DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Briefly refers to Burden of Proof, I think. P.S. I do realize the unlikelihood of the situation, but what are you going to do?
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Myck's Nyx
Catherine pushed her sunglasses up on her head as she jumped out of the SUV and turned her back on the setting sun. She had been working since one o'clock last night and was looking forward to a break after she and Sara wrapped this scene. Walking around to the lift gate, she saw that Sara was already there, holding her kit out to her.
Unlike Catherine, Sara did not have to be here right now. She had come in to work four hours early. On her night off. 'Couldn't sleep' had been her explanation. Catherine rolled her eyes. What she wouldn't give for Sara Sidle's apparent free time. Catherine took her kit from the brunette without a word and marched up to the officer on scene.
She didn't know him, and that didn't surprise her. They were way out in the middle of nowhere, nearly two hours from Vegas. She had driven there, and she was hoping that Sara would drive back so she could get some shuteye.
"Evening. I'm Catherine Willows, and this is Sara Sidle. We're with the Las Vegas Crime Lab. Somebody called out about a 419?"
The officer tipped his hat at the two women, "That'd be me, ma'am. Trent Findlay. The guy's is dead is Bill Cassidy."
Catherine tried not to roll her eyes; she hated being 'ma'am'ed, "Can you tell me what you know about what happened here, Officer Findlay?"
Sara hung back, observing the rickety old shack behind the man. She didn't say a word- she hadn't said a word since they'd got in the car in Vegas. But it wasn't unusual for her and Catherine to work a scene in silence, so the redhead let it go.
"Yes, ma'am. I was up here on my usual rounds and I saw buzzards circlin' the property. Now, usually that means a dead mountain lion or a coyote. Maybe somebody's dog or something. I just check up on it, fire a few warning shots to keep the bigger animals away, and then I call animal control. But this time, the buzzards were right up next to the house. So I come in for a closer look and I find Bill sittin' there like that. Dead as a doornail in his rocking chair."
"Did you touch the body?" Sara finally spoke, stepping closer to the porch where the dead man was seated.
Catherine was beginning to smell him now. In this kind of heat, he might have only been dead a day, but she wasn't surprised that the scavengers were already aware of his body.
"No, miss, I didn't. I called out to him a few times, but I could smell him and it looked like he soiled himself."
"We're going to need your shoe prints." Catherine said briskly. She was slightly peeved that the officer felt Sara deserved a 'Miss' when she had received a 'Ma'am.'
"Anything you like, ma'am."
The muscles in Catherine's neck flexed as she ground her teeth in an attempt to stay calm, "Sara? Why don't you print the good officer here? Then take the perimeter. Meet me on the porch when you're through."
The taller woman's brown eyes narrowed and Catherine suspected she was not happy with the rookie assignment. Tough. Catherine thought. If I have to be older, then I might as well pull seniority.
The two women went about their work, but neither found anything probative until they reached the body. The sun had dipped below the horizon by then and the women observed the body with their small flashlights.
"This guy is covered in dirt and dust."
"Yeah, but check it out. That's not a normal color for dirt- he's all sparkly, and I've got some reddish purple rock fragments." Catherine pulled out a tape lift.
Sara examined the deep laceration on the back of the man's bald head, "I've similar fragments in this wound tract. Possible transfer? I guess we can rule out natural causes. Damn it. It's going to take ages for David to get out here."
"And we can't collect the stuff in the wound for comparison until Mr. Cassidy here is on the ME's table. Shit." Catherine groaned, "I really wanted to get home in time to tuck Lindsey in."
"Sorry, Cath." And Sara did sound apologetic, "If you want, you can take the evidence we've got back to the lab and I can catch a ride with David."
"Really?" Catherine asked, surprised. She didn't really think Sara would do something like that, "You don't mind?"
Sara smiled slightly, "I wouldn't have offered if I did."
Catherine smiled in return, "Yeah, that's true enough." She looked at her watch and then out at the night sky where stars were just starting to shine and the moon was just beginning to peak over the distant hills beyond which lay the city of Las Vegas, "Eh." She waved a hand, "I'm sure Linds is fine without me- she'd probably complain about having to kiss me goodnight if I was there, anway. Besides, how often in our line of work do we get to just sit somewhere and look at the stars?"
Sara looked up at the emerging pinpoints of light, "True. Why don't I take this stuff back to the Tahoe while you call David?"
"Hey, why do I have to be the one to tell the assistant coroner he's taking a road trip tonight? He's going to be seriously pissed."
Sara turned back to smile at her as she stepped off the porch, "Because I had to do all of the boring stuff just so you could feel better about Officer What's his face calling you old."
"He did not call me old!" Catherine retorted defensively, but she had the good graces to blush at being caught.
"Whatever." Sara grinned.
Catherine flipped up her phone, grumbling something about rookie officers. Before she could dial, however, Sara was back and standing right in her personal space.
"What?" The redhead asked testily.
"You're not, you know." Sara said, her eyes wide.
"Old. Not at all. Far from it. You're still young and fit and gorgeous." Sara smiled awkwardly.
Catherine's eyes narrowed, "Uh. Huh. Okay, what do you want? Are you vying for me to put in a good word for you with Gil for that promotion?"
Sara bristled, "No. Jesus. It was a compliment, Catherine. And I don't need anyone putting in a good word for me with Grissom."
"Of course you don't." Catherine rolled her eyes.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Sara challenged.
Catherine sighed audibly, "Nothing. You know what? I think I will take the Tahoe and head back early. I can get a jump start processing and maybe still see my daughter before she falls asleep."
"Fine." Sara forced the evidence bag into Catherine's hands and crossed her arms over her chest, "Go."
"I will!" And with that, the smaller woman stalked down the driveway.
Sara sat defiantly on the front step and pouted crossly. She wondered why Catherine's first reaction to everything she did was always defense.
The following evening, the two women met in the hall outside the morgue where they were headed to review Doc Robbins' autopsy. Catherine grabbed Sara's forearm and stopped her brisk pace.
"What is it, Catherine?" The brunette looked up into hesitant blue eyes.
"Look, I just wanted to apologize for my behavior last night."
"Don't worry about it." Sara tried to brush her off.
"No, I was really out of line and not professional. You were just trying to get me in a better mood and I jumped on you."
Sara smiled stiffly, "I'm used to it."
The redhead withdrew her hand from Sara's arm as if she'd been burnt and looked to the tiled floor with flushed cheeks, "Yeah, about that. I honestly don't know why I'm always attacking you, but I know it hurts your feelings-"
"Cath-" Sara argued.
Catherine shook her head "No, let me finish."
"I know it hurts your feelings, and you have to believe me when I say that I always feel really guilty after I snap at you or insult you. It just slips out. But I want you to know that I am seriously going to work harder to not be so harsh anymore."
Sara hesitated, "Okay "
"When we're being nice to each other, we actually get along really well so I'm going to try to not let my temper get ahead of me so much."
The dark-haired woman smiled at the image of a well-mannered Catherine, "Good luck with that." She started to turn back towards the morgue but stopped, "And I'll try not to be so sensitive, try be more sensitive to you, that is. I know that half the time you're just lashing out because you're tired or frustrated and that it really doesn't have anything to do with me."
"More than half the time."
Sara nodded, "Just don't get too nice. Truthfully, I like you just the way you are." Grinning, she walked in to hear what the Doc had to say about Bill Cassidy.
Slightly stunned, but flattered and more than a little curious as to the flush creeping up her neck, Catherine followed a moment later.
"Hey, Doc." Catherine greeted as she came through the door, "What've you got for us?"
"Evening, Catherine. Sara and I were just getting to that. It looks like your vic died from blunt force trauma." The man gestured at Bill Cassidy's now shaved crown.
"Aha. A whack on the head." Catherine peered at the wound in the man's skull.
Robbins shook his head, "No, the cracking of the skull is consistent with a fall, or possibly something falling on him."
"Would it have been bloody?" The redhead wanted to know.
"For sure. His hair was matted in blood as well as dirt, but there should have been more."
"We didn't find any blood at the scene. Is it possible he sustained the injury and then walked to his front porch."
"Very unlikely. Whatever he hit or hit him jarred his spine. He was most likely killed instantly, if he wasn't, he was certainly paralyzed."
"So " Catherine's blue eyes looked into Sara's brown ones.
As the brunette read her mind, she nodded, "Somebody moved him."
"Maybe the same somebody who helped him fall."
Sara looked to the Doc, "What about the rocks in the wound?"
"Sent them up to trace early this morning."
"Awesome. Thanks, Doc."
"Oh, by the way. You might want to know that this guy's lungs were shot. No traces of tobacco in the esophageal track, though, and nicotine levels were normal."
"So he wasn't a smoker."
"No, but his lungs were clogged. I made a slide- it's the same stuff that was all over his body before I cleaned him up. Sparkling dust. It's almost like he was a miner or something."
"A miner way out in the Nevada desert " Catherine said, thinking.
Sara picked up a her line of thought, "A miner or a prospector."
Catherine smiled, "Everybody in this damn state is looking to strike it rich. Money says the sparkles were precious metals."
Sara smiled back, "No bet."
"Silver." Sara read the trace report. "The dust held trace amounts of silver- nothing to write home about, as well as pyrite and limestone. Well, the whole state is made out of silver and limestone; he could have been killed anywhere."
"Not true." Hodges handed her another sheet of paper, "I ran the purple-red rock fragments you lifted and the ones the ME got out of the skull- they match each other by the way. It's a conglomerate igneous rock called Jasperoid. The only places true Jasperoid is found are in the deep strata of central Nevada and Iran."
"One hundred-fifty to three hundred meters below the surface."
"Well, that fits with our miner/ prospector theory."
"So does this." Catherine walked into the lab waving a rolled up chart in her hand.
"What do you have?" Sara asked, curious. Sara nodded her thanks to the lab tech and the two women walked out into the hall.
"The layout of Bill Cassidy's property. He has eleven marked open mine shafts and a license to dig for practically any valuable mineral, rock, or metal. The guy was leeching everything from the soil that he could."
"Well, Hodges said that the rock fragments are a mineral that's only found in Nevada and Iran and only deeper than a hundred and fifty meters."
"There were no visible tire treads at the scene. Whoever moved the body carried it or dragged it."
"Probably from one of Bill Cassidy's mines." Sara agreed.
Catherine smiled, "Up for some gold digging?"
The tall woman returned the expression, "I'll get the gear."
"I'll go get some lunch for the drive. Meet you in the parking lot in twenty?"
"Get some extra bottles of water- you never know, right?"
Catherine nodded. As she headed out the door, she ran into Nick.
"Heya, Cath. Watcha workin' on?"
"Hey, Nicky. Sara and I were just about to head out in search of a primary crime scene somewhere in a mine."
Nick laughed, "Watch out for bats."
"Bats?" Catherine grimaced.
"Griss and I pulled a case once "
"Oh, right, the phony prospector." The redhead shivered, "I don't like bats."
Nick patted her on the shoulder, "Take care, Catherine. I'll see you around."
"Sure thing, Nick." Smiling, she went out to pick up sandwiches across the street.
The light on Sara's helmet was remarkably inadequate for the darkness of the third mine. The first two had been equally dark, and equally free of evidence. Catherine and she had split up after those first two; at this rate it would take them until daybreak just to get through them.
Flicking off the flashlight in her hand and heading up towards the fresh air, Sara sighed. This had seemed like a good idea at first. But then it had been a two-hour drive out here and it was still dark and the eerie silence of the mines was giving her the creeps. Not that she would admit it. Reaching the exit, Sara stretched and looked up at the night stars. In the city, she never got a view this clear. She looked at her watch; 1 AM. They had been here for almost two hours.
"Hey, Sara!" came Catherine's call through the dark, "Come check this out!"
The brunette adjusted her helmet and shouldered her bag, "What is it? Did you find something in the fourth mine?"
"Nope." Catherine peaked out from behind a rock as Sara rounded a corner. Sara couldn't help but think that she was absolutely adorable with her hard hat on. "But I did find an unmarked mine! It's not on the map! Come on, let's check it out."
"Cath, if it's not marked, that probably means it's not secure. We should probably get some cadets in here to make sure it's safe."
"Yeah. And then we'd have to wait two more hours for them to stomp all over our evidence and ruin our case. Come on, Sara! Where's your sense of adventure?" She disappeared into the gaping entrance.
"Hiding right behind my common sense and better judgment." Sara grumbled, but she picked her way through the rocky ground and followed her strong-willed coworker anyway.
"God, it's pitch black in here," Catherine complained, "These helmet lights aren't worth a damn."
Sara flipped on her flashlight, "Didn't you bring your Mag?"
"Yeah, can you hold my water bottle for a second?"
Sara took the bottle while Catherine rustled in her kit. A moment later, another light tapped on. The women surveyed what they could see of their surroundings. It wasn't much. The walls of this mine were much rougher than the others they had seen. It seemed that Sara had been right; this mine was unfinished.
They walked on in silence for several hundred feet until Catherine shined her light to the ceiling and jumped in triumph.
"Sara, look! It's that same purple rock."
"Whatever. I think we're on the right track."
"Great." Sara looked uneasily at the rickety support beams that were little more that upright logs, "Catherine, let's get out of here. This place looks really unstable."
Catherine groaned, "Sara, come on. We're almost there. If Bill Cassidy- a seasoned prospector, felt comfortable coming in here, then it's probably fine."
"Cath, Bill Cassidy died- possibly in this mine and possibly because it was unstable."
"Grr. Oh, fine. Let's just look around for five more minutes, okay? And then I promise we can go."
"Okay, thanks. But only five more minutes." The two women set down their kits and bags.
Just then, there was a shuffle and scuff of moving pebbles. Both of the women's flashlights jerked up abruptly. Catherine brought her free hand to her weapon even if, two hundred yards underground, it was an empty threat.
"Hello?" Sara called.
There was no sound except another crackle of loose dirt. Sara thought that maybe it was just a bat or something.
"Is anyone there?" Catherine asked the darkness, "We're from the crime lab. We're investigating the death of Bill Cassidy."
"We're not police officers." Sara added, just in case there was someone out there and they thought that the women were a threat, "We just want to find out what happened."
There was another scuffle of rocks and then a raspy voice, "I am so sorry."
And then there was a clatter of feet on rocks, a loud crash, and a bright flash.
Sara felt herself drop her flashlight as she grabbed Catherine's hand instead. The noise was deafening and she couldn't see, though she couldn't tell if that was because it was too dark or too bright. She felt something impact her stomach and she realized that Catherine had grabbed her around the middle. Instinctively, she shielded the smaller woman with her body.
"Sara!" The voice was strangled.
"It's going to be okay. Everything's going to be okay." Sara squeezed the body in her arms even tighter.
Just as the noise was starting to die down, there was another loud rumble and Sara felt rocks tumbling around her. She felt Catherine pulled from her grasp. She remembered calling out for the other woman. She didn't remember something hitting her head, but she had felt her knees impact the hard ground and she did recall realizing that things were too bright. But only because everything was fading to black.
When she opened her eyes again, she felt a sharp pain in the back of her skull. She was face down in the dirt. She lifted her head to see light from her Mag where it had fallen. Just beyond it, she saw a pale limp hand. Fear flooded through her.
"Catherine " She whispered hoarsely. She coughed dryly and began to crawl only to feel another sharp jab in her chest. Slowly, she made her way across the uneven floor of the mine. Finally, she reached Catherine's hand and took it in her own.
She struggled to sit up, wincing at the pain in her middle. With her free hand, she picked up her flashlight. She gasped when she saw her colleague in the shadowy light. She was on her side, her legs and lower torso trapped under the debris of fallen rocks. Her face was still and unmoving; the arm that was not in Sara possession was twisted awkwardly.
Tears trickled down Sara's face as she shifted golden red locks out the older woman's face, "Catherine " she whispered, gently caressing her high cheekbones. "Catherine, you've got to wake up, babe. We've got a case to solve! Come on, Cat. Open your eyes."
Sara's shoulders heaved as she wept openly, "Cat!" she sobbed, ignoring the increasing pain above her heart, "Cat, baby, please. Don't leave me here. Don't leave me by myself in the dark. Please." She leaned over to whisper pleadingly, "Don't leave me, Cat."
After a long moment, there was a low groan and then, "Sara?" The fingers of their joined hands were intertwined, "Don't worry sweetheart, I'm not going anywhere."
"Cat!" Sara's heart leapt, and without thinking, she pressed her lips to those of the trapped woman.
Catherine emitted a low moan and, letting go of the brunette's hand, instinctively brought her fingers to the back of Sara's soft hair. She kissed the younger woman soundly before either woman realized exactly what was happening and both pulled back.
"Umm " Catherine blushed but it went unseen in the ghostly light, "What was that for?"
Sara smiled tearily, though that also went unseen, "I don't know, I thought I had lost you you were so pale. And then you came back to me and I had to be near you."
"I thought I had lost you, too." Catherine whispered, momentarily derailing the approaching conversation.
"I was awake for a long time. I could see you beyond the light. I called out to you but you didn't answer. I thought " Catherine's voice trembled, "I thought you were dead. And then I heard you stir. I tried to get to you but my legs- I think maybe one is broken or else my hip. Either way, when I moved I must have passed out from the pain." The redhead smiled up at the brunette and lightly touched her face, "And when I woke up, you were here beside me."
Sara leaned into the touch, "I'm not going anywhere. How are you? Where does it hurt?"
Catherine laughed, "I thought I was supposed to be the mother hen."
"You can be when I get your legs free."
The smaller woman protested, "Sara, if you move a single rock, it could cause another cave-in."
"So? If we don't the circulation going in you legs, they'll have to be amputated. At the very least. You might get an infection and die."
"Sara " Catherine hesitated, "We're going to die anyway."
"What? No we're not."
"No? We're two hours drive from anyone who might know where we are, Nick is the only one who knows what we were doing. No one will think to look for us until tomorrow night's shift. And to make matters worse, we're in an unmarked mine." She began to cry, "I'm so sorry, Sara. You told me that we shouldn't come in here and I made you anyway. This is all my fault!"
Sara slid down so she was cradling Catherine's head in her lap and pulling her silk hair through her fingers, "Hey, hey," she murmur soothingly, "this is not you're fault. I didn't want to come in here because I thought it was unstably constructed, not because I thought some lunatic was going to blow the joint and trap us." Without thinking, she kissed her colleague's brow, looking in her watery blue eyes, she jutted her chin forward stubbornly, "And we are not going to die. We have several bottles of water and we have first-aid. And the temperature hasn't decreased." She looked at her watch; 3:30 AM. Had she truly been unconscious for more than two hours? "And in the time we've been in here, if we had no circulating oxygen, the temp would definitely have risen. So don't worry. I'm going to free your legs and then we'll tend to your arm." Unable to resist, she kissed the soft brow once more, "Everything's going to be okay, alright?"
Sniffling, Catherine nodded.
It took a long time to clear even the smallest bit of Catherine's torso. By now, Sara realized that some of her ribs must have cracked, and her head wound was adding to her disorientation. Several times she had to stop and sit before returning to her knees and lifting another rock out of the way.
Slowly though, she made progress. Every rock had to be moved gradually and with caution for fear the unequal balance would cause another collapse. Eventually, Sara had cleared Catherine of rocks to the knee. Finally, Catherine suggested that Sara pull her the rest of the way out if she had the strength to manage it.
"No way, Cat. If you have a broken leg or hip, that's going to hurt like hell. I'm not going to do that to you."
"Oh, buck up Sara, it will only hurt for a moment. Besides, I can't keep watching you take one rock off at a time. You're using up all of your energy- energy we're both going to need. If you yank me out fast, we have a chance of keeping the rocks balanced."
"Like pulling out a table cloth from beneath a place setting." It made sense.
"Okay." Sara maneuvered behind Catherine and hooked her arms under the small, strong shoulders. "Ready?" she asked, unsure.
Catherine patted her wrist and hissed through clenched teeth, "Be quick, baby; I trust you."
"Okay. On the count of three?"
Catherine shut her eyes tight and nodded.
Catherine took a deep breath.
Sara shut her own eyes tightly.
"Three!" Sara pulled as hard as she could and cringed at the sound of the wrenching flesh.
Catherine screamed in agony, but her legs were freed. Both women froze as they waited for the sounds of another rock slide. None came. Sara breathed a sigh of relief as Catherine whimpered and shook softly. The brunette took her upper half in her arms and cradled her gently. If she were showing any signs of pain, then it must be horrible.
"I'm so sorry, sweetie, it's okay. It's over, it's okay." Sara whispered tenderly, occasionally running a hand through the soft red hair.
Eventually, Catherine calmed. She opened her eyes and smiled comfortingly at the face above hers, "Thank you, Sara."
For the first time she saw the matted hair and the bloody smears running down one side of Sara's neck, her eyes clouded over, "Sara, baby, you're hurt!" She gingerly turned the other woman's head. Picking up the flashlight, she gasped when she saw the ugly, angry gash and the bruising that was spreading over Sara's right temple and cheekbone. "Oh, sweetheart, I think you've got a zygomatic fracture. And you've certainly got a concussion."
Sara tried to smile but Catherine saw her wince, "Really, Nurse Willows?"
"Sara " Catherine looked at her seriously.
The brunette nodded, "I know. I felt them when I woke up. I've got another gash on the back of the head, thought the temporal one is probably knocked me out. I've also got at least two broken ribs, maybe a bruised sternum. Two of the fingers on my right hand are broken pretty bad, possibly my nose too, though I don't think so. And I've got a wrist sprain."
She shrugged, "No big deal," lightly, she ran a hand over the dark bruising over Catherine's torso, her blood soaked jeans, and her awkwardly twisted arm, "I'm more concerned about you."
"No big deal?" Catherine tried to get angry and failed. She settled for overly concerned, "Sara, you're hurt pretty bad."
"It could be worse. And you're hurt a lot more than I am. With all this bruising- you may have some internal bleeding."
"Nonsense, I wouldn't be this coherent. It's just bruising from a crushed pelvis or something, I've probably pinched a nerve. Don't worry about me."
"No! We're going to get you set up as best we can and then you can help me, okay? You're in no position to argue and you know I'm right. If we don't patch up whatever's bleeding in you leg you could have a lot of problems when we get out of here."
Catherine shuddered in pain and fought hard to hold back the tears that flooded her at the thought that they might never get out. But she felt courage hold back the flood when Sara kissed her head and then her shoulder.
"Come on, Cat. Let's get you fixed up and comfortable, okay?"
The redhead nodded, her eyes closed against the tears, "Okay, baby."
Where were all of these endearments coming from? Was it just stress? Or something more? And what about that kiss? Waking up with Sara's lips on hers was something she could definitely get used to. If they ever got out of here. Right. One thing at a time.
"So what's the final count?" Catherine called from her position propped up against the mine wall.
It had taken hours for the women to patch each other up to their satisfaction. Afterwards, they had taken inventory of the supplies they had. Much of it was useless; luminal, print dust, plaster of Paris- not exactly what you would bring with you to a cave-in if you had the choice. But they did have many things that could be used for medical purposes; alcohol, gauze, bandaging.
They also, thanks to Sara's request and her own intuition to bring more besides, had six nearly full bottles of water. They knew that they could go days without food if they had to, but two days without water and both would be facing imminent system failures.
"Looks like we've got four flash lights, each with a change of batteries, and your hard hat with a light. Mine broke in the collapse." Sara came to sit beside her co-worker.
She had created a pillow from her messenger bag and Catherine's regulation jacket and a make shift splint and tourniquet by shredding her CSI vest and using the Kevlar to align Catherine's pelvis and the inflexible fabric to bind the gash in the redhead's leg. The bleeding in both of their injuries had subsided, now they just had to make sure that they stayed free of infection.
"Well, I guess we're going to be here a while." Catherine acknowledged.
The brunette nodded, "You should try and get some rest."
"So should you."
"I have a headache."
"That's what happens when you run your head into a giant rock. Twice."
"I'm glad you can joke about my potential brain damage."
"You haven't got brain damage, Sara, you've got pride damage. You're just crabby because you had to actually admit to being hurt so that I could stitch and clean that hole in your head."
"It's not a hole; it's barely a scratch."
"You know very well what. That 'scratch', as you called it, was four inches long, and about half and inch wide and deep. In a hospital, they'd shave your head."
"No, they wouldn't, I wouldn't let them." Sara folded her arms across her chest stubbornly.
Catherine shook her head and rolled her eyes.
Silence fell over them for a few minutes.
"Well, this is unbelievably boring."
"You know, this is a really stupid way to kill somebody. Assuming whoever tried to blow us up was the same person who killed Bill Cassidy, they are obviously complete amateurs."
"Not to mention clearly lacking in the creativity department. I mean, you kill one guy in a mine blast; kudos to you. You try to kill two more people the same way; you lose points in originality."
"Seriously." Catherine smiled. The light banter was doing wonders for her nerves. The more they talked like this, the easier it was for her to not think about the fact that she might never see sunshine or her little girl ever again.
"And," Sara said incredulously, "the guy didn't even do it right! We're still here. Evidently, he didn't think it through. Even if he had killed us, people would eventually come looking for our bodies. And then the bastard would get the death penalty for killing two police officers. He still will. What an idiot!"
"Right?" Catherine reached out and put her uninjured hand on Sara's lap. The younger woman quieted, took her hand, and scooted closer until the redhead could lean over and drop her head to Sara's shoulder. "You know, I'm really glad you're here with me."
"Yeah, it would suck to be here alone." Sara agreed.
"No," Catherine continued, "I mean I'm glad it's you with me and not anyone else."
"Really?" Sara looked skeptical, "You wouldn't rather it be one of the boys? One of your friends?" Sara winced. She hadn't meant to imply that she didn't want to be friends; just the opposite was true. And she had been studiously avoiding any conversation about the kiss from a few hours before.
Catherine shook her head. "No. Grissom would be disassociated and unhelpful. Nicky would be panicked- you know how he gets under stress. And Warrick Warrick might be okay, but he wouldn't let me take care of him and he would still want me to be in charge even if," Catherine gestured at her legs, "I'm in no condition to do so." She traced patterns on Sara's palm as she looked up into her deep sepia eyes, "But you," she smiled, a little teary-eyed, "you've been perfect."
Sara blushed and looked down at their hands.
"You have," Catherine insisted firmly, "you've been wonderful. You've taken care of me and kept me from falling apart. But you've also let me help you as much as I can. And and I feel safe with you. When you tell me everything's going to be okay, I know it's true. Maybe we haven't always gotten along, but I know you would never lie to me."
Sara looked up. In the shadowy light, Catherine's eyes looked almost silver, "I wouldn't," she said honestly.
Sara saw the soft expression on Catherine's tired, though still beautiful, face and cautiously bent lower. Catherine also tilted her head up to catch the younger woman's lips. Tentatively, both women increased the pressure of their mouths. Gaining confidence, Catherine straightened a little and began to massage Sara's lips with her own. She nipped and grazed gently until Sara began to respond and reciprocate.
The brunette was still uncertain, but who was she to deny this gorgeous woman; this gorgeous, sweet, gentle, fierce woman? So, instead of pulling back, which most of her brain was screaming at her to do, she deepened the kiss; she sucked Catherine's full lower lip into her mouth and bit down softly. A tingle ran down her spine at the moan this action elicited and spurred her on.
Forgetting her surroundings, Sara shifted forward and balanced herself with a hand against the cave wall. The added weight clearly implicated something to Catherine because she eagerly opened her mouth. Sara willingly complied. Both women's breath grew heavy. Sara slipped her tongue past the older woman's lips and teeth to caress the roof of her mouth.
Catherine shivered and tried to move to allow Sara better access. But in doing so, she jolted her hip and she cried out in pain making the brunette jump back in surprise.
"Cat!" Sara blanched at the grimace spreading across the redhead's face, "Cat, Catherine, are you okay? Did I hurt you?"
Catherine shook her head, her eyes shut and her lips pursed against the pain, "No, I hurt myself." She looked up into the concerned eyes and tried to smile. She almost succeeded, "Don't worry, baby. You just made me feel so good I that forgot my lower extremities are temporarily out of commission."
A blush rose in Sara's cheeks but she still looked worried, "Are you sure you're alright?"
"I will be if you come back here and kiss me again." Catherine's eyes flashed in the darkness.
"Oh, no." Sara backed off a bit, "As much as I would love that, your health comes before my sex drive."
"In whose book? In mine, health is several rungs below sex drive."
"No." Sara said firmly, "Besides, we really ought to talk about this, or wait until we get out of here and figure it out."
Catherine sighed, "Fine." Suddenly she felt a wave of exhaustion, "Will you at least lie beside me while I sleep? I can't seem to keep my eyes open."
Sara was beginning to feel weary herself, "Hmm, sure."
The brunette moved back to her position beside the redhead. They couldn't technically lie down, not and still keep Catherine's hips aligned and keep the blood circulating properly in Sara's head. But they reclined as comfortably as possible against the wall, and Sara pulled Catherine's torso onto her. Catherine smiled sleepily and burrowed her head into Sara's chest. The younger woman adjusted her posture so that she could tuck the other woman's head neatly under her chin. With that, they both drifted off into a deep, if troubled sleep.
The first thing Sara was aware of was that she was shaking. Why? She wasn't cold and her fear had died down hours ago. She moved her hand up from the ground to Catherine's arm and realized that it was Catherine shaking against her. For a moment she was afraid that she was sick, but no; she was crying.
"Cat? Catherine?" Sara pressed a kiss to her temple, "Cath, baby?" Sara lifted the other woman's chin and realized that she was still asleep.
Her heart jumped at the sight of the wet tears on her face. Without thinking, she began to kiss and lick them off. When she was done, she looked up to see that Catherine had stopped crying and was staring at her with wide blue eyes.
The brunette blushed, "Sorry. You were crying in your sleep- you scared me. I- I couldn't think of what else to do." Sara was surprised to feel firm lips against hers.
"It's okay." Catherine muttered, shaking her head, "Thank you." She wrapped her good arm around Sara's neck and began kissing her anew. After several minutes she laughed darkly.
"What?" The younger woman wanted to know.
"Nothing." She snuggled back into Sara's neck, "It's just that here we are, stuck five hundred feet underground- no food, no real hope of anyone finding us, and I just received possibly the best wake-up I've ever had. Do you sense the irony?"
"No." Sara said firmly, "There would only be irony if we were never getting out. But we will get out." She ran her fingers through strawberry blonde hair, "We have to."
"What time is it? Not that it matters in the pitch dark."
Sara looked at her watch, "Nearly 8AM."
"I could be driving Lindsey to school right now. Or having breakfast with the boys."
"Won't someone notice that you didn't come to get Lindsey?"
"Ha! I wish that my sister would worry, but no, she'll just figure that I got caught up in work again. She'll drive Lindsey without question. She probably won't even call my cell, which is somewhere in that giant rock pile in six pieces."
"So, when's the earliest someone is going to think to look for us?"
"If we're really lucky, they'll notice that neither of us clocked out and that there's a Tahoe missing."
"That doesn't exactly look out of the ordinary."
"Not for Sara Sidle, maybe. But people know that I don't work overtime nowadays unless I'm pulling a double."
"Well, assuming people don't notice that we didn't come back "
"Start of shift, I guess. God, my leg is killing me."
"Want some water?"
"The miracle drug?" Catherine rolled her eyes sarcastically.
"It's all I've got."
"No it's not." Catherine raised an eyebrow expressively and blew lightly on the underside of Sara's chin causing her to look down further, "I'm interested in researching the medical benefits of tonsil hockey with thirty-four year-old female criminalists."
"Hmm anyone in particular?"
"Only one in this cave." Catherine grinned wickedly and hooked her arm around Sara's neck once more.
At just that moment, the flashlight flickered and went out, plunging them into pitch dark. Sara released Catherine and felt around for the batteries.
"Leave it, we should probably save the energy for things that can't be done without light."
Catherine felt rather than saw Sara shake her head, "No- need it on."
Sara paused, "I'm a I don't like the dark."
"You work the night shift."
"Night is not dark." Sara continued to feel around, "I'm fine if I can see, I just don't like the complete dark."
A realization struck Catherine and she stilled the brunette's hand with her own, "You mean you're afraid of it," she said, her voice low and cautious.
"No." Sara said defensively.
"Sara " Catherine's voice was compassionate.
"Fine." Sara relented, "I really don't like the dark."
"Why? Don't tell me you were one of those kids whose parents locked them in basements or closets when they went out."
Sara stiffened and tried to pull away.
Catherine tightened her grip. "Wait, Sara are you serious?"
"Crawl space, actually. Sorry if it's too unoriginal for you," she said bitterly.
The brunette jumped when she felt a light touch on her face, "Baby "
Sara allowed herself to lean into the touch and find comfort in the voice.
Comprehension dawned in the redhead's mind, "That's why you hate the domestic violence cases."
Sara nodded, "I just don't want anyone else to get hurt."
Catherine found Sara's lips with her fingers but quickly covered them with her own.
Sara kissed her for a moment, but then pulled back, "So can I turn on the light now?"
Catherine pulled Sara down so that their foreheads touched and she shook her head, "Kiss me."
Sara tried to move away, her heart beating faster, "Cath "
"Sara." The tone of Catherine's voice froze the brunette in place. Slowly, the older woman moved her hand up Sara's neck to cradle her face, "Sara, close your eyes," she whispered.
Sara shuddered at the low sound.
"Are they closed?"
Catherine brought her face down so that she could kiss both fluttering eyelids, "Now, breath. Keep your eyes closed, and breath."
They sat for several minutes like this until Sara's breathing evened out. Catherine leaned in even closer, "Now," she whispered huskily, "kiss me."
The brunette complied without question.
Catherine pulled back and sighed, "This sucks."
"When does being trapped with a limited oxygen supply not suck?" Sara asked, but she was smiling.
"Not that. I mean, we've been in here for what? Fifteen hours?"
Sara looked at her watch; it was nearly noon, "Twelve and a half."
"Fine. Twelve and a half hours. And I'll admit, we've found a really great way to pass the time-"
Sara flicked on the flashlight and held it to her face like a microphone, "Thank you, a thank you very much." she grinned.
Catherine took her hand and returned the content expression, "But kissing only gets you so far. We better get rescued soon. If we were on a bed, I'm sure I could ignore the pain better. Remind me, the next time someone tries to blow us up, I should bring an air mattress and not get crushed in the debris."
"What makes you think we'd be going farther if you could move your legs and the side of my face didn't feel like a bruised peach? I'll have you know-I'm not a sex on the first date kind of gal."
Catherine laughed, "I never thought you were, babe. But I think that twelve and a half hours counts more than dinner and a movie- it's at least two dates, more like three. And I know plenty of respectable women who have sex on the third date."
"I'll admit to sex on a third date."
"So see? If I weren't virtually paralyzed "
"No, we still wouldn't. My first time with anyone is not going to be in a cave. Besides, what if our rescue party arrived and discovered us in flagrante?"
Catherine howled, "Warrick would probably just laugh and ask if we wanted them to just put the rocks back. Nick would turn six shades of red!" she cackled, "Grissom would have a fit!"
Sara went rigid at the mention of the man's name, and she held her breath.
Catherine felt her stomach plummet, "Are you " she gulped, "are you in love with Gil?"
Sara shook her head, "No. I was once, but that was a long time ago."
Catherine nodded, "So was I."
Sara looked at the redhead in surprise, "What?"
Catherine nodded, "About twelve years ago. I was a lab tech; he was a CSI 3. He was my mentor. We had known each other for about four years. And I had had a bit of crush on him the whole time. But I was married and dancing. He convinced me to go back to school, get clean, and come work with him at the lab." Catherine looked up at Sara who motioned for her to continue.
The older woman sighed, "Things weren't going great with Eddie. I made up my mind to file for divorce. I told Gil, and he was behind me all the way. One night, we had a really quiet shift and decided to go out for coffee while we were still clocked in."
Sara raised her eyebrows and Catherine chuckled.
"I know; it doesn't sound like Grissom does it? He was a lot more relaxed before he became supervisor. And he was shier. He didn't talk to anyone. Well, he talked to me. I was so in love with him. I couldn't believe that someone that smart would value my opinion." Catherine nervously fiddled with Sara's hand,
"That night we went for coffee, we ran into Ed with one of his bimbos. I fell apart. Gil put us both on call and took me back to his place. I'm sure his intentions were honorable, but mine weren't. He was so good to me and made me feel so special. He put me in his bed to sleep off the crying fit I'd worked myself into. When he came in to check on me, I totally put the moves on him. He said we shouldn't, but I assured him that things were over with Eddie, that it had only been him for years. So we yeah "
Catherine blushed slightly. Sara just nodded and waited.
"And for the next month or so, we dated. I moved in with him and things were great. But then I started getting sick. Gil took me to the doctor and we found out I was eight weeks pregnant. Eight weeks. Which meant the baby was Eddie's, not Gil's." Catherine's throat tightened a bit, "It's so weird, you know? Because, four weeks difference and Gil and I would probably be married now with three kids and a mini-van. But it was eight weeks. I don't know what I was thinking. Gil told me that he'd be there for me, but I had to tell Eddie. And Ed was over the moon."
Catherine sniffed, "He got clean once and for all, he swore to me there would be no more broads. And I really think he meant it, at the time. So, I apologized to Gil, I told him that I had to try to make things work with the baby's father. I had never told Eddie that me and Gil had been anything but friends." Catherine laughed darkly, "And I think he found it hard to believe that I would choose Gil over him, anyway."
"You said twelve years ago?"
The redhead nodded, "A month later, he took six months leave. He said he couldn't watch another man live his future. Told me he was going to teach for a semester." Catherine looked up, connecting the dots in her head, "Harvard. Which I guess is where he met you."
Sara gave her an affirmative, "I was a senior. I was all set to go work in a lab in Iowa. I wanted to work in particle physics and phenomenology. But I needed one more credit, so I took his lecture on forensics. I guess I don't need to tell you that the man's a genius. In two and a half hours, I had completely changed careers. I called up Iowa, told them thanks but no thanks, and then called San Francisco to see if their lab had any openings. It didn't, but they were looking for a new intern with the ME. I figured any experience was good experience The next time I saw Professor Grissom, I told him what I had done and he agreed with me; working with a coroner was a good idea."
Sara shifted uncomfortably, as if what she was about to say didn't sit well with her, "We went to dinner. It wasn't supposed to be a date. Well, I guess I wanted it to be, but it wasn't. Mostly I just asked him everything about everything."
Catherine laughed, "I can so see that; twenty-two year old Sara Sidle, long-legged, totally unaware of how gorgeous she is, and desperate to learn anything about anything."
"Yeah, well. Until then, I had only dated women. I thought I was gay, but "
"The mighty and mysterious Grissom magic?"
"Something like that. Anyway, as the months passed, we had more and more of our dinners. And I started to think that maybe he liked me, too. I've never been one for subtle-"
Catherine snorted at this, but Sara ignored her and continued, "So, finally I just asked him out."
"Really? That was brave. What did he say?"
"Oh, you know, typical Grissom. 'What he felt was immaterial, he was fifteen years older, he was my professor.' He thought I was an attractive, intelligent young woman, and that we would be great friends for the rest of our lives."
"Yeah. So, at the end of the summer, we parted on friendly terms. I went to San Francisco and he returned to Las Vegas. We saw each other a few times a year; always him coming to see me."
"He came back a week after Lindsey was born. He held her in his arms and told me that he would always be here for both of us. That we would always be best friends. So we have."
"And you didn't get back together after the divorce came through?"
"Are you kidding? By then, you were here and I could cut the sexual tension in the lab with a feather."
"The one-sided sexual tension." Sara insisted, "Until the lab explosion last year. To be honest, I think I was only in love with him for a very short amount of time. Everything else was just residual infatuation."
"And now what?"
"And now nothing. Now it kind of freaks me out that I let so many years slip away pining for a man who had no hope of every returning my love. Especially now, when I find out that I had little chance of ever being more than a rebound girl in the first place- not when the girl he was trying so hard to get over is so spectacular."
Catherine smiled, "Yeah?"
Sara hugged her tighter, "Yeah."
The redhead nuzzled into her favorite place under the brunette's chin, "So now what?"
"I don't know."
"We should probably talk about this most recent development."
"Rebound girl meets break-up girl; parental guidance \ advised. It's a working title. It would be 'rebound girl meets break-up girl; NC-17' if I could feel my toes."
"It sounds like a porno series, like the next edition will include 'girls take on the naughty nurses,' or something."
"Let's see how hot the EMTs are when they get here and I'll let you know."
"Umm how about no?" Sara's voice had an edge.
"We aren't jealous are we?"
Sara growled, "Are you telling me you would be okay with me taking on Hank in the back of an ambulance.
Catherine flushed, "Umm how about no?"
"So we should talk?"
"Yeah, I guess we should."
"So " Catherine wasn't quite sure where to begin. "I like you." Well, that was definitely a start.
"I'm so glad." Sara's tone was sarcastic.
"No, I'm mean " What did she mean? "I mean, that for me this has surpassed 'damsel in distress' make-out sessions."
"Good, because I don't do those."
"You know, you were the one that wanted to talk about this," Catherine bristled.
Sara was quick to sooth her pride, "I know, I'm sorry. I'm just nervous."
"Well, so am I!"
Sara hesitated, "Does what you just said mean that you might want to continue this even after we get out of this hellhole?"
"I don't think we're getting anywhere."
Catherine sighed, "Okay, there are very few options here. A) and this is my least favorite, we don't get out of here and die of dehydration in about four days. On the upside of that, we probably will be coherent until the last day which means a lot more making out. B) We get rescued relatively soon, don't die, get at least a month off work where we don't talk much and then when we come back, we can pretend like none of this ever happened." Catherine looked at Sara sadly.
The brunette picked up where she left off, "Option C: We get out of here, we spend the month off not talking much but having as much sex as injuries sustained will allow and continue to have casual sex until such a time when it's no longer conducive to our lives."
"Is that what you want?" Catherine's eyes were watery. Sara thought it might be from the pain and the stress, but she doubted it.
The younger woman shook her head, praying she was right "No, I much prefer option D."
Catherine smiled hopefully, "Which is?"
"We get out of here, and we spend the month leave getting to know each other and taking care of each other and making out a lot, and when we're recovered, I take you out for our first anniversary dinner."
Catherine beamed, "Really?"
"I could be seriously into that."
"Yeah?" Sara was grinning to.
"Yeah." The redhead nestled closer into Sara.
Sara couldn't really believe it. Had Catherine Willows just agreed to go out with her. She shook her head, "Let me get this straight you want to go out with me?"
Catherine giggled, "Isn't that what I just said?"
"Yeah, but why?"
"Why go out with me? You have everything. You have a life, you have a family, you have friends. You're up for day shift supervisor and when people finally realize what a dick Ecklie is, you'll probably get his job too. And me- I'm just Sara. Just plain Sara. All I have is work. No family, barely any friends- I don't even have a cat."
"No, seriously, Cath." Sara started to get a little panicky, "Why would you want me? Why on earth would someone as gorgeous and talented as you "
"Sara, stop it." Catherine shook her head incredulously, "I don't have everything. My life has plenty of problems. But you're right. I do have a family and friends and a life. And I also have a job that I love that stresses me to no end. And with all that, the only thing I don't have is someone to share it with- something I've been searching for my whole life. And before you work yourself into a frenzy of doubt and give up on us before we've even gotten started, I really think that that person could be you."
"Because, Sara. All those things that you just said? About me being gorgeous and smart and strong; most people don't see that. Most people see controlling, exacting, and manipulative."
"Well, I see those things too, I just think that they're good things."
"Well," Catherine reasoned, "I don't see just plain Sara." She touched the brunette's face, "I do see Sara. But I see sweet Sara and loving Sara. I see smart Sara and brave Sara. And I also see beautiful Sara. And I don't think that there's anything plain about just Sara."
Sara rested the bridge of her nose on Catherine's shoulder, "No?"
"Mm-mm." The older woman shook her head. "And you're wrong about one thing."
"You do have a Cat."
Sara smiled, and sweeping a piece of hair out of the redhead's face, she kissed her. A few minutes later, there were several loud thuds. Instinctively, both women ducked their heads, fearing another cave-in. Another few minutes passed and soon they were blinking against some dim light.
"Hello?!" They heard a voice. "Hello? Is any one alive in there?"
"Yes!" Sara called, "We're in here. We're okay, but we'll need an ambulance!"
"Just stay where you are! Don't move. We're going to need to clear some of this debris and then we'll have some paramedics in to collect you. Are you the two CSIs? Willows and Sidle?"
"Yep!" Catherine's voice was hoarse when she yelled, "Is anyone from our team with you?" They still couldn't see anything but moving shadows.
"Catherine?" It was Gil's voice, "Catherine, Sara? Are you there?"
"We're here, Gil."
"Are you alright? Are you hurt?"
"Cat's got a broken pelvis, we think, and an arm. But I'm fine."
"Fine? Bullshit. Sara's not fine, Gil. She broke her ribs and her face," Catherine shook her head at Sara who only shrugged and smiled, "And I'm beginning to think she broke her mind, too."
"Well, hang on there, these guys will have you out soon." They heard the crunch of rock that was Gil's retreating steps.
Sara turned and embraced the redhead, "See?" She whispered into her hair. "I told you we'd get out of here."
"Yeah, you did. I tell you, I'm really glad you were right." Catherine trailed light kisses along the younger woman's jaw.
"Though there's something to be said for being locked in the dark with you for twenty-four hours."
"Hmm." Sara agreed, "But how about next time we just arrange for the same day off and a dark hotel room?"
Catherine smiled, "I always knew you were brilliant."
Catherine had to be pulled out on a gurney, and it took two paramedics to help Sara walk out. They were taken to the hospital in two different ambulances, both thinking about the other the entire time.
It took ages for the doctors to patch up Sara, when all she wanted to do was find out how Catherine was doing. Warrick had been with her for awhile, until she had made him go check on the older woman.
The list of damages was not far off what the women had originally diagnosed. Sara's ribs were not broken, only bruised, but her face fracture was much worse than she had thought. It turned out that the worst injuries, however, were her two broken fingers. Broken was an understatement; they were crushed. They were splinted and set in a hard cast, but even so, the doctors didn't expect her to ever have full mobility again.
Catherine was the much worse for wear. She had an incomplete fracture of her left femur, as well as an open fracture of her shin. On her right leg, she had a deep laceration in the lateral muscle of her thigh. All of this meant that she was going to need some serious therapy to get walking again. But luckily, given time, her legs, as well as her arm, would heal.
Several hours after they had been admitted, Sara was finally cleared and she practically ran to where they were keeping Catherine. She knocked gingerly her door.
"Baby? Are you awake?" Sara peaked in.
"Hey!" Came the tired but welcoming invitation, "Look at you, up and about!"
Seeing Catherine, Sara tried not to cry, "Oh, sweetie!"
Catherine looked down at herself and tried to smile. She had one leg up in a suspended sling, a hardened cast from toe to hip. The other thigh was wrapped up tightly. She had an air cast on her wrist, several stitched up cuts on her body, and an IV in her arm. It was only to regulate her pain meds until she got out of the hospital, but she knew it all looked daunting. Though, she was more concerned with the bandage around her Sara's head.
"Don't worry about me, kiddo. I've got the world's best medicine!" She held out her arms.
Carefully, Sara stepped forward and into them. She moved to the left side of the bed. If she was cautious, she could lie on her side next to Catherine and tuck her legs under the redhead's suspended one. Gingerly, Sara lay her head on the older woman's shoulder.
"Are you in pain?" She asked, worriedly.
"No, they've got on quite a few drugs right now."
Sara smiled, "So you're stoned."
"If I was, would you take advantage of me?" Catherine relaxed in the brunette's arms. It had been this easy banter that had gotten her through their ordeal in the mine.
"Of course not! Though I may use my powers of persuasion to help you discover what you truly desire."
"Powers of persuasion?"
"Mhm." Sara lifted her head up and kissed Catherine thoroughly.
"Ah, yes. Those powers of persuasion. I think you may need to try again. I'm not quite sure what I truly desire."
"Oh, really?" Sara smiled before descending down once again.
Several minutes later, they heard a small cough and looked up sharply. It was Nick, turning profusely red, "I umm sorry to interrupt. I wouldn't, of course, but I thought you might like to know that Warrick, Greg, and Grissom will be here soon. They're just umm parking the trucks."
Sara blushed into Catherine's neck, but the redhead just smiled, "Thanks, Nick."
"No problem." Nick was carefully not looking awkward.
Sara made to get up, but Catherine shook her head, "Stay?"
The brunette saw the look in her eyes and nodded, "If you want." She settled back down.
"I want." Catherine whispered.
Sara wrapped an arm around her back and tucked Catherine's head under her chin. She smiled at Nick when Catherine nestled into her, and he faintly smiled back.
"So, Nicky," Catherine asked, "How'd you find us? Took you long enough."
"GPS in your cell phone."
"What? There's a GPS in that piece of crap?"
"Yeah, it was news to me and Warrick too. Apparently they were installed before they were issued. Sara's doesn't have one, for some reason."
They both looked questioningly at Sara who shrugged, "I found it when I was trying to fix it myself and I took it out. I didn't know who put it in there, but I didn't think they had a right to be following me around."
Catherine patted her thigh, "That's my paranoid sweetheart." She kissed her cheek.
Nick shifted uncomfortably, "Are you guys like ?" Nick pointed back and forth between the two women.
Catherine looked up at Sara, seeking permission. When Sara inclined her head slightly, Catherine exhaled, "Yeah. We're dating."
"As of when?"
Sara looked at her watch, "As of eight hours ago."
"You shacked up while you were in the mine?" Nick's eyes grew wide.
"Officially, about a few minutes before you guys found us."
"Unofficially," Sara continued, "Sometime around three o'clock yesterday morning."
Catherine giggled, "She took advantage of me while I was unconscious."
"It got you to wake up, didn't it?" Sara smiled.
Nick shook his head and threw up his hands, "I do not want to know."
"Know what?" Warrick's head peaked in the door. He was holding two bouquets of white peonies.
"Warrick!" Catherine evaded the question, "Did you bring me flowers?"
"Yeah," the man stepped into the room, "I stopped by Sara's room first, but they told me she had left. And here I find her all snuggled up with you." He looked at the two happy faces of the women, "Does this mean you two finally ?"
Sara blushed and Catherine nodded.
"Good! I was about to trap you two in a cave myself."
"You knew, man?" Nick hit his friend on the arm.
"Knew? Of course I knew. Look at them! It's so obvious, my blind grandmother would have noticed."
Greg looked in the door, "I knew too."
Sara looked at him, disbelieving, "You knew? How did you know when we didn't?"
Greg cracked a smile, "It's just the way my life is. Two gorgeous women that I pine for- they're just bound to end up together. God hates me."
This made everyone laugh.
Sara caressed Catherine's arm softly and held her tighter, "Well, I wish one of you had told us. Maybe it wouldn't have taken my baby getting hurt for us to figure it out."
"Don't play the hero, sweetie, I know that you've been hurt, too." Catherine lightly touched the side of Sara's face, "I was right about the zygomatic fracture."
"How did you know?"
Catherine looked guilty, "I screamed at the doctor until he got one of your nurses in here to give me an update."
"I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
Sara smiled. It would take some getting used to, this new thing with someone caring about her. The part about caring for someone else was going great however. She didn't mind at all when Catherine looked up at her with those big blue eyes and pleaded with her to kiss her. Oh, well, if I have to.
Smiling, and confident in front of her seemingly accepting friends, Sara kissed her girlfriend. It wasn't a deep passionate kiss, but it wasn't G-rated either. And it required enough energy for neither Sara nor Catherine to hear another body enter the room.
They did hear, however, when Greg coughed loudly. And when they looked up, both women's stomachs dropped. There was Grissom. The only man either of them had ever loved and he was sheet white.
"Gil?" Catherine prompted.
The man read the twin looks of hope and dread in the women's eyes and shook his head, "I don't know what to say."
"Grissom-" Sara began.
But the gray-haired man held out a hand and shook his head once more, "Just just give me time, Sara." He handed the books in his arms to Nick and left without another word.
The men looked sympathetically at their female co-workers
"So " Gil began.
The two women waited and watched him sit back in his chair, his hands folded in his lap. They sat side by side in the chairs across from his desk. Well, Catherine was in the wheelchair she was using for long trips outside the house, but Sara sat beside her in a lounge chair.
It had been a month. Catherine was still a far cry from healed, but Sara had been fully recovered for a week. Only her stiff posture and finger splint revealed her as anything but in perfect health. Catherine still wore a cast on her left leg and, though the stitches had been removed, the dressings on her right leg were still being changed daily- something Sara did gladly.
And now they were supposed to be discussing their return to work. They knew that Catherine would not be working full time and certainly not doing any field work. But she was driving everyone crazy, complaining about sitting around at home.
Sara on the other hand, fully expected to be back to working full time as of tomorrow night. But the look on Grissom's face told her that he hadn't asked them both here to talk about the conditions of their return.
"So " Catherine countered, an edge in her voice.
Her and Sara's relationship had progressed well over the last four weeks. After Catherine's release from the hospital, Sara had been over a lot to take care of her or to take Lindsey out so that the older woman could rest. They had even been on a few dates. Nothing fancy, because Catherine could neither sit nor stand for any extensive length of time, but dinner or take-out and a movie.
Sara went out of her way at every turn to make the littlest things special for Catherine and in turn, the redhead had never felt so loved and cherished. But now, watching the man in front of them, the nerves they had been staving off all month were beginning to creep up.
Sara felt it in the tingle at the back of her neck while Catherine was aware of it because the room seemed suddenly devoid of oxygen. They had not discussed Gil since their experience in the mine, choosing instead to focus on the joys of their new relationship.
Now, both were starting to think they should have come with a plan before this. What if he didn't accept them? What if he didn't want them working together? Were they secure enough in their relationship to rebel against him if he fought their decision? These were the questions running through both women's minds and both were desperately wishing they had the answers.
"So, I take it by Catherine's ornery tone that the two of you have decided to stay together."
"Ornery? Ornery!" Catherine retorted.
As cute as she was when she was agitated, Sara really didn't think now was the time for one of her irrelevant tangent-blow-ups. She stilled the woman with a hand on her forearm, saying simply, "Yes, we have."
This seemed to be the type of answer Grissom had been looking for, because he nodded, "Both Nick and Warrick said as much, but I wanted to hear it from you. Thank you, for being honest with me."
It was Sara's turn to bristle at the accusation, "We never had any intention of concealing this from you," she hissed, "even if it isn't any of your business."
Now Catherine quieted her with a look before turning to Grissom, "The question here isn't what we're going to do Gil, it's what you're going to do. You know us both very well. We've been friends for nearly twenty years now, you and Sara for nearly fifteen; you know us. You know what to expect from us professionally and personally; we're strong and devoted people. What can we expect from you? Can we expect your support?"
Sara stared at her lover; she always was one to hit the nail on the head. She turned her gaze to Gil. The best course of action was to simply go along with the older woman.
Gil sighed and put his hands on his desk. He was quiet for a minute longer before he shook his head, "Of course, I'll support you. How could I not? You're the best things in my life- you know how much I care for you."
Sara shot Catherine a look that she read instantly; the biggest problem in either of their past relationships with this man was that no one ever knew just exactly what he was thinking.
Grissom continued, "It's just going to take a while for me to get used to this." He gestured vaguely at the two women.
"This?" Catherine asked, slightly annoyed.
Gil ignored her, "But as long as you two are serious, there's nothing I can, will, or even want to do to stop you. I guess I just called you in here to say I'm sorry for the way I acted before and congratulations." The last bit was added without a hint of celebratory feeling.
"And work?" Catherine wanted to know.
"Sara can start up as early as next Monday- full time. You should wait another two weeks, I think. Your doctors told me six weeks bed rest and then we can see you part timing it- desk work and lab consults only, until you've completed your physical therapy."
"What about us and work?" Sara pushed.
"Well, I don't want to push you, but the lab will be under scrutiny by the legal system until it becomes abundantly clear that you two are an established couple." Gil shifted uncomfortably, "The quickest way to do that is for you two to register as domestic partners. I know it hasn't been that long and you're still testing the waters- I'm just letting you know what the Sheriff and Ecklie think the best course of action is."
Catherine's eyes narrowed, "The Sheriff and Ecklie think that the best idea is for us to get married?"
"They don't want to fire us?" Sara wanted to know.
"No, they do." Gil said, "Especially with all of the paid leave they've been having to give you. But I emphasized the lawsuit they would be facing if they fired you for either your accident or being a couple. So, they left you under my supervision and told me to get you hitched as fast as possible."
"Well, too bad!" Catherine said, angrily. She looked at Sara apologetically, "I'm sorry, baby, I love you, I do- but I'm not ready to get married."
"Neither am I. I mean, I'd love to someday, but I'd like us to go slow. Like go on a date where neither of us has stitches or crutches, if you know what I mean."
Catherine was smiling, "Yeah, I do." In a quieter tone she said, "You really want to marry me, someday?" She blushed with happiness.
Sara smiled right back and took the redhead's hand, "Of course I do. I just want to do it right. I'd like to propose to you and not sign some paper with Ecklie hanging over my shoulder."
Catherine shuddered at the thought, "Yeah, he's not invited to the wedding."
"Whatever my lady says goes!" Sara squeezed her hand tightly and Catherine laughed out loud.
The brunette looked to Grissom, "So, we're done here, right? I'll be in on Monday night?"
The gray-haired man nodded, "That's fine."
Sara stood and backed-up so that Catherine could do a u-turn.
"We'll see you later, Gil," Catherine called as she wheeled out.
Sara inclined her head at the older man before following the other woman out.
"So, what now?" Catherine asked as they passed through the doors of the lab and into the early morning sun.
"I don't know," Sara came up behind her and took control of the chair; because of her wrist, Catherine's arms still tired easily, "Your sister is taking Linds to school you hungry?"
"I could eat."
"How about an omelet from the diner? Spinach, feta, mushroom?"
"Hey, did I hear someone say omelet?" Nick's voice came from the door.
Sara felt Warrick's strong arm around her shoulders, "You two weren't think of going without us, now, were you?"
Sara groaned jokingly, "Can't I have a romantic breakfast alone with my woman?"
Greg ran up from behind her and took hold of Catherine's handle bars, "No! Especially, not when your woman's this damn fine!" He sped up and began pushing Catherine in circles.
"Greg!" she hollered, "Greg, you stop this right now!" But she was laughing.
Nick came over to rescue her and Sara followed with Warrick, "What do you think, hon? Breakfast with the boys?"
Catherine smiled brightly at her and her heart melted, "Could be fun. But you owe me omelets by candlelight!"
"Ho, ho! Sounds like someone's gettin' lucky!" Greg laughed.
The old Sara would have blushed and the old Sara would have shot daggers at Greg with her eyes. But the new Sara had Catherine's head on her shoulder the entire drive to the diner and the new Sara had Catherine's smile to tell her that it was just a joke. The new Sara found she didn't mind so much- or at all, in fact.
"I wish!" She laughed, "But that damn cast isn't coming off for another two weeks!" The brunette dodged as Catherine's purse came flying at her, and she banged fists with Nick and Warrick like she was one of the guys, all the while giving a glaring Catherine a smile and a wink.
Nope. The new Sara didn't mind much of anything at all.
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