Disclaimers et all in first chapter.

----------------

Gil stepped out of his office in sync with Mallory Smith and her daughter exiting the interrogation room. He stopped and stared at the woman, who eventually felt his gaze and slowly turned, locking eyes. His eyes faltered slightly, falling down to her hands which she wrung nervously, and then back up to her eyes.

Images of her body naked - her face reflecting bouts of ecstacy, flashed in his mind but he remained still, unblinking.

Jim walked up the supervisor, waving two sealed DNA swabs in front of him, while taking out his notepad with his other hand. "So I talked them into giving DNA samples - just to make the job easier..." The captain trailed off, noting Gil's zoned-out stare. He followed his gaze to Mallory, just in time to see her quickly turn away. He glanced back at him with a smirky grin, eyebrow raised with impure implications. "What, you know her or something?" He turned, giving Mallory the once over and then glanced back, only to see Gil's retreating form, who had merely thrown a cold 'no' over his shoulder.

Gil first made a pit stop in the trace lab, giving a slight nod of acknowledgment to David Hodges, as he rummaged through the case's evidence box. He picked up the ring and glanced at it, his stomach tightening with disgust. His eyes scanned the inscription over and over, wanting desperately for there to be some error, but each time the writing denied his desire.

Frowning, he placed it back in the box and headed towards DNA, his fingers lightly tapping the samples he held. He reached there, thankful to find the room surprisingly deserted. Cutting the swabs, he placed it in the solution and let it dissolve all the while his impatience getting the best of him. He focused on controlled breaths and repeated the same process with the other.

Placing them in the thermocycler, he waited for the printer to spring life into the quiet lab. He drummed his fingers on the table for a few minutes before noticing Greg's boombox in the corner. Narrowing his eyes slightly, he dared himself to venture over and discover what type of music would grace his senses.

Pressing play, a snippet of blaring, screaming lyrics and curse words galore slapped him in the face, before he quickly shut it off, staring at the boombox with distaste. The printer beeped it's results and he quickly walked over to view them, thankful for a distraction to his distraction. Entering the information in the CODIS database, he printed out another paper and viewed the results.

He hung his head in defeat, having observed seven matching alleles from one paper to the next. He underlined the name 'Christina Smith' with his finger, and did the same under the name 'Eddie Willows' on the other paper. "That son of a bitch." He muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. Exhaustion - both physically and especially psychologically were ganging up on him, and he was feeling the stressed repercussions. He had a suspicion the moment he heard Mallory's name and had wanted one of the younger CSIs to accompany him but Catherine wouldn't step down from the case, and in the end, he could never refuse her.

She always knew Eddie had cheated on her, but he didn't want any compromises to arise had she known that one of the causes of her failed marriage was now a victim of tragedy. The moment he saw that little girl, there had been something about her that screamed Eddie, or perhaps a hunch for expecting the worse had stumbled across him. Had Eddie known that he had a second daughter? Did Mallory Smith know that her husband wasn't the biological father of Christina? Did Mallory know that Eddie was married when she slept with him, time after time? And what had been Jarod's thoughts on the subject? Were his actions ultimately the cause of his death?

As those questions plagued his mind, the same image flashed across his mind again, that of Mallory's naked body - her face mirroring pleasure unforseen and finally, horror reflected in her eyes - horror for being caught. His mind's picture expanded, now taking in Eddie's guiltless look as he finished up, and then covered up.

Gil let out a deep breath, knowing that if Catherine ever found out that Eddie had a daughter with another woman...it would tear her apart. He stood up and walked distractedly to his office, placing the papers on his desk and locking up after him. He headed towards the break room, having spotted Jim head in there earlier. "Jim, did you get anything more from the Smiths?" He asked, sitting beside the captain, at the table.

Jim nodded, taking another bite of his sandwich. He tossed his notepad on the table. "Well, little Christina spilled that 'daddy' liked to climb the tree and sit on the roof whenever he got mad."

Gil raised his eyebrow. "And I'm sure mommy knew this." He shook his head.

Jim glanced at Gil. "What, you're thinking the mother?"

"The mother?" Nick stepped in and took a seat across from both men, dropping a folder in front of him. "You too?"

Gil eyed the Texan curiously. "Theory?"

"Evidence." A cheeky smile followed as Nick held up his folder. "Footprints belonged to both Mallory Smith and Jarod Smith - I went back and matched the prints to their shoes. Mallory Smith's shoes still held muck from the rain."

"Shoes just mean she was there at the crime scene - it doesn't give a time line." Gil countered.

"True, but the mud was still pretty fresh, which proves that she was out when it was raining. Both her footprints and her husband's were the only ones, and then a heavier set indented the previous pair...her size." Nick added, his eyes scanning his notes before jumping from captain to supervisor.

"What about the strand of hair?" Jim's muffled voice weakly made it to their ears, as he wiped his mouth with a napkin.

"Mallory's. It must have fallen when she was trying to stuff her deceased husband in the chimney."

"Couldn't it have fallen out some other time?" Jim asked.

"Actually, it was ripped out because it still had the cell tag attached. I'm thinking that there might have been a slight struggle and that Jarod's ring might have snagged some hair in the moment...and then they both fell when he was stuffed in." Nick added, supporting his theory with a proud smile.

"Oh yeah, the ring. Maybe Jarod was divorcing her..." Jim hypothesized.

"Yeah, she freaked and went all 'black widow' on him." Nick added, grinning at his own humour.

Gil cringed and shook his head. "First, the black widow only kills after copulating, and second..." he paused, letting out a deep breath, "it wasn't Jarod's ring - it was Eddie's."

"What?!"

All three heads turned, and each held their breath upon seeing Catherine staring at them in shock. She closed her mouth and Gil saw the minute quiver of her lower lip. "Cath..." He called out to her retreating form, as she tried desperately keep her composure. He got up and gave chase down the hall, all the way outside in the once again pouring rain. "Cath...Catherine wait!"

She ran, collapsing against her car as her hand blindly tried to reach for the handle. A warm hand covered hers and she felt his energy mingle with hers as the tears stung her eyes. "Why didn't you tell me?" It was soft and out-of-breath, with barely any air to travel on. "What else are you keeping from me?" She turned, glancing at him with hurt in her eyes - hurt caused by her unfaithful ex-husband and pain caused by her secretive best-friend.

"It's not like that Catherine, I -"

"Every time, Gil! Every time you keep something from me!" She shrugged off his attempt to comfort her, and placed both hands on his shoulder, pushing him away from her. "Did you have a good laugh, huh?"

He cocked his head to the side, questioning the sarcasm in her tone.

"You told Jim...you told Nick, and yet you couldn't tell me!"

"They're part of the case, it was a legitimate course of action." He answered, once again advancing towards her.

"It was a cowardly course of action, Gil." She pushed him back again, though it lacked any force; her emotions draining her physical energy dry. "I have to," she glanced back at him, disgusted with his behaviour, "I have to get out of here." She opened the door and slammed it, revving the car to life. Buckling up, she drove out of the parking lot without a second glance, leaving the one man who truly cared about her, standing alone in the drizzled rain.


Gil walked dejectedly back into the break room, avoiding the sympathetic gazes of the other two men in the room.

"How she doing?" Jim inquired, his concern mirroring Nick's questioning look.

Gil shrugged, putting on a fake smile. "She's fine...she understands." He tried vainly to lie for her, hoping that his confidence would devoid any unnecessary pity in her direction.

Jim and Nick shared a look that didn't go unnoticed by the supervisor, and he silently dared them to press the matter further.

Nick shrugged, taking out a folded piece of paper. "Doc stopped by while you were outside with Catherine." He stated, handing Gil the piece of paper.

"Death was by carbon monoxide poisoning, inhalation, though he did suffer massive trauma to the back of the head." Gil's eyes jumped up to meet the young Texan who was dangling something in front of his face.

"Samples of trace evidence that was found imbedded in Jarod Smith's skull."

"Glass." Gil observed the green tinted glass, twisting and flipping it, ensuring analysis of all angles. "So what...glass, tumbler, vase, pitcher -"

" - Heineken." Nick interrupted his supervisor.

"Heineken?"

"Yeah, Hodges ran it through the database; it matches colour, compound texture, width and materials to a 'T'." Nick added.

"Okay, so we have the how: Jarod was sitting on the roof, possibly after just having discovered that Christina isn't his, and that Mallory has been lying to him for the past seven years." Gil started, tossing out an idea.

"Someone climbs up the tree to join him, obviously someone who knows of his ritual and someone he trusts, because of the wound's location." Nick continued, adding his insights.

"Right, so Jarod gets whacked, is out for the count and then is stuffed down the chimney, where he inhales and ultimately suffocates on the toxic fumes."

"I'm thinking that Jarod might have found the ring, was holding on to it. While he was being carried, his limp arms flailing about...it might have snagged a piece of hair." Nick offered, tossing out possibilities of his own.

Gil remained silent, staring at the sample in his hand. His eyes focused on his hand, then on Jim's and finally on Nick's, before settling once again on his own. "Let's call Mrs. Smith back, shall we?"


Mallory Smith sat bolt upright on the straight-backed wooden chair that sat idly in the interrogation room. She stared straight ahead, while no energy was wasted on movements of any sort. Her lawyer sat beside her, staring at her client with a slight bite of worry.

"Sorry to keep you waiting..." Jim apologized half-heartedly, offering a secretive smirk to the lawyer, who obviously knew every trick in the book.

"Please Mr. Brass, I know what you're up to, and I'm sure you're the furthest away from being sorry for your tardiness." Cynthia Johnson muttered, looking at the captain through her long bangs. "The longer you keep a suspect in suspense, the more nervous and antsy they get, and the more manipulative they get." She turned to her client, who was listening intently to the revelations offered by the defence attorney. "Just remain calm, listen to the questions and answer them only after giving them some thought." She glanced back at Jim and then at Gil, before giving them a smirk of her own. "Your move, I do believe."

Gil shrugged and sat down opposite Mallory, observing her meticulously before opening his interrogation. "Did Jarod Smith learn of your infidelity and ultimately the conception of your daughter by another man?"

Cynthia interrupted Mallory's stunned gaze. "You have no proof that my client was cheating on her husband, for all you know, that child could have been the result of a sexual assault."

"Oh, but I do know she was unfaithful..." Gil began, not taking his eyes off the suspect. "Do I need to repeat the question?" His voice was steady and controlled.

Mallory narrowed her eyes at the supervisor's smug attitude. "He found the ring, flipped - we argued before he stormed out of the house." She paused, her eyes drifting to the left before falling back on Gil's form. "I don't know where he went after that."

"But your daughter knew." Jim interjected, leaning against the wall.

"He went on the roof, didn't he? His secluded area where he goes to cool off." Gil added, his gaze piercing Mallory. "Have you climbed any trees lately?"

Mallory clasped her hands together, her fingers digging into her palms. "No, I don't go up there...I - I'm afraid of heights."

"I think you're more afraid of being alone..." Gil mumbled, his voice low and passively threatening. "We found your footprint on the roof and at the base of the tree." He waited for a response before he continued, and he smiled when a pang of fear echoed in the blues of her eyes. "Hair found in the fireplace -"

" - which could have been from years, even months ago." The lawyer interrupted him, taking down notes for the eventual case in court.

"Well, the cleaning service had come a week prior - we called the chimney sweep services...and it couldn't have been while she was lighting a fire for the hair would have burned up." Jim smiled, though it was laced with a Cheshire quality.

"Do you have a habit of ripping out your hair, or getting it caught in something, whenever you light a fire, Mrs. Smith?"

"Or do you merely enjoy putting out other people's fire?" Jim asked rhetorically.

"Hey!"

He placed his hands up in defence following the defence attorney's warning bellow.

"Jarod Smith was incapacitated with a major blow to the back of the head, and then stuffed down the chimney where, while unconscious, he died of carbon monoxide poisoning." Gil's eyes fell down to Mallory's hands, and noticed how she quickly dropped them on her lap, out of sight. "Motor oil was poured over his body - highly flammable, which would have accelerated the flames, once a fire would have been lit."

"Good thing that your daughter has a great sense of hearing, huh Mrs. Smith?" Jim asked sweetly, provocation his discreet intent. "Would have been a shame to see your marriage go up in flames like that -"

" - was Jarod going to divorce you, Mrs. Smith?" Gil questioned her a little too harshly.

Mallory paused, and glanced at her lawyer. "Yes."

"Did you go up to confront him, up on the roof?" Gil asked the suspect slowly, mirroring the tone one would take when scolding a child.

"Did things get out of control, Mrs. Smith?" Jim asked, his voice echoing Gil's.

"No...I didn't do anything." Her voice was thin, allowing both Gil and Jim to see right through it.

He once again noticed her fiddling with her hands and he decided to act upon her nervous gesture. "May I see your hands?"

"Why?" Cynthia eyed Gil aggressively, pondering his intent.

"Palm reading - show him your hands." Jim's eloquent sarcasm spawned a glare from the defence attorney and she gave a solemn nod to her client, giving her permission to showcase her hands. The snap of latex gloves caused both the suspect and lawyer to glance up at the supervisor.

Producing a pair of tweezers from his kit, Gil reached out for Mallory's hand and observed it with great interest. His eyes zoomed in on the tiny green crystals that laid embedded in superficial gauges in her skin. Meticulously, he plucked a few of the crystals and placed them in a clear bag. "Do you drink, Mrs. Smith?"

"I have a beer once in a while, yes." Mallory answered plainly.

"Drinking isn't against the law, Mr. Grissom."

"But murder is." Jim rebutted the lawyer's statement. "Tell me, what else besides drinking do you enjoy doing with your beer?" He asked, teasingly pacing the room. "You look like a Heineken gal, to me."

Fear washed over her eyes as she glanced from the captain to the supervisor and then finally at her defence attorney. "I..."

"We have enough evidence, Mrs. Smith."

Mallory glanced at the blue-eyed man, taken aback by the coldness in his voice. "He was going to leave me - do you have any idea what that feels like?"

Gil pressed his lips together, trying desperately to control his anger. "You carried on a relationship with a married man; do –you– have any idea what –that– feels like to the victim of that relationship? You ruined someone else's family, you ruined your family...what do you know about feeling?" He stood up, roughly picking up his kit and headed towards the door. "Arrest her."


He stood nervously staring at the chestnut-tinted wooden door; the darkness that engulfed the house frightening him more than he would enjoy admitting. He pressed the doorbell again, hope causing fidgets to litter his actions while he waited for her to answer the door. "Come on, Catherine..." He whispered more to himself as he took out his key chain. Sifting through, he located her key and unlocked her door, stepping in. He could smell the once comforting smell of wood burning, but now it just made his stomach turn. Hanging up his jacket, he toed off his shoes and padded to the living room, smiling gently upon seeing the top of her strawberry-blonde head. He sat silently beside her, observing the fireplace flickering off her porcelain skin. He closed his eyes, dropping his head to his chest. "You went to my office."

"I read the papers."

"You read that Christina is -"

" - that Christina is Eddie's daughter." Her eyes still refused to leave the fire but she let out a small sigh when she felt him lean closer to her. "You didn't tell me," she turned to face him, finally offering him acknowledgment of his presence, "why didn't you tell me!" She whacked his arm.

He winced slightly, more out of unexpected shock than pain. "Catherine...I wanted to, but how was I?"

"You keep hurting me, Gil. Every time you keep something from me -"

"- Catherine, you have to realize that it is the least of my intentions to hurt you." He interrupted her own hurtful words: her revelations of pain caused by his actions instilled a personal pang in his heart. "Catherine, believe me when I tell you that everything I've done - every action I have taken, has been to protect you -from- pain." He ventured his gaze to the fire place, though not wanting to concoct images of Jarod Smith being burned alive. "Trust me on that..." He added softly.

She glanced over at him slowly, guilt creeping slowly forth. "I know..." Her tone matched his whisper, and she placed a hand on his thigh, giving it a slight squeeze. "Her biological father was murdered. Her step-father was murdered. Her mother's going to jail." She let out a loud, strangled sigh. "All before her eighth birthday...what a life."

Gil placed his hand atop of hers, trying to etch comfort to her being. "Jarod's parents are going to take her in for awhile - joint custody between them and Mallory's parents." He paused, searching her eyes. "You couldn't have prevented this, Catherine, so there's no use in beating yourself up."

She bit her lip, her eyes shyly meeting his. "But how can I make it better?" Her voice was small, seemingly filled with despair.

Gil found himself pondering her statement for quite a bit, and silence engulfed both of them in Catherine's living room. Finally, amidst the fire crackling, Gil found his voice, "sometimes we can't." He sighed softly, not wanting to depress her further. "Sometimes we just have to accept it and move on. You can't fight every battle that isn't yours, Catherine."

Catherine tried to fight off the shivers at his realistic observations, but goose bumps still mocked her arms and legs. She rubbed her arms, giving her best-friend a slight nod of appreciation. "He had a daughter with her, Gil." She swallowed the tears in her voice, realizing that her dehydrated eyes would grant her no further moisture. "I feel sick every time I think about it."

She admitted weakness and Gil felt a pinch of pride in her revealing vulnerability: she trusted him. "I do too..." He directed his gaze at the fire, watching it dance to its own beat. "I felt sick every time that bastard hurt you, Cath." He ignored the shocked glance that she gave him, knowing that his heart was now on the line, as his own unveiling lead way to personal accounts he normally shied from sharing. "You didn't deserve that treatment - no one does...but especially you."

She pondered his statement as her eyes traveled back to the fireplace, hoping to find a different kind of light emanating from the flames. Silenced echoed between the clock's ticks and tocks, and both CSIs noticed the comfortable tension between them.

She narrowed her eyes, reflecting over their oxymoroned situation: this thick tension that had been looming for so long, that it merely became a part of their life. While it wasn't welcomed, neither had made any attempt to attack it, let alone discuss it.

"It's getting late," he noticed the sun's rising rays hit the horizon, "I'll see you tonight...or if you need the night off -"

" - I'll be fine, Gil." She offered a shy smile, getting up and walking him to the door, though familiar desires were slowly bubbling. "Thank you, Gil...I'm sorry if I -"

He cupped her cheek with his palm, cutting off any berating she could pursue. "Don't worry, I'm here for you, you know that." He furrowed his brow, noticing her gaze directed to the ceiling. He pressed his lips together, his voice a dreary monotone. "Mistletoe?"

She smiled, her mood lightening up. "Mistletoe."

"Mistle-woe." He dead panned.

She clicked her tongue, giving him a playful shove. "Don't screw with tradition."

He raised his eyebrow and glanced upwards, taking in the strategically placed ornament. "It's rather cliché when you think about it."

"So don't think."

He let out a small chuckle, his eyes still glued to the ornament if nothing for avoiding any awkward moments. His hand grasped the doorknob and he pulled it open, intent on leaving their daily teasing session. His eyes snapped to hers having felt her timid lips lightly brush against his and just as quickly, retreat - leaving a longing lingering behind.

"Merry Christmas, Gil."

The cold wind rushed in, and she shivered from the temperature's wrath, but more so from the feel of his lips having just touched hers. She was about to bid him farewell when he suddenly pinned her against the wall with a hungry desire, his mouth devouring hers as his hands glided up and down her waist, his fingers ever so often grazing the side of her breasts. She moaned against his mouth as one leg slipped between hers, and his thigh pressed against her core. He furiously sucked on her lower lip until it bruised, and when he obtained his satisfaction, his mouth hungrily sought the creamy skin of her neck, wanting to claim every inch of skin as his own. He wanted more but he suddenly realized his inappropriate behaviour and quickly drew back, pressing his back against the opposing wall, allowing distance to waltz between them. "Catherine, I'm sorry I didn't mean to..." He trailed off, not knowing what to say.

Not receiving an immediate response, he gave her an apologetic look and turned to head out the door, but remained frozen in spot when it slammed in front of him. He held his breath, his eyes falling to the floor, only to see Catherine's foot pressed against the door, her leg extended beside him. He turned around, slowly eyeing her, unsure of what to expect. "Catherine, say something."

She took a step forward, her hands finding his chest and she ran her hands all the way down to his pants where she hooked her fingers in the belt loops.

Her lips found his and exchanged all of her passion, lust and love with his, each understanding their shared heart. Walking backwards, she pulled him towards her room, observing him through her lashes. She felt a pang of guilt, as she realized just how much she enjoyed seeing the confused-panicked look upon his face.

W-where are we going?" He asked, his voice cracking slightly.

"To my bedroom." She replied simply as she opened the door and pulled him inside.

"And what are you going to do there?" He tried hard not to stammer as he caught sight of her bed, and his mind concocted a million and one possibilities of activities to do in such a room with such a person.

"Oh nothing much...I'm just going to show you how I can be naughty -and- nice..."

--Finis--