DISCLAIMER: CSI and all characters are the property of CBS and Bruckheimer.
SPOILERS: Through S4. This is titled after a Julia Fordham song, I Can't Help Myself: "I can't help myself / I'm lost in you"
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Can't Help Myself
By zennie

1. Leaving Las Vegas

"What's this?" Grissom asked, holding up the envelope with a puzzled look.

Sara gazed at him with the saddest expression he had ever seen on her face. She looked worn and tired; the dark circles under her eyes, hollow cheeks, and worry lines, all recent, he knew, did nothing to diminish her beauty, but the spark in her eyes was gone. She looked hollow, emptied, and her voice when she spoke did nothing to dispel the impression. "Have you figured it out?"

"What's in the envelope? No, otherwise, I wouldn't have asked." His voice is patient, quiet, and soft in his attempt to put her at ease.

She shook her head. "No, not the envelope. We'll get to that later." She raised her head from where she had been studying the floor, "Have you figured out what to do about this?" The slight emphasis on the last word told him all he needed to know, and he exhaled audibly.

"Sara..." he began.

She cut off his explanation. "It's a yes or no question, not an essay. Have you?"

He saw the pain and anguish in her dark eyes, and he knew he had caused much of it. He had hoped, someday, to be able to be the person to make her happy. All of his rationales aside, he had invited her to Las Vegas simply to be closer to her, to see her everyday instead of talking to her on the phone. He had wanted her, as friend and colleague, but once she got here, he had realized his mistake. His feelings were beyond friendship, but he was powerless to act on them. Had been powerless to act on them for years, and while he had suffered because of it, the real toll had been taken on Sara. And still, he was unable to act.

"No." He saw her eyes close and her jaw clench as she absorbed the pain, and he wanted to take her in his arms and make all that go away. But he had never known what to do about love, even though he had agonized over it for the last two.

When she opened her eyes, Sara nodded her head, as if she had anticipated his answer. And she had. "Then I have." He knew what was going to happen next, a scene he had relived over and over again to try break himself out of the avoidance pattern he had been in. "My resignation is in the envelope. I've leaving."

"Sara... Is there anything...?"

Her quiet laughter stopped him. "The chance to convince me to stay expired about three minutes ago." Her gaze froze him to his chair when he opened his mouth to speak again. "Gil." She had never used his first name, and it felt like a knife in his gut as his name came out pain-filled, and not in the other scenarios he had imagined. "Let me go. Please. I can't... do this anymore. I've waited but I can't, not anymore."

He nodded his understanding. If he couldn't make her happy, at least he could stop making her so sad. "Can you stay until we get a replacement?"

"You have two weeks," she said, with a finality that made his heart stop. "I start my new job in a month."


She shook her head. "Back to San Francisco."

His brows knitted. "San Francisco? But the lab is clearly inferior, in every way. Solve rate, equipment... At least look at some federal labs, where your expertise will be valued."

The smile on her face was the first genuine one he had seen for a while. "Actually, that's why they want me. I'm going to be the second shift supervisor."

"Congratulations," he managed to squeeze out past the lump in his throat. "We'll miss you." She nodded, again as if she anticipated his response, and turned. "Sara?" She turned back. "I'll miss you." Then she was gone and he sat in his office in silence for a long, long time.

Catherine walked down the hall, mentally kicking herself for walking into such a personal moment for both Grissom and Sara, and not leaving as soon as she realized what was happening. Everyone knew about Grissom and Sara in the lab; it had been hard not to, the way they acted around each other when Sara first arrived and the tension and angst between them recently. It was also clear that they had never acted on their feelings, and while most of the people at the lab had watched with some degree of concern, they had also silently supported the two getting together, secretly wanting them to be happy. But now, it was over, and while Catherine was sorry to see Sara go, she hoped Sara would be happy again. Catherine paused outside the break room, sighed and ran a hand through her hair, before plastering a smile on her face and walking in briskly.

Everyone looked up and said hi, but Catherine only had eyes for Sara, who was curled up on a couch reading a forensic journal. While she looked sad, Catherine could see the strain on her features seemed less, as if making the decision to leave had lifted a weight off of her shoulders.

"Hey Cath," Nick called, "have you seen Grissom? He's late again."

Catherine started to reply when Sara interrupted her, "He, um, might be dealing with some paperwork. Guys, I have something to tell you." All eyes were on her now as she quietly told them the news. "I gave my notice. I'm leaving."

"You're leaving?" Nick looked heartbroken. "Why?"

"Job opportunity, too good to pass up."

"But," Nick sputtered, genuinely upset. Warrick, meanwhile, caught more of the subtext of her words, and walked over to her and enveloped her in a big hug and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Congratulations, Sara." He held her in the hug for a few more minutes, gazing down at her. "We're going to miss you," he said, unintentionally echoing Grissom's words, and her eyes filled with tears. "But some lab is going to be very lucky to have you." They shared a laugh as Sara blinked away the tears.

Nick caught her in a bear hug as soon as Warrick let go. "I'm going to miss you," he said quietly, in his soft Texas drawl. "It won't be the same around here without you." He kissed her forehead, and rested his chin against hers. "Your constant caterwaul... I mean singing, and... ouch!" He pulled away, rubbing his shoulder where Sara had punched him, and they shared a grin.

Catherine pushed him away, saying, "My turn." She looked at Sara with an ironic smile. "I know we're not exactly the hugging type, but..." She pulled Sara into a tight embrace and whispered, "Be happy," before kissing her lightly on the cheek. The look they shared told Sara Catherine understood all the reasons she was leaving, and she whispered 'thanks' back.

Grissom cleared his throat from the doorway. "I'm guessing you've heard Sara's news? Well, she's still with us for the next two weeks, so there's plenty of time for hugs." He smiled to take the sting out of his gruff tone, and resolved to plan the best going-away dinner for her, before giving out assignments. "Catherine, you and Warrick have a 419..."

2. Old friends, Bitter Enemies

"Yeah?" Sara's voice sounded so tinny on the speaker the receptionist was talking into, but an edge of aggravation was evident.

"Somebody's here for a consultation."

Sara's sigh was audible. "Can you have someone escort them up? I'll fill out the paperwork to get them badges later."

They heard Sara's voice before they saw her. "Does Oakland even do their own investigations anymore?" she asked, to a round of laughter. As they peered in the door to what looked like a break room, Sara's back was to them, but two young CSIs were facing the door, and one said, "Looks like Oakland's got some new people."

Sara turned toward the door, her dark hair flipping around, but the smile on her face disappearing the moment she registered the guests standing at the door. Emotions flickered in her eyes, surprise, anger, and confusion, but happiness too, and Catherine read the situation clearly and glared up at Gil. He hadn't called Sara and told her we were coming, she realized, and saw out of the corner of her eye that Sara had the same glare leveled at Grissom. Sara recovered quickly, though, and hopped up from her chair, embracing the shorter woman in a tight hug. "Catherine." She turned to Grissom and extended her hand, "Gil. Good to see you both. What brings you, so unexpectedly," the last word said with her eyes fixed on Gil, "to my city?"

"A case," he replied simply, tapping a file folder in his hands. It took him a moment to register the changes, but they were apparent. The dark circles and worry lines were gone, and she had put on weight. She looked happy, he thought, feeling the pain in his heart to know that she was happier and better without him. "We need your help. Our monthly cold case review came up with a hit on a recent homicide you caught."

"You could have just faxed me the files," she said, taking the folder from Grissom's hand and skimming through the contents. "The Mira case?" she said, talking mostly to herself.

He blushed, knowing his next request went beyond professional courtesy. "Actually I was hoping to see the scene and go over the evidence myself." When she looked up at him with narrowed eyes, he explained quickly. "It's an 8-year old case and all I have are the files. I thought it would help if I saw the scene, it might help bring back more."

"So Sid, are you going to introduce us?" asked the blond CSI sitting in the break room, interrupting them. A young brunette sitting beside him gave him a look of disgust. "Jeremy, if you paid any attention at all, you wouldn't need introductions." She stepped up to Catherine and shook her hand. "Dr. Willows, I enjoyed your presentation at the Science and the Law conference last year. It's a pleasure to meet you." Catherine's mouth quirked into a smile at the young, earnest CSI in front of her, and she didn't have the heart to correct her on the title. "Thank you. And you are?"

"Annemarie Jennings." The brunette turned to Gil. "And Dr. Grissom. It's an honor." He shook her hand. "Thank you, Ms. Jennings. It's nice to meet you."

Sara's wide grin was amused and proud. "Um, Annemarie, could you go get the assignments off my board?" As Annemarie left, Sara introduced the rest of her team. "Jeremy, Jerome, and Kesha."

"Let me get them going and then we'll discuss your case, ok?" She turned back to her team without waiting for a reply, taking the slips from Annemarie, just as a loud voice interrupted her.

"Sidle. You bitch. What did you tell her?" Gil and Catherine looked at the tall man in alarm, but Sara reached him and caught his forearm. "This is not the place to have this discussion," she told him, tersely. "Why don't we do this in my office."

He ripped his arm out of her grasp, and that's when Catherine noticed the badge clipped to his belt. "I spoke with the captain. I've been busted back to patrol supervisor." He took a step closer and poked a finger at Sara violently. "Because of you."

"You want to do this here, Phillips?" Her voice was angry but controlled. "You got it. First, it's a lateral move, not a demotion. And you caused it, not me."

"I saw all that paperwork you gave the captain. What, were you collecting that on me the whole time?" He was still towering over her, a hard feat to accomplish, and Catherine felt Grissom tense as if to move. She caught his wrist and squeezed, shooting him a look that tried to convey how unprofessional it would be for him to step in. For once, he understood without a word, and stood watching, his arm shaking in her grasp.

"Yes," was Sara's cool reply, but her voice grew more angry as she continued. "You know why I was brought in, and you know I had the captain's approval for all the changes I made. I kept you informed and gave you EVERY opportunity to work with me, not against me. And I sat in my office after every shift and documented every time you pulled my CSIs from a scene before they were done and every other attempt you made to undermine me. Because when an incident like last week happened, I knew Captain Harris would come to me for an explanation. And I was not going to hide the fact that you were the problem. Not when it showed poorly on the professionalism of myself and my CSIs. You have no one to blame by yourself," she finished coldly.

He punched the wall beside her head and tried to trap her against the wall with his body, and both Catherine and Grissom started forward. Sara's voice stopped them. "Walk away, Phillips. Going back to patrol will be the least of your problems if you are arrested for assault." Her reasonable tone seemed to break through his anger a little. "If you leave now, then we'll forget this ever happened. If not, then building security will remove you and it will go on the incident blotter."

He pulled back, still glaring at her. "This isn't over, Sidle."

"Actually, I think it is," was her quiet rejoinder. Her eyes followed him as he disappeared around a corner before letting out a long breath, and turning to see everyone staring at her.

"Well, that went better than I expected," Jerome announced loudly, only to be smacked by Annemarie. "Not funny." His voice was serious as he replied, "It wasn't meant to be." The young CSIs were shuffling back into the break room. "He's the kind of guy to go postal." "Yeah, good riddance." "Who wants to bet the second shift detectives buy Sid a bouquet by the end of shift?" "Naw, it'll take them until the start of next shift at the earliest."

Sara smirked at the shocked and worried looks Catherine and Gil shot her as she came up beside them. "Office politics," she quipped, but her eyes looked concerned.

"And here I thought Ecklie was bad," Catherine snorted.

Sara laughed. "Let me get these guys going and then we'll go over to the scene you want to check out, ok?"

Catherine watched with interest as Sara put her team to work. Sara's people skills had always been one of her weaknesses, or so everyone assumed, but Sara was much more at ease with 'her' CSIs than Catherine had ever seen before. She divvied up the assignments, before turning to the very young-looking blonde sitting at her side. "Jeremy, you are doing a training lead on this one. Annemarie will be your backup. Call the shots, but listen to her if she makes any corrections. We'll have a performance review at the end of shift, ok?" They both nodded seriously, before she addressed the whole team. "I'll be visiting a crime scene first, and then I'll be roaming, so expect to see me looking over your shoulders at any time." A round of grins and nervous chuckles rounded the table. "We've had six tight shifts. Get through tonight and you know the deal. Clear?"

Kesha piped up. "What are we up to now?"

Jerome grinned across the table at her. "Dinner out. And I think it should be a fancy restaurant. Am I right?" There was a general consensus of agreement around the table as he winked at Sara, who Catherine could see had a teasing look on her face. "What, there's something fancier than Subway?" She asked in a mock-innocent voice, and then chuckled as the four CSIs engaged in some good-natured grumbling. She swatted at Jeremy, who leaned just out of her reach. "Those crime scenes won't process themselves. Get out of here, you bums."

3. Scenes of Crimes

Catherine checked her watch for the third time in the last half hour. Gil was still happily looking around the scene, but Catherine was getting worried. Sara had run out to check in on her team, but she was now at least thirty minutes late. "Gil? Don't you think Sara should have been back by now to pick us up?" she asked, but all she got was a grunt in reply. He was reviewing the case files and flicking his flashlight around the bedroom. Catherine rolled her eyes, and pulled out her cell. The voice that answered sounded startled, and it definitely wasn't Sara's. "Sara?" the unknown male on the phone asked.

"No, this is Catherine. Who's this? Is Sara there?"

"This is Jeremy. The phone was on the ground near where Sara was parked earlier and I thought maybe she dropped it." Catherine heard his sharp intake of breath and her stomach plummeted. She heard him yell for Annemarie while she called his name into the phone. Gil had come up behind her and was looking at her questioningly as she tried to get a response. She shook her head and listened intently as she heard Annemarie and Jeremy speaking urgently just out of the pickup, so she could only recognize a few words. Finally, an audible voice spoke into the phone, just as Catherine thought she was about to start screaming.

"Catherine? This is Annemarie. Are you still at your scene? Is Sara with you?"

"Yes, we're here, and no, Sara isn't with us. What's going on?"

"Sara left here at least 45 minutes ago. But her phone's here." Catherine read the silence. "And?" she questioned. "Her gun, badge, and pager are here too." The concern in Annemarie's voice was controlled, but Catherine could sense a growing fear in her words. "I'm sending a patrol car to your location to pick you up and bring you here. See you soon."

Catherine clicked the phone shut and turned to Gil. "We need to pack up and wait downstairs for a patrol car," she told him quietly.

His eyebrows knitted alarmingly over his eyes, and he swallowed hard before asking, "What's happened? Where's Sara?"

Catherine saw the panic rising, and there was nothing she could say to reassure him, or stop her own fear. "We don't know." She heard a siren coming toward them. "Gil?" Catherine caught his hand and pulled him toward the door. "We're going to the scene she was just at. We'll know more then, ok?" She spoke as if she were talking to a child as he went pale with shock and stood there, resisting her pull. "Come on, we have to go." He finally obeyed, and followed her out the door.

Jeremy was photographing a small pile of items when they arrived. Gil had come around, and he immediately got out and went over to the square of yellow tape, checking the scene with his flashlight. Annemarie was listening intently to a radio, before snapping. "Secure the scene. We're on our way." She caught Catherine's look, and explained, "Patrol just found Sara's car."

"Can I…?"

Annemarie read her thoughts and nodded. "Come on." She made eye contact with Jeremy, who nodded and kept working the scene, as the two women dashed off. It was only a short, ten-minute ride, but Catherine's heart was pounding out of her chest by the time she saw the blue-and-red lights flashing ahead. The official navy sedan Sara had dropped them off in sat in an alley, surrounded by officers. She jumped out and immediately yelled, "Who's touched what?" before realizing that this was Annemarie's scene to work. She looked over at the younger CSI, who gave her a bleak grin and nodded, before moving to photograph the ground by the driver's side door. A few of the officers gave her a strange look, but she plowed on, "Talk to me, people."

An officer volunteered that he had walked over and looked in the window to confirm it was empty, and then secured the area. "Nothing else?" He shook his head. "Good." She took in the scene and walked toward the car, noting the car keys lying in the debris near the rear of the car. Her breath caught as she snapped back to the officers standing there. "Did anyone check the trunk?" In response to her unspoken command, a patrolwoman ran forward and punched the trunk lock and stepped back so Catherine could see as the lid popped open. Sara's bruised and bloody face was the first thing Catherine saw, shining palely in the glow of her light, and she felt her knees begin to buckle as she stepped forward and stretched out a shaking hand to check the pulse. Her heart stopped in her chest for a second, until she felt a weak beat under her fingertips. "EMTs. Now," she commanded the officer in a voice she barely recognized as her own.

"Sara." Annemarie's voice was strangled in her throat as she stepped closer, before Catherine stopped her. "Don't disturb the evidence." The young CSIs eyes turned to her, hate-filled Catherine's seeming coldness, but Catherine stared her down. "If we want to find out who did this to her, we have to work this scene properly." The staring contest continued for just a few moments before Annemarie broke contact, biting her lip and nodding slightly. Catherine pointed down at the keys. "Photograph the exterior and bag the evidence. Then get this car towed to your garage so we can rip it apart."

The paramedics had Sara out of the trunk, and it looked like she had been badly beaten. Catherine's hand balled into a fist, and she let out a shaky breath, before noticing Annemarie watching her with the same flat angry expression she knew was on her face. "What about…" her eyes glanced to the right, at where the EMTs were working, and Catherine swallowed hard. "I'll process the… victim," she said, closing her eyes as she said the last word.

Annemarie nodded again. "Take my kit. I'll have Jeremy meet me here and we'll share." Catherine reached up and squeezed the young CSI's shoulder briefly before following the stretcher back to the ambulance.

The doctor was giving her report and Catherine tried to listen. She caught, "multiple blows to the head and body with a blunt object," "unconscious," "swelling of the brain," and "no sign of any sexual assault," but the rest was drowned out by static that seemed to fill her head and rendered her unable to concentrate. Finally, she snapped out of it when she realized the doctor had stopped talking and was looking at her expectantly. "Any idea how long she'll be unconscious?" The doctor pursed her lips, and then shook her head sadly. "We don't know. The longer it goes on…" She shrugged. "We'll be monitoring her. If the swelling gets worse, we'll have to operate."

Catherine picked up her kit. "I had better," she said, nodding toward the door to finish her sentence. She steeled herself as she stepped over the threshold, and looked at Sara. The blood had been wiped away, making the dark bruises stand out against her pale skin even more clearly. One marred her smooth cheek, and three others mottled her arms, but the worst were unseen, hidden by her hair. The kit was open and she was scraping under Sara's fingernails as the years of professional practice took over. She managed to get photographs of the bruises, including the three on her shoulders and back which showed a clear imprint of the object used in the beating, and she managed to get everything packed away before her professional facade cracked. Catherine wasn't sure how long she sat there, clutching Sara's hand with both of her own, breathing hard to keep the sobs under control, when Annemarie cleared her voice behind her.

"Catherine? I'm sorry to disturb you. I need to get these samples sent out to the lab." Catherine nodded as the brunette picked up the evidence bag, and turned to go.

"Wait. What do you mean, sent out?"

Annemarie sighed in frustration. "We lost our funding for an internal lab tech last year, so we have to send all of our samples out to a central lab for processing." She indicated the bag in her hand. "It'll take at least 48 hours to get these back, even with a rush on them, so I want to get them in quick."

Catherine's mouth dropped. "48 hours?"

"Yeah. Sara's trying to get the line reinstated, but it can't become a budget item until next year. Until then, we're stuck with this."

Catherine already had her cell out as she brushed past Annemarie. "Don't leave. I'll be right back." As soon as she hit the pavement, she was on the phone to the lab. "Greg? I want you in San Francisco immediately. Get a patrol car to drive you to the airport and get the first available flight. Flash your badge if you have to. Yes, I'll reimburse you. I'll call Warrick and Brass to explain. Are you out the door yet? No, I'll explain everything when you get here. Call me from the airport to tell me your flight information, ok? Thanks." She hung up the phone and rolled her head on her shoulders, giving Greg a couple of minutes to get out the door before calling Warrick and Nick. "Warrick? Is Nick there with you? Is Brass around? Yeah, put me on speaker phone."

When she returned to the room, Annemarie was sitting beside the bed and seemed to be telling Sara the status of the investigation. Catherine watched the interaction from the door, smiling a little to herself at the young CSI's obvious case of hero worship as she debated what Sara would recommend as the next move. "I think she would say, get back to the lab and start processing the evidence." Annemarie looked up, her embarrassment evident, even in the face of Catherine's teasing tone. "I've called in a favor and we'll have a lab tech here in three to four hours." Catherine settled back into her seat and took Sara's hand again. "In the meantime, we can still run the prints and start tearing up that car."


She shrugged her shoulders. "I'm here. I might as well help." They sat in silence for a few moments, watching Sara's still figure. "Did she…?" Catherine squeezed Sara's hand in hers, hard, as they saw her twitch on the bed, and she thought she felt a slight pressure in response. Afraid she was imagining it, Catherine leaned over, brushing a few stray hairs off her forehead, and whispered, "Sara, honey?" She saw another twitch. "Sara?"

Sara's mouth opened and Catherine thought she heard her name in the faint whisper. "Get the doctor," she told Annemarie before turning back to Sara. "Sara, honey, can you open your eyes for me?" Her eyelids fluttered a couple of times before staying open. Sara had a hard time focusing them, before her eyes rolled back again and she lapsed back into unconsciousness. The doctor ordered her out, then, and finally joined them a few moments later in the hallway. "That's a good sign. We're taking her for another CAT scan now to be sure, but I think the swelling is already receding. If so, then I feel very confident she'll make a full recovery. But I'm about to put her on some medication that will put her to sleep for a few hours, so there's nothing much you can do here."

Catherine caught Annemarie's eye. "Get the evidence bag. We can use the time to process the car, so maybe we can have a present for Sara when she wakes up." Annemarie grinned like a predator ready to pounce on its prey, and got the bag before hustling Catherine out of the hospital and back to the lab.

4. Life and Limbs

A short, compact woman with graying blonde hair in a black pantsuit and grey silk shirt barreled toward Catherine and Annemarie as they made their way through the lab. Catherine heard Annemarie whisper, "Shit," under her breath as the woman blocked their way. "Annemarie, what's going on? And is this the person who was ordering around the PD on a scene earlier?"

Annemarie physically cowered in front of the much shorter woman. "Ma'am, Dr. Sidle was assaulted during shift by an unknown assailant and we are making every effort to…"

"Actually, we may have a very good idea of who the assailant is," Catherine cut in smoothly, stopping what she suspected was a long, disjointed, yet very proper, ramble on the part of the young CSI. "Catherine Willows. Las Vegas Crime Lab." She held out her hand, coolly taking over the conversation.

"Captain Mel Harris, SFPD." She shook Catherine's hand, visibly mulling over something Catherine had said. "Vegas, huh?" She jerked her head back, indicating Catherine should walk with her. "What do you mean, you have a good idea of the assailant?"

"Well, it's either an unknown, which is highly unlikely given she was abducted during a short visit to an active crime scene under the noses of at least two patrol officers, or it's the officer who threatened Sara about two hours before she was found. An officer…"

"Phillips," Annemarie supplied reluctantly.

The captain stopped short. "He came here?"

"Yes, ma'am. Right before shift started. He had a verbal confrontation with Dr. Sidle regarding the incident last week, ma'am."

Harris glanced at Catherine. "And why are you here?"

"Dr. Grissom and I were up conferring with Dr. Sidle on a possible serial murder case involving our jurisdictions and examining a crime scene when the call came in." The captain nodded her head, and started to turn back to Annemarie when Catherine asserted, "Captain Harris. I think I should run the investigation."

"What?" She swung back to Catherine, dumbfounded by her audacity. "You're not even a part of this department."

"Exactly." Harris caught her meaning, but Catherine spelled it out anyway. "The chief suspect in the assault is one of your own, with the motive possibly work-related. I'm not involved in the departmental politics, so I have a fair chance of being seen as impartial."

"But you worked with Sara for several years, so I wouldn't call you impartial," she replied doubtfully.

"Nobody investigating the case at this point is impartial." Catherine shrugged. "But I'm a scientist, not a vigilante, and I'm far enough removed. Besides, you need someone on this investigation who can't be intimidated professionally by their lack of seniority in the department."

Harris's mouth twisted into a ghost of a grin. "I can see why Sara always talks about you with such respect, Willows." She glanced at Annemarie, considering. "Ok, you got it. I'll fix it downtown. You just find out who did this." She pulled out a holder and passed Catherine her card. "Keep me informed."

Gil was sitting in Sara's office, on the couch that Catherine knew was Sara's home away from home on many nights, staring at the pictures on her walls. Catherine sat beside him and took his hand. "Sara woke up for a few moments. The doctors are confident in her recovery." He didn't say anything, didn't even react to her presence, and Catherine cast a worried glance at him.

He finally swept a hand to indicate the pictures on her walls. A few were Ansel Adams prints, but there were many black-and-white photos of the desert and mountains surrounding Las Vegas. "Did you know she was into photography?" he asked, quietly, his eyes moving from one photo to the other restlessly. "For all the overtime she put in, when did she get the time to go hiking and take all these?"

She shook her head, sadly. "I don't know."

"I never knew her at all."

"Gil, she's going to be ok."

"All those years, I thought I knew her so well, but I never knew her at all. Beautiful, aren't they?" His expression was distraught as he contemplated the photos in another long silence.

"Gil. Do you want to go to the hospital and sit with her? You can pick up a crossword and keep her company while she sleeps." He smiled one of his distracted smiles, the one he gave to people when he was listening but thinking on much larger issues, and then nodded. She filled him in quickly on what else was going on, and she braced for him to tell her she overstepped, but he just whispered his approval as she directed Jeremy to make sure he picked up a crossword and got to Sara's hospital room before heading to the airport to wait for Greg.

She joined the other members of the team in the break room and got updated on the case. Jerome and Kesha looked at her with suspicion as she took over the meeting, but she didn't have the patience to coddle them, so she settled for brusquely assigning them the work of running the prints through AFIS and going through Sara's clothes for any other trace elements.

Annemarie looked up from the trunk where she was lifting a print. "I'm going to run these up to Jerome," she said, indicating the many prints she had collected. Catherine grunted from where she was bent over the front seat, collecting hair from the headrest. Her beeper vibrated against her hip. "That's Greg. Can you bring him down here when you come back so I can fill him in?" She twisted back around in the seat and rubbed her temples wearily. They had collected a ton of trace from the vehicle, but she knew most of it would come up Sara's. And even a print from the car would only prove that Phillips had been in or around the car at some point, an easy assumption considering the car was issued out of a general pool. Even though she knew in her gut that Phillips had done this, proving it would be the hard part. Unless Sara could ID him, the evidence would have to put him in the car at the time Sara was attacked and make it airtight to put away a cop. Think, think, think, she commanded herself as she tried to loosen the muscles in her neck.

Greg followed Annemarie into the garage, blinking in the harsh overhead glare of the fluorescents. The annoyance on his face drained as she related the entire story to him, to be replaced with anger. She related the difficulties it would take to bust another cop, and told him to get started on the fingernail scrapings first. "I think she scratched her assailant in the attack."

"Good," Greg nodded approvingly. "Do we have a sample from the cop to run against it?"

She shook her head. "No, not yet. I want to get something on him before we haul him in and tip our hand. Something concrete," she mused as something teased the edge of her mind. Suddenly her head snapped up, and she curled her mouth into a fierce grin. "Annemarie, he punched the wall. Do you remember where?"

"Oh yeah," she replied, grinning herself. "I'll go scrape some epithelials now." She grabbed Greg's arm and dragged him after her, "Come on, Greg, no time for dawdling."

Kesha appeared in their wake, reporting that some of the prints from the car, especially around the trunk area, were a match with Phillips and to deliver the crime scene photos. She nodded her appreciation of the young woman's efforts. "It's circumstantial at best since we can't prove exactly when the prints were left, but we'll bury him with evidence."

"Sid says that all the time," Kesha told her, as they spread the photos over the hood and looked them over. Kesha tapped the photos Catherine took of the bruises on Sara's back. "That's a weird shape. What do you think that is?" Catherine gazed at the vaguely familiar shape as Kesha suggested a pipe or wrench half-heartedly.

"Kesha? Why do you call Sara 'Sid'?"

"It kind of evolved into her nickname. Dr. Sidle was too formal, Sara, even though she insisted we call her that, was too informal. The PD called her Sidle, and we called her that for a while, but then Jerome started calling her Sid, and it stuck." She grinned sheepishly, "I guess it's no more formal than Sara, but I think she likes it." She glanced down at the photos again, and her eyes widened. She reached over and unsnapped her service sidearm, flipping it over to compare the butt plate to the impressions in the photos, before meeting Catherine's eye with an excited look.

Greg cleared his throat behind them. "And we have a winner in the epithelials sweepstakes. The DNA from under Sara's fingernails is a match to the epithelials from the wall. I, um, still have a lot more samples to analyze, but I thought you'd want to know."

Annemarie appeared in the doorway behind Greg. "Do we have enough?"

"Oh yeah," Catherine nodded. "Call the detective on the case and get a warrant. It's time we had a chat with officer Phillips."

"CSIs don't sit in on interrogations," the IAB detective protested angrily, as the union representative nodded his agreement and glared at her. Catherine surveyed the room, thinking to herself that there was the possibility of testosterone poisoning in this environment. Luckily, she knew how to handle herself in these situations, and she smiled sweetly, "I'm not sitting in. I'm simply collecting evidence as specified by my warrant."

"Evidence? What evidence?" The union rep demanded angrily.

She ignored him. "Officer Phillips, do you want your lawyer before we begin?"

"Lawyer? What for? I have nothing to hide," he sneered. He turned to his rep, "Who is this? She's not one of our CSIs."

"Special investigator brought in for this case."

Phillips sniffed in anger. "Another one of Captain Harris's bitches, you mean." He met her eyes and sneered again, to see her reaction to his jibe.

Catherine's smile grew even wider. "Actually, Officer Phillips, I'm your worst nightmare."

"Oh yeah? What's that?"

"I'm the bitch who's going to put you away for assaulting a fellow officer." She let her words register for a moment, before winking at him. "Now strip." The union rep sputtered as the IAB detective and Phillips looked outraged. She handed the warrant to the union rep. "It's right there in the warrant. I need a sample of his DNA, his sidearm, and a full body exam. With photos."

As the rep and Phillips looked over the warrant for themselves, she snapped on gloves and pulled out a swab. "Open up." He balked at first, until the rep nodded. She then extended her hand and waved her fingers in his face. "Your sidearm." He made no movement to comply. "I haven't got all night. Your sidearm." He took in the rest of the table and saw no help on the faces of his fellow officers, so he sighed and unclipped his holster, tossing it at her. "Thanks," she said sweetly as she bagged it. "Now," she pulled out her camera and rested it on her shoulder, "strip." He finally looked defeated, and he started to take off his shirt. Catherine noticed the scratches on his forearm immediately, and as she photographed them, she noticed something embedded in one deep furrow. "Hold still," she commanded as she pulled a small piece of a torn fingernail from the groove, She swabbed the scratches as well, before telling him he could get dressed. She paused at the door as she was leaving, "Now, Officer Phillips, you might want to rethink calling your lawyer before I get back."

Barely fifteen minutes later, she knocked on the door and entered, grinning in triumph. She spoke quietly to the detective for a moment, before sitting down across from Phillips. "Remember what I said about your worst nightmare? Your DNA is a match to that collected from under Dr. Sidle's fingernails from where she scratched your arm. And that bit of fingernail from your scratch matches her DNA. A fiber taken from the butt of your gun matches that of Dr. Sidle's clothing, and there are traces of her DNA on your weapon as well. Your fingerprints are on the car where she was left for dead. And this is just what we have so far. We're still processing the remainder of the evidence."

He glared at her. "That's a lie. I know you have to send samples out to the lab, and there's a 48-hour turn around on DNA tests. You're trying to trick me."

"Ah, so that's why you didn't immediately clean your gun. I wondered about that. Actually, we had a DNA specialist working this shift with us. The results are real, although we'll be sure to double-check them through the usual lab," She nodded to the detective, who promptly informed Phillips he was under arrest for kidnapping and attempted murder, as she leaned back in her chair and smirked at him as he was lead out.

The IAB detective who had watched the proceedings with a mixture of disgust and grudging respect finally met her eye as the door closed behind Phillips. "Maybe it doesn't hurt to have a CSI in an interrogation sometimes."

5. Candy Stripers

Catherine paused in the doorway, viewing the scene in Sara's hospital room with amusement. Gil had forsaken the crossword to read Shakespeare aloud to a still unconscious Sara, reading the lines with a dramatic flair and sense of timing that Catherine would have anticipated. MacBeth. Catherine shook her head at his choice. He couldn't have picked a comedy? Something a little lighter for someone in hospital? Catherine guessed Sara should be lucky he didn't pick a book of Zen philosophy. She edged into the room, so Gil could see her, and he finished the monologue he had been reading. His eyes were bloodshot and his shoulders were slumped with exhaustion. "You ok?" Catherine asked as he took off his reading glasses to rub his eyes.

"Yeah. Sara's eyelids flickered a few times, but she didn't completely wake up, so I was reading so she had something to listen to." His convoluted logic made her smile softly; she had never seen anything shake Gil to the core like this night had. The change registered in his eyes, in the weary way he took everything in, as if he couldn't get his bearings. Lost. He looked lost, his faith in his decisions and course shaken in some fundamental way. The burden that Catherine had seen lifted from Sara's shoulders after she had made the decision to leave had settled firmly on his. He figured out what Sara meant to him after all, and Catherine was afraid it was too late.

"Gil, you look like hell. I'm going to get us a couple of cups of coffee," she said, reluctant to observe his pain.

He hoisted himself out of the chair and rotated his head on his neck "No, I'll go. I've been sitting too long – I need to stretch my legs." He stuck his head back in the room a second after he left to add, "Oh, and good work on the case."

Catherine settled into the chair he had just left, leaning up onto the bed to brush Sara's hair back from her forehead, lost in thought. It was amazing to her how someone could be so blind, and so cautious. Sara had been so devoted and so willing to do anything, and Gil did nothing with it; Catherine would have cheerfully given a limb for Eddie to be like that to her, considerate and caring. He had been so lucky, and yet so blind, and he just realized that truth now.

"Hey," Sara choked out of her parched throat. Catherine started; she had been so lost in thought she hadn't noticed Sara waking up.

"Hey you," she replied softly, still running her fingers through Sara's dark hair in a soothing gesture. She noticed Sara's eyes were actually focusing and she seemed groggy but alert. "How do you feel?"

"Ouch?" The word was barely more than a croak, but her dark eyes glittered with her characteristic wit, and Catherine smiled in response. "Ouch might be a bit of an understatement. You gave us quite a scare, young lady," she said, mock-lecturing.

Sara tried to laugh, but ended up coughing. After getting her to drink some water, Catherine settled Sara back against the pillows again. Her eyes closed again and Catherine thought she was going back to sleep until she asked, "What happened?"

"Do you remember anything?"

"Bits, pieces" She rubbed her thumb on one of the bruises on her arms, obviously surprised by the defensive wounds. "Nothing like this" she said absently as she gazed at her arm, her expression clouded as she tried to remember.

"Some memory loss is to be expected," Catherine said gently. "You sustained some head trauma as well as injuries to your arms and body. You were actually very lucky," she stroked the bruise on Sara's cheek softly, "You have a spectacular bruise here, but your cheekbone wasn't broken, and none of the major organs were damaged. Concussion was bad, with some secondary swelling, but they didn't have to operate." Sara listened to the catalog of her injuries impassively, like the scientist she was, trying to put the experience into a rational framework. It seemed to work so long as she didn't look down at her arms and see the actual evidence. When she did that, she felt an odd rolling feeling in the pit of her stomach, like something was crawling around in her gut looking to claw its way out.

"Who? How?" She wasn't sure she really wanted to know; it sickened her that someone had done something to her, had controlled her in some way, and she had no memory of it. A sudden fear swept her. Catherine watched her face pale, reading her sudden fear in the way her jaw clenched, cutting off her next question. "Sara, you weren't… you weren't sexually assaulted." The look in Sara's eyes showed Catherine guessed correctly, and the relief was evident in her face as she visibly relaxed. Catherine filled her in as quickly as possible, tactfully editing out her own involvement in the case for now. Catherine squeezed her hand in the ensuring silence; Sara's downcast eyes focused on the blanket near her fingers, lost in thought.

Gil stepped in then, holding two cups of coffee, which he quickly set down to cross to the bed to take Sara's hand. Her gaze was unreadable, but certainly not the pleasure Catherine might have expected. She gave a wane smile and said, "I thought I heard you, like in my dreams or something." He picked up the book from her bedside and held up it so she could see the title, "I was reading to you." Sara's smile got a little wider and Catherine knew she shared her idea of the light reading he had chosen.

"MacBeth? Uplifting." She tried to sound normal, but her voice was weaker with each word and her eyes drooped.

He patted her hand. "It's forensic. The blood on the hands…" He caught her tired look. "I'll leave it here for you. I'm leaving for Vegas soon; I just wanted to see you were ok before I left." The relief was evident on her face as he beamed down at her. "You gave us a scare."

Greg cleared his throat from the door, and entered, bearing a large bouquet of flowers. "I heard Sleeping Beauty was awake."

Sara's confusion was complete. "Greg? What are you doing here?" The puzzle pushed the exhaustion back, just a little.

"Umm," Greg faltered, catching Catherine's look, "dropping off these flowers for you from Nick, Warrick, and I," he finished, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. He set the bouquet on a table. "I'm glad you are ok." He glanced at his watch. "Catherine will explain the rest. Grissom, we need to get to the airport."

"Oh, right." He was reluctant to release Sara's hand. "Be well." He paused by the door. "I'll be in touch about the serial murder case,' and then was gone. Sara's gaze lingered on the spot where he had departed, her expression managing to look both relieved and sad. It was a long time before she glanced up at Catherine, as if she just realized she was still there. Then her eyes narrowed in puzzlement.

"Wait, why are you still here?"

Catherine sank back into the chair, briefly considering how she was going to explain taking over her team's case, and sighed. Honesty is the best policy, right? she thought to herself. "You ok for a couple more minutes?" she asked, not wanting to tire Sara. Sara's face was drawn and pale, but she nodded firmly. "So I, um, got myself assigned to your case. I ran your case, in fact." She explained her reasoning and how she got Greg there, and the results. "I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have stepped in, but I was running on adrenaline and while your CSIs are good, they are young and somewhat inexperienced." The sentence came out in a breathless gust as she tried to make Sara understand. "And with you out, nobody had the clout to take on the PD."

Hey eyes had closed again while Catherine was talking, and for a second she thought Sara had missed the entire explanation. She started to slip her hand out of Sara's when Sara's grip tightened, holding her in place. "Cath… thanks."

"No need for thanks. I'm just glad I was here. If I had been in Vegas and had just had to sit on my hands… "She let out a shaky breath, releasing the pent-up tension in her shoulders and stomach that had been driving her. "I was so glad I was doing something."

"Still, th…" Catherine's finger stopped Sara from completing the word. "I said 'no thanks,'" she said with a mock-threatening tone, "and I meant it." Under her finger, Sara's lips quirked into a smile, and Catherine felt a slight pressure, a faint kiss pressed there against her fingertip. "You should sleep," Catherine said in the resulting silence. She leaned in and gave Sara a light kiss on the forehead, a natural yet surprising gesture. "I'll be back later."

She walked toward the door, feeling Sara's eyes following her. "Cath, wait." She turned and leaned against the doorframe, wondering what Sara was going to say. It wasn't what she expected. "Where are you staying?"

Catherine shook her head, "I don't know. I'll get a hotel somewhere."

"Stay at my place. My keys should be around here somewhere."

"Sara, I couldn't….' Sara's glower was entirely too forceful for someone just waking up in the hospital. "I guess I could."

"Address is on my license, car's in the garage if you need. See you." Her words slurred off toward the end, and she was asleep before Catherine left the room. As soon as Catherine hit the pavement in front of the hospital, she turned her cell on and was surprised that it rang almost immediately.

6. Places and Times

Catherine reflected on the irony as she dropped her bag just inside the door of Sara's townhouse. In the four and a half years Sara had been in Vegas, she had never visited her apartment, and now she stood in the entranceway of Sara's home. It was one of those new urban development projects, with a garage and two stories. It didn't seem like Sara's style at first, but then Catherine couldn't imagine that Sara spent a lot of time worrying about her environment, but still, she would have thought Sara would prefer something old, with character. It is close to work, she mused, and there's a lot to do within walking distance. Maybe it's convenience?

The first floor was open, the chrome and black kitchen separated from the rest by an island with a bar on one side. Two placemats were placed on the bar, and it looked like that's where Sara ate most of the time. A newspaper was folded on the island, like she had been reading it while she ate. Catherine found herself looking around the rest of the area curiously, trying to find out more about the enigma that was Sara.

The colors surprised her the most, she realized when she walked around the living area. Catherine wasn't sure what she expected, but the warm browns and yellows, reminiscent of old sepia-toned photographs, wasn't really the color scheme she would have associated with Sara. The color scheme seemed dictated by the antique furniture that dominated the space. A beautiful old library table held her computer and printer in front of a wall of in-built bookcases, full of books and knickknacks. Old mission-style chairs and coffee table formed a conversation space with a yellow-gold couch, the color off-setting the darker hues of the chairs. A comfortable-looking leather recliner finished off the space, obviously a favorite of Sara's if the small stack of books beside the chair was any indication. Antique camera equipment and a few family photographs graced the display spaces around the room. Like her office, black and white photographs and prints covered the walls. Gil was right; photography does seem to be a passion.

Catherine wandered back to the kitchen, placing the teapot on to make tea. She searched through Sara's cupboards, finding an assortment of tea bags in an antique coffee tin. She fixed herself a cup and made a bagel, unsure when the last time she ate was. Plopping down on the couch, she turned on the TV to check the news, nibbling at the bagel to avoid eating too fast.

When Catherine awoke, the television was still on, only it had switched to some daytime soap. It took her a few moments to register where she was, her eyes sweeping the unfamiliar furnishings in confusion. She groggily checked her watch and realized she must have been tired, because she had slept, slumped on the couch, for nearly six hours. Grabbing her bag, she went in search of the bathroom, mentally listing her next steps: shower, hospital; but then her stomach growled, and she amended her list: shower, food, hospital. Her clothes dropped in the hallway as she walked, knowing she was alone in the house and too groggy to care about being a slob. The shower revived her somewhat, and she found herself rehearsing what she was going to say to Sara.

Twenty minutes later, showered, changed, and full, Catherine headed through the door she thought was the garage and stopped dead, surprised by what the room revealed. A bright red vintage Mustang convertible occupied most of the space, the top already down. Sara's car in Nevada had been white and practical, she remembered, a Toyota or Honda or something, not, she was sure, a 60s muscle car. But the muscle car wasn't her only surprise: along the wall, beside the car, a wide array of sports equipment was hung or stored: two bikes, a backpack, roller blades, and ropes for rock climbing. Catherine took in the array, wondering if Sara had had all this back when she was in Nevada, and what else they hadn't known about her.

Sara saw her in the doorway, over the shoulder of doctor rattled off restrictions and instructions. She waved Catherine in as Catherine turned to go. Catherine stepped just inside the door, not wanting to intrude, as the doctor finished her recitation. Catherine smiled at her as she exited, leaving her alone with Sara. Sara's bruise was reaching its peak and the whole side of her face was red and purple, but the eyes above it sparkled.

"You look rested," and she did. Her hair was pushed back behind her ears, and the book Grissom had left was lying on the blankets beside her. She had obviously been awake for a while. Her skin was still pale, but the sick pallor was gone, and she looked so much like her old self that Catherine had an urge to hug her.

"Yeah. The doc was just telling me I can go home tomorrow. The latest CAT scan came up clear and except for a couple of hairline fractures, the concussion, and some massive bruising, I'm fine." Catherine quirked an eyebrow at her definition of fine, knowing how serious her injuries really were. Sara sighed, looking dismayed. "I'm on sick leave for three weeks from work."

"Yeah," Catherine started, picking her words carefully. "I spoke to Captain Harris this morning." Sara's face twisted into a puzzled expression, but let the silence prompt Catherine to continue. "She… um, asked me to stay and run the shift during your recovery." She hurried on, seeing the expression on Sara's face flitting between anger, concern, and complete bewilderment. "Partially, it's because she wants to say I was on the payroll when I ran your case, and partially because she, quote, wants a suitable replacement for her star CSI, unquote."

Sara was unsure how she felt about this; she hadn't always compared favorably to Catherine in the past, as she remembered all the times she played second fiddle or even got bumped from cases because of Catherine. The circumstances were different here, but the feelings of insecurity she always felt around the older CSI hadn't completely vanished. Although, she thought, if she was out, she would want the best to work with her team, right? Shouldn't that be more important than her ego? Her thoughts spiraled around these two poles for several minutes and some of what she was thinking must have shown on her face.

Catherine caught her hand and squeezed, bringing her attention back to the strawberry blonde standing there. "I won't do it if you don't want me to," she said quietly, and Sara realized that her silence could be interpreted in a number of different ways, most of them unfavorably. Catherine's face was unreadable, but Sara's continued silence had to be painful.

"Sorry," she said, trying to soften the silence with a smile. "It's not that you aren't a great CSI."

"But…?" Catherine's voice was low and controlled, but Sara could hear an edge of pain break through. Having your competence questioned was not fun, Sara knew, and she hated doing this to the older CSI. Sara knew there was no way to explain except the truth, even though the truth made her look stupid and childish. "But… they won't want me back after working with you," she admitted softly, her eyes riveted on a spot of blanket to avoid Catherine's eyes.

Catherine let out a shaky laugh. "And here I was worried about filling your shoes." She laughed again at Sara's puzzled look. "Sara, they are your team and they adore you." Catherine could guess why Sara might feel insecure; when she had started at Vegas, she had come in late on the team, tasked with investigating one of their own, and she had always had struggled to find a place. And, Catherine admitted to herself, none of them, especially her, had made it any easier on the younger woman. It made sense that she would feel a little uneasy. "This isn't Vegas. This time, I'm the new face, the interloper, coming in on YOUR team."

Sara mulled this over for a while, obviously struggling with her internal conflict. "Well, the lab couldn't get any better," she said, finally.

"Well, actually they could," Catherine corrected, "but she's on sick leave for the next three weeks." She smothered her grin at Sara's doubtful expression for a moment, and then let it shine through, happy to see Sara give a small smile in return. Catherine had to admit she was relieved that Sara had been truthful about her concern, given how secretive she had been at times. She knew the secrecy had been a protective measure on Sara's part, and was glad that perhaps such measures weren't necessarily between them anymore.

Sara's voice interrupted her thoughts, abruptly bringing her back to the hospital room. "Wait, what about Grissom? And Lindsey?"

"Well, I was already going to be here for a week anyway to finish up, so it's just a little longer. Grissom will have to deal with it," she said in the tone Sara knew she would use with Grissom. "Lindsey's on summer vacation, so I thought I might have her join me here and we could have a little vacation together. It will be a nice change of pace."

Sara nodded and seemed to be thinking about something before she apparently made up her mind. The results were conveyed to Catherine in a tone that brooked no argument. "You are staying with me."

Catherine was completely floored and secretly pleased by the invitation, but she tried to argue anyway. "Sara, you don't want Lindsey around while you are convalescing. And your townhouse has only two bedrooms. And…"

"Who will babysit Linds while you are at work?" Sara interjected logically.


Sara continued to pile on arguments, not heeding Catherine. "And there's plenty of room. And it's close to work, while most hotels are far from work. And rush hour traffic here is brutal. And where did you plan on staying anyway?"

Catherine looked a little chagrined. "I hadn't thought that far in advance," she admitted.

"Linds can have the guest room. I have a king bed in my bedroom. We can share."

"Um, share?"

Sara grinned. "Yeah, share. I can keep to myself if you can."

Catherine blinked, and then her eyes widened when she realized what Sara meant. She couldn't believe she hadn't been thinking of that interpretation of the offer whereas Sara had been. Since when did she miss the sexual innuendo and Sara pick up on it? And since when did Sara make comments like that to her anyway? Catherine gave up trying to think through the implications of her thoughts. "Um, actually, I was thinking that I'll be coming in late at night and that you are recovering from your injuries." She smirked down at Sara. "I really wasn't worried about bed etiquette."

Sara's grin got a little wider, acknowledging the fact that she had been busted, and hastily tried to cover. "I know for a fact four people can fit comfortably on a king-sized bed. You getting into bed won't even cause a ripple. "

Catherine's smile assumed a predatory cast, an expression well-known by all her friends and colleagues. After all, her reputation for being sexually-provocative and willing to share her private life was well known, but it wasn't exactly something Sara had engaged in. "Cite your source."

"Cite my source?" Sara repeated, stalling. She couldn't believe she had just said that, and wondered if she could blame the drugs or her injuries. She yawned, and stretched. "Actually, I'm getting a little tired. Maybe…" she said, hopefully, but the expression on Catherine's face told her she wasn't getting out of this one.

"Oh no, Sidle, you are not getting out of this that easy. Cite your source," Catherine commanded, actually enjoying the younger CSI's discomfort. Sara's face was casebook embarrassment as she looked around the room for a distraction, but she finally fessed up. "Teresa Warner. Weekend getaway to Maine. A couple of our friends decided to join us for the road trip at the last minute, and everyone ended up in our room when the hotel didn't have any vacancies. We fit very comfortably," she finished blandly.

Catherine nodded, her smile threatening to split her face, until she caught something Sara said and her eyes got wide, "But you and your friend," she said, putting extra emphasis on the word, "had a king bed and not two double beds initially?" She followed her thoughts to their logical conclusions. "So didn't having extra people in the bed, um, make it difficult for you and your friend?" she asked.

"Not necessarily," Sara replied, deadpan, giving Catherine an innocent look. Seeing Sara's face, she knew the topic of conversation had been dropped, and Sara's next words confirmed it. "So you are staying with me," As they discussed the logistics of the living arrangements, Catherine was left trying to figure out exactly what Sara had confessed to.

Part 7

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