Catherine sauntered past Grissom's office en route to her locker, but stopped, back-tracked and peeped her head round the door frame when her mind had processed what her glance inside had shown.
Grissom was sitting behind his desk, gazing at the opposite wall, a look of sad confusion on his face.
Catherine stepped further inside, growing more concerned when he did not react to her entrance, despite the fact that she must have walked into his line of vision.
"Gil?" she asked, softly. "Are you okay?"
His head jerked to face her. "Cath…"
"I didn't mean to startle you … Are you all right?" She accompanied her words with a smile, hoping that would encourage him to tell her what was bothering him.
Grissom nodded. "I'm fine."
"Really," he insisted, quirking his lips into a smile to try to convince her.
Catherine tilted her head to one side, fixing him with an expression that clearly showed that the smile had not been enough.
"Stop it," he said.
"Stop what?" she asked, with an innocent smile.
"Stop trying to get me to talk."
"I didn't say anything."
"You didn't have to."
Catherine smiled proudly. "So spill…" she said, settling herself into the seat opposite him.
Grissom raised an eyebrow. "Spill?"
"Don't try to distract me from the topic at hand… You know exactly what that means," she smirked. "What were you thinking about?"
Grissom shrugged. "Nothing."
"Okay… Who were you thinking about?"
His eyes held hers for a second before he looked away, answering, "No one."
Catherine grinned, despite the strange nervous feeling that was growing in her stomach. "I knew it!… Who is she?"
Grissom's eyes shot back to hers. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't even try lying to me, Gil, you're not good at it… You're obviously worried about something… Maybe I can help?" She made her offer with a smile, but a part of her one that she was trying her best to ignore didn't want to know who this woman was.
Grissom considered her for a while, his eyes fixed on hers, and she could practically see him thinking everything through. It would be true Grissom fashion for him to somehow change the subject, and she found that it was now an even bigger part of her that hoped he would.
Alas, he picked today to decide to open up a little.
"Okay… I've known her for a while," he began.
Catherine nodded, trying to keep her smile in place.
"We're good friends… At least, I think we are "
Catherine frowned a little. "You think?"
"Well, you know life, and work, and… stuff gets in the way and … we haven't seen each other as much as we used to."
Drawing on her own experiences, and projecting her own feelings about the current state of her friendship with Grissom, Catherine commented, "And you miss her."
Grissom looked slightly uncomfortable, and fidgeted in his chair, glancing at the items on his desk as if something there would give him opportunity to change the topic of conversation.
"It wasn't a question, Gil. You don't need to answer… So, what is it that's troubling you?"
He looked unsure whether or not to continue, then sighed, "That."
"What?… That you miss her?" Catherine tried to clarify for herself.
"How much do you miss her?" Catherine asked, putting her friend before her discomfort with this subject. After all, she was still trying to pretend that her uneasiness didn't exist.
Grissom's brow furrowed. "How do you measure that?"
"Do you think about her a lot?" she asked.
"Again, how do you determine what is a lot?"
"When you wake up, is she the first thing you think about?"
Grissom's eyes found hers, and he hesitated for a second before nodding.
"And when you're going to sleep, is she the last thing you think about?"
Again he nodded.
"And in between, do you think about her at least once every hour?"
"Half hour," he replied.
Catherine nodded, burying her disappointment as deeply as possible.
She hadn't realised that she had been sitting in silence for over a minute, until Grissom was frowning at her.
"So?" she frowned.
"The advice that you offered…"
"Ah, yeah… You should tell her."
"Tell her what?"
"That you love her." She managed to keep her voice level, despite the fact that ninety-eight percent of her being was now screaming that she shouldn't be giving him advice about other women.
"I love her?" he asked, eyes wide.
"Obviously!" she laughed. At his disbelieving look she explained. "You think about her all the time, and… you used the word `stuff'. If your mind wasn't so occupied with thoughts of her, you could have thought of a different word."
"You cannot use that as evidence… I have used the word `stuff' before…"
"Was she in the vicinity?" Catherine asked, shocking herself by carrying on with this conversation.
"Well…" Gil paused, and it looked like he was trying to decide whether or not to continue.
Catherine smiled sympathetically, and, seeing another possible way to end the subject, said: "If by telling me I'd be able to figure out who she is, and you don't want me to know, then it's okay… I should get going anyway."
She had stood and walked through the open door before he found the voice to respond. She smiled to him as she took the door handle and pulled the door closed behind her.
Later that morning, as Catherine settled into bed and closed her eyes to welcome a sleep that would hopefully take her mind off Grissom's mystery woman, her mind presented a memory from a few years ago.
She was standing in a parking lot with Gil, and their argument was starting to get heated.
"You're right, you know. I should be just like you. Alone in my hermetically sealed condo, watching discovery on the big screen, working genius-level crossword puzzles, but no relationships. No chance any will slop over into a case. Right. I want to be just like you," she snapped at him.
His slight frown indicated that her words had hurt him, but he hid it well, responding with: "Technically, it's a townhouse. And the crosswords are advanced, not genius. But you're right. I'm deficient in a lot of ways. But I never screw up one of my cases with personal stuff."
Her eyes shot open and glanced around the room, as if somewhere in there was an explanation as to why she would suddenly recall that moment. She wasn't proud of what she had said to him that night. She had acted out of anger, and pure childishness she had known he was right to be reprimanding her, but her pride wouldn't let her just stand there and take it.
As she continued to ponder this unexpected recollection, his words once again ran through her mind.
"… I never screw up one of my cases with personal stuff."
And it clicked.
"… personal stuff."
She shook her head and tried to resettle herself for sleep. It meant nothing. `Wishful thinking,' she told herself - over and over again as she forced her eyes closed.
Sleep was not granted to her, however, as a few minutes later the doorbell rang.
She ignored it the first time. And the second. But when a third and fourth chime made it clear that her visitor was not going away, she dropped from the bed, snatched her robe from the back of her door, and headed for the front door.
The bell had continued to ring as she made her way through the house, and as she shoved her eye to the peephole, she was fully prepared to strangle the owner of the finger that was causing the noise.
Her anger vanished though when she saw Gil standing outside.
Her initial reaction being concern, she opened the door with a frown. "Gil?"
He smiled, but it looked nervous. "Hey."
When he didn't say anything else, her frown deepened. "Is there a reason why you were trying to wear out my doorbell?"
"Oh, er…" He glanced at the referenced object as he searched for words to say. "… I'm sorry… I'm not… good with this… stuff."
His eyes raised to capture hers as he spoke, as if he wanted to see if she had picked up on what he had said. The smile that tugged at her lips, as she realised that perhaps it wasn't wishful thinking, would have told him that she had noticed his choice of word.
She tried to rein it in before it became an all out grin, and attempted to speak in a serious tone. "And what `stuff' might that be that warrants waking me up?"
She expected him to mutter an apology for waking her and turn and run, so she was somewhat taken by surprise when he stepped forward, wrapped his arms around her, and planted his lips on hers. It was a kiss that left her in no doubt at all that this `stuff' was personal.
It had just registered with her that she should be kissing him back, when he loosened his hold and rested his forehead against hers. "I'm sorry," he said, with a small smirk that seemed to imply that he wasn't. "But, living in a house where sign language replaced English I soon learned that actions "
She didn't let him finish, tilting her head up so her lips met his.
This time passion flowed from both sides, and when they finally broke apart, her smirk matched his.
"Well!" she exclaimed, "Looks like you were wrong."
He frowned. "About what?"
Her grin widened. "You are good at this stuff."
And, kissing him again, she pulled him inside the house and kicked the door shut behind them.