Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: She was still gripping the steering wheel tightly, her engine still running. He feared that at any moment, she would just shift her car into drive and speed away. [sequel to As Luck Would Have It; Catherine/Vartann; Post Crow's Feet
Luck Had Nothing To Do With It
What he had thought to be a random occurrence had transformed itself into some kind of weekly routine. At the end of each week, he went to pump gas at his usual pit stop and low and behold, there she was staring intently at the cigarettes in the vending machine. He would always join her, joking about the Slim Jims. They would pump their gas and then part ways.
Each time, he wondered if that would be their last 'random encounter'. Each time, he thought back on the first time he found her there.
Seeing Catherine Willows at a dingy gas station just outside of Vegas, completely bewildered and jaded after a harsh encounter with her ex-boyfriend wasn't something he could've planned. No, of course not, but he soon discovered that finding her there had been all about timing, not luck.
"I get my gas here all the time," she had told him one week, not too long ago.
So no, it wasn't luck. Just perfect timing, as she always put it.
Perfect timing. He checked his watch. His timing was a little off today, he supposed. She wasn't here yet and he began to wonder that maybe it wasn't about timing at all. Maybe it was luck.
The word 'luck' had a nice ring to it and if he had to be honest with himself, he sure did feel lucky that day he found her there, standing alone. What he gave Catherine during their brief time together was something he hadn't been able to give anyone in quite a long time. He gave her comfort. He gave her friendship. Most importantly, he hoped he had given her the promise of love.
Love. How could he be in love? Well, he wasn't, really. He hadn't been in love with anyone for a very long time, but from what he could tell, neither had she. She might have been dating Chris Bezich, but to say she was in love with that two-timing bastard would be foolhardy.
He checked his watch again. He must be early.
Or maybe she just didn't need to buy gas today.
It was silly of him to think that maybe meeting her here every week was more than just happenstance. Maybe it was silly of him to think that she enjoyed 'running into him' at the pumps, sharing with him some of the respites of her day. Casually promising to grab another drink or two, but never following through. Maybe he was just a silly, lonely man putting his hopes into a thing he couldn't even name, hoping she felt the same way too. It was silly to think . . .
That's when his luck turned around and her car bumped up the curb, slowly and cautiously. She pulled up alongside his vehicle, rolled down her window and gave him a small smile before greeting him. "Hey, Tony."
Vartann smiled back, happy to see a familiar face. More importantly happy to see her face. "Hey, Catherine."
"I almost didn't show up today," she admitted sheepishly. "To be honest, I filled up my tank yesterday so I wouldn't have to show up today."
"So, why did you show up then?" he asked quietly.
She was still gripping the steering wheel tightly, her engine still running. He feared that at any moment, she would just shift her car into drive and speed away. She didn't pull away, though, much to his delight. In fact, she got out of her car and stood toe-to-toe with him. She was biting her bottom lip in thought, just watching him. He took this time to unabashedly gawk back.
With a deep sigh, she told him honestly, "I had gotten used to seeing your face."
She laughed at her own answer, looking away from him now that a slight pink had warmed her cheeks. She muttered, "Silly, huh?"
With his index finger, he gently tilted her face up by her chin and shook his head. "No. Not silly at all." He reluctantly pulled his hand away from her face, shoving it in a pocket. He glanced around, then admitted, "I don't need gas either, actually."
She was smiling at him again. "No? Then why did you show up?"
"Oh, I don't know," he stalled for a moment, watching the briefest hints of disappointment flash across her features. He finished his answer confidently. "I guess I had gotten used to seeing your face."
Now her smile was a full blown grin. A contagious chuckle was emitting from her as well and he couldn't help but laugh right along with her. She playfully patted his forearm and motioned for him to follow her. "C'mon, let's go somewhere."
"A drink?" he asked.
She thought for a moment, then shook her head. "No. How about coffee? My place?"
"I would like that," he said. He retrieved his keys from his pocket, but was hesitant to leave her side just yet. They were still holding a rather close proximity to one another. He was enjoying that closeness immensely. Studying the soft features of her face and finding more reasons to get lost in her eyes was a nice bonus.
"Tony?" she called him, breaking him from his haze.
"I'm sorry," he said, now his turn to feel bashful. "I get caught up in. . .Well, what I mean to say is that I sometimes. . ." He shook his head. He couldn't get the words out. Look at him! Prattling on like a teenager! He took a deep breath and let it all out in one go, "What I mean is, I think you're beautiful."
She stared at him askance, her eyes softening at the compliment. He sensed that his words held a deeper meaning for her, but he wasn't quite sure why. She brushed the back of her hand against his cheek and replied, "You're not too bad yourself, Detective."
He chuckled. "So, you think I'm beautiful?"
"Well, if I didn't, would I show up at a gas station where I normally wouldn't buy gas just to see you?" she posed thoughtfully.
He frowned slightly. "I thought you said you got gas here all the time."
She gave him a knowing smile. "Let's get going. Coffee won't make itself."
She didn't give him a chance to reply, getting back into her car and shutting the door. Seeing he was about to be left behind, he jogged back to his car and got in.
Luck or no luck, he would be damned to let a woman like Catherine Willows get away from him.