"Today's the big day, Cath," Warrick said as he followed her into the empty locker room. "Grissom called in last night, said he was finally over that flu thing."
Catherine smiled. "I know," she replied, following the lie that she and Gil had decided would pass acceptably for a reason to explain his absence. Then, she added some truth to her reply. "I haven't seen him yet. So, I'm pretty excited."
"You two haven't been hanging out?"
"Well, Lindsey was sick with a head cold, and then he got sick, and he didn't want to get her sick with something else, so we kept to ourselves for a while," Catherine said, mixing some truth with a little lie.
In reality, Catherine knew that a head cold would slow or stop the healing process for Gil. With Lindsey sick, Catherine kept her distance from Gil; she didn't want to ruin the success of the operations.
While they were apart, they called each other as often as they could. A few of their conversations pertained to their campaign against Ecklie; they knew they had to present what would appear to be the end of their relationship, and that it had to be public enough that Ecklie believed their relationship was over, but private enough that the entire lab didn't figure out what had been going on.
Catherine knew that their public break up was on the horizon; she was nervous. While she had been a dancer and used to performing for an audience, improvisational acting had never been her thing. Gil would pull it off; she hoped she could do their performance justice.
The only downside to the plan was that Warrick had to buy the fight, as well.
Catherine smiled at her colleague. "Yeah. She's fit as a fiddle, now."
"Yeah," she agreed.
Warrick opened his locker and started putting his things inside. "So, you and Gris have big plans to celebrate?"
She smiled slyly. "You really don't wanna know, do you?"
He chuckled. "On second thought... no. Thanks for the heads up," he said as he closed his locker and stepped towards the door. "You giving out assignments?"
"Gil's gonna do it. He should be here any minute."
Warrick nodded, left the locker room, and then Catherine hurried to put her things away so she could meet Gil at his office.
Twenty minutes later, he was nowhere to be found. The team was growing antsy in the break room, waiting for their boss to return, waiting for their assignments.
"I'll go find him," she said, pushing herself up from the table and leaving the room before anyone could say anything.
She found Gil standing outside, surveying the parking lot with a frown on his face.
"Hey," she said softly.
He turned and smiled at her. "Hello, my dear."
Catherine shivered and touched his arm. "We're waiting inside for assignments, you know."
He cocked his head to one side. "Something's different out here."
"Oh, yeah," she replied, nodding. "They finally switched out the rest of the Tahoes. We got upgraded."
"And where's mine?"
"It's around here somewhere," she told him with a smile. "In the meantime, we'll use mine."
"I guess that means we'll be working together today."
Catherine smiled at him. "If you don't mind..."
"Not at all," he replied, putting his hand on her lower back. "Let's go inside."
Gil smiled at Catherine as they drove to the scene. "So, how did everything go?"
"I told you."
"No, you didn't," he insisted. "You told me vague details. Hard case, easy case, quick shift, slow shift... who was there, who wasn't."
"You don't trust me?"
Gil replied, "I do trust you. With my life. But, I want to know what happened in the lab while I was away."
"I took most of the shifts," she told him. "Warrick and Nick had a couple a week. Sara got the occasional shift."
"Only the occasional shift?" Gil inquired. "Are you showing favouritism?"
Catherine shrugged. "I trust Nick and Warrick more. And, any time there was a shift, she was heavy into a case... and... okay, okay, maybe I was showing a little favouritism."
"I thought you two worked out your differences."
She sighed and shrugged again. "Me, too. She only got a few less than Warrick and Nick."
"Three. A lot of the time, she was swamped with a big case, so---"
"You didn't want to bother her," he said in a dry tone.
"Well... sort of."
Gil smiled and shook his head. "Catherine, you have to let that animosity go."
She sighed. "I know."
He reached across the interior of the vehicle and rubbed the back of her neck. "You're the alpha female, and you're not in any danger of losing your mate."
"You've been watching Animal Planet while you were on your own?"
"Maybe a little."
She smiled at him briefly. "I missed you," she murmured, when she returned to focus to the road. "I mean, we spoke on the phone, but... it's hard not seeing you every day."
"I know," he told her. "I missed you, too."
"You ready for our big fight?"
Gil chuckled a little. "Not so much," he said honestly. "I never like to fight with you."
"Ecklie's working today, right?"
"Good... Warrick's here, too."
Gil frowned. He didn't want to lie to Warrick. He valued the man's friendship---especially after all the advice and assistance he had provided whenever Gil and Catherine were going through a rough patch. But, everyone needed to believe their relationship was over.
"Speaking of Ecklie... how did he treat you in my absence?"
Catherine sighed. "Oh, fine. A couple of rude comments... about how lonely I must be without you, and stuff like that."
"I'm sorry," Gil said quietly, still rubbing the back of her neck.
"Don't be," she replied. "You're worth it."
Gil fell silent as they finished driving to The Sphere, thinking of everything they had and measuring it against what they were about to attempt. He agreed; she was worth it all.
"All set?" she asked, breaking him from his thoughts.
He looked up. They had stopped in front of the hotel. He smiled at her. "Yes. Let's go to work."
They got out of the Denali and retrieved their kits from the backseat. They walked side by side into the hotel's lobby, keeping their distance from each other until they sealed themselves off in an empty elevator.
Gil hadn't been paying attention when she leaned in; when she kissed his lips, she had all of his focus.
"Just missed this," she whispered. After another brief kiss, she added quietly, "I like the beard."
He smiled and brushed his hand through her loose curls of hair that dusted her shoulders, before cupping the back of her head and pulling her to him for a much more thorough kiss.
"Doing this at a crime scene is inappropriate," he whispered after they broke apart. "Don't seem to care, though."
Catherine laughed and kissed him again. "Too bad we couldn't just get a room and hide away for a couple of days."
"Maybe we should take a weekend off together," he murmured. "Stay at your house, hang out with Lindsey... enjoy some very private time while she's out with friends or asleep."
"Mmm... that sounds really, really nice," she purred, before pulling back.
A second later, the elevator bell rang, and the door opened on the tenth floor. Gil smiled at her and then guided her out of the small space, out into the hallway.
"Uh, I got to be at the courthouse," Catherine told Gil in the middle of Shimmer. "Apparently, there's a last-minute evidentiary hearing in the Sam Braun case. I need to be there."
Before Gil could respond, the dancer flashed Gil a smile. "You sure you don't want a dance? I could be your specimen. You could be my mad scientist."
Catherine flashed the girl what she hoped was a predatory smile. "He already is, sweetheart. Thanks."
Gil shrugged and then turned to follow Catherine.
"I think the beard makes me more appealing," Gil said dryly as they left the club.
Catherine smiled. "You've always been appealing," she told him. "The beard just makes you look... rugged."
"Rugged?" Gil echoed.
She nodded. "Yeah."
"Well, thank you for jumping to defend my honour in there," he said as they approached their vehicle.
"You're mine," she told him. "And I'm not going to let you go."
"Thank you for that, too," he replied, smiling at her.
"I'm sorry the case got kicked," Gil said quietly as they sat in his locked office, Catherine sitting in his lap. "I agree with the court's reasoning behind it, but I'm sorry."
"Yeah," she whispered.
"Don't say it, Gil."
"Catherine," he murmured. "C'mon."
"I know I acted emotionally," she said in a tight voice. "I know I didn't follow protocol. I screwed up. Please be my boyfriend right now... and not my boss."
Gil nodded and hugged her to him. "Okay," he whispered. "What can I do to help?"
"Am... am I like him?" she asked softly. "Will I end up like him?"
"You think so?"
He shook his head. "I know so."
She smiled a little. "Really?"
"Yes," he said firmly. "You are not Sam Braun. You have qualities he does not possess."
"But, ambition and---"
"Everyone possesses some measure of ambition or drive. That doesn't make you his daughter," Gil explained. "You were raised to be a good person. You're honest. You work hard, by the book; you earn everything that comes your way." He brought his hand to her lips for a kiss. "Don't worry. You're not going to end up like him."
"Is only biology."
She sighed and rested her head against his shoulder. "I hope you're right."
"I know I'm right."
She sighed again. "If you say so..."
"I do," he murmured. He paused and then said, "Well, at least we now know what we can fight about."
Her chuckle was strained. "God, Gil, don't make me laugh right now."
He released her hand to touch her shoulder. After an affectionate squeeze, he said, "Shall we fight now?"
"Do we hafta?" she whined, burying her face in his chest and neck.
He rubbed her back. "Yes... both Ecklie and Warrick are here. You just got back from the courthouse... it's perfect timing."
"Hate you," she muttered.
"Nice try, but I know better."
She lifted her head and smiled a little. "Yeah..." she brushed her fingers over his beard. "I love you too much."
"Never enough," she amended, before kissing him gently.
"Catherine..." he whispered, his voice thickening with arousal. "I can't look angry if I look like I've been thoroughly kissed."
He chuckled and helped her to her feet. Then, he rose and walked to the middle of the room. "After you, my dear."
"Oh, god," she groaned. "I... I don't know how to do this."
"C'mon. Pretend... I don't know. Pretend you caught me in bed with Sara."
"I'd be after her."
He chuckled. "C'mon, Catherine. Work with me, here."
She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. "This is ridiculous," she muttered.
"I know," he agreed.
After another deep breath, she turned and looked at the door. She knew she couldn't get started if she was looking at him.
"Goddamnit, Grissom!" she hollered. "I didn't do anything---"
"Wrong?!" he replied, after snorting softly.
Catherine marched to the door and flung it open. It crashed against the wall and bounced.
"We are not through, here, Catherine!"
"Go to hell!" she thundered, whirling around to face him. "I can't believe you! How can you--- how--- how can you just--- I need you to be supportive, and you're just---"
"What you did was inappropriate," he said in a low, firm voice.
"Screw you," she growled. "I thought you changed, but you're still the same old, unfeeling bastard."
Gil marched after her, and caught her arm in his hand. In the hallway, he saw that both Warrick and Ecklie were watching from opposite ends of the hall. Jacqui, Judy, and Sara were also watching.
"Grissom, let me go," she hissed.
"In my office, now," he said in a quieter voice. "This discussion is not over yet."
"Gil, we're causing a scene."
Catherine wrenched her arm out of his grip and marched into his office. As Gil followed her inside, he heard Conrad Ecklie say: "C'mon, guys, back to work. Show's over."
Gil closed the door and found himself pressed against the wall after Catherine launched herself at him, to press hungry kisses against his neck.
"What are you---"
"Shuddup and kiss me," she whispered.
"We're supposed to be fighting," he reminded her quietly.
"No reason we can't fight while we have a little fun," she reasoned, backing up and tugging him towards his desk. "You're hot when you're all riled up. Have I ever told you that before?"
"Ecklie seems to have bought it."
She grinned. "Then we deserve a little celebration for a job well done," she insisted. "Don't we?"
"I love your mind," he murmured.
Catherine bit back a laugh when he nuzzled her neck. "Careful," she whispered. "You can't leave any marks. We're still fighting, as far as the lab knows. Not making up."
"Damn," he groaned. "Can I leave marks in other places?"
"Other places... like where?"
Gil smirked and lifted her tank top over her head; Catherine moved with him, lifting her arms when he tugged on the hem of the shirt. He tossed the shirt across the room and lowered his lips to her chest. Catherine gasped and threaded her fingers through his hair.
Greg sidled up to Warrick, as he stared at the closed door from inside one of the rooms across the hall. "What happened?"
The darker man sighed and shook his head. "Dunno."
"I heard from Sara that Grissom and Catherine are having a huge fight in there."
Warrick looked at Greg. Since he and Catherine had talked after she returned from the courthouse, he guessed what they were talking about. He also guessed that they didn't need that story spread around the lab. "Don't go spreading that around, Greg. It's their business."
"Greg, let it go. It's not cool."
Greg sighed. "Then why are you standing here?" he asked before turning and going back to work.
Warrick frowned. They had seemed happy. Grissom liked to play everything by the book, but he would understand why Catherine did what she did; Warrick had been certain of that fact until he saw them fighting in the hallway.
Grissom had to have been upset if he allowed the argument to become so public.
After a sigh of his own, Warrick pushed off of the table he had been leaning against and he left the room. As he walked away, he vowed to catch up with Catherine later.
"Oh, god," Catherine moaned softly, as Gil pushed into her from behind. She gripped the sides of the desk with her hands and rocked back against him. "Harder," she breathed. "More."
Gil bent over her, kissed the back of her neck, and then tried to oblige. She made a soft squeaking noise and her grip on the desk's edge fumbled. In trying to reclaim it, she reached out and knocked a framed photograph off of the surface. It crashed to the floor.
"We're really having a good fight," Gil commented.
Catherine almost laughed. Instead, she craned her neck, smirked a little, and then hollered in the direction of the door, "I'm not the person you thought I was?! What on earth does that have to do with this?!"
"Very nice touch, my dear," Gil whispered, as he pulled back a little and then thrust into her again.
Catherine's gasp was shrill; her confident expression faltered and she inhaled shakily.
"More... please, more," she whispered.
"Yes, ma'am," he promised her quietly, before matching his actions to their words.
Catherine felt Gil lowering his body against hers. His fingers were digging into her hips; she hoped he'd leave bruises, memories of their time together. She started pushing back against him more, using her body to drive him crazy.
When one of his hands left her waist to graze the side of her breast, she whimpered softly and shuddered under him.
"So close, Gil..." she whispered.
"I know," he whispered back. "Me, too."
Gil changed the angle of his thrusts a little; in response, Catherine bucked against him, new sensations flooding her system. She started to whimper; Gil reached forward and clamped his hand over her mouth to muzzle her.
In the throes of her climax, she bit into his hand. Gil groaned, trying to keep himself restrained, but walking the fine line between pleasure and pain was too much. He thrust harder, racing to his own release, and knocking a few things off of the desk in the process.
When he felt his system leveling off, he slumped against her. "Too old," he complained quietly. "Too old for this kind of active lifestyle."
"Hardly," she scoffed, chuckling softly.
Gil pulled back, separating their bodies for a moment, before he helped her into an upright position. Catherine smiled and hugged him close.
"That was fun."
"I don't think we'll be able to do it in here again, so I'm glad we were able to---"
Catherine looked up at him, eyebrow raised. "What do you think Ecklie'll do? ALS your office?"
Gil smiled and shrugged. "It's probably not likely... but..."
Catherine smiled and shook her head. "You're paranoid, Gil. We won an Oscar out there. We're home free." She kissed him. Then, she said, "Better get dressed and back to work."
"Yeah," he agreed.
"Too bad we just can't skip out and leave the shift to one of the guys."
"Don't tempt me."
Catherine flashed him a grin and then she went in search of her clothes.
At the end of the day, Catherine went back to the locker room, in search of clean clothes and a toothbrush. Decomp from the bloater haunted her senses and the side effects from pulling a double shift were starting to wear her down.
She was glad to find the room empty; she was tired and didn't want to make smalltalk with Greg or Sara. Their questioning stares were enough.
She had just changed her shirt and was rummaging around on the top shelf of her locker for a hair elastic, when the door opened.
Looking up, she saw Conrad Ecklie standing there. She offered him a tired smile and said, "Hi."
"How are you holding up?"
Her brow furrowed in confusion for a moment, and then, she sighed and said, "I've been better."
"Look, for what it's worth," Conrad said. "You're better off without him."
"I... well, probably," Catherine replied as she returned to searching for her elastic.
"You're a good CSI, Catherine. Plenty of seniority. I'd hate to see that man ruin your career," he continued. "It'd be a shame. You could be boss some day."
She turned and looked at him. "I want to be promoted based on merit. Not on some vendetta you have against---"
"I know," he said, nodding as he cut her off. "Someday, you will be. On merit." His pager started to vibrate against his belt. He unclipped it and studied the display. "Results back. I've got to go. But, Catherine, if you ever want to talk or anything... I'm around."
"Thanks, Conrad," she said softly. "I appreciate it."
He gave her a little smile---an expression that she did not find comforting in any way---and then he left her alone.
The instant the door swung shut, a huge grin broke out across her face before she could control it. She couldn't believe her good fortune.