Gil Grissom stepped out of his car and glanced up and down the residential street, frowning at the absence of other vehicles.
Locking the door, he reprimanded himself for his confusion – he was dealing with Catherine Willows here: her mastermind would have thought of everything. He should expect nothing less.
He walked up the driveway, once more admiring the beauty of Catherine’s residence; and he paused at the front door, preparing himself – both mentally and physically – for what he was about to walk into.
As a brief surge of panic swept his system once again, he reminded himself that it was his own fault he was in this situation. If only, in the twenty-five years that he had known her, he had learned how to say ‘no’ to Catherine Willows.
Catherine was as exuberant as ever as she swept into Gil’s office one Monday evening, and dropped herself into the chair opposite his.
He looked up at her, over the rim of his glasses, suspicious of the wide smile that was spread beautifully across her lips.
“Hi,” she said brightly – too brightly and too succinctly to appease his paranoia.
“Hi,” he responded, removing his glasses and sitting back in his seat, but never once allowing his eyes to break contact with hers.
As her smile widened a little, and mischief sparkled in her eyes, Gil prepared himself to receive the punch line. He could come out and ask her what she wanted; what she was up to, but inevitably he would suffer – if only privately – as a result of whatever request was to come; it was only fair that she should have to work to deliver it.
“I’ll get straight to the point,” she began – though it would soon become clear that she wouldn’t. “… I do believe that it’s your birthday on Thursday?”
There was a slight inflection on the day mentioned that implied she may have posed a question. But Gil knew as well as she did that she knew the answer and therefore he offered no comment.
“… And, unfortunately for you,” she continued, “I know what year you were born.” She was grinning now from ear to ear.
“You know because I told you,” he responded, matter-of-factly.
Her eyes widened slightly. “You actually remember telling me?” she asked, practically incredulous.
“Why wouldn’t I?” he asked in return, a slight crease to his brow.
“Well, you were a little… tipsy that night. I’d have thought you wouldn’t remember anything at all.”
“I do not get ‘tipsy’,” he defended.
“Maybe not now Gil, but twenty-five years ago – on Thursday – you were very ‘tipsy’.” She winked at him.
“But not so tipsy that I don’t remember everything that happened that night,” he retorted, emphasis on ‘everything’.
And for only the second time in all the years he had known her, Catherine blushed. Gil smirked, satisfied with that response.
She coyly averted her eyes while the flush settled over her cheeks, then she looked back, offering him a pointed glare – only adding to his amusement.
While he chuckled to himself, she tried to get the conversation back on track. “Anyway! …” she said emphatically, “… As you will reach that milestone of fifty years old this year – ” Her eyes seemed to light up as she said his impending age.
“You don’t have to sound so entertained by it!” he interrupted. “It comes to us all… You will turn fifty one day.”
“Perhaps,” she replied, musingly, “I think I’ll see how it turns out for you first.”
He supposed he deserved that and conceded the point with a slight nod of his head.
“As I was saying… As it’s your fiftieth birthday, I was wondering if you had anything special planned… I noticed you have the night off.”
“I have the night off – and Wednesday night, you might notice - to avoid the birthday ritual everyone around here is so fond of,” he explained.
Catherine giggled – of course, she had never fallen victim to the dulcet tones of Greg and his band of merry lab techs. Gil had never witnessed it for himself, but stories circulated the lab about renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ that made nearby dogs howl; about cake and candles and – on one occasion – a fire extinguisher. He didn’t know details. But he didn’t need to.
“Well, look on the bright side,” Catherine said, “At least they don’t know how old you are.”
Gil simply glared at her.
When her laughter had subsided, Catherine asked, “So you don’t have any plans?”
Gil shook his head.
“Would you like to join me for dinner then? I’ll cook seeing as it’s a special occasion,” she smiled.
And the trap was set. She invites him to an innocent dinner, and he turns up to a surprise party – no doubt including the infamous lab ‘singers’ and cake.
He opened his mouth to decline, but she obviously pre-empted his refusal and altered her facial expression. Seeing her, wide-eyed and hopeful, his words froze in his throat.
“I’ll make chocolate cake for dessert,” she smiled, demurely, “And I’ll even put grasshoppers in your piece.”
She actually shivered as she spoke of putting the insects in the cake, and he couldn’t help but smile.
“Well if you’re willing to go to all that trouble,” he relented, “How could I refuse?”
She grinned and clapped her hands together once, then stood from her seat, preparing to leave. “Excellent… It’ll have to be early, because I have to work so that you don’t need to. Shall we say… seven?”
Gil nodded. “That’s fine… Should I bring anything?”
“Just yourself,” she smiled as she walked towards the door. “Just your fifty year old self,” she added, with a wink.
“Age will come to you as well!” he countered again, calling after her as she disappeared through the doorway.
Her head reappeared, her hands on the doorframe as she peeped at him. “Yes, but I will always find comfort in the fact that it came to you first.”
And with that she was gone again, leaving him with a smile on his face – until he remembered what he had just agreed to.
Resigning himself to the fact that there was no sense in prolonging the inevitable, Gil raised his hand and rang the doorbell. Then he waited, picturing the guests scurrying for a hiding place; crouching behind furniture, or secreting themselves behind curtains or doors, so that they would not be seen as he entered.
Sooner than he had been expecting, the door swung open and Catherine’s smiling face greeted him. “Hi,” she said cheerfully, stepping back to allow him to enter. “Come on in.”
He nodded his thanks and stepped across the threshold, glancing around the foyer, and into what he could see of the living room while Catherine closed the door. By the time she faced him, he was looking at her.
“Is Lindsey not around?” he asked her.
Catherine shook her head. “I asked her if she wanted to join us, but she said she didn’t want to be a third wheel and made arrangements to eat at a friend’s. She’ll be back just before I go to work.”
Gil nodded, slowly, impressed by how convincing that story was.
“Dinner should be ready,” Catherine said a moment later, breaking the silence that had descended. “Why don’t you go on through to the dining room, and I’ll go get it.”
“Is there anything I can help with?” he asked her as she walked past him towards the kitchen, not wanting to make this too easy for the conspirators.
Catherine gave a small shake of her head. “It’s just the pasta, I just need to put it into a dish… Everything else is already on the table… I can manage. Go on in,” she smiled again.
Gil nodded and turned to the closed dining room door as Catherine disappeared into the kitchen. He heard the clinking of pots and dishes as he walked slowly towards the door and had to give her points for continuity and creativity.
Well, this was it. The living room had looked innocent enough, clearly the party was behind this closed door. He had to admit, delaying the ‘surprise’ was a new idea. He had always seen on television that the crowds pounced the minute the guest of honour walked through the door. She was certainly trying to lull him into a false sense of security.
“Are you afraid of my dining room?”
Gil jumped and turned around, heart pounding as he faced Catherine, standing in front of him, a bowl of pasta in her hands and an inquisitive look on her face.
“I… It didn’t feel right to go in there and sit doing nothing while you were effectively waiting on me,” he replied, thinking quickly, adding a small smile for effect.
One of Catherine’s eyebrows quirked upwards. “I see…” She stepped past him and opened the door. “So why were you studying the door so closely?” she asked as she walked into the room.
Gil didn’t offer a response, thinking that he wouldn’t need one for he’d be lost in a crowd as soon as he set foot in the room. So the silence that greeted him came as quite a surprise.
The room contained nothing and no one except a cabinet in one corner, a table in the centre, set for dinner, and Catherine, wearing an expectant look as she awaited his answer.
He looked around the room one more time to make sure he wasn’t missing anything, and found Catherine smirking when his gaze fell back on her.
“Were you expecting someone else to be here?” she asked, clearly amused by his confusion.
He narrowed his eyes in a silent reprimand for her finding it amusing then said: “Well did you really expect me not to think that this was all an elaborate plot to lure me to a party?”
A smile spread slowly across Catherine’s lips as she walked towards him. “Surprise,” she said, quietly, before leaning up and kissing his cheek. “Happy birthday, Gil,” she said as she stepped away. “May we eat now?”
He placed his hand gently on her arm to stop her retreat to the table. “So there’s no party?”
“Did you want a party?” she asked, looking up at him.
“I didn’t think you would… So, yes, there’s no party… It’s just you and me, and some pasta that is quickly going cold.”
Gil smiled, but didn’t relinquish his hold on her arm. At her questioning frown, he leaned forward and gently kissed her cheek. “Thank you,” he said softly, when he pulled back. “I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday.”
Cheeks tinted a light shade of pink, Catherine returned his smile, and for a moment they stood in silence, their eyes locked. It was Catherine who broke it. “Wouldn’t hot pasta be better?” she smirked.
Gil gave a slight laugh. “With your cooking, I don’t think it matters either way.”
Her initial reaction was a smile, then she frowned. “I don’t know how to take that.”
Gil just smiled and led her to the table. “Shall we eat?”