DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Assignment
By Ann


Round 1

I stride down the corridor heading for Grissom's office. I can't believe the e-mail he's sent me. I'm so pissed off that I don't bother knocking as I enter his door.

"What the hell are you thinking? There is no way I can leave my current case load to be on loan to the FBI. And why do they need someone from our office? They have their own forensics team."

Grissom sits behind his desk patiently waiting for me to end my tirade before responding. "They have requested a female CSI from our office. It seems they have been tracking a serial rapist for months and he has apparently taken up residence in our fine city. It also

appears that he has escalated to murder. The FBI is aware of our lab's reputation and would like to take advantage of our resources."

I can't believe he is seriously considering sending me when I am so close to solving my latest case. There has to be a way to work this out that does not involve me, and at the same time, pacifies the FBI. Perhaps I can draw attention away from me and shift it to the lab. "Okay, fine. Let them take advantage of our lab resources. The technicians can run DNA and all the other tests. They don't need one of us to collect the evidence."

Let's see if that sound piece of advice gets me anywhere. Uh oh, I know I'm in trouble when he takes off his glasses to clean the lenses. He only does this when he's confused about something, stalling for time, or trying to placate someone. "Sara, I really need you to do this. Ecklie has already signed off on the request."

Well that answers that question, but it does raise another. "What about Catherine? She's a female and she works well in this type of situation."

Oh crap. He's raising his eyebrow now. Nothing good ever comes from this. "Actually, Ecklie is trying very hard to impress these guys so he's giving them both of you."

As I open my mouth to reply, Catherine breezes in waving a sheet of paper and yelling "What the hell are you thinking?" I just take a seat and allow Hurricane Catherine to take over.

We are now traveling down the road to the FBI command center. Catherine hasn't said a word since we left CSI headquarters. Ecklie showed up in the middle of her heated discussion with Grissom and she immediately turned her attention to him. I think she may have gone a little too far with the "whoring us out" statement. I have never seen Ecklie turn that shade of red before. Needless to say, Catherine and I are officially assigned to the FBI until they have a suspect in custody or he moves to another location.

We never did find out why female officers were requested. I sure hope they aren't planning on using us as bait. I tried that once and it's not something I want to do again in the near future. I contemplate bringing up the subject, but Catherine is still in the

pissed off mode.

I can't stand this silence. What can we talk about that will be considered a safe subject? Let's see—not the lab, not the weather, not her latest boy toy, and definitely not Grissom or Ecklie. How about Lindsey? I guess I can give it a try. "Well Cath, at least we get to work days for awhile and you can see more of Lindsey." She almost smiles at that, but she evidently wants to hold onto her current mood. Oh boy, I sure hope we get there soon.


Round 2

As we drive up to the designated location, I notice there are very few cars in the parking lot. I begin to wonder if Catherine has made a mistake, but there is no way I'm questioning her directional skills. Instead I get out of the Denali and wait for her to do the same. After several minutes, I walk around to her side of the SUV and open the door. She's just sitting there staring at the building. I carefully ask, "Catherine, are you okay? Um, don't you think we need to go inside and meet with these people?"

She turns her head and looks at me with a confused look on her face. Okay, maybe we are at the wrong building. Before I can open my mouth, Catherine's body language quickly changes. She steps out of the car and with her head held high she purposefully strides toward the building leaving me gawking at her. Now, I am the one who seems confused, but damn she's sexy when she takes control. Whoa, Catherine sexy? Where did that come from? I think I'll need to contemplate that later. Right now, I better get my ass in gear and get moving before she notices that I've been checking her out.

I use my longer strides to catch up and as we approach the door I hear a clicking noise which sounds suspiciously like the locks on the door disengaging. I open the door for her to enter and she smirks at me before saying, "My, my chivalry isn't dead after all." My face turns as red as Eclkie's as I follow her inside to a huge empty foyer.

When I say empty, I truly mean empty. Not one single person, stick of furniture, artwork, or even a door can be seen. There's me, Catherine, and the four walls. This is beginning to feel as if I'm in some sort of twilight zone episode. Oh shit, I hear that clicking sound again. The locks on the door must have engaged again because the door won't open when I push against it. Catherine must be sharing the same eerie feeling because without a word she has decided to help me try to open the door. I'm not saying that we are panicking but the need to get out of here is evident. Just as we are almost to the banging and kicking stage, there is some sort of sliding noise behind us. When we turn, the wall is opening up and a six foot woman with short blonde hair wearing black jeans, a black shirt, and black boots is emerging.

I instinctively step in front of Catherine to shield her from possible danger. I put my hand on my gun as she walks toward us. From the smirk on her face, I think she finds my gesture somewhat amusing. As I open my mouth to confront her, she looks at both of us and says in a velvety voice, "Ms. Willows and Ms. Sidle I presume?"

After being caught off guard both from this newcomer's unusual entrance and the presence she exudes, Catherine and I can only look at the amazon and nod. She then continues with, "I am Special Agent Maggie Wilkins of the FBI. I am very pleased that you have agreed to meet with me today. That homophobic half-brother of mine sure came through this time. Conrad said you two were ideal for this assignment—the perfect femme and the perfect butch. Why don't the two of you follow me into the briefing room? We can hash out all the details there." Catherine and I just stand there glued to the spot.


Round 3

After what seems like minutes later, Catherine looks at me with those blue eyes blazing and says, "Sara, have you ever heard of Rocky Mountain Oysters?" I look back at her as if she's lost her mind. What does a fried delicacy made from bull testicles have to do with her being the perfect femme and me the perfect butch? She evidently meant this as a rhetorical question since she answers with, "I am going to vary the recipe using Ecklie's balls instead. What do you think I should call it?" I'm just thankful that I'm a vegetarian at this point.

Before I can try to steer her back to our current dilemma, Agent Wilkins sticks her head through the "wall" to see what is keeping us. I finally get Catherine to head for the hole in the wall by convincing her that we have plenty of time to come up with a name for her soon to be famous recipe.

Once we are settled around a table in the briefing room, I decide there is a serious lack of communication going on between all the parties involved in this fiasco. I am going to set the record straight, so to speak.

"Agent Wilkins, I think you should know that Catherine and I were sent here under false pretenses. We were told that you would need us to collect evidence and be the liaison between the FBI and the Las Vegas Crime Lab. Not once were the terms femme or butch used. And no offense to you, but Conrad Ecklie is an asshole of the nth degree. His picture really should be in the dictionary next to the definition." Catherine snorts at the asshole reference before she asks "What exactly is the situation? And why are you in the need of femme and butch services?"

"I would appreciate it if you would call me Maggie. Agent Wilkins is a little formal. I truly apologize to both of you. I was under the impression that you both understood the assignment and were willing participants. I am going to hang Conrad upside down from his balls for this." I can't help but add "Hey Catherine, maybe Maggie can help you with your recipe?" We both burst out laughing while Maggie looks on.

After explaining the recipe reference, we are back on track. Maggie has opened several files for us to read. The FBI definitely has a huge problem. Somewhere out there is a man who is looking for lesbians involved in a femme/butch relationship. He targets femmes who have children and makes the assumption that because she has children she was once in a happy relationship with a man.

According to several profilers, this man believes that the butch has "turned" an otherwise healthy heterosexual into her femme partner. He will follow the femme for weeks before he somehow sedates her, takes her to a secluded location, and rapes her repeatedly for days. None of the victims have ever seen his face or have any idea where they were taken. They awaken tied up and blindfolded. He explains that he is merely reminding them how good sex is with a man so that they can repent their evil ways and go back to a normal life.

Before moving to Vegas, the man changed his MO drastically. He kidnapped the butch instead and killed her after days of rape and torture. The victim was a police officer and the profilers are uncertain what triggered the man to choose her and then kill her. He is believed to be an individual in his later thirties whose wife apparently left him for another woman. The man thinks he is saving his wife with each abduction. Since arriving in Vegas, he has gone back to his original MO and has struck twice.

I put the files down and look across the table at Catherine. She is still engrossed in her reading. I know why we are here. We are going to be asked to go undercover to try to trap this guy. There is no way I am going to agree to anything that will put Catherine in danger. What have we done to offend Ecklie that he so readily agreed to put us in this kind of situation? I can understand why he doesn't care for me, but why would he do this to Catherine? I look back at Catherine. She is staring back at me with such intensity that I am certain she will agree to almost anything to get this guy. Regardless when this is all over, Ecklie is going to have to get used to being a soprano.


Round 4

Maggie begins to brief us on the "original" assignment. The one we were supposed to have heard from Ecklie. The one Grissom is unaware of as well because there is no way he would have agreed to this. We have all just gotten back together as a team. He would never put one of us in jeopardy.

Maggie has finally said the words. She wants Catherine and me to pose as partners. I would have to move into Catherine's house immediately. We would temporarily move to the day shift so that we'd be free to frequent gay clubs a couple of evenings during the week and it would be easier to keep surveillance on us during the day. She wants us to take 24 hours to decide. If we choose to go through with it then a more complete plan will be devised.

I feel like I'm in one of those "Mission Impossible" episodes. I can just hear the taped message "Sara, if you choose to accept this assignment, you or Catherine can be raped and/or murdered. Some homophobic psycho will target one or possibly both of you. The two of you will have to work as a team and you will basically be on your own. This tape will self destruct in 30 seconds. Good luck." I know my answer, but I think I know Catherine's answer as well.

Maggie walks us out and informs us we will be contacted at CSI headquarters tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. for our decision. As we get in the car to leave, Catherine turns to me and says, "We have to sit down and talk about this before discussing anything with Gil or the rest of the team. This is between you and me. It is our decision alone to make. Lindsey is at her aunt's for the evening, so how about coming over to my house? We can have some dinner and discuss this possible assignment."

I nod my assent and we drive to Catherine's house in silence. It is funny how on the ride over I couldn't stand the quiet and now I welcome it. How are we going to pull this off if we decide to accept? I'm not worried about the butch aspect. I've got the clothes, the leather, the boots, and the attitude. Hell, I even have a Harley under a tarp back at my apartment. And Catherine will definitely have no problem coming across as a femme. It's when you put the butch and femme together as in a relationship that is going to be a major problem.

When we arrive at Catherine's I get out and go around and open the door for her. Smiling she asks, "Practicing for the butch role?" I am clearly not amused. She just smirks and says, "Come on. Let's go in. You can even help me with dinner since I'm not sure what your diet will allow you to eat." I follow her through the kitchen door. Opening the refrigerator, I see she has the ingredients for a very nice salad. Side by side we chop the lettuce, tomatos, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, and onions. I place the ingredients in the bowl and top it off with vinaigrette.

We serve ourselves and have a seat at the table. Catherine has added cheese and ham to her salad and has opened a bottle of wine. I decide to forego the wine and stick with water. We silently begin eating before Catherine decides to address the situation. "Sara, I have mixed emotions about our involvement in this case. I think I have more questions than answers which make it very difficult to come to a decision. I have to wonder how come the FBI has not tried to set up a trap for this guy before and what makes us so special that they have chosen us?" I can't help but mutter, "because we're the perfect butch and femme, remember?"


Round 5

After a couple of hours of both calm and heated discussion, we have decided to give it a go or rather Catherine will not take no for an answer. We still have many questions that have to be answered when we have our next meeting with Maggie. We also haven't gone into much detail as to how we're going to pull off our supposed "relationship."

Catherine is thinking of it as if she's playing a role in some movie of the week. I never have been very good at acting. I always shoot straight from the hip. Of course, the fact that I have recently come to the realization that I am attracted to Catherine should give

my acting skills a much needed boost. Problem is, will Catherine pick up on the attraction or just think I am trying to win an Emmy?

I've taken the Denali and am on my way home. We have decided to talk to Grissom at the beginning of the graveyard shift. I'll swing back by and pick up Catherine about an hour before shift. This will give us plenty of time to get to the lab and have our discussion

with Grissom since he always comes into work a couple of hours early.

As I arrive at my apartment, I find that I am restless. What I wouldn't give for a stiff drink. I just need a little something that will calm my nerves. Maybe I should have had that glass of wine at Catherine's. No, I have to keep sharp. A clouded mind is not what I need now. I have to figure out exactly how I am going to approach this… this… this… what… situation… relationship… role… fucked up assignment? Yeah, I think I'll go with the last one.

I have always approached cases rationally. I take the time to think through each aspect and only then do I act on the evidence. Grissom always says that the evidence never lies and we should only follow the evidence. There is so much that the evidence is trying to tell us though, so I try to take time to make sense of it all. I sometimes get too caught up in the emotional side and end up acting a bit irrationally during a case.

Okay, I admit it-- I go ballistic. It is never my intention to lose control but I just can't help it when rape or spousal abuse is involved. This time is different. I can't afford to lose control with this assignment. There is too much at stake. I have to keep my wits about me so that I can keep Catherine safe. I just have to come up with some sort of plan and stick to it no matter what.

After a couple of hours of contemplation, I know exactly what I'm going to do to make this assignment successful and at the same time protect Catherine. I look at the clock and note that I need to pick up Catherine within the hour. I think a nice hot shower is in order. I have one of those shower massagers that comes in handy in more ways than one. Tonight I just need it to help release the tension that has migrated to my neck and shoulders. I wonder if I should take it with me when I move in with Catherine for those times I will be in need of another kind of release.


Round 6

Catherine and I are on our way to CSI headquarters. She appears as if she has gone through the same type of inner reflection as well during the time we were apart. I wonder if she's having second thoughts. Has she taken the time to figure out how we're going to pull off the illusion of a loving couple? Does she know what will be involved? I'm certainly not going to be the one to paint her a picture. Maybe Maggie can give her a basic outline during our next meeting. Better yet, I think I'll suggest she use Google to research the topic.

I come out of my ruminations to the sound of my name being called. I turn to Catherine and she says she's been trying to get my attention for the last minute. She asks me what is going on in that head of mine and I reply that she really doesn't want to know. She just laughs and says "Sara, I believe I may have some idea. I do want you to know that I am still very much in favor of us taking on this assignment. I also realize that we still have much to discuss. But first, we have to concentrate on telling Grissom that he too has become a pawn in Ecklie's scheme."

We arrive at headquarters and immediately head for Grissom's office. As usual, he is going over reports with Vivaldi playing in the background. He looks up as we enter the door with evident surprise. "What are you two ladies doing here? I thought you were to begin day shift hours effective tomorrow."

Catherine begins to relate our situation as I take a seat. "Gil, were you aware that Ecklie did not loan us out to the FBI as crime scene investigators but rather as bait to try and catch a serial rapist who also just happens to be a homophobe? The FBI intends for Sara and I to "play house" to try to catch this guy. Oh, and did I mention that one of the victims, a police officer, was murdered?"

Grissom's face, at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale. Oh great, now I'm channeling song lyrics, but he really is extremely white. In fact, it looks like he may faint. I quickly go around the corner to the water cooler and grab a cup of water. Returning, I hand it to him and he gulps it down.

It takes a few minutes before he is finally able to speak. "I am going to kill Conrad. I told him after Nick's abduction that I wanted my team back together. There is no way I'm going to allow this to take place. I will go over his head. I will….wait a minute…what do you mean 'play house'?"

Since Catherine broke the ice, I feel obligated to take it from here. I begin with our initial meeting of Maggie describing her as Ecklie's half sister who seemed less than thrilled with their relation. I go on to tell him all about the case and our intended role. I don't think Grissom has blinked an eye during my entire explanation. He has regained his usual color and is processing everything I say.

As I wind down my assessment of the last 12 hours, Grissom seems to have formulated some sort of plan of his own. He informs us that he is going to Ecklie in the morning and will demand that Conrad contact his half-sister and insist that Brass somehow be involved in this sting operation. He also wants Archie involved in all of the technological aspects. He adds that if this agent wants to use two of his team members then he should have some control of the situation.

Grissom will brief the rest of the team tonight before handing out assignments. I tell Grissom that we will meet back here in the morning. I point out that we should go with him to confront Ecklie and provide a united front. I also casually mention that there is a recipe that Catherine is dying to share with him.


Round 7

I drive Catherine home, tell her to get some sleep, and remind her that I will pick her up at 7:00 a.m. She asks if I want to come in and talk about things, but I decline. I explain that we are both tired and need to rest before getting into any more discussions. She agrees and heads toward her door. I wait for her to get inside before I head home.

I get a warm glass of milk before going to bed. I chuckle to myself when I wonder how many butches would consider this anti-butch behavior. At the moment I could care less. The milk helps me get to sleep and I have a feeling I am going to need the extra help tonight. I sure hope I don't have any dreams or nightmares. Yeah, right.

I wake up an hour before the alarm. Talk about a bizarre dream. Ecklie standing naked in a field surrounded by bulls with me sitting on my Harley dressed in leather from head to toe looking on. Did I mention that Catherine was seated behind me--very close behind me--actually attached to me wearing the shortest leather skirt I have ever seen? There is no way I'm getting back to sleep after that vision. I decide to get up and run a couple of miles instead.

I arrive back home just as the alarm goes off. I have just enough time to shower, have some breakfast, and head over to Catherine's. She's waiting outside as I drive up and seems to be upset about something. I get out of the SUV to open the door for her. She just gets in and doesn't make her usual crack about my butch behavior. In fact she doesn't say anything. Not hello, how are you, good morning---nothing. I walk back around, get in, and buckle my seatbelt. Before starting the truck, I look over at her and ask what's wrong. She just looks at me and bursts out crying.

Oh shit, what do I do now? Catherine doesn't cry or at least I've never seen her cry. I undo my seatbelt and reach for her. She falls into my arms sobbing as I rub her back softly and tell her everything is going to be okay. Hell, I don't even know what's wrong with her. How can I promise her that things are going to be fine?

After a few minutes, she stops sobbing. I must have done something right. Now what? I pull back from her and give her a smile. She returns my smile, wipes the tears from her face, and says "Sara, I apologize for this. It's just that everything hit me at once. I have been up half the night thinking about what we are going to do. I still want to go through with this, but I'm scared."

"Catherine, I'm scared too, but don't worry. I won't let anything happen to you. I couldn't live with myself if something happened to you." Shit, did I just say that last part out loud? I must have because she has a confused look on her face. As I open my mouth to try to get out of this one, she squeezes my hand, smiles, and says, "Thank you." I stutter out a "You're welcome" while buckling up and starting the SUV.

We haven't spoken since we left Catherine's house, but she seems to be okay now. She's even smiling. Maybe she's thinking about all the different things she's planning to do to Ecklie. I am glad I'll have a front row seat.

We arrive at Grissom's office at precisely 7:30 a.m. The three of us head upstairs to eviscerate… I mean… meet with Ecklie. When we get to his office, we notice a sign on the door. Catherine races forward, reads the message, rips it off the door, and then screams at the top of her lungs. Grissom and I almost jump out of our skin.

When we ask what's wrong, she just holds up the sign for us to see--"I will be out of the office for the next ten days attending a CSI director's meeting in Miami, Fla. If you need assistance, please contact one of the shift supervisors. Sorry for any inconvenience, Conrad Ecklie." I guess his balls just got a stay of castration.


Round 8

Catherine finally cools down after drawing an obscene gesture on Ecklie's sign. Grissom suggests we head back to his office to make a list of the additions to the FBI's plan he wants to see implemented. As we approach the elevators, the doors open revealing Maggie. I introduce her to Grissom and tell her of Ecklie's sudden and suspicious departure. She explains that he has run from problems his entire life even though he was usually responsible for instigating the trouble in the first place.

Maggie apologizes to Grissom for any misunderstanding regarding the assignment. Grissom expresses his concern for our safety and asks if Maggie would mind coming down to his office and listening to a few ideas. She replies "I guess this means the two of you are accepting the assignment." We both just nod. Maggie turns to Grissom and adds, "Mr. Grissom, I would welcome any of your ideas. It's the least I can do to try to make up for Conrad's screw up."

Catherine and I stop at the break room to get a cup of coffee and to allow Maggie and Grissom time to get acquainted before our meeting. I am starting to get a little nervous as "game time" gets closer. Catherine seems to sense my discomfort and she places her hand on my arm. "Sara, everything is going to work out. You'll see. Let's get our coffee, put on our investigator faces, and head back to Gil's office." I smile at her and head for the coffeemaker. I think as long as we take turns having a crisis of faith, we'll be fine.

When we get to Grissom's office, we find the two of them in front of a whiteboard. They seem to have already mapped out some details. It looks like Brass and Archie are in. There are four names up there that I don't recognize—Erin, Jane, Sam, and Susan. My name is front and center with a line drawn to Catherine and Lindsey. Oh my God, I had forgotten all about Lindsey. She's going to be right in the middle of this mess with us. I sneak a peak at Catherine to see that she has come to the same realization.

Maggie notices us first and motions for us to move over next to the board. I begin to move forward, but Catherine is standing still, frozen in place. I take her hand and guide her toward the two of them. I decide to bite the bullet and ask "How prominent of a role will Lindsey play in all of this?"

Maggie suddenly realizes what Catherine is thinking. She moves to Catherine, takes her other hand, and says, "Catherine, the children have never been in any danger. This guy has no interest in them at all. The only purpose they serve for him is to identify their mother as a person he needs to 'save.' The women have not ever been abducted from their home. It has always been someplace else they frequent. A few were even taken from their workplace."

This seems to relax Catherine somewhat; however, Maggie continues "Erin Adams is one of my best agents. She will be assigned solely to Lindsey. When Lindsey is outside of your home, she will never leave Erin's sight. Also, Mr. Grissom informs me that Archie Johnson is one of the best audio/visual techs in the country. He is going to create a device that Lindsey will wear at all times. He will know where she is every minute." This new information seems to relieve Catherine's fears for the most part.

Maggie immediately starts outlining the next few days. First thing tomorrow morning, she and her team along with Archie will come by Catherine's to get a lay out of the house and neighborhood. Archie will install all video and audio monitoring systems both inside and outside the house.

I am to move into Catherine's house today so that I can familiarize myself with both the house plans and daily routines of Catherine and Lindsey. We will start day shift hours the day after tomorrow and run cases as usual. We will arrive early for shift each day so that we can check in with Brass and Grissom. Brass is going to be the liaison between headquarters and the FBI.

Maggie is scouting a few of the clubs she wants us to frequent. She also asks for our sizes for our new wardrobe. Wait a minute--a new wardrobe? Maybe Catherine is right. We are going to be in the movie of the week. I will draw the line at my hair though--nobody is touching my hair.


Round 9

Maggie offers to drive Catherine home so that I can go pack my things for the move. I can't get my mind wrapped around the fact that I will be living with Catherine…in her home…under the same roof. How will I interact with Lindsey? Will she like me? Where will I sleep? Does Catherine have a guest bedroom? Damn, there's no way I can sleep in the nude. Do I even own any pajamas? I feel a migraine coming on.

I pack more than I will need just in case I'm not allowed to return. I don't trust someone else to pick out clothes for me so I am going to be prepared and bring my own. I've got my scanner, CDs and portable player, laptop, and a few books. I couldn't find any pajamas so I've packed some boxers and tank tops to sleep in. I've put all my toiletries in my LL Bean travel kit and remembering Catherine has a pool, I throw in a bathing suit at the last minute.

I can go to the store later for any special food items I may need. Okay, I think I'm ready to leave. All I have to do is step out and lock the door. Now if I can just get my feet to move.

After several false starts, I am finally off and heading to Catherine's. I call as I leave the apartment driveway to see if Catherine wants me to pick up anything for lunch. She requests a roast beef at a sandwich shop near her house. After getting directions, I find the place with little difficulty. They even have a vegetarian menu. I order Catherine's sub and a black bean burger for myself. I didn't even know this restaurant existed. I think I'll be coming back here soon. After all, I am supposed to establish some sort of routine.

I arrive at Catherine's a short time later. The burger smells divine so I decide to lock the Denali and unpack later. Catherine greets me at the door. She takes the food sack from me and instructs me to have a seat at the kitchen table. She puts our food on a plate and brings it to the table along with two glasses of water. I point out that I could have just eaten the burger using the wrap as a plate. Catherine informs me that all meals in her house whether home cooked or take out are eaten on a plate and at the table. And so it begins.

We finish eating and put the plates and glasses in the dishwasher after each has been thoroughly rinsed off as per Catherine's instructions. If I had used a little soap, I could have avoided the dishwasher all together. I'm thinking I may stay out of the kitchen as much as possible.

We retire to the den where Catherine has a notebook she wants to show me. She has outlined Lindsey's daily routine almost to the minute. She has made alterations due to the change in our work schedule. She will wake Lindsey at 6:10 a.m. for breakfast. We will leave the house at 6:30 to drop Lindsey at Catherine's sister. We will continue on to work and arrive at 7:00.

I make the suggestion that we let Lindsey sleep until 6:30 and she can eat breakfast at her aunt's house. I received one of those patented Willows force ten glares in return. I have learned through the years not to look directly into the glare so I stare at a point over her shoulder. I retract my suggestion and go out to the SUV to unpack. Maybe I can sleep in the Denali.


Round 10

I begin to unload the Denali placing my suitcase and other things on the driveway. Okay, no suggestions about Lindsey. I am going to bite my tongue and think twice before opening my mouth again. This is Catherine's house and I am merely a visitor. I don't have any say about anything not directly related to me. I can do this. I just have to mind my own business and keep my mouth shut.

I don't realize I'm muttering until Catherine comes up behind me and asks what I'm saying. "I'm talking to myself, Catherine. Just don't pay any attention to me." I wanted to add for her to do what she usually does which is to act like I'm not even in the room. Hey, what do you know? I can control my mouth after all.

Catherine offers to help me take my things inside and acts as if nothing happened between us earlier. Maybe she was blowing off steam and I just happened to be the target. Now that I think about it, Catherine usually calms down quickly after she has had some sort of release. I know the screaming outside Ecklie's door seemed to settle her down some. Could I have been misreading her blowups after all this time? And what about those times she would go find one of her boy toys after a difficult case? Yes, I think a physical release of any kind is the key.

We've moved my stuff into the house and now the dilemma begins. Where I am going to put my things? Catherine informs me that she doesn't have a guest room. Her mother usually sleeps on the couch when she stays over. I take one look at the couch and immediately realize that I am taller than the couch is long.

Catherine must sense what I'm thinking because she suggests I take Lindsey's room and Lindsey will sleep with her. I wonder what kind of bed Lindsey has. Hopefully it's not a twin or one of those box beds. If so, I would be better off on the couch. Catherine picks up my suitcase and starts down the hall.

We stop at the first room on the right. I peer in and am relieved to see Lindsey has a queen size bed. Her room is somewhat cluttered and Catherine apologizes for the mess. We pick up the room and move a few of Lindsey's things into Catherine's closet. There is a bathroom in the hall as well as one in the master bedroom so at least we won't have to share a bathroom. This may work out after all.

We still have a couple of hours before Lindsey has to be picked up. Catherine suggests we take a dip in the pool but I don't think I'm ready to see Catherine in a bathing suit just yet. My imagination is good enough for now besides the real thing is liable to kill me. I counter with sitting out by the pool under the lanai. She agrees so we grab our sunglasses and start outside. Catherine grabs a couple of wine coolers from the refrigerator on the way out.

It is very pleasant outside and we sit in silence enjoying the solitude. After a few minutes, Catherine starts the conversation we have been avoiding concerning the "relationship." She tells me that she talked to Maggie on the drive from headquarters and Maggie briefly outlined the workings of a butch-femme relationship. Catherine adds that when she got home she logged on to the internet and found out more using Google. I just about choked on that piece of information but had a small coughing fit instead.

I was finally getting my breathing back under control when she said, "I found all kinds of informational sites about the dynamics of the relationship but everything was so broad. Then I typed in butch-femme with a hyphen to search. It brought me to the most interesting site, butch-femme.com." Wine cooler shot out of my mouth and nose and I was hoping at this point that I would choke to death.

Catherine has finished beating me on the back and my breathing has once again returned to normal. It's definitely time for me to attempt to explain a few things to her.

"Catherine, in your attempt to research the topic, you covered a very wide spectrum. In fact, you jumped right into the extreme. We just have to portray a loving couple. When we dress the part, it will be easy to assume the role. I will have to come across as tough and occasionally aggressive but totally devoted to you. All you have to do is be yourself. You already possess all the characteristics of a femme. The difficult part will be that you also have to be totally devoted to me


Round 11

Catherine has been extremely quiet the rest of the afternoon so I have given her plenty of space. I've gone back into Lindsey's room to check my e-mail and to catch up on my case notes, but I am having a difficult time concentrating. The poolside conversation keeps replaying in my head. I want Catherine to have a basic understanding of how we will have to act when we are in the club scene, but I don't want to scare her by giving too much information at one time. She's a smart woman so I know she'll figure out what will be involved.

I just hope she didn't read any of the erotic writings of her newly found site. Most of the stories are too hardcore for a novice to read especially a dyed in the wool, one hundred percent heterosexual.

I can't imagine the thoughts that must be going through her head and I will not be a bit surprised if she decides to call the whole thing off. In fact, I think that perhaps it would be for the best. The two of us have finally developed an understanding of each other though it has taken years. Even our arguments are not as famous as they once were seeing as how we haven't been the topic of conversation around the lab for quite awhile. I would hate to lose the progress we have made. I don't think I could survive going back to the early days of constant bickering; however, I will go along with whatever Catherine decides.

I am sitting at the desk typing away when Catherine comes in and sits on the bed. I keep typing and wait for her to begin the conversation. Instead she sighs and lies back on the bed. After several more sighs, she begins to speak. "Nancy called and said that Lindsey wants to go to the mall with her this afternoon. I told her it would be fine as long as Lindsey is home by 6:00. Nancy said they would pick up something to eat before heading home."

I wait for her to continue but she seems content to just lie there. I continue with my typing hoping she will say something or get up and leave, but she remains quietly in her spot. Okay, she came in and gave me Lindsey information. So how come she's still here? I update the last file and log out. I turn to find Catherine staring at the ceiling.

Should I wait her out or talk to her or what? Oh hell, I'll just jump right in. "Catherine, what are you thinking? Have you changed you mind? It's not too late you know." She looks at me and says, "Sara, I think we need to practice some of this physical stuff before we go out in public." Holy shit, is this like a dress rehearsal before opening night? I manage to reply, "What exactly do you have in mind?"

She smiles and says, "Come over here please." I walk toward the bed and stop at the edge looking down at her. She starts to sit up and I move back to give her room. She reaches out and takes my hands intertwining our fingers. Looking down at our hands she says, "Sara, you have beautiful hands. Have you ever played the piano?" I stutter out a no which prompts her to ask me if I'm nervous. Hell yes, I am scared shitless; however, I respond with a resounding no. She reaches up to touch my cheek and says in a very quiet voice, "I would like to know what it is like to kiss you."

It takes a few moments for my brain to process exactly what I heard and a few more moments for me to respond. There is no way I am going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers. I take her face in my hands and gently kiss her lips. She is so soft and tastes so sweet but I force myself to pull away. I try to look into her eyes that never hide her true emotion but they are closed. I lightly caress her cheeks with my thumbs. She finally opens her eyes and looks right into my soul. Heaven help me, I could fall so hard for this woman.


Round 12

Time seems to stand still as we gaze into each other's eyes. I don't want to break the connection, but I know there are still things that need to be resolved before Lindsey gets home. Smiling, I step back from Catherine. She returns my smile and says, "Not bad Sidle. Not bad at all."

With a nervous laugh I reply, "Cath, you ain't seen nothing yet but good things come to those who wait. Now c'mon let's go find us something to snack on before Nancy brings Lindsey home. I think I could eat another one of those wonderful salads and this time I think I'll add some cheese to mine. It's the one downfall I have as a vegan." I walk out of the room with Catherine right behind me.

After preparing the salad, we sit at the table to eat. We have not figured out exactly what we are going to tell Lindsey or Nancy for that matter. Lindsey will be more difficult. She is at that age where she's not considered a little girl but is far from adult. Catherine has always tried to be honest with her so we are going to take that approach. She has an understanding of different types of relationships so we are going to let her in on the lesbian aspect but not the butch-femme part of the equation. Lindsey will also need to understand the seriousness of not straying away from home as she has occasionally done in the past. I'm just hoping she will be okay with me living here.

We've finished our salads and Catherine asks if I would like some ice cream. Since I've already "sinned" with the cheese, I decide to go straight to hell when I see Catherine pull out a carton of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Back at the table, I confess my fear to Catherine about Lindsey's reaction. Catherine tells me that as much as she wants to alleviate my fear, she has no idea how Lindsey will react. It seems since Eddie's death Lindsey's behavior has been very erratic. At times, she is a loving and caring child and other times she's indifferent and hateful. Factor in turning thirteen and the problem has grown exponentially. She is more than likely going to hate the idea of this whole assignment.

As we finish rinsing and rinsing the dishes, Lindsey and Nancy walk in. Both are very surprised to see me. Lindsey, because she hasn't seen me since the interview at headquarters when Eddie died, and of course Nancy has never even met me. Catherine introduces me to Nancy and asks me if I would mind walking Nancy to her car. I assume she wants me to explain the situation to Nancy and she'll take on Lindsey. I definitely got the better end of the deal.

As Nancy and I walk toward her car, I notice someone is sitting in the front seat and Nancy informs me that it's her son. She must realize what I have to tell her is going to take a little time because she points out her son is listening to his MP3 player and is totally oblivious to the outside world. I decide to start my explanation from the very beginning starting with Ecklie, the soon to be castrated asshole.

As I wind down to the current status, she is visibly upset and expresses concern for Catherine's safety. I explain about the security measures that will be taken. I can't go into too many details since we still have to finalize things in the morning with Maggie. I promise Nancy that I will do everything in my power to keep Catherine safe. She nods and heads toward the driver's side. Before opening the door, she tells me she will be available to help in any way even if it's just to keep Lindsey. I thank her and promise I will have Catherine call her later.

I walk back into an empty kitchen. I can hear voices in the den area. Should I join the conversation or sit here and wait? I could tiptoe in and decide by the tone of the discussion whether I should go on in or retreat back to the kitchen. It wouldn't really be eavesdropping since I already know the topic of the conversation.

Decision made, I quietly walk to the edge of the den. It doesn't take long for me to come to the conclusion that Lindsey is not a happy camper, so it's back to the kitchen for me. As I turn to go, I accidentally bump the door facing and suddenly Lindsey's voice fills the air. "Sara, just the person I wanted to talk to."


Round 13

Cringing, I turn back toward the den. There's no way I'm letting a thirteen year old intimidate me. I straighten my shoulders and stride confidently to the couch where Catherine and Lindsey are sitting. As I open my mouth to present my viewpoint, Lindsey asks "Do you know anything about astronomy and the stellar parallax theory?" I stand there with my mouth agape. What does astronomy have to do with pretending to be in a lesbian relationship with her mother? Is this some kind of analogy or euphuism?

I evidently stand there dumbfounded too long because Lindsey replies "Never mind. Just forget it. This whole thing sucks." Her response draws a reprimand from Catherine. It seems Lindsey is not to use the word suck. Almost in the same breath, Catherine turns to me and asks me if I would mind answering Lindsey's original question.

Still in the dark but trusting Catherine I answer with "Yes, I know a little about astronomy. The stellar parallax theory is the process for measuring the distance between the Earth and stars. It uses the identities of trigonometry and the Pythagorean Theorem to find the distance of the hypotenuse of the triangle formed."

Lindsey jumps from the couch, kisses me on the cheek, and shouts "Sweet! This relationship is going to work out great for me. I'm going to the kitchen to get something to drink." She runs off as I stand frozen in place and totally perplexed. What the hell just happened here? Catherine reaches out and takes my hand motioning me to sit down. Once I'm settled, she promises to fill in the missing blanks. I wonder if she realizes it's more like missing sentences.

It seems Lindsey didn't blink an eye when Catherine told her about the assignment. She told Catherine several of her friends have two mothers so she didn't see what the big deal was. She also understood the importance of everyone's safety and agreed to stay close to home and always wear the tracking device Archie was developing. Lindsey indicated to Catherine that she liked me and thought it was cool that I was staying here. Well that's certainly a relief. It will be much easier to carry on a relationship with Catherine if Lindsey is okay with it. I wonder if it would be the same if the relationship were for real.

Get a grip Sidle. Don't try to visit NeverNever Land. Concentrate on something else like what's up with the interest in astronomy.

I start to question Catherine when Lindsey comes bouncing back into the room. She is still pumped over my response to her earlier question. Lindsey states she is going to her room to start researching her project and Catherine reminds Lindsey to be careful of my things. Lindsey throws an okay over her shoulder as she heads down the hall.

I take the opportunity to ask Catherine about said project. She sighs, then smiles, and then frowns before replying "Lindsey has been assigned a science project. There are guidelines she must follow as to the help she may receive. She will be able to use a computer for research and a parent or guardian can assist her. She can not receive help from any other outside source. Lindsey was counting on getting help from Gil because she knew that I am clueless when it comes to astronomy. She was quite upset and explaining this to me when I interrupted her to discuss the assignment details. When you came in we had finished talking about the assignment and were in a heated argument concerning your role in her science project not your role in our lives."

I have to wonder what exactly my role will be in their lives for the next couple of weeks.


Round 14

Lindsey is planning to take advantage of her fortuitous situation. Since I will be Catherine's 'partner' for the next coming weeks, I will also be seen as Lindsey's other parent or at the very least her guardian. Thus, I am eligible to provide assistance for her science project.

Lindsey has returned from her room with notebook in hand to go over her ideas with me. She has made a list of necessary materials and equipment and has estimated that the project will take about a week. She has even outlined an experimental procedure to follow. I will only have to assist in the calculations and to double check her measurements. Lindsey is a bright, resourceful, beautiful, and slightly manipulative girl. She is definitely Catherine's daughter.

After about an hour of pouring over information, we have come to the conclusion that Lindsey is prepared to present her project idea to her teacher. Catherine has come in several times to check on our progress; however, I think she is making sure that we're getting along okay.

As we are finalizing project plans, Catherine comes back in and says "Lindsey, it's time for you to take your bath and go to bed. Tomorrow we will begin our new time schedule and you will need to get to bed earlier." Lindsey grumbles a little but says she understands. She gives me a hug and a thank you before leaving the room. Catherine looks a bit stunned by the gesture but she seems to approve.

I gather the research material together and skim through it one more time. I like the idea of helping Lindsey with her project. This is going to be fun.

Catherine sits next to me as I place the papers in order. She puts her hand on my inner thigh and I almost jump out of my skin. "Sara, I don't think we're going to be a very convincing couple if you jump when I touch you. Besides, aren't you supposed to be the big bad butch?"

Wait a minute. Is she flirting with me? Let's see if she can handle this butch.

"Catherine, you caught me off guard and just so you know when we play the convincing couple it will be me constantly touching you. Everyone's going to know you are well taken care of and totally mine." I put my hand behind her neck, pull her toward me, and take possession of her mouth. After I have checked her molars out with my tongue, I finally release her. We are both panting as if we've run a marathon. We just sit there with our foreheads touching and eyes closed.

Catherine recovers her speech ability first. "Damn Sara. Where did you learn to kiss like that? Too many of those and I will melt on the spot." I attempt to regain my composure before responding. If I make eye contact with her now, she will see exactly what I am feeling. My desire for her is almost overwhelming.

I take a few steadying breaths before answering with "Practice, Catherine. Lots of practice. Remember I told you earlier you haven't seen anything yet." Of course she doesn't know all the practice has been with other women. That piece of information would totally freak her out. Maybe I shouldn't have gone so far with the kiss.

"Sara Sidle, you are a true enigma. I am going to figure you out before this is all over. I have wasted too much time fighting with you during these past years. It would have been time better spent getting to know you. And get to know you I shall. Now, you organize this material and I'll check on Lindsey." Catherine pats my leg and leaves the room.

I am in deep shit now.


Round 15

What am I going to do? When Catherine puts her mind to something, she is like a dog with a bone. She is going to be on me like white on rice. I am going to have to be on my toes these next few weeks since my words and actions will be highly scrutinized. I have to keep my walls up for both our sakes because Catherine won't like what she finds on the other side.

Catherine comes back into the den as I finish putting Lindsey's papers in the proper order. I place them in the folder and lay it on the coffee table. Catherine sits down next to me and says, "Thank you for agreeing to help Lindsey with her project. It's nice to see her so excited. She can hardly wait to get started. I had to make her turn off the computer and go to bed. She hasn't been this happy in a very long time."

"Lindsey's a great kid, Catherine. I am looking forward to spending time with her. She has chosen a very interesting topic. I can't wait to get started myself."

We discuss Lindsey a bit more as well as the visit from Maggie and her team in the morning. It is absolutely amazing how comfortable Catherine and I have gotten with each other. A few days ago we could barely tolerate staying in the same room. We have always worked well together but there seemed to be an underlying tension waiting to come to the forefront. It seemed we constantly looked for some reason to throw out a caustic remark. I hope when this is all over we can maintain this camaraderie.

We talked for several more hours vacillating between subjects; however, I managed to steer the conversation away from my family. Catherine immediately picked up on my discomfort and moved on to another topic. We have also avoided discussing our latest kiss. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

I look to the clock and can't believe it's almost midnight. "Catherine, we better get some sleep if we have to get up early to bring Lindsey to Nancy's before Maggie arrives." Catherine nods her agreement and offers to take Lindsey so I can get a little more sleep. We walk toward our respective bedrooms and retire for the night.

Arggh! I can't get my mind to shut down. Every time I start to drift into sleep, I remember the kiss and start to imagine what it would feel like to be on top of Catherine and have her writhing beneath me. This has got to stop. I can not be having sexual fantasies involving Catherine Willows. I just have to think of something else.

Counting sheep has never worked for me. Maybe if I recite the periodic table enough times I will be lulled into sleep. Perhaps the restriction of these boxers and tank top are adding to my sleeping problem. If so, that's too damn bad because there's no way I'm sleeping in the nude while dreaming of Catherine.

I finally doze off a few hours later and awaken at 5:30 a.m. I decide to get up since all I've done in my couple of hours of sleep is dream of Catherine in the most erotic ways. I have to get control of this situation. There's only one thing I can do. I put on some shorts and jogging shoes and leave the house.

I return around 6:30 with a tired body, a clear head, and a determination to have my initial plan succeed. It was also nice to be able to scope out the neighborhood without anyone else around. As I jog up the drive, Catherine and Lindsey are getting in her car.

"Sara, what are you doing out here? I thought you were still sleeping. Do you want to ride with Lindsey and me or would you rather go in and shower?"

I opt for the shower so Catherine gives me the key to get in. This will probably be one of the few times I will be alone in the coming weeks because once we hit the bar scene, my plan is to not let Catherine out of my sight for a minute.

Maggie and company are going to have to arrest this guy if he makes a move toward the two of us. We're a package deal. There is no way he is going to be able to get Catherine alone. I plan to stick to her like glue. If it comes down to it, I will take this guy out and worry about the consequences later.


Round 16

I am stepping out of the bathroom when Catherine comes around the corner. I had forgotten my clothes in Lindsey's room and had been considering streaking across the hall. Thank God I opted to wrap a towel around my torso or Catherine would have gotten a full body flash.

I continue into the room and get the distinct feeling that Catherine was checking me out. There wasn't much to see since the towel covered my important attributes. As I turn toward the bed, I catch sight of myself in the mirror. That's when I notice my ass. My ass that is not covered by said towel. Catherine Willows, straight woman extraordinaire, was looking at my ass.

This will be yet another topic we do not discuss. I am going to need a scorecard when this is all over.

I dress in some comfortable jeans and a t-shirt and leave the bedroom. I find Catherine in the den drinking a cup of coffee. I turn toward the kitchen to pour me a cup before returning to the den area. We sit in silence savoring our first cup of the morning.

Maggie and crew arrive at 8:00 a.m. Introductions are made and then Erin, Jane, Sam, and Susan go to scope the outside of the house and surrounding neighborhood. Archie is to arrive at 9:00 and Maggie has stayed behind to brief us.

Catherine brings a tray from the kitchen to the den with a carafe and cups. I pour myself and Maggie a cup and Catherine serves herself. Catherine and I sit back to hear what she has to say.

Maggie begins by saying there is much information to cover and she would like for us to listen to all of it before asking questions. I'm not sure I like the tone she is using. I have a feeling some important facts have been previously withheld.

The case began in New York. Six different femmes were abducted and raped before the FBI was called in. The NYPD wanted to keep the case quiet due to the nature of the victim not the nature of the crime. I open my mouth to speak but a raised eyebrow from Maggie keeps me quiet for now.

Special Agent Mark Bristol was named to lead a group of four other agents to assist the NYPD. Two other femmes were raped and still there were no leads. Soon afterwards the media got hold of the story and had a field day with the NYPD and the FBI's failure to find a suspect. This media coverage made the rapist nervous enough to move.

After a couple of weeks and no more rapes, everyone thought the problem vanished. A few months later, the FBI received a request from the Miami police department for assistance in the same type of case. Agent Bristol along with his team showed up in Miami to find the same MO as the New York rapist. This time there were four femme victims.

A profiler was brought in to study the background of each victim. The common link was evident. All were in a butch-femme relationship and all had children. The suggestion of bringing in some female agents to get a different perspective was brought up by the profiler. Agent Bristol flatly refused saying he didn't need the help of a woman especially one trying to do a man's job.

The next abductee happened to be a journalist for the local newspaper. Once again, the media coverage sent the rapist packing to a new location, Houston, TX.

Agent Bristol and company took over the operation in Houston with orders from above to set up a sting operation to capture the perpetrator. Two local policewomen volunteered for the job.

Agent Bristol did not follow protocol to ensure the women's safety. No devices of any kind were used and there was absolutely no surveillance. This was the only time the rapist took the butch partner and you know the outcome.

Agent Bristol said later in an inquiry that the two should have been able to take care of themselves. If they couldn't handle this guy, then they had no business in law enforcement.

Maggie concludes with "The case was subsequently turned over to me and my team. The director wanted to be sure a mistake of that magnitude was not repeated. My team is the absolute best and I give you my word that I will do everything in my power to ensure the safety of both of you."

Maggie waits for our reply but for once Catherine and I are both speechless.


Round 17

I finally find my voice to ask "What do you think happened in Houston to set this guy off?"

Maggie replies "I can only conjecture at this point. The second policewoman, Gayle, remembers seeing a suspicious looking man hanging around the corner of one of the gay clubs. She told her partner, Deb, about the guy giving a brief description of medium build, sandy blonde hair, in his late thirties. Deb instructed Gayle to go inside while she parked the car. Deb never made it into the club. Gayle believes she confronted the guy on her own. It's anyone's guess from there."

I hope Catherine won't mind me in her hip pocket because that's where I'm staying until this is all over.

Speaking of Catherine, she has not said a word since Maggie began the briefing. I am beginning to get a little worried because Catherine always has something to say or add. Just as I'm about to ask if she's okay, she furrows her brow as if she's in deep thought. I've seen that look on many occasions. Her investigator wheels are turning.

She turns toward Maggie and asks "If we catch this guy before he attempts to abduct me, what type of evidence do you have linking him to the crimes?"

Very good question, Catherine. Why didn't I think of that? Probably because I'm scared to death that something bad is going to come out of this.

Maggie responds with "Not very much I'm afraid. The victims say he used a condom every single time and we have never been able to find any of the crime scenes so we basically have nothing. He used a 9-mm pistol to kill Deb. If we can find the gun, we can match the bullets."

Catherine ponders Maggie's answer and replies "Then we have to catch him in the act. When he takes me, your team will come to the rescue."

I can not hold my tongue as I blurt out "No fucking way, Catherine. We will have to come up with some sort of way to trap him. Once we have him, Maggie can go back and check his whereabouts for the past year. She should be able to place him in all of the known cities. We will retrace his every move, track his credit cards, and find out everything about him since birth. We won't stop until we find enough evidence to bury him. I won't let you sacrifice yourself."

I lose my composure with my impassioned plea. Without my permission, tears begin to stream down my face and I angrily wipe them away. Embarrassed, I flee the house through the kitchen door.

I find myself sitting on the side of the pool. I have taken off my shoes and socks, rolled up my jeans, and placed my feet in the water. How could I have let myself lose control? Maggie and Catherine must think I am a basket case.

I am so caught up in my thoughts I don't hear Maggie walk up beside me. She sits down next to me and dips her feet in the water as well. After several minutes, I relax and regain my composure.

"Maggie, I apologize for losing it. I don't know why I reacted so strongly. I usually wait until the middle or end of a case before going ballistic." She doesn't react to my attempt at humor. In fact, she has a very serious look on her face.

"Sara, I know exactly what elicited your response."

"Oh really Dr. Phil, care to fill me in?"

"Yes, my dear, it is quite simple. You are in love with Catherine."


Round 18

In love with Catherine? Me? I give Maggie my best fish out of water expression which becomes very appropriate as I lose my balance and fall into the pool.

As I rise to the surface I see Maggie doubled over laughing. I walk toward the shallow end wiping the water out of my eyes. I move to the steps and have a seat.

Maggie walks toward the end of the pool attempting to stifle her laughter. At least, she has the presence of mind to look guilty as she sits on the edge of the coping next to me.

"I'm sorry, Sara. I should not have been so blunt. Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out the obvious. I could have been a little more diplomatic in my delivery."

I refuse to make eye contact with Maggie. I am still trying to wrap my mind around the possibility of being in love with Catherine. I replay the last couple of days in my mind and come to the conclusion all my actions have been those of a lover or partner.

I finally look up at Maggie and ask "How did you pick up on my emotions when I had no idea of my true feelings? Am I that obvious?"

Maggie shakes her head while replying "No. I know the signs because I feel the same way about Erin. I am constantly second guessing my reasons for different assignments I have given her. Nine times out of ten I opt for the less dangerous ones or the ones that keep her out of the line of fire. Erin thinks I don't feel she is ready to handle the pressure, but the truth is I am afraid something will happen to her."

"How do you two keep your work relationship separate from your personal one?"

"Easy, Sara, we don't have a personal one. There is a ten year difference in our ages. I'm too old and jaded for her. Erin needs to find someone closer to her own age. She is unaware of my feelings for her and I plan to keep it that way."

"Then you'll have to give me pointers on how to keep my feelings from Catherine."

My mind wanders to Maggie and Erin, I wonder if age is the only thing keeping them apart or if it is a convenient excuse. Perhaps it is my turn to state the obvious.

"Maggie, you do realize Catherine is several years older than me don't you? I would never let our ages be a factor if we were in a relationship. Maybe the age difference wouldn't be a problem for Erin."

As soon as the words leave my lips, Catherine comes out of the kitchen door. She walks up to us and puts her hands on her hips.

"Sara Sidle, what are you doing in the pool? Get out of there before you catch your death of cold. It isn't heated and the sun hasn't had enough time to heat the water. I'll go get you a towel. Take off those jeans and meet me at the back door. Archie will be here soon and he doesn't need to see you in your underwear."

Catherine walks back in the house as I get out of the water and attempt to remove my jeans. Maggie is laughing again but does offer her assistance. I sit in a chair by the pool while Maggie grabs the bottom of my jeans and pulls.

We manage to remove the jeans as Catherine returns with the towel. As I walk toward her, I notice she appears to be mesmerized by my legs. I look down to see if there is something wrong with them or perhaps I need to shave. When I reach Catherine, she finally raises her eyes to my face and turns an interesting shade of red.

She hands over the towel and mutters something about me having time to take a quick shower before Archie arrives. Without another word, she turns and walks back into the house.

Now that I have discovered my feelings for Catherine, I wonder how Catherine thinks of me. Are we acquaintances? Colleagues? Friends? What?

And why was she checking out both my ass and my legs today?


Round 19

I am currently taking my second shower of the day. I have to get a grip on my feelings for Catherine before I leave this room. Our assignment must take top priority. I can dissect my feelings toward Catherine once we have the suspect in custody.

Now I just have to figure out a way to block out my thoughts and feelings. As I wash the chlorine from my hair, I'm reminded of the scene in "South Pacific" where the nurse was singing "I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair." What a simple solution that would be, but there is not a shampoo on the market nor will there ever be that would remove my feelings for Catherine. Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I concentrate on finishing up so I can meet with the others.

I enter the kitchen to find Catherine, Maggie, Archie, and the rest of the team huddled over a schematic of the house and surrounding area. There are numerous locations in the neighborhood that are circled.

Maggie notices me first and motions me over to join the group. She explains the significance of the circles in the immediate area. I quickly realize my problem has grown exponentially.

It seems Catherine's house has many windows where a casual observer can easily see the interior activities. The problem areas are the den and of course, Catherine's room. The drapes in these rooms are sheer and shadows can be seen from quite a distance.

Simply stated, Catherine and I will need to carry on our "relationship" not only in the clubs and at crime scenes but in the house as well. I guess I should be thankful there are no windows in either bathroom.

Archie, Sam, and Erin leave to begin setting up the hidden cameras and microphones. Maggie tells Jane and Susan to retrieve the items from the van. I sit quietly waiting for further instructions.

Catherine is again in the thinking mode. I am not going to try to conjecture what is going on in her head. If she hasn't realized the significance of the window problem then it will be up to Maggie to explain. I'm going to try the quiet routine for awhile longer. It seems like a possible strategy to keep me out of trouble.

Maggie starts up the conversation. "I have scouted several potential clubs. It would be easy for an individual to observe the comings and goings of each of these clubs without calling attention to him. I would like the two of you to visit Gipsy and Flex tonight and Goodtimes and Free Zone tomorrow night. You don't have to stay long at either. I just want you to make an appearance, dance to a few songs, and put on a show to get our suspect's attention."

As Catherine begins to ask a question, Jane and Susan return. They each are carrying several shopping bags. Maggie instructs them to leave the bags on the couch and go out to help the others. I can't help but notice the names on the shopping bags. Bad Attitudes Boutique, Leather Addictions, Bare Essentials Fantasy Fashions, Velvet Rose, and Frederick's of Hollywood.

I think I know which ones are for me.


Round 20

Catherine moves toward the couch and peers in the bags.

"I've never seen so much leather and lace in my life. Please tell me that we only have to wear these outfits when we go clubbing. I can just imagine the way Hodges would react to this attire. He would be drooling all over the evidence."

"She's right, Maggie. I'm sure Hodges' dreams of Catherine would pale in comparison to the real thing."

Smiling Catherine replies, "I wasn't talking about me, Sara. I was referring to him seeing you all decked out in leather. Why don't we go try a few of these on and model for Maggie? She can decide who will be the one to get Hodges' attention."

Maggie watches our exchange with a huge grin on her face. She adds "Great idea, Catherine. It would be my pleasure to judge this contest. Choose the clothes you plan to wear tonight, go put them on, and come back to the den. I'm sure it will be a difficult choice, but I'll give you my opinion."

Catherine grabs the bags from Bare Essentials, Velvet Rose, and Frederick's and takes off down the hall. She leaves me the Bad Attitudes and Leather Addictions bags. I guess she knew which ones were for me too.

I take my bags and head for my room but not before telling Maggie, "You are a manipulator of the highest degree. Just remember, paybacks are a bitch."

I get to my room and start to pull the clothes out of the bag. There must be an entire herd of cattle in here. I choose a pair of black leather pants and what appears to be a leather top. I undress and try to put on the pants.

Maggie must have given Jane and Susan the wrong size because I'm having trouble pulling them up past my knees. I look at the tag. Nope, they're my size. Maybe they are mislabeled. Inspector #5 must have screwed up.

I finally get the damn things on and manage to button and zip them. They make a creaking sound every time I move and I won't be able to outrun a 5 year old in these things. Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound. I reach for the top and check the size before making the attempt to put it on. Let's see how the inspector fared with this one.

What the hell? There are holes in this thing. It zips in the front so I slip it over my shoulders and very carefully zip it up. There's no way I can wear a bra in this thing, but I do believe it was designed for the omission. I take it off, remove my bra, and put it back on again. It's a good thing I work out or I would have all sorts of things poking out of these holes.

I keep pulling down the top but with the hip hugging pants, there is an expanse of skin that refuses to be covered. Thank goodness my tattoo is hidden.

A knock on the door interrupts my attempt to cover the skin. I open the door and Jane is standing there with a pair of black leather boots. I take them, thank her, and close the door. What an appropriate completion to my outfit, a pair of big, honking, butch boots.

I sit on the bed and put on the boots. At least they fit properly. As I stand, I notice my reflection in the mirror. Holy shit, I am the poster child for the butch persona. I actually look like one tough motherfucker. I don't know about the perfect butch, but I have to admit I would be in the top ten. I hope I get to keep this outfit when this is all over.


Round 21

I find myself actually strutting down the hall toward the den. I am feeling very pleased with myself. I don't think anything can deflate my confidence level. That is until I see a scantily dressed Catherine standing in front of the couch talking to Maggie. I almost stumble and alert her to my presence, but I am able to regain my footing. Maggie sees me but does not acknowledge my presence which giving me extra time to regain my composure.

I'm thankful to Maggie and especially grateful Catherine has her back to me. This will give me time to check her out without her knowledge. She's wearing a very tight-fitting lacy blouse and an extremely short skirt along with sheer stockings and 5-inch heels. Ecklie was right. Catherine is the perfect femme. Forget Hodges, I now have a new image of Catherine for my dreams.

Wiping the newly formed sweat from my brow, I walk further into the den. Catherine turns and my jaw drops when I notice how much cleavage she is revealing. We both stand there ogling each other for several minutes before Maggie breaks the moment by saying "I think it's a tossup. You two are going to have to live with a tie." She adds "You really do make the perfect couple. This guy is not going to be able to resist the allure."

Catherine and I move our attention back to Maggie. I make a move to sit on the couch next to Maggie and again almost stumble when Catherine says "Sara, you are seriously hot in leather. You could turn a straight girl into your lesbian love slave in a heartbeat."

My head snaps up and I catch myself before I ask if she would mind volunteering for the role of the straight girl. I wish she would stop making these confusing comments. It's almost like she's flirting with me, and she was most definitely checking me out.

Instead I opt for "I won't have to worry about the straight girls because I'll be too busy keeping the butches away from you." This earns a laugh from Maggie and a smile from Catherine.

Catherine takes a seat in a chair directly across from us and crosses her legs. Can anyone say "Basic Instinct?" Sharon Stone doesn't have a thing on Catherine Willows. There is barely enough material in her skirt to cover much so I keep my eyes on her face. I do not need to know if she took advantage of any of the items from Frederick's.

Catherine looks to Maggie and asks "Should I call Nancy to keep Lindsey tonight? I really hate for her to have to stay away from home on the nights Sara and I go to the clubs."

Maggie has already anticipated this problem and tells Catherine "I've thought about this and I think there is an easy solution. This guy doesn't know anything about the two of you yet. I am going to get Erin to stay with Lindsey on your clubbing nights. I will set Erin up in a local apartment and let her play the part of your sister. He probably will try to find out your relation with her early on. After that he won't be bothered with Erin and Lindsey."

She continues with "I think it would be a good idea if Erin comes to the house on your work mornings to stay with Lindsey, fix her breakfast, and take her to school. You will need to explain to Nancy that this will only be for a few weeks. The fewer people involved in your lives while Sara is staying here, the better. If the two of you can't lure this guy in three weeks, will have to abort the assignment and try something else."

Catherine agrees and adds "Lindsey will definitely be happy with this arrangement since she'll get to sleep longer in the mornings. I'm going to give Nancy a call now." She gets up and leaves as both Maggie and I watch her swaying ass until it disappears from view.

Maggie brings me out of my stupor with "Damn, Sara. You look good. Too bad you aren't my type. Catherine on the other hand …" Maggie stops in mid sentence when I shoot daggers in her direction with my glare.


Round 22

Catherine and I have both changed out of our "clubbing clothes" into jeans and tank tops. Archie has completed all the installations and will give Lindsey's tracking device to Catherine tomorrow at work.

We invited Maggie and her team to stay for lunch, but they declined needing to go over some last minute surveillance plans. I walked them out to the van and Maggie said she and Erin will return to update us before we leave for the club.

After tonight, we will only have contact with Maggie through Erin and Brass. We don't want to chance the suspect seeing us with Maggie. If she needs to speak to us personally, we will use Ecklie's office. CSI headquarters should be safe enough if we need a meeting place and since everyone avoids Ecklie like the plague, his office is the securest spot in the building.

Catherine calls me into the kitchen for lunch. We have decided to have fruit for lunch since neither of us have much of an appetite. We are both edgy and nervous about tonight. There will be no turning back once we step foot in the first club.

After lunch, Catherine says "Sara, I'm going to take a nap. If we're to be out late tonight, I will need to be fresh. You should probably do the same."

"You're right, but I don't think I can sleep. I think I'll lie on the couch and watch some TV. I'll keep the volume down so it doesn't disturb you."

Catherine starts out of the room then turns to add "I'll set my alarm. I need to pick up Lindsey at 3:30. I promised to take her to get some ice cream. Would you like to go with us?"

"Sure. I've already blown my diet with ice cream once this week. Besides, we need to get used to doing things as a family. Maggie says this guy probably picks his victims by the way the family interacts."

Catherine visibly cringes at Maggie's assessment but is pleased that I will accompany her to pick up Lindsey.

Finally, I'm alone. It's time to sort out my feelings and decide how I'm going to handle myself. I usually problem solve by making lists and then figuring out how to accomplish the tasks as I go. I always begin with the major problems and work my way down from there.

First and foremost, there is no longer any doubt in my mind that I am in love with Catherine. I need to accept she does not love me in return. She's not gay and even if she were, she would not be interested in me. Besides, work relationships rarely work. I should be happy if we come away from this as friends.

Second, I have to interact with Catherine as if we're lovers. I'm afraid once I start touching her I won't be able to stop. There will have to be kisses. Hot and heavy kisses if we're going to get this guy's attention. I can not let Catherine see my desire for her. I will have to make sure I don't make eye contact with her after each kiss. Maybe I can hug her close to me afterwards and hold on until I'm back under control.

Third, Lindsey. I know the kid likes me, but how will she react when she sees me touching her mother in public. I will have to constantly reassure her that it's part of the assignment. She's smart and will understand the reasoning. Maybe I can get Erin to talk to her.

Fourth, our job. I need to make sure Catherine and I are assigned every case together especially after the first few days. I will not give this guy a chance to get his hands on her. I don't trust the other day shift CSI personnel to look after her.

Okay, that's enough contemplation for one day. I need to clear my mind and rest. I turn the TV on and start channel surfing. I stop on the AMC channel. I love old movies. "Casablanca" is on. What an appropriate movie for my situation.

I must have dozed off because I awaken as Ilsa is leaving Rick. I glance to the hall and see Catherine leaning against the wall watching me with a puzzled expression.


Round 23

We are on our way to pick Lindsey up from school. Very few words have been exchanged since our awkward moment back at the house. I chose to ignore the possibility Catherine was watching me sleep. Instead I asked the time and went to the bathroom to wash my face.

Lindsey bounces into the car and seems genuinely happy to see me. She informs me her teacher said okay to her project and goes on with all the details of our experiment. I half listen and nod in the appropriate places. The mood in the SUV has improved drastically since Lindsey's arrival.

We stop off at the local ice cream parlor and each get a cone. Catherine decides we should take a stroll until we finish our ice cream. She says something about getting a little exercise to negate the calories. I know the real reason is she doesn't want to get ice cream on the floor or seats of the Denali.

I make a mental note to repeat this activity a couple of times a week. If the suspect targets Catherine and me, this would be the perfect family outing for him to observe. With all the people around, it would also be very safe.

I'm conjuring up safe family activities in my head such as a picnic in the park, a trip to Circus Circus or to the Luxor for In Search of the Obelisk or … My thoughts are interrupted by Lindsey pulling on my arm informing me its time to go home. Home, I like the sound of that. Too bad it's only going to be temporary.

I am going to miss Lindsey when this is all over. I truly like this kid. Maybe Catherine will let me take her on an outing every now and then.

The car has barely stopped when Lindsey jumps out heading for the door. She comes to a halt when she hears "Lindsey Willows, wait until I've stopped the vehicle before opening the door and getting out. And come back here and get your things."

Properly chastised, Lindsey returns to get her backpack. She even waits for us to walk to the door. As we go in, she asks "Sara, is it okay to go in my room and use the computer? I'll make sure not to disturb your things." I nod my agreement and Catherine mutters something about aliens abducting her daughter as Lindsey leaves.

Catherine seems stunned by Lindsey's recent behavior. I don't see the problem so she explains. "Sara, Lindsey has been talking back to me for several months now. She has been grounded too many weeks to count. With the exception of jumping out of the car, she has acted like the perfect child. She even asked permission to go into her room." It's at this point I remember the clothes I left on the bed. Clothes Lindsey doesn't need to see.

Lindsey seems to have a one track mind. I'm sure she went straight to the computer to work on her project. I'll just go in, pick up the clothes, and put them away. She'll be so absorbed in her work that she probably won't even notice me.

Before I can tell Catherine what I'm going to do, Lindsey comes around the corner with my leather pants and top in her hands.

"Whoa, Sara. Are these your clothes? I bet you look seriously butch in them. Is this what you're going to wear when you and mom go out?"

As Catherine opens her mouth to explain, Lindsey turns to her and says, "This is so cool mom. So, are you going dress as a femme and be Sara's bitch?"


Round 24

Catherine has taken Lindsey back to her room to have what Catherine referred to as a "serious discussion." We definitely underestimated Lindsey's understanding of lesbian relationships. Hell, maybe we should be asking the kid for advice on pulling off this assignment.

The doorbell rings pulling me from my thoughts of how the discussion is going. I open the door to find Maggie and Erin holding pizza boxes. I step back and allow them to enter.

We move to the kitchen as I recount the afternoon's events. I pour us each a cup of coffee as Maggie and Erin sit at the table. When I get to the part with Lindsey and the clothes, the two of them almost fall out of their chairs laughing.

Catherine comes in to find the three of us trying to control the laughter while wiping the tears from our eyes. We immediately sit up straight and attempt to move the conversation to a different subject. We were actually succeeding when Erin innocently asks "Catherine, what did you think of Sara's new clothes?" Erin and Maggie lose it again and Catherine looks at them as if they've lost their minds.

I don't wait for the two to regain their composure before asking "Catherine, how'd it go with Lindsey and where in the hell did she get her butch-femme information?" Catherine has found a clue and now realizes why two professional FBI agents are laughing their asses off at her kitchen table.

After shaking her head and sighing, she says "Lindsey has a friend, Myra. It seems Myra has an Aunt Ellen who is involved with another woman. Myra's mother refers to them frequently as the butch and the femme. And apparently the mother has been overhead referring to Ellen's partner as Ellen's bitch. I have had a little talk with Lindsey and I believe she has a better understanding of the relationship."

Maggie is able to stop laughing long enough to reply "Well, that's a relief. I was afraid she may have used Google to research the topic after you told her about the assignment." I succeed where Erin and Maggie failed earlier as I fall out of my chair laughing while Catherine turns ten shades of red.

All is back to normal as we discuss Erin's role in looking after Lindsey. Catherine is feeling much better about Lindsey's safety. She seems to trust Erin to protect Lindsey.

Catherine notices the pizza boxes and decides it's time for dinner. She directs us to set the table while she goes to get Lindsey. We are also asked to avoid any conversation concerning the assignment during the meal.

Maggie must have done her homework because she purchased a vegetarian pizza for me. We have kept the topic light and Lindsey must feel comfortable around Maggie and Erin because she has made a few comments about her science project. Erin asks Lindsey if she could see her research and the two of them leave for Lindsey's room.

Catherine and I start to clear the table as takes the silverware and glasses to wash and I get a container to put the leftover pizza in. Maggie stays seated and is observing us with a smile on her face. "What?" I ask.

Maggie answers "The two of you work well as a team, don't you?" We both nod a yes as Maggie continues, "It's apparent even with something as simple as clearing the table. No words are spoken yet you work together in perfect tandem. With the exception of the presence of a physical relationship, the two of you appear to be a couple."

"It is imperative you come across as a physical couple as well. Have the two of you tried any physical contact?" I turn bright red and Catherine drops a glass in the sink.

I look over to see Catherine staring at her hand as it bleeds. I rush over with a dish towel and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Maggie pulls a chair over and instructs an ashen Catherine to sit down.

After several minutes, we unwrap the towel to get a look at the cut. It appears to be superficial and will not need stitches. The water from the tap seems to have caused the excessive bleeding.

Maggie asks Catherine if she has a first aid kit and Catherine tells her it's in her bathroom cabinet. Maggie offers to go retrieve it leaving us alone. The color has returned to Catherine's face, but her hand is still visibly shaking.

I brush the hair back from her face and say "Hey Cat, the cut is not as bad as we first thought. We'll get a bandage on it and you'll be as good as new." She shakes her head and begins to cry. I kneel down next to her and pull her into my arms being careful of her injured hand.

I must be getting pretty good at this comforting thing because Catherine has quieted down and has burrowed her head into my neck. I wait a few more minutes before pulling back.

"You okay now?" She smiles and nods her head. Maggie grins at me from the doorway before making her entrance.

We've taken care of Catherine's injury and have moved into the den area. It's time to finalize our plans before the night activities begin.

Recapping, Maggie says "The two of you are going out solo tonight. There is no need for surveillance and we want you two to be relaxed and not worry about one of us watching you. After tonight, both of you will be watched whenever you are out of the house. Jane, Sam, Susan, and I will work a rotating schedule. You won't even know we are there. Erin is still Lindsey's primary."

"I will be in contact with Jim Brass. He will keep you informed. We will only meet face to face when necessary. Everything is in place. The rest is up to you."

"However, there are two more pieces of information I need to impart. When the two of you are in the den area, the possibility exists the suspect may be able to see you; therefore, you will need to continue your charade when you are in this room. And, um…um…"

I try to relieve some of Maggie's discomfort by saying "I've studied the schematics, Maggie. I know what you're going to say. You may as well let Catherine in on the last bit as well."

Maggie turns to Catherine and says, "He may also be able to see shadows in your bedroom. Sara is going to have to sleep in your room."


Round 25

Maggie and I move my things into Catherine's room while Catherine gets to explain the reason for my move to Lindsey. Poor Lindsey is probably going to age 5 years in the next few weeks. I wish she did not have to be involved in this assignment, but she will be the ultimate reason for this guy choosing us.

We finally get my things situated in the closet and a few of the dresser drawers. Maggie reminds me to use the entire room space and suggests Catherine and I develop some sort of nightly routine when we're in the bedroom.

"Sara, maybe you and Catherine can look out the window at the stars before retiring each night. If he's watching, he will clearly see the two of you. When you move from the window, he will only be able to see shadows. After you both get in bed, I don't believe he will be able to see anything because the bed is lower than the projection of the light through the window."

I sit on the end of the bed and lean over with my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. Not looking up I say "I don't care if this guy can see shadows from the bed, there is no way I am having simulated sex with Catherine. The dancing and make out sessions are going to be the death of me as it is."

Maggie moves to sit next to me and places her hand on my back. "Sara, I know this is going to be very difficult for you. I don't know how I would handle the situation if I were in your place. Just know that you will be responsible for getting a sick individual off the streets." I continue to sit with my head down, not responding to the pep talk.

Not to be deterred, Maggie adds "Sara, you are a very strong individual. I know you can do this."

Catherine walks in and worriedly asks "What's the matter? What do you want Sara to do?"

Crap. How much did she hear? Judging from her response, I would say just the last bit.

I quickly look up and respond "Everything is fine Catherine. We were going over some last minute details and I needed some reassurance. What do you say we get into our new clothes and head to Gipsy? We'll turn a few heads and then move onto Flex."

Hey, that sounded pretty good. In fact, it was a perfect change of subject, if I may say so myself.

Maggie stands and says "I believe that's my cue to leave. I will wait in the den with Lindsey and Erin and walk you two out. I need to get back to headquarters soon."

After Maggie's departure, Catherine still has a concerned look on her face. She asks, "Sara, what did Maggie say to upset you?"

Damn, not such a perfect change of subject after all.

"Nothing, Catherine. Really I'm fine. I think it is just a case of the nerves."

Not quite willing to let me off the hook, Catherine continues with "is it because you are worried about sleeping in my bedroom or how you think I feel about it?"

I don't respond hoping she will let it go. No such luck in my life.

Catherine continues with "Well, you can relax. I'm fine with it and you should be too. Look at the size of this bed. It will be just like we were in separate bedrooms."

Now this is a pleasant surprise. I did not expect her to accept this room change without some sort of argument.

I smile and respond "You're right, Catherine. I was worried about how you felt about this situation and Maggie was assuring me it would be okay."

It looks like I will get away with this answer without a counter response from Catherine especially if I don't give her time to think.

"Whoa Cat, look at the time. We had better start getting ready for our big night. I'll get my things and go dress in Lindsey's room. I will meet you in the den when you're ready."

I quickly grab my boots and clothes and with one last smile and see you later, I make my escape.

I sit on the bed in Lindsey's room trying to psyche myself up for the evening's events. I have overcome so much adversity during my life through mental preparation. Once I set my mind on something, I truly believe I will succeed. However, this time it's different. This time someone else's well being is involved. I can't screw this up.

Okay, enough negative thoughts, it's time to get dressed. The leather ensemble gave me a shot of confidence before. Maybe it will again. I just hope I'll be able to get those damn pants on again.

The four of us are watching TV and making small talk when Catherine makes her entrance. It seems as if time stands still. She looks absolutely amazing. Her makeup and hair are perfect and the clothes are both provocative and seductive. The three adults in the room blatantly stare.

Lindsey breaks the awkward moment with "You look pretty, Mom. You and Sara are going to be the best looking couple." We all hold our breath hoping Lindsey does not add any more commentary.

Maggie breaks the short silence by saying "I agree, Lindsey. These two should definitely get some attention tonight." She follows up with "C'mon, I'll walk you two out."

When we get outside, Maggie hands me a set of keys. She tells us she needs a ride to headquarters so she can pick up her car.

Frowning, I look at the keys in my hand. Why didn't Maggie and Erin take separate cars to begin with? And what are these keys to? As I walk to the edge of the driveway, I clearly see the answer to both questions.

Sitting in the driveway is a shiny, new, black Dodge Viper Powered Ram SRT-10 truck.

"Surprise Sara, the perfect muscle truck for the perfect butch."


Round 26

We drop Maggie off and head toward Gipsy. Catherine had a little trouble getting into the truck with her short skirt, but she was able to manage. I told her it wouldn't be a problem when we get to the club. She gives me a confused look but doesn't reply.

I drive around the block a few times before I am able to find a parking spot. Gipsy is packed and there is a line of people waiting around the corner to get in. I'm about to suggest we skip Gipsy and go on to Flex, but I spot a familiar figure at the door.

I open the truck door and step out. Turning toward Catherine, I lift her out of the cab and place her gently on the ground. She smiles, gives me and hug, and pats me on the ass.

Whoa, don't freak out Sara. Stay in character. Remember Catherine is merely playing a role, but two can play at this game.

I give her a toothy grin and kiss her lips. I pull her close to me and say "C'mon. Let's party." We walk across the street hip to hip with our inside arms wrapped around each other's waists. I direct her to the door and she gives me a questioning look.

"Jackson, my man. How's it hanging?" The big bouncer turns and shakes his head.

"Sara! Dude, how have you been? Where have you been keeping your big, bad self?"

I introduce Catherine and exchange a few more barbs with Jackson. I slip a $20 in his hand and Catherine and I are in the doors before anyone from outside can lodge a protest.

I take Catherine by her uninjured hand and lead her to the bar. Finding an empty stool, I take a seat and pull Catherine in front of me so that she is leaning back against my chest. I wrap an arm around her middle as the bartender approaches.

"Ladies, what will it be?" I reply "I'll have a piece of ass and my lady will have sex on the beach."

Catherine flinches but does not respond. I whisper in her ear "Do you know what sex on the beach is?" She quietly responds "Yes, but pretend I don't." I play along "it is 1 oz. vodka, ¾ oz. Peach Schnapps mixed with cranberry juice and grapefruit juice. How does that sound?"

She replies "Yummy. What comes in a piece of ass?" Oh yeah, this girl knows how to play, but I am the master.

I pull her closer and nibble on her ear before replying "1 shot of amaretto and 1 shot Southern Comfort poured over ice and topped over with Sour mix."

She shivers as I pull my lips away from her ear. The bartender places our drinks on the bar and I ask him to start a tab.

I keep my arm around Catherine as I pick up my drink. She has taken her first sip and makes a purring sound that I wouldn't mind hearing in another context.

We finish our drinks and order another round. I have been whispering in Catherine's ear off and on while scoping the place for men fitting the suspect's description. Anyone watching the two of us would think we are in love or at least in lust.

"Catherine, we probably should stop after this round. We don't need to get tipsy and we still need to hit the dance floor."

She turns around, puts one arm around my neck, and uses her other hand to push my hair behind my ear. She leans forward, quietly says "sounds like a plan," and then gently kisses my lips. She pulls away and turns back toward the bar to finish her drink.

This assignment is going to kill me, but what a way to go.

I pay the tab, take Catherine's hand, and lead her to the dance floor. I failed to mention to anyone that I am a decent slow dancer but suck at anything that has a fast rhythm.

Thankfully, a slow song begins. I pull Catherine to me and put my hands on her hips. She puts her arms around my neck and her head on my chest. We instantly fall into the rhythm of the music.

We move as one in perfect synchronization. This is heaven. I don't want this song to ever end. I can just imagine what Maggie would say if she could see us.

The moment is broken a few minutes later when an upbeat rather sexy song begins to play. I lean into Catherine and say "I can't dance to this song. Fast songs are not my thing."

She smiles and says "Just stand there. Let me dance for you." And then she does.

I am mesmerized by her. Her movements are in perfect sync with the music. Did I mention how sexy she looks? In a moment of clarity, I suddenly remember Catherine's former career. Dear Lord, take me now.

I have never seen anyone dance so erotically without removing their clothes. Of course, the fact that she has very little on enhances the experience. It's like she's making love to me on the dance floor.

The song ends and I grab Catherine's hand and pull her to the doors. I yell a bye to Jackson as I practically drag Catherine across the street. I open the door and lift her into the cab. I peel out from the parking space and have to force myself to slow down at the first traffic light.

I drive directly to Flex and pull into the closest parking spot. I put the car in park and lean my head on the steering wheel breathing heavily. Catherine has not said a word the entire time. I am probably scaring her, but I have to compose myself before I speak.

Catherine, of course, can no longer stand not knowing what is going on. "Sara, what is the matter with you? You drag me out of there like you're King Kong and I'm Faye Wray, throw me in the truck, and take off like a bat out of hell. Talk to me."

I take a deep breath and turn towards her. "Catherine, I'm sorry for the way I acted. Maggie said we were to put on a show if we're going to get this guy's attention. Well, your dancing got everyone's attention. If he was there tonight, you most definitely caught his eye. Your dance was the perfect opportunity for me to pull out my butch card and drag you from the premises."

I add "If he was in attendance and found an interest in us, he either stayed hoping to catch us another night or he followed us here."

Catherine asks "What good was it to drive off like that if he stayed behind?" I close my eyes and respond "Because it was obvious to everyone that when I pulled you off the floor, you were mine and I was taking you home to stake my claim."

Catherine ponders my explanation before asking "Okay, so what happens if he followed us? Won't he be wondering why we came here instead of going home?"

"Maybe, but more than likely he will think that I am some macho butch who gets off having my um… lady dance for me in public." Damn, I almost used Lindsey's word.

Catherine reaches for the door handle and says "Well, c'mon. Let's get out. Maybe he did follow us or maybe he's been here the whole time."

I put my hand on hers replying "Wait a minute. Please, just give me a minute then I'll be ready to go." She gives me a concerned look, but leans back and patiently waits for me as I return my head to the steering wheel to gather my wits.

Oh my God, we have to do this all over again.

Part 27

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