Catherine jumped at the sudden voice from beside her. Glancing up at the person peering round her open locker door, she asked, “How do I not hear you coming?”
“Quiet shoes,” Gil responded with a small smile. “Are you leaving? The party’s barely started.”
“I was,” she said, grabbing her jacket from the locker and closing the door.
“Does that mean I can?” he asked, and she smiled at the hopeful expression on his face.
“Anyone would think you didn’t want to be here,” she quipped, knowing full well how true that was. He never liked having to attend the Christmas party; she knew he was only there because she had told him that he should be.
“Anyone would be right,” he smirked.
“I saw you enjoying yourself,” she accused, her tone playful, but underwritten by a jealousy she couldn’t avoid. She had seen him enjoying himself, and she didn’t like that it wasn’t with her.
“Wendy made me dance,” he defended himself, “You know I don’t like dancing.”
“Time was you’d only dance with me,” she remarked.
“Time was you’d ask me.”
She held his gaze for a moment, conceding to his point. A couple of years ago she would have been the one making him dance, but tonight…
“It didn’t seem appropriate.”
His expression became deadly serious. “Catherine, how long is this going to go on?”
“I don’t know,” she told him honestly - because she didn’t know. Since he returned from sabbatical, she hadn’t been able to be herself around him. It had felt good while he was away to be talking to him again; to be rebuilding their friendship, but to find out he hadn’t spoken to Sara even once had shattered all that. It had cast her as the other woman and that wasn’t a role she was comfortable with. It didn’t matter that she and Sara had discussed it; that Sara had assured Catherine that she knew nothing had happened. It didn’t matter that Gil and Sara’s relationship had ended all those months ago, and that Sara had left Las Vegas shortly after. Catherine had managed to be the friend that Gil needed, but it was always overshadowed by the fact that she wanted more, and that felt wrong. If anything were to happen between them, it would look as if she had been the reason Gil and Sara split up, and subsequently the reason Sara left, and she didn’t want to be that woman.
“Catherine, people will think what they want to think.”
His voice was soft, and startled her from the pensive daze she had slipped into.
“You know you did nothing wrong,” he continued.
“It doesn’t feel that way,” she admitted.
“Catherine, I was the one at fault with Sara, you didn’t do anything - ”
“Gil, I was in - ” She stopped herself from admitting what was really on her mind; unsure that she was ready for him to hear it. But in truth that’s where her guilt was rooted. Maybe the phone calls had just been about friendship, perhaps she hadn’t physically done anything wrong, but she had been in love with him throughout his relationship with Sara, and that seemed wrong to her.
“Are you still?”
She frowned, pretending not to understand what he was asking her; hoping he would back away from the topic, avoiding it as he usually did personal matters.
“Are you still in love with me?”
Her breath caught, both at his direct question and his proximity as he took a step closer to her.
“That’s not what I was - ”
He stepped even closer, backing her up against the lockers. “You didn’t act on it, Cath, and I didn’t even know. Stop feeling guilty.”
She glanced pointedly at the position he had backed her into, trying to pretend that she was angry at him for assuming this was what she wanted. He didn’t back off.
“I’ve sorted out everything else that was going on in my life,” he told her, reminding her of her words to him last time he had her pinned against a locker.
“That wasn’t an invitation to do this again,” she reprimanded him, but she knew it lacked conviction, and he still remained where he was, his body resting against hers.
“Catherine, I don’t want to start the new year regretting that I haven’t told you how I - ”
At that moment the locker room door burst open and Greg entered. “Hey, there you guys are!” he said exuberantly, a wide grin on his face.
Gil had stepped to the side at the sound of the door and now stood with his back to Catherine, obviously not impressed by the interruption. Catherine herself couldn’t decide whether she was annoyed or relieved. She glanced at Gil and then forced a smile for Greg.
“Hey, Greg… Been drinking?”
“Just a couple of glasses of punch. Not much… I was looking for you two.”
“Well you found us. What’s up?”
“I have something for you,” he announced, staggering his way across the room towards Catherine as she wondered exactly how much alcohol was in the punch. “Although,” he added in quieter tones as he stopped beside her, “Maybe you don’t need it.” He winked, nodding his head towards Gil.
A lot. Catherine concluded there was a lot of alcohol in the punch otherwise Greg wouldn’t dare make such a comment. She tried not to blush at his insinuation, and fought against looking at Gil.
“What is it, Greg?” she asked him.
His grin widened and his hand appeared in front of her face, holding a sprig of mistletoe. Catherine rolled her eyes then quipped, “I didn’t know you felt that way Greg.”
She heard Gil chuckle before she had realised that he had turned round and was watching her.
“No!” Greg exclaimed emphatically. “I don’t want to kiss you!”
“Oh,” she said, widening her eyes as if really surprised. “You want to kiss Grissom? I really didn’t know you felt that way.”
“No! I don’t!... No offence, Grissom,” Greg added quickly, glancing at his supervisor.
Catherine’s mouth opened in shock. “Yet you don’t mind offending me.”
Greg seemed to ignore her comment and continued. “I thought the two of you might need a little push.”
“Because you have today in the pool?” Gil asked him.
Catherine looked at Gil, surprised by his question. She had not been aware of any pool and she was stunned that he was.
Greg looked sheepish. “Maybe… But I only joined in because I want you to be happy.”
“Maybe you should go back to the party, Greg, before the hole you’re starting gets any bigger,” Catherine suggested with a smile.
“Yeah… I am a little thirsty,” Greg replied. “You want this?” he asked, waving the mistletoe at her.
“No thanks,” she said.
Greg shrugged. “Fair enough. See you later.”
Catherine shook her head, laughing to herself as she watched him leave. “I don’t think Nick should make the punch next year,” she commented as she turned round to face Gil.
“I wondered why he wasn’t drinking it,” Gil remarked with a small smile.
A silence fell then, and they just stood smiling at each other. Gil’s look seemed content, but at the same time questioning. It had always amazed Catherine how much he could say to her without actually speaking, and she didn’t need words to know that he was saying Greg’s comments should convince her that people wouldn’t think badly of her if they were to get involved. She held his gaze for a moment longer, replaying the conversation with Greg to see if he was right, then something clicked into place and she broke the connection, smiling as she looked away.
“You set that up,” she stated.
He didn’t respond, just frowned a little.
She laughed. “Greg wouldn’t dream of saying that in front of you, no matter how drunk he was.”
“Ah… That’s not true. Greg cornered me at the party and suggested I take the mistletoe and find you… I declined.”
“And then left… So you knew he’d look for you. Because he has today in the pool, and wanted to check what was going on.”
“I need you to realise that people don’t blame you,” he said seriously, stepping towards her.
“I blame myself.”
“No you don’t.” He continued towards her.
Her eyebrows rose at his audacity.
“You don’t blame yourself for the fact that Sara and I split up; you feel guilty because you know that I’m choosing you. And most of your guilt comes from the fact that you’re happy about that. You feel guilty about being happy, Catherine…”
He stopped in front of her. Two more steps and she would be back between him and the locker.
“… But you’re entitled to be happy,” he told her softly. “And if anyone should have felt guilty, it’s me.”
“And did you?” She knew she was being hard on him, but people would think they had had little regard for Sara’s feelings; she needed to be able to know that people were wrong.
“I did… But as the months have passed, the guilt subsided. We’re both entitled to be happy, Catherine. People make mistakes, relationships end. We can’t live in the past… It took me twenty-five years to realise how I feel about you…” He took one step forward, and lowered his voice even further. “But if you need more time, then I’ll wait. I just want you to promise me that you’ll stop feeling guilty about getting what you want.”
She nodded, knowing that everything he had said was right. It was time for her to decide whether her guilt was going to decide the rest of her life, or her feelings for Gil were. “I don’t want more time,” she admitted, taking the remaining step between them herself, bringing them chest to chest. “We’ve waited long enough.”
“You’re sure?” Gil asked her, bringing his hands up to gently cup her face.
She smiled, and wrapped her arms round his waist. With a gentle tug, she stepped backwards, pulling him with her so she was once again pinned against the locker. “I’m sure,” she smiled flirtatiously.
Sharing her smile, Gil lowered his lips to meet hers. It was a gentle kiss, full of the love they had spoken of, and reassurance that this was right.
When they parted for air, Gil smiled down at Catherine. “Do you still want to leave the party?” he asked with a smirk.
Her smile grew into a grin. “Do you?”
“If you do.”
Catherine laughed. “This could go on all night… How about we have our own Christmas party instead?”
Gil’s own smile widened. “I thought you’d never ask.”