WARNINGS: Femslash-esque moments with Catherine and Lady Heather. Yes, again. 'Heal the Burn' opened something up, and it needs closure. It won't be the main focus of the fic, like last time, though. Okay? I'm going to try to make it quick and painless. Like a bandaid. And then it won't reappear. We'll go back to straight-up G/C.
Her muscles were trembling, from being stretched almost too much for almost too long. The tips of her toes were the only thing keeping her anchored.
Lady Heather was holding a candle, smiling at her submissive, suspended from a chain in the centre of the room. "You're doing very well, Catherine," she said warmly. "How do you feel?"
"Exhausted," Catherine said honestly. "But, good. Refreshed, mentally."
"Is there anything you want to accomplish on your last day?" the brunette asked.
Catherine would have shrugged, but having her arms extended above her head kept her from expressing herself.
"I just want to see this through," she said, as honestly as she could. "I... I want to please you. And... yeah," she said, ending as her cheeks started to blush.
"You've pleased me already," Lady Heather murmured. "You've achieved most of your goals, haven't you?
"You've accepted and embraced everything that has happened, and you're learning that you have more inner strength than previously assumed. Today, we'll finish this lesson."
Catherine nodded and watched the brunette bring the candle close to her body.
At the first few drips of hot wax upon her skin, Catherine hissed, arched, and closed her eyes. The next hour passed in colours and sensations; white hot when the wax made contact with her back and chest, red hot when the whip cracked the dried wax away, and sizzling blue when the end of the short whip touched the skin that was uncovered during the process. Sparks of colour exploded behind her eyelids, playing to a soundtrack of cracks, sighs, moans, and sniffles.
Catherine stopped trying to struggle; she concentrated on what she was feeling and nothing else. The amount of peace she was experiencing was unheard of, and she understood why people enjoyed that particular lifestyle much more than she ever had before.
She wasn't even very surprised when she felt her body contract; Lady Heather had never pushed anything overtly sexual upon her, and she wasn't in that moment. But, between the hot and cold of the wax and whip and the muscle exertion and her free mind, her body fell into that reaction.
She cried out and arched against the restraints and whip. Lady Heather slowed her ministrations down, the session winding to a close.
When the session was over, Catherine all but slumped to the floor before sitting down on a divan. Lady Heather smiled and passed Catherine her robe, and then started applying the salve to the marks on her skin.
"Well said," Lady Heather agreed, smiling.
Catherine smiled, then dissolved into giggles. "Sorry," she murmured as she tried to catch her breath. "I just... y'know..."
"I do," the brunette said softly. "This forced vacation hasn't been disappointing, has it?"
The blonde shook her head. "No... not at all. I mean, I miss work, but this was... this was an eye-opening experience."
When Catherine's pager started to beep, she sighed and looked towards the dresser upon which Lady Heather had placed the electronic device. She wrapped herself up in the robe and walked across the room to get it.
"You're even walking with more fluidity," Lady Heather commented.
Catherine smiled over her shoulder at the other woman, before looking down at the pager. Her smile faded as she read the display.
"Officer involved shooting," Catherine replied quietly, before sighing.
"I'm sorry," Lady Heather said in a soft voice.
Catherine smiled sadly and then picked up her cell phone. She dialed Gil's number and waited for him to answer.
"Hi," she said softly as she returned to the divan. "What's up?"
"Detective Lockwood was shot and killed at the First Monument Bank," Gil told her in a sombre voice. "We were given the case. Suspicious circumstances."
"Beyond bank robbery?"
Catherine sighed and rubbed her forehead. "I'm at Lady Heather's right now," she told him. "But, we're finished, so I'll get dressed and pick you up."
"I'm at the lab."
"That's fine," she said. "I don't mind coming to get you, if you don't mind waiting for me."
"Not at all, my dear."
She smiled a little. "Alright."
"How did it go?" he asked. "For your last session?"
Catherine smiled at the other woman, who was watching her carefully. "It went... really well," she said, before chuckling a little. "Thanks for asking. See you in a bit?"
"Sounds good to me," he told her. "See you."
"Bye," she said, before hanging up her phone and ending the call.
Lady Heather, with an arched eyebrow, smiled and asked, "Dr. Grissom knows you've been coming here?"
Catherine nodded. "Yeah... he's been concerned."
She nodded again. "Yep."
"Are you two still together?"
Catherine hesitated. She thought about lying, but after everything they had shared, she knew the other woman deserved the truth. "Yeah."
Lady Heather stiffened a little and nodded. Catherine sighed. "I know about the two of you," she admitted. "We were going through a rough patch. It was during Eddie's death, and... and I know he cares about you a lot."
"If I had known you two were still---"
"You didn't, and he wouldn't say anything. We're Las Vegas' best kept secret," Catherine interrupted, offering the other woman a smile. "I'm actually glad it was you. Instead of... well, there's someone else who has a thing for him, and I would claw her eyes out if she ever..."
Catherine smiled. "Yeah."
"He sees through hero-worship," Lady Heather said. "He looks for intellectual equals." She smiled a little. "As awkward as this situation is... I can admit that you and I are alike in many ways."
Catherine nodded. "I think we are, too." She reached out and touched the brunette's arm. "Are you okay?"
"I never liked being the other woman."
"I don't see it like that," Catherine insisted. "So, please don't think you've antagonised anyone, in any way."
Lady Heather eyed Catherine critically. "Are you certain?"
"Very," Catherine replied without a thought. "I respect you a lot, and value your influence on our lives."
The brunette nodded a little. "Well, I do apologise, for what it's worth."
"Apology unnecessary but accepted," Catherine replied, moments before she rose to find her clothes.
After saying good-bye to Lady Heather, Catherine got into her Tahoe and drove to the lab. She hummed along to the radio, feeling relaxed and content despite the seriousness of the crime scene she was to enter that day.
Gil was outside waiting for her, investigation kit in his hand. He smiled at her and approached the car. After getting in, he smiled at her and said, "Hello, darling."
Catherine smiled back at him. "Hey."
"How is Lady Heather?"
"Fine," Catherine said.
"How was your session?"
Catherine blushed. "Very nice."
"Oh? How?" Gil asked. When Catherine didn't say anything, and instead blushed, Gil chuckled. She turned her head briefly to glare at him, which only made him laugh more. "You enjoyed it. A lot."
Catherine nodded, blushing more.
"You've always been responsive," he pointed out.
"You reached fulfillment. Psychologically and physically. Nothing to be ashamed of," he told her as he reached over and rubbed the back of her neck. "What did it, if I may ask?"
"Well, we'll have to replicate that experiment sometime," he said quietly. "If you'd like to."
Catherine slowed the car at the crime scene. Then, she grinned at him. "I'd like to see how responsive you are," she told him.
"Turnabout's fair," he agreed, nodding.
"Excellent," she purred, before turning the car off. She got out of the vehicle before he did, and surveyed the chaos around her.
"Talk about killjoy," she muttered.
Gil circled the Tahoe and stopped at Catherine's side. He put his hand on her lower back. She leaned against him and then said something. Gil caught most of it. She was going to do something with the officers at the perimetre. He guessed she was going to get the facts from them.
"I'll proceed inside," he said quietly. "See you in a bit."
As he approached the front of the building, he saw armed officers exiting the scene. He ducked under the yellow crime scene tape and walked up the steps to the bank's main entrance.
He knew the alarm was ringing. He could feel the vibrations; he could barely hear the bell, though. He shook his head and stared at the bell, wondering how he was going to get through the case.
Catherine's scent---not perfume, just Catherine---was close to him. He knew she was very close. Then, he saw her out of the corner of his eye.
She said something. He wasn't entirely sure what she said. He frowned as he continued to study the bell. He saw her walk towards the door.
She turned and looked at him through her sunglasses.
He nodded slightly and followed her into the bank.
After working at the scene, Gil returned to the lab. He had taken it upon himself to study the security camera footage, knowing that was something he could study in privacy, without worrying about his hearing.
Warrick came into the doorway. He was talking. He said something about Lockwood, and then he moved on to something else. After a moment, Gil turned to face him and made out the words "camouflage cream."
"Black face paint," Gil said.
Warrick said something else; Gil missed most of it. He turned to look at him.
The younger man tilted his head. "You look tired, Gris."
He gave his colleague a little smile. "I'm fine."
Gil smiled more. "Much better."
"Good. I was worried."
"So was I."
"You two... on the mend?"
Gil nodded. "We're doing fine, Warrick." He cocked his head to one side. "Don't you have evidence to process?"
Warrick smiled. "I'm just looking out for my crew."
He chuckled. "You know what I mean." He pressed his fist against the doorframe. "Alright. See you later, Gris."
"Wanna go to the bank and check on Sara's progress with me?" Catherine asked.
When she didn't receive a response from Gil, she touched his shoulder. "Hey?"
Gil startled. "Sorry, I was thinking."
She frowned. "You've been doing that a lot lately."
"Did you want something?"
"Yeah. I'm going to the bank to check on Sara. Do you want to come with me?"
He smiled and nodded. "Sure."
They held hands on the drive to the bank. Catherine smiled at him from time to time, when she could take her eyes off of the road; Gil would smile back at her, but she knew something was wrong. She just wasn't entirely sure she knew what it was.
After getting paper on the safe deposit box, Gil and Catherine proceeded to the bank manager's office. Catherine chose a seat in front of the desk, while Gil sat off to the side.
He thought long and hard. This case was the most difficult, out of the last few he had to process, and he knew that his hearing loss was the major cause.
It wasn't going away.
He knew it wouldn't go away. It hadn't gone away for his mother. He wouldn't be an exception.
He hated hospitals. He hated doctors. He hated admitting that he was weak and needed assistance.
He felt his insides cringe as he realised Catherine had been talking. He turned and looked at her.
"How long have we known each other?" she asked.
"In days, months, or years?" he asked, not wanting to age either of them nor revisit their darker days.
"I'm serious here," she told him, giving him that look that she used when she meant business.
"Can you hear me?"
Gil's heart leapt into his throat as he stared at her. She had figured it out. Had he been obvious? Did the entire team know?
He wanted to say something, ask a question, anything to deflect attention from her conclusions, but the bank manager came into the room. He avoided Catherine's eyes and rose to meet the other man.
Once they got into Catherine's vehicle, she turned and faced him.
"You can't hear me, can you?"
"I know what you're saying," he told her calmly.
"Because you're reading my lips."
Gil blushed and looked away. Catherine gripped his chin in her hand and forced him to look at her.
"You idiot," she said clearly. He could read her lips perfectly, and he knew she was speaking that way for his benefit. "All this time. It all makes sense. You were pulling away. You stopped collecting evidence. Why didn't you tell me?"
He sighed. "Catherine, we have to---"
"No, damnit, we're going to talk for a minute."
"It's not that bad."
"Gil... you have to read lips to catch everything someone says. It's getting pretty bad, don't you think?"
She leaned in and kissed him. "I love you," she said when she had pulled back enough. "Your hearing problems don't change that. You idiot---I thought I was your best friend."
"Gil, when you needed someone, I wasn't there."
He frowned. "That's my fault. I kept you out of the loop." He sighed. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to admit that it was happening."
"Get it looked at," she insisted. "Please. And if there's anything you can do to slow it or reverse its effects..."
Catherine glared at him. "Gil Grissom."
"Read my lips," she told him, eyes still burning holes into his. "We are in this together. No matter what. Got that?"
He blushed more and nodded. "Yeah," he whispered.
Catherine kissed him again, letting her lips linger over his. He returned the kiss, and brought his hands up to brush her wavy hair back.
"I'm sorry," he whispered against her lips.
"Don't be sorry. Just be honest," she said, looking at him with big, blue eyes.
Catherine popped her head into Greg's makeshift office. "You paged?"
"Yeah," he said quietly. "C'mon in and close the door."
"Oh, that can't be good," she muttered, following his directions. She came into the room and leaned against Greg's table, standing next to him. "I'm guessing I was right."
She frowned. "Damn it."
"Does Grissom know?"
"Not yet," Catherine replied. "I'll let him know."
"How... I mean... how are you handling this?"
Catherine looked up at him. "Greg, don't worry about me."
She smiled a little and ruffled his hair. "Thanks. I've been through worse, Greg. This is just... a speed bump."
"A big one."
He sighed and looked at her. "I'm sorry."
She nodded. "Me, too."
"You are going to tell Grissom, right?"
Catherine nodded again, although she really didn't know when she was going to fit that in, between their current case and Gil's personal issues. "Of course," she said as confidently as she could. "He's the boss. He should know."
Catherine stared at the sheets of paper Greg passed her long after her pager started to beep.
"Your beeper's a ringin'."
"Thanks," she mumbled, blindly reaching down to her belt to bring it up to her eyes. She tore her gaze away from the DNA results and looked at the display. "Grissom. Okay. I'm off. Thank you, for doing this for me."
"Anything, for you," he told her, with a little smile.
She smiled back at him, squeezed his arm, and then left the office to meet the team in the lab.
Unable to get a grip on her feelings, Catherine did the next best thing and ignored them. She drove the Desert Palm Hospital, and found out that Gil was in an examination room on the surgical floor.
She stepped up to the door as the nurse left the room. She smiled a little as she admired the view; she'd never tell him, but she thought he looked adorable in the hospital gown.
Gil turned and looked at her, surprise written all over his face. She knew he'd be surprised; he never seemed to expect displays of support and affection, but was always grateful to have them.
"What are you doing here?"
"I just wanted to see you," she replied. "And, I didn't want you to go in without wishing you good luck."
He stood up as the transporter and wheelchair arrived, and approached her.
"Thank you... for being here."
She smiled and hugged him, savouring the feel of his warmth and trying to offer him comfort at the same time. She felt him relax against her; his arms tightened around her.
When they pulled back from each other, she saw that the expression of nervousness from the locker room had melted away a bit. She was glad that she was some comfort to him. He had always been there for her, and she wanted to return the favour.
Then, he looked at the nurse next to them. "I don't need that," he told her.
Catherine almost laughed. He met her eyes once more, briefly, and then he left the doorway. She turned and leaned against the doorframe, watching him walk.
Only Gil Grissom would walk down the hallway wearing nothing but a hospital gown, she thought to herself, as she appreciated the view. Once he turned the corner and disappeared from sight, she chuckled to herself.
Then, she went in search of a nurse that could give her some information.
When Gil woke up, he noticed two things. One, he was a curtained off section of the post-operation area. Two, Catherine was sitting in a chair by his bed.
He groaned softly, too groggy to get words out.
She looked up from the papers she was reading and smiled. "Hey," she murmured. "You're awake."
He swallowed and nodded. "Hey," he whispered.
"You're gonna be a little out of it for a while," she told him as she rubbed his arm. "I spoke with your doctor. She said everything on the first ear went well."
Gil nodded slightly again.
"So once you recover fully, you can come back and have the other ear done."
He made a face.
She smiled and kissed his hand. "Are you comfortable?"
"Yeah... sort of."
"Dizzy?" she asked. "The doctor said that could be a side effect."
"Thirsty," he whispered.
She smiled and reached over to the bedside table to get a bottle of water and straw. "Here," she said as she put the straw into the bottle. "Sip slowly."
He shot her a withering glare. She ignored it and held the bottle for him.
After a couple of sips, she put it back on the table. Then, she reached out and brushed her hand through his hair very gently. Gil felt a wave of goosebumps rise over his skin; he sighed and closed his eyes. When she stopped touching him, he opened his eyes.
"When you're feeling alert, you're coming home with me," she told him in a firm, no-nonsense voice. His hearing was fuzzy, but he could make out the seriousness of her words. "Warrick said he'd feed your bugs, when I asked him to. I'm giving him my key, so he can check on your specimens at home."
"Thanks," he whispered.
"Do you need anything?"
"Hold me," he requested groggily.
"Okay," she murmured, rising so she could ease herself down on the bed. He draped his free arm over her body and she inched a little closer, minding the monitors and their cords. "How's this?"
"So good," he whispered, pushing his leg between hers.
She smiled and rubbed his hip. "Good. Now, just rest."
"I'll meet you out front," Catherine told Gil. "Get dressed, discharged, and I'll bring the car around for you."
Gil smiled and nodded, before tugging her close for a quick kiss. "Thanks."
She smiled at him, squeezed his arm, and then turned and left the curtained area.
Once she entered the main lobby of the hospital, she paused and opened her purse to find her keys. It took her a few minutes, since there was so much stuff in the large handbag. When she retrieved them, she clasped them in one hand while zipping her bag up with the other.
She turned and saw Conrad Ecklie walking across the floor. She bit back a sigh and forced a smile. He was the last person she wanted to see. All she wanted to do was take Gil home and curl up with him and her daughter, perhaps to watch a movie together like a family. She did not want to play politics.
"Hi, Conrad," she said, still forcing her smile to look natural. "What are you doing here?"
"Victim just got out of surgery," he said. "Came to collect samples his surgeon gathered," he added, holding his kit up.
"Ah. Open and shut case?"
"Shouldn't take too long to solve."
Catherine nodded. "Well, that's good."
"Do you need a lift? Or are you going home with Grissom?"
She blinked, taken aback by his question. "I'm taking him home. He just had surgery. Can't drive."
"And the hospital didn't have enough blankets, I guess," Conrad continued. "You needed to keep him warm."
Her jaw dropped before she could control her reaction. When Ecklie smirked, she quickly said: "We're good friends. We've always been close."
"What exactly are you implying?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.
"An interoffice relationship is the kind of thing that can change the way Graveshift is run," Ecklie pointed out. "It's useful information. It can demote or promote, can call plenty of cases into question. Funny how blurring ethical lines can do that, isn't it?"
"I... I don't know what you're talking about."
"Sure," Conrad said, smirking and nodding. "Well, tell Grissom I hope he recovers quickly. See you 'round the lab."
Catherine stared at his back as he walked away. When he was outside and out of earshot, she growled and clenched her hands into fists.
Gil touched her back. She startled and turned to face him. "Hi," she murmured. "Sorry, I got held up."
"What did Ecklie want?"
Gil's eyebrows lifted. "Catherine?"
"He... he saw us. Or, rather, he saw me in bed with you."
"I'd like to punch his---"
He smiled a little. "Sorry."
She smiled a little, too, and took his bag from his hand and then put her arm through his. "Let's go out to the car," she murmured.
"Did he threaten you?"
"He threatened us," she said honestly. "But, don't worry about this now. Just get better, okay?"
Gil sighed. "Catherine, all I have to do is follow dressing change directions, avoid blowing my nose, and sneeze with my mouth open until I recover. I can multitask."
She squeezed his arm as they walked outside. "Not yet, okay? Humour me."
Gil fell silent until they got into her vehicle. Then, he said, "We have to do something."
"I know. But, I'm not willing to break up with you."
"And I'm not willing to do that, either," he told her as he leaned back against the seat and buckled himself in.
Catherine turned the key in the ignition, and then she looked at him. "Well, Ecklie didn't exactly see us consummating our relationship, so his evidence---or lack thereof---buys us some time."
"We'll just have to give him some misleading evidence."
She did a double-take. "What are you saying?"
Gil smiled a little as he closed his eyes. "Well, we all deal in evidence. Some of us are better at it than others," he explained as Catherine started to drive. "We'll figure it out."