'Did everything have to hit the fan simultaneously?' Gil wondered to himself as Catherine and Warrick finished giving him their report. The lab was destroyed in an explosion, his hearing was even worse than it had been last week, he had a CSI thinking she was invincible, and he just found out it that Catherine had caused the explosion.
She sighed and brushed her fingers under her eyes. She sniffled. "I'm sorry," she whispered.
Gil pushed himself up as Warrick stepped back to close the door. He wrapped his arms around her and rubbed her back with his hands. "Don't," he murmured. "We put things under the fume hood all the time," he reminded her. "It's not your fault. Could have happened to anyone."
She nodded and buried her face in his neck and shoulder, inhaling deeply and shuddering.
"He's right, Cath," Warrick added softly. "I was with you, and I didn't think you did anything wrong. I would have done the same thing."
She nodded again, but didn't say anything. Gil frowned and kissed her temple. She lifted her head and looked at him. "I'm just so tired," she whispered. "I need to get a grip."
"You haven't been sleeping?" he asked quietly.
She swallowed and shook her head. "N-no... I'm trying to be around for Lindsey, and with work and overtime and nannies and---"
"Shhh," he whispered. He reached up and stroked her cheek with one hand. "I know." He leaned in and kissed her forehead. "It's gonna be okay."
"How can you---"
"The director won't fire you," he interrupted in a stronger voice. "He'd be too stupid to do that. Besides, if he even mentions it... you've got us in your corner."
Catherine smiled a little, although her lower lip trembled.
Warrick nodded. "Cath, Grissom's right about that."
"And you're gonna have to get some rest," Gil added. "Maybe it's time we started spending the night together regularly."
Warrick grimaced. "Guys. C'mon," he protested.
Catherine snorted out a tiny chuckle. "Sorry, Warrick," she murmured.
"It's like... finding out how your parents... ugh."
She chuckled again. "Yeah. I know."
Gil's lips quirked into a tiny smile. "I meant to sleep, Warrick. There was no need to jump to conclusions."
"A.," he said, holding up one finger. "You forget I'm the one that overheard you two in the locker room. And, B.," he held up another finger. "I only took a small step, and the conclusions were there."
Catherine smiled again. "Down, boys. I'll try to sleep more."
"Good," Warrick said, nodding. "Now, I'm gonna go get back to work. Let me know how the thing with the director goes."
Catherine nodded and reached out to squeeze his arm. "Thanks, War."
"No problem," he told her, smiling at both of them, before leaving the office.
When the door clicked shut, Gil pulled her back into a tight embrace. Catherine sighed and returned the gesture. "I blew up the lab," she whispered.
"We needed to renovate, anyway," he whispered back, before kissing her jaw.
"Don't try to make me feel better."
"Can't help it," he replied. "All I want to do is make you better."
She nodded and squeezed him a little. He rubbed her back and felt her shiver and sigh. Gil frowned. "I'm sorry I didn't notice---"
"I was hiding it from everyone," she murmured. "Not your fault."
She pulled back and looked at him. "Yeah."
She shrugged. "You've been so great lately... you've been kind of overprotective since you started worrying I might start using drugs again, but other than that, you've been really great. And I didn't want to add to your---"
Gil cupped her face in both hands before she had a chance to finish her sentence. "You tell me when something's wrong," he said firmly. "Catherine, I can't lose you."
She nodded and closed her eyes. "Y-yeah. I know."
She slid her hands to his shoulders. Her thumbs teased his neck. "I know. I should have told you how bad things were at home."
"Yes, you should have," Gil said, nodding. "I love Lindsey like she's my own daughter. If anything happened to my girls..."
"Willows women are strong stock," she whispered.
"I know," he murmured. "But, no one's invincible."
She nodded and leaned forward to kiss him gently. "Okay. I've learned my lesson," she told him. "More sleep. No explosions."
"Please don't make me reteach it again," he said softly, dryly. "It was an expensive lesson."
Catherine's laugh sounded strangled by a tiny sob. "God, Gil," she moaned. "Don't make me laugh right now."
He hugged her again. "Sorry," he whispered.
"Mmm... it's okay."
Catherine was glad Gil hadn't followed her out. She loved him, but she couldn't bear to really fall apart in the lab. In his office, it had taken all of her strength not to crumble; he had been too sensitive, too alright with the explosion. He had forgiven her for destroying his sacred space, and then he focused on her, and made sure she knew everything was going to be alright.
If he had pulled any of that routine outside of Director Covallo's office, she would have dissolved into tears. And that wouldn't have helped anyone. Tears never saved anyone's job, she told herself, as she marched to the locker room.
She went home, spent some time with Lindsey, but didn't tell her she was on unpaid leave. Instead, she told her baby girl that she decided to take a vacation so they could spend some time together.
Lindsey seemed satisfied with that and they had a short nap together, before Catherine told her she was going to go check on Greg at the hospital.
She drove halfway there and had to pull over. She stopped her Tahoe in a nearly deserted parking lot and turned it off. After locking the doors, she leaned back and closed her eyes.
Taking deep breaths helped, but she still didn't feel like she could go to Greg and tell him what happened. She knew it was the right thing to do; she knew he had to hear the truth from her. But, facing the truth, and the colleague her careless mistake had injured, was so hard.
She opened her eyes and watched people walking on the sidewalk. Tourists and locals, of different shapes, sizes, and styles, passed by her. They all seemed... content and comfortable. Those were two words Catherine couldn't dream of applying to herself at that point in her life.
She wanted to find that type of peace. She knew her daughter and Gil were part of the equation to help her achieve it; but, something was missing. Something from within her own mind and soul.
Without much thought, she reached into her purse and picked up her cell phone. She knew who she had to talk to.
She knew the way to Greg's room, having been there once already. Halfway there, not surprisingly, she thought about turning back. But, she inhaled deeply and continued walking towards his hospital room.
He was sleeping when she quietly entered. She looked out the window, but after some time she found herself focusing on her reflection. Her eyes were so tired; she needed to look after herself.
His deep breathing created a rhythm for the words she was putting together in her mind.
When she heard him groan, she turned to face him.
"What time is it?"
"Late," she replied quietly.
"How long have you been here?"
He looked surprised. Catherine felt her heart break a little. She hoped he knew how important he was to the team.
"A while," she told him. "I got a little time on my hands."
"You figured out what happened in the lab, didn't you?"
"Yeah." She avoided his eyes and pulled a chair up to the bed. After leaning in a bit, resting her elbows upon her thighs, she said, "Yeah, and... um... I wanted you to hear it from me."
"Big green jar," he whispered.
"I put it there," she told him.
Catherine frowned. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"I was hoping it was Hodges' fault," he said, cracking a weak smile. "Man, he drives me crazy."
"You and me both," Catherine admitted. Greg reached out and offered her one hand; she accepted it, sliding her own into it. "I'm sorry, Greg."
He nodded. "I know you didn't do it on purpose," he whispered, squeezing her hand.
"Firstly, I'm your Greggo," he told her, trying to shoot her a charming grin. "Secondly... well..." he trailed off and coughed. "Well, I don't have a secondly."
"You don't need one," Catherine murmured, reaching up with her free hand to smooth his radical bedhead-hair back. "You're right."
"Just don't do it again."
She smiled and nodded. "I promise," she whispered as she felt her eyes welling up with tears.
She lifted her hand from his head and wiped her tears away. "Sorry, it's been a rough couple of days."
"Of weeks," he corrected.
"Y-yeah," she agreed, blushing and nodding.
He smiled and waited for her to get a firmer grip on her emotions; then, they steered the conversation to safer topics.
Both of them startled when Gil knocked on the door and crept inside. Catherine smiled a little at him. "Hey, boss," Greg whispered. "You miss me?"
"Terribly," Gil replied, pursing his lips together as one of his mouth's corners twitched upwards.
Greg grinned. "I knew it."
"Did you two talk about the accident?"
Catherine nodded. "Yeah. He doesn't hate me."
"Who could hate this lady?" Greg asked softly. "Not I."
"Nor I," Gil agreed, reaching down to squeeze her shoulder. "Greg, whatever you need, let one of us---"
"Let me know," Catherine interrupted, glaring at him. "I want to make this right."
Greg smiled. "Guys, stop fighting over me," he whispered. "There's plenty of me to go around."
Gil couldn't hide his smile. "I'm glad your sense of humour hasn't suffered."
Catherine smiled. "I'd love to stay... but I've got somewhere to be," she said softly. "Greg, thank you for being so understanding. I... I'd give you my firstborn, but I'm attached to her."
Greg smiled. "Yeah, that's okay. I'm not exactly ready for a kid." He touched her arm. "Just promise to come by again tomorrow, okay?"
"You've got it. Want me to bring you anything?"
"Pajamas and slippers?" he asked. "And maybe a Krispy Kreme or two?"
She smiled and nodded. "You've got it. It's a date."
"Hey, Grissom. I've got a date with Catherine," Greg flaunted.
Gil watched Catherine rise to her feet, eyes darkening a little. "You're very lucky, Greg," Gil said, smiling at Catherine.
"If I didn't know you any better, I'd say you're jealous, Gris."
Catherine smiled and shook her head slightly. "Don't taunt the man, Greg," she scolded. She leaned into Gil and kissed his cheek. "I'll call you when I get home," she murmured.
"Say hi to Lindsey for me."
"You bet," she replied, before kissing his cheek again.
"Hey!" Greg squawked as best as he could, given his condition. "What about me?"
The strawberry blonde chuckled and leaned down to kiss Greg's forehead. "Don't let him keep you up too late," she reminded him. "And I'll see you tomorrow."
Catherine squeezed Gil's arm as she walked past. As she opened the door, she overheard Greg telling Gil how lucky they were that Catherine liked them. Gil agreed.
She turned the hallway and saw Gil hurrying towards her. "What?"
"I'm going back down to see Greg," he explained, after catching her hand in his. "I just wanted to talk with you for a minute."
"Oh. About what?"
"Sara asked me out."
Catherine's eyebrows jumped up before she could get control of the expression. "What did you say?"
She smiled and nodded. "Okay... so why are you telling me this?"
He shrugged. "She told me that by the time I figure it out, it'll be too late." He brought his fingers up so they rested under her chin. "I don't want it to be too late."
"Gil, I'm fine," Catherine assured him. "No drugs. Never again. I just have a few things to do before I go home."
"Like none of your business," she said. "Nothing illegal, though."
He nodded. "Alright."
She smiled and kissed him briefly. "I'll call you when I get home."
"Cath... I... going through that the first time was hard enough. And you didn't mean as much to me as you do now," he admitted, looking lost.
She nodded. "I'm not throwing my life away. It was a wake up call." Without another thought, she hugged him. "Stop worrying about me, and go check on your protégé."
Gil kissed her temple. "Okay."
"I love you," she murmured.
"Love you, too," he replied, before releasing her.
She parked her vehicle in the round driveway and looked up at the dark mansion against the dark sky. After shivering for a few minutes, she pulled the key out of the ignition, grabbed her bag, and left the safe confines of the driver's seat.
With each step towards the house, Catherine felt her legs tremble. But, when she stepped onto the porch, a strange sense of calm washed over her.
She pushed the doorbell and only had to wait a few minutes, before the door opened.
"Good evening," Lady Heather greeted her with a serene smile. "Please, come in, Catherine."
Catherine felt a blush creeping up her face as she nodded and walked into the foyer. "I... I don't exactly know why I'm... well, here."
Lady Heather smiled and nodded. "Yes, you do. That's why you called beforehand."
"Okay," Catherine conceded. "Well, how about, I can't believe I'm here?"
The brunette nodded again. "That's better." She curled a finger, beckoning Catherine towards her with one hand, while her other hand motioned towards a nearby parlor. "We can go in here and talk first."
Catherine inhaled sharply and followed Lady Heather into the room. She waited between the armchairs, unsure of what her role was, and didn't move until the doors had been closed. Lady Heather directed her to one of the plush, red armchairs.
They both sat. Catherine admired the other woman's strong sense of calm; she wondered how long that had taken to achieve.
"So, may I ask what's brought you here?"
Catherine nodded and fidgeted a little in her seat. "Well... I..." she trailed off. Then, she blushed and laughed a little. "I'm sorry, Lady Heather. I've never done anything like this before."
Lady Heather smiled and reached across the small space between them to touch Catherine's arm. "It's alright. I'll be gentle."
"I assume you'd rather have a session with me than one of my employees," the other woman said.
Catherine relaxed under the casual touch and nodded. "I... uh... yeah."
"Relax," Lady Heather advised. "I'll take care of you."
Catherine swallowed hard and nodded. "Okay... well... my hus---my ex-husband, Eddie, he died a few weeks ago. And... I was seeing someone at the time---I mean, I still am seeing the same person. And... that's been hard. But, recently, I blew the lab up. I've just been so---"
"Hold on," Lady Heather said, squeezing Catherine's wrist when she started to speed up. "You blew the lab up?"
Catherine nodded. "Yeeeah," she said on a sigh.
"Was anyone hurt?"
"Sara, one of our CSI's, had her hand hurt. And one of our DNA technicians was hurt. He's in the hospital," Catherine answered. "He's going to be okay. I just got back from visiting with him."
"Did you explain to him what had happened?"
Catherine nodded again. "Yeah."
"Did he forgive you?"
"So easily," Catherine replied. "It was surprising."
The blonde shrugged. "I put a jar of combustible liquid under the fume hood. There was a heat source on... I didn't check." She sighed. "And, boom."
"Are you in trouble?"
Catherine shook her head. "Not really. Got an unpaid vacation. That's about it."
"Have you forgiven yourself yet?"
After processing Lady Heather's words, Catherine blinked, smiled, and then shook her head. "No, not yet."
"And how has your grieving process been going?"
"Not so well."
Lady Heather tilted her head. Her long, brown hair fell over her bare shoulder. "What's happened?"
"I... I thought I hated him. He was abusive, he cheated... but he gave me my daughter. And we have history. And not all of it was bad," Catherine said softly, closing her eyes as she remembered some of the better times with Eddie. "I'm doing better. But... when he died, I... I was a wreck. I even briefly considered using drugs again, just to get some sort of peace."
Catherine blushed. "I have a colourful history with my ex."
Lady Heather nodded. "I understand."
Catherine folded her hands in her lap and wondered why she felt so comfortable with this woman. As the woman her partner had slept with, Catherine knew she should dislike her; but, she was listening, not judging, and she had offered to help.
"Are you intending this to be a one-time visit?"
Lady Heather smiled. "Are you intending this to be a one-time visit?" she repeated in the same calm voice, although Catherine could detect a bit of amused under the words. When Catherine didn't say anything, she continued. "We can spread this out over your forced vacation, if you'd like. Take your time, ease yourself slowly into this," she said, waving her hand around. "Or, we can just work tonight."
Catherine felt her cheeks heat up. "Honestly, Lady Heather, I don't know what to expect from this. I just need to stop feeling like this."
The brunette nodded. "I can help you with that. It might be better, if you don't mind, to spread this out over at least a couple of nights."
"Do you work with women? Or just men. I never asked before."
"You never had to ask before," Lady Heather responded, smiling again. "It's usually men who seek release here. And, normally, as you had seen in the case of the McCormick's, any women we have prefer to have a male dominant."
Lady Heather nodded. "But, in certain cases, we have women come here, seeking release at the hands of other women." Her smile stretched. "I don't usually take clients on anymore, but I have to admit, Catherine, I will enjoy taking you on."
The strawberry blonde blushed a bright shade of scarlet. "You will?" she asked around a little cough.
"Oh, yes," Lady Heather replied. "I told you that you'd make an excellent dominant, but I think that what you need now is to give up your tight grip on your control, break down, and forgive yourself."
"I've already cried."
Lady Heather nodded again. "I expected as much. But, there is more to breaking down and forgiveness than crying."
"Oh. Well... yeah, I guess... that makes sense."
"Now," the brunette said, leaning towards Catherine and lowering her voice a little. It was much softer, almost seductive. "I respect your privacy, Catherine, but I have to ask---"
"Yes... when you said 'abusive,' what did you mean?"
Catherine sighed. "He... he'd hit me. Usually my face. Or, he'd slam me against a wall. He never use a weapon. He broke my nose once. A couple of ribs a couple of times. It stopped after Lindsey, for the most part."
"What do you not want to have happen tonight?"
"I don't want to be humiliated," she said softly. "I mean... I know I'm putting myself in a compromising position, but I don't want to lick your very nice boots, or eat slop out of a bucket or anything."
Lady Heather's lips twitched as she nodded. "I didn't expect either of those would be your cup of tea."
"Not so much," Catherine agreed. "But, whatever you want to use... whips, paddles... that won't bother me."
Again, the brunette nodded. "Alright."
"Um... I've never asked this yet, but it's kind of important, so---"
"I won't charge you for this, Catherine," Lady Heather interrupted gently. Catherine's eyes widened, making the brunette smile again. "I want to help."
"I don't want charity or---"
Lady Heather shook her head. "This isn't charity. I know it took you a lot to come here, so things must be serious, and I know we're not close enough to consider each other friends, but I want to help you."
Catherine nodded. The knots in her stomach were slowly dissolving. "Thank you," she murmured.
Catherine bowed her head as Lady Heather approached her. "You look gorgeous like this," the brunette murmured, running her hand through Catherine's hair, making her shiver. After a minute, Lady Heather brought her hand down over Catherine's arms; she lingered on her bound wrists. "Submission suits you.
"You are a strong submissive... you're not weak, you keep your shoulders straight and back. Incredible posture."
"Thank you, Lady Heather," Catherine said softly.
Lady Heather circled Catherine three times, each time making Catherine feel a little bit more self-conscious. She had worn a lot of skimpy outfits in public, but she knew that her current situation was entirely different. She was wearing a collar and a corset, courtesy of Lady Heather, along with her own panties and shoes. She was more covered than she had ever been when she was on stage at The French Palace, but she felt incredibly exposed.
"Why are you here, Catherine?"
Catherine blinked, not expecting the question. She thought they had already covered that.
She swallowed hard. "I can't forgive myself for everything I've done," she mumbled.
"What do you mean by everything?" Lady Heather asked, as she brought a sash of silk down over Catherine's eyes. She startled. Lady Heather murmured, "Ignore this and answer my question."
Catherine nodded as she was submerged in darkness. Her body started to tingle in anticipation.
"I... I blew up the lab. I can't comfort my daughter. I can't comfort myself. I can't let go of the grief. I'm running away from my problems. I'm thinking about hurting myself. I... I think that's it."
Lady Heather rubbed Catherine's shoulder. The blonde felt a sigh escape her lips; it surprised her. She didn't know how and why her body was reacting.
"You were forgiven for the explosion, by those that matter," Lady Heather said quietly. "And yet, you cannot let it go."
"No, Lady Heather, I can't."
"You can," the other woman murmured. "You will."
Catherine's mouth was dry. She swallowed a couple of times, trying to stimulate the moistening process. She nodded jerkily and then bowed her head again.
"Tonight, we are going to focus on your reaction to the explosion," the dominant woman explained quietly as she pulled a bench forward and sat down in front of Catherine. "Come to me, on your knees," she instructed. "Listen to the sound of my voice and follow it to me."
Catherine awkwardly balanced herself on her toes and knees, and made her way across the five feet of space.
"Good girl," Lady Heather praised. "Lean forward with your head, follow my hands," she said softly, bringing Catherine's chin down upon her thigh. "There. Are you comfortable?"
"Relatively speaking." Catherine paused and realised she forgot to add something. "Relatively speaking, Lady Heather," she amended.
"I might have to punish you for that," the other woman said, a little chuckle escaping her lips. "Later, though. For now, I want you to try to relax and get your head where it needs to be for this to work."
Catherine swallowed and nodded as best as she could.
Lady Heather continued to talk. "You didn't do anything wrong. You followed lab procedure. You did forget to check to see if the element was hot, but, anyone could have done that," she said softly. "You're only human, Catherine. Even Dr. Grissom knows that.
"You did everything by the book afterwards. The mistake was reported and you were professionally punished for it. You went to see the man in the hospital, and he forgave you. He had no problem forgiving you.
"Carrying this burden on your shoulders, on your soul, is only going to hurt you more in the end. You don't feel like you've been punished enough. Perhaps you wish this young colleague would press charges or lash out at you. Perhaps some sort of reaction like that would make you feel like you've endured a suitable punishment.
"But, you've endured enough, Catherine."
Each of Lady Heather's words had an unusual effect on Catherine; she felt her body relaxing, her breath slowing, and her mind quieting.
"In a few minutes, I am going to get up and administer your punishment," Lady Heather informed Catherine. "The punishment will be for your carelessness, for causing the explosion, and that is it. There will not be punishments for anything else. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, Lady Heather," Catherine whispered.
"What was that?"
"Yes, Lady Heather," Catherine repeated, with more volume.
"And afterwards, you need to realise that you've been pardoned."
Catherine nodded slightly.
"Are you ready to face your punishment?"
"Y-yeah." Catherine paused, sighed, and then said, "Yes, Lady Heather, I am ready for my punishment."
"Good," she murmured. "I am going to rise and untie your wrists. I want you to stand, undress, and then wait for further instruction."
Catherine lifted her chin when Lady Heather directed the movement, and then she waited for her wrists to be free. Lady Heather loosened the silk sash that had bound her wrists together, and Catherine heard the fabric fall upon the floor.
Then, she rose to her feet and reached up to her chest to unlace the corset. She held it for a moment, when she was free of it, unsure of where to place it. She felt its weight disappear; she knew Lady Heather had lifted it up. Catherine released it, and slid her panties down her legs, bending at the waist to finish the job.
"Leave your shoes on," Lady Heather said quietly, but firmly. "I like the way the straps accentuate your ankles."
Catherine blushed. She knew that type of shoe, stiletto with an ankle strap, looked good on her, but she didn't know that Lady Heather would appreciate the sight.
"Now, I want you to kneel back down, and rest your elbows and arms upon the bench," the brunette said in a soft tone of voice. "I am only going to use the implements we chose together, Catherine. No surprises."
Catherine nodded as she eased herself back down onto the ground.
Lady Heather continued to give instruction. "If your knees and legs begin to hurt, rock back and bear the weight upon your feet, Catherine. Don't try to withstand the pain. It will not help you feel better about yourself."
The blonde tested the position out, to see how easily she could switch back and forth. Lady Heather squeezed her shoulder reassuringly, and then walked towards the back of the room. Catherine knew the whip and suede flogger were on a table near the back of the room. She felt her body tighten in anticipation.
"Now, I am going to administer fifteen lashes with the flogger," Lady Heather told Catherine as she sauntered towards the middle of the room. "And then ten with the whip.
"Remember, Catherine, that I control this. I am making the decisions for you. I decide what is an acceptable punishment. You will accept it.
"I'd like you to count the lashes. Feel free to make reactionary noises. Get it all out of your system, Catherine. Everything relating to this unfortunate accident... let it all out."
Catherine nodded and braced herself. When she felt a mere tickle on her back, she hissed and jumped forward, completely startled.
"O-one," she squeaked.
Lady Heather chuckled. "I control this, Catherine."
The next lash had a bit more force behind it. The force increased with each lash peppered across her body; Catherine found herself whimpering and fighting the urge to cry with each count she gave. By the fifteenth lash of the flogger, she was resting her forehead against the bench and inhaling deep, shuddering breaths.
"I told you to let go, Catherine. There's no shame in seeking release. Accept it, embrace it."
Lady Heather's soothing voice eased some of the tension Catherine was feeling. When she heard and felt the first snap of the whip, she was surprised at how light it was against her body.
She kept a count, but found that with each lash, her voice was shaking more and more. Lady Heather used the right amount of force to draw the emotions out of Catherine; by the eighth lash of the whip, she was crying softly, moaning and mumbling under her breath.
When it was over, Lady Heather dropped the whip, and guided Catherine to her feet. She swayed dangerously on her heels, but the other woman supported her with hidden strength, until she was deposited rather gracefully, face down, onto the nearby bed.
Lady Heather untied the blindfold and pressed her lips to Catherine's temple. "Lie still for a moment," she said quietly. "I will be right back."
Catherine's body was vibrating. She remained still, apart from the odd sniffle.
Lady Heather returned to the bed. Catherine heard her open a bottle of some kind, and then she felt Lady Heather's hands on her shoulders.
Catherine hissed in reaction to the cream's soothing effects on the lash marks on her posterior.
"Is it so hard to accept pleasure after the pain?" Lady Heather asked quietly.
The blonde snorted softly and tried to reach up to wipe her face, but the other woman took care of that. She gently brushed her fingers along Catherine's cheek, taking the tears away with the soft stroke.
"A dominant serves the submissive, gives her what she needs," Lady Heather murmured. "A good dominant looks after her submissive, before, during, and after the punishment has been handed down."
"Oh," Catherine whispered. "I... I didn't know."
"It's alright," Lady Heather replied, a smile in her voice. "How do you feel? Honestly, Catherine."
Catherine turned her attention inward for a moment to evaluate her feelings---both emotional and physical. Then, she spoke openly. "I feel... safe... relieved... warm... I... I feel better."
"Not one hundred per cent?"
"No," Catherine replied. "But, a hell of a lot better than I usually do. It was incredible. Thank you, Lady Heather."
Lady Heather rewarded Catherine with another kiss to her temple, and then she sat back and finished rubbing the cream into the lashes.
"I'm glad to hear that this has helped you," Lady Heather said softly. Her hands worked down over the curves of Catherine's thighs, down her calves, and to the shoes. She unfastened the ankle straps of each one, and put the shoes on the floor, before putting some more cream on her hands and gently kneading each of Catherine's feet. "You responded very well."
"I... it surprised me. It was like a dam broke inside of me. Or something. I don't know how to explain it, exactly."
"That's an accurate description."
When Lady Heather was finished with the massage, she draped a robe over Catherine's body. "I know this is a little off the topic," the brunette said quietly. "But you have incredible skin."
Catherine laughed and blushed as she opened her eyes and craned her neck to look at the other woman. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Lady Heather replied, smiling more. "I'm going to leave the room now, let you get dressed. If you'd like, I could make some tea before you leave."
"That would be nice. Thanks."
"No problem," Lady Heather said with a squeeze to Catherine's ankle as she rose off of the bed. "I'll see you when you're ready to reenter the outside world."
Gil tapped on the bathroom door, and when he heard Catherine splash and call out for him, he opened the door and stepped inside the bathroom.
"I just tucked Lindsey in," he said. "We talked about her fight."
"Oh... okay," Catherine said, smiling at him. "Is the house locked?"
"Yes, and I turned the outside lights off."
Catherine smiled more. "Wanna get in? The water's nice and warm."
"Is there enough room in there for me?"
"We'll make room," she told him on a little laugh. "Get naked."
One of Gil's eyebrows quirked upwards. "What's gotten into you? A few hours ago, you were..."
"Depressed. Guilt-ridden. Exhausted," Catherine filled in the blanks for him. "Get in, I need to talk to you about something."
Gil nodded and started undressing, his mind trying to decipher what she meant. He deduced that she didn't want to break things off with him, even temporarily, if she was inviting him into the tub with her. She looked serious, but refreshed. Maybe even a little happy. He didn't understand.
She leaned forward, resting her body against her thighs when he started to get into the bathtub. He didn't look down at her back until he was sitting down. He figured that was probably good, because there was a strong possibility of slipping in reaction to shock when he was on his feet.
"What happened to you?" he asked in a small voice. "Who hurt you?"
"That's what I need to talk to you about," she said, scooting back towards him to press her back to his chest. She put her hand on his knee. "After going to see Greg, I had an appointment with Lady Heather," she blurted out, without warning.
Gil hesitated, blinking at the back of Catherine's head. After a pregnant pause, he said, "You went to see Lady Heather?"
"Did you go to confront her about my... infidelity?"
"We're not calling it that, because that's not what it was, and no, I didn't go there to confront her. I went there as one of her clients."
Suddenly, it all made sense. The lines on her back, the change in her mood... everything fit together.
"You let her dominate you?" he asked as he put his hand over hers.
Catherine nodded. "And help me let go of some of the guilt I'm carrying around over this explosion business."
"She punished you for it."
"Yep. So I could let go."
Gil groaned softly. He could feel his blood beginning to pool south of his waist, at the thought of Catherine at the mercy of Lady Heather. The image was too sensual for his neurons to process.
Catherine must have felt his arousal, because she chuckled. "Down, boy," she teased.
"Did it help?" he asked, while nuzzling her neck and shoulder.
"Yeah," she whispered. "I made another appointment with her. Just with her, no one else. If it bothers you... I'll cancel. But, I'd like to explore this."
She jumped in when he trailed off. "Nothing overtly sexual. We didn't make out or fuck or anything, Gil."
"I know," he murmured.
"So, 'this' means... I guess, it's a form of therapy. I'm a mother, I'm a fixer, I like to carry around so much baggage. When she gets me to let go, I let go, and I feel better."
He kissed her jaw. "What did she do to you?"
"She used a flogger... and a whip... she punished me for causing the explosion. And then... I just... I had this cathartic experience. I felt so... open," she said, trying to explain the experience in broken phrases.
Gil heard every word and his mind filled in the image he had been building in his mind. Catherine's next words were: "You like the idea of us together, don't you?"
"A little too much," he admitted softly.
"Well, you're only human. Hell, I was turned on through some of it. I see what you see in her, and in that type of activity," she murmured, reaching back to rub the back of his head affectionately. "Do you mind if I go back?"
"I want you to be yourself again," he told her seriously as one of his arms wrapped around her body. "This seems to be working. As long as your course of treatment isn't illegal or dangerous, I approve. I want you to be happy again."
She asked softly, "Yeah?"
"Yeah," he replied. "I wish I could be a fly on the wall during your next session... but I'll survive as long as you come back and paint a detailed picture for me."
Catherine laughed. Gil smiled at the sound. He hadn't heard that pure, happy sound in a long time.
"After this," she murmured. "You wanna go get into bed and read or something?"
"Sounds lovely, my dear," he whispered. "Of course, my body would prefer the 'or something,' but reading with you sounds like a nice alternative."
"It's a long night, we've got plenty of time to do both," she said quietly, turning her head to catch Gil's lips in a gentle kiss. She studied his eyes. "Are you upset that I didn't tell you?"
Gil shook his head without even thinking. "No," he said after a minute of thought, to formulate an appropriate answer. "I understand why you didn't. It's not easy to admit that you need something like that. It wouldn't be easy to even admit that you need something commonplace like therapy."
"You're seriously okay with it?"
"Yes," he murmured. "Very seriously okay with it."
"Thank you," she said quietly.
"No need to thank me."
"Yeah, there is," she murmured before kissing him again. "You're incredibly understanding about this."
He hugged her tightly. "You're worth it," he told her.