Summer, despite the dry, oppressive heat, was Grissom's favorite time of the year. There were several reasons. It was usually better for the evidence collection – no rain to wash away his clues. Sara tended to argue that the heat made the decomposition of bodies all the worse but the smell didn't much bother Grissom and hadn't for a long time. Grissom liked summer because everyone who lived in Las Vegas left for their vacations. Oh, the city was filled to the brim, of course, but with happy tourists, not dejected regulars. But mostly, Grissom loved summer because of summer camp.
He'd never gone to summer camp as a boy – there'd never been the money – but Lindsey Willows loved camp and demanded to go every year. Grissom loved summer because for eight glorious weeks, he could have Catherine to himself. They, of course, were just good friends as they had been for going on two decades now, but they had their flirtations and innuendos and in the summer, they had eight weeks alone.
Grissom and Catherine started the summer by taking Lindsey to camp on a Saturday morning early in June. Grissom would drive to Catherine's and load Lindsey's sleeping bag and duffel and all the things she could not live with out into the back of his SUV while she and her mother sleepily climbed in. Catherine preferred Grissom to drive and by 7:00am they hit the road – just as he and Catherine got off their eight hour shift that was usually more like a ten hour shift. Both Lindsey and Catherine fell asleep within the first half an hour and so Grissom turned on the radio low – classical or sometimes country western – and rolled the windows down. The air on his face kept him awake as the Willows women slept beside him.
Catherine always wept on the ride home. It was a two hour trip, one way, and Catherine cried the whole way because she would miss her daughter and because she was so relieved to be free on the responsibility of keeping an eye on her freshly 13-year-old girl for eight weeks. And it was a break from Catherine's needy mother, Lily, as well. The ex-show girl served as Catherine's nosy baby sitter and she loved her mother but Grissom was fairly certain she didn't much like the woman.
Grissom passed the exit that would take them to Catherine's small house and drove to his townhouse instead. There he had all the makings of a perfect breakfast – eggs, bacon, toast, fresh fruit, orange juice, and for Catherine he had vodka. Sometimes, if it was especially hot, Catherine would turn on his air conditioning and sit on the vent on the floor in the kitchen while Grissom scrambled their eggs and fried the bacon. Later in the summer, she would help him by dicing the apples and setting the table, but on this first day, she merely sat on the floor while the cool air rippled the hem of her summer dress.
"It's ready," he said, holding out a hand to help her off the linoleum. She smiled her watery smile. He'd set the table already and they sat together, side by side, and ate quietly. He drank his orange juice and she drank her screwdriver. After the meal, she climbed his narrow staircase and went to his guest room. He called it the guestroom but it was Catherine's room. She was the only one who ever slept there – in the closet, she kept a few outfits and he would always put her things in the wash when she wore them. She slept on the twin bed restlessly and didn't emerge until the sun began to set.
Grissom slept on the couch as often as he slept in his bed. When Catherine stayed over, her slept on the couch because there was an unspoken rule that she did not go into his bedroom and so he wanted her to be able to wake him if she needed to. She came down the stairs in her now wrinkled dress with her hair flyaway and bare feet. She had pink toenails.
"Gil," she said, sitting carefully on the arm of the sofa where his head was nestled. She let the tips of her fingers touch his cheek.
"Hmm," he groaned, trying to pull himself out of sleep.
"Gil, I'm gonna go home," she said. "I'll see you at work, okay?"
"Mmm," he grunted again, opening one eye to look up at her. "Okay." She smiled at him looking sincere as the sunset back lit her from the living room window. "Oh, taking my car," he said, pointing to his keys on the coffee table.
"Thank you," she said. "For your hospitality."
"If you stay we could eat dinner," he said, sitting up to rub his face.
"I need to shower," she said. "Change my clothes."
"Rain check," he acknowledged.
"Yeah,' she said. He watched her gather her things, slip on her sandals, walk out the door. He slept for another hour before he went up stairs. He looked in the guestroom. She'd half heartedly made the bed but the linens were wrinkled like she'd slept on top of the bed, not in it. When he was dressed, he called a cab to take him to work.
At the lab, she was all business in her light slacks and white, sleeveless blouse. She chatted with Nick, sipping water from a bottle. Grissom wondered if his team knew about their ritualistic summer behavior. He sent Catherine out with Warrick, something he did more often now that he was a married man. He sent Sara and Nick out and stayed with Greg in the lab. He had a few autopsies to attend the Doc with and if anything came in mid-shift, he and Greg would be there to take it. It was a robbery, when the case came. Easy enough, procedural and Greg was happy to have it. Catherine and the boys were in his office when he returned.
"Hiya Boss," Nick said. "Catherine said breakfast was in order."
"Did she?" he asked. "Where is Sara?"
"She opted out," Warrick said. "But we should grab Greg." Catherine raised her eyebrow at Grissom, daring him to turn down group bonding. Grissom shrugged in defeat and they all caravanned to their usual diner, a few blocks from the Lab. They slid in one of the few large, round booths in the back corner of the crowded restaurant.
"Sunday morning church crowd," Nick commented, looking around at the women in dresses and the squirming children. "I remember those days," Gil sat with Catherine on one side of him and Greg on the other, squirming and trying to talk Warrick into playing tic tac toe with him on a napkin.
"Greg, do try to contain your self," Grissom sighed as Greg's elbow jabbed him for a third time. Catherine snickered into his ear. He rolled his eyes. Every time they went out after a shift, it always ended in mayhem and exhaustion. Greg promptly knocked his full glass of water into Grissom's lap. Catherine burst into laughter.
"I am SO sorry," Greg said, grabbing a handful of napkins and thrusting them at Grissom's crotch.
"Don't help," he hissed, as Nick and Catherine slid out so he could get out of the booth. He went into the bathroom trying not to notice everyone staring at his wet pants. He tried dabbing them with toilet paper and finally stood at an awkward angle under the hand dryer until the wet spot was only damp and a little less noticeable. That water had been cold.
Catherine was outside the restrooms when he emerged.
"Everything alright?" she asked, glancing down at his pants.
"Fine," he grumbled.
"Oh, Gil, it was an accident and he feels terrible so don't be grumpy, okay? Besides, the food has come."
"Okay," he said. She hooked her arm in his and walked him back to the table. The team had smartly rearranged so that Greg and Grissom could sit on the two ends, furthest apart. Greg was silent for most of the meal. After the bill was paid and everyone full and sleepy, they all got into their cars and went home to get some sleep.
"Wanna come over?" Catherine asked, standing in the open door of his car. He put on his sunglasses and made an elaborate show of looking at his wrist watch. "Tomorrow is your day off, Gil." she pointed out.
"Not yours," he said. "You get to be me."
"I'll be fine." she said. He nodded his consent and they drove to Catherine's house. Even with his air conditioning, Grissom was sweating by the time he pulled into Catherine's driveway, their SUVs blinding in the summer sun. It was so bright that he tried not to look directly at anything. The air inside Catherine's house was stale and warm and she wasted no time in turning on several fans.
"It's a scorcher out there," she said, pulling two bottles of water out of her refrigerator and handing one to him. "Pool?"
"Pool." he agreed. Just as Catherine kept clothes at Grissom's house, Grissom kept his swim trunks at Catherine's, the only pool he ever swam in. Her pool was on the small side but it was cold and clean and she liked to wear these tiny bathing suits and he was always happy about that. His trunks were long and black and non-descript and he remembered a time that his belly didn't hang over the waste band but he ate badly and was a workaholic instead of taking time to exercise. He wasn't in bad shape though – he was still strong. He didn't feel very self-conscious in front of Catherine though. She had known him when he was skinny and she knew him now and her attitude had yet to change.
He changed in the bathroom while she changed in her bedroom down the hall. Catherine had never been shy about her body, obviously. She hadn't liked stripping for a living, it was a job and that was all, but it was a job she was good at and one that never made her nervous. Her very first night dancing, she'd made more money than some of the girls who'd been there for a year. She was a natural beauty, and the natural beauty would always beat out the plastic beauty.
Now she came down the hall in a bikini that was small and black, rubbing sunscreen into her freckled arms. She'd pulled her hair into a pile on the top of her head and tossed him the sunscreen.
"On every inch, whitey." she said. He rolled his eyes and started to meticulously apply the white lotion everywhere he could reach. He didn't ask her to do his back though; he was too shy. They didn't bother with towels; it was hot enough that they would dry in a few minutes. Outside, the concrete burned his feet. Catherine went to the deep end and jumped in. Grissom, amused at this, went to the steps and stuck his toe in. It wasn't too cold but he knew it would be the deeper he got. He stepped onto the first step and then the second. The sun on his shoulders felt nice against the contrast of cool water swirling around his toes.
Catherine surfaced and with a few strokes was standing only a few feet from him in the shallow end of the pool.
"We do this every time," she said, her gesturing hands sending ripples out in the water. "Just jump in! It's painless."
"I prefer a slow immersion." he said.
"It takes you forever!" she whined.
"You're very pretty," he said. The water was glistening on her pink shoulders and her waist dipped in and then out again as her hips swelled. She was still in amazing shape.
"You're trying to distract me from my irritation." she said. She walked up to him and took his hands in hers. "Thank you though." He knew what was coming and didn't resist. She pulled his hands and they both went tumbling back into the water. It was cold only for a moment and then felt wonderful.
"Nice," he said.
"See?" she said, exasperated.
"Yes, dear." he agreed, wiping the water from his face. They swam for almost two hours before exhaustion took over and they stumbled inside to collapse on the couch. Catherine had a big couch, one that curved around the coffee table so one could sit facing the television or the back yard. Catherine took the smaller section and let Grissom sprawl out on the longer one. When they were all stretched out, their feet touched. Grissom fell asleep.
He woke up in the late afternoon. Catherine wasn't on the couch and so he sat up, still foggy with sleep. His limbs felt heavy and sticky with sweat. Catherine wasn't outside, wasn't in the kitchen and the bathroom door was ajar. He wandered down the hall. The house was sedate with quite – the whir of the fans was the only thing he heard, the slight movement of air on his naked chest, the feel of her carpet on his feet. He stumbled a little, his hand against the wall.
Lindsey's room was empty and clean – her closet mostly empty, her pink bedspread smooth over her pillow. At the end of the hall was Catherine's room. The door was ajar and he saw her legs at the foot of the bed. She was asleep, her face pressed deeply into her pillow. He leaned against the door frame for a moment. She hadn't changed out of her bathing suit because in weather like this, the less clothes the better. Catherine rolled over and moaned, startling him. Her eyes fluttered open.
"Gil?" she asked. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he murmured, stepping into her room. "I woke up."
"Come here," she said. He stumbled into her room and sat on the foot of the bed. She gasped, her hand reaching out to touch the angry red skin on his back – the place the sunscreen hadn't reached. He had burned and Catherine realized the glaze over his eyes was a fever – a reaction to the burn. "Your back," she said. "Stay here," she said as she crawled off the bed and went into the bathroom. She came back with a bottle of green gel – aloe. "I told you to put sunscreen everywhere."
"Sorry," he said. She squeezed some into her hand and started spreading the cooling gel on his red blotches.
"Why didn't you ask me to help you?" she asked. He breathed in harshly.
"I didn't even realize that it hurt until now," he said. She took her now room temperature bottle of water from the night stand and handed it to him. He took a long drink and handed it back.
"Lay on your stomach so you don't get that all over my sheets." she said, and he complied, putting his face on her pillow. It smelled like her hair. "You grew up in California and have lived here for years. How do you not know about sunburns?"
"Sorry," he murmured again, his eyes closing. She sighed, and put more aloe on her hands and rubbed it into his back. "That's nice."
"I'm glad you think so." she said, getting up to wash her hands. She came back and lay next to him, careful not to be close enough to touch him. She had a queen sized bed so there was plenty of room for the both of them but sleeping so near was not something they usually did. Catherine slept in the guest room or Grissom crashed on the couch but seeing how he was so out of it, she didn't bother to send him away and it was, after all her bed. Who cares if they were wearing next to nothing?
Grissom, had he been himself, would have been alternately celebrating and panicking to find that he was in Catherine's bed with Catherine but instead he could do nothing but let his muddled brain collapse back into sleep. They both woke to the blaring of Catherine's alarm – set so she could go to work. Catherine woke first and tried to sit up so she could reach across Grissom to smack the snooze button but found her movement impeded by the dead weight of Grissom's arm. He'd, in his sleep, shifted and tried to draw Catherine closer to him. She lifted his arm and tried not to read into it – told herself that it was nothing but the need of basic human contact.
She turned off the alarm and turned on a lamp for the sun had set. Grissom sat up, dazed, as Catherine put on her light robe.
"I have to get ready for work," she said, kindly. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine," Grissom was shy in the soft light of this intimate bedroom scene. Catherine was tousled and lovely and he felt a jealous pang that he did not actually belong in the moment he was living. "I'll go."
"Okay," Catherine said. "I'll call you later." She uncharacteristically rose on her toes and kissed his cheek. He dressed, putting his clothes on and leaving his trunks on her washing machine. He drove home and was restless – he didn't get many days off and had to talk himself out of going into the lab several times. Instead he stayed in with the TV on for company. He wrote Lindsey a quick note and put it in to a box with a puzzle he had picked up for her. She liked to get mail at camp and he usually sent something once a week. He addressed it and put it near the door so he would remember to take it to the post office in the morning. Catherine called once, just for a minute, to tell him some lab results and to say hello.
Three weeks had gone by since they'd taken Lindsey to camp. The tension that had risen between him and Catherine since the day in the pool had died down a little and they slipped back into their easy friendship. Everyone, one evening, was in the break room waiting for assignments when Grissom came in.
"Slow night," he said, holding up a sheet of paper. "Single, who wants it?" Sara snatched it out of his hand before anyone could blink. She smiled smugly and breezed out of the room.
"It's the heat, man, it makes everyone lazy." Warrick said, putting his feet up on the table.
"I feel like killing someone, I can't believe no one else does," Greg muttered, opening a can of Red Bull noisily.
"Greg!" Catherine exclaimed.
"Sorry," he muttered, slurping. "I'll go see if Mia needs any help." He obviously wanted to escape the break room.
"Why don't you boys go home," Grissom said. "On call, of course,"
"Don't ask me twice," Nick said, and he and Warrick high-tailed it out of the lab.
"Just you and me," Catherine said.
"And backlogged paper work," Grissom added.
"How do you always have paper work piled up? You are always suckering me into helping you." she exclaimed.
"Because I always don't do it," he said, amused. "And I don't always ask for your help."
"Jackpot?" she reminded him. "Piles and piles while you frolicked around in the boonies?"
"One, I seldom frolic. Two, I already apologized for that." he said. "Come on, we can use the layout room." She groaned but got off the couch to follow him. A few hours in, Sara returned to join the ranks – her case had been easily solved. Grissom sent Greg out on a robber.
"You could have sent me out," Catherine grumbled. The icing on the cake was the onslaught of cases that came in with the sun, all for the day shift. "That's just evil."
"Come on," Grissom smirked. "You need a drink."
"Boy, do I," she agreed. "A nice one in a pretty hotel."
"Yes ma'am." he said. He drove them to the strip and when she pointed to a hotel that she wanted, she parked. They sat in the bar for about an hour. Grissom had some light beer, maybe two, and Catherine had dry martinis. Grissom liked to watch her pop the wet, green olives into her mouth. He liked the way her jaw moved as she chewed, he liked how fidgety she was in her chair.
"Hey, do you want to take a walk or something?" she asked.
"It's 103 degrees out."
"Well," she said. "Come over."
"Why don't you come to my place? I have air conditioning." he said. He was still uncertain about Catherine's place, the things that had happened there. He didn't want to go in her pool or pass by her bedroom. He didn't want to feel Catherine's plush carpet against his bare feet. He didn't need to persuade her much.
"That's fine," she said. When their waitress passed by, he asked for the bill and paid with cash. Catherine fiddled with the radio the whole drive home, never happy with the song until Grissom slowly reached out and turned it off.
"Sorry," she said, immediately.
"Why are you so fidgety tonight?" he asked, concerned.
"I don't know. Pent up energy from the slow shift, maybe, and the alcohol and being here." she shrugged.
"Here in the car?"
"With you," she said, quietly. She rolled down the window muttering about the heat, the stifling air. Grissom had the fan on, but not the a/c. They weren't far from home. Grissom did turn on the house's air conditioning when they got in. Catherine's face was flushed from the heat and the martinis.
"Let's order a pizza. We need some food." he said. She disappeared into the bathroom while he ordered. She splashed cool water onto her face while Grissom's voice floated through the closed door, muted. Things felt different, today. She was acutely uncomfortable in Grissom's presence. She'd been acting as she always had but she didn't feel the same as she always had. When she closed her eyes to sleep, she felt the phantom weight of his arm across her midsection. It was as if he had pressed all the feelings she'd been hiding for years out of her. She had decided that either she had to have all of Grissom or nothing. This closeness hurt. Grissom was a man to build a life with and she had done nothing but waste time.
She left the bathroom.
"Cath, I'm going to run to the corner store and pick up some water bottles." he said, looking into his open refrigerator. "Maybe a two-liter of diet. Do you want to come?"
"Nah," she said. He nodded.
"I'll be back in a few minutes." he promised and slipped out the door. She heard his motor start and fade away. His house was quiet, empty, and the urge came over her swiftly, intensely. Grissom's room, the secret garden – forbidden and exotic. His door was ajar, barely, and she pushed it so it swung hard, the door knob banged against the way, causing her to wince. She had expected the room to be dark like the rest of his house but the walls were bright and white. He had a beige comforter, white sheets. There were a few framed pictures on his walls – one of his mother, some mounted white moths, and surprisingly, a picture of Lindsey, age four. Catherine had given him the picture in the frame once and been sore for weeks because he didn't put it into his office. She flushed with guilt. She missed her daughter.
His dresser was a light wood, maple, maybe. His cologne sat on top, and was reflected in the vanity mirror. There was a chair with a pillow and a pair of slacks on them near a potted plant. One of the walls gave way to a mirrored closet, and then, the bathroom. She took a tentative step in. She wouldn't open anything, she promised herself. She would not violate his privacy so severely. She peered into the bathroom to see a deep tub, beige towels. His razor sat beside the sink, now rarely used. There was a white scale. She reached out and touched the towel tentatively. She moved back into the room and picked up the bottle of cologne. Lifting the metal cap, she inhaled. It wasn't exactly Grissom's smell but it was definitely part of the equation. Grissom hadn't always worn cologne but being around murder all day made a person want to smell something other than death. She understood that.
"I would have shown you, if you'd asked." His voice came from behind her. She spun around to face him, mortified. He had a paper bag in one hand, against his hip, and she'd been so absorbed she didn't hear him come in.
"Oh, Gil, I," she stopped. "I'm sorry."
"Not much to see."
"I was curious." she admitted.
"Is it what you expected?" he asked. She pointed to the picture of Lindsey on the wall. He smiled. "She's beautiful, isn't she?"
"Yeah, she really is." she agreed. He stepped away from the door allowing her to sheepishly exit the room. In the kitchen, she watched him put away the beverages. "Did I mention that I was sorry?"
"I don't have anything to hide from you." he assured her.
"Even still," she said.
"I saw your room." he reminded her. "I slept in your bed." She blushed at the memory. He moved to set the table and she stopped him.
"Let me," she said and he did, leaning against the counter to watch her move comfortably around his kitchen – she was familiar with where he kept everything having spent so much time there. The doorbell rang as she was filling their glasses with ice. "There is cash in my purse," she called but he ignored her and paid the young man at the door. He set the pizza on the table, the box steaming.
"I put olives on your half," he said. She smiled, because he already knew what she liked. They ate – Grissom wasn't much of a talker when food was involved. He ate his pizza with a fork and a knife – he was kind of a nerd.
"I should go." she said. "I'll help you clean up, and then I should go."
"You could stay," he said, impulsively.
"I could." she agreed. "Are you tired?"
"Are you?" he asked.
"Just stay." he said. "Summer is short, so you should stay." He was so earnest, his face so hopeful.
"Okay," she said. "I can stay." He smiled, and they started to clean up. It took only a few minutes of loading the dishwasher and turning it on. Catherine stood at the sink, washing her hands and Grissom came up behind her, and put his hands on her shoulders. She stilled. Her hands were soapy, the water running. She exhaled.
"Catherine," he murmured, and pushed the curtain of her hair over one shoulder so her neck was partially exposed. She breathed in. Shaking, she thrust her hands under the water and turned the faucet off. Grissom leaned down and put his lips against the skin of her neck. She tensed and then relaxed, her hands rested against the porcelain lip of the sink, the small strip of counter. It was a chaste kiss, short, and he pulled away.
"Dry your hands," he ordered in a low, rough voice. She complied, drying them on a dishtowel. "Turn around." She did this, too. Now they were facing one another and there were only inches of space between them. Catherine was outrageously nervous and Grissom could see it. He smiled at her faintly to show her everything would be okay. He repeated his earlier motion; leaned down and kissed the same spot on her neck, but it was much more thrilling with him coming from the front. She felt his beard against her skin and he set his hands lightly on her waist, just at the beginning of the swell of her hips. He was a little more thorough this time. He touched the tip of his tongue against her skin for a taste and then pulled back again, far too soon in Catherine's opinion. Her eyes, at some point, had closed and she opened them now to look up at him.
"Hi," she said.
"Hello," he greeted. She smiled at him and he stepped back.
"Was that why you wanted me to say?" she asked. "To do that?"
"I always want to do that." he confessed. She stepped closer to him and this time it was he who was nervous. She tilted her head and kissed his neck in the same place he'd kissed hers. His skin vibrated as he exhaled a shaky breath. His skin was warm and salty and she sucked in a bit between her teeth.
"Catherine," he said, stilling her. "What are we doing?"
"Kissing," she answered. She sounded so sure of herself and Grissom always marveled at her confidence. She captured his lips now and they had their first, real kiss. The kitchen was quiet except for the smacking of their lips. When their tongues touched, Grissom's phone rang. Catherine tried to stop, to step back so that he could answer but Grissom was in no mood to answer the phone and held her in place with his arms right around her. In fact, he started to move her out of the kitchen and to the sofa so she could at least sit on the arm of the couch for a little support – her legs were getting wobbly. Vaguely, Catherine heard the machine pick up and Grissom's voice requesting a message and the beep.
"Hey Griss, it's Sara." The sound of the younger CSI's voice only made Catherine kiss him with more fervor. "I know it's my night off tomorrow and that I'm maxed out on overtime but I was hoping to come in and work on…" Catherine stopped listening when Grissom pulled her shirt out of her pants and slid his hands up against her hot skin. She could hardly think straight. For as conventional as Grissom often was, he could do amazing things with his mouth. She, not wanting to be left behind, started on his buttons of his shirt. Pushing it off, she raked her nails across his back – that made him arch and shove her back onto the couch so he could lower himself over her. She pulled off her own shirt before he could trap her beneath him.
"Wow," he said, looking down at her see through bra, pink and embroidered with roses. "That's pretty."
"Thanks," she chuckled. It was good to know Grissom was going to turn out to be a lingerie man because she had a lot of it. His hand was tentative as he reached out to cup one of her breasts. "That's good," she encouraged him. She arched a little so he could reach behind her and unhook the garment. He spent several minutes on each breast with his tongue and teeth and somehow managed to get her out of his pants.
She was pulling his belt out of his belt loops when the door bell rang.
"Holy mother of God," Catherine growled. "Don't get it."
"I have to," he said, standing and stomping over to the door. She, in nothing but a sheer pink thong, leapt up and put on Grissom's button down shirt before he could angrily fling open the door. He was bare foot and shirtless, but apparently he didn't care. She hung back, fastening all the buttons.
"Hey, I…" Sara stood at the door with her mouth hanging open at the sight of her flushed and disheveled boss. "Didn't you get my message?"
Catherine tried to remember through the fog of arousal. The phone rang, she said something about overtime and… she hadn't really paid attention but had a vague memory of Sara saying she would swing by with a file or something. Damn.
"This couldn't have waited until the shift?" Grissom said, taking the brown folder from her hands forcefully.
"You just… you'd said you wanted the results as soon as they were processed," Sara said, her nerve faltering. "Are you okay?" Catherine couldn't really resist and so she walked to the door, and stood behind Grissom. Sara's already open mouth doubled in size.
"Thanks, Sara, I think we can take it from here." She said, with a fake smile. Sara's mouth snapped shut and her eyes narrowed at the sight of what was obviously Grissom's shirt wrapped around Catherine's small form. Without another word, Sara spun around and marched back to her car. Catherine pushed the door closed.
"Catherine," he said.
"Yell at me later," she pleaded, pulling the shirt up over her head. "Gil, later!"
"Yeah," he said, and pulled her toward him once again.
Usually, Grissom spent the week or weekend of his birthday back in the Denali with Catherine driving to pick up Lindsey. He didn't mind, after turning 40, his birthdays had stopped being exciting and started being a reminder of his mortality. In his line of work, he didn't need anymore reminders that death was inevitable. Catherine always tried to talk him into a party or at least a nice dinner, but he always convinced her that all he wanted to was stay in.
His birthday fell on a Thursday this year, and it was the same week as Nick's birthday so Catherine brought in a cake to the break room, a big chocolate sheet cake with vanilla frosting that read 'Happy Birthday Nick and Grissom!' and had airplanes and balloons on it, like it was meant for a child. It never took long for food to disappear from the break room. The cake was gone by mid-shift and some how Catherine doubted Grissom had even eaten a piece.
Last year, Sara had purchased pointy birthday hats for Nick and Grissom but this year Sara was still sore – at Grissom, yes, for breaking her heart (again and again) but more so at Catherine for instigating it. Still, Catherine had never cared whether some one liked her or not and Sara was far from the exception.
"I feel bad," Grissom said, sitting in his office with Catherine. It had been several weeks since their relationship came into the open and it had changed almost nothing. Other than Sara's sour attitude, no one cared. The work was the same. "I could never be what she wanted."
"You can't feel guilty for living your life." Catherine said.
"I don't," he assured her. "I'm very happy."
"Me too." she agreed.
"Still, I need to do something for her. She's a good CSI and I don't want the lab to lose her. Especially to the Feds."
"No, I don't either." Catherine groaned. "You could always send her a plant."
"Ha, ha." he said dryly. She shrugged and left him to think in his office.
Grissom waited until Catherine was out working a scene before he tracked down Sara in the trace lab. They'd barely spoken since the day she'd arrived on his doorstep to find him and Catherine in various states of undress.
"Hi," Grissom said, startling her in the trace lab. "Do you have a minute?"
"Sure," she said, waving to the tech and following him into his office; he shut the door. "What's up?" she asked.
"I owe you an apology," he said. "I'm sorry about the way you found out about Catherine and me."
"We don't have to do this," she said, holding up her hand.
"I think we do," he said. "I value not only your CSI skills but your friendship as well."
"I'm not leaving," she said. "That's what you're worried about, isn't it?" He didn't reply, just looked at her steadily. "It's always been Catherine, Grissom. That was never a secret."
"No, I guess it wasn't." he said. "Thank you, Sara."
"Right," she said, and let herself out.
Sunday morning, they were back in the Denali. Grissom was once again behind the wheel and Catherine was in the passenger's seat wearing a pretty white, eyelet dress and white heels. Grissom kept his hand on her leg as they drove. Usually this drive was solemn – a palpable sense of something ending. The summer was almost over and usually that meant that Catherine was no longer available for Grissom's constant consumption. But now they weren't hiding anymore. They were just picking up Lindsey, a simple act.
"What if she doesn't want me around all the time?" Grissom asked, suddenly.
"One, not her choice, two, she adores you." Catherine said. "She always asks after you when you're away for too long."
"Okay," he said, reassured. Catherine sang along to the radio as Lake Mead passed by. The camp was on the far side of the lake and the breeze off the water was cool. Catherine rolled the window down and let her arm stick out, riding the wind.
Parents and children milled around the campgrounds, searching for one another. Grissom pulled into a parking space and exited the car. He walked around swiftly and opened Catherine's door for her. She smiled at him, just as pleased as she was amused. The parking lot was filled with children yelling their goodbyes to their friends and dragging their duffle bags across the asphalt. Grissom didn't see Lindsey right away. Catherine shielded her hands with her eyes, searching. As soon as she had exited the car, all eyes had been on her – she was beautiful by every standard and the strapless white dress only made her skin creamier and her hair more brilliantly red. She took Grissom's hand and he felt a surge of pride.
"Mom!" Lindsey yelled, running up to her mother and hugging her. A group on girls looked over, their eyes narrowed and rolling. The prettiest girl at camp had the prettiest mother, and the jealousy was obvious. When Lindsey was finished hugging her mother, she threw her arms around Grissom.
"Hi princess," Grissom said. "Did you have fun?"
"Yeah!" she said. He put her things into the car for her while she clambered inside and soon they were on the road again. Lindsey chattered endlessly about her friends, about boys, and the games they played. Catherine was happy to listen and to ask the occasional question. Finally, Lindsey paused.
"So what did you guys do while I was gone?" Lindsey asked.