February 14th 2008
Catherine stepped into Gil’s office with a smile on her lips; determined to lift the spirits of the man inside.
“How’s your case?” she asked him, wandering casually towards his desk.
He looked up and was silent for a beat, as if just realising that she was there. Then he lowered his glasses and said, “Closed.”
“Excellent!” she exclaimed enthusiastically. “Then you can join me for breakfast.”
She knew he would decline, but she wasn’t prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer.
“Perhaps another day,” he said, with what she knew was a forced smile.
“Afraid not,” she countered. “I’m booked up for all breakfasts now until the end of the year.”
“Except Valentine’s Day?” he asked, eyeing her dubiously.
“Gonna rub it in?” she quipped.
One corner of his mouth quirked upwards and he sat back in his chair. “You’re not going to take ‘no’ for an answer are you?” he accurately observed.
She widened her smile. “You know me so well… So let’s go. I’m starving.”
“Cath – ”
“Oh, you’re getting brave, Mr Grissom! Time was you wouldn’t dare try to say no to me,” she grinned.
“I just don’t – ”
“Gil,” she interrupted him again, resting her hands on the desk and leaning towards him. “I am not leaving here without you. I am not going to let you spend the day dwelling on the fact that another Valentine’s Day has come round and you’re alone.”
“And when did you start reading minds?” he asked quietly.
“Oh I’ve been reading yours since the day we met,” she smirked. “Now, are you going to make me beg?”
He raised one eyebrow. “Would you?”
She narrowed her eyes at him and stood up straight. “For a worthy enough cause… This doesn’t qualify. Come on, get your jacket.” She turned slightly away from him now, pretending to be deep in thought, so he wouldn’t have chance to argue. “I feel like pancakes,” she said dreamily, “– with strawberries. And maybe a little chocolate sauce, while it’s Valentine’s Day.”
“Treating yourself,” he stated, and in the corner of her eye she saw him stand up.
Inwardly smiling with victory, she shrugged. “Well no one else is going to treat me… Are you ready?”
“Sure.” He nodded once, and, smiling, perhaps more than was necessary, she led him out of the office.
Breakfast began in a silence that Catherine knew Gil would quite contentedly continue for the whole meal. Once upon a time she also would have been comfortable just to be in his presence; but this was different. His silence now was not ‘just Gil’. This wasn’t withdrawal because he liked to keep himself to himself; at the moment, he was withdrawn because he had taken a risk, and it had blown up in his face; he had put himself out there only to have his heart crushed. And Catherine suspected it wasn’t the first time.
Months had passed since Sara left, and, as far as Catherine was aware, at least two months had passed since Gil last had any contact with her. Other members of the team had tried to get him to talk about how her departure had made him feel, Catherine herself had even dropped some advice into conversation, but he was determined to handle it alone, as he handled everything. And Catherine had been content to let him do so. Her attitude had very much been, ‘you made your bed, you lie in it,’ since finding out about his relationship with Sara: To say she had been disappointed in him would be an understatement.
But this had gone on long enough now. The team had already suffered a shift in dynamic with Sara leaving; Gil’s constant moping wasn’t making the working environment any easier. Testimony to why office romances are never a good idea!
It had fallen to Catherine to bring the old Gil back. ‘Because she’d known him the longest,’ was the excuse the guys gave. ‘Because we’re scared to broach the subject,’ she knew was the real reason. So, this silence had to stop.
“How are your bees doing?” she asked cheerfully, as she dipped a strawberry into a blob of chocolate sauce, depositing it into her mouth after asking her question.
Gil just looked at her for a second, and she briefly wondered if he was going to attempt to maintain silence even when she asked him a direct question. That would be plain rude, and if he was going to do that then he could lie in his f –
“I’m sorry,” he said softly.
That stopped her thoughts short. She swallowed the strawberry, and figured he mustn’t have heard her. “I said, how are your bees – ”
“No, I heard you,” he explained. “I was apologising.”
“Oh,” she said, putting her fork down onto her plate. “For anything in particular?”
“That it had to come to this,” he replied.
She frowned a little and then said, “You’re apologising for buying me breakfast?” she smirked.
His brow furrowed and she transformed her smirk into a grin.
“You wouldn’t make a girl pay for herself on Valentine’s Day, would you?”
He smiled now, and, as she smiled with him, a tug on Catherine’s heart reminded her that it had been far too long since she had seen him look happy; and that, no matter what her feelings about his personal choices were, she cared about him.
“No,” he continued, his expression serious again, “I’m sorry that I required an intervention.”
“Oh that’s not - ” His pointed look told her he knew she was about to lie. “ – the entire reason I’m here,” she amended her ending with an innocent smile.
“Only ninety-nine percent of it?” he half-joked.
“Oh no! The chocolate is ninety-nine percent of it! You are barely even half of the remaining one percent. The pancakes and the strawberries both rank higher than you on my reasons for being here,” she teased.
He let out a small laugh at this and, as she gathered another forkful of food, they fell silent again.
She had just slipped the fork between her lips when he said, quite solemnly, “I don’t even miss her anymore.”
She managed not to choke on her food, and tilted her head enquiringly to encourage him to carry on: Because she didn’t know what to say to that.
“I did, at first,” he continued, “But then I began to question whether or not I was actually missing her, or just missing the feeling that I’d made the right decision.”
“That’s only natural angst, Gil,” Catherine assured him, “It can take a long time to get over someone…” She looked at him and felt the words resonate in her chest. “And sometimes you never achieve it,” she added quietly.
She was surprised when Gil nodded. “And replacing them with someone else doesn’t work.”
Her chest felt constricted now and she frowned, voicing her initial thoughts. “I didn’t realise you’d been seeing someone else.”
Though this only left her more confused, Catherine nevertheless nodded and said, “Oh.” Again.
Gil pushed some scrambled eggs around his plate for a few seconds and then dropped the fork. “I knew it wouldn’t last.”
Catherine felt herself frowning again. This wasn’t what she had expected at all. Although, admittedly, it was preferable to hearing him speak about how much he loved Sara, and how much he missed her.
“I didn’t start anything with her in San Francisco because I knew it wouldn’t work. And I turned her down five years ago, because I knew it wouldn’t work.”
“So why start it two years ago?”
The minute the words left her mouth Catherine realised how cold they sounded. Gil looked at her for a second but answered her question.
“Things had changed. Ecklie splitting the team, Nick’s abduction… I guess I’d got comfortable the way things were, and I hadn’t expected it to change, plus my mortality was staring me in the face and - ”
“Are you telling me you hooked up with Sara because you felt lost?” she asked, incredulously, with no little amount of disapproval in her tone. She was beginning to wonder now whether it would in fact have been better for him to ply her with tales of how much he missed Sara.
He opened his mouth as if to speak and then stopped. But the look in his eyes had already said it for him. Catherine felt the tension rise through her body. She grabbed her purse and began to stand.
“You know what, maybe I wasn’t the best choice for this conversation,” she said brusquely, as she swiped some money from her purse and dropped it to the table.
“Catherine, I didn’t say it,” he said, standing with her and reaching for her hand.
She snatched the hand away before he could make contact, but stepped closer to him, conscious of causing a scene in one of her favourite diners. “You didn’t have to. I may not actually be able to read your mind, but I can read your expressions,” she whispered harshly. “And, yes, I have hooked up with men in the past because I was feeling ‘lost’. But I thought we were beyond you throwing it back at me.”
“I didn’t say it.”
“You thought it!”
“You were judging me by the same standards you expect me not to hold you to.”
“I was not!”
“You questioned me – ”
“I wasn’t questioning you needing someone because you felt lost… I was questioning you needing Sara.”
“She was there.”
She laughed at this. “Of course she was! She’s been following you around like a lost puppy for years.”
“I didn’t know there was another option.”
“Didn’t you look further than the end of your nose?”
During this utterance, Catherine became aware of several pairs of eyes on them, and a glance to the side saw a waitress tentatively approaching to see if everything was okay.
“Who would you have had me find?” Gil had countered, ignorant of their audience.
She looked up at him. “I’m not doing this here,” she ground out and turned away from him.
As she stormed towards the door, she could hear him gathering his jacket, and as she pushed into the cool morning air, she heard him thank the waitress. She continued to her car, knowing he would catch up with her soon, and finding that was what she wanted. Now that she had started to vent this anger, she didn’t want to stop.
“Catherine!” he called to her just as she put her hand out to open the car door.
She swivelled to face him, folding her arms across her chest.
“What are we really arguing about?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.
This wasn’t supposed to have happened this morning. She was supposed to take him out to breakfast and cheer him up; bring back the Grissom they all missed. But she found she couldn’t help herself.
“Do you know how I dealt with this thing between you and Sara?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “I told myself you were happy. It’d obviously started in San Francisco, and – even though I couldn’t see it – there must have been chemistry for the last seven years, and you’d finally acted on it. And now you sit here, telling me that all along you knew it was a mistake? That you don’t even miss her? So why the hell have you been looking so miserable for six months? If it wasn’t love you should have got over it by now.”
“Why did you need to deal with it?”
“What?!” She hadn’t expected that question.
“Why did you need a way to deal with my relationship with Sara?”
“Because I thought you were making a mistake, Gil. And I had to have a way to live with letting you make it.” She thought that was a rather convincing lie considering she was put on the spot.
“Okay,” he nodded. “So, to answer your question, I did miss Sara at first. I did care about her. I only fully realised that it wasn’t love when I let myself admit that she wasn’t what I was missing the most.”
She frowned. “Why? Did she take the dog with her?”
He took a step towards her and Catherine instinctively slinked back ’til her back touched the car. She didn’t feel threatened, but, rather, suitably reproached: Her comment had been somewhat flippant.
“Catherine, I’ve been looking miserable for six months because I made the wrong decision, and the consequences spiralled completely out of my control, and I have no idea how to fix it.”
It hit her then that he really was lost. In the twenty years she had known him, she had never seen Gil Grissom as helpless as he looked right now. It had a sobering effect on her anger.
“Gil, Sara didn’t leave because of your relationship. She left because she didn’t like the work anymore.”
He nodded. “And if I’d paid enough attention to her, either as her supervisor or as her boyfriend, I would have been able to help her before it reached the point where she had to leave Vegas in order to feel free of it.”
“You can’t – ”
He shook his head to cut off her argument. “So now Sara’s gone, the team is drifting apart, they all turn to you because they no longer feel able to approach me, and you’re pretending that you want my company in order to try to fix what I broke.”
“I did want your company.”
“Your smiles when you came to ask me were forced.”
“Not entirely,” she assured him. “I was just… trying to be more cheerful than I maybe feel.”
“See, so you feel you have to act around me; the others don’t even want to be around me, and I don’t know how to fix it,” he reiterated.
“Well, with the others, I think it’s just a vicious circle. They’re uncomfortable around you because you look so sad, and you’re sad because they’re uncomfortable around you. So, that’ll fix itself as you start to feel better… Sara: There’s nothing you can do about that. She’ll come back if she feels she is able. We’ll adjust.”
“I shall stop pretending to be happier than I am,” she smiled – over-enthusiastically.
“Why aren’t you happy?” he asked, seriously.
This really wasn’t where the morning was supposed to go. She met his eyes as she considered whether or not it was wise to have this conversation; it was quite the can of worms they were about to open if she told him the truth. Seeing the sincerity in his eyes, she looked away and resigned herself to taking the chance.
“I…” She paused, trying to think of the best way to phrase it. Deciding the only way was to be direct, she raised her eyes to meet his again and admitted, “I hate,” she emphasised the word to get her point across, “that you chose Sara.”
His brow furrowed and he looked like he was going to speak so she briefly raised a hand to stop him.
“I always thought we had a connection. We had history, we had chemistry and… Well, after my … ‘encounter’ with Adam Novak, that seemed to change. You were disappointed in me, and I was angry at you for letting something so minor ruin our friendship. And I was angry at me for ruining our friendship. Then when I found out about you and Sara – which was earlier than you probably think – I was jealous; I felt replaced; and I was angry again – at you, at me, at Sara for having the sense to follow you round. And I was disappointed. You lectured me about bringing my personal stuff to work, and there you were scr – getting involved with a member of your team and - ”
“And it wasn’t you,” he concluded for her.
She offered him a genuine small smile, and a thoughtful nod. “I’d have been more accepting of the double standard if it had been me.”
“That’s very accommodating.”
“I try,” she smiled again. “This wasn’t how I intended this breakfast to go, you know?... We were supposed to eat, I would tell a few jokes, you would laugh, I could go back to work and tell the guys you were perfectly normal with me it must be them that’s the problem, and everything would just carry on as normal – ” she grinned.
“You could continue to pretend we were fine?”
The grin faded. “It was easier.”
“And now that everything’s out in the open?”
“I guess that’ll be even easier.”
“We really should have talked about our issues sooner.”
Catherine nodded. “Twenty years sooner would have saved a lot of grief in my life.”
“But you wouldn’t have Lindsey,” he pointed out.
“Ah. True. So I’ll settle for twelve years sooner.”
“You would have wanted me to tell you how I feel about you while you were married?”
She narrowed her eyes at him, playfully. “Well, it’s just one barrier after another with you. Anyone would think you didn’t want to tell me how you feel.” She realised after she had said it that she should have said ‘felt’. Then she also realised that he had referred to his feelings in the present tense first. And with that realisation came the third: that enough had been said about her jealousy and envy for him to deduce how she felt about him, but, apart from the present tense reference, not much had been said about his feelings for her.
She brought herself out of her thoughts in time to see him smile, and hear him, softly say, “I miss you.”
She smiled in return. “I’m right here.”
“I’m glad,” he said, and then a smirk crept onto his lips as he added, “Because I often don’t look beyond the end of my nose.”
Catherine shot him a playful glare. “I’m not sure I’m ready to laugh about that yet.”
He simply smiled in response and, as she felt her own smile widen, Catherine noted the warmth that spread through her at seeing him genuinely happy. For all it had unexpectedly slalomed, the breakfast had yielded the result she had been aiming for. And in the process of bringing the old Grissom back, she’d brought the old Catherine/Grissom dynamic back as well – something she had feared lost forever. There were still issues to work through, and repairs to make both to their friendship and to the team, but this was a step forward – and they were making it together.
She managed to simply stand smiling at Gil for a few seconds longer, and then she stepped towards him and embraced him in a hug. “I missed you too.”