A response was heard, but not understood as it was muffled by the door that separated them, but as Nick was still behind that door, they assumed he had requested that they wait.
Sara sat down on the edge of the bed, with a sigh. Warrick turned to her and smiled sympathetically. "We have to do this. She's our friend."
"I know. But it's not gonna be easy. Weddings should be happy occasions, our present states are gonna ruin her day."
"We've just gotta be happy for her. Take a leaf out of Grissom's book. It's him that's stopping us being pleased, yet he seems to be dealing with it. Maybe we should stop worrying."
"But he's not okay. It pains me to watch him smiling and laughing and being all excited, it's just an act. I feel like grabbing hold of him and shaking him 'til he comes to his senses," Sara said, getting more and more agitated as she spoke.
"That wouldn't help anyone. He has to let go. Perhaps we should let him do it his own way. Maybe helping her prepare for today has eased some of the pain. There was no, one minute she's here, next minute she's not."
Sara sighed again. "Only one person understands how Grissom's mind works, and she seems oblivious to all of this. We're gonna lose him, Warrick, he'll disappear, he'll retreat too far, and there'll be no Catherine to bring him back this time."
A knock on the door interrupted before they could continue, and was shortly followed by Grissom entering the room.
"Hey, are you guys ready?" he asked, his voice cheerful and bouncy.
"Nick's still in the bathroom," Warrick said.
"Still?! Nick, come on! What are you doing in there?"
Another muffled reply was heard and Grissom turned to the others. "What?"
Warrick shook his head. "We don't know."
"Grissom, what is with you?" Sara suddenly yelled, unable to restrain herself any longer.
"Excuse me?" Grissom said, laughing at the stern look on Sara's face.
"How can you just sit back and watch her... no, help her, marry someone else?!! You can't wait til the minister asks if anyone objects to object, you need to intervene beforehand! You've never even admitted that you love her in front of us, how the hell are you gonna admit in front of hundreds of people? Half of which are gonna seriously hate you for it!"
Grissom's response was delayed by both his shock, and the fact that Sara had spoken so quickly that he was still taking it in. Once he had processed everything he replied, calmly, "I'm not going to object."
"What?!! That makes even less sense! You can't let her go! You love her! You've always loved her. Now would be a good time to tell her. Before it got this far would have been better, but it's too late for that."
"She chose him, Sara. It's not my place to interfere."
Whilst he was trying to maintain the disguise he had worn for the last three months, Sara and Warrick saw it slip as he said those words, `She chose him'. They saw the pain that they had seen when he returned to work after running off to speak to her about the letter. The pain that had quickly been hidden, but not quickly enough for it to go completely unnoticed.
Sara didn't want to shout anymore, he was hurting enough with out her reminding him of what he was losing, but she had one more point to make, so she did it sedately. "But was she aware that she had a choice? Did she know there was another option?"
This time Grissom's mask slipped further as Sara's insightful stare penetrated his barricade. He stood in silence, eyes locked with hers, all the pain he knew he needed to suppress building up behind them. He had been telling himself he had to let go, and he still felt that was his best option. He wouldn't spoil her day. He would watch her marry Andrew, and then they would both move on.*********
Her ivory gown cascaded to the floor in waves of shimmering silk. The bodice was embroidered with flowers, in the same colour as the dress except for a single red rose above her left hip, representing the memory of their first date. Pearls surrounded her neckline, and the theme continued into her hair, swept back and adorned with pearls and delicate white flowers. She radiated beauty.
She studied her reflection, considering each intricate decoration, the time and hard work taken to produce such a perfect creation, the dedication of everyone involved in making this day the most special of her life.
She studied her face, filled with uncertainty and fear, cheeks stained with tears that she had earlier just managed to keep in, lest they shatter the confident front she had needed to convey.
She studied herself. The image in front of her, the meaning of it all, the dress, the day, she thought of him, and she knew she had made the right decision.*********
A month later...
She was walking towards him, seemingly engrossed in reading the file in her hands. He took a deep breath and built up the courage to speak to her, but she just walked straight past him.
He tried to put it down to her concentration on the words she read, and continued on his path.
After turning the corner, she lowered the file, and tried to stop her hands and lips from trembling.*********
Another month later ...
He was sitting in his townhouse considering what `Santa's little helpers? (11, 7)' could be when he heard a light knock on the door, so light that he wasn't sure if it had actually occurred or not. Placing the paper on his coffee table, he moved to the door and opened it, half expecting to find that he was going crazy and hearing things.
"Catherine?" he said, sounding more surprised than he had intended to.
"Is it a bad time?" she asked, knowing that he wouldn't turn her away, even if it was.
"No, not at all, come in." He stepped backwards allowing her in, then he closed the door. "Can I get you a drink?"
Catherine laughed to herself.
"What?" Grissom asked, confused at why, in the serious atmosphere that seemed to have come in with her, she was laughing.
"Listen to us. All polite. `Is it a bad time?' `No, not at all'," she laughed again.
"We're always polite," he said, whilst watching her, trying to figure out what her laughter was concealing.
"Not this polite! This is, `Gosh, I'm really uncomfortable with this situation' polite."
"Are you?" he asked seriously.
She stopped laughing. "Yeah..." Then she smiled, "But I'll get over it... Yes, I would like a drink. My usual, thank you."
Grissom smiled at the glimpse of the Catherine he had missed, and made his way into the kitchen to prepare their drinks.
"So, I'd like for us to have that talk now," she said, settling herself on his sofa, and picking up the paper.
"What talk?" Grissom asked, genuinely not knowing what she was referring to.
"The one you've been trying to have for the last two months," she replied, as she filled in an answer on his crossword.
"Yes, by all means, Cath, do my crossword for me," Grissom joked as he carried their drinks to the sofa.
"God, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. This just feels right, you know. I forgot."
"Hey, it's fine. It's nice to have you back."
They both smiled and enjoyed a moment of silence, during which they both realised nothing had changed, and they would be okay. But they knew they still needed to talk.
"I need to apologise, Gil - " she began, but was quickly cut short.
"No you don't," Grissom said, shaking his head sincerely.
She placed her hand on his arm in a gesture to silence him, "Yes, I do... The last two months I have been inexcusable. I haven't been - alright, I have been avoiding you on purpose, but not because I didn't want to see you... I just couldn't deal with seeing you... You stirred too many memories. You personify too many reminders of what I did. Of how hurt Andrew was. Of how selfish and callous I was. Every time I saw you I felt guilty."
Grissom listened, slightly perplexed by what she was saying. "You wouldn't be you if you didn't feel sorry for what you did. You're not a bad person, Cath. It would have been worse if you had married him when you didn't love him."
"I've been telling myself that, but it sounds like I'm trying to justify it... I'm not. I don't want to justify it. It cannot be justified. I was heartless. I was mean. I was -"
"Doing the right thing. The best thing for everyone. A marriage with out love would never have worked."
"Maybe it would have. Away from -" she stopped and considered what she had almost said. She hoped that Grissom hadn't noticed the look of panic that now covered her face as she tried to think of a less complicated way to finish the sentence. "Away from Vegas," she continued as quickly as she could, "once we were settled, I might have been able to give him my whole heart."
"What happened to never doubt, never look back?" Grissom asked, whilst he was trying to analyse what he had just seen, trying to figure out what she was originally going to say that had panicked her so much.
Catherine let out a slight laugh. "Yeah, my philosophy before I started doing things worth regretting."
"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable," Grissom quoted, with a comforting smile.
Catherine emptied her glass, as if for courage. "Therein lies my problem." She stood, intentionally not giving him time to respond, and walked into the kitchen. "Mind if I get another drink?" She stood with her back to him so that she couldn't see his reaction. She was ready for this conversation but it still scared her.
If he had minded, he wouldn't have been able to do much about it. She already had the vodka in the glass and was opening the orange juice. As she poured, it became a trickle, barely half-filling the glass. "You're out of orange juice. Sorry. I'll get you some tomorrow," she called to him, thinking that he was still on the sofa. His insistence that she wasn't to worry about it startled her as it came from just behind her. She shot round so quickly she felt she should have whiplash.
"God, Gil! How many times do I have to ask you not to sneak up on me?" she exclaimed.
"What didn't you do?" Grissom asked, simply, ignoring her outburst.
"What?" she asked, knowing what he meant, but thinking perhaps she could get away from answering by pretending she was too shocked to think straight.
"What didn't you do?" he repeated, fully aware of what she was trying to do, and not allowing it. Several of her comments had hinted towards what he had wanted to discuss with her for years. He didn't want to come directly to it though, in case he had misinterpreted her words and her expressions. He needed her to introduce the topic, then he could follow her lead.
"It's not something that I haven't done," she answered, trying to think of a way to describe what she needed to.
"You regret not doing something that you haven't not done?" Grissom asked with a slight smirk at the look on Catherine's face. The look she gave him when he was intentionally trying to confuse her, and the smirk that he always gave back.
"I haven't not done it, yet," was her not-so-clarifying attempt at a clarification, accompanied by her version of his smug smirk.
"Catherine, you can't regret not doing something that you haven't not done," Grissom said, hoping that he had put the right words in the right places.
"But, I know that I will regret not doing it," she replied, replaying Grissom's words in her head to see if he had put the right words in the right places. What fun she could have teasing him if he hadn't.
"Then do it," Grissom stated as if that was such an obvious solution that she should have already thought of it.
"It's not that simple."
"Does any of this conversation seem simple?" Grissom said, allowing his confusion to show.
"Are you confused, Gil?" she smirked, "do you not know what we're talking about?"
He narrowed his eyes at her, playfully. "Carry on," he said, mockingly firm, "but you are not allowed to use the word regret, or the terms `not doing' and `haven't done'."
Catherine laughed. She had missed this. Winding Gil up was one of her favourite pastimes. Only she had the ability to do it, or, more accurately, only she had the courage, or fearlessness, to do it.
From his point of view, only she was allowed to do it. If the others tried to wind him up, he found it infuriating. When Catherine did it, it was invigorating. He enjoyed their banter, their flirtatious glances and smiles, their playful glares.
They hadn't had a moment like this since she had decided to leave. It would have felt deceitful. To be teasing him and laughing with him, whilst all the time, secretly planning to move away.
It was comforting to feel so relaxed with him again. To know that he hadn't held a grudge for her keeping Andrew from him, that he wasn't embarrassed because she had seen him cry. She was silent for a while, savouring the moment.
"I didn't say you weren't allowed to use any words," Gil joked, trying to bring her back from wherever she had drifted to.
"Sorry. What was I saying?" she smiled, her eyes sparkling with mischief.
Grissom narrowed his eyes again. "You were about to tell me why it's not that simple."
"That doesn't seem like something I would tell you," she said, frowning teasingly.
"Cath, I get the feeling we're beating around a bush here... Maybe we should just leap into it."
His words and his serious expression combined caused Catherine to erupt into a fit of giggles, from which she could not be withdrawn by any amount of instruction to calm down, or by the repeated assertion that it was not that funny.
Grissom settled himself on a stool to wait out the outbreak.
After what seemed like an eternity of listening to high pitched squeals and unrestrained chuckles, Grissom's ears were finally given a rest, when Catherine began to take deep breaths. The occasional squeak still made it through, but the worst was over.
"Can we have a mature conversation now?" he said, a touch patronisingly.
"That depends," she mimicked his tone, "are you going to suggest leaping into bushes again?" She couldn't help laughing.
Grissom flew towards her and placed his hand across her mouth. "You are not going to start that again!"
Their eyes locked. The unreleased laughter made hers glow. His were trying to be serious, and trying not to show his nervousness at being so close to her. But it didn't go unnoticed. Still glowing, she lets hers slip into a look of curious puzzlement. Seeing this he quickly lowered his hand and stepped backwards.
Her eyes retaining the same curiosity, she raised her eyebrows and tilted her head. Grissom shrugged. She intensified her stare, her eyebrows moving as high as possible to emphasise her silent question. He just stared back, mocking her intensity. She laughed, only slightly. She saw his hand twitch, and he gave her a warning look. She smiled defiantly and started to giggle again. Once again he moved towards her, this time more softly. He gently placed his fingers across her lips. She had caught his gaze with hers, and she now looked deep into his soul. His anxiety was gone, instead he emitted adoration and love. She took a deep breath and allowed herself to reveal what she had been telling herself had to be forever hidden. Seeing her eyes match his, he slowly moved his fingers to her cheek, lightly tracing her jaw line. As anguish swept over her eyes, she closed them. Holding her face in the palm of his hand, his thumb stroked the corner of her eye, encouraging her to reopen them. Reluctantly she obeyed. He saw the uncertainty and the guilt.
"Inconsolable, Cath. Personally, I don't like the sound of that... But if it's too soon, I'll wait."
As her tears built up and the lump formed in her throat, she took his other hand in hers. "I think we've waited long enough."