It’s not unusual, she surmises, for him to invite her over for breakfast. Granted, it hasn’t happened in… too many months for her to face keeping track of, but it isn’t unprecedented.
She locks the car and makes her way to his front door, all the time determined not to allow her mind to dwell on just how long it has been since they last ate breakfast together. The answer is on the edge of her mental peripheral vision, but she refuses to turn and look. All that needs to matter now is that she’s here, she was invited, and this could be the start of recapturing their drifting friendship.
The door opens before she even knocks, and he greets her with a smile, commenting that he knew she would arrive early. Though she smiles, her brow is creased in puzzled thought – he is very much the Grissom she met years ago, and not the distant stranger she has seen these last few years.
The confusion doubles when she walks into his living room, to find the table set for dining, with flowers in the centre, and soft music playing in the background.
“Well, now I feel underdressed,” she comments with a nervous laugh, wondering whether at some point along her journey she possibly slipped through a portal to a parallel universe. It isn’t something she has ever particularly believed in before, but, from what she has heard, it would certainly explain his odd behaviour.
“You’re dressed perfectly beautifully. You weren’t to know.”
She turns to face him, expression of shock at both his compliment, and his latter quip. “No… And I still don’t.”
A small smile of what looks a little like pride briefly twitches at his lips, and then is gone again. “I thought you might remember.”
Her eyebrows raise. “Remember what?”
“Today marks the start of the twenty-fifth year that I’ve known you,” he tells her softly.
She frowns, sure that his calculations are incorrect, and she computes the timings herself. “No it doesn’t!… I’ve only been at the lab for – ” She stops. They didn’t meet at the lab.
A smile crosses his face as he watches her realise he’s right.
“Wow,” she exclaims. “Twenty-five years.”
“Well, twenty-four so far,” he remarks, smirking, and pulling out a chair at the table for her to sit down.
She rolls her eyes playfully and takes the offered seat. “So why this year?” she speaks as she settles herself, and places her napkin on her knee. “It is customary to celebrate at the end of the twenty-fifth year, not the start.”
She looks up to meet his eyes as her statement finishes, and the seriousness within them startles her.
He pulls his own chair round and sits in front of her. “Because this year, I think, we both need reminding just how long we’ve known each other. And how much we have meant to one another.”
“I have never forgotten how much you mean to me,” she tells him immediately, shocking even herself with the icy tone to her words.
His expression becomes repentant and his voice soft. “Well, then, I guess I need to remind you how much you mean to me.”
She wants to tell him that isn’t necessary, that she has always known, but it would be a lie – and they both know it. She can’t think of anything she could say, so she remains silent, and waits for him to provide said reminder.
“I’m sorry, that I let us get to this point, Cath… And I admit that it was my doing… But I never stopped caring, Catherine.”
She could just reach out and hug him. That has been all she needed to hear for so long, but she realises now that the knowledge is not enough. She needs to know why. If he still cares so much, why has he let them drift apart? She stays silent again.
He looks troubled that she isn’t speaking, but he continues without question. “I just couldn’t… The Adam Novak incident threw me, the cheque from Sam… I felt like I was losing you – ”
“Because you were pushing me away!” she snaps.
“I know,” he states honestly. “Because those things didn’t fit with the image of you I’d held in my head for so long. Catherine the dancer who I met twenty-four years ago,” he smiles, obviously recalling that day. “Catherine, the new lab tech, so eager to learn and to put anybody in their place if they stood in the way of that.”
She laughs with him at this memory.
“Catherine the mother who was so strong through her divorce, and then again through the death of her ex-husband, and then again when she was at the hospital for me when she had just found out who her real father was and what he was capable of…”
Tears well beneath her eyes to hear her life summarised in such a way, with such affection in his voice.
“… I guess to me, you were some sort of superhero,” he laughs at himself. “And the idea that you needed money, or human contact… or that you needed anything, just didn’t equate… Then I realised you were human, like the rest of us… And then I was angry because you didn’t come to me. You’d been my tower of strength on so many occasions, and when you needed something… You didn’t come to me.”
The tears are pressing to be released now, but she is steadfast refusing to let them. “That is a pathetic reason for throwing away twenty odd years of friendship – ” She is trying to be angry, but it just isn’t working. She laughs a little, and a couple of teardrops trickle onto her cheek.
Gil leans forward and gently wipes them away with his thumb, and as he moves away, she catches his hands with hers.
“I didn’t come to you, because, in my mind, you were Gil Grissom – superhuman. You never needed help, you never asked anyone for anything. Your work was your life and you lived it so beautifully. What gave me the right to ask you to change that?”
He lifts his hand to wipe her tears again, and cups her cheek gently in his palm. “You gave you the right,” he tells her. “Because you had always been there for me whenever I needed you – ”
“You never needed me,” she argues, her head tilting in his hand.
“I did. I just never had to ask for you to help me. Because you were always there, doing it anyway.” He pulls his chair closer, his voice dropping to a whisper. “I’m sorry I didn’t do the same.”
Her chest aches, and she knows it’s with love for him. The extent of her feelings towards him had hit her when he told her of his operation, but she had blocked them out. Refusing to ruin his life with her baggage. But he is so close now, and the touch of his hand on her skin is sending shivers through her nerves. Her eyes flit subconsciously to his lips. She could just lean across and meet them with hers. He is that close. But he is far enough away to pull back before she gets there – and the humiliation in that would be worse than him pulling away after she has kissed him – because that way she would at least know the answer to a question she has pondered for many years. What would it be like to kiss him?
Realising her eyes have remained fixed on his lips the entire time she was thinking she snaps them back up to his eyes, only to start at the darkness she finds there. Not dark with anger, but dark with desire.
He is focussed intently on her, and his chest is rising and falling deeply and quickly. The air is electrified with anticipation, and she unwittingly licks her lips. It is all the invitation he needs, and he is upon her, caressing her mouth with his before she can think any further on what might happen.
She gives as good as she gets, her arms hooking under his shoulders and pulling him closer to her. They both slide off their chairs to their knees, upper bodies pressing together, mouths gasping for air between frantic kisses. His hands slip under her shirt and, as cool hands meet heated skin, her resulting tremor is released on a sigh lost into him.
He traces her spine with his fingertips, smiling against her lips as she quivers under his touch. She nips his bottom lip with her teeth as punishment for his amusement, and he pulls back to reprimand her grinning face.
The spell broken, chests heaving, they stare at each other, replaying the last few minutes in their minds, reliving the feelings over and over, assessing the other for signs of regret.
He raises a hand to the side of her face, and brushes some errant strands of hair behind her ear. “My knees are too old for this,” he says quietly, a smile playing on his lips.
She laughs and plays absently with the buttons of his shirt as she says, “If only we’d thought to do this twenty-four years ago…” She leans forward and presses her lips into his, tenderly kissing the site that she bit. Just as he starts to respond, she languidly pulls back, her voice, low and husky, whispering, “Let’s go make up for lost time.”