Platypus 75: Grim Uncertainty

Gil woke up when he heard small footsteps in the hallway of Catherine's house. He smiled, figuring that it was Lindsey, waking up and deciding to enjoy her Saturday off from school; he smiled more when he looked to his right and saw Catherine sleeping next to him.

He eased over onto his side and watched the strawberry blonde as she slept. A small smile teased her lips and her features were relaxed; he reached out and brushed her wavy hair out of her face and kissed her forehead. Then, he pulled the covers up over their bodies and cuddled up to her, enjoying the last few minutes of peace and quiet.

Since he and Catherine decided to make their relationship exclusive, he had to admit they were doing much better. He felt they were, anyway, and judging by the way Catherine behaved around him, he guessed she believed that, too.

He had all but moved into her house; Lily wasn't staying there as much, because Gil was able to share in the responsibility of raising Lindsey. Catherine had let down the guard around her family and let Gil spend time alone with the young girl---something Gil appreciated since he wanted to integrate himself into her life as much as possible.

He wanted permanence and he was beginning to receive that in their evolved relationship. He was also beginning to think that they could go to the next step, with both of them working on different shifts, without any appearance of impropriety.

As he watched her sleep, he wondered how it would feel to tell Nick, Warrick, Greg, and Sara that they were in an official relationship.

He assumed Nick would be fine with it. Warrick, knowing about their history, would be happy that they were making it official---and public knowledge. Greg would tease them a lot, Gil assumed. But he didn't know how Sara would react; he didn't know if her reaction would bother him or not, but he knew he would feel a lot better when he and Catherine weren't skulking around behind the backs of everyone they worked with, their friends and their quirky little family.

After a few minutes, he heard the television being turned on and guessed Lindsey was watching morning television while she woke up. He kissed Catherine's cheek and then eased himself out of bed. She stirred but didn't wake; he watched her as he found his jeans in the drawer Catherine had offered him, and he grabbed a sweatshirt out of the closet, before leaving the serenity of the bedroom.

"Morning," he said, ruffling Lindsey's hair as he walked past her on his way to the kitchen.

"Hey," she replied quietly.

"You want some breakfast?"

She shook her head, not taking her eyes off of the television. Gil smiled and said, "I was thinking about making waffles... whipped cream... berries---"


Gil chuckled as he saw the debate play across the girl's features. By the time she gave in and agreed to breakfast, Gil had already taken out the ingredients he would need to make the waffles. Lindsey actually offered to help, about half way through his preparations, surprising and pleasing the man at the same time.

When Catherine ambled into the kitchen, wrapped in her bathrobe, she saw the sight in front of her and a grin stretched her lips.

"Hello, my dear," Gil greeted her, grinning back at her as he whipped the cream, while Lindsey set the table.

"Good morning," she murmured. She kissed the top of her daughter's head and then walked over to Gil and kissed him gently. "What's all this?" she asked.

"Breakfast," he said in a dry voice.

She chuckled, her voice still thick with sleep, and then she took Gil's mug of coffee and sipped from it while he put the waffles together. "This looks great," she told him while he worked. "Thank you, Gil."

"Can't let the Willows women starve," he told her with a wink.

"No, of course not," she murmured, smiling at him. She kissed him again, slowly but shallowly, and then turned her attention to her daughter. "Linds, what are your plans for today?"

"I want to go to the mall with the girls," she said, "and I have some homework to do... but I can do that Sunday night."

"Okay," Catherine said, nodding. "If you want me to drive you guys, or pick you up... just let me know, alright?"

"Cool," Lindsey said with a smile.

Catherine turned to Gil. "And what are your plans for today?"

"I thought we could go out... shop... or see a movie or something," he told her. "Whatever you're up for."

"Just like that, huh?"

He smiled and shrugged. "Sure, why not?"

Halfway through breakfast, Catherine put her hand on his arm. "I bought you something yesterday," she told him.

Gil smiled and lifted one eyebrow. "You did?" He looked at Lindsey. "Were you with her? Is it... you know, something I'd wear? Or is it your mother, trying to get me to be cooler?"

Lindsey laughed and shrugged. "Dunno. Don't exactly think she'd know what's cool, though," she teased.

Catherine pouted. "Linds! I'm a cool mother!"

"Sure, Mom," Lindsey replied before sticking her tongue out and grinning.

Catherine laughed softly and then stood up. She walked over to a drawer and pulled out a wrapped box. "Remember the other night, we were watching those movies on the Drive-In channel?"

"'Son of Paleface,' 'In Old Amarillo,' and 'Night Time in Nevada?'" Gil asked, his interest piqued.

Catherine nodded. She smiled and walked towards him. "You told me you lost your honorary ownership certificate of that palomino horse?"


"Trigger. Yes. That one."

He took the package from her and opened it, uncovering a framed certificate. He felt his grin stretch until he thought his face would split into two. "Catherine... how did you..."

"The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum is in Branson, Missouri," she explained, "and I called them to see if they'd send me a replacement. It's not the same---they changed the typeface since you were four---but I thought it might---"

"I love you," he said quietly. Lindsey scoffed and rolled her eyes. Gil ignored the young girl for a moment and tugged Catherine down, into his lap, for a kiss. "I love you," he repeated as he hugged her.

"Gee," she murmured teasingly, "just think if I had bought you a new spider..."

He laughed a little and then kissed her again. "This is... this is great. I'm going to put it in my office."

"You really like it?"

"I... it's the best surprise ever," he admitted.

Not for the first time in the past few weeks, Gil looked into Catherine's eyes and wished they would stay together forever.


"Why aren't you coming in?" Catherine asked, a few days later, as Gil pulled up to the lab's main doors in his vehicle.

"I told you," he replied, "I'm just dropping you off because I still have a few hours before my shift and I have a couple of errands to run."

"Things you couldn't do with me tagging along?" she asked, a teasing tone in her voice.

Gil smiled. "Exactly."

"Like what?"

"Like none of your beeswax, my dear," he said before reaching up and cupping her cheek. Catherine gasped and started to say something about their position in front of the criminalistics lab, but he pressed his lips to hers and ignored her comment. When he lifted his lips away, he smirked. "We're not doing anything wrong," he said, "and I really wanted to kiss you."

Catherine felt her insides warm and she leaned in for another kiss. "Okay," she murmured, "hurry back... we can do paperwork together. Or something."

Gil smiled at her and nodded. "Okay," he agreed.

She gathered her things and got out of the car, humming to herself as she walked into the lab. Her relationship with Gil was going well; she was afraid she would jinx it by thinking that, but she couldn't help thinking that at the same time. He was slowly moving his things over---clothes and personal possessions, but no bugs---and he was a permanent fixture in Lindsey's life. He had made himself someone she could depend upon and Lindsey didn't seem to mind his presence in her life, either. They went out, their days off were date-days, and she noticed that he didn't care if they were in public or private---if he wanted to hold her hand, he did; if he wanted to kiss her, he did. She hadn't been that happy with Gil in a long time.

She went into her office after stopping at her locker, and went through the messages Judy had given her upon entering the lab building. She made a few return calls, which took longer than she thought they would, and then looked up and saw Gil walking into her office.

"That didn't take long," she commented, smiling up at him.

"I knew what I was looking for," he told her.


He smiled---a rather smug smile, Catherine thought---and then pointed towards the files on her desk. "Would you like to join me in my office?" he asked. "We can work together."

"Sounds good," she agreed, rising to her feet and gathering some of the files into her arms. "Wanna carry my books for me?" she asked teasingly.

He chuckled and held his arms out, offering to take her files for her. She beamed at him and walked alongside of him as they went from her office to his.

"Haven't seen Nick and Warrick yet," he said once they were settled in chairs.

"Nah... it's still kind of early. Saw Sara, though," she said, "and Greg."

"Greg's just trying to stay awake," Gil commented. "He's pulling a double, since his last case ran over... and you know how Sara is when she's working a case."

Catherine smiled and nodded. "Yeah, I do," she murmured before she opened the first file and started to work.

"Do you think I could tempt you to help me with some of mine?" Gil asked after a few quiet minutes.

She laughed softly. "Gil... you need to learn how to do your own." He motioned to the pile on his desk, which was much taller than Catherine's pile of files. She laughed again. "Well... let's see how it goes, okay?"

"My work is always better when you help," he said, batting his lashes.

She laughed more. "Two heads are better than one," she reminded him.

She returned to work, but five minutes later, she realised Gil was staring off into space with a look of concentration across his face. He was adorable like that, but she wanted to know what was so fascinating. She tried to get his attention twice, vocally, and then she reached out and touched his shoulder. Finally, he blinked and looked at her.


"Where did you go?" she inquired, eyebrow arched.

"I think... I think you just cracked the case Sara's working on," he told her as he pushed himself back from his desk and walking out of the office.

Catherine laughed after he was gone. She worked on a few more files and then she went to get a cup of coffee. On her way to the break room, an officer stopped by with two scenes for the swing shift---an assault and a trash run. She thanked the officer and then went in search of Nick and Warrick, who should have arrived by that time.

She found them walking down the hall. With a smile, she greeted them. "Oh, my two favourite guys," she told them. "So, I've got an assault at Stripperama and a trash run at Flamingo and Koval. I'm too busy to play favourites, so duke it out," she said, giving both slips to Warrick before she turned and walked away.

"Duke it out," she heard Nick say. "Boy, better flip a coin. I'll hurt you."

She laughed softly as she picked up her coffee mug and headed back to Gil's office.

Sara left Gil's office as she approached. She and Catherine shared polite greetings and then she stepped into Gil's office to see Gil holding the framed certificate and smiling.

"You're a huge fan of that thing, aren't you?"

He grinned. "I am," he replied.

"Ready to get back to work?"

His grin faded. "Do I have to?"

"Gil... you have tons of paperwork to do."

He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Killjoy," he muttered under his breath.

Catherine smiled and patted his arm gently. "You'll survive," she murmured. "Just a few minutes of work and then we can take a break," she promised.

He smiled a bit in reply.


After their second break of the evening---a quick trip to the lounge for coffee---Gil watched and listened as Catherine told him a story about something that had happened a few days ago and smiled to himself. He reached down into his pocket and felt the small ring box in his hand, feeling waves of elation and anxiety as he thought about what the box implied. It hadn't been a rash purchase, he told himself; if it had to be anything, he would have called it 'a long time coming,' given their history with each other. But, despite that fact, he still wasn't completely sure how Catherine would react.

He knew she loved him and wanted him in her life, but would she be ready for something so official and permanent?


He blinked and almost groaned---knowing he had been caught in a daydream. "Sorry," he mumbled, his cheeks flushing.

"What's on your mind?" Catherine asked, stepping towards him. She put her hand on his hip and lifted an eyebrow. "Anything you want to share with me?"

"I... well... actually," he said, figuring that while the situation was far from perfect, the box would burn a hole in his pocket until he showed it to her, "now that you mention it---"

He almost groaned again when her cellular phone rang, interrupting him.

"Hold that thought," she murmured with a smile as she moved her hand away from his waist and snatched her phone up from its position on her belt. "Willows," she said into the phone.

Gil watched as she listened, as her brow furrowed, and then as the colour drained out of her face.

"Oh god..." she breathed. She blinked a few times and then ran a hand through her hair. "Thanks, Brass. Gil and I are on our way."

She snapped her phone shut and looked up at Gil, tears in her eyes. Gil cupped her face in his hands. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nick... was... he was at a trash run at Flamingo and Koval... and... and the officer at the scene turned his back for a few minutes," she explained, her voice shaking, "and Nick's gone. His vest and... and... he was taken by someone."

Gil hugged her close, the ring in his pocket forgotten as he thought about Nick and everything that his kidnapping implied. "We'll get him back," he promised Catherine. He kissed her temple. "C'mon," he whispered, "I'll drive."

She nodded and wiped her cheeks dry as she stepped away from him.


Catherine watched as David scooped the entrails into a biohazard container and then she turned and looked at Gil. He touched her shoulder, squeezing it gently.

"Take my car back to the lab," he told her, giving her the keys. "Follow up with Al," he advised, "and I'll get a drive back with Warrick."

She swallowed hard and shook her head. She put the keys back into his gloved hand. "I... I don't think I can drive right now," she admitted.

He nodded. "Okay... give me a minute or two to finish up?"

"Thanks," she whispered. "I just... I can't be alone. And..."

He brushed his fingers over her cheek. "Start loading the back up, okay?"

She swallowed hard again. "Alright," she replied, giving him a watery smile.

Catherine worked, taking their bagged evidence from the parking lot to the back of Gil's vehicle. She used the task to build up a mindless rhythm, so she could shut her brain off and focus on the job; if she thought about Nick, she had to struggle to keep her emotions in check. She didn't want to think about the fact that he was her responsibility, her employee, and her friend, and that she had let him down by not keeping him safe. She hated feeling helpless and she also hated letting her emotions take over; she didn't know how much longer she could hold out against her thoughts and feelings so she wanted Gil as close to her as possible.

Once the vehicle was loaded with the evidence, Gil told Warrick they were going back to the lab. Warrick told him he'd be leaving soon as well, and then Gil guided Catherine into the passenger seat.

"We're going to get him back," Gil told her, squeezing her hand as they drove.

"You sound so... so sure," she whispered.

"I have to," he said before kissing the palm of her hand. "I have to stay positive and keep my mind focused on the evidence. We are going to get Nicky back, Catherine."

She nodded and guided his hand to her lips. She returned the simple gesture of a kiss, pressing hers to his knuckles.

"I'm gonna get Greg on Nick's cases," Gil said as he drove to the lab, "so I'll sign off on those and then check in with you after you get back from the morgue, okay?"

"Sounds good," she said softly.

"Two heads are better than one," he reminded her, "so five heads are better than two. We'll get to the bottom of this, I promise."

"I don't know what I'd do without you," she whispered.

He smiled a bit, glancing at her before turning onto a road that would take them to the lab. "The feeling's mutual, my dear," he assured her.

Once they arrived at the lab, Catherine kissed his cheek and darted off to see Doctor Robbins while Gil went to find Greg and Sara to put them on tasks of their own.

"Hey, Doc," Catherine said quietly as she walked into the autopsy room.

"Hey, Catherine," the older man replied, giving her a sympathetic smile. "Are you ready?"

"As I'll ever be," she said as she joined in at the table where the intestines were spread out. "What did you find out?"

"Well," he told her, "there are a lot of intestines here, but no appendix, which made sense when I saw this: a cecum."

Catherine could have sworn that her heart fell into the pit of her stomach. "Dog entrails," she muttered.

"Yeah," he agreed.

"That's not going to help," she told him.

"I'm sorry," he said as Catherine turned to leave. "Catherine? Has Nick's family been informed?"

She sighed and then thought she felt her heart sink even lower. "No," she replied, "that would be my job."

The walk from the morgue to Gil's office had never been so long before. Catherine was almost in tears when she saw that Gil wasn't there; all she wanted to do was sink into his arms and cry, but she couldn't do that anywhere but the safety of one of their offices. Since he wasn't there, she decided to get the phone call to the Stokes family out of the way, so she went to her office---where Gil was waiting for her.

"Hey," she whispered.

"Hey," he replied quietly. "Got anything?"

She shook her head. "Just dog entrails." She closed her office door and pulled the blinds shut. "Can you hold me for a minute?"

"You bet," he murmured, pulling her into his arms. She shuddered and sighed and hugged him back. "Now what are you doing?" he asked quietly.

"Gotta call Nick's family," she whispered.

He rubbed her back and sides. "I'll stay here while you make the call," he told her before kissing the side of her head.

Catherine lifted her eyes and looked at him. "Thank you," she whispered before giving him a shaky smile. "I love you," she breathed as she hugged him close again.

"I love you, too," he whispered. He gently patted her backside. "Make the call now," he suggested in a firmer voice, "before you get too upset."

Catherine nodded and pulled away. She found Nick's personnel file and called his parents; they were worried and very upset, and they promised to fly into Vegas as soon as possible. Catherine told them to meet her at the lab in the morning and then she ended the call.

Gil sucked in a sharp breath after running his hand through his hair. "Is it wrong to be relieved?"

"Relieved how?"

"Relieved that it wasn't you," he replied. He looked up at her. "It could have been you. If one of them had called in sick... it was just a trash run. A couple of hours in the field, tops, you know?"

She nodded. "I know," she murmured.

"If it had been you... I would have lost my mind, Cath," he said quietly, shakily. "I mean... I'm upset it's Nick, and I'm worried... and I won't sleep until we bring him home, but... god, if it had been you."

Catherine got up from her chair and walked over to the chair Gil was sitting in. She put her hands on the sides of his head, threading her fingers through his hair, and she kissed the top of his head. "It wasn't me," she whispered. "You've still got me."

Gil hugged her, around her waist, and tucked his face into her abdomen. "Yeah," he breathed.

"C'mon," she whispered, "let's go see what the others have figured out so far."

"I want to hold you," he protested.

"Let's get a lead on Nick, first," she murmured, touched by how protective he was acting. "We'll work until we can't. And when you need a break... come find me, okay? We'll take care of each other so we can stay sharp. Like in the old days."

He smiled a little and nodded up at her. "Okay," he agreed.


"We lost the feed," Archie told the criminalists.

Warrick clicked the mouse on the 'watch' button. They saw the lights turn on as the screen flared to life; they saw Nick squint at the sudden brightness around him.

"Looks like a live feed to me," he said, "I say we keep the light on."

Sara and Greg agreed, so Catherine and Gil nodded in agreement as well. Catherine wasn't sure if darkness was a good idea; she didn't think she'd like to be in the dark in such a small space, though.

Gil's cellular phone rang. She turned and watched him talk to Brass and when the call was over, he looked at her before he looked at the others. "The delivery guy requested a lawyer," he told the group, "so we're waiting on that. I want you guys to keep working. Take shifts in here, if you'd like, but stay focused on the evidence as it comes in, okay? And if you find anything, page either myself or Catherine."

Everyone nodded. Gil looked back at Catherine and motioned towards the door. She nodded and followed him out of the audio-visual lab room.

"You should try to get some rest," he told her as they walked.

Catherine snorted. "If you think I'm going to be able to rest---"

"Come on," he insisted, "I have a sleeping bag in my office. It's not perfect, but we can lie down for a little bit and then get a shower."

"Gil... I'm not going to sleep," she protested.

"Like the old days, remember? We're going to live and die with this case more than any other," he said quietly, steering her around a turn in the corridor, "and we need to stay sharp. Just like a very wise woman told me earlier tonight."

She smiled a bit and nodded. "Sure... if you're going to quote me to me."

"If it will work," he replied.

"For now," she murmured.

She didn't fall apart until she was wrapped up in his arms, under the cover of his sleeping bag. They had started talking about the case, and Catherine didn't know what to do or say first, so she ended up bursting into tears. Gil held her close and kissed her shoulder between soft words of encouragement. She appreciated his strength so much in that moment; she knew he was upset, but he seemed focused on her.

"Th-ank you," she whispered shakily.

"Anything for you," he whispered in reply as he moved them so he was spooning her from behind. "Close your eyes and try to sleep," he murmured, "and I'll stay here and hold you."

Catherine fell asleep feeling more positive about Nick's recovery than she did since the ordeal started. When she woke up, she thought it had all been a bad dream; turning and seeing Gil's tear-stained face, though, made her realise that it was very real.

She checked her phone and saw that they had only been sleeping for a few hours. She leaned in and kissed Gil's lips gently, rousing him from sleep.

"Mmmpf," he moaned, pressing his face into her neck as he woke up from his troubled sleep. He opened his eyes and met her gaze. "How long was I out?"

"Maybe three hours," she replied quietly. She reached up and smoothed her hand over his face. "How do you feel?"

"Not ready to answer that question yet," he whispered.

She smiled a bit. "Yeah... me neither," she murmured before kissing him again. "Want to go get a shower? Nick's parents should be arriving soon."

"I don't have a change of clothes here," he admitted.

"Me, neither," she told him. "I have some underwear... but that's better than nothing, I guess." She brushed her fingers through his hair. "Some soap and water might make us feel a bit more human," she pointed out.

"Yeah," he agreed.

After they got out of the sleeping bag and rolled it up, they emerged from Gil's office and went to the locker room to gather their toiletries.

"Are we sharing a shower?" Gil asked as they went into the bathroom.

She nodded and rubbed his shoulder through his shirt. "Let me take care of you," she murmured.

He agreed to her gentle request and soon they were in one of the small shower stalls as warm water rained down upon them. Catherine took her time, rubbing her shampoo through Gil's hair; she massaged his scalp and neck before tipping his head back and rinsing the suds away. Then, she washed his body with her facecloth and soap. She smiled when Gil groaned and closed his eyes, losing himself in the sensations.


"Shh," she whispered. "Don't wanna get caught."

He grunted wordlessly and tugged on her arm until his body was pressed against hers. He nuzzled her throat before placing a few open-mouthed kisses on the skin there; Catherine whimpered quietly and rocked against him as he teased her.

"What are you---"

Gil cut her off with a firm kiss. She moaned and he took advantage of her lips parting. The kiss lasted until they needed to breathe and then Catherine looked into his eyes.

"I need a distraction," he admitted.

She smiled. "Like the old days?"

"Yeah," he whispered, nodding as the water sprayed upon them.

Catherine nodded, too. She knew that what he was suggesting was the best thing for them in that moment. Nothing recharged her batteries like being with Gil, feeling safe and secure in his arms, so she leaned in and kissed him again.

Their kisses quickly progressed into more and before Catherine knew what was happening, Gil was pushing her against the wall of the shower and parting her legs. When he thrust his erection inside of her, she felt a moment of awareness, of clarity, of calm. She opened her eyes and looked into his eyes when she wrapped her legs around his waist. Gil nodded and slowly started moving in and out of her body.

Neither of them lasted long. Gil's orgasm came first; he ejaculated inside of her with a quiet groan. Then, he eased Catherine down onto her feet and pulled out of her body. After parting her legs, he pressed his hand against the apex of her thighs and slowly rubbed his fingers over her swollen bundle of nerves. She tipped her head back and let a low moan escape her throat as he manipulated her body into a quick climax.

After the storm passed, they shared several lazy, affectionate, open kisses before Gil washed her hair.

"Love you," he whispered as he helped her rinse the soap away.

"I love you, too," she whispered back.

A knock on the door startled them---and then Warrick opened the door and spoke up. "Hey, guys?"

"Warrick?" Catherine said, silently praying no one else was with him.

"You two might want to know Brass is checking out an address," he told them.

"Thanks," she replied, peeking around the curtain as carefully as she could. When she saw that Warrick was alone, she relaxed. "We're just cleaning up before Nick's parents get here. Be out in a minute or two."

He nodded and gave her a grim smile before disappearing from sight.

"I'll join you and his parents after I hear from Brass," Gil offered, "okay?"

She smiled at Gil and turned the water off. "Sounds good," she agreed. She kissed him and then said, "Time to go back to work."


Catherine watched Nick's mother leave the room and then she had to turn her focus onto Judge Stokes. Watching Mrs. Stokes only reminded her of her own daughter, of what she would do in the brunette's shoes; so she watched the judge to give herself some sort of distance from the situation, if only a few millimetres.

"Pancho," Nick's father said quietly, "what the hell you got yourself into?"

He left the room and went straight to his wife. When he comforted her, Catherine looked away. She didn't like feeling like a voyeur. But, after a few seconds, her eyes were drawn to the screen.

She watched Nick squirming on the screen while the countdown clock ticked off seconds underneath the moving images. Her stomach tightened and she tried to think of a way to get Nick out of that torture. She didn't know what Gil's mind was working on, but she knew she had to keep thinking. She thought about the evidence and couldn't put anything together. She didn't have enough money to pay the ransom, so she'd have to use evidence to find him before he ran out of air...

As she thought about the ransom money, she felt a plan quickly coming together.

With four hours on the clock, Catherine left Gil's side and the room and the building.

She ended up at the Rampart, breathless after rushing in from where she parked her car. Jackson, the man she had seen the last time she visited Sam, was on the casino floor, talking to a pit boss. She waved to him as she made her way across the floor.

"Ms. Willows," he greeted her.

"Jackson, where's Sam?"

"He's across the casino, in the VIP lounge with some friends," he replied, motioning with his hand in the direction she should go.

"Thanks," she said with a small smile before she rushed off in that direction.

She recognised the two men sitting with Sam as Tony Curtis and Frank Gorshin---part of Sam's celebrity entourage, the old boys who liked to relive their wild days by having even wilder days---but she couldn't recognise the woman. She figured it was Sam's flavour of the week.


Frank turned and gave her his Ed Sullivan impression, while Sam watched her with a contemplative gaze. "Oh, miss, I like my coffee with cream and sugar, and I want you to give the r-r-really big check to really big Sam over here," he teased.

"Sam," Catherine insisted, "I need to talk to you."

The woman turned her gaze upon Catherine. "He's already got someone to talk to, ma'am."

"Zip it, sweetheart," Catherine shot back. She looked at Sam and said his name again.

"Everyone," Sam said, smiling a little, "I'd like for you to meet my daughter, Catherine."

Frank spoke again, as Ed Sullivan: "Well, you can cancel the coffee."

"Excuse us for a minute, alright?" Sam said before he stood up.

"Certainly," Tony replied.

Sam put his hand on Catherine's arm and guided her across the room. "Twice in less than a year," he commented, a teasing tone in his gruff voice. "Did I win the lottery or something?"

Catherine looked up at him and felt her lower lip start to tremble. Sam's eyes, usually shrewd and icy cold, softened and he put his hands on her arms. "Hey," he whispered, "take a breath... is it your mother?"

She shook her head. "N-no..." she paused and sucked in a sharp breath as he released his hold on her. "One of my guys is in trouble. He's been kidnapped. I need a million dollars in cash. Large bills. And I need it now," she explained.

"Let me guess, Mugs," Sam replied, "the department won't pay the ransom."


"Why should I?"

Catherine tilted her head slightly before speaking. "Considering the problems that you've had with the law, you could use some good publicity."

"Do I look like a man that needs publicity?" Sam asked. "If you're coming to me like a cop with a tin cup in your hand, the answer is no."

"I'm not here as a cop," Catherine said softly.

"Then ask me like you were my daughter," he demanded.

Catherine looked up into his eyes and tried to think of all the times he was around when she had been a child. She remembered a time when she skinned her knee while riding her bike, and he had been visiting her mother---too tired to drive home for two days in a row. He had scooped her up and taken her inside; he had cleaned the scrape and put a bandage over it. She remembered watching him dance around the kitchen with her mother, while they cooked together, and then she remembered him teaching her how to dance by letting her stand on his feet. She didn't feel her eyes water, though, until she realised that Nick and his parents had memories like that. Thinking about Sam had started the unravelling process but thinking about Nick had finished it.

She wiped her eyes and swallowed hard. "D-dad... they kidnapped Nick. He... he's on my team. I... I don't know what to do," she whispered, knowing she wasn't asking him for anything yet.

Sam reached out and pulled her in for a hug. Catherine relaxed and felt safe and protected for the first time in a long time. "I'll take care of it," he promised her. "You stay up here and get some coffee, Mugs," he said after kissing her cheek. "I'll go get your money."


"He's part of your family," Sam said, "and you're a part of mine."

She swallowed hard again and nodded. "He... you... yeah," she mumbled as she dried her cheeks.

"Don't worry about it," Sam assured her.


Gil was in his office when Ecklie approached him. At first, Gil was going to tell him he didn't have time to play politics, to put up with whatever hoop through which Ecklie was going to make him jump. And then, he saw the look in the other man's eyes so he reined his comments in.

"I talked to the undersheriff," Ecklie said quietly.


"I spent the morning going over my budget," he told Gil. "I had hoped to find a way to rustle up the ransom. I went to McKeen with my findings... but..."

"He told you to get the lab ready for a funeral?" Gil guessed.

"Pretty much word for word," Ecklie replied, nodding as a dark look took over his features. "I'm sorry, Gil."

"Thank you for trying," Gil said, "for whatever it's worth."

Conrad nodded. "I'll keep trying my contacts. See what I can find out."

"I'll let you know if we find any new evidence," Gil told him.

"I hope you find something," Ecklie said before leaving the office.

Gil sighed and turned his attention to the reports in front of him. He studied the evidence, losing himself in the science, until he felt a headache coming on. He looked at his watch and wondered where Catherine was; she had left after meeting with Nick's parents, without giving him an explanation for her absence. He missed her. He always felt more balanced around Catherine and he needed to feel more balance in that moment; he needed to find some new evidence, so they could bring Nick back.

When she finally came back to the lab, she marched into his office with a large leather bag. She put the bag on his desk and looked down at him.

"I got the money."

"From where?" Gil asked, not knowing how she could come up with one million dollars.

"Where do you think?" she asked.

He frowned, thinking of Sam Braun, and opened the bag to uncover stacks of cash with one of Sam's casino's logos on the bands that held the bills together.

"Catherine," he told her, "if the press finds out about this, it'll look like Sam Braun bribed the lab."

"He's a casino owner," Catherine protested, "a leader of industry. Never convicted of any crime. And right now, I don't care about the integrity of the lab at the moment. I care about Nick."

"Yeah, well, so do I, but nonetheless..."

"Well, you're sitting here like Jack Handy with your deep thoughts, staring at a coffee cup!" Catherine cut in. "You got a better plan, I'm all ears!"

Gil sighed and looked at the money. He knew it could be a quick way to get Nick back, so turning it down would be too difficult to do. After a moment of contemplation, he said, "Alright. But, I make the drop. You're hands off."

"That's my money," she protested.

"You can't be seen anywhere near this money," he pointed out, "it was given to the lab anonymously. Agreed?"

She nodded. "Agreed," she conceded.

He looked up at her. "How is your father?"

"Fine," Catherine said quietly.

"How did you convince him to give you the money?" he inquired, curious. As far as he knew, Catherine and Sam weren't on the best of terms; he was curious to know if Sam handed over one million dollars without any strings, or if he made demands in order for Catherine to get the money.

She shrugged. "I asked."

"That's it?"

She nodded and bit her lower lip. "That's it," she mumbled. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "We're family, Gil. Family looks out for one another."

"Fine, but what happens when he needs you to hide some evidence or mishandle a case---"

"He won't ask me to do that," Catherine interrupted.

"How do you know?"

"I just do!" she exclaimed. "God, Gil! He's my dad... and he's helping us get our Nicky back! What do you care?"

"I care about you!" he shot back. "I don't want your career or reputation compromised because---"

She shook her head and put her hand out. "Stop! He's not going to ask me to do anything like that. I just know he won't, okay?"


Her eyes widened. "Let's get Nick back," she said softly. "Nothing else matters right now, Gil."

He sighed and nodded. "You're right," he agreed. "I'm sorry."

"Apology accepted," she replied.

Archie knocked on the door. "Hey, Grissom, Catherine," he said, looking as worn as Gil felt. "We've got an address for the money drop. 4672 Carney Lane, off of Boulder Highway. Twenty minutes. But..." he trailed off.

"We have the money, Archie," he told the lab technician.

"Really? How?"

"An anonymous benefactor," he replied, sharing a brief look with Catherine.

"Wow. Okay. So... you're going?"

"I am," Gil assured the younger man, before he darted off to tell the others the good news.

Catherine picked the bag up. Gil opened his mouth to tell her to put it down, but she spoke first. "Let me walk you out," she insisted.

Gil nodded and stood up to get his coat. "Alright," he told her. "Walk me out."

"You'll keep your cellular phone on, right?" she asked. "Keep it on so I can hear what's going on," she added. "I mean, if I can't be there---"

"Catherine, I'm going to be fine," he assured her as they left his office and walked down the hall. "Don't worry about it."

She threaded her free arm around his and tugged him a bit closer. "Gil, promise me you won't do anything stupid," she said quietly as she ignored the hopeful faces around them. "Promise me."

"I won't do anything stupid," he promised, rolling his eyes a little as he guided her to the exit doors. "I will keep my phone on... I will call you before I get out of the car and keep my phone in my pocket so you can hear the whole exchange."

"Thank you," she murmured, once they were outside. As they walked to his car, she said, "You could let me come with you... I could stay in the back---"

"Catherine, I want you to stay here."

"Take some uniforms... keep them on the highway or something---"

"I will call it in when I'm on my way," he assured her.


He took the bag from her and put it on the passenger's seat before turning to look at her. He cupped her face in his hands and stared into her eyes. "I want you to stay here," he told her. "I want you to be safe. I can't worry about you and Nick at the same time, Catherine... I will lose my mind. Please stay here."

Catherine nodded, pouting a little. "Okay," she whispered. "Just... be careful, okay?"

He kissed her gently. "I promise I will be careful," he murmured as he hugged her close. Catherine returned the embrace and buried her face in his neck. When he pulled back, they kissed again; it was a slow kiss that soothed Gil's frayed nerves. And when that kiss was over, Gil saw Conrad Ecklie standing on the steps outside of the lab building.

"We have an audience," he whispered.

Catherine looked over her shoulder and saw Conrad watching them. She turned back to Gil and kissed him again. "Who cares?" she reminded him between kisses. "We're not doing anything wrong."

He smiled a little and brushed her hair off of her face. "I'll call your phone when I get there, okay?"

She nodded and stole one last, quick kiss. "Okay," she agreed. "Be careful."

He nodded, too, and stepped towards the car door. He kept his eyes on Catherine until he drove away, focused on getting to the house on Carney Lane before the deadline.


Catherine kept the phone to her ear, listening to the muffled voices; she chose to ignore Ecklie's presence in her office doorway, mainly because she didn't want to miss any of the exchange between Gil and the kidnapper---but also because she really didn't want to discuss her personal life with the assistant lab director.

"What are you listening to?" he asked.

She looked at him and took the phone down from her ear to turn on the speakerphone option.

"I've got your money."

"Put it down," the strange voice, the kidnapper, said in a muffled voice. "Slide it over."

Ecklie's featured darkened and he crossed his arms. "There are uniforms following Gil to the location. No sirens," he told Catherine as they waited for either Gil or the kidnapper to speak. Catherine looked up at him and nodded. He tilted his head. "I didn't know you two were back together," he commented.

Catherine sighed. "We're not doing anything wrong, Conrad," she pointed out.

"I wasn't going to say that," he told her. "I just---"

Catherine put her hand up as she heard the kidnapper's voice again; Ecklie stopped speaking and they both listened. "You're telling me there's a million dollars in here?"

"Yes," Gil said.

"Along with some cute little booby traps? Which is it---a tracer, a dye pack?"

Gil spoke next. "Normally," he said, "you'd be one hundred percent right, but this time, you're one hundred percent wrong. We want Nick back, no tricks."

"Are you two going public?" Conrad asked Catherine quietly.

She looked up at him and shrugged. "I don't know," she murmured, "but we're not hiding anymore."

"You deserve to be happy," he told her.


She stopped short when the man spoke again. "This looks real," the kidnapper said.

"It is real," Gil said. "Where is Nick?"

The kidnapper said: "You know, I was under the impression it was against departmental policy to negotiate with terrorists."

"Are you a terrorist?" Gil asked.

"Depends," the kidnapper replied, "are you terrified?"

Catherine sighed and shook her head. "Creep," she muttered as Gil asked the stranger where Nick was again and demanded to know where he was buried when he didn't get anywhere, yet again.

"Are you two close?"

"That's none of your business," Gil insisted.

Catherine closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair as she listened to the kidnapper. "What does Nick Stokes mean to you? How do you feel when you see him in that coffin? Does your soul die every time you push that button? How do you feel, knowing that there's nothing you can do to get him out of that hell? Helpless... useless... impotent?"

Conrad sighed loudly and sat down in the guest chair in front of Catherine's desk.

"What a creep," Catherine muttered.

"No kidding," Ecklie agreed.

When Catherine heard the kidnapper say, "Uh, if I were, I'd back up a little," her eyes opened and she stared down at her phone. The explosion was distorted on her phone's speakers, but it was still easy to make out; when the connection ended, she whimpered and felt her eyes water.

"Oh... god..." Conrad said in a low voice.

"He..." Catherine trailed off and stood up. "I need to---"

"Go," Ecklie insisted. "He'll want you there. I'll call out for ambulances and uniforms and the rest of your team to process the area."

Catherine nodded and gave him a quick, watery smile. "Thanks," she murmured before bolting from her office.

She drove to Carney Lane with her sirens on, not wanting to waste any time. She prayed Gil was okay, that the explosion didn't hurt him; but she had no way of knowing what happened. Every time she tried to call him, she was sent to his voicemail.

When she got out of the car, after skidding to a stop outside of the house, she saw destruction all around her. The officers that had been following Gil were there and she could hear sirens in the distance.

"Gil?!" she hollered, rushing towards the officers, towards the house. "Where's Gil?" she asked them.

Gil stumbled out of the house, leaning on one of the uniformed officers. His face was cut and there were tears streaming down his face, but otherwise, he looked to be in good condition.

"Gil!" she exclaimed. She raced forward and relieved the officer. "I'll take him from here," she told him as the ambulance raced down the lane, towards them. "Thank you," she added.

When they reached the bottom of the steps, she hugged him close. "Gil... I heard the... I heard... god, I'm so glad you're okay," she whispered into his shoulder.

"You shouldn't touch me, I'm evidence," he reminded her, his voice sounding hollow and broken.

"Don't care," she whispered, looking into his eyes. "I could have lost you. Nothing else matters right now."

"He killed himself, Catherine... he killed himself," Gil muttered.

She hugged him close again, guiding his head to her shoulder. "It doesn't matter. We'll find Nick," she promised. "We'll find him our way."

Gil returned the embrace until the paramedics broke them up. "Come with me," he insisted.

She nodded. "Until the others get here," she promised, taking his hand and walking with him to the back of the ambulance. "Then, I have to get back to work."

"Yeah," he agreed.

The other criminalists showed up once Gil was seated on the back of the emergency vehicle, being examined by the EMT. Sara raced over, eyes wide and cheeks pale.


He turned and looked at her. "I'm fine, Sara," he assured her. He turned and looked at Catherine. "There was a laptop," he said quietly. "Maybe Archie can---"

"Shh," she whispered. "Just let the paramedic do his work." She turned and looked at Sara. "He's a little dazed," she said, "if you want to go in and start... you'll probably need a jumpsuit. Pink mist everywhere."

"Oh god," Sara groaned, grimacing slightly.

"Yeah," Catherine agreed. "I'll be in to help once I know Gil's going to be okay."

"I can stay with him, if you'd rather get to work---"

"N-no," Gil said quietly.

Catherine rubbed Gil's arm gently. "It's okay," she murmured. "I'm here." She looked at Sara. "Get started, okay?" she said, dismissing the brunette.

Once Sara was gone, Gil turned and looked at Catherine. "I love you," he whispered.

She smiled and nodded, before kissing his hand. "I'm so glad you're okay," she murmured.


It had been the longest couple of days of Gil's life, he realised as he watched the paramedics put Nick on a gurney. He turned to look at Catherine, who was nibbling on her lower lip and struggling not to cry, before he looked at the rest of the criminalists around him and saw similarly exhausted expressions on their faces.


He turned and looked back at Catherine.

"Warrick and I are going to go in the ambulance," she said quietly. "Can you call my mother and---"

He nodded. "Yeah. I'll meet you there later," he assured her. "Take care of our guy, okay?"

She hugged him briefly and then followed Warrick, who was following Nick and the paramedics. He watched Warrick take Nick's hand and Catherine put her hand on Nick's leg, before the doors were closed and their privacy was secured. Gil frowned; he didn't think he could ever endure something like that again. He wanted to be able to protect his team---all of his team.

He spoke to Ecklie, "I want my guys back."

Ecklie turned and looked at Gil. After a long pause, he said, "Catherine, too?"

"Yeah," Gil replied quietly.

"You know what that means."

Gil nodded. He knew what it meant---he and Catherine couldn't really have a public relationship, because it would call ethics into question. He rubbed his eyes and then said, "Yeah, I know what it means," in a hoarse voice.

Conrad reached up and patted Gil's shoulder. "I'll make the changes tomorrow. Take some people from days, put them on swing."

"Thanks," Gil said quietly. He sighed and looked at the other man. "Can I be the one to tell Catherine?"

"Of course," Ecklie said in a tone of voice that told Gil he understood. "Let me know when you do."

"I will."

"I'm also going to put Sara, Warrick, and Greg in charge of filing the evidence on this case," Ecklie continued. "Grissom, you were hurt... nearly blown up. Go home and get some rest, okay?"

Gil blinked and tilted his head. "I'm... I can---"

Sara cleared her throat. "Grissom, it's okay. We'll take care of the case," she assured him. She nudged Greg. "C'mon," she said quietly. "Let's start putting everything away."

Once Greg and Sara were gone, Ecklie turned to Gil again. "Tell Catherine she has the next couple of days off, too, okay?"


"Take your time. Get some rest. Tell her when you're ready," he advised.

Gil sighed and nodded. "Thanks, Conrad."


Judge Stokes approached Catherine and Warrick, who had been waiting in the designated area on that particular floor of the hospital. He smiled a bit and put his hands in his pockets.

"Nicky'll be fine," he said. "Doctors have him pumped with IV drugs and fluids... he'll be x-rayed and scanned in a little while. But, for now, everything looks good."

Catherine breathed a sigh of relief and felt Warrick's arm wrap around her waist. She leaned against him and felt a smile stretch her lips. "Great," she murmured. "I... we'll let you get back to your family. She rummaged in her pocket and pulled out a business card. "My cell phone number's on the back. If you or Mrs. Stokes want some food or want to go to your hotel and rest for a couple of hours, please call me. I can come out, any time."

"Me, too," Warrick offered, finding his card, too.

"I'm glad Pancho has such good friends and colleagues," the judge said, accepting both cards. "Thank you. I'm sure we'll call on you over the next couple of days." He paused and smiled a bit, as his eyes filled with unshed tears. "Thank you, too, for bringing my boy back to us."

"He's very important to us, Judge Stokes," Catherine told him. "We... we wouldn't have stopped until we found him."

"Thank god for you all," the judge said, before turning and walking away.

Catherine looked up at Warrick and grinned. "He's gonna be okay," she murmured.

He hugged her close and cupped her back of her head as he swung her around a bit. "I know... god, it feels good to know that," he murmured back, settling Catherine upon her feet. He looked down at her and smiled; she smiled back at him and nodded.

She wasn't sure who leaned in first, in the empty waiting room, but when his lips touched hers they set off a chemical reaction inside of her body that couldn't be ignored. She moaned softly and yielded to him, wrapping her arms around his neck as the kiss deepened.

Somehow, he moved her back, towards a vacant wall, and she used the leverage to rub against his body at a better angle. He tasted like spices and fantasies and something much better than she had ever dreamed he would taste like. She whimpered and scratched at the back of his neck, feeling his coarse yet soft (somehow) hair under her fingers; he pushed against her body and growled under his breath as he nipped at her lips.


He lifted his head and stared down into her eyes. She blushed and for a moment, she didn't think she'd be able to walk away from him and the passion they uncovered. Then, he blinked and she could have sworn a switch had been flicked in his brain.

"Whoa," he breathed.

"Well said," she whispered as he stepped back. "Warrick... I... I didn't mean to---"

"No... me neither," he told her quietly. "I... I don't know what happened. I'm seeing someone... and it's going well."

"And I'm with Gil... and it's going very well," she murmured. She blushed and shrugged. "We're over-emotional?"

He nodded. "Probably."

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

He caught her chin in his hand and kissed her forehead. "Don't worry 'bout it," he assured her. "Still friends, right?"

"Of course," she murmured. "But... won't this... get weird?"

He shook his head. "Not if we don't let it," he told her. "I'm not going to. Are you?"

She shook her head, too. "No," she said quietly. "We just got caught up in the moment."

"Right," he agreed.

She laughed softly and put her hands on his arms. "God... what a weird couple of days," she murmured.

He chuckled. "No kidding."

He stepped away from her and checked his watch. "Okay... you mind if I head out?" he asked. "I was thinking I'd go to the lab and help Sara put this case to rest."

Catherine nodded. "I'll go with you," she said, smiling. "We can help them---"

She stopped talking when she saw Gil walk into the waiting room. Warrick followed his eyes and smiled when he saw the other man. Gil stepped up to them and tilted his head to one side. "How is Nick?"

"He's gonna be fine," Warrick told him. "His parents are with him now. We were gonna head back to the lab and help Sara and Greg wrap the case."

"Well, I can take you back to the lab," Gil offered. He turned his gaze back to Catherine for a moment before saying, "But, Ecklie gave Catherine the night off, so I'm going to take her home."

"I can work---" She stopped talking when he shook his head. Her brow furrowed. "Gil---"

Warrick squeezed Catherine's shoulder. "Go on," he murmured, "let your man take care of you."

She turned to him and hugged the younger man. "Okay," she whispered. "Thanks."

"Same to you," he whispered in her ear before releasing her.

Catherine walked over to Gil and took his hand. She smiled when he kissed her cheek and then nudged him gently. "Did you call my mother?"

"Lily's going to take care of Lindsey for the weekend," he said quietly. He looked at Warrick. "You need a lift?"

"Sure... if you don't mind going out of your way," Warrick replied.

Gil told him he didn't mind at all, and then the trio left the waiting room and the hospital.


"Why are we going to your place?" Catherine asked.

Gil smiled. "Because I'm going to take care of you tonight. Lily's holding your fort down... I even had chinese delivered to their house, so she wouldn't have to worry about dinner."

She smiled back at him. "You did?"

"Yeah," he murmured, squeezing her hand.

"Thank you," she said softly, leaning over to rest her head on his shoulder as they drove towards his townhouse. "I don't know what I would have done without you."

"And I, you," he replied quietly.

Neither of them said anything else until they were inside Gil's home. He rubbed her arms after helping her out of her coat and kissed the back of her head. "Why don't you get a shower?" he suggested. "I'll change the sheets and start making us something to eat."

She nodded. "Okay... if you're sure," she murmured.

"I am," he said with a smile.

Catherine turned in his arms and kissed his lips. "Want to join me?"

"If I join you, we won't have anything to eat," he reminded her.

She chuckled. "So?"


Her chuckle turned into a soft laugh, before she kissed him again. "Okay," she purred, "I'll go get a shower. When I get out, you better have one culinary miracle waiting for me in the kitchen."

He smiled. "That's my plan," he told her, stealing another kiss before turning her and gently patting her ass to motivate her to walk towards the bathroom.

Once she was gone, he went into his kitchen and started to put together a light meal for them---stir fried vegetables on a bed of noodles, with wine. As he chopped the vegetables, he felt something in his pocket, being pressed against the counter. He fumbled for a moment, setting the knife down on the cutting board before he reached into his pants pocket.

When his fingers felt around the velvet box, he groaned. He pulled the box out of his pants and looked down at it, thinking about his crushed dreams and promises for the future that would never reach fruition. Upon opening the box, he looked down at the ring and blinked back a few tears.

It was a beautiful ring. There was a princess cut diamond in the middle of a platinum setting, stacked baguettes and round diamonds on each side of the square-shaped gem. He had seen it in the jewelry shop and immediately thought of Catherine; it seemed traditional enough, but also contemporary enough, for the woman who had captured his heart. He had never in a million years thought that he would be buying an engagement ring for someone, for a woman in his life, but after his relationship with Catherine had been going so well... it seemed like the only logical step for them to take together.

But, in the aftermath of Nick's kidnapping and of Gil requesting he have his team back together, he didn't think they would be able to take that step, after all.

He sighed and sniffled, staring down at the ring. Before he knew it, he was crying quietly.

"Hey," Catherine whispered from the door.

Gil quickly pocketed the box, hoping she didn't see it---because he couldn't bear to disappoint her like that---as he turned to face her. She frowned and walked towards him, wearing a pair of his shorts and one of his shirts, before wrapping her arms around him.

"We're all okay," she whispered into his ear.

He nodded and pressed his face into her neck and shoulder. "I love you," he breathed raggedly as his sadness poured out of his body and soul.

"I love you, too, Gil," she promised, rocking him gently. "Screw dinner, okay? We can order pizza later, my treat."

He lifted his head and looked at her. "But, I started---"

She put her fingers over his lips. "Come to bed, okay?"

"Catherine, it won't take me long to---"

"Let me take care of you for a little while," she murmured. "We'll get something to eat later."

Gil nodded, wanting nothing more in that moment than to lose himself in Catherine's affection. He allowed himself to be taken to his bedroom, undressed, and tucked into bed; however, when she joined him, equally undressed, he took charge of the situation and pulled her to his body.

Their first kiss was far from soft and slow. Gil pushed his mouth against hers and demanded so much; she moaned and responded, rubbing against his body as their lips, tongues, and teeth worked their systems into frenzies. Gil threaded his fingers through her hair and guided her onto her back so he could loom over her. He held her head down onto the mattress and teased her lips. Sometimes, he would hover over her mouth, others, he would plunder hers with his, all the while holding her down so she could do nothing but take the kisses he offered her.

He knew she didn't mind. While she made frustrated sounds, he could feel her body warming underneath his; he could feel her shifting, parting her legs to grant him the access she wanted him to have. He ignored her invitation, though, and kissed her over and over.

When he was finished with her lips, he moved down to her neck, tasting and teasing in all the ways he knew she loved. He sucked and bit on one particularly sensitive spot of skin, his intentions clear: he wanted to mark her.

He wanted to make her his in the only way he could.

Catherine moaned and rocked against him, muttering something about scarves and turtlenecks and living in the middle of a desert, but he didn't respond to her comments. Instead, he moved lower, kissing her breasts and stomach until Catherine dragged him back up for another kiss.

"Now," she whispered.

"So soon?"

"Doesn't matter," she breathed, "I want you... now."

He nodded and rolled onto his back, inviting her to follow him. She flashed him a dazzling grin and then crawled over his body, slowly lowering herself down onto him; she took his erection inside of her body slowly, sinking down inch by inch until they were completely joined, and then she opened her eyes and looked down at him.

Her gaze didn't stray from his as she rocked her body against his; he looked up into her eyes and allowed himself to get lost in their blue depths, not once letting his gaze falter. This was something more, he knew; it was one thing to have sex with someone, but something completely different to be so open to another person. His eyes watered at the thought, but he didn't close them or look away.

Catherine took one of her hands off of his chest and she reached down to wipe his tears away. She brought her fingers to her lips and sucked the salty fluid up, before trailing her hand down her body. When she squeezed one of her breasts, she sucked in a sharp gasp and rocked against him a little harder; Gil knew she was close but he wasn't ready for their night to end yet, so he held back as best as he could.

He reached up with one hand and flicked his thumb over her hardened nipple of the breast with which she wasn't toying. He took pleasure in the way her gaze darkened and her mouth opened, before a low moan escaped her throat.

"Gil... please... I'm..." she trailed off and squeaked softly, slumping forward a bit but not breaking eye contact with him.

"I know," he whispered, pushing his feet against the footboard of the bed as he rocked his lower body in time with hers, even though she was still doing most of the work.

When she reached her orgasm, he felt her hidden muscles tighten around his penis as he heard her cry out wordlessly. She fell forward and he met her halfway, pushing himself up into a sitting position so he could cradle her close as she came down from her physical high.

Gil showered her face and shoulders with gentle kisses as her system leveled off and he didn't stop until he felt her stirring in his arms.

"Mmm," she hummed, lifting her head to look at him. "What about you?"

"Think you can go again?" he inquired, smirking.

Catherine laughed. "I'm game if you are," she purred. She smirked back at him and shifted her weight, feeling him still inside of her. "And it seems that you are," she commented after he groaned quietly.


After lovemaking, after pizza, and after wine, Catherine and Gil ended up back in bed. He was lying down on his stomach when she came into the room, after a phone call with Lindsey, so she crawled up onto the bed and spread her body out over his.

"Hey," he whispered, "are you comfy up there?"

She chuckled softly and reached up to play with his hair. "I am," she murmured. "You?"

"Of course," he breathed.

Catherine smiled and kissed the back of his neck. "So... you thinking about getting some sleep any time soon, or are you just going to stare at the wall all night?"

"I..." he trailed off and sighed.

She knew what that sigh meant---they needed to talk, something had come up, and he wasn't happy about whatever it was. She frowned and pressed a kiss to the back of his head. "What happened?"

"I told Ecklie I want my team back," Gil admitted, "and he agreed."

"Effective... when?"

"As soon as he can shift Days around to cover Swing."

Catherine sighed. "What about my position?" she asked. "You're taking Nick and Warrick and leaving me with... myself and a few people I don't know?"

"I told him I want you back, too."


He sighed again. "Yeah."

"So... we'll be working together again," she said needlessly as she put the pieces of the problem together.


"And that means... we'll be back where we started, personally speaking," she added.

Gil nodded. "Yeah," he repeated.

"And Ecklie... saw us together... so..." she trailed off and rubbed his shoulder. "We can't be... together-together anymore."

"No more dates... dinners..." he mumbled. "And it wouldn't be fair to be in an exclusive relationship... if we can't do the things we want, you know?"

She frowned and hugged him as best as she could in that position. "Are you breaking up with me?" she asked.

"I don't know. I don't want to lose you---that's all I know."

Catherine closed her eyes and rested her head against his. She thought about all the ground they had covered in the past few weeks, all the improvements in their relationship, and how it seemed to be all for nothing. "So... it's going to be like the old days, for real?" she said quietly.

"If you... want that," he said in a careful tone of voice.

She kissed his jaw. "I can't lose you, either, Gil," she murmured. "As much as this sucks... I can't lose you."

Wordlessly, as if they were both thinking on the same level, Catherine eased off of him as he started to turn over. Once he was settled on his back, she eased back down on top of him and snuggled up to his warm body. He kissed the top of her head and rubbed her back with one of his hands.

"We'll just... have to be careful," she whispered, "of being caught and of all the other things... like before."

He sighed and nodded. He sensed that even she didn't want to go back to the arrangement she had defined for them months ago; but, it seemed like neither of them had much of a choice in the matter.

The End!
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