Catherine had been on the phone with Lindsey---refereeing a fight between Lindsey and Catherine's mother---in her car when she saw Gil pull his vehicle into the parking lot behind the forensics lab.
She almost hopped out of her car and walked over to him; she missed him, even though they spent nearly every night together. All they did was sleep. If it was the end of a shift, Catherine came home and spent time with Lindsey, sent her to school if it was that time of the day, and then she took a shower and ate a light meal before tucking herself into bed; Gil would stop at his townhouse first and check on his pets, and then he'd clean up and go to Catherine's home to do a crossword puzzle or two before bed. She was usually asleep and he tried hard not to wake her. If they had a day off together, they would run errands, share a meal, do something fun with Lindsey, and then curl up and read the evening papers before bed. Catherine tried to initiate more intimate activities a few times, but her suggestions were never received enthusiastically. She gave up and resigned herself to being with the man she loved, but being held at a distance.
A part of her believed that having him in any capacity was better than not having him at all.
When she saw Sara pull her jeep into the lot and park next to Gil's car, she had recoiled her hand from the driver side's door handle. She sat back and continued her conversation with her daughter, with her mother in the background, while watching the two forensic scientists interact after they got out of their vehicles.
They shared a smile and what appeared to be casual conversation, before turning and walking into the building side by side.
She finished her conversation with Lindsey and then closed her phone. She sat back and closed her eyes, summoning the strength to go into the building and to start another shift.
A tap on her window made her gasp and jump, as her heart rate increased slightly.
Upon seeing Warrick standing next to her car, she relaxed immediately and opened the door.
"You scared me!" she accused.
He gave her a half-smile, his trademark expression and a comfort to her in that moment, and then said, "Penny for your thoughts."
"They're not worth that much," she assured him as she grabbed her purse and keys and slipped out of the vehicle. He stepped back and gave her enough space to straighten herself out before they fell into step alongside each other and headed to the forensics lab. "How was your day?" she asked, hoping to steer him away from the topic of her own thoughts.
"Fine," he told her. "What's going on with you?"
"Not too much," she lied.
"You seeing anyone new?"
She laughed. "God, Warrick... when would I have time to do that?"
"Are you ready to start seeing someone?" he asked. "I mean, if you're not, that's cool... if you ever want to talk about Grissom---"
"That's the last thing I want to do," she interrupted gently, "but thank you."
"He's not seeing anyone else," he said quietly. "I mean, no one from the lab. Unless he's getting sneakier, but I think we both know he's not clever enough for that."
Catherine chose not to tell him the truth---that Gil was clever enough for that, that they both were---and instead she sighed and shrugged. "Well, I guess that's a relief."
"I don't think he'd do that to you," he added. "Especially with---"
"Hey, wait up!"
Warrick stopped talking the instant they heard Nick run to catch up with them. He turned and gave his friend a smile, and Catherine did the same.
"What's up, Nicky?" she asked, glad that her conversation with Warrick had been put aside.
He grinned. "Not much," he said, his Texan accent a little thicker than usual. "Just gearing up for an exciting shift of preparing for court."
"Good luck with that, Nick," Warrick said, sounding amused.
Nick held the door open for Catherine, but jokingly moved to close it in front of the other man. Catherine laughed and turned to go into the locker room, with Nick and Warrick carrying on behind her. Their antics continued as they walked to Gil's office, involving Catherine as they progressed, and the trio entered the office laughing and joking around.
The strawberry blonde stopped laughing the instant she saw Sara and Gil carrying on a quiet, private conversation over a textbook, behind his desk.
Gil looked up at her, over her glasses, and then he must have said something dismissive to Sara because she straightened up and walked around the desk to join the others.
He cleared his throat and set the book down, before he gave out the shift assignments. "Nick, you'll finish your prepwork for court, and then join Sara and I. Call dispatch when you're finished and find us." He looked at Catherine briefly and then at Warrick. "You two have a murder," he said, handing Warrick an assignment sheet, "at a vacant house. Officers have already secured the scene."
Catherine touched Warrick's arm. The darker man looked down at her before she spoke. "I'll go get my coat and sign a vehicle out."
"Meet you out front," he agreed.
She shot Gil a look---loaded with discontent, although she wasn't sure exactly why she was so unhappy with him---and then she turned on her heel and walked purposefully out of the office.
After returning from the blood bar, Catherine went to the break room to decompress over a cup of coffee while Warrick took their samples to Greg for analysis. She heard commotion---Nick and Sara heading to the Audio-Visual lab, and Grissom going to his office---but she ignored it and sipped her coffee with her eyes closed.
She knew Gil was in the room before he cleared his throat.
"Hey," she said quietly, as she opened her eyes and found him standing in the doorway.
"Hello, my dear," he said in an equally quiet voice before he went to the coffee maker to get his own cup of coffee. "Is it any good?" he asked, holding his cup up.
She gave him a small smile. "It's not Greg's coffee," she conceded.
Gil sat down next to her and under the table, he put his free hand on her knee. "What's up?" he asked.
Catherine sighed and shook her head. "Nothing. Weird case. You?"
"I was talking about earlier," he prompted.
She dropped her hand to her lap and put it down on top of his hand. After giving it a brief squeeze, she looked away from him and said, "I could ask you the same thing."
Catherine sighed again. "Nevermind."
"Don't," she whispered, "Gil, please don't ruin the shift---"
"I'm going to ruin the shift?" he inquired, an edge slipping into his voice. "How will I do that, Catherine?"
She pressed her lips together and shook her head. "Don't---"
"What's going on?"
"I miss you," she whispered.
"I'm right here," he said, sounding confused.
She shook her head. "No, you're not," she insisted. "You haven't been anywhere close to 'right here' beside me since... since... well, I don't know. Maybe since the Delhomme case. I'm not sure. But you were with me and then... now, you're not."
"I come home to you," he pointed out.
Catherine shrugged. "Yeah," she conceded.
"I want to be with you," he assured her, threading his fingers through hers. "How about... how about we take some time for us later?"
She blinked. "What?"
"What about Lindsey?" she asked quietly.
"Take out and rental movies?" he suggested.
She allowed a small smile to curve her lips. "Okay," she agreed. "I'll go pick them out if you get the food."
"One for Lindsey and one for us... for later," he insisted, releasing her hand and leaving her leg to bring his hand up. He caressed her cheek and brushed her hair back. "I have a lot on my mind lately," he admitted, "but I still love you."
Catherine let his words soothe her frayed nerves and she closed her eyes. She leaned into his touch and sighed softly, happily. She felt a flicker of hope and she decided to hang onto it---even if part of her wasn't convinced that was the best course of action.
Before Gil went to see Ty Caulfield in his office, before he decided to report his findings to the insurance company, he and Sara had a very interesting conversation about Gilbert and Sullivan. He hadn't known that she enjoyed their works; he hadn't known that anyone else at the lab enjoyed them, and finding someone to talk to about them was a positive experience.
He noticed things about the brunette when they were talking casually, without work or the lack of a relationship between them looming over their heads. Her eyes lit up when she was excited and she had a few different smiles. She seemed more at ease than she had in a while, and he hoped that the tension that had been between them had dissipated.
Once he was finished at the casino, he got into his car and went to the pizzeria from where Catherine and Lindsey had ordered their supper. He paid for their food and was surprised to see that Catherine had made a point of ordering his favourite toppings on half of one of the pizzas---something she rarely did because she couldn't stand green olives, onions, and green peppers, together.
Her actions touched him, but they also made him feel guilty. She was right---he wasn't with her, even when they were in the same room. Something had divided them. He felt different, since the case of the murdered nurse and the dissected doctor... maybe even since he and Catherine had a conversation about Sara, before that troubling case. And it wasn't simply a question of preferring one woman over the other.
Yet, he couldn't figure out why he was putting so much distance between himself and Catherine.
When he arrived at Catherine's home, Lindsey's eyes lit up---even though she was trying to be cool---in a way that mirrored Catherine's eyes' lighting. His lover and partner beamed at him when he walked into the kitchen and then she greeted him with a kiss---while Lindsey grimaced and told the adults how gross they were.
"Someday, you'll find someone you want to kiss," Gil said in a patient, amused tone of voice, "and then we'll catch you two kissing and we'll say you're being gross."
Catherine chuckled and ruffled Lindsey's hair. "Why don't you finish setting the table, Linds? I'll get the soda."
The three of them worked together to put the meal on the table and then they settled down together to eat and talk about their days. Catherine and Gil shared a few details of their cases with each other and with Lindsey---nothing too gruesome, of course---and then Lindsey told them, reluctantly, about her day at school.
When their meal was finished, Catherine cleared the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher, while Gil and Lindsey popped popcorn and went out to the living room to start the first movie. He smiled at the strawberry blonde woman when she joined them and opened his arm, welcoming her close to his side.
She accepted the silent offer and rested her head against her shoulder. He pressed his lips to her forehead and then settled in to watch the movie with the two Willows women.
Lindsey was falling asleep by the time it was over, so Catherine sent her to get ready for bed, while Gil took the discarded glasses and popcorn bowl to the kitchen. He cleaned them and waited for Catherine to come back from saying goodnight to her daughter, so they could watch their movie.
She met him in the living room, a more serious expression on her face.
"What's wrong?" he asked, immediately fearing the worst.
Her lips quirked into a small smile. "Nothing, really... just... something weird happened on my way out of the lab today."
"What?" he prompted, intrigued.
"Ecklie asked me out."
"He what?!" Gil responded hotly, completely taken aback by her news. "I'm gonna... I... I don't know. But I don't like that at all."
Catherine sighed and flopped down next to him on the sofa. "I know," she murmured in agreement, "but he seemed to think that since we're over..."
He sighed. "Do you want to---"
"Are you kidding me?!" Catherine yelped.
"Well, I don't know---"
He relaxed and looked at her while taking her hand between both of his. "Sorry... I just... reacted badly."
"It's okay," she mumbled, "but I don't want to go out with him. Ever." She reached up and brushed her fingers through Gil's hair. He closed his eyes and resisted the urge to shiver, failing completely. She chuckled and pressed a kiss to his hairline before taking the remote out of his lap. "What did you rent for us?"
He smiled and told her to start the movie and find out, while wrapping his arms around her. After a couple of kisses, they settled down and watched the movie. Throughout its duration, Gil kept staring at her, wondering why he still felt an odd, nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach. He tried to dismiss it and enjoy the movie; she was in his arms and seemed to be happy, after all.
After the movie, they curled up on the sofa and talked quietly about their cases in more detail. He always enjoyed talking about work with her, and by the way she was smiling at him, he guessed she felt the same way.
However, by the time they started talking about Gilbert and Sullivan, Gil was beginning to wonder if talking about their cases had been a good idea at all.
The instant he mentioned something Sara had said about the plays---which he could admit wasn't the best course of action---he saw Catherine's eyes narrow and dull slightly and she seemed to stiffen in his arms. He quickly moved on to talk about the specific song used for the alarm and the story behind it.
"That's from the one about duty, right?" Catherine asked.
"They're all about duty," Gil pointed out.
The conversation slowly faded away after that. Twenty minutes later, once the conversation trickled from an awkward bit of small talk to nothingness, Catherine eased out of Gil's arms and said she was going to go to bed.
Gil looked at the hand she offered him, and before he could bottle his first impulse up, he blurted out, "I'm going to go back to my place."
She pressed her lips together and nodded twice.
"Lock up when you go," she said quietly, before disappearing from sight.
He frowned and sighed, looking down at his hands as he wracked his brain to figure out why he said what he had said. It had been an impulse, so there must have been some need behind it, he silently reasoned, but he did not want to be away from Catherine if he could help it.
But, he had said the words and she had heard them.
After turning the lights out, he went to the foyer and put his coat and shoes on. He locked the door when he left the house and he got into his car and drove away with the intention of going to his townhouse. Two hours later, though, he was still driving around the city.
He returned to Catherine's street before he realised what he was doing. He sighed and turned his car into her driveway. Lights were on in the kitchen, he noted, which suggested to him that Catherine wasn't doing much better than he was.
Gil got out of his car, after parking it, and he walked to the door. He almost slid his key into the lock, but he wasn't sure he should do that; he thought about ringing the doorbell, but he didn't want to wake Lindsey up; he didn't think Catherine would hear him if he knocked on the door. He didn't know what to do.
He paced for a few minutes outside, on the front step, and then he leaned against the door frame, troubled and confused.
When Catherine opened the door, he startled, but he didn't move too much---until she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around his neck in a warm embrace. It took him a moment to recover, but he wrapped his arms around her body, too. He buried his face in her shoulder and inhaled deeply before shuddering on his exhale.
She didn't say anything. She stepped away, took his hand, and guided him inside. He followed, wordlessly.
Their foreplay had been frenzied, wordless, and quiet. Catherine felt her mind cataloguing every touch, taste, and smell before she was aware of doing it; she returned every favour Gil bestowed upon her, savouring the late night coupling.
Gil nudged her onto her stomach when they were ready for the next step, and she accepted the new position, waiting for whatever else he wanted to share with her. He kissed and massaged her back until he propped her hips up on a pillow; then, he thrust into her. It was a slow, shallow push, setting her hidden nerves on fire.
His massage continued, but it turned into long, slow scratches that matched his thrusts. Catherine heard herself mewling under the onslaught of pleasure and pain, both physical and emotional. He muttered something about drawing blood and apologising, but Catherine simply insisted that he not stop.
He licked some of the lines he made on her back. She assumed he was cleaning the wounds he made on her skin. She closed her eyes and rocked back against him, spurring him on.
It didn't take long before she was scrambling at the bedding, struggling to stay silent and to hold onto something while Gil pushed her into climax. She heard him grunt and then she felt him stiffen; she knew he was close behind.
Afterwards, she didn't turn over onto her back. She stayed on her stomach but turned her head to look at Gil, who had stretched out on the bed alongside of her.
Even with his eyes closed, Catherine could tell that he was troubled by something. She closed her eyes and put her hand on his chest. He squeezed her hand for a moment and then he shifted.
Part of her expected him to shift away from her, but he actually shifted closer to her. Hovering above her, he dropped his head and traced his tongue over one of the scratches on her back. She thought about her case and almost squirmed; but, then, she found some sort of comfort inside of it all.
(She's inside of me now. A part of me. And she's very much alive.)
"Is it for good?" she whispered, not wanting to prolong the inevitable conversation they had to have. "Or... just for a month or two?"
Gil sighed. "I don't know," he admitted quietly.
Catherine nodded and opened her eyes. She eased onto her side and Gil moved onto his, so they could look at each other. She kissed his forehead and brushed her fingers through his hair.
"Don't go out with Ecklie," he whispered.
Her eyes had been filling with tears, but when he said that, she smiled sadly instead. "Don't worry," she promised.
"You're still..." he trailed off and sighed. "Nevermind," he mumbled.
Catherine put her hand to his cheek. "What?" she insisted, in a whisper.
She saw his cheeks flush. "I don't have a right to say this... I know, but..."
He looked at her. "You're still my best friend, right?"
Her lower lip trembled. "Y-yeah," she murmured. "Gil... of course."
"I love you," he whispered.
She nodded. "I know. I love you, too."
"I know," he breathed, before leaning in and pressing his trembling lips to hers.
"Figure out whatever you need to figure out," she insisted when the kiss ended.
Gil stole another kiss, thanked her, and then he moved to find his clothes. Catherine watched him dress and she felt tears streaming down her face. She turned her head away from his gaze so he couldn't see her so upset, but she hiccuped and he knew immediately what was happening.
He sat down on the bed again and gathered her into his arms. She didn't know if he was crying, too, but she knew he was sad---and that was some sort of comfort.
She fell asleep in his arms, and when she woke up, he was gone.