probably saw in hers.
She shook her head, feeling a strange inclination to stay and make sure he was all right, rather than proceeding on her way. “It was my fault… I was stargazing,” she told him, with a laugh to try to make him smile.
“Well then you can’t know that it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t paying much attention to where I was going,” he responded, his tone apologetic.
She smiled understandingly. “Well, at least your flowers survived the collision.” She indicated the bouquet of roses and lilies he carried in his hand.
Glancing down at them, he muttered, “Yeah.”
“They’re beautiful,” she commented, seeing his mind drifting back to whatever had caused his sadness, and wanting to stop it.
He returned his eyes to her, and held out his hand. “Please, take them.”
Frowning she shook her head quickly. “Oh no! I couldn’t - … I didn’t – ”
“Please?” he asked solemnly. “They’ll end up in the trash otherwise.”
“Someone turned them down?” she asked softly.
With pursed lips, he nodded. “Turned me down,” he said quietly.
She smiled sympathetically. “She’s a fool.”
He shrugged. “Maybe… Maybe not…. You’ve only just met me, don’t be so quick to take sides.”
There was a small smile after his words, and it inexplicably warmed her heart to think she had helped put it there. “Well, I’m certainly not going to take sides against you when you’re standing right in front of me,” she remarked, with a warm smile.
She was pleased to hear him laugh now, as he slowly shook his head. “No, I suppose you’re not…” He held out the bouquet again. “Please, take these.”
She eyed the flowers and felt a tug at her heart. No one had ever given her flowers. “Okay,” she said eventually, looking into his eyes to reassure herself of her earlier conclusion that he had no ulterior motive. “I’ll take them, if you’re sure.”
He nodded. “I’d rather they’re appreciated.”
She smiled. “They’re probably the only present I’ll get this year… So they will be appreciated.”
“Well, in that case,” he said, snatching the card out of the flowers and shoving it into his pocket. He held the flowers out to her. “Merry Christmas.”
Laughing, she took them from him. “Thank you. And a merry Christmas to you as well… I hope she comes to her senses.”
“And I hope these aren’t the only present you get this year.”
She laughed again. “Oh, I’m afraid they will be. I don’t really know anyone in Las Vegas yet.”
“And, I’m afraid, I don’t live in Las Vegas,” he told her. “But,” he held out his hand for her to shake, “I’m Gil Grissom.”
Smiling, she passed the flowers into her other hand and placed her freed hand into his. His fingers enveloped it gently, filling her with a sense of security she hadn’t felt in a long time. “Catherine Flynn.”