Platypus 70: Snaking Around Nests of Issues

After a sip of his wine, Gil looked at Catherine and smiled. "Have I told you that you look lovely tonight?"

Catherine smiled. "Not yet, no," she murmured over the rim of her own glass of wine.

"Well, you look lovely tonight, Catherine," he told her with another small smile.

Catherine's cheeks warmed as they turned a light crimson colour. When he went out of his way to say nice things to her, she found that her body always reacted positively---flushing, warming, tingling... and so on. She sipped her wine and set the glass down on the table. Gil took advantage of her hand being free and he caught her hand with his; she smiled and inched closer to him in the booth of the restaurant.

"I'm glad we got to go out tonight," he told her quietly, stroking her hand with his thumb.

"Me, too," she agreed.

With work, they hadn't been able to see each other much. They had a few stolen moments in one of their offices, secret smiles in the hallway as they passed each other, and late night phone calls, but they rarely spent much time together. Gil chose his night off based on Catherine's schedule that week, and he surprised her by asking her out on a date.

She hoped they would be able to continue to make time for each other. If they couldn't, she predicted their relationship would fizzle out and fade back into something more platonic. She did not want that to happen.

"Thanks for giving me someone to help with swing shift this week," she said after clearing her throat. She didn't quite know what to think about Sofia Curtis, other than she used to work for Ecklie and Gil enjoyed spending time with her; but she had been grateful for the assistance during the swing shift's last couple of cases.

"No talk about work," he scolded, a smile still on his lips.

Catherine chuckled. "Gil... what else will we talk about?"

"Why don't you tell me about Lindsey," he prompted. "Is your relationship with her getting any better?"

She looked at him and opened her mouth to answer his question, but the words got stuck in her throat. Before she could make her voice work again, the waitress had come to their table with their food. Grateful for the distraction, Catherine put her napkin in her lap and picked up her fork.

"This looks really good," she murmured, as she studied her seafood pasta dish.

"It does," Gil agreed as he surveyed his own meal.

Catherine smiled at him and then sampled her meal. She moaned appreciatively and blushed when she caught Gil watching her with a dark look in his eyes.

"Stop that," she whispered.

"Never," he replied before beginning to eat his own meal.

She was relieved, though, that their conversation turned to focus upon their food instead of her daughter. She didn't want to keep Gil from interacting with Lindsey, but there were some things of which Catherine wasn't sure he would approve. For instance, Catherine had decided to use some of the money Sam had given her, along with her own increase in salary, to pay for tuition at a private school. The applications for several schools were almost completely filled out, almost ready to be mailed. She wasn't sure how Gil would react to hearing about the money Sam had given her, or even if he would approve of her sending Lindsey to a private school. So, she hoped to avoid that topic for a while.

However, Gil was not that easily distracted.

Halfway through their meals, he drank some of his wine and gently touched her arm. "You still haven't told me about your daughter," he pointed out.

"I... I know," she said quietly. "Sorry... what would you like to know?"

"How are you two getting along?"

Catherine shrugged. "Better," she replied, smiling slightly. "I'm making a point to spend more time with her. We're talking more, because of that. She's still a teenager, but... she's not as angry with me."

"Good," Gil said, smiling brightly. "I'm glad to hear it. What have you two been talking about?"

"My childhood was an interesting starting point," Catherine said in a wry tone of voice. "She keeps asking about her grandfather, though... and I keep dancing around him as gracefully as I can. But, I suspect she's asking Mom, too... so I don't know how to handle it."

Gil's expression darkened. "Tell her the truth," he advised.

Catherine shrugged. "Maybe," she replied, evading her opinion on the issue. She did not want to make the same mistakes twice; she had coloured Lindsey's view of Eddie, or tried to, and that had only resulted in unneeded tension between the three of them. She suspected that if she attempted to only portray Sam in negative light, Lily (and Sam, when he realised why he was being kept from his granddaughter) would not react kindly to Catherine's actions. She didn't want Lindsey spending too much time with her grandfather, but he was family and she didn't know how she could keep them apart for much longer.

"You don't want her to know?"

She shrugged again. "I do... but I don't want to scare her. For better or worse, he's a part of her family."


"He was good to me, when I didn't know..." Catherine trailed off and sighed. She sipped her wine, and then resumed speaking. "He was always good to me and while he and Mom weren't always in touch, he asked about her every time we---"

Gil rolled his eyes and cut her off. "You can't possibly think that justifies the life he took."

"I... I don't," she said quietly, avoiding his eyes. She forced herself to look at him; when she did, she saw anger and disappointment in his gaze. "I don't want him influencing her... I don't want her to get sucked into his lifestyle... but he's important to my mother, Lindsey's grandmother, so---"

"You're going to let them spend time together?"

Catherine glared at him. "What would you have me do?"

"Keep her away from him!" he replied in a firm voice. "Catherine, you're trying to raise your daughter to be an upstanding member of society... why would you let her get to know a murderer?"

"What happened to 'you look lovely tonight, Catherine?'" she asked, her voice low as her shoulders tensed defensively. Gil frowned and he shrugged. Catherine tried to relax; she reached out and touched his arm. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "Maybe we shouldn't talk about family stuff."

He set his fork down and put his hand over hers. "We should be able to," he said quietly.

"We can't, though," she pointed out. She leaned in and pressed her lips to his temple. "I know what he is... and I won't ever trust him with my daughter's life," she said quietly, hoping to say something that would soothe the flare of emotions between them, "but she has a right to know about the good and the bad, to make most of the decision for herself."

Gil turned his head slightly and caught her lips with his, for a gentle kiss. "You'll... be honest with her?"

"I'll give her the facts," Catherine replied, reaching up and brushing her fingers over his cheekbone and into his hair. "He's a part of my family and he's not going away, Gil," she murmured, "and I have to get used to that, too. But, she'll have other, better male influences in her life... and I know she'll turn out okay."

Gil smiled a bit. "Like her mother."

Catherine smiled. "I turned out okay?"

"Better than okay," he said quietly.

"We should finish our meals," she suggested. "Maybe... we should go for a walk after?"

"That'd be nice," he admitted.

Catherine's smile stretched, although her heart seemed to plummet into her stomach. Gil's words told her they had reached some sort of agreement, but she sensed that Gil wasn't entirely pleased with the agreement.

Still, she didn't push the issue. She chose, instead, to finish her meal over safer conversation.


"So," Gil said as they walked down the sidewalk, "Sofia told me about the case she worked with Warrick... about the telemarketing."

With a smile, Catherine looked at him and slid her free hand into Gil's as they walked. She nodded. "Warrick told me what the older man said, about how he used to know who the enemy was... and now, it's someone on the phone, wanting our credit card numbers... trying to sell us things we don't need."

Gil squeezed her hand, thrilled that they could walk and talk and hold hands like real couples did---without him worrying about someone from the lab seeing them together.

"There are many different types of enemy," Gil said quietly, "and sometimes it is the enemies that seem more benign that injure us more."

Catherine nodded and leaned her body slightly against his as they walked. Gil released her hand and wrapped his arm around her shoulders; she made a quiet appreciative noise that caused a small, warm shiver to travel along his spine.

"How are you and Sofia getting along?"

Gil had been taken aback by her question, but he tried not to show his reaction to it by controlling his body language. He wasn't sure what he thought of Sofia, but he knew that he enjoyed her company. The blonde made him think about life differently and they had many interesting conversations; in some ways, she reminded Gil of Catherine. However, he didn't feel any of the peace of mind he felt when he and Catherine were spending time together. So, no matter how much time he spent with Sofia, he knew that Catherine had no reason to be jealous of his friendship with the other woman.

"She's an interesting person," Gil told her. "I enjoy her perspective on the evidence, on the cases we work together. And she's been a good teacher for Greg---and not just in dealing with evidence."

"What do you mean?" Catherine asked.

He shrugged. "I think Greg benefits from seeing more well-adjusted criminalists working on bad cases," he said, trying to explain his position. "She handles her job with poise and she doesn't seem to get to depressed over those cases we can't seem to shake. She integrates herself with society... unlike me, and she has a sunnier outlook on life."

"Unlike me?"

Gil smiled and shook his head. "Hardly. My sunshine comes from you," he told her.

Catherine smiled back at him and put her arm around his lower back. "Oh," she said quietly.

Gil kissed the side of her head. "What about that other case? I ran into Nick at PD... he told me about those narco-corrido songs... seemed... interesting."

She laughed softly. "Frightening is more like it." She sighed softly and rubbed his lower back through his leather jacket. "Nick translated some of the songs... one said something about cats feasting upon some murder victims' intestines, in a dry river bed---which is hardly sexy enough for a power ballad. But, translate it into Spanish, and you've got yourself a huge hit with a massive cult-ish following."

"I'm sure a lot of the music Lindsey listens to is hardly appropriate," Gil pointed out. "Rap music talks about shooting people from rival gangs, demeaning women until they're reduced to nothing but disposable plumbing, drugs---"

"Okay, okay, stop," she muttered before nudging him in the ribs.

Gil chuckled quietly and kissed her temple as they continued to walk around the city.

"Warrick and Nick are respecting you as a supervisor?" he inquired after a few quiet minutes.

Catherine nodded. "Yeah... pretty much," she murmured. "We're adjusting. I don't know what Nick thinks of me sometimes... we don't always see eye to eye. Warrick's trying to be between us when that happens---I don't know if he does it deliberately or not. He's been a rock to me for so long."

"To me as well," Gil agreed. He rubbed her back. "You guys'll figure things out," he promised.

"I'm sure we will," she said with a small smile. "How are Sara and Greg getting along with the guys?"

"I'm not... sure," he replied.

Catherine glanced at him. "You're not?"

He shrugged. He didn't want to talk with Catherine about Sara. Sara was his Sam Braun, in his relationship with Catherine. No good came from discussing a conversation he had with Sara.

"Don't you talk to your staff?"

Gil shrugged. "Greg seems to spend enough time with Nick and Warrick," he said, "and I don't think Sara's ever mentioned that when we discussed the staff changes."

He realised he said too much when Catherine asked, "Well, what did she say?"

"She thought she had done the team a disservice when Ecklie cornered her and asked her questions," he replied. "And I think, if she could have had that conversation over again, she probably would have covered for me."

Catherine snorted. "Of course she would have," she said quietly. "She's always considered you to be more than a boss."


"She relocated for you," Catherine pointed out. "You brought her in to investigate Holly Gribbs' shooting, and she ended up staying. She wouldn't have done that if anyone else had brought her in."

He sighed. "Maybe not," he conceded.

"How did your post-PEAP counseling go with her?"

"Catherine, I can't talk to you about that," he said, stiffening a little. "It's confidential."

"I wouldn't---"

He squeezed her shoulder. "It's between Sara and I, Catherine, and it's going to stay there." After a kiss to her temple, he said, "I know you're suspicious of my friendship with her... and... I can't change that. But, didn't we agree to be honest with each other? Nothing in my friendship with her has changed... you are still the only one sharing my bed, and I'm content to keep it that way."


"That's what it's about, isn't it?"

She sighed. "Sometimes, but---"

"Catherine," he murmured, interrupting her. "You're much prettier without those green eyes---"

"I'm not jealous," she said quietly. "I just wish you'd just be honest with me."

"So far, I am," he insisted, although he wasn't entirely sure if either of them were being completely honest.

"Are you?"

He nodded. "I am."


He sighed. "Geez, Catherine, what do you want from me?"

"I don't know," she admitted.

Gil believed her. Sometimes, he wasn't sure of what he wanted from her, either.


Catherine stretched against Gil's body and watched him sleep. She had taken Lindsey to school in the morning and then returned to her house to find Gil sleeping in her bed; she had been pleasantly surprised to see him there and instead of starting her day early, she decided to crawl back into bed and sleep for another few hours.

Gil curled up around her when she joined him. She smiled and kissed his arm before sliding her hands over his and her legs between his. He groaned and hugged her tightly in sleepy reply.

She fell back into slumber, pressed between Gil and the mattress, and didn't wake up until she felt Gil's lips on her shoulder and neck, his beard gently scratching her skin.

"Gil?" she whispered.

"Hey," he whispered back.

"Why'd you come back here?" she asked, eyes still closed and back still to his chest.

After another kiss, he replied. "Because I sleep better here," he admitted, "and I wanted to see you before you go into work."

His words convinced her to roll over. There were so many unspoken things between them, so that when he said something important, she took it to heart almost immediately. Their date had been a nice change, but it made her realise that they had so many issues to work out before they could ever consider being a real couple. Their date made her think of their relationship as if it were conventional, and not what it really was---some sort of abomination that existed between the realms of the erotic, romantic, and platonic. She wanted to find some way to change the way she thought about them, together; she sensed that Gil might have been thinking the same thing.

"Well, here I am," she whispered.

He smiled. "I can see that."

"We can get a bit more sleep," she murmured, reaching up and rubbing his bare chest. "I mean, you've only been sleeping for a few hours, so---"

He caught her hand and kissed its palm. "I can sleep later," he reminded her.


"Yes, my dear?"

Catherine chuckled softly and leaned in for a kiss. Her lips were a little dry and so were his, but she was still smiling when she pulled back.

"Good morning," she whispered.

"It is, indeed," he agreed.

"Mom's coming by later," Catherine warned.

Gil smirked. "Feels like of like I'm in high school... except that I'm cooler than I was back then," he said as one of his hands slid down and slipped past the waistband of the shorts she had worn to bed. He teased her hip and abdomen as he continued speaking: "And my girlfriend's telling me her parents'll be checking in on her any minute... that I should get dressed and slip out through the window... climb down the tree and get onto my bike that I hid in the bushes."

Catherine's laugh came out sounding a little breathless as he teased her body. "Did you ever do anything like that?"

"Not really, no," he admitted. "A couple of close roommate calls in college, but..."


He blushed. "I did have a few girlfriends before we met."

"I believe you," she murmured. Her hand explored his torso as she smiled at him. "You're a very attractive man, Gil. Girls would be stupid not to want to get to know you better."

"Many are," he pointed out.

"Their loss," she whispered before kissing him again.

"You think?"

She peeked up at him through her eyelashes. "I know," she assured him, moments before she stole another kiss. Gil didn't interrupt that kiss with more words; he returned the embrace wholeheartedly and let his hands continue to explore the flesh of her body that he couldn't see. Catherine moaned and rocked against his hand when his fingers brushed over her sensitive nerve endings; Gil pressed harder and chuckled when her moan increased in volume.

"I love it when you're loud," he admitted into her hair, when she sagged towards him and gripped his arm for support. "I love knowing that I'm making you make those sounds."

Catherine felt her stomach twist as his words vibrated into her. She whimpered and pressed her open mouth to his chest.

One of Gil's fingers slipped inside of her core, probing gently, and she sucked hard through her mouth; when he curled his finger, she bit down and heard him swear and groan in front of her.

"That's gonna cost you," Gil whispered teasingly as he pulled his finger out of her body.

She smiled as she lifted her head. "Is it?"

"I thought we had a standing agreement on hickeys and lovebites?" he inquired, his lips quirking into a boyish grin.

Catherine grinned back at him. "Isn't it... I mark you, and you mark me... and vice versa?" she asked. Before he could reply, she took his hand and put that torturous finger into her mouth, sucking hard. She didn't necessarily mind or enjoy the mixture of her fluids on his skin; besides, his reaction made enduring it more than worthwhile. Gil's reply never came. He groaned loudly, instead, and then closed his eyes as she swirled her tongue around the digit. She released his finger with a loud 'pop' sound and then nibbled her way from his wrist to his shoulder. "Or was there another agreement you had in mind?"


"Where do you want to mark me?" she asked, whispering near his ear.

"Everywhere," he admitted, his face flushing with desire.

"Thought so," she whispered, smirking.

They shared a couple of heated kisses; then, Catherine pulled her mouth from his and dragged it down his body. She teased both of his nipples with her tongue and teeth, straddling him when he started to squirm. She licked and sucked her way down the centre of his stomach, following the dusting of grey hairs until she reached the waistband of his boxer briefs. At that point, Gil was moaning her name softly when he wasn't panting for breath.

"What are you... god, Catherine---"

"Shhh," she whispered, "let me have my fun."

"God, 'kay... yeah..." he groaned in reply.

Catherine laughed softly against his stomach and then she pressed a line of kisses above the elastic waistband. She could feel Gil's erection developing under the thin fabric of his shorts and his arousal increased hers. She brushed her cheek against the growing bulge and inhaled deeply; he whimpered and she shuddered in reaction to her actions.

By the time she tugged his underwear down his legs, he was moaning on almost every exhalation. Catherine kissed and nibbled her way up his legs and then settled down between them. She palmed his testicles with both of her hands and then slowly slid her hands upwards until they were on either side of his erection. She caressed him gently at first, but then slowly applied more pressure as she moved her hands up and down.

As she did that, she lowered her mouth and gently swiped her tongue over his glans head and smirked when he whimpered and shuddered. She repeated that gesture a few times---until he brushed his fingers down over her head and shoulders. At that point, she looked up at him, setting one of her hands on his thigh and the other on the bed as she rose to meet his gaze.

"Turn around," he insisted quietly.


He lifted his head up and smiled. "Take off your underwear and turn around so you're looking at my feet," he explained.

Catherine smiled back at him as her cheeks flushed. "Yeah?"

"C'm'ere," he whispered, nodding.

She nodded, too, and then sat back and shimmied out of her panties. She flashed him a grin and then tossed the swatch of fabric into the laundry basket.

"Touchdown," he whispered, tugging on her ankle.

"That's football," she said, giggling.

"Home run? How about... 'she shoots, she scores?'"

"Baseball. Hockey," she corrected.

"Ah. 'Nothing but net.'"

"Swish... there we go," she purred, crawling up his body for kiss.

Gil threaded his hand through her hair as the kiss intensified, but he eventually released her head so she could turn around. She felt a little awkward, straddling his face, but when she felt his lips and beard against the back of her thigh, she focused on other things---like the flesh in front of her face. She returned to lapping at his erection with long, wide strokes of her tongue, working him up until he was moaning against her thighs.

She had wrapped her hand around the base of his penis and had been fully prepared to take it into her mouth; however, when Gil's tongue flicked against her swollen bundle of nerves she gasped and bucked hard against him. Her head dropped to his hip and she took in a few deep breaths as his tongue continued to torment her.

After a few minutes, she managed to summon enough control to continue her end of their oral activities. She slipped her mouth over the first inch of him, swirling her tongue gently as she descended; Gil's hips tensed in response, telling her that she had done something he enjoyed. She kept one of her hands wrapped around his base, brushing her fingers against his testicles from time to time, as she slid down slowly. She took her time, especially since she didn't know when Gil would push one of her buttons too hard, and worked her mouth up and down his shaft at a slow pace.

It took a while, but eventually, she had figured out a way to take most of him into her mouth, into her throat. She had to admit, it was easier when there wasn't a hand pressed to the back of her head---but having Gil's mouth teasing her added a degree of difficulty she hadn't been prepared for. She often had to lift her head to moan or to suck in a sharp breath. Gil didn't seem to mind too much, though. As she orally stimulated him, she saw the skin below his erection tightening, drawing his testicles inside his body; she mentally smirked and focused on taking as much of him as she could in through her mouth.

Gil's mouth broke away from her core and he moaned, before almost shouting her name. She retracted a bit, catching some of his semen on her tongue as his climax crashed through his body. She swallowed and descended again, sucking him down once more before wiggling her tongue against him gently as she lifted her head.

His body shuddered as his system leveled off. She held onto his penis and gently lapped her tongue over it as it wilted, focused more on giving him added pleasure than anything else. He groaned quietly and kissed her thighs, the sound vibrating through her body.

As she cooled down her oral techniques, Gil warmed up his. His tongue became more aggressive and he also started to use his fingers, exploring her body the way he wanted to. Catherine wriggled her hips and tried hard not to press down into his face; she didn't think it would be very polite if she smothered him, after all.

When she finally reached her orgasm, she had released her hands from around him only to claw them into the sheets on either side of his thighs. She moaned and whimpered and pressed her breasts into his hips, before cursing quietly and tensing her body.

She relaxed as Gil massaged her lower back and upper thighs with both of his hands and then she slumped off of him. Somehow, he hoisted her up and turned her around; she managed to grab the comforter and to tug it over their bodies.

He pressed a kiss on her shoulder, just inside the strap of her tank top.

"That was different," he whispered.

"Fun, though," she murmured, draping an arm over his torso. She stifled a yawn and then giggled. "Nap time?"

"Seems reasonable to me," he agreed with a lopsided grin.

Catherine leaned up and kissed his lips before tucking her head against his neck and shoulder. He snuggled up to her as well, and it wasn't until after he fell asleep that Catherine realised his shorts were still bunched up around his ankles. She giggled softly; when she drifted into sleep, she was still smiling.

When she woke up, though, a few hours later, she wasn't smiling. Her pager had been beeping, causing a headache to develop somewhere in the back of Catherine's brain. She groaned and fumbled blindly over Gil for a moment before realising her pager was on the other bedside table; he groaned as she pulled away from him, as she checked the annoying device for a message, but he didn't wake up immediately.


At the sound of her mother's voice, Catherine stiffened and whipped her head around to see her mother opening her bedroom door. As Lily took in the sight of a (as far as she knew) shirtless Gil sleeping in the bed, Catherine felt her face flush. Lily looked pretty embarrassed, though, despite her curiosities, and she quickly retreated.

The strawberry blonde grunted and then sighed. She turned around and put her hand on Gil's chest. "Gil?"


"Wake up, Gil."

He groaned and rolled towards her. "Sleep more. Still early."

"My mother's here," she whispered.

Gil opened one eye. "Did she see us?"

"In bed together? Yeah."

"Uh oh."

Catherine smiled a bit. "You're so astute."

"You want me for my mind," he reminded her, tugging her down to his level for a kiss. He hummed softly as they pulled apart. "Are you okay?" he asked, watching her with drowsy eyes.

She shrugged. "Dunno... I'm not sure how much I want to tell her... but... we shared a bed together before, as friends... when Lindsey was a baby, and---"

Gil reached up and cupped Catherine's face. "We're adults and we're not doing anything wrong," he reminded her before seeking another kiss.

"I know," she murmured, smiling at him. "C'mon. Get dressed and face the firing squad with me."


Gil had tried to leave when Catherine did, to process the potential crime scene at the Sandstone Community development site, but her mother had detained him by offering to cook lunch.

"Oh, come on," Lily had insisted, "you can't go into work on an empty stomach... and you have the time..."

He had smiled and given in. He knew that sometimes, with Catherine, it was easier to give in; he guessed that with her mother, it would be the same. So, he stayed for more conversation---which was more awkward than he cared to admit---and then he left Catherine's house when Lily went to get Lindsey from school.

As he drove to his house, he thought about the answers Lily had tried to unearth from both him and Catherine---the answers neither of them had given the older woman. They had pretended they were nothing more than friends; they had both decided to play it that way because they didn't know how else to describe their relationship. Gil had told her they came back after working and then, after a light meal, they crashed into a much-needed sleep.

He wasn't sure if Lily bought that story or not. When she asked him if they did that often, he shrugged and told her that they slept together often enough. He also made sure to tell her that they were friends with a long, shared history, and it was comfortable for both of them to spend time like that. It was the truth---he always felt comfortable with Catherine, when they weren't angry or frustrated with each other. Even when they weren't on the best of terms, there was an ease to being with Catherine that he couldn't quite qualify.

She asked if he had any other intentions towards her daughter and Gil knew he had blushed when he tried to think of a response. The way Lily smiled and nodded told him she caught the flush of his cheeks and understood what he wasn't saying.

"Catherine is a wonderful woman," Gil had said as diplomatically as he could have, "and any man would be lucky to be romantically involved with her."

"I know that," Lily had replied, "but that doesn't answer my question."

"Ms. Flynn---"

"Lily," she had corrected.

Gil had smiled at that. "Lily... we respect each other a lot, and we have a friendship that is rare. We've survived job changes, bad relationships, family highs, and family lows, and we're still very close. That's very important to me," he had told her, trying to adhere to the truth as much as possible, "and I don't know if we would survive if we tried to fit into some sort of romantic molding. I don't want to lose her from my life."

"I understand," the older woman had murmured over the rim of her teacup, "because Sam and I have something similar."

He had tensed at the mention of Sam Braun---as well as startled, slightly, in surprise. He didn't think that Lily was seeing Sam; Catherine hadn't indicated that they were seeing each other again, and he was fairly certain she would have mentioned that.

"I don't know if you and Catherine share in some more physical... benefits," Lily had said discretely, "but it is perfectly normal to wax and wane from friendship to more than friendship."


Lily had flashed him a smile. "Just remember if you hold onto her too loosely, you might lose everything but the friendship."

"It's her friendship I value the most," he had replied, hoping to leave it at that.

He was still thinking about their conversation when he got into the shower and scrubbed himself clean. When he left the confines of his shower, heading to his bedroom to try to sleep for a couple of hours before he had to get ready for work, he had almost pushed those thoughts out of his mind.

His pager beeped before he made it to his bed. A quick scan of the message told him that David Phillips was reporting an interesting find on the swing shift. Intrigued, he called into the morgue and found that Catherine's shift was working on two bodies covered in tar. With a grin, he reached into his closet for some clothes.


"How was quality time with Mom?" Catherine asked as she and Gil walked back to the morgue.

He smiled. "It was... interesting," he replied, as they walked to the room where the block of tar and bodies had been sent. "I think she suspects we're more than friends."

"Oh, let her suspect all she wants," Catherine said quietly with a shake of her head. "I'm a grown woman and I share my bed with anyone I want."

Gil smothered a chuckle when he saw the annoyed expression settling into her eyes. "I'm sure she just wants to know that you're having all of your needs... satisfied," he said, hoping to relax the strawberry blonde. "She's your mother. She worries about you."

Catherine rolled her eyes. "I did just fine without her... why on earth does she think I need her worry now---"

"You're always going to worry about Lindsey, no matter what," he reminded Catherine. "It's what a mother does."

She looked at him, smiling a little bit.

"Oh," he added, "and she invited me to dinner on Saturday."

Catherine's smile immediately faded. "She what?" she asked, her eyes narrowing.

"Invited me to dinner on Saturday," he repeated. "Since you have the day off and since I'm not working until the grave shift."

"And you accepted?!"

He tilted his head and looked at her. "What should I have done?" he inquired. "Refused?"



She nudged her fist into his shoulder. "You idiot! I had shopping plans with Lindsey, and then I was hoping to go to your place!" she hissed.

"To my place?"

"Yes!" she hissed. "To... give you a send off before your shift!"

"And perhaps unwind a little yourself?" he asked quietly, amused with her antics.

Catherine's cheeks gave her away. She ended up smiling a little, before dissolving into a little laugh. "Yes!" she squealed. "Exactly!"

He chuckled. "Perhaps... you can drive me home afterwards," he suggested quietly.

"She'll know what we're up to!"

"Then, maybe we'll say we're going to a movie... or something," he said as they walked into the room with the block of tar. "Don't worry... we'll figure it out," he added to assure her.

"Promise?" she asked as they walked up to the latest evidentiary problem facing the swing shift team.

He nodded. "I do." He paused and looked down at the block. "So... how are you going to separate them?"


Catherine had hoped Ecklie was finished with Sara and that the brunette was already out of the office. When she arrived outside of his office, however, she saw that Sara was just leaving. Unsure of what she should say, Catherine opened her mouth and hoped the appropriate words would come out, but she didn't get the chance to speak.

"Save it," Sara growled as she stormed past.

The strawberry blonde sucked in a sharp breath and then exhaled it slowly. She gave her head a shake and then walked into Conrad's office.

"Hi, Catherine," he said, smiling a little. "Man, she's a loose cannon."

Catherine smiled back. "These types of cases get to her more than any other," she said, excusing the brunette's behavior even though she didn't want to.

"Don't make excuses for her," he insisted, "she's disrespectful to others, her jacket's filled with complaints... she somehow scraped her way out of a DUI... I don't want her here any more than you do."

She sighed and brushed her hair back with one hand as she took the seat he silently offered her. "She's not on my team, and that's all I care about," Catherine said quietly.

"Oh, come on, now," Conrad pushed, "don't tell me you're comfortable with her working for Grissom. The way he feels about her is clear." He paused and held up her file. "If he really documented her performance, this wouldn't be so thin. He shows favouritism, towards her, all the time. With your files, it was always credit where credit's due, but in her case, he seems to be constantly neglecting her bad comportment in the workplace and in the field."

She shrugged. "He has a soft spot for her."

"Doesn't that bother you?"

Catherine wasn't entirely sure why he was fishing so much, but she refused to take the bait. She shrugged. "Sure... it affected the balance on our team."

"And she isn't used to working for anyone else," Conrad added.

"Well, she never liked working with me," Catherine pointed out.

"Of course she wouldn't," he responded, smiling a little. "You're the only one who knows Grissom better than she does."

"It's not all about him," Catherine insisted, chuckling a little. "She doesn't like me for more reasons than I'm one of his oldest friends... I'm less scientific than she is. I use other methods to get information... the truth. And she can't manipulate those methods to her advantage. She tells me they're unethical."

"Right. The power of a woman's sensuality has been used for centuries... we're not going to stop it now," Conrad agreed.

Catherine smiled. "It's not just that. You use your political skills to get ahead, I use street smarts... Nick empathises with the victims and suspects... and in her mind, getting ahead should be all about the science. It's not," she said. "Someday, I hope she'll figure that out."

He shrugged. "If she doesn't... I won't feel bad about giving her notice," he said, setting her file in a drawer behind him. He turned around and faced Catherine. "I told her she owes you an apology."

She snorted. "Right. Like that's going to happen."

"You tell me if it doesn't," he insisted.

She nodded. "I will."

"I've got your back on this," he assured her. "She was disrespectful to her superior, to you, and I can't have that sort of challenge happening on a regular basis in our lab."

"Doesn't look good if we can't play nicely," she agreed.

"Good luck on your case," he said as she pushed herself up out of her chair. As she walked to the door, he called out, "Catherine?"

She turned and looked at him, eyebrows lifted a bit. "Yes?"

"Did you have a chance to look over the briefings for the prelim on the---"

She smiled. "I did. I'm going to go check on Warrick, see how he's doing with the evidence we pulled out of the ground, and then I'll get back to making notes."

"I can meet with you tomorrow when you're finished."

She smiled more and nodded. "Sounds great. I'll have everything ready by then."

Catherine left Conrad's office and headed down into one of the rooms where she knew the evidence for her case had been placed. Luckily, Warrick was there, working on the evidence from the original abuse case Svetlana had filed. She brushed off his first attempt at getting her to talk about what had happened, but after they examined the photograph strip, he tried again and she yielded.

"She mouthed off to me and to Ecklie," Catherine said on a sigh. "I didn't discipline her... he probably only would have made her apologise, but then, I guess he yelled at her or something. I didn't hear the full story, but she stormed out of his office and blew past me."

"One week suspension," he told her, "without pay."

"Ouch," Catherine sympathised.

Warrick reached out and put his hand on her arm. "You okay?"

She shrugged. "Dunno. It's... I think I'll be okay."

"You're both my friends, but," he said, "these cases bug her. They get under her skin and I don't think she knew what was going down."

Catherine sighed again and nodded. "Yeah," she agreed. "I know what you mean."

"Everything'll work out," he assured her. "She'll cool down, get her head screwed on straight, and Ecklie'll forget it happened."

She smiled a bit. "I hope you're right," she said, even though she doubted that would happen.


"Do you think there's a murder gene?" Sara asked him, looking more lost and upset than Gil thought he had ever seen her look before.

He swallowed and then gave her his best answer to that question, "I don't believe that genes are a predictor of violent behavior."

That was what he believed. Catherine was smart and she was sly, but she wasn't a killer like her father was; Lindsey wasn't a violent child, as far as he knew, and given Eddie's tendencies, if it had been a genetic trait he most certainly would have passed it on to her.

"You wouldn't know that in my house," Sara continued, sounding hollow. "The fights... the yelling... the trips to the hospital... I thought it was the way that everybody lived. When my mother killed my father, I found out that it wasn't."

When she started to cry, he felt something twist inside of him. He reached out and put his hand over hers, before holding it tightly. She squeezed his hand in response, as her sobs shook her shoulders.

A few minutes later, he was herding her into his arms. He didn't understand the motives behind his actions; it wasn't until after she finished crying into his shoulder that he realised he wanted to protect her. She was something delicate and pure, despite her vocation, and he wanted to protect those aspects of her from the rest of the world.

She sighed and slipped her hand out of his. "I... I should probably let you go... you probably have to work," she said nervously as she stood up.

"What are you going to do?" he asked.

Sara shrugged and put her hands into her pockets. "Dunno. I should probably go lie down... but..." she looked around the room and then started pacing a bit. As she fell silent, she started tidying---a book here, a newspaper there, and so on.

"If you want me to stay while you sleep..."

She looked up and her cheeks flushed. "Would you mind?"

He shook his head. "Not at all," he replied.


"Did you read the briefings?" Conrad asked as Catherine came into the room, files in hand.

She smiled. "Just finished," she announced, stepping inside.

"Come on over," he said. He smiled back at her and pulled out a chair that had been next to his. "Let's go over these and figure out what the prosecution can lean on..."

"Sounds like a plan," she agreed.

She sat down and spread out her notes. While she had been pretty involved in a case, she still had found enough time to review the files. She leaned in a bit once she was settled; Ecklie leaned in as well and listened to her as she summed up the main arguments of the case.

"Okay," she said, once she had arrived upon the case's weaknesses, "here's what I wanted to show you. The facts just don't match up---"

Gil's appearance in front of them prevented her from further explaining her problem with the case files. She looked up at him and found herself unable to read his expression; however, she guessed that if it had to do with Sara, she would be able to figure what he would say pretty quickly.

"You wanted to talk to me about Sara?" Gil asked Conrad.

"I haven't received her disciplinary action," he replied. "What's the hold up?"

"Well, I'm not firing her," Gil answered.

Catherine knew she had expected that; he would never fire Sara. He hadn't discussed the event with her, but she knew he wouldn't unless she pursued it. She sucked in a quick breath and then asked, "What action are you taking?"

He looked at her. "I've taken it."

Next to her, Catherine felt Conrad tense. "I thought I was clear."

"You were," Gil said in reply. "Now, let me be clear. Sara's behavior is a direct result of my management."

"So... I should fire you," Conrad suggested.

"But you won't," Gil said, sounding very confident.

"Look, Gil... I've been there... we're human," he said. "We get attached to people, we try to fix their problems. It doesn't work."

Gil's next words caused Catherine's stomach to tighten. "She's a great criminalist, Conrad, and I need her."

"I'm sure you do," Ecklie responded in a tone that did nothing to help Catherine tense insides. "You know what?" he said as he stood up. "She's a loose cannon with a gun. And she's all yours."

Gil looked down at Catherine, who was still seated. She didn't know what to say or do and she wasn't entirely sure that if she should even be in the same room as him. She was angry, she was upset, and she was incredibly frustrated. On top of all of that, she was tired. She was tired from work, from defending herself against Sara (to herself, to others, and to Gil), and from constantly catching herself expecting more from Gil than he was ready to give her.

She sighed and shrugged, but didn't say anything.

"Well, thanks, Conrad." He smiled a bit and then looked at Catherine. "I'll see you later," he said to her.

She shook her head. "No, Gil, you won't. I'm going home as soon as this is done," she said, indicating towards the work on the tabl.

"Oh. I thought---"


He tilted his head and looked at her. She crossed her arms but didn't say anything. Finally, he sighed and left the room after a slight roll of his eyes.

Catherine craned her neck and looked up at Conrad. "Want to get back to work?" she asked, hoping she sounded pleasant enough.


Lindsey opened the door and looked up at Gil, a puzzled look on her young face. "Mom said you weren't coming," she explained as she let him inside the house.

"I thought I wouldn't be able to make---" he stopped talking when he saw Catherine step into the foyer, hands on her hips as she took up a very defensive pose with the rest of her body.


He looked down at Lindsey. "My plans changed," he finished quickly.

Catherine marched up to him and pointed towards the door. "We need to have a conversation, mister," she hissed, pushing him outside. "What are you doing here?!"

"Your mother invited me to dinner," he explained politely, once they were on the front step. "It would be rude not to show up."

"I told her you cancelled."

Gil rolled his eyes. "Catherine, please... don't get upset about---"

"Upset? Like what? Like I'm some sort of weak-willed woman?" she interrupted. "Gil, she verbally reprimanded me in front of most of the lab. I'm not her supervisor, but I'm definitely her superior. And even if I wasn't, I would still expect a modicum of respect from her while in the workplace!" She paused and huffed, before tucking her hair behind her ears. "You... I don't care that you didn't come to see if I was okay. But, the fact that you didn't take any disciplinary action---"

"Do you think she's a loose cannon?" Gil asked.

Catherine shrugged. "Sometimes, I do, yeah," she replied. "What action did you take, anyway? Ask her never to yell at me again?"


"I've had it with you defending her," she continued, "Gil, I've absolutely had it. I don't get bent out of shape over stripper cases... and I don't go after the throats of parents who neglect their children. I don't make being a mother myself a reason to become some sort of vigilante---"

"You don't think she's a vigilante," he cut in, "and you do get bent out of shape over some particular cases."

"Oh, what? The case where my ex-husband died? Where my daughter was trapped in a car filling with water?" she shot back. "God, Gil... it's not every single case that crosses my desk! Every single abuse case that gets put in her pile sets off a series of chain reactions that you blatantly ignore!"


"Don't defend her."

He sighed. "She has reasons for acting the way she does."

"Eddie hit me," she hissed quietly, "and I most certainly don't freak out when I see an abusive husband."

"Then you're bigger than ten men," he replied. "But, her reasons are her own and---"

"And once again you protect her," she grumbled.

"Sometimes people need protecting," he reminded her. "Have you forgotten?"

Catherine sighed. "Don't make this about us."

He cupped her face in his hands and didn't let her wretch free. "It is about us," he said quietly. "It's been about us since she verbally attacked you. I heard what she said... and I disagree with her. And I told her she will have to apologise to you when she returns. She's my subordinate, a colleague, and I enjoy working with her. You are much more than that... and that's not going to change."

"You never protected me the way you protect her."

"She never showed up at my home at all hours of the night and day, baby on her hip, needing a place to crash," he reminded her. "She doesn't find me at bars, drinking when I got too burned out after my first charred body or my first abuse case." He leaned in and kissed her forehead; he relaxed a bit when she sighed, leaned into him and put her hands over his. "We have a completely different relationship."

"Was she abused growing up?" Catherine asked in a soft voice.


"Help me understand," she pleaded quietly.

He looked into her eyes, brushing his thumbs over her cheek bones. "I don't want to get into details," he said in a similarly quiet voice, "but while one of her parents didn't abuse her, there was definitely abuse going on in her home. It culminated to a point... and her life changed forever. Anyone who went through what she did would be affected by it. She handled herself badly and I made sure she knows it."


"If she comments on your sexuality overshadowing your work... on your rapport with witnesses or suspects again... I'll make sure to have a conversation with her about that, too," he added. He released one side of her face to brush his fingers through her hair. "I know it doesn't affect your work. You're a great criminalist. Always have been."

Lily knocked on the glass door once and then poked her head out. "You two done fighting?" she inquired. "Supper's ready."

Gil looked from Lily to Catherine. He smiled when she did and then he grinned when she nodded.

"C'mon in," she murmured. "You're here. Might as well stay for a meal."

"Thank you, my dear," he said as he released her cheek and hair and put his hand on her lower back once they turned to go into the house.

The End!
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