If The Shoe Fits
Rating: CSI-1
Disclaimer: I do not own CSI.
Summary: ’tis a fairy tale of sorts…
A/N: This is AU. Some bits are taken from canon, but you’ll soon see that it is pretty much all AU. This was attempt three at a story for the Twelve Days of Christmas Challenge, and sadly, as with the previous two attempts, it did not get finished. Today however, inspiration struck, so here it is. All chapters to be posted tonight, providing my Internet co-operates. Apologies for the lateness, but Merry Christmas!
Dedication: To Alza for covering my day in the challenge when I failed to come up with anything. Thank you!
Date: Dec 2007

Once upon a time there was a Crime Scene Investigator by the name of Gil Grissom. He lived in a far away land called Las Vegas; a land of lights and entertainment; a land where Elvis lived and aliens conducted marriage ceremonies.

Gil was generally a happy man. He loved his job, he had many friends – most of them of the insect variety, but he found them much easier to understand – and he was financially secure.

But once a year Gil allowed his thoughts to wander to the kind of life he could be living. He wondered what it would be like to have fallen in love, to have married and had children. In his dreams he imagined what his wife would have looked like: soft, strawberry blonde hair bouncing around her shoulders; bright, mischievous eyes that he could never tire of gazing into; a smile that melted all troubles into insignificance. He had heard that it was not possible to dream of someone you had never met; but he was certain he would have remembered meeting this woman.

Images of his dream world stayed with him when he awoke, tugging on his heart, reminding him that there was something missing from his life. That is why he only allowed the dreams once a year; he couldn’t stand the feelings of regret.

It happened that the ‘once a year’ fell at Christmas time. The images of happy families all over the television and in the shops would have conjured his thoughts anyway, and so he made his indulgence coincide with the festive season.

He would work the entire holiday to distract himself as much as possible, and decline any invitations to parties – not wishing to watch other people enjoying the life he longed for. It had become his routine five years ago, and he had accepted that.

But then one year, the Crime Lab’s Assistant Director, Conrad Ecklie, insisted that Gil take Christmas off work. Ecklie had found a clause in the employment contract that ensured all employees would receive at least one Christmas off in every five, and panicked when he realised Gil had worked five consecutive holidays. Gil’s insistence that he didn’t mind went unheard, and Ecklie assured him he would feel the Sheriff’s wrath if he were to set foot in the building before January 1st.

Unaccustomed to being free, and not having work as a valid excuse for not attending Christmas parties, Gil found himself having agreed to attend a Christmas ball being held by his good friend, Jim Brass – a human friend, not an insect!

When the evening came, Gil stood in front of his closet unable to decide what to wear. His reluctance to go wasn’t helping matters. He had tried to get out of it, but before he could even broach the topic, Brass had told him how pleased he was that he would finally be joining the festivities. He couldn’t bring himself to wipe the smile from his old friend’s face at Christmas.

He eventually removed a tuxedo that had hung in his closet since his cousin’s wedding seven years ago, and was relieved to see that the bowtie was wrapped around the hanger; or else he would have had no idea where to find it.

He was also relieved to find that the suit still fit him.

Finally dressed and ready to leave, Gil picked up the gifts he had bought for Jim and his wife, and set out for the ball.

-----

Meanwhile, across town at a club called The French Palace, Catherine Willows stormed out of her manager’s office, slamming the door as hard as she could behind her.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that she and her husband had just separated after she found him with someone else in their bed, her idiot of a manager would not allow her this one night off in order to go to a masquerade ball with her friend. She was willing to work Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, and all the way through to the new year, she just wanted this one night. But, no: He wouldn’t allow it. And she suspected it was because he was also attending, and he didn’t want to be seen with her outside the club. How he kept the true nature of his club a secret from his friends she didn’t know; but he seemed to think Vegas was oblivious to the fact that he ran one of its most popular strip clubs.

Muttering every curse she could think of under her breath, Catherine stamped her way out of the back fire exit and into the cool night air. She instantly took a deep breath and forced back tears that were about to fall. A sob escaped her though.

She just wanted this one night. It was Jenny’s neighbour’s ball and she had invited Catherine to go with her, knowing that she needed a break – both from work and from thinking about Eddie. She had found someone willing to work in her place, but the entire plan was thrown into jeopardy when Ben announced that he had been invited to the same ball, and therefore she would have to stay and work, as they couldn’t both take the night off. It was complete nonsense – she wasn’t management, their rotas were entirely independent – but he had made his decision, and she couldn’t afford to lose her job.

She took several more deep breaths, trying to let her anger go in the puffs of air, but, every time she thought about going back into the building, her stomach churned. She dropped herself back against the wall, leaning her head on the cold brick, wrapping her arms around her chest.

And that was where Fay found her minutes later.

“Catherine,” her colleague said quietly, prompting Catherine to open her eyes and force a smile. “Ben’s gone.”

Catherine let out a sigh. “I’ll be in in a minute.”

A smile crept across Fay’s lips. “I’ve spoken to Mike…”

Mike was the bar manager – well, the duty manager now that Ben had left.

“… and to the others… And you shall go to the ball.”

Catherine’s eyes widened. “What?”

“Mike said you can go… And we won’t tell, if you don’t,” Fay grinned.

Catherine smiled with disbelief before remembering one vital fact. “But Ben’s going to the same ball.”

“And it’s a masquerade ball is it not?”

Hope began to take root in Catherine’s heart again. “It is.”

“Then make sure your disguise is a good one.”

Catherine managed to suppress her squeal of delight, but flung her arms around Fay, holding her tightly to show her gratitude. “Thank you!” she exclaimed as she pulled away. “I really owe you one!”

“And I’ll collect,” Fay grinned. “Now, come inside, we’re all ready to do your hair and make up.”

-----

Gil knew a few of the other guests from the police department, but had spent the first hour of the party on his own in a corner – not least because, in all his anxiety, he had forgotten that Jim had told him it was a masquerade ball, and he felt oddly exposed, as the only man there without a mask on.

The minutes continued to tick by, and Jim was still occupied mingling with his guests. When a raucous peal of laughter came from the table next to him, Gil decided it was time to get some fresh air. Picking up his jacket, he made his way round the edge of the dance floor and towards the ballroom exit.

He reached out to open the door, just as it swung towards him, narrowly missing clipping his nose.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!”

After recovering from the surprise, Gil realised that the apology had come from the woman currently standing in front of him, wearing a long black evening gown, and a silver diamante encrusted mask that covered all but her lower face. Her hair was piled high on her head; strips of light, black and silver material woven into it, more diamantes interspersed throughout the do, catching the light from every angle. She looked amazing… And she looked concerned.

“Oh,” Gil responded, realising that she was most likely concerned because he hadn’t responded, “Please, don’t worry. It missed me.”

She smiled with relief and Gil was taken aback by the familiarity of her smile. It faltered again as his reaction must have brought back her concern.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked him.

“Yes. Yes I’m fine,” he assured her.

She nodded. “Were you leaving?” she asked, and he noticed she had held the door open for him.

“Just for some fresh air,” he told her.

“Okay,” she smiled again, as he took over from her holding the door. She took two steps away from him and then turned back. “Maybe I’ll see you inside then.”

Gil smiled and nodded, and she walked away from him.  

-----

‘What are you thinking?’ Catherine reprimanded herself as she walked further into the ballroom. Her marriage had barely been over five minutes and yet she found herself wanting to see that man inside; in fact her heart rate increased at the mere thought of it. Trying to shake herself free from such crazy notions, she looked around the room, hoping to catch sight of Jenny – she just hoped she would recognise her friend beneath her disguise.

She was just quickly turning around having spotted someone who could quite possibly be Ben when her cell phone rang. She panicked at first, given that Ben had been on the phone when she had noticed him. He wouldn’t call her, right? He would expect her to be on stage right now. Quickly snatching her purse open, she grabbed her cell phone, and sank with relief on seeing Jenny’s name on the display.

“Thank God it’s you,” she laughed as she answered. Her relief was short-lived though as Jenny explained that she had fallen on the stairs at home and couldn’t put any weight on her left ankle. “Is there someone to take you to the hospital?” Assured that Jenny’s husband was taking good care of her, Catherine in turn assured Jenny not to worry about her being alone at the ball, and the call ended with a promise to call her friend the next day.

Looking around at all the couples and groups, laughing and drinking, and enjoying the celebrations, Catherine was just deciding to go home when her phone rang again. Retrieving it from her purse once more, her stomach churned when she saw Fay’s name lighting up the screen.

She hadn’t even spoken her greeting when Fay announced, “You’ve got to be back here by twelve thirty! Ben just called Mike and he’s bringing some friends of his to the club after that party. He’s ordered champagne and reserved the best seats.”

“What happened to keeping his secret?” Catherine asked bitterly.

She could hear the shrug that would have accompanied Fay’s reply, “Clearly he’s realised his position gets him street cred… I’m sorry, Cath.”

Catherine shook her head even though Fay couldn’t see her. “It’s okay. Jenny can’t make it anyway. I’ll just come back now.”

“No! You’re all dressed up. Stay and party.”

“I don’t know anyone.”

“Well, get to know someone. Flirt with some guys. Have some fun!”

“I’m really not – ”

“Catherine Willows,” Fay cut her off, “If you return to this club one minute earlier than necessary, I will tell Ben that you went to that ball.”

“You wouldn’t,” she stated, knowing it to be true.

“No, I wouldn’t,” Fay admitted, “But I’m sure there’s something cruel I would be willing to do… You deserve some fun. And it’s Christmas! End of discussion. See you later.”

And Fay hung up before Catherine could respond.

Laughing at her friend’s persistence, Catherine dropped her phone back into her bag, and made her way around the dance floor to the bar. She felt a little like an intruder, not actually knowing the hosts, but no one seemed to have noticed she was a stranger, so she ordered a white wine and looked around for the best place to sit – as far away from Ben as possible.

-----

Walking back into the room, Gil found his eyes instantly sweeping the many faces, looking for the woman with whom he had almost collided. He had been unable to think of anything else while he had been outside – her smile kept replaying in his mind, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had met her before.

His heart sank a little when he couldn’t see her. The room was a sea of black and white; of masks and disguises; with a whirlpool of dancing couples in the centre distorting his view.

He also couldn’t locate Jim, so he made his way to the bar and ordered another drink, intending to return to his earlier corner until such time as he could leave without it being disrespectful.

It was as he approached said corner that he found his mystery woman – or rather, she had found his hiding place.

“Hi,” he greeted her as he stopped at the table.

“Hey,” she smiled, and his heart skipped again.

“I see you’re trying to disappear as well,” he smiled.

She laughed. “Something like that.”

“Well, I found that this table is ideal for that… Do you mind if I join you?”

She shook her head and indicated for him to take a seat.

“I’m Gil Grissom,” he introduced himself, offering his hand for her to shake.

“Katie Flynn,” she responded, a slight hesitation beforehand making him wonder if she was telling him the truth. “So, who are you hiding from?” she asked him.

“I’m not much of a social butterfly,” he replied. “So, it’s not that I’m hiding, per se… Rather I’m trying to be inconspicuous.”

“And I guess the absence of a mask doesn’t make that easy,” she smirked.

He laughed. “No. Exactly… What about you? Who are you hiding from?”

She sighed and, though they were partially hidden by her mask, he caught the wave of sadness that swept through her eyes. “No one in particular. I’m just not in a partying mood.”

“Ah,” Gil nodded, understandingly. “Here because you promised a friend?”

She laughed at this for some reason. “Sort of… I’m here because I need to be in a partying mood.”

“Yes. Tis the season to be jolly.”

She nodded. “No matter what else is going on in your life.”

Wanting to know what it was that was making her so sad, so that he could make it go away, Gil smiled sympathetically to her. “Well, we can sit here and be ‘unjolly’ together if you like.”

Her lips curved into that beautiful smile again. “Thank you…” Then she glanced towards the dance floor. “But how would you feel about going up there and faking jolly for a while?”

-----

Catherine held her breath as she waited for his response. She didn’t know what had come over her tonight. Whether it was Fay’s words from earlier, her anger at Eddie, or her seemingly genuine attraction to this man, she found herself wanting him to accept her offer. She wanted him to take her in his arms, and twirl her around that dance floor like something from a fairy tale. She wanted to dance and forget everything else. Fay was right; she deserved a night of fun; and, inexplicably, she felt that her fun was supposed to include Gil Grissom.

It felt like minutes before he replied, but she rationalised that it must have been only seconds. He said nothing; he merely smiled and held his hand out to her. Relieved and excited, she slipped her fingers into his and they made their way to the dance floor.

-----

He could dance. No matter what the music, Gil Grissom could move to it smoothly; and Catherine would willingly follow his lead.

After the first dance, he seemed to realise that she grew anxious if they neared the other side of the dance floor, so he had kept them to their side since then. It made her smile to think that something was ‘theirs’. Which again made her question what the hell she was doing.

She felt so comfortable in his presence; able to laugh genuinely with him; and be herself. She felt guilty for having not been entirely honest with him about her name, but in a moment’s paranoia it had occurred to her that if he knew Ben, her cover would be blown. And there was hardly an appropriate time to bring up the fact that she had lied to him, not when he seemed to be as relaxed with her as she now was with him.

They danced, and they talked; returning to ‘their’ table when they needed to rest; arguing every time about whose round it was when it came to going to the bar. At one point it occurred to Catherine that she probably should stop drinking seeing as she had to go back to work; but by then she had enough alcohol in her system to not give a damn what Ben might have to say about her being drunk at work. So she continued to enjoy herself; her inhibitions in inverse proportion to her alcohol consumption.

With each dance, they moved slightly closer together; his hand would rest slightly lower on her back; and her head would be slightly nearer to resting on his shoulder. They were in their latest stage of closeness when a clock behind the bar began to strike twelve.

Catherine gasped and pulled back, checking her watch to make sure the clock wasn’t lying. She looked beyond Gil to the table where Ben had been sitting all evening, relieved to find that he was still there.

“What’s the matter?” Gil asked, clearly concerned by her panic.

“I’ve got to go. I’m sorry. I didn’t realise what time it was.”

She started moving away from him immediately, making sure her phone and keys were in her purse.

“Wait!” he called after her.

She stopped and turned back.

“Can I at least get your number? I thought we – ”

They were both distracted by a loud cheer from a table behind her, and she turned to see Ben and his friends on their feet and preparing to leave.

“I’m sorry, I really have to go,” she said, running from the room as fast as she could.

-----

Gil moved to follow but was caught up in a group of men who were also leaving – and they were in no hurry.

By the time he made it to the door there was no sign of her.

Sighing and cursing himself for not asking for her number sooner, he was about to go back inside to say goodnight to Jim so he could go home, when his eyes caught sight of something half way down the steps that led from the ballroom to the external doors.

He did tell himself that he was just imagining it; that things like that happened only in fiction and fairy tales, but he went to investigate nevertheless. And sure enough, lying on the step was one single shoe. It was a black, strappy stiletto, and he recognised it from when Katie had accidentally stood on his foot earlier in the evening. Still partly convinced that he was hallucinating, he bent down and picked it up. It was real. That or he was really drunk.

-----

“So? How was the party?” Fay asked Catherine the minute the other woman returned to the dancers’ dressing room having been on stage.

Carefully removing diamantes from her hair, Catherine gave a small shrug. “It was okay.”

“Did you have fun?”

Catherine paused in her actions for a second, her mind instantly going back to being in Gil’s arms. A small smile curled her lips. “I guess I did.”

Fay practically squealed as she dropped herself onto the chair beside Catherine. “Tell me all about him.”

Catherine laughed. “I never mentioned a him.”

“But I know these things,” Fay grinned, reaching up to help Catherine undo her hair. “So?”

Catherine sighed. “Okay. There was a him. But, as I left him standing there and ran away, I doubt there’s a future in it.”

“You what?”

“Well I realised what time it was, and Ben and his friends started to make a move and I just had to get out of there.”

“You didn’t give him your number?”

Catherine shook her head.

“Oh, Catherine.”

“It never occurred to me. I wasn’t expecting to meet someone. It’s been years since I did the dating thing.”

Fay sighed this time. “So you just ran away when the clock struck twelve? Oh, it’s all so very Cinderella.”

“I know,” Catherine agreed, unable to stop the smile from forming on her face in anticipation of Fay’s reaction to her next utterance. “I realised that as I ran from the ballroom… So… I … left my shoe behind.”

-----

Gil sat at home the next day, looking intensely at the shoe he had placed on his coffee table. When he woke up he had been quite relieved to find that the shoe did in fact exist, and he had not been experiencing strange, fairy tale-esque hallucinations the night before.

Despite knowing that all thoughts relating his situation with Katie to the story of Cinderella were quite ludicrous, Gil couldn’t help but wonder how he could use this shoe to trace its owner.

Obviously, taking the shoe to every house in the land, and making all the females try it on, was out of the question. Besides the time it would take, and the doors he would get slammed in his face, in the real world, the shoe would fit more than just one person.

Of course he did have the added advantage of knowing her smile. He was sure he would recognise it again the moment he saw it.

His mind briefly wandered to why Prince Charming did not speed up his search by getting the women to smile at him rather than all of them trying on the shoe. But then he realised that Cinderella was fiction – and that he was quite possibly insane.

-----

Three days after the ball, Catherine had, for the seventeenth time, decided that she was going to call every G. Grissom in the telephone directory, on the off chance that Gil was listed, and had in fact given her his real name.

Like the previous sixteen times, her hand hesitated as it moved to pick up the phone.

“Oh just do it already!” Fay exclaimed from her seat across the room, flicking absently through the daily newspaper.

“What if it isn’t him?”

“You say you’ve called the wrong number, and you apologise.”

“And what if it is him?”

“You say hi, you explain what your Cinderella moment was all about, and you take it from there.”

“What if I’m not ready for that?”

Fay lowered the paper and focussed on her friend. “Catherine if you weren’t ready you wouldn’t be so concerned about the fact that you didn’t exchange numbers.”

“Maybe I’m just trying to get revenge on Eddie?”

“Maybe… But maybe you’re just moving on.”

Fay offered her a small smile and then returned her attention to the newspaper.

Catherine sighed, found her place in the phonebook, and persuaded her hand to actually pick up the phone. She had dialled only three numbers when Fay swept from her seat and clamped her hand down on the phone to cut off the call.

“What are you doing?” Catherine exclaimed.

“Here’s his number!” Fay screamed, shoving the newspaper in front of her.

Managing to pull her confused stare away from her friend, Catherine redirected her attention to the paper, her eyes obeying Fay’s finger that pointed to what had caused her outburst.

There, in black and white, was a photograph of her shoe.

-----

On arrival at the police headquarters, Gil was told that Brass was in the middle of an interrogation, and so he made his way to the public waiting area to get a drink while he waited for him.

The waiting area was unusually full – of women - so Gil assumed it must be quite a big case that Jim was working on. He got a soda from the machine, and found an available seat.

Two more women arrived in the next few minutes, and then a further four minutes passed before Jim appeared at the door.

“I’m sorry to keep you all waiting. It’ll just be a couple more minutes,” he announced to the room as he walked over to Gil.

“What’s happened?” Gil asked him, quietly.

“It’s a long story,” Jim said, beginning to move Gil through the crowd towards the door. “Could you wait for me in my office? I’ll be with you as soon as I can.”

“Well, I can come back another – ”

“No, no,” Jim interrupted. “I need to speak with you. Give me ten minutes.”

“Okay,” Gil agreed, and allowed himself to be ushered out of the door and into the corridor.

-----

Catherine entered the Las Vegas police headquarters and reported to the desk as requested.

“I’m here about the missing shoe,” she told the receptionist and was directed to a public waiting area just down the corridor.

The room was lined with glass, and, as she approached, Catherine could see that there were several other women already waiting.

‘Surely they can’t all be missing a shoe,’ she thought to herself as she walked round to the door.

On entry, she counted that there were in fact seven other women in the waiting area, and the majority of them looked incredibly impatient. Wondering what was going on, but not wanting to ask, Catherine quickly found a seat towards the back, away from the others.

Over the course of the next ten minutes, the women were called for one by one by a young male police officer, who managed to calmly deflect each demanding, ‘how much longer is this going to take?’ in a gentle, soothing voice; promising each time that things were progressing as quickly as possible, and that ‘they’ were sorry for the inconvenience.

When all of the other women had been seen, and the same officer returned to ask for Catherine, it confirmed that they had all, in fact, been missing a shoe.

Catherine’s nerves tripled as she followed the officer along the corridors of the police department. She had been anxious enough about seeing Gil – if that was his real name – again; but this bizarre process now had her wondering what exactly she had wandered into… Had her shoe somehow been involved in a crime after she had left it? Was she now implicated in a one-shoed murder or armed robbery? She knew on some levels that she was probably over-reacting, but anxiety had a habit of suppressing one’s logic.

When she was led into an interrogation room, she was sure her heart actually stopped momentarily.

-----

Gil absently drummed his fingers on Jim’s desk as he told himself he would give it five more minutes and then he would leave a message for Jim to call him when his case was over.

He need not have worried, as Jim arrived less than a minute after he made his decision.

“Sorry,” his friend apologised as he jogged in.

“Are you okay?” Gil asked as he took in the mysterious smile in residence on Jim’s face.

“I am,” he replied. “Could you come with me? I need you to look at something.”

As Gil had learned long ago that it was usually easier not to ask questions of Jim’s requests, he nodded and followed his friend through the building, finding himself entering an observation room attached to one of the interrogation rooms.

“Do you recognise anyone?” Jim asked him immediately, tilting his head towards the window.

Gil frowned and turned to look into the adjoining room. He froze when he saw the woman sitting behind the glass.

“All those women,” Brass began to explain with a proud grin, “were missing a black stiletto.”

Gil’s eyebrows rose. “A sudden spurt of shoe theft?” he asked sarcastically.

“No. But clearly a lot of women are careless with their shoes,” Brass replied. “I’d intended to speak to them on the phone, but we got busy, so I asked Megan to get them all to come in so I could sort it out after my shift ended.”

“Jim… Sort what out?” Gil asked slowly, horrified at where this seemed to be going.

“Well we found a shoe. They wanted it back.”

“And how did they know we – rather I – found a shoe?”

Jim shrugged. “I put an ad in the paper. Much easier than going house to house.”

“You put an ad in the paper?” Gil asked incredulously.

Jim nodded. “And it worked.”

“You dragged every woman with a missing black stiletto down here and interrogated them as if they were a suspect in one of your cases?”

“No, it wasn’t that harsh - ”

“She’s in an interrogation room, Jim!” Gil exclaimed, waving his hand in the direction of the window as he fled from the room.

-----

Catherine looked up, startled, as the door to the interrogation room burst open. She froze, her only movement the smile sweeping onto her face.

“Hi,” she breathed, seeing Gil Grissom standing before her.

“Hey,” he replied. “I’m sorry about this. I had no idea what Jim was doing, and I don’t think he totally thought it through. You’re not in any trouble. And your shoe isn’t in any trouble. Not that you would think your shoe was in trouble – ”

Catherine interrupted as she sensed he was losing control of his rambling. “No one-shoed armed robbery then?” she asked with a small smile.

He seemed confused by her words for a moment, and she cursed herself for making a lame joke, but then he smiled and nodded. “Ah, yeah… Nothing like that. I’ll get you your shoe and you can get going.”

“Thanks,” she smiled. “Oh, I brought the other one in case you need me to prove that it’s mine.”

“Oh I know that it’s yours,” Gil replied.

Her heart skipped. “You do?”

He nodded. “I remember you.”

It skipped again. “Oh… So, you didn’t find skin cells on the shoe, and run the DNA then?” She cursed her lame jokes again.

“Would we have your DNA on file?” he asked, with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes.

She ducked her head, blushing slightly as he played along with her lame joke. “I plead the fifth,” she said, looking up at him from beneath her eyelashes.

“That would certainly be an interesting twist on the Cinderella story, wouldn’t it? The Prince runs a DNA test on the glass slipper.”

“And it turns out Cinders is wanted for armed robbery.”

They shared a laugh at this, and Catherine congratulated herself on the less lame nature of that joke.

“You’re not wanted for armed robbery, are you?” he asked after a couple of seconds.

Smiling, she shook her head. “No…” Then she ducked it slightly again. “But… maybe for giving misinformation,” she said quietly.

He frowned.

“My name’s not Katie Flynn,” she admitted. “At least, it hasn’t been for a few years… I’m Catherine Willows,” she said, holding out her hand to him.

-----

Gil took the outstretched hand that she offered, and shook it, remembering the soft touch of her skin from when he had last held her hand as they danced at the ball. His brain was just about alert enough to realise why her name would have changed though.

“Married?” he asked, wishing as soon as he heard the word escape him that he had put it into some sort of sentence rather than just blurting it out like that. “Sorry, I – ”

“It’s okay,” she assured him. “I am married. Recently separated. It is permanent though.”

He nodded his understanding, relief sweeping his system.

A silence fell then. Gil couldn’t think what to say next. He wanted to know all about her; he wanted to continue what he felt had been starting the night they met; but, particularly given their location, asking all of his questions would certainly seem like an interrogation.

Then one of the things he had been wondering returned to him. “How did you manage to leave your shoe behind?” he asked her.

She ducked her head again, a movement he had come to love in the mere minutes they had been back together. “Oh… er…” Then she seemed to tell herself off for hesitating, and she straightened up. “I left it for you to find,” she told him, matter-of-factly.

He raised an eyebrow. “You did?”

A blush tinted her cheeks as she smiled shyly. “I know it’s silly, but… The clock striking twelve and me running away… I guess the Christmas spirit was messing with my head… Or the alcohol was,” she shrugged. “The next morning, I actually thought I’d dreamt it.”

“So did I,” he told her.

“Girl loses slipper, boy seeks out girl who the shoe fits… Not really the kind of thing that happens in real life,” she laughed.

“Apparently it is, though,” he said, smiling with her.

She just looked at him for a second, and he wondered what she was thinking. “Or rather, boy’s friend seeks out girl,” she smirked.

“Only because boy’s friend didn’t want to have to arrest boy for going door to door harassing girls,” he retorted, enjoying how at ease he felt with her; how natural it felt for him to be himself.

Her eyes caught onto his and her smile widened, and when his mind flashed back to his dreams, he realised where it was he had seen her before; why she had seemed so familiar when he first encountered her.

“Would you like to get a cup of coffee?” he asked her, surprising himself with the offer more than he seemed to surprise her.

“I’d love to,” she replied. “… Could I get my shoe first?” she added with a cheeky smirk.

He laughed. “Of course… I mean, we probably should make sure that it actually is yours before we live happily ever after.”

She joined in his laughter and he led her out of the interrogation room to find Brass and the ‘glass slipper’.

-----

And over coffee they shared their life stories. She showed great interest and knowledge about his career, and he passed no judgemental looks or comments about hers. She explained why she had fled from the ball, and he told her that this was the first Christmas he hadn’t worked.

But it certainly wasn’t the last. For, that year, Gil Grissom learned that fairy tales – and dreams – actually could come true.

And they did live happily ever after.

THE END