Catherine’s eyebrows rose when Judy told her who had turned up at the desk asking to see her. It was a surprise, but, fortunately, a pleasant one. She asked the receptionist to let him in; he could find his own way.
Hanging up the phone, Catherine sat down in her chair, hands folded in front of her, as her elbows rested on the arms. A small smile on her face, she looked expectantly at the door, and waited.
A minute or so later, he appeared. He was slightly more tanned than she was used to, and dressed slightly more casually than these corridors usually saw him, but there was no difference to the smile on his face when he saw her. He caught and held her eyes, and her own smile widened as his did.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hi…” Then his eyes did a quick dance around the room. “It’s certainly different.”
“I told you I’d redecorated.”
He nodded. “More light.”
She nodded. “Less pets.”
He responded to this with a short laugh and stepped further into the room. Pausing just beside the chair in front of her desk, he frowned. “Bigger desk?”
She shrugged. “I do more paperwork than you did.”
They shared a knowing grin at this, and he sat down opposite her.
“It looks good.”
A beat. “You look good.”
“Thank you. You look… close.”
“That’s because I am. I thought I’d surprise you.”
“Well, you did… Any particular reason?”
Now he shrugged. “I was homesick.”
Catherine knew there was more to it than that, his eyes gave him away. While he had been smiling constantly since he stepped through the door, his eyes were anxious. Playing along for now though, she laughed at his comment.
“Well, it’s nice to see you. I know we’ve spoken every day since you left, but it’s just not the same. Speaking of which, you couldn’t have mentioned yesterday that you were coming?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise… Is it a bad time?”
She smiled. “No, not at all… In fact…” She closed the file that had been lying open on her desk, and dropped it into her ‘out’ tray. “That is the last of my paperwork for today. Good timing.”
He gave a brief laugh, and she stood from her chair.
“Wanna get breakfast?”
“That was my plan,” he admitted, standing to join her.
She grinned, pleased. It really was nice to see him. “Excellent. Your place or mine?” she smirked over her shoulder as she put on her jacket.
“On this occasion, I think yours might be better.”
She nodded. “Definitely closer.”
He followed her out of the office and closed the door behind them.
“Lindsey’ll be having her weekly lie in though, so we’ll have to be quiet.”
“I’ll bear that in mind,” he said, his voice low and quiet, and her head shot round to face him, unsure as to whether she had imagined the flirtation in his tone.
He simply smiled back at her, face a picture of innocence. She smiled back, as her mind and heart both raced with anticipation. She turned back to face the direction they were walking and inwardly cursed herself. It had been a long time since she had reacted like this to Gil. The dynamic of their friendship had changed several years ago, and she had eventually come to accept that occasional meaningless flirtation was all it had been, and would ever be. It hadn’t been easy to accept. But apparently it was easy now for her to forget she had even done that.
She was sure they made small talk as they walked to their cars, but, if asked, she wouldn’t have been able to say what it was about. Her mind was too consumed with trying to figure out the reason for his visit. There had been enough clues now to make her suspicious of his motives: The anxiety in his eyes; the fact that she had spoken to him less than twenty-four hours earlier and he had made no mention of his intention to return to Vegas; the flirting - because it definitely was flirting, the feigned innocence confirmed that; him having planned to take her for breakfast. It was all very un-Grissom-like. Or rather it was all very Grissom-of-a-few-years-ago-like. Things hadn’t been like this between them since he had disapproved so openly of her looking for some “human contact”; and then had proceeded to seek some himself with Sara.
It was as they reached their cars and parted that the younger woman came to Catherine’s mind. She realised, quite guiltily, that in the six months that Gil had been living in Mexico, she had not once asked about Sara.
She climbed into her car and closed the door.
But then, Gil had also never mentioned Sara at all in their many telephone conversations and emails. She inwardly cringed. That must mean that he had noticed her disapproval of his relationship with the former CSI. Yes, it had been a strong disapproval - not least because of the judgemental attitude she had always received from him with regard to her taste in men - but she had thought she had done quite well at hiding it. Evidently not.
She started the engine, and pulled out of the parking lot, heading for home. She noted Gil pull out behind her.
Once she was settled on the familiar route, she put this new evidence together with the other clues she had found. He knew that she disapproved of his relationship with Sara; he had been considerate of this in not flaunting it in her face every time they spoke; and now he was here, being extra nice to her, without having told her that he was coming.
She stopped at some traffic lights and pondered the possibilities. As the lights turned to green and she pulled away, it hit her. It was obvious really. If he’d told her he was coming, she’d have asked why. He didn’t want to tell her why because she wouldn’t like it and would therefore find some reason to be unavailable during his visit. The only way to force her to listen to the unwelcome news was to give no hint as to what was really going on, so she would agree to breakfast with him, and be unable to escape.
She had walked right into that one, and it could only mean one thing. He was going to marry Sara.
For the rest of the journey home, Catherine’s thoughts fluctuated between how she could have failed to see this coming, and how she was going to act happy for him. She steadfast refused to acknowledge the pain that the realisation had caused her.
And so, by the time they were face to face on her driveway, she had a wide (only mostly fake - she was still pleased to see him) smile plastered across her lips and a nervous lump in her throat. And she had a plan! Every time it looked like Gil was about to broach the subject, she would start an entirely different line of conversation. Eventually Lindsey would get up, probably ask for a ride to the mall, or to a friend’s house, and their morning together would be over. While she didn’t like having to wish for their time together to come to an end, she wasn’t sure that she could be convincingly happy for him in person, and so it would be much easier if he was forced to tell her on the phone, or via email.
“You must excuse the mess,” she told him, to fill the silence as they walked up to the house. “If Lindsey is to be believed, then things in my house just climb out the cupboards by themselves while I’m at work.”
He laughed. “I’ve been to your house before, Catherine… It’s a bit late now to apologise for the mess.”
She paused in her task of putting the key in the lock to glance back at him, eyebrows raised at his little joke. He just smirked, so she shot him a quick glare and turned back. Her heart was racing again. But how dare he soften her up for his news by flirting with her!
She put down her keys and her purse in the foyer, and hung up her jacket. When she heard Gil take a breath as if to speak, she turned and offered to take his jacket also. Then she lead him through to the kitchen while asking him what he would like for breakfast, and listing all of the things she thought she had available.
“I’ll have whatever you’re having,” he told her.
“Oh no. Come on, you’re the guest, you get to choose.”
“Okay,” he said. “Why don’t I make us a mushroom omelette?”
“That sounds good,” she smiled, “But I can make it, you don’t have to - ”
He placed his hand over hers on the fridge door, stopping her from opening it. Her heart skipped, treacherously, at his proximity, and she glanced at their hands before she met his eyes, questioningly.
“Have you taken cookery classes while I’ve been gone?” he asked her quietly.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “No.”
He smiled. “Then let me make the omelette.”
While half of her was finding it sweet to have this Grissom back, the other half was getting increasingly angry that he was behaving like this with her as a precursor to telling her he was going to marry someone else. So, when she glared at him, again, and stepped away from the fridge, it was half in playfulness and half in genuine distaste. Of course she doubted it was possible to convey both of those emotions with one glare, so he most likely would only detect one of them.
That he smiled and opened the fridge implied that he detected ‘playfulness’.
She stood back and watched him move freely around her kitchen, helping him find things every now and again. She smiled as memories of their regular breakfasts together came back to her; mornings when they would finish up a tough case and then collapse with a drink and an omelette at his townhouse. For years she had regretted letting that end, but they had never seemed to be able to recapture it once it was lost. It occurred to her now that it was when his hearing started to go that they had started spending less time together. He had pulled away, and she hadn’t realised why until it was too late.
But then she remembered one morning when she had watched while he sent a plant to Sara. Maybe it hadn’t been his hearing that had pulled them apart.
Remembering Sara again stopped her reminiscing and brought back to her the plan to not let Gil dictate the topic of conversation. He was currently telling her about a small diner close to where he was living. That seemed like a safe subject so she continued to listen to his tale about the mysterious secret ingredient in the scrambled eggs.
“I can’t figure out what it is. And they won’t tell me.”
“The waitresses are probably worried you’d start eating at home if you knew how to make it yourself,” she joked.
He laughed once, then the anxiety seemed to return to his face. “Maybe you could come back with me and see if you can work it out.”
She laughed out loud. “Ha! Yeah. I’ll just drop everything and get on a plane to Mexico.”
“Well, maybe when you - ”
“Did you hear that?” she interrupted him, seeing where that sentence was going.
He frowned and shook his head.
“Sounded like my cell. I’ll be right back.”
Kicking herself all the way into the foyer for the lame fake phone call excuse, she ran her hands over her eyes. This was ridiculous. She could hardly spend all morning finding reasons to cut him off, not least because it would make her seem incredibly rude. For authenticity she retrieved her cell phone from her purse. Then she checked in the mirror to make sure she didn’t look as stressed and exhausted as she felt, and returned to the kitchen.
“Text message from Nick,” she lied, when he looked up as she walked in.
“Ah. How is Nick?”
“He’s good. And so’s Greg. He’s drafting his next novel. And Riley’s doing well.”
She smiled. She had told him of the difficulties she was having adjusting to having Dr Raymond Langston as a permanent member of her team. “I’m… getting used to him.”
“I told you you would.”
“Yeah… It’s not the same though.”
He nodded. “Of course it’s not… But, erm, change isn’t always a bad thing.”
Man, he was good at twisting whatever they were talking about into an opportunity to bring up his news.
“No, I guess it’s not… Actually, speaking of change. Do you mind if I just run and get changed? I want to get out of these clothes.”
She smiled her thanks and fled from the room. Again. This time she managed to contain her frustration until she reached her bedroom, then she dropped her head onto a pillow and released a muffled scream. The way that he had looked at her before she ran off made it quite clear that he had noticed her behaviour. She wasn’t going to get away with this for much longer. It was time to resort to drastic measures: She needed Lindsey to wake up.
She changed quickly into a pair of - nice - sweatpants, and a white tank top and then she crept along the corridor to her daughter’s room. She pushed the door open slowly, jumping when it creaked, and squinted until her eyes adjusted to the dim light.
Lindsey’s voice actually startled her.
“Oh, hey, you’re awake.”
“The door creaks.”
“Oh, sorry. I forgot… But as you’re awake, are you gonna get up? Gil’s here.”
“From Mexico?” Lindsey asked sleepily.
“Yep. It’s a surprise visit. He’s making breakfast, you gonna join us?”
“I’m not really hungry… You go eat, I’ll get dressed and come see him before he goes.”
“I’m not sure how long he’ll be here.”
“Well is he likely to only stay the length of time it takes you to eat?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well does he look like he’s in a hurry to leave?”
“I don’t know. Lindsey, please just get up.”
“I will, Mom, but I need to get dressed. I’m not going to see him in my pyjamas.”
“Okay. Well… Just be as quick as you can.”
Catherine backed out of the room and closed the door. That did not go exactly to plan - that seemed to be the theme for the morning. But at least now all she had to do was stall for as long as it would take Lindsey to get dressed. She dropped her chin to her chest. That could be hours!
Reprimanding herself for all the melodrama she forced herself back to the kitchen, lifting her head, and putting back her smile as she went.
She found Gil seated at the table, two plates of food laid out beside glasses of orange juice.
“Sorry,” she apologised, on her way in, “Lindsey’s awake. I was just telling her you’re here.”
“Oh, it’ll be nice to see her.”
“And she’s going to forgo her lie-in, just for you. You really should feel honoured.”
She sat down in front of her plate as he laughed. She noted that he had positioned them around one corner of the table, rather than opposite each other.
“I do,” he told her. “I’ve missed her… And you. You really should come and visit me.”
“Is Mexico where teenage girls want to vacation nowadays?” she asked him as she speared a mushroom with her fork.
“Perhaps not… Maybe she’d let you come on your own. If you can get a weekend off?”
He seemed serious, but she laughed as if it was a joke. “Oh, yeah, that’s a good one! A weekend off! We both know how unlikely that is… Mmm, this is gorgeous. Have you put something else in it?”
“Why do you keep changing the subject?”
She froze with her next forkful of omelette half way to her mouth.
“Don’t deny it. The text message, the sudden need to get changed, and now this. What’s going on?”
When she had realised this was going to happen, she really should have come up with a plan for her response.
As it was, she put down her fork and let out a sigh. She might as well go with the truth.
“I know why you’re here, Gil. In much the same way you read my behaviour, I read yours… I know what you want to say, and I don’t - … I don’t think I can react the way that you want me to react.”
“Oh,” he responded, his face a picture of disappointment. “Right.”
“I’m sorry for the way I’ve acted today; I just didn’t know what else to do. I thought if you didn’t get chance to tell me, then we wouldn’t have to face this awkward moment.”
He nodded slowly. “I suspected as much. I guess it just took me so long to decide to actually come here, that I refused to leave without knowing for sure.”
Catherine’s chest constricted. “Oh, God. Now I feel even worse. I’m sorry. I’m being really selfish. Just tell me.”
“Well there’s not much point now.”
“No, go on. It was horrible of me to stop you. I don’t know what came over me this morning. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. We’ll forget about it. Please? Can we forget I was even here?”
She shook her head. “That isn’t necessary. I’ll learn to live with it. I am happy for you. Deep down beneath this insanity that has taken hold of me - ”
He was frowning at her and she was wondering which part he hadn’t understood when Lindsey walked into the room, dressed now in jeans and a pink t-shirt.
Gil turned away from Catherine to greet her daughter, and Catherine took the opportunity to try to calm down.
“Lindsey. Hi. I’m sorry I disturbed your lie-in.”
“It’s okay. It’s good to see you,” she told him, giving him a hug. “Have you two not finished eating yet?” she asked as she sat down opposite Catherine.
“We got talking,” Catherine answered her. “Gil has some news.”
Gil looked at her with surprise.
“It’s okay, Gil. Honestly. Tell her.”
“Catherine, I’d rather - ”
“Gil and Sara are getting married,” she blurted out, sure that Gil never would say it, and needing for it to be out in the open.
The response hadn’t come from Lindsey as she had expected it would. No, it had come from Gil.
Brow furrowed in deep confusion she said, “Your news.”
“Sara and I broke up before I even left Las Vegas.”
“What?!” This one was from Catherine. “You never mentioned that.”
“Talking about my private life has never been my strong suit.”
“Well then what have we just been talking about?”
“What made you think I was marrying Sara?”
“Well, you’re here, out of the blue, you’re happy…” She trailed off, not fully able to remember the other evidence she had collected earlier.
“Well… you… you were flirting with me.”
“So, ergo, I must be marrying someone else.”
“Well I thought you were trying to -” He was looking at her like he thought she was crazy so she stopped. “You know what, never mind what I thought. We’ve established my thoughts were wrong.”
“So you’ve been acting all weird because you didn’t want to know that I was going to marry Sara?”
She nodded. “We’ve established that too.”
“Why not?” His question was soft, but deadly serious.
“Why didn’t you want to know he was going to marry Sara?”
Catherine turned to face Lindsey who instantly excused herself. “I’ll give you some privacy.” Then she left the room.
“Yes. Why didn’t you want to know I was going to marry Sara?” he echoed Lindsey’s words as soon as the girl had gone.
She shrugged once. “I’ve never really thought that she was right for you.”
“Well I came to that realisation myself too… And I wasn’t right for her.”
“Oh I thought that too,” she smirked.
“Did you… have any thoughts on alternatives that would be a better match?”
“Well, I always thought Nick and Sara would be cute together.”
“And for me?”
He was looking at her now with such intensity in his eyes that the nervous lump returned to her throat. “Well…” She cleared her throat. “I always figured you and Lady Heather would… hook up.”
His eyes crinkled as he smiled. “Ah, if only we hadn’t lost touch.”
“Well, moving to Mexico’ll do that.”
“I didn’t lose touch with you.” And he was back with the full intensity of his gaze levelled at her.
“Well that’s because you know I have contacts everywhere, and I’d track you down.”
He leaned towards her and she froze. “Catherine,” he said, quietly, but full of so much emotion she could feel it, “Are you making jokes because you don’t want me to tell you why I’m here?”
She shook her head. “I’m no longer pre-empting what you’re going to say. Turns out I’m not good at that… So, tell me why you’re here.”
“Well, I did want to ask you to go to Mexico with me - obviously not immediately, but I thought you might be able to take a weekend and fly down there. But as that’ll be so difficult - ”
“No,” she said, leaning forward to place her hand on his forearm, “I was just finding excuses because I thought you wanted me to go down there for your wedding. I would love to visit you in Mexico.”
“Well actually, I was thinking more of you going to Mexico with me.”
She frowned, not understanding how that was different. “Yeah?”
“As opposed to me being there when you arrived.”
“Oh… But it’s silly for you to come up here, just to go back there, I’ll be fine on a plane for a few hours.”
He laughed now and she wondered how that was funny.
“I told you talking about my private life wasn’t my strong suit… What I mean is, I intend to move back to Vegas.”
Catherine’s lips formed the ‘oh’ but no sound came out.
“But I would like you to see the places I’ve been telling you about for the last six months, so thought we could go back. Just for a weekend. Whenever you have time.”
Catherine couldn’t help the smile that spread across her lips now. She was pretty sure they were on the same wavelength - finally! - and she couldn’t actually believe it was happening.
“You could have opened with that in my office… Would have saved a lot of confusion.”
“And we probably would have got to eat our breakfast before it went cold.”
Catherine grinned and looked down at her plate. “I’d forgotten about that.”
“I wasn’t all that hungry anyway.”
“Too nervous?” she teased.
“And how do you feel now?”
“I’m replaying the conversation to make sure we actually both understand what has been said here.”
“Ah. Well, as I understand it, you’re not getting married; you plan to move away from the most delicious scrambled eggs you’ve ever tasted; and you would like me to go away for the weekend with you.”
He nodded once. “That sounds about right.”
“We probably should go on a couple of dates before we go away together. Go out for drinks, dinner, cook each other breakfast.”
“I believe we’ve done all those.”
“So we have. Then we should at least get the first kiss out of the way.”
“Okay. Stand up.”
She did as instructed, but not without commenting, “Oh, that’s so romantic.”
He stood in front of her and stepped into her personal space.
“Are we sure about this?” he asked, as he cupped her neck with his right hand, and gently stroked his thumb along her jaw line.
She raised her hand to hold his wrist and smiled. “I’d say it’s been brewing all along.”
His lips spread into a grin. “I’d agree… I’m sorry it took me so long to realise it.”
“You should have moved to Mexico sooner.”
He laughed slightly. “I should have done this much sooner.” And he took another step forward and his lips landed softly on hers. She took a deep breath in through her nose, inhaling the scent of him as her lips absorbed the taste of him. She was kissing Gil Grissom, and it was simultaneously strange and familiar.
She had thought this would never actually happen - particularly after he moved to Mexico - but now here she was: Her lips moving beneath his; his hands in her hair holding her close to him; her arms wrapped around him and pulling him nearer and nearer.
She settled into his embrace, and that first kiss soon grew in intensity, decades of attraction, flirtation and sexual tension coming to the fore as they were at last given the opportunity to do so.
When they inevitably parted for air, he rested his forehead against hers and smiled down at her.
“So that’s a yes to going away for a weekend?” he smirked.
She laughed and leaned up to press a kiss to his lips.
“That’s a yes to as many weekends as you want.”