DISCLAIMER: Mostly not my characters, but I couldn't resist stealing such fascinating characters as the writers/actors of CSI created. That's a compliment. There only ended up being two instalments bad me. Sorry!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Daughter's Mother
I arrive a little early at Sara's flat, and she invites me in for coffee while she finishes getting ready.
"I'm sorry I left so suddenly last night," I say as she's heading off to brush her teeth. "It was a hard night for you, I should have stayed to make sure you were okay."
"If you knew how much better I feel for having talked about things you wouldn't apologising."
"I still feel like I should have stayed. That's what friends do."
"A few months ago I wouldn't have expected to say this, but you're about the best friend I've ever had." She's in the bathroom doorway, leaning on the frame. "Now I'd better brush my teeth or we'll be late."
The drive in is fairly quiet, both of us listening to the radio news to see if anything major is likely to be on our plates tonight. Fortunately it seems like this has been a quiet night, for Vegas. When the news finishes Sara reaches across to turn the volume down.
"I think I need to call her."
"What will you tell her?"
"Probably nothing. But I feel like it's the right thing to do, to at least talk to her, maybe meet her."
"Will you be okay?"
"I don't know. It would help..." her hesitancy is palpable. "Would you be there, if I meet her? I'm not sure if I can do it on my own, and there's no-one else I'd trust. I know it's asking a lot but..."
"Really?" she lights up. "You'd do that for me?"
"What was I saying about friends before? Of course I'll be there, if you want me. If I weren't I'd be worrying about you anyway."
"You'd worry about me?"
Am I saying to much? Giving anything away? No. "Friends are allowed to worry about friends. It's part of the contract."
"There's a contract for friendship?"
"There should be."
"Okay. Catherine, thank you. For last night, for today."
"It's okay Sara," I say as we pull into the lot. "I think you'd do the same for me."
We walk into work together, and head for the locker room. As we pass Grissom's office he calls out "Catherine, a minute."
I look across to Sara with a raised eyebrow. "Think he's going to ask about last night?"
"Probably not. Bet he's dying of curiousity though."
"Let him die then, I'm not saying anything."
"Thanks." Sara continues on and I step into Grissom's office, closing the door behind me.
"What can I do for you?"
"Uh," he's looking down at his desk. "I just wanted to let you know that a car seat arrived for you. It's in the garage."
I get frustrated at his transparency. "You called me in here just to tell me about a seat. Which I already knew about, and which you wouldn't normally bother to mention. So, what?"
"Sara? Yeah, I know her. Brunette, about so high." I indicate with my hand. "She went that way."
"No, I wanted to know. About Sara."
"My mistake, I thought you called me in, not Sara. Obviously if you wanted to know anything about Sara you'd ask her."
"Oh." He looks slightly crushed, and I take pity on him.
"Gil, Sara had a bad day, and she might have a few more. Her friends will stick by her. Any who don't aren't real friends."
With that I walk out. He can decide whether he wants to reach out the hand of friendship to Sara, and she can decide whether to let him.
During the mid-shift break I find Sara alone in the break room reading a journal of applied physics, which she puts down as I enter.
"How was your B&E?" I ask.
"Beautiful prints on the safe handle, came back to the son. All of a sudden there's no charges being pressed. I'm waiting for the next case to come in. How's your car seat?"
"Vic's blood all over it. No doubt he was in the car. I think we've cracked it. Brass is bringing the suspect in, so I'll go over for the interview."
I get my meal out of the fridge and move to the microwave. Reheated leftovers as always. It seems like every meal I cook I get to eat twice. You'd think that would encourage me to be a better cook.
"Cat, I was wondering..."
"Yeah?" I turn around. Sara looks nervous.
"Um, I think I should ring her, Tania. Maybe after shift. I was wondering if you could be there when I do. I'm pretty scared about it."
"I didn't think you did scared? What happened to super-Sara the indestructable?" Oops, I don't think she took that cheered her up. "Sara, I'm sorry. I always tease Nancy like that, even Lindsay gets teased. It's how we show affection in my family."
"Oh," a shy smile comes to her lips. "Guess that's one of those things I'm not so good with. So, can you help?"
"Of course. Oh, no, it's Saturday, and Nancy has plans. I promised I'd pick Lindsay up early. I'm sorry."
Her shoulders hunch, but she tries to smile at me. "It's okay. Lindsay has to come first."
The microwave beeps to indicate my food is hot, so I turn back to the microwave to collect my meal. Risotto is never as nice second time round.
"I know Sara, how about you come with me to pick up Lindsay. You can ring from my house. Lindsay will probably want to play on the computer anyway, so she'll be out of the way."
"Really? You wouldn't mind."
"Of course not."
This time the smile is for real.
Sara doesn't want to leave her car at work again, so she tails me to Nancy's and waits while I go up to the house and ring the bell.
The door was flung open. "Hey aunty C, Linds is on her way, mom's packing." With that Jeremy dashes back down the hall, just missing colliding with Nancy as she emerges from her room.
"Hi Cat, glad you didn't get held up," she comes to the door to give me a hug. "Lindsay should be out in a minute, I think she just went to the bathroom." She looks past me. "Who's that in the car behind yours?"
"Sara, from work."
Nancy has always had the knack of asking questions without words. A raised eye-brow is makes me feel the need to explain. "She's coming over for some support, she's having a tough time."
"Sara? Didn't you tell me she's arrogant and self-centred? I seem to recall you ranting about how she didn't even try on Eddie's case."
"I got a bit carried away then. I felt helpless because I couldn't do anything so I took it out on her."
"I knew that. How many times did you do that to me when we were kids. I'm just surprised you realised it. So, since when are you two buddies?"
"Pretty recently I guess..."
"Hey mom, are we going?" Lindsay saunters down the hall then past me towards the car. I remember the times when she'd run to me for hugs, but she's 12 now and too cool for affection.
"Guess we're off then Nance. Have a nice break, call me when you're back."
"Will do." Another hug from my sister, then I turn back to the car. But Lindsay isn't at the car, she's standing at the window of Sara's car, talking. I hurry over, remembering that the last time Lindsay saw Sara was when she was being questioned after her father's death. Unless she recognises her as the woman who slept in the spare room.
"So, what are you doing here?" Lindsay's asking.
Sara looks slightly trapped, but still responds. "Your mom said she'd help me with something, so I'm coming over to your house. Is that okay?"
"What kind of help?"
"A family problem. It's kind of complicated."
"Come on Lindsay, time to head home."
"Can I go with Sara? She said she's following you, and her car's cool."
Sara looks surprised, and I am too. But I'm also uncomfortable. Ever since Eddie's death I've had issues with Lindsay riding in other peoples cars.
"Um, you'd have to ask Sara. And only if she's got passenger side airbags."
Sara seizes on the excuse. "I'm not sure about airbags, so better to be safe."
She's lying, I can tell. Her car is only a few years old, and I'd bet she knows all the specs. But I'm grateful, because I was so nervous about the idea.
Once we're all inside my house Lindsay says she's going to her room to do homework. Just before she leaves the lounge she turns to Sara.
"Cool boots. Did you sleep here one night? I saw boots like that here one time."
"Busted," Sara grins at my daughter. "Your mum let me stay here one time. I'm impressed that you knew it was me just from the boots."
"Well d'uh," Lindsay says, "They're totally cool. Nothing like mom's shoes. Mom, can I get some boots like that?"
I look at the boots, cherry leather, slightly thick sole, buckle over the heel bone.
"Not a hope."
"Oh, come on, I'll put money in from my allowance."
Sara interrupts. "Unless your allowance is huge it might take a while. They cost hundreds of dollars."
"Fine." Lindsay walks out in a sulk.
I look at the boots again. "Do they really cost that much?"
"Actually, probably more." She looks a little embarrassed. "These were $400. But they're so comfortable, and they wear really well. It's not like I spend a lot of money on other stuff."
"I dream of spending that much on shoes. Oh well. Do you want a drink? I'm having juice."
"Sit down, I'll be back in a minute."
"Catherine, I'm going to call her now. Before I lose my nerve."
I head for the kitchen to get juice, trying not to listen to the low murmur of Sara's voice from the next room. I've poured two glasses of orange juice and am wondering whether I should go back in when I hear a long sigh.
I go back to the lounge and see Sara with her head buried in her hands. Putting the juice down on the side table I place my hands on her shoulders.
"I think you're incredibly brave to be doing this."
"Really?" Sara looks up at me and I see that her eyes are full of unshed tears.
"Truly. You could just ignore her, pretend this never happened. Let your life continue as it has been. Instead you're putting yourself through something that you know is going to be really hard."
"I think I have to."
"Why?" I take a seat next to her, leaving one hand on her shoulder.
"Because my whole life is about giving people the truth about things that have happened. She grew up in an adopted family, then when she finally found her "natural" parents she discovered that the woman she believes is her mother is in jail for killing her father. Doesn't she deserve some answers just as much as anyone else."
"Does she? She wasn't involved in what happened. Does she really have a right to know anything that's not public record?"
"I guess that depends on something else."
"Well, since I was 13 I've been on my own. My brother ran away from home when I was ten, I never heard from him again. I don't blame him for going, I always just wished he could have taken me with him. When I was 13 dad... died, mum was taken away. I've had no family since then. So, I guess my point is, this girl is blood, family. She may be all the family I ever get."
"What's the plan then?"
"I'm meeting her for breakfast on Monday. You said you'd be able to come, is that still okay?"
"Yeah, that's fine. Nancy get's back Sunday afternoon, so I'll drop Lindsay there before work Sunday night."
"It's complicated for you, isn't it?" Sara asks.
"What do you mean?"
"You always have to consider Lindsay. For work, socially, everything you do you have to make sure she's being looked after."
"Yes it is, but she's worth it."
Sara's looking thoughtful, seemingly focussed on the floor.
"I wonder what it would have been like if my mother hadn't done what she did. Would I have been able to look after her?"
I try to picture it, a pre-teen Sara with a baby.
"While I think you could do most things you put your mind to, looking after a child when you were twelve might have been a bit much even for you. Besides, once you went into foster care they would certainly have taken her away from you."
"I guess so," she looks a little sad though. "And I wouldn't have been able to go to college, or work the kind of job I do."
"You would now, she's a grown up. Maybe in some ways you're lucky that she only found you now. Raising a child might have been too much. It nearly was for me, and I had Eddie, and Nancy."
"Yeah." She still looks so pensive. "I guess I'd better head, leave you to enjoy your day off. See you at work tomorrow night."
"Okay, but Sara?" I pause as I'm opening the front door. "You can call me if you want to talk. Anytime."
That smile of hers, it's always so sudden yet so genuine. I don't think she knows how it lights up a room. Thank god she doesn't know how it affects me.
I watch her walk to the car, and she's gone.
I don't hear from Sara over the weekend, so the first thing I do when I get to work on Sunday night is go looking for her. I find her in questioned documents carefully scrutinising some tickets, undoubtedly evidence from some case.
"Sara?" she starts slightly.
"Cat, I didn't hear you come in. How was your day off?"
"It was nice. I took Lindsay to the movies, then we hung out. How was yours?"
"The usual, work and stuff. Hey, did you say anything to Grissom? He was acting really weird last night."
"I don't know, he was being nice. It was really freaky."
I laugh. "I told him that if you were having a hard time your friends would stick by you. Maybe he's just trying to be a friend?"
"It's too weird. Even Greg noticed, asked me if I'd spiked Grissom's coffee."
"Do you want Grissom as a friend?"
"I don't know, it's all a bit weird really. I mean, he was the reason I came here, stupid as that sounds. Then I realised he didn't have anything to offer me romantically, which is probably a good thing because can you imagine how disastrous a couple we'd make? But now, I wonder whether maybe he isn't the one who needs a friend, even though he's the one trying to be nice to me."
"I never knew you could talk so much."
"Huh?" She looks puzzled.
"In all the years I've known you, you never spoke like this, not unless you had something to tell us about the evidence."
"I'm sorry," Sara looks contrite. "I don't mean to babble. I've never babbled, it's just..."
"It's alright Sara, you can talk as much as you want. I like listening, and if I didn't I'd tell you so."
"Thanks." Despite the permission to babble Sara goes silent, focussing on her evidence then looking up at Catherine again. "I said I'd meet Tania at 9. Can you still..."
Her hesitation is heart breaking. Surely by know she should know that I'll back her up in this, but obviously she doesn't. The scars of childhood run deep in us all, but in Sara's case they're deeper than most. "Shift is over at 8, meet you in the locker room?" I suggest.
She smiles, a flash of gratitude and warmth that comes straight from the heart, and I walk away with a wave. Of course I'll be there for her, but does it have to be so darn complicated. The last thing she needs right now is to lose my friendship because she discovers I am infatuated with her.
The end of shift comes too slowly and too soon. Slowly because I find myself missing Sara during the shift. We're working separate cases, so there is no reason for me to seek her out. Too soon because I know this will be hard for her.
I am running a few minutes late when I enter the locker room, and Sara is pacing about, waiting for me. Without thinking I hug her before going to my locker.
"It'll be okay, you know," I'm not even looking at her, rummaging instead for a clean shirt. This job can be so hard on your clothes. Changing shirts I turn back to Sara. "She won't be expecting everything to go perfectly any more than you are."
"Maybe, just this once in my life, I want things to go perfectly," Sara looks so anxious.
"Don't fret. We'll go there now, order a coffee before she arrives, it'll be fine."
Forty-five minutes later we're seated with our coffees, and Sara is looking at her watch every minute or so.
"It's still five to nine." My reassurance falls on deaf ears. Miss Punctuality is not good at waiting. Apparently punctuality runs in her family though, because the door swings open and the woman I ran into at the lab walks in. After looking around and sees us sitting waiting she waves hesitantly and approaches.
"Hi, um, I guess I didn't introduce myself before. I'm Tania," she smiles hesitantly. "Can I join you?"
Sara nods mutely, not meeting her eye. After a moment of awkward silence I step in.
"My name is Catherine," I hold my hand out for Tania to shake. "I work with Sara, and I guess I'm here today for some moral support."
"I'm so sorry I ran you down the other day. I guess I didn't handle this very well. The agency told me, when I got the information about my birth parents, that I'd have to be very careful how I introduced myself. But I was so excited to find Sara that I forgot all about what they said."
Sara is still looking very interested in her coffee, so it is up to me to continue the conversation. "How did you find Sara? I'm sure it's quite a story."
Tania is hesitant, looking across to Sara before beginning. "I didn't even realise I was adopted until college. Biology 102, genetics, we were studying the heritability of genetic traits, and suddenly I realised I couldn't be my father's daughter. Quite a shock as you can imagine. I bailed mum up about it, figuring maybe she'd, you know ? But she told me I was adopted. They'd thought it better not to tell me unless they had to. Apparently they thought I'd feel less-loved. It took me a while to decide I wanted to find the parents who gave me up, and even longer to tell mom and dad: I didn't want them to feel like I was rejecting them. I was lucky, they were such great parents and they we so supportive of my search."
I can't help but compare this stream of dialogue with Sara's usually short responses. Is this what she'd be like if her childhood had been more supportive?
"I'm colour-blind," Tania continues, "But my Dad isn't. Oh, does it bother you that I call my adoptive parents mom and dad?" Sara is absently shaking her head. "I guess you've probably done enough science to understand heritability? Colour-blindness is an x-linked recessive trait. Are you colour-blind? Our dad must have had it. Our mother may not even have known she carried the gene, though she must have known if her father had it."
"What do you know about them?" Sara asks hesitantly.
"Our parents? Not much, but probably part of what you're too worried to say," Tania takes a deep breath. "Once I knew their names I looked them up on the internet. I didn't really expect to find much, but I found old newspaper records. So I know our mother is in jail for killing our father, and that the defence argued it was self-defence. Which I guess means things weren't particularly nice when you were growing up. I'm guessing that's why I was put up for adoption. But you must have known about me? Known that I was out there somewhere. Why didn't you ever look for me? Didn't you wonder what had happened? Do you still have contact with our mother?"
It's not quite as bad as one of Lindsay's childhood question rampages. Sara doesn't seem to be dealing with it very well though, so I interrupt.
"I guess that's one trait you share with Sara then." They both look at me. "You're both full of questions and impatient to get the answers. Are you as addicted to caffeine as she is?"
"I don't even like coffee," Tania responds, looking shyly at Sara. "Sorry, mum always said my curiousity would be the death of her. Plus, when I'm nervous, I tend to talk a lot. I've barely let you get a word in."
She stops speaking, and the silence is surprising. I can hear the young lovers at the next table murmuring to each other. I hear the clatter of dishes from the kitchen, and the deep breath Sara takes before speaking.
"Tania," she begins. "I don't talk about my childhood to anyone but my closest friends." Sara looks to me for reassurance. "Certainly not to strangers, and for all the blood relationship we share you're still a stranger to me. There's things I won't talk about yet, and things I may never talk about. I never knew that you existed, let alone that you'd been given up for adoption. This is a big thing for me to adapt to. I'm prepared to make an effort, to get to know you, because since I was 13 I've had no family. I got bounced around the foster system because most house mothers thought I was too damaged. I'm a loner, and that's a big thing to change overnight."
"You can't be such a loner," Tania observes. "You've obviously got good friends, otherwise Catherine wouldn't be here."
Sara grins at me before replying. "I guess maybe I've got better friends than I realised."
I know I've gone a little red, and Tania gives me a speculative look.
"So," she begins, then seems to change her mind. "Where do we go from here?"
"What do you mean?" Sara asks.
"I mean, we've established that we're family. I'd definitely like the chance to get to know my sister. It's up to you now, do you want to know me?"
This is crunch time, and although I know what Sara was thinking before the meeting I'm not sure how she'll answer.
"If you can cope with the fact that getting to know me doesn't mean you're automatically entitled to ask about my childhood, and that if I do talk about it you may discover things that you don't like;" Sara lays it out like the terms of a contract. "Then yes, I'm willing to give this family thing a try."
Tania smiles. "I can't promise never to ask anything, I'm a pretty curious person, but isn't that what a little sister is supposed to do? Ask the big sister annoying questions and get told to mind her own business?"
When we finally leave the diner I invite Sara to my house. She is pretty wound up still, and I don't like the idea of her going home to an empty apartment.
Besides, who am I trying to kid here? I really like spending time with Sara, I feel like I'm a better person when I'm around her. Not that I don't feel guilty too, after all I'm supposed to be a supportive friend, not trying to take advantage of her neediness, particularly if she's got feelings for Warwick. But I tell myself I'm only offering friendship, and she needs that.
We end up on the couch each with a beer in hand watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean dvd.
"Did you ever believe in love like that?" Sara asks at one stage.
"What do you mean?"
"The kind of love where you'd give up anything, risk everything to be with the one you loved."
"I can't picture myself doing that," The idea of myself in pirate garb, setting off on the high seas to save my beloved makes me smile. "I guess my biggest mistaken belief about love was that someone would become the person you need, just because you love them."
"You mean Eddie?"
"Who else?" I sigh. "I guess when we're young we think love conquers all the barriers, but I learnt that being charming and showing me a good time didn't make him someone who could be a real partner to me. Raising a child with him was going to be so hard."
"I didn't know him, just what I heard in the office, and what I learnt after..." her voice trails away into silence.
"After he died," I say quietly.
"Yeah, after the accident."
"I don't blame you for any of that, you know that don't you?"
Sara looks at me in surprise.
"Nothing that happened was your fault. You never asked to be assigned the case, but I never doubted that you did as good a job as any of us could have. When I think of you there's no real link to Eddie's death."
"I still blame myself."
I reach across and squeeze her hand. "You shouldn't."
I sit back and turn to face the movie, watching Johnny Depp fight an unlikely duel with his half-alive rival.
"I think they really loved each other."
I'm slightly lost now. "Who?"
"My mother and father. Old photo's, even some memories that I have." Her eyes are distant as she stares at the TV. "They loved each other at first. Then something went wrong and they couldn't fix it. Dad took it out on us, in different ways, and mum shut herself inside. But sometimes she'd still look at him and at was as if none of the bad stuff had happened and he was still the man she'd fallen in love with so long ago."
I'm not really sure how to respond to this.
"Was it like that with you and Eddie. I know he did all this bad stuff, but did you still sometimes see the man you fell in love with?"
I think back to how it was. "I guess I did. I remember one time he showed up when I'd taken Lindsay to the park. He was charming and smooth, and I felt that little flutter. Then I looked over at Lindsay, and how excited she was to see her Dad, and I knew he'd let her down. Just like he'd always let me down in the past. The charm didn't seem quite so sweet anymore."
"I wonder if that's what happened with my mother. Maybe she realised that the man she'd fallen in love with was gone, if he'd ever been there at all, and it was just too much for her."
I look over and am startled to see tears in her eyes.
"I've never let myself get involved with anyone since Alice. How do you know that you're not falling for someone who's going to end up hurting you that way, turning you into a monster."
"Sara, I don't think you have it in you to become a monster. But if you're worried then maybe you should approach it rationally. What qualities would lead to those kinds of problems. If the person you like has many of those qualities then you need to back away."
"Like what?" She looks interested in my idea.
"Okay, well I guess from my perspective I'd need someone reliable, which means being really impulsive and wanting to do things at a moment's notice might not be as charming as it seems."
"Someone who doesn't get any kind of pleasure at other peoples suffering," Sara says softly. "That's important."
"Right, and someone who even if they get angry can sit down and discuss things."
"It's better to walk away from an argument than get violent."
"But then it's important to have that passion there, that connection. If you can't stir that in each other..." I stop, blushing, realising that this is no longer a purely intellectual exercise to me.
"Catherine?" Sara asks.
"What if I think through all these things, and I still think I'm falling. I wouldn't even know how to tell someone what I'm feeling. I mean, the only person I've asked out since Alice was Grissom, and that doesn't really count."
How did I get myself into this? I'm counselling the woman I'm falling for on how to woo someone else. Maybe this is love, when her finding happiness is more important than the pain I'm feeling.
"Sara, if you feel this way for someone, and if they meet all the conditions we've talked about, then you should do something about it. Ask him out, go see a movie or something. Reach for his hand and see if he takes it. You can't let fear keep you from living your life."
"What if they don't want to hold my hand? Or anything else."
I reach out and touch her shoulder. "Sara, you're a beautiful, intelligent, wonderful woman. I think most guys would be flattered that you'd consider them."
She blushes, and then turns back to the movie. Miraculously Johnny Depp still appears to be fighting the same duel, though he's looking rather skeletal now. Then a gold coin is thrown through the air, a knife flashes across Will Turner's palm, and the villain is finally slain.
I feel Sara's fingers brush the back of my hand, and unthinkingly turn my hand to take her fingers in mine.
Then freeze. Why is Sara touching my hand?
I turn to look her in the eye, and she smiles hesitantly, squeezing my hand gently.
"I never said he Catherine," she blushes, but meets my eye. "You just assumed. And I don't know whether your holding my hand means what you were just talking about or not. But me holding yours does. And," she looks down suddenly. "If it doesn't mean that, it's okay. I'd still want to be your friend, if you still wanted that. I just thought you should know."
I'm breathless, silent. Is she really saying what I think she's saying?
She starts moving her hand back, but I tighten my grip.
"If you didn't want me to hold your hand," I whisper quietly, gazing into her eyes as she looks up at me. "You should never have given me the chance."
She's smiling now, and so am I, our eyes locked in silent communion. The movie is finished and the credits done before we move, leaning slowly in towards each other until the tips of our noses are touching. My heart is full of joy, filled with yearning to be closer to her, but I don't want to rush things. She moves slightly, her nose rubbing gently against the side of my own. The movement is so tentative, so subtle that it burns inside me. I lean back slightly, my gaze dropping from her eyes to her lips, then moving back up in a silent request. Sara leans in a little closer, and I move in until our lips just brush against each other: brush, and then press together; tasting, learning each other's contours.
It feels like heaven. Her lips soft against mine, then firm as the kiss becomes more demanding. I'm not sure which of us takes the next step first, but the instant I feel the heat of her tongue stroking mine I pull back.
"Are you sure Sara?" I ask. "Sure that this is what you want?"
The moments before she answers seem like an eternity.
"I've wanted this for a long time," she whispers. "I've always thought you were beautiful, but once we started really becoming friends I couldn't stop thinking about being more."
I can't help but smile at that thought.
"What about you?" Sara asks tentatively. "I never really thought that you might want... me. What are you looking for here?"
It's the simplest question, and yet also the most complicated. Exactly what do I want?
"When you were talking about asking someone out and I didn't know it was me my heart felt hollow. I want to spend time with you. To know all about you. To be your friend." That is the easy part to say. "But I want more than that, if you want it too. I want to be able to look at you whenever I like, and smile at what I see. I want to be able to hold you when you're upset, or when I'm upset. I want to be allowed to touch you, and hold your hand. I want to discover whether the way we feel is enough to build something on, because I don't just like you, I also trust you; and after the betrayals I've experienced in the past that is pretty rare for me. I want you to trust me too."
Sara's smile has been growing wider as I speak. Finally she reaches out to place one finger across my lips.
"I do trust you Catherine, otherwise I would never have been able to reach for your hand. I trusted you enough that even though I never thought you would feel the same I still let you know you how I felt. I think you know me enough to know how incredibly rare it is for me to trust like this."
I do know. With her past how could she trust easily? Hearing Sara say this is the most precious gift I think I've received: with the exception of Lindsay, and that was so different.
Instead of responding I lean forward to kiss her again, consciously trying to keep things from getting too heavy. Despite my efforts my arms find their own way around her shoulders, one hand tangled n the hair at the nape of her neck. After a few minutes I pull back.
"So, what do you want to do now?"
Sara's cheeks are slightly flushed, and it takes a few moments before her eyes open. "I think I'm happy enough doing what we were doing."
I smile, subconsciously noting that my fingers are tracing circles on the soft skin of her neck.
"I'm enjoying that too, but I was talking about more than just now."
"Oh..." Sara gets that intensely serious look that I normally only see when she is considering evidence. I can't stop myself noticing how her tongue touches that gap in her teeth when she's thinking. "I guess I'd never really considered that you might feel this way, so I'd never thought about what would happen next. It's pretty complicated, isn't it?"
"Well, there's work," I'm thinking this through. "Office romance can be complicated, but I'm not your direct supervisor so there's no conflict there." I smile, and reach for Sara's hand. I can't stop looking at her.
"What about Lindsay?" Sara asks.
I stop to consider my answer. "I don't know." I feel Sara squeezing my hand. "I don't think she's ever liked anyone I've dated. Especially not since Eddie died. I can't promise she'd be happy about this."
"Not when I'm kind of tied up in the edges of her father's death."
"But she likes you. She's never really spent time with any of my boyfriends, just rejected them outright the second she met them."
Sara is silent and contemplative again, and her hand has gone slack in mine.
"What's wrong?" I ask.
"Have you ever dated a woman before?" She asks me.
The only possible answer here is the truth. "No, I've never dated a woman before. I've never wanted to date a woman before."
"Are you sure that you want to do that now?" She so uncertain.
"God, Sara, this has been driving me nuts ever since I realised what I was feeling. I think maybe I started falling for you the moment I really got to know you. I don't want to date 'a woman', I want to date you. But if you don't want that then I can deal with it. I'll be disappointed and even hurt, but I'll survive." Inside I'm wondering how this went from her making the first move to me pursuing her.
Sara reclaims my hands and looks me in the eye. "This is really scary for me," she explains. "I never thought you might have feelings for me. Rejection I could deal with, but I'm not sure I know how to cope with this. With us."
"It's simple," I whisper back. "Or at least it should be. We spend time together, we get to know each other. We're honest about how we feel, including being honest about our doubts and fears. We don't promise to always be together, we promise to share everything that we can share. It's the only hope any two people have to make things work together."
"Is it really that easy?"
"I said simple, not easy," I respond. I reach up to touch her cheek. "But with two smart women working on it, I'd say we've got a good chance."
"She told me that you know all about it," Tania says as the waitress walks away from our table.
It's been two months since I first met the woman in front of me, and in the time I've seen her a few times in Sara's presence. I know that Sara has seen her on her own as well, but this is the first time she's called and asked to meet me alone.
"I'm not about to give away any of Sara's secrets," I don't even pretend to be interested in the coffee. "So if this is a fishing expedition you may as well forget it."
To my surprise Tania laughs at that. "God Catherine, I knew that within two minutes of meeting you. I knew there was some big secret and figured it was that Sara was gay and you were her lover, you were so protective of her. I was so sure that was the secret that it really threw me when she mentioned it casually."
I sip my coffee silently. I liked what I'd seen so far of Sara's only remaining family member, but it was a complicated situation for Sara, and I was suspicious of Tania's motives in meeting me alone.
"Look, how about I tell you what she told me and we go from there," Tania suggested logically. "That way you'll know I'm not trying to trick information from you."
"Why do you want to talk about this?"
"I'll get to that," Tania said. "Look, Sara told me about her life with her parents. That her father hit her mother and raped her repeatedly from early childhood, and her mother abused her. She told me that she wasn't really my sister, that I was the result of incestuous rape. That Sara is my mother, but she never even knew I existed until the day I came to your work."
There went the reasons for my suspicion. I knew Sara had been thinking of telling Tania the truth, and that she would be seeing her last night, but I'd been stuck out on a case for 30 hours straight and Sara was already back at work when I finally got home. I wouldn't be seeing her until her shift finished in a few hours.
"I don't want you to betray any confidences, but " Tania hesitated.
"What do you want?" I ask her gently.
"Well, Sara's been through so much, and me being around has to make it all worse. You're the only person I can really ask this, she said you're the only person who knows the whole story. Do you think I should stop contacting her? Would she be better off if I left her alone?"
I am stunned. This is not what I expected.
"You do know that I've seen people find out this sort of thing before," I begin. "In my work, with the amount of DNA profiling we do, there are sometimes some very unexpected results. I've had people convinced that being the result of this kind of situation must make them a monster or something."
"You've had a lot of people seek out their natural sister only to discover she's not really their sister at all?" Tania asks with a raised eyebrow.
"Okay, maybe not a lot, but I think you know what I mean."
"But Catherine, I've already dealt with realising that my parents weren't my genetic parents. No-one is solely a product of genetics, or of upbringing. I mean, look at Sara. She was brought up by monsters whose DNA was mixed to create her. But somehow, despite it all, she's still this amazing woman."
"Definitely amazing," I can't help but smile.
"So, I got her amazing DNA, and I already know she was able to be herself in spite of what she got from her father, so I can do that too, even more so because I never had those people bringing me up. But this isn't about me, it's about Sara suddenly having me turn up and turn her world around. Do you think me being around is making it worse?"
I can't help but smile then.
"You know what, Tania?"
"Only someone who really cares would even think of making that offer. I can't speak for Sara, but I can say that I'm glad that Sara finally has someone in her family who cares for her. I think she's probably glad too." I look at her across the table as she fidgets with the sugar, then reaches up to tuck her hair behind her ear. The gesture is so remniscent of Sara that I laugh out loud. "Stay, be a part of Sara's life. But if you hurt her "
This time Tania laughs. "Isn't that my job. As Sara's only family I'm supposed to be telling you that if you hurt her "
I think I like her, this daughter of Sara's, though the idea of her ever calling Sara "Mom" makes me feel far too old. I would never have imagined it when I first met her in the lab, but somehow I could see her being a part of the little family Sara and I were already building with Lindsay.
So here I am, cuddled on the couch with Sara: a woman who, in the past, I'd thought of as a colleague, a nuisance, a rival for the respect and friendship of my colleagues.
Now I know her better than anyone. I know that she's been through so much in her life, experienced such pain, and yet her sweetness, her inherent goodness shines from her like a light. I know that she's ticklish behind the knees, and I know what that secret little smile means. Even better, I know that she knows all of my secrets, even the things I don't like about myself, and she accepts and loves all those things. Accepts and loves even the worst parts of me.
I'm not kidding myself it's hardly been a bed of roses, and I'm sure that there'll be fights in our future, not just our past. But without the secrets we're not accidentally pushing each others buttons. And we've found other outlets for the tensions between us. Much more enjoyable outlets.
We'll see where it goes, how things turn out for us. But we know each other, we want the same things there are all the reasons in the world for why this should work.
Return to C.S.I. Fiction
Return to Main Page