A Winter's Tale
Summary: Christmas fic – December challenge 2005
Rating: CSI-1 (it might be Trainee, but I like to aim higher just to make sure ;-) )
Disclaimer: I own not CSI nor the song “Christmas All the Time” by Tom Cochrane.
A/N: Hit by writer’s block, I asked Alza to provide me with a line from a song, and a line of random dialogue, and I used those as the basis for my fic. So many many thanks to Alza, else I’d still be sitting twiddling my thumbs. And many many apologies to Angie for the ‘confusion’ – memory like a sieve! ;-) I dedicate this to you all – Happy Holidays! Woo hoo!
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Walking in the snow, stars shine above

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The snow crunches beneath my feet as I step slightly off the path to lean against the sturdy trunk of a tree while I wait.

I look up at the night sky; falling snowflakes twinkling in the foreground, against a background of sparkling stars; and my mind drifts to a similar night two years ago.

-----

She giggles as the snowball impacts with his shoulder.

He turns around slowly, one eyebrow raised and lips pursed.

She grins and he can’t resist laughing with her.

“I told you I’d get you back,” she says, her dazzling smile on her lips and in her eyes, as she saunters towards him.

“I knew it was coming,” he responds as she reaches him and they fall into step beside each other to continue their walk.

“Uh-huh,” she nods. “Sure you did.”

Their eyes meet and they both smile, and a pleasant silence surrounds them. Despite the busyness of the city, here in the park, the traffic is but a low murmur, and with the snow falling around them; and the Christmas lights strung in trees, and on railings, the atmosphere is one of peace and contentment.

They walk a little further in silence before she sidesteps to be closer to him, and nudges his arm with hers.

“Thank you,” she says softly.

He turns to her and frowns. “For what?”

“For this,” she replies, looking and gesturing around her.

“You don’t need to thank me,” he says, shaking his head.

“I know,” she grins. “But I want to.”

He laughs a little, shaking his head, then says: “Well, in that case, you’re welcome.”

She nods, and smiles gratefully and their walk continues, once more in silence.

They round a corner and stop to listen to some children singing carols, and, from the corner of his eye, he can see her watching him, her forehead crumpled in thought. He turns to face her, his expression questioning why he is being watched so studiously.

She blushes slightly, looking away, and he follows as she moves away from the small crowd of people.

Stopping a few feet away, she turns to face him, raising her eyes to meet his. “Why are we here, Gil?” she asks, the serious look on her face making it appear as if the answer to this question could make or break… something.

He frowns. “Cath – ”

“I don’t mean right this second, and I don’t mean in the park… I just wanna know why you brought me – and not just me, Lindsey and my Mom also – all the way to New York for Christmas.” She smiles now, but there’s still a look of hope in her eyes that concerns him slightly. She seems to want to know the truth.

He smiles, shyly, and shrugs as he speaks. “You said you’d never been.”

She’s just looking at him as if she doesn’t believe his response was truthful.

“That’s it?” she queries, after seconds of silence.

He nods.

“You brought us all the way here, at Christmastime, just because I’ve never been to New York before?”

He just nods again but he can see why that might not seem like an adequate explanation.

“So it wasn’t so that you could throw snowballs at me?” she smirks.

He feigns cringing. “I should have known you’d figure out the truth.”

-----

The missed opportunity in that memory takes my thoughts to a day a few months ago, stealing me from the calm of this evening and returning me to the pain I caused her.

-----

“I was doing my job!” she yells, following him into his office for the argument to continue somewhere more private.

“You were all over him!” he yells back, retracing his steps, to slam the door shut when she leaves it open.

“That was my job!”

“That used to be your job!”

She physically recoils, shooting him an icy glare. “And there was no more wrong with it then than there is now! I was doing what had to be done!”

“What had to be done?” he repeats, tone higher with incredulity. “Do you never have regrets? Never stop and think what if my grandparents could see me, what would they think?”

The volume of her words is lower, but the deadly tone maintains the conveyance of her anger. “My grandparents would be proud that I’m not such an elitist that I won’t do whatever needs to be done!… You once said that you admired that I don’t look back and doubt my decisions… What is it that you’ve done, Gil? What decision is trapping you in the past and stopping you from moving on? From taking chances?”

“I’m not stuck in my past,” he argues, afraid to argue the point about taking chances because he knows what she’s referring to. For the few months after they returned from New York, they were growing closer, then something changed and they drifted apart and it’s only now that he realises why.

“Then why aren’t you living for your future?”

There’s the same look of hope in her eyes that he saw in New York, and yet he still can’t bring himself to broach the subject.

Clearly his silence speaks volumes, and she stalks out of his office, doing him the courtesy of shutting the door herself this time. With a slam.

-----

I drop my eyes to the floor, familiar feelings of regret sweeping over me. Suddenly the air feels cold, and I wrap my jacket more tightly around me.

“Cold?”

The voice startles me and I look up. “A little,” I shrug.

She nods and steps up beside me. “Penny for your thoughts?”

I find her eyes with mine as I build some courage inside me. “It’ll cost you more than that,” I joke, nervously.

It’s a small smile, but it’s there; and then she’s looking at me expectantly again; waiting for me to make her trip out here worthwhile.

-----

“What’s this?” she asks, waving the item in question at him.

“An early Christmas present,” he says, his look repentant, and eyes hopeful that she’ll understand what he’s trying to do.

“We’ve been at each other’s throats for months, but you want to take me to New York again?” she queries, eyes wide in disbelief.

He chooses simply to nod.

She raises an eyebrow. “That’s it? No explanation?”

“Can I explain when we’re there?”

She tries, for a moment, to crack him with a glare, but eventually acquiesces.

Though she leaves silently, he gets from her look that his explanation had better be good.

-----

Lost in my thoughts as I was, I don’t know how long I have been simply looking at her, but she seems to be mentally tapping her foot with impatience. I guess it’s now or never. And I’ve been contemplating never since our argument, and a future without her isn’t worth it.

---

He moves away from the tree and stands just close enough to her that he is skirting the edge of her personal space, but not presuming to enter it.

She stands her ground and looks up at him, her expression a mixture of hope, curiosity and stubborn determination – most likely that what he has to say will not make everything okay. It brings a fond smile to his lips as he considers that such determination is one of the things he loves most about her.

Her eyebrows quirk skyward at his smile, and he quickly checks it to return to the serious topics that need to be addressed.

“Catherine…” he hesitates a little, worried that he won’t be able to find suitable words, but looking into her eyes reminds him of how it felt to think he wouldn’t be able to do that again. “… I brought you here last year because you said you’d never been to New York… And because… I wanted to spend Christmas with you, and with Lindsey. And I wanted to make it special…”

Her expression has softened a little, so he figures he must be doing okay.

“… I brought you here this year to tell you that; … to apologise for not telling you last year; and to ask you to forgive me for being a complete idiot… And to wish you a merry Christmas.” He finishes with a small smile, trying to joke again to relieve the tense atmosphere.

She sighs softly and looks down at her feet; and she watches as she shuffles them in the snow for a while. He is just verging on terrified that he has messed up what semblance of a relationship – even if only professional – they had left, when she looks back up.

“That’s quite an explanation,” she says with a smile. “Pity it took you a year to come up with it.” There is no accusation or anger in her tone, only what sounds like disappointment.

He nods and steps closer to her, longing to reach for her hand but still feeling that he has no right to. “I thought I needed more time… I thought I needed to do more to show you how I feel – ”

“Gil, you didn’t do anything though,” she interrupts him.

“We spent more time together – outside of work,” he says, confused.

She laughs, but not in humour, and shakes her head. “Yes we spent time together, but there were so many times you could have done more; you could have taken the chance – ”

“And done what?”

“And kissed me; or told me that you hoped there was a possibility we could be more than friends; or… I don’t know… something as simple as taking my hand as we watched a movie. It didn’t have to be a big gesture, Gil, it just needed to be a gesture.”

“Well, is this big enough?” he asks, hopeful.

“This is too big,” she replies.

He frowns; fear once again pounding at his heart; but it calms a little when she closes the distance between them and continues to speak.

“I am flattered, and so incredibly grateful that you wanted to do this for me, and for Lindsey… But all I ever wanted was for you to open up to me… I have seen the way you look at me, Gil; and I feel the sparks when we’re together; but I also felt your hesitance… But when you asked me about New York last year, I actually got my hopes up. I let myself think that things were about to change – ”

Her words are cut off by his lips on hers, but they are gone again before she has chance to respond.

“Catherine… I love you… I think I may have loved you since a few hours after I met you. I just never imagined that you could feel the same way about me. And, in truth, it frightened me to think that you did… You said that I was burned bad, and I was. And I let it hold me back. But now I’m taking that chance; I’m living for the future now, Cath. Share it with me?”

She responds with a wide, beautiful smile. “I thought you’d never ask.”

---

I kiss her once more, then I take her gloved hand in mine and the snow crunches beneath our feet as we walk through the park.

My only regret now is that I didn’t have the courage to do this last year. But I fully intend to make up the lost time.

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Walking in the snow, stars shine above
There's a song that's playing in my head talks about love

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THE END

A/N: in case anyone’s interested, the line of dialogue provided by Alza was:

“Do you never have regrets? Never stop and think what if my grandparents could see me, what would they think?”

Thanks again :-)