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

11. Get Me

"To know yourself is to let yourself be in love
I wanna be addictive
I wanna be secure
I wanna wake up after the night before
Do you get me?
Do you ever get me?"

--Everything But the Girl

They were frozen like that, their bodies unmoving except for the slow boil that was Catherine's blood pumping through her body. Their lips still touched, Sara's arms were still around her waist, and her hands still grasped Sara's hips tightly. She was afraid to break the moment, afraid to let Sara go, Catherine realized, afraid that if she did, Sara would retreat behind the wall that she had thrown up earlier. She really learned a thing or two from Gil about cutting herself off from her emotions, didn't she, Catherine thought.

"Tell me." Sara's voice was soft, reassuring yet commanding. Catherine wasn't sure she heard her at first, wasn't sure what she was asking when she did figure out that Sara had spoken. "Tell me about your nightmare," Sara breathed against her lips in the ensuing silence. Once again, she had been woken by Catherine, and she had panicked when she had reached out and Catherine wasn't there. It took her a moment to remember that Catherine had gone into the guest room when they had returned from work, a not-so-subtle slap in the face, but that hadn't stopped her from hurrying to the room as she heard Catherine crying and yelling.

Sanity had re-inserted itself when she reached the door, pausing in the doorway when she saw that Catherine was still asleep, tangled in the sheets, the sheen of sweat on her face evident even in the faint hallway light. She hesitated, there, one hand on the doorframe, caught in her indecision. Not for the first time that night she wondered when had she become so indecisive and timid. But then Catherine had shot up in bed, eyes wide and unseeing, and nothing could stop her from crossing to the bed and gathering her in her arms.

"Tell me."

"It's you," Catherine whispered, so quietly she was sure Sara wouldn't hear, but she knew she would. Her body had stopped trembling from the aftermath of the nightmare, but she could feel another trembling beginning in her stomach as Sara's hands continued to caress her back through the light cotton of her t-shirt. "I keep… seeing you…" Catherine paused as an image from her dream bubbled up. Sara's face, pale and bruised, in the sweep of the light from her torch. "In the trunk. I found you, you know," she said, almost conversationally, "at the scene."

Sara hadn't known that; she had tried to avoid reading the reports and files, she hadn't wanted anyone to think that she was checking up on them, and she especially didn't want to think of herself as the victim. So she hadn't known many details, just made sure the evidence was all in order, and avoided everything else.

"I saw the keys on the ground. When the trunk opened…." Again, words failed her as Catherine tried to explain. "You were so pale. I thought you were dead." She closed her eyes, reliving that moment when she felt a faint pulse under her fingertips. "In the dream, it's just like that. The lid pops up, I reach out to feel for a pulse, and there's nothing. Your skin is cold. And just when I'm about to start screaming, the whole sequence begins again. I'm arriving at the scene, I see the keys…It's never any different. You're dead, every time." She finished shakily, her eyes still closed.

Sara's fingers circled her chin, bringing her eyes up to her own. "Hey, hey, it's ok. I'm ok. Still here, see?" Her eyes darkened by her memories, Catherine tried but failed to meet Sara's light tone. "You almost weren't," she said sadly. Sara caught her hand and raised it to her neck, pressing her fingers over her pulse. "Feel that? Me, alive and well because of you."

Catherine let the rhythm of Sara's pulse lull her into an almost doze, her own heartbeat matching the beat she felt under her fingertips. When she spoke again, it was almost to herself, absentmindedly reliving the memory of the crime scene. "I thought I had lost you." That's when her eyes finally locked onto Sara's, as a sudden realization struck. "I can't do that again." Sara's expression creased into a frown as she puzzled over Catherine's last remark, her dark eyes clouded. She thought that Catherine had come to the same realization she had earlier, that they couldn't let whatever odd attraction they felt go any further, that they couldn't let it ruin their emerging friendship.

Lost in thought, it took her a while to notice Catherine's fingers were tracing a slow, lazy circle from her hip, down along her thigh, and back up again, or that her thumb was caressing her neck where her fingers still pressed against her pulse. The look of amusement on Catherine's face, amusement laced with a certain predatory lust that took her breath away, made her realize that she was completely wrong in her interpretation.

Catherine watched the comprehension dawn on Sara and felt her stomach contract as she sucked in a sharp breath, her own mouth curving into a smirk in answer to Sara's wide-eyed expression. She shifted just slightly, closing the distance between their bodies, and she felt the pulse beneath her fingers speed up perceivably. She took her time sliding her body up Sara's, enjoying the conflict between fear and desire she could see in Sara's eyes and the way she bit her lower lip before unconsciously running her tongue between them. Her lips poised a whispers-breadth away from Sara's, Catherine hesitated, stretching the moment to see how long her endurance would hold.

It held longer than Sara's, as her arms tightened to pull Catherine closer, their lips meeting in a smoldering kiss. Catherine's gasp of surprise opened her mouth to Sara's insistent tongue, darting in and out to caress her lips and war with her tongue. A moan rumbled low in her throat and she felt Sara's lips curve into a smile against her own. Determined not to be outdone, Catherine snaked her hand up under Sara's t-shirt, playing her fingers lightly over her spine before digging her nails into the tender skin. Sara's gasp was muffled by their kiss, her back arching under Catherine's fingers as they began another trip up her spine.

Sara nibbled on Catherine's lower lip, biting down hard when Catherine dug her fingernails in again, loving Catherine's low moan as her tongue teased her tender lips. They sparred, tongues and hands tangling in their urgency to drive the other crazy. Sara managed to pull Catherine's shirt off an instant before Catherine tugged her shirt over her head, and she had just a moment to marvel at the beauty of Catherine's lithe body before any ability to think was drowned in the feeling of their bodies pressing together again.

Catherine fell back on the bed, pulling Sara down on top of her, keeping bodies and lips locked tight, before Sara pushed up on her hands to kiss and lick her cheekbones, eyelids, and neck. She discovered that Catherine sighed in pleasure when she sucked at the tender skin of her neck, and that she squirmed when she licked her ear. She also discovered that fingernails were both a blessing and a curse as Catherine ran her hands down her back, distracting her every time. Catherine fought to catch her mouth as it passed over from one check to the other, finally bringing a hand up to hold her head steady so she could drown in another scorching kiss.

Sara's exploration continued down to Catherine's quivering stomach and back up again, avoiding much more than a tender kiss on each breast, smiling against her skin at Catherine's strangled curse. She continued with light, teasing kisses as Catherine squirmed under her hands and mouth, until Catherine flipped her over with a sound in between a curse and a growl. She laughed as Catherine glared at her, until Catherine discovered how incredibly sensitive her ears were and she bit her lower lip, completely lost in the sensation.

She woke, puzzled by how the light from the window striped the wall until she remembered that she was in the guest bedroom. The heaviness that held her down resolved itself into Catherine's head, arm, and leg, as she lay on her side, curled around Sara's body. Sara let the moment of pure panic fade as quickly as it came as she remembered the events of the night. That's how Catherine first saw her, her mouth curved into the sweetest smile Catherine had ever seen as her fingers twisted in the soft curls of her hair on the pillow. It had taken Catherine all of her courage to open her eyes, scared that once she did, Sara would bolt from the bed.

The happy smile on Sara's face made her bold. "Morning," she whispered, breaking the silence. Sara pressed a kiss against the top of her head in reply, and continued playing with her hair. "Hungry?" she asked, finally.

Catherine chuckled at how Sara always had an appetite, but then realized how empty her stomach felt. They had slept through at least one meal, she was sure. "Starving."

Annemarie watched and wondered at the change in Catherine and Sara as they walked into the break room, laughing, sharing amused grins and light touches on the arm as Sara poured and fixed coffee for them both and Catherine flipped through the assignment slips. The meeting was over quickly, and she and Jerome were the last to leave as they finished their coffee. "So…." Jerome began, drawing the word out with an exaggerated drawl., "do you think they finally did it?"

"Huh?" Annemarie's confusion was complete. "Who? Did what?" When Jerome wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and glanced in the direction of Sara's office, she sat up, her mouth snapping shut with a click as she realized who and what he meant. "You think…" she began, but as soon as the suggestion registered, the tension of the last shift suddenly made a whole lot of sense. "Oh." She giggled, hating how she sounded like a schoolgirl, but unable to control it.

Jerome shook his head at her in disbelief. "You mean you watched that reenactment last night and didn't see that? You should be more observant," he said in mock-disappointment.

"Hey!" She slapped him affectionately on the shoulder. "I was working,. You know, what you should have been doing." She chuckled again, glancing at the closed door of Sara's office. "Come on, we've got a scene to process."

12. Your Next Bold Move

"Sidle." Sara's voice was clipped and abrupt as she answered the phone, the call obviously interrupting her. Gil glanced down at his watch; it was at least two hours before she started work, so he didn't know what he could be interrupting.

"Sara? It's, um, Gil." He stumbled over his own name, unsure as to whether to use his first or last. Personal call, he thought, so make it personal.

"Gil?" The incredulous note in her voice startled him, and he almost hung up the phone right then and there. "What…. what are you…." Her words sputtered to a stop and he wished he knew what he had interrupted. Had he woken her? She wasn't normally at such a loss for words. "Why are you calling?" She finally got the harsh clip to her tone smoothed out into a quiet puzzlement. "Is something wrong?"

"Um, no, no, of course not." He had a sudden urge to take off his glasses and clean them, to give him time to think, as he always needed when he had to talk to Sara about anything beyond work. When confronted by her, he would remove his glasses, remove the slight fuzziness his reading glasses imposed on his vision of her, and try hard to read the undercurrent of emotion in her body and face. It had never worked; she had always taken him by surprise, but he kept trying anyway. But now, he was the one confronting her and he had spent the last hour planning what he was going to say, so the distancing maneuver was never more unnecessary.

"I just called to see how you were doing." He had done this twice before in the last three weeks, trying to be a friend to her again as he had been before she had moved to Las Vegas, and their conversations had been stilted, filled with awkward silences, but slowly seeming more natural and friendly.

Sara didn't sound friendly now. "Oh." A long pause punctuated her words. "I, um, actually, I'm in the middle of, uh, getting ready to take a shower. Can I call you back later tonight?"

"Oh, of course," he said hastily, now anxious to get off the phone.

"Ok, I'll talk to you soon," she said, obviously as anxious as he was.

Catherine collapsed into giggles as soon as Sara closed her cell phone, laughing so hard she was soon gasping for breath. Sara glared at her for a moment, before reveling in the sight of Catherine naked, stretched out, and twisted in the sheets. "I'm glad you found that funny," she muttered dryly, setting off fresh peals of laughter.

"I can't believe you didn't," Catherine replied finally, wiping at the tears in the corners of her eyes. She recollected the way Sara sat straight up in bed, yelping out Gil's name, her eyes as wide as saucers, and she giggled again.

Sara shook her head in disgust. "As funny as a bucket of cold water at the same moment would have been." She shuddered, her expression comical in distaste. "That was like having my parents walk in on me having sex."

Catherine rolled over so that her head rested on Sara's smooth stomach, her fingers tickling her hip and still smiling broadly at the image of Gil walking in on them. "I guess that ruined the mood, huh?"

"A little," she admitted sheepishly. "And we should fix dinner and eat before we get to work."

Catherine shifted so she could meet Sara's eyes, a mischievous expression on her face. "What, you mean you don't want to stop for Chinese food again?" she asked, referring to the fact that they had grabbed something on the way to work every night for the last four shifts, and was rewarded with a blush heating Sara's face. Her face twisted, her frown slowly giving way to a cross between a grin and a smirk before a full-out smile. "How about an omelet?"

"Mmmm, sounds good." Catherine sat up, letting the sheet fall as she stretched, feeling Sara's eyes take in every inch. "I'll shower first, then." Deliberately ignoring her robe in the chair by the bed, Catherine headed to the bathroom to the sound of Sara's teasing groan of frustration.

Work was quiet that night, especially since they had finished the case file review the previous night. Jerome was teaching Jeremy and Kesha a card game while Annemarie read a recent forensic journal while Catherine checked her email. She couldn't believe that she was leaving for Vegas in two days; although she missed Lindsey terribly, she knew she didn't want to leave San Francisco and Sara. They hadn't talked much since that first night together and instead had spent as much time together, touching, in bed, on the couch while watching tv, in the shower. It was as if they were trying to store up against when Catherine had to leave; Catherine felt like she was walking through a fog, wrapped in a fantasy with the hard edges of reality blurred and obscured. Talking about what was happening would break that feeling, and so they hadn't. Catherine tried to concentrate on replying to Nick's email with enthusiasm but she knew when she talked about returning to Vegas, it had to sound forced. Catherine took in Sara's closed office door again, and sighed.

Annemarie chuckled. "The only thing worse than a decomp is a slow night, huh?"

"Yeah," Catherine replied, a comical note of agony in her voice. Sara had tried to send her home when it became apparent that the suspicious circs was a cut-and-dry accident and that the suspect in their murder case from the previous night was either so stupid or guilt-ridden that he had neglected to throw out the bloody clothes or even scrub his hands thoroughly.

Sara's door opened, and everyone perked up, turning with looks of anticipation that turned into frowns when she smiled at their attention, but then shook her head. "Annemarie, how much overtime do you have this month?"

"Only fifteen hours so far," she replied, defensively, since it was barely into the second week. Her eyebrows knit together as she took in Sara's knowing smile.

"Clock out, go home. Comp time." Annemarie scowled but then nodded. "Who else is over time?" Jerome didn't say anything; he just started gathering up his stuff, following Annemarie out the door.

"I'm not over that much," Jeremy said. "Yeah, me either," Kesha echoed.

"Ok, then, get caught up on your reading and see if there are any courses you want to sign up for in the next month. You both need more professional development activities for evaluation and promotion." Jeremy blushed a little and grabbed the journal that Annemarie had set down.

Sara leaned on the table by Catherine, taking advantage of her height to get a good look down Catherine's low-cut blouse. "Cath? You want to head home?" Catherine reveled in the effect she had as she stretched and leaned back and saw the appreciative look in Sara's dark eyes. She really didn't think she would ever get tired of that, she thought, as she felt a familiar tingle travel down her spine. And she really hoped Sara never did, as her fingers itched to touch her. "You need any help with your paperwork?" she asked, suggestively, as Sara threw a quick look at her young CSIs to see if they had picked up on Catherine's tone.

"Um, no," she replied, firmly, although a grin teased at the corners of her lips. "I actually finally caught Grissom on the phone."

"Yeah? What did he want?"

"He wants to come to San Francisco for a visit."

Catherine's chair snapped forward. "He what?" Her voice was louder than she had intended, and both Jerome and Kesha looked over in alarm, both heads ducking immediately back to whatever book they had at Sara's upraised eyebrow.

Turning back to Catherine, she sighed. "He's coming here for a weekend. After you get back to Vegas. He didn't ask to come," she explained hastily. "He's already booked his flight and hotel." Catherine opened her mouth a couple of times, about to say something, stopping herself each time. The confusion and anger she saw on Catherine's face was mirrored on her own; she had sat in her office for half an hour after hanging up with Gil, trying to make sense of the fragmented and awkward conversation and her own response to it.

"Why didn't you tell him to cancel his reservations?" She had asked herself the same question, and her answer had been the same: she shook her head helplessly, as she didn't understand herself. "I don't know." But deep down, she did. She wanted to see him. She cursed his timing, his audacity, but she couldn't help the tiny spark of hope that had flared when he told her his plans.

The blue of Catherine's eyes froze her heart. "I… see," she said finally.


"You know, maybe I will go home. I'm suddenly very tired." She tried to make her voice sound conversational, but it sounded flat even to her ears. "Is that ok?"

Sara's shoulder's slumped as she studied Catherine's face. "Yeah, sure."

She found Catherine at her house, pacing, a half-empty bottle of vodka on the kitchen island. "How could you?" Catherine's throat was raw from the alcohol and the yelling she had directed at the absent Sara. "HOW could you?"

Sara leaned against the island, her hands gripping so hard her knuckles turned white. "What could I have done?" Her tone was resigned, defeated. She felt trapped between Catherine and Gil, their wants, needs, and desires blocking her in; she couldn't figure out her own emotions right now, much less deal with Catherine's or Gil's.

"I don't know, told him not to come?"

"That would have been rude, Cath," she tried to explain, but her reasons sounded lame even to her ears.

"Since when has that stopped you?" Catherine demanded, oblivious to Sara's glare. "You want him to come," she accused through clenched teeth. She faced off with Sara, like a boxer, only it was her words that jabbed at the raw emotions churning in Sara's stomach.

"No! Maybe. I don't know. He's just coming here as a friend."

"Did you tell him that?" she snapped.

"What did you want me to tell him?" Sara snapped back, her own temper rising to meet Catherine's. "Oh, hey, Gris, come on up, but you should know I'm sleeping with Catherine."

"Sleeping together? Is that all we're doing?"

"Is it? You tell me." The words, and the venom behind them, stunned Catherine into silence. "We're fucking, but we haven't talked about what that means. Or tried to define it. Are we in a relationship? Are you my girlfriend? Should I tell Gil that? Can I?" The rush of words stopped as suddenly as they began, and her knees buckled; she was just a few minutes from a total collapse. She knew Catherine's reluctance to talk about what was happening between them had been wearing on her, but she hadn't realized how much it had bothered her.

"I… don't know," Catherine's voice was so low she could barely hear it. She raised her head slowly and met Catherine's eyes, surprised to them bright with unshed tears. Biting her lower lip, she swallowed past the lump in her throat. "Yeah, me either," she admitted. They took a step forward at the same time, hugging fiercely. Catherine pressed her face against the fabric of Sara's shirt and tried to keep from sobbing her hurt and frustration while Sara wrapped her arms around her shoulders and rested her cheek on Catherine's blond hair, inhaling the scent of her shampoo. "I'm sorry, hon," she whispered against the silky strands, "this just all came up so suddenly. Can we talk about this tomorrow?"

Catherine nodded against her shoulder. "Tired?"

A ghost of a laugh drifted down to her. "Exhausted."

13. Faithful

No one is faithful
I am weak
I'll go astray
Forgive me for my ways
No one is faithful

-- Me'shell Ndegeochello

The silence as they ate was deafening, neither wanting to be the first one to break it and begin the conversation. So they tiptoed around each other, voices muted, as they worked through the logistics of breakfast and showers. Catherine caught Sara watching her when she thought she wasn't looking, the expression in her dark eyes sad and melancholy. Catherine knew that when she stared at Sara's turned back, the pain that she couldn't quite hide leached out every other emotion. Catherine didn't know why the very thought of Grissom coming for a visit made it hard to breathe, but of course she did. Gil had a hold on Sara she knew she could never match, and if he wanted to begin the relationship that Sara had wanted all along, she, Catherine, had no chance. What she couldn't figure out was why that hurt so much, why she cared so much. She had had a lot of relationships and none of them meant anything. This should be no different, she rationalized, and if it hadn't been for that little hitch in her breath, she really would have believed it.

When Sara suggested they go for a walk on the beach, they both knew the time for dancing around the subject had come to an end. They ended up on an isolated, rocky stretch of beach, and Catherine would have laughed at the symbolism if she had been in the mood to laugh. Sara didn't seem to notice the surroundings, walking slowly along the edge of the surf, staring at the waves as they crashed over her feet. When she stopped abruptly and faced the wind coming in off the water, whipping her auburn hair, Catherine had to retreat a couple of steps to stand beside her. When she spoke, her words took Catherine by surprise.

"This was always my favorite place to come to think, you know, when I worked here before. I would come here every time a case got to me or the days started to run together into a never-ending stream of death, I would come here." She glanced over at Catherine, before facing the ocean once more. "I would stand right here and face the wind and let the water roll over my feet and it was like it was all washed away. The wind and water just took away my burdens. I haven't been back here in years." She turned and took Catherine's hand, squeezing it gently. "I never brought anyone here before, but I had this sudden urge to show you."

She had never heard Sara talk so personally before, and Catherine was touched. It sounded like a confession to Catherine's ears, but she wasn't sure to what. "These last few days have been so unexpected, and so wonderful." But now it sounded like goodbye. Catherine drew in a breath to steel herself against what was coming. "You were right. I want to see Gil." Catherine's eyes squeezed closed at the words impacted. "But I don't know what that means."

Sara knew her words, her honesty, hurt, but she didn't know anything else to do. "I don't know what that means…" she repeated, "for us. Or for Gil." The roar of the surf filled the silence that stretched between them. "Tell me." Catherine opened her eyes in surprise at Sara's pleading tone, matched by the expression in her eyes. She reached up and brushed Catherine's hair behind her ear, her fingers lingering at the base of neck, warming the chill skin. "Tell me what's between us, what we're doing…."

Catherine's thoughts swirled. Me, she wants me to define this, to tell her what to do about Gil. If I say so, she realized, Sara will tell Gil we're together and that there's no chance. Catherine exhaled slowly, stepping in to brush her lips over Sara's, before meeting her eyes. "I can't." She couldn't believe what she was saying. "You have to figure this out for yourself." She let go of Sara's hand reluctantly, and continued down the beach, leaving Sara to watch the rolling surf alone.

They threw her a party that night, at the beginning of shift, complete with chocolate cake and ice cream. Catherine was surprised to realize just how much she would miss the 'kids,' as she and Sara affectionately called the younger CSIs among themselves. She would also miss the relaxed, noncompetitive atmosphere of the lab, a result of the teamwork and communication Sara taught to her CSIs. Such a marked contrast to what she was used to, and she had to admit, it was a welcome change. She just hoped she could adjust to her old environment, get the walls and defenses up and in place quickly. It wasn't going to be easy.

The shift was hectic, and she and Sara had no time to do much more than fix breakfast and cuddle for a few minutes on the couch before Catherine had to be at the airport. Catherine surprised herself by clutching Sara's hand until the very last minute, when they had to part at the security checkpoint. Sara surprised her even more with a very public kiss that sent her head spinning and made her wish they had had more time before leaving the house that morning. The look in Sara's eyes told her she had the same thought, and one kiss became two, then three, before Catherine noticed the stares of the people around them, and then the time. "I have to go," she sighed, feeling her cheeks heat as an older couple glared at them. "And I can't believe I'm making out with you like a teenager in public." Sara laughed at that, and then gave her another toe-curling kiss before winking at the elderly lady. "What do they expect? This is San Francisco." Separating from Sara, Catherine finally made it through security, waving one last time before the brunette was out of her sight. And of course the elderly couple was seated across the aisle from her. But when she glanced over at them to see if they were staring at her, the lady gave her a shy smile before returning to her Redbook.

For all it's glitter, Vegas seemed strangely dull and muted to Catherine's eyes. Her first night back to work and she got a trick roll on the Strip. She processed the guy, who insisted, like they all did, that he never did this and that he was faithful to his wife. Always was, except for this one time. Catherine had tried to look sympathetic, but she didn't think she did a very good job of it. She wondered if the wife was sitting at home or suspected her husband, or was even in bed with the grocery delivery man. The only good thing about a trick roll, she thought, was the evidence collection was quick, and she could escape the glitter and infidelity and return to the lab.

Which was its own kind of hell, she realized as she caught Gil smiling and whistling in the break room, looking so happy she wanted to slap him. Suddenly everywhere she looked, she was reminded of Sara, even though Sara hadn't been in the lab now for almost a year. But worse, she was reminded of Sara and Gil, the agonizing looks, the flirtatious comments, like the time early on when she asked him to tape her up, and Gil, in a moment of unexpected lightheartedness, turned to her and said, "I love my job." At the time it was cute, the bugman pursued by the headstrong young CSI, their playfulness matched only by their intensity in working the job. But that had changed, as the pursuit became too rough and too long for even someone as stubborn as Sara, and the light and playfulness had seeped from her body and eyes, leaving her a shell of her former self. And now that she had escaped that, had moved on or so Catherine had thought, now he was turning the tables and pursuing, and everything about his manner indicated that he thought the result was a foregone conclusion.

He's probably right, she thought as she sipped her coffee, the acid burning her stomach. Nick and Warrick came in, joining her at the table, and she let the smiles they directed at her warm her chilled heart. But of course, they had to pepper her with questions about Sara and San Francisco, so it wasn't really a reprieve at all. When she told them how easily she and Sara had gotten along and lived together, Nick explained in an incredulous voice, "Sara? Really?"

That got to be a pattern, like when she told them about how Sara and Lindsey bonded and what a great babysitter she had been, it was Warrick's turn to look like she was describing an alternative universe Sara. Or when she told them what an accomplished cook Sara was, even Gil had looked puzzled. And the sports equipment and her people skills and the way her CSIs adored her as their boss. In the recitation, Catherine realized what a different person Sara had become since she had left, or had hidden from them the whole time she had been in Vegas. She recalled Sara standing on the beach, the wind and the waves, and realized that Sara was at home there, amid the swirling currents, in a way that she had never been at home here in the oppressive heat and blinding sun of the desert. Vegas had been so bad for her in so many ways, Catherine thought, as her eyes drifted to Gil. So many ways.

The weekend finally came and Gil was updating her on everything in his office before he boarded the plane. He looked years younger, so happy and excited, and she couldn't help but try to bring him down a little. "Sooo," she said on a long slow exhalation, "what do you think is going to happen in Frisco?

He looked sheepish as he glanced at her over his reading glasses. "I really don't know. We have a lot of things to talk about."

She frowned, and gave him a knowing look. "Let me rephrase that, what do you want to happen?"

Confronted, he blushed, he actually blushed, to her utter amazement. "I want… to be her friend again. And see what else we might be to one another." Her heart sank, and she blinked rapidly.

"Well, good," she said, a little too brightly. "Are we done? I should get to my scene." He tilted his head, questioning her subtly, but then he shook his head and let her go. He had a plane to catch, after all.

The day had been marvelous. Sara had taken him to Fisherman's Wharf and they had had a wonderful lunch, strolling and shopping and doing tourist-y things that he never would have imagined he would have enjoyed. But then, the company probably had a lot to do with it. Sara wasn't completely at ease with him, and there were many awkward silences, but she seemed relaxed enough, and having a good time. His only regret is that at no point did she turn to him with that huge, face-transforming, 100-watt smile that did such damage to him when it was directed at him. She had let him take her hand while they strolled along a boardwalk, their fingers entwined between them. At one point, he had looked down at their hands and wondered why it had taken him so long. It was perfect.

Sara cooked dinner for them at her house, after dragging him to a farmer's market for fresh vegetables for soup, and their conversation over dinner was as light as the bottle of white wine he had opened for them. He wasn't sure if he wanted it to be more, if he should bring up the past, or even the future he imagined, or just enjoy the quiet friendship that Sara seemed to be reveling in. Her eyes, over the candles, were dark and smoky, like the jazz that swirled around them, but he couldn't read the emotions there. Once, he would have known the emotions there, love, desire, the emotions she had always held for him. Then there was the pain and hurt that had taken over, but now, there were entirely new thoughts going on behind her eyes, and he had no idea what.

They were watching an old movie, quietly enjoying the moment, when he found himself needing… her. He hadn't come here to renew their friendship, but to have the relationship they had both always wanted. He was suddenly nervous, but confident as he causally draped an arm over her shoulders and pulled her closer, feeling her unconsciously snuggle into the warmth of his body. When the movie ended, she blinked and shifted to sit up, but his arm tightened to keep her there, and she looked up at him, her hand lightly braced on his chest. "Gil…?"

"Sara, I…" And for once, he didn't want to talk, to tiptoe around something that had been the elephant in the room for almost fifteen years, since they had met on the Harvard campus. Instead of trying to finish his thought, he leaned down to capture her lips in a sweet, light kiss.

"I can't promise you love
I can't promise you me
In my heart of hearts
I yearn to fly"

- Me'shell Ndegeochello, "Liliquoi Moon"

14. Loyalty

Catherine sat in the break room, waiting for Warrick, Nick, and Greg, absentmindedly staring at her cell phone. Sara had called her twice since she had left San Francisco, but she knew there was no way Sara would call her tonight, not with Grissom there. Toying with the buttons, she noticed the time, 10:32, and imagined what they were doing, until the images became too painful for her to contemplate. She slid her hands through her hair, hanging her head and wishing the muscles in her neck would miraculously loosen. Then strong, warm hands caressed her neck and began kneading the tight muscles. She didn't even have to look up. "Mmmm, Warrick. If I pay you, will you never stop doing that?" she purred as his fingers worked their usual magic.

"Wow, Cath, you are tense. The pressure of command getting to you already?" he teased gently. Sweeping a few strands of hair out of his way, he worked up one side of her neck and down the other, hearing her low moan of appreciation. "So what's going on?" he asked quietly.

"What's going on what?"

"You tell me." His deep voice expressed his concern clearly. "You've been looking considerably more stressed every day since you've been back. And a couple of times I've caught you shooting daggers at our esteemed leader when his back was turned." He chuckled softly. "What, you got too used to being the boss up there in San Francisco?"

San Francisco, where Grissom was with Sara. She sighed. "No, it's not… work. Something else."


She shook her head as his hands worked the tightness between her shoulder blades, where stress tended to accumulate. "No, not Lindsey."


Catherine half-turned her head to try to meet his eye. "What?"

"Well, he must be something, whoever this new guy is." He caught her narrowed eyes and explained, "I've never seen you like this about someone since, well, since ever. It must be something special."

"Yeah, maybe."


She sighed, letting all of her frustration show. "Well, I think so. I'm just not sure what the other person thinks."

"Did you tell him?"

"No. Why would I?"

He chuckled at that. For all her experience with people, Catherine didn't always seem to understand them. Or else she judged their motivations according to her own way of handling people. "Well, sometimes it helps." He chuckled again at the thoughtful look on her face. "Cath, we all have our insecurities. We all think we're alone in our feelings. And if it's enough to cause this much tension in your shoulders, then maybe it's important enough to talk about." Warrick shrugged his shoulders, leaning down so his sparkling green eyes met her suddenly vivid blues ones.

Her smile lit the entire break room. "Warrick, I have to make a call."

Sara pulled away as her phone rang, the timid kiss still burning on her lips as she fumbled for her phone. She finally got it on the third ring, right before the call was answered by her voice mail.


Catherine let out the breath she had been holding when it took so long for Sara to answer. Her voice didn't sound aggravated at being disturbed, which settled the butterflies in Catherine's stomach somewhat. "Sara. Look, I know he's there and you really can't talk." Catherine's words poured out in a rush. "I…. I just need to tell you something. On the beach, I was right, you know. I can't define this for you. You do have to make that decision on your own. But I should have told you something…." She took a huge breath. Here goes. "I want it, whatever 'it' is… however we want to define it…. I want it… with you. Whatever else is going on right now, I need you to know that."

Catherine wasn't sure she had made any sense, and the long pause stretched her nerves to the breaking point. Catherine thought for a second that Sara had hung up, until she heard a soft exhalation. "Yeah, me too." Another pause, shorter this time. "I… have to go. I'll call you?"

"You better."

A quiet chuckle reached her ears. "I will." And then Catherine was holding a dead line, but with a huge smile slowly playing across her face. She turned, caught Warrick watching her through the glass, and she gave him the thumbs-up. He shook his head in amusement at her blindness, and mimed looking at the time.

"Who was that?" Gil's question cut through Sara's chaotic thoughts as she stood there, clutching the closed cell phone in both hands. She could still hear Catherine's voice echoing in her ears, 'I want it, whatever it is.'

"Reality," she answered, unthinking.

"Reality?" He stared at her back, unsure of what had just happened. It had been an odd phone call; Sara had barely spoken, just listened intently to whatever whoever was saying, before hanging up. It had taken less than a minute, but whatever had transpired equated to a monumental shift if Sara's body language was any indication.

"Gil? Do you remember what I said when I asked you out to dinner?" She was still facing the window, away from him, but in the darkness outside her pale face was clearly reflected. The expression on her face had gone from conflicted to peaceful, in the blink of an eye, the lines suddenly smoothing along her forehead.

Then he remembered what she had told him, and his blood froze in his veins. "You said…" he stumbled over the words, his mouth suddenly dry and tongue clumsy, "by the time I figure it out, it really could be too late."

She turned then, to face him; like so many other times, she was standing over him, telling him something, while he sat and listened in puzzlement, always, it seemed, trying to play catch up. The sadness in her voice might have given him hope, except for the firm resolve underneath her words. "It really is." She dipped her head, bringing both hands up to smooth her hair back behind her ears, hanging her head down for a second, before she sighed. "I'm sorry."

He tried to comprehend and frame a reply, but his stunned mind refused to make sense of the abrupt turn of events. One moment he figured out what he really wanted and next it was taken from him. She was speaking again, and he had to concentrate to hear her words through the din in his head. "I'm, I, there's someone else. I… it's so new, we..." Her words sputtered to a stop. She hated when she sounded like a stammering idiot, so she took a deep breath and tried to frame a half-way coherent sentence while Gil squeezed his eyes shut as her words washed over him, so quiet to be so lethal. "I need to follow this where it goes…"

"See what happens?" he asked bitterly, parroting her words from two years back to her.


"So why did we…" He couldn't finish that thought, how could she have let him hope, "why am I here?"

"You wanted to come," she replied simply. "You didn't ask." She sighed, running her hands roughly through her hair, angry at herself and the situation he had put her in. If he had only ignored her like he had for years, she thought. "I guess we should have talked."

"Yes, you might have told me so I wouldn't have come all the way up here to make a fool of myself." His outburst shocked and surprised even him, but then he saw the anger boiling up behind Sara's narrowed eyes, and he knew his outburst was nothing compared to what was to come.

"This is my fault?" Her voice was surprisingly mild. "You come up here, with all kinds of expectations, and when it doesn't work out the way you want, you blame me?" Sara shook her head with those short, jerky movements that indicated just how angry she was.

"It's just that, after all this time…" He shook his head, hopelessly.

"You thought I'd still be waiting? I waited for years, Gil, for years." She sank down to the couch beside him, all the fight suddenly out of her. "When I left Vegas, I left that behind me. I left you, Gil. I can't go back, especially when I don't know if tomorrow you'll decide you don't want this and push me away again. I can't do that. I won't do that." Her sigh filled the sudden quiet between them. "Even if this other person wasn't in the picture, I don't think I could."

"I love you," he pleaded.

Her head dropped, her fingers holding it up, her eyes closed. "Great." She let the silence stretch, until she realized she had nothing more to say. "Gil, you should go. Maybe we can talk tomorrow." She didn't look up until the door slammed as he left. Her exhalation cut through the quiet of the room a second before her cell phone rang, Annemarie's number flashing on the display.

Catherine flung open the door and switched on the lights, trying to keep her hold on the package under her arm. "Catherine?" The low voice startled her, and she jumped, losing her grip on the precarious bundle that tumbled to the floor with a crunch. "Jesus, Gil," she yelled, dropping to her knees to retrieve the new bicycle helmet she had been trying to carry while her hands had been busy with the wrapping paper and tape. "You scared me. Why are you sitting here in the dark?" she asked absentmindedly before she froze, raising her head so she could see Gil over the corner of his desk. "Wait, what are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in San Francisco?"

"I, um, decided to come home early." Her narrowed eyes took in the dark circles under his eyes, the rumpled shirt, and the faraway stare, and her heart dropped for her friend at the same time it began to beat happily for herself. Catherine avoided the topic of Sara, afraid some of the happiness she was feeling would show on her face or in her voice, and directed the conversation to work. "So are you going to work the shift tonight?"


"Ok, then I'll take my wrapping to the break room," she said, gathering her stuff. He nodded, his eyes still fixed somewhere out at the middle distance. He seemed so patently miserable that Catherine relented a little, and ventured to ask, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah." When he didn't say anything else for a long minute, she turned to leave.

"Catherine?" he called to her back. "Catherine, was Sara… did you know… is Sara… seeing someone?" Her mouth hung open in amazement. Sara didn't tell him, did she? He kept talking, oblivious to her shocked expression. "She said there was someone else. I… think she was telling me the truth, but… maybe she just said that to hurt me, to get me back." He looked up at her for the first time, a hopeful expression on his face as Catherine tried to school her face into a neutral expression, "Did you meet someone while you were staying with her?"

"I, um…. I think she went on a date shortly before I left. I think it was just starting." She tried to be as honest as possible without disclosing how much she knew.


"I'm sorry."

He was back to staring into the distance, or at the fetal pig on the metal shelving unit, not really noticing her in the room. "I'll see you in the break room," she muttered as she made her escape.

She even managed to get into the room without dropping her packages a second time, where she poured herself a cup of coffee and started to wrap Lindsey's new bike helmet, bought as a surprise present as Lindsey had been dropping hints that her old Powerpuff Girls helmet wasn't exactly cool anymore and could she have a blue one like Sara? Catherine used the quiet routine soothe her as she speculated on what had happened in Frisco between the two of them. Intent on her work and the thoughts going through her head, she didn't even notice Warrick walk into the break room and pour a cup of coffee until he tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped for the second time that night and glared up at Warrick's amused grin.

"Damn, Cath, you were off in la-la land." He laughed at her grimace, and reached out, taking the scissors out of her hand. "Maybe you shouldn't be wielding such dangerous weapons when you are obviously not all here." He started to cut the paper anew, cutting past the lopsided cuts Catherine had inflicted on the paper. "So were you thinking about him again?"


"Your new guy."

"Kinda." He read her look of annoyance and decided not to pursue this line of questioning. "Hey, why are you doing this in the break room anyway? Why aren't you in the boss's office?"

"Grissom's back." She hoped her tone would be read as concern for her friend, and not confusion about what his return meant for her.

"Really?" Warrick's tone was definitely concerned, as any good friend would be, she thought bitterly. He looked over his shoulder, checking the door of the break room behind them. "Do you know what happened?"

She sighed, wishing the exhalation would get rid of her guilt and maybe, just maybe, just a little bit of the joy she felt bubbling up, threatening to overtake her. "I think Sara is seeing someone."

"Wow, really?" Warrick straightened as he slid the wrapped present in front of Catherine. He surprised her by saying, "Good for her. I mean, bad for Gris, but Sara deserves to be happy." He checked the room again, lowering his voice to a whisper. "He made her so miserable. I don't know if he could ever make her happy after all that. So," he shrugged, saying in his body language what he couldn't quite articulate.

Catherine nodded, before smiling up at Warrick. "Thanks for the help, 'Rick." She leaned up and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before gathering her things together. "I've got to go make a call before shift starts."

Sara noticed the cell phone ringing on her hip, reaching for it and bringing it up to her ear mindlessly, the motions smooth through the years of repetition. "Sidle."

"Sara?" Her voice sounded dead through the static of the phone line. Wherever she was, it didn't seem like her reception was good. "Are you ok?"

"Hey you." Although still weary, her tone softened into something resembling warmth, and Catherine imagined that she was smiling just a little. "Yeah, I'm ok."

"Long night?"

"Night, day, and now night again. I got called into a triple. All kids." Sara's voice told the story that her short recitation didn't: once again, her faith was shaken by the thoughts of what people could inflict on themselves and others, so she had thrown herself into the hunt for the killer. It was a predictable pattern for the dark-haired CSI, and Catherine suddenly wished she could be by her side to help bring the perpetrators to justice.

"How long since you've slept?" Sara's silence spoke volumes over the phone. "Sara, how long?"

"36, 40 hours, something like that." Catherine could almost see Sara's death glare forming on her face, defensive and defiant all at the same time. "I'm ok," she said in short, clipped tones, trying to head Catherine off.

"How long before you get DNA results back? 12 hours?"

Sara's sigh of frustration sounded clearly over the static in the line. "More like 18."

"Then you have some time for a nap."


"Sara… You know if you are exhausted now, then you will be even worse when you really need the energy. You won't do those dead kids any good if you are too exhausted to see what the evidence is telling you.

"Cath, I'll sleep…"

"In three days? No, now. Lay down for a few hours in your office. Annemarie will get you if anything earth-shattering comes up in the meantime. Please?"

"Um, ok." Her rapid capitulation made Catherine nervous, but her next words reassured her. "You're right. And I'll try to sleep. I promise."

"Good." Catherine tried not to sound too smug, but she knew she didn't succeed when she heard Sara's soft chuckle. "Thanks, hon," she mumbled, her voice rough with exhaustion. Catherine wondered if she even realized she had used the endearment. "Um, Cath, why did you call?"

"Oh, um, I saw Gil.' She let the few words say all that she wasn't. "I thought I'd see how you were doing."

"Oh my god, Gil. I meant to call and leave him a message at his hotel. Wait, what, you saw him?"

"He's back in Vegas."

"I thought he was here." Her voice sounded tired and confused, and Catherine knew that now was not really the time to talk about this.

"Sara, why don't we talk later? I want you to get some rest, ok? " Her mouth curved into a smile as she remembered how cute Sara looked when she was sleepy. "You promised."

"Cath… I kissed him…. I mean I let him kiss me. Right before you called." Her sentences strung together in fits and starts as she tried to get her exhausted brain to make some kind of sense. "It wasn't… I let it happen because it was what I had thought I wanted for so long, but it wasn't… It wasn't what I wanted." Catherine's silence on the line scared her, and she kept talking. "Even before you called, I was going to…"

Catherine's quiet words cut off her rambling words. "I know."

"You do?"

"I know, honey. Now get some sleep and call me when you have time."

"Cath?" Sara calling her name stopped her from hanging up the phone as Sara stumbled over her words. "I, um, miss our pillow talk."

Catherine's laughter was husky. "I miss more than that."

"Cuz like a child
You will never want for love
Cuz all that I have
I give to you
Come and take my hand
And share your life with me
Cuz you are my soul
And I'll always love you"

--Me'shell Ndegeochello

15. Homecoming

Catherine leaned over the snoring body in her bed and nudged gently. "Sara, honey, wake up. The guys will be here soon." The brunette on the bed rolled over with what sounded like a growl, snagging a pillow and covering her face. Hands on her hips, Catherine shot her a mock-glare and tugged on the covers, revealing Sara's half-naked body. "You need to get out of bed,' she commanded as she saw Sara peak out from under the pillow.

"Come get me."

Catherine contemplated the invitation Sara issued before sighing. Nick, Warrick, and Greg were on their way over to see Sara during this, her first trip to Nevada that hadn't been a short, secretive overnight when the two of them were able to synchronize their night's off. Sara was actually there for a three-day vacation, an amazing event in and of itself that had sparked endless break room conversations. Sara and the concept of time off did not come naturally to most people, especially Sara herself, so Catherine was amazed to see her still in bed and determined to stay there. "I think getting caught in bed is a lousy way to tell everyone about us."

"Could be fun." Catherine saw a glint of amusement in Sara's eyes as she peaked out from under the pillow again. Deciding to change her tack, Catherine smirked and shrugged a shoulder. "For a girl who doesn't sleep, you sure are doing a good job of pretending."

Sara's smile as she emerged from under the pillow and covers was playful and she managed to catch Catherine off-guard, wrestling her down onto the bed while Catherine shrieked with laughter. "I had to work a triple and just barely made it to my plane, missy," she said as she tickled Catherine. "And someone didn't allow me any recovery time once I got here. On my vacation might I add." Catherine squirmed under the barrage of Sara's fingers, laughing hysterically, until Nick's voice broke them both apart with a gasp. "Catherine? Sara? Where are you guys?"

Catherine straightened her clothes in the mirror, the death glare she shot at Sara marred by the grin threatening the corners of her mouth. She could see Sara on her knees on the bed in the mirror. She stuck out her tongue and the grin broke all the way through. "Um, coming, Nick."

When she turned, Sara was standing there in just her boxers, her expression one of unrestrained lust. "Not yet," she quipped, pulling Catherine in for a long kiss, sliding her hands up under her shirt. Catherine swatted at her and headed for the door. "Now get dressed and get your ass downstairs."

Nick's expression was puzzled when she got downstairs. "What were you doing? I thought I heard screaming there for a second."

Catherine blushed a little, but she was already heading for the kitchen, hoping he wouldn't see. "Oh, I was trying to get Sara up."

When Sara made it downstairs five minutes later, she paused on the stairs, looking at her old friends gathered around the coffee table, chatting about the night's work, and for a moment, it was like she had never left. Then Greg noticed her standing there and he was up in a second, squeezing her into a bearhug that threatened to knock all the breath from her body. But she returned it enthusiastically, and even gave him a peck on the cheek that made him turn red and bashful.

Greg, for his part, had never seen her look more beautiful, nor so relaxed. She was clad in jeans and a black tank, and her hair was up in a loose ponytail, but she was radiant. Whatever changes that had gone on in her life since she had moved, he thought, they looked good on her. "You look great,' he said as he led her over to the couch, where she got equally enthusiastic hugs from Nick and Warrick.

Settling in between Catherine and Nick on the couch, she basked in the attention from her old friends and let the conversation flow over her, enjoying the warmth of Catherine's thigh pressed against hers. That warmth reminded her of how much had really changed whenever nostalgia threatened to overwhelm her. "So," Greg was saying, "you didn't bring your boy to town with you."


"You know, the guy you threw Grissom over for. I was kinda hoping to meet him, measure up the competition. Unless," and here he flashed that cheeky smile he was known for, "he was just a figment of your imagination."

Catherine was laughing into her coffee as she watched Sara cock her head and narrow her eyes, her lips pressed into a thin line that was slowly stretching into a self-deprecating smile. "A figment of your imagination, maybe, but not mine. I always knew there was no new guy." She emphasized the last two words, to see if anyone would catch the hint, her face twisted into the classic 'I've-got-a-secret' expression. Catherine chuckled a little at that, enjoying the puzzled looks on her co-workers' faces.

"So an old guy? Or a guy you've known for a long time?" Greg reasoned thoughtfully.

Nick caught the last part and looked horrified, "Hank? Not Hank?" Hank had, after all, keyed in all of his big-brother protectiveness when he had heard about how he had treated her. She shook her head emphatically, and he settled back down in his chair in relief.

Warrick, meanwhile, was studying both the women on the couch, seeing how amused Catherine was at the guessing game and how close Sara sat by her, when he felt his jaw drop. He recovered quickly, and shook his head, chuckling as if he had just heard the best joke ever.

Greg and Nick looked at him. "You figured it out!" Greg exclaimed. "Tell me."

Still chuckling, Warrick shook his head. "I'm not going to tell you if you can't see what's right in front of you." Noting Sara's apprehensive expression, he assured her, "That's great." She matched his smile and caught Catherine's hand, interlacing their fingers. Greg's eyes widened when he saw that, but then he shook his head in disbelief. "No way. There's no way I'm going to believe Sara and Catherine are… together. No way. That's just mean."

Nick sat in stunned silence as he took in the joined hands, the matching smiles, and the shy way Sara tried to meet his eyes while Greg continued with his protestations. All he found to say was, "Wow."

When Greg finally quieted after asserting that he wouldn't believe it until he saw further proof, Sara grew uncomfortable with all the stares and hopped up to get more coffee for everyone. Finding the coffee pot empty, she started another brewing as Nick wandered in. He pulled her into a wordless hug before pulling back to see her face and ask, "Are you happy?"

"Ecstatic," she assured him.

"Good." That's how Catherine found them, grinning at each other like fools while the coffee brewed behind them.

"How long does it take to get more coffee?" she teased, walking up so she was leaning on the counter beside Sara.

"It's gotta brew," Sara grumped while sliding her arm around the smaller blonde's waist and pulling her closer. Sara had never been very physically expressive with anyone, he knew, and for her a light touch on the shoulder was considered major PDA, so he marveled at the easy way she and Catherine fit together. Wow, he thought again, wow.

Sara raised her hand two times before she finally found the nerve to knock on the door. Shifting from foot to foot, she tried not to hope that he was not home, although she knew he was because his SUV was in the drive, or asleep, so she wouldn't have to have the conversation she knew she needed to have with him. When Grissom opened the door, a cup of coffee in one hand, Sara knew she was out of luck. He invited her in, offered her coffee, and got them settled on the couch. They had managed to work past the moment in San Francisco and were working on their rebuilding the strong friendship that had brought her to Vegas and the loss of which had sent her away. They now spoke on the phone at least once a week, ranging from bugs to bodies to management techniques to movies. The only thing that hadn't come up was her relationship.

"So, I, um, have something I need to tell you," she began, biting the bullet and leaping in, as she always did, as she toyed with the cup in her hands. "I waited to tell you because I wanted to tell you in person, and well, it's about the hit the rumor mill, so I have to tell you now." His eyes flicked to her hand, and she realized he was looking for an engagement ring. Catching her bottom lip between her teeth, she met his eyes. "It's about my… partner." She winced at the word, hating it, wishing there was something better. "Gil, I've been seeing Catherine." Watching his face carefully, she braced for the explosion.

"Catherine." If Nick had been shocked, then there were no words for how stunned Grissom looked, Sara realized, as he tried to wrap his mind around what she had just told him. "All this time? Catherine?"

"Yes," she replied quietly, still waiting for an outburst. She saw him struggle, but then the neutral, controlled expression snapped into place, and he gazed at her with emotionless eyes. For once, she was happy with his way of repressing his emotions; after all, there was no way she could make this better for him since she was the one hurting him, and any emotion would have made her try anyway, causing him more pain. "Well, thanks for telling me," he replied. "I wouldn't have wanted to have heard through the grapevine."

She nodded. "I didn't want that either." He then preceded to show her an article they had discussed during their last phone call, some of the awkwardness returning, before she made some excuse to cut the visit short. Saying goodbye to him on the doorstep, she gave him a friendly hug that he surprised her by returning, and walked off, knowing his eyes were on her the whole way.

He surprised her again by showing up at the celebration dinner Warrick arranged the next night. Catherine had talked her into wearing the leather outfit she had worn months ago for their dinner, and she wore the same dress, and the stares they got walking into the casino holding hands were nothing compared to Greg's jaw dropping when he saw them. "Trying to catch flies, Greg?" Catherine purred as they joined their friends. She was enjoying the stir they were causing, and even Sara, who hated to be the center of attention, had her cocky smile plastered on her face as she slid an arm around Catherine's waist.

Dinner went well, and they ended up at a club afterwards. Warrick got Catherine out of the dance floor, and Nick and Greg had followed, leaving Sara and Gil alone in the booth. She snuck glances at him as he stared impassively at the dance floor, deliberately not making eye contact with her, she was sure. "Are you ok with this?" she asked finally, the quiet getting to her.

He broke out of his reverie to smile at her, a little sadly, but a smile nonetheless. "It'll take some getting used to, my two best friends, um, involved, but yes." He answered her questioning look with another smile. "I lost you a long time ago. I've learned to accept that. And I'm glad you are happy."

Catherine broke from the crowd then, and appeared at the booth to drag them both onto the dance floor, where Gil managed to shuffle to a song long enough to satisfy her before retreating back to the table, where Warrick was taking a breather. Warrick watched in admiration as the two women matched rhythms, soon drawing a crowd of appreciative, and male, on-lookers. They seem oblivious to the crowd, and when Sara did look up and notice the crowd, she surprised Warrick by dancing even closer to the smaller woman, her wicked smile matching Catherine's exactly.

"Mmmm, I love it when you wear a dress," Sara purred as she slid her hands up under the sheer fabric, pressing Catherine back against the door bodily. Dancing had driven her wild, and in the ten minutes since they had gotten home, they had made it no further than the front door. Catherine's fingers were hooked around her belt, holding her close as she tried to reach Sara's sensitive ears.

"Do you remember the first time I wore this dress," she whispered as she got close, loving the shiver of anticipation that ran through Sara's body. Sara's breathy 'yes' was almost lost in the moan as Catherine nipped at her earlobe, her eyes closing and hands stilling as Catherine licked the sensitive flesh and blew softly. Sara bit her lip as Catherine kept up the torture, tightening her grip on Catherine's waist as Catherine's tongue slowly drove her crazy.

"I wanted to do this that night," Catherine teased as she slid her hands up beneath the skin-tight vest, wiggling and pushing so her hands slid over the smooth skin of Sara's stomach and ribcage, causing the lower button on the vest to unsnap. Sara leaned her whole weight into the smaller woman as her knees weakened under the barrage of Catherine's hands and mouth, her tongue working in rhythm with her fingers. "Cath…."

Three more snaps and the vest was open for Catherine's roving hands, hands soon replaced as she kissed her way down Sara's neck and collarbone. Sara braced her hands against the edges of the doorframe, helpless under Catherine's expert manipulation of her body. When Catherine's hands dipped lower, sliding down between the belt buckle and her twitching stomach, she felt rather than saw Catherine's smug smile. Knowing she had lost this round, she surrendered and let Catherine work her magic.

Later, in bed, after Sara had exacted her revenge, she stroked the blonde hair away from Catherine's face and pressed a delicate kiss on her forehead. "I love you, kit-kat," she whispered.


Catherine watched as the movers carried the last few boxes out of the now-empty house; it amazed her to think that a year ago, she had left with Grissom to go to San Francisco for an overnight trip and now she was moving there for good. In the end, it hadn't been a difficult decision. Lindsey had fallen in love with the Bay area, and Sara had already promised to buy her a surfboard and teach her to surf. When the dayshift supervisor position had opened up, Captain Harris had offered her the job that very afternoon. When it became apparent that LVPD wasn't going to counter the offer or try to increase her possibility for promotion, the decision was made. In the ensuing two months, Sara had found a larger house in one of the historic districts and managed to close without telling Catherine; Catherine could still remember her huge smile as she stood there, the sunlight streaming through the dusty windows in the living room, lighting her auburn hair and warming the dark wood floors, as she told Catherine the place was theirs. Lindsey was upstairs, picking out a bedroom, while Catherine gazed at Sara with amazement.

And just when she thought that Sara had run out of ways to surprise her, she had sent Lindsey a picture of a labrador retriever puppy that they were adopting as soon as they arrived. So Catherine stopped waiting in anticipation and just basked in the warmth that was Sara Sidle in love. Never had she expected how open and easy Sara was about being in a relationship, but she supposed she shouldn't have been surprised. Looking back, she realized that Sara's job had been the outlet for her empathic and giving nature when she had been denied other outlets. Sure, there were still arguments and all-out fights—neither of them had lost the stubborn and competitive parts of their personalities, after all—she thought as she remembered one historic blow-up over the idea of a commitment ceremony, but they were surprisingly good for each other.

Catherine was startled out of her musings as she stood in the empty living room by strong arms encircling her waist. "We're going to be late to dinner," Sara whispered in her ear. "Lindsey's already in the car, complaining about being hungry." Catherine smiled; dinner with their friends from the lab, then a leisurely drive up the California coast in a certain red convertible to her new home. "I'm ready," she said.

The End

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