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

Episodic Tribulations
By Immi


Lady Heather's Box

I rise up from the couch wiping my eyes furiously. Whoever's at the door at this time of night- morning- deserves to be yelled at. No matter how hard I try, I just can't look intimidating with tears falling down my cheeks.

A few days ago, I never would have imagined sitting on my couch crying my eyes out. But a lot can change in just a few days. A burgeoning friendship can be ruined. An innocent little girl can lose a parent and nearly drown. A murderer can avoid imprisonment for their crime.

At some point in my life, I was in love with Eddie. God knows why, but I was. And no matter how much of a bastard he was, he was the bastard that gave me my little girl. And Lindsey loved him. I wanted to know who killed him so badly.

When Sara got the case, I was relieved. I knew she wouldn't rest until she caught Eddie's killer. The possibility that she wouldn't figure it out never crossed my mind. No matter what I said to her after she pulled me out of the interrogation room, I knew she would solve the case. Then Gil told me that she was calling it.

She did her best. That's what she said, and I honestly believed it. But I couldn't let it go. I could believe that she did her best, but not that she couldn't solve it. So I added one final remark about Lindsey, hoping that somehow, that extra bit of incentive would make everything fall into place for her. All it did was hurt her.

I slam open my door, ready to start tearing into whoever's standing outside it. The words freeze in my throat when I see Sara standing there. I sigh and half-close the door.

"Sara, I really can't deal with you right now."

She shakes her head and steps forward. She swallows a few times before looking me in the eye and straightening her slumped posture. "I wanted to pin Eddie's murder on someone. I wanted to give you and Lindsey closure-"

I interrupt her. "Yeah, well you couldn't. Sara, I was serious about not being able to deal with you right now." So I'm being harsh, so what? I don't want to hear this.

She takes another step forward, and I watch as her eyes flit to the door and back. I almost laugh. She was ready to stick her foot in the door if I tried to slam it on her. Well okay, if she really wants to say something so badly, I might as well humor her.

"I have more vacation time saved up than any other CSI on our shift," she blurts out.

I laugh derisively. "So you're obsessive. Do you have a point?"

She continues as if I haven't said a thing. "If you and Lindsey need anything, anything at all, I can free my schedule immediately."

I already have a retort on my lips when she says that. For the second time tonight, I freeze. Sara backs up, and I realize how close we were. She was barely a foot away from me.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly, hoping that the extra oxygen will help eliminate the sudden burning in the pit of my stomach.

"Thank you, Sara."

Crash and Burn

Mentally cursing every conceivable deity, I close my bedroom door as quietly as I can. How the hell could I have let this happen? She broke up with her boyfriend less than twenty-four hours ago. I asked her out for drinks so that she'd have a shoulder to cry on. I wanted to give her some of the comfort she's been giving me and Lindsey for the past month.

Getting Sara into bed was not part of the plan.

I groan and place my head in my hands. How the hell did this happen? I blush as my brain immediately supplies images of exactly how it happened. It started innocently enough. A few drinks; ranting about cheating bastards; a dance…

I don't know who started the kiss, and I'm not entirely sure I want to know. I was the one who asked her to come home with me- I know that much. And then… a deeper flush covers my face. Low moans, sweaty limbs, desperate begging…

Good God, I just had the best sex of my life, and the only thing I can think about is how I might've destroyed a friendship that has become very precious to me. I can't believe I let this happen. Fuck.

I step into the kitchen and start the coffeemaker. Somehow, I need to fix this. I need to make sure that I don't lose Sara. It took me three years to get this new relationship with her, and I'm not letting it go without a fight. What we have now is far too important for one exhilarating night to ruin.

I hear someone making her way down the stairs, and I sigh. That has to be Sara. Lindsey can never resist making as much noise as possible storming down the stairs. I used to lecture her about it, but since Eddie died, the noise has become comforting. It lets me know that despite everything, some things are still the same.

Sara walks into the kitchen slowly, looking nowhere near as uncomfortable as I feel. She nods at me and sits down. I take a second to observe her, trying to forget how that body felt wrapped around me.

She looks relaxed. More relaxed than I've ever seen her. Even when we're talking to each other outside work, she's still tense. Seeing her so at ease is incredible. I never really thought about what Sara looks like after she wakes up. Now, I doubt the sight will ever completely leave my thoughts.

This is ridiculous. I should be making sure that our friendship won't be affected- not staring at her. The annoying beep of the coffeemaker tears my gaze away. I can hear the gentle smile in her voice when she comments on it.

"I guess everyone on the nightshift's a caffeine addict."

I smile back at her hesitantly. "Yeah. You want a cup?"

"Of course."

I grab an extra mug from a cupboard. After pouring us each a cup of the caffeine-laden liquid, I turn back to her. She isn't smiling anymore, but there's still a soft expression in her eyes that makes my heart race. I set her mug in front of her and sit back down.

For several minutes, we just stare at each other and sip our coffee. Then I set my mug down on the table. "Sara, I think we need to talk."

She nods and sets down her own mug. "Yeah."

I take a deep breath and force myself not to think about what happened last night, and how much I want it to happen again. It can't happen again. I'm attracted to her, but the most we could have would be a friends with benefits type of arrangement. She deserves more than that.

"I don't think it should happen again." I blurt it out quickly, trying not to process the words that came out of my mouth. Hopefully, she won't ask what I mean by 'it'. I'm avoiding saying anything out loud about what happened. It's immature, but I can't help it. I really want to keep from blushing until she decides to leave.

She nods again, the softness all but vanishing from her eyes. She looks more like the Sara I'm used to now, and my heart aches at seeing her earlier relaxation disappear.

"I sort of figured that."

We sit in silence for a few more minutes until we hear Lindsey's bedroom door open. Sara swallows the last of her coffee and stands up. We both walk to the door. She slips on her shoes and turns to smile at me. It's more forced than I've grown used to, but it's still there.

"Thanks for the coffee."

I nod halfheartedly and watch as she gets into her car. Then I sigh and turn back inside. Lindsey's pouring cereal into a bowl and looking at me curiously. I just shake my head and concentrate on not thinking about what I might've just screwed up.

Play With Fire

He isn't even mad. He almost gets blown up because of me, and he isn't pissed off at me. I slide down against Greg's hospital door and rub my forehead slowly. I'd feel better if he had just yelled at me and told me to rot in hell. That's what I deserved.

How could I have been so stupid? It would have taken me less than five seconds to check if the hot plate was turned on. Because I didn't check, thirteen cases were tainted. Oh wait, sorry. Not all of them were tainted. Some were just destroyed.

And Greg and Sara were hurt.

A chill runs down my spine. Greg was hurt badly enough to be hospitalized. If Sara had been just a bit closer to the lab, she would be in the same boat. The thought of her lying in a hospital bed scares me. Hell, seeing her with a bandage around her hand scared me.

I sigh and bang my head against the door. I can't believe I didn't check to see if the hot plate was on. If I had just checked, Greg and Sara would be fine. I would be at home with Lindsey. I wouldn't have had to deal with Director Covallo.

I really wish Greg had yelled at me. Hearing my own voice berate me for my mistakes is horribly unsatisfying. And after a while, it gets boring. I feel a wave of sympathy for my daughter. Her grades have been slipping lately, and as much as I want to help her, all I can seem to do is yell at her. Well, I have five days suddenly free. Maybe I can make some good come out of this.

"Just because it's a hospital doesn't mean sitting on the floor is a good idea."

I look up and smile tiredly at Sara. My eyes trace the scratches on her cheeks and forehead before falling to her hand. I wince. The bandage there doesn't look any more pleasant than it did earlier. I can't believe she got hurt because of my mistake.

"I'm sorry-"

"Please don't apologize," she says with a wince of her own. "You made a mistake. Given how many hours you've been pulling lately… You don't need to apologize."

I shake my head, furious with her for not being angry with me. "I screwed up, and you got hurt because of it."

She sits down next to me and touches my shoulder for a second. She moves her hand away so quickly that the touch is barely noticeable, but I feel it. Relieving warmth spreads throughout my body. I still think she should be mad at me, but I never wanted her to be. Her touching me is a sure sign that she really isn't upset.

"Everyone screws up, Cat." Her voice is cold and bitter, and I look into her face, not bothering to let my eyes fall on the scratches like they did earlier. She's unhappy with herself. Self-loathing is covering up the warmth I usually see when I look into her eyes outside work.

I lean against her casually. "So, what stupid things have you done today?"

She laughs, and I flinch at the sound. It's nowhere even approaching the gentle noise I've grown to love. I instinctively reach a hand out to stroke her forearm. At first she shies away, but as she talks, she slowly leans in to the touch.

"I ran into a scene while Jim was clearing it- I was actually the one who found the guy- I got yelled at for that, thank God, so I don't have to curse myself too much. Then- geez." She runs a hand through her hair and shakes her head back and forth slowly. "I asked Grissom out. If that doesn't qualify as stupid, I don't know what does."

I jerk in surprise, staring blankly at her. After a few moments of opening and closing my mouth, I manage to speak. "Don't get me wrong, Gil is one of my closest friends, but… what made you want to ask him out?"

Sara sighs and presses her eyes into her knees. "I was scared," she admits softly. I tighten my hold on her arm. "The explosion scared me. I haven't been scared in a long time. I needed something to hold on to. For some, idiotic reason…" she trails off and throws her free hand in the air.

I think I understand. Barely. She was scared, and she's known Grissom since she was in her mid-twenties. So she tried to latch on to him. Looking at her now, I'd say she's regretting it. The self-deprecation in her eyes is painfully obvious.

"Sara," I start hesitantly. "You said that if Lindsey and I needed anything, you could free your schedule immediately." I wait for her to nod. "Well I need something. I need a friend during the next five days. I need someone to talk to."

I hold my breath and watch as she processes my request in her head. When she smiles and slumps against the door, I know I've won.


For the second time today, I prepare to tear the check in two. Then the amount catches my eye again. $250,000. It's an incredible amount of money. Money I could do just about anything with. Money my father gave me. Father… geez. I don't think I'll ever get used to that. As for him being Lindsey's grandfather… well, it's not like her father was a saint.

Bastard. I danced in his clubs. My father let me strip off my clothing in front of complete strangers. What sort of father does that? So. My genetical father. A rich bastard (oh no, wait- I'm the bastard, aren't I?) who practically pimped me out just to get a bit more cash. And he's a murderer, only not in the eyes of the law since I tested the blood on the scarf and found out that I'm his daughter.

I can't bring myself to tear up the check. Even knowing exactly what sort of man the money comes from. I sigh and fold it before dropping it into my pocket. I really hate Sam for giving me this money. I can definitely use it, but I still could have done without it.

I look up when I hear someone else entering the locker room. Sara. A smile spreads across my face. We've been spending a lot of time together since the lab explosion. The three of us, really. Me, Sara, and Lindsey. I remember Sara saying she was no good with kids. She might be a little awkward around Lindsey sometimes, but my daughter absolutely adores her. As far as I'm concerned, she doesn't give herself enough credit.

Sara returns my smile when she sees me. "Hey Cath." She opens her locker and starts taking things out, all but ignoring me. I watch her for a few moments, slightly annoyed that she hasn't said more than two words to me.

As if sensing my glare, she turns back to me. "Have you figured out what to do about Sam's check yet?"

I nod slowly. I told her about Sam being my father. With her spending so much time with me and Lindsey, it was actually pretty hard to keep it from her. She noticed how distracted I was, and I couldn't lie to her when she asked what was wrong. Literally couldn't. She didn't buy any of my excuses.

"I'm going to cash it." I don't really know how I feel about taking the money. What I do know is that I can use the money to improve my daughter's life. So I'm taking it. I bite my lip and meet Sara's eyes nervously.

She just smiles at me. "For Lindsey, right?"

My face flushes slightly as I realize that she probably knew my decision before I did. "Yeah."

She smiles again. "Well, considering your newfound wealth, I think it's only fair that you pay for breakfast."

I roll my eyes and laugh, a weight I wasn't even aware of leaving my chest. "Okay, deal."

After the Show

I lean against my locker and watch as Sara storms in and slams hers open. I sigh. She's mad at me because I took the case away from her and Nick. Well, tough. If Howard had been fixated on her, I would have let them keep it. But he wasn't. He wanted me, and I used that. It isn't my fault if she has a problem with that.

Yet I still camped out in the locker room, waiting for her to come in so that I could fix any damage done to our friendship. Unbelievable. I'm not the one who should be stepping forward and trying to fix things. She is. The problem is, as much as I hate to admit it, I'm afraid that if I wait for her to step forward, she never will.

I tried to make amends during the case, but I think I made things worse instead. The look on her face when I asked if her father had ever told her she was pretty or smart… for a second, it was hard to believe I was looking at my friend. I don't know what triggered it, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know. I just want everything to be okay between us.

I wait until Sara slams her locker close again before saying anything. I want to make sure she can't pretend to be distracted by something in there. She's going to listen to me. "Sara?" She turns around reluctantly at my voice. "Look, I know you could have done the case. You're a great CSI- it wasn't personal."

I see her clenched fists shaking. "Why did you have Greg working with you? I would have helped you if you had asked."

I take a deep breath. She isn't going to like hearing this, but it's true. "I needed someone without an agenda. You and Nick both put in for a promotion, and I was concerned that your eagerness would cloud your judgment."

Sara glares at me, and I fight the urge to stare down at the floor. "You can't be that oblivious, Cat- at the very least, I would have done as good of a job as Greg." She steps forward, looking furious. "'Someone without an agenda'? What, do you think I couldn't solve Eddie's case because I had bringing you and Lindsey closure on my agenda? I do my best, Catherine. Nothing interferes with that."

My own fury steps up to the plate. What the hell is her problem? I've told her that Eddie's case wasn't her fault. I've told her that there was nothing she could've done. Does she honestly think I think that she screwed up because her judgment was clouded?

Before I can start yelling at her, Sara starts talking again. "And by the way, what the hell is wrong with you? Do you realize that the guy's public defender could have got him out on bail? I wonder, how long do you think it would have taken him to track you down? Your daughter's already had one parent murdered! Don't you think that's more than enough?"

My blood runs cold. I hadn't considered that. All I saw was a lead that was more than willing to follow me around. A lead I was willing to exploit without a second thought. Any CSI in my position would have done the same thing. …Not any mother, though.

I see Sara's gaze soften, and she takes a final step forward before wrapping me in a hug. I return the gesture gladly, letting my body fall against hers. She sighs into my hair. "Damn it, Cat. What is it with you and scaring me?"

I pull away slightly and meet her eyes. Without even thinking about it, I kiss her cheek, letting my lips caress the barely visible scar she picked up from the lab explosion. When I pull back, her eyes are slightly watery. I smile at her. "You were worried about me, huh?"

She nods stiffly before hugging me closer. I snuggle into her chest, letting my earlier anger fade away. Later, she'll pull away and try not to look at me before making some lame excuse so that she can escape from this intimacy. But for now, she's holding me in her arms.


I pound on Sara's door as hard as I can, praying that she'll open it quickly. I need to see her. I thought I could go home, take Lindsey to school, then go back home and sleep. I couldn't. Every time I closed my eyes, I'd see Debbie Marlin lying on a slab in the morgue.

Debbie Marlin, who looks so much like Sara. So much like my friend.

The same fear I felt when I saw Lindsey in a sinking car nearly paralyzed me when I saw Debbie positioned on the floor. It took me a few seconds to realize that it wasn't actually Sara standing there- to remember that Sara was walking around the house, thoroughly annoyed at being assigned the perimeter.

Those few seconds I thought she might be dead… I need to see her so badly. Then I can sleep. I just need to know that she's alive.

The door finally opens, a very sleepy Sara behind it. Relief floods through my veins, and I fight back the desire to throw my arms around her neck and never let go. Touching her when she's this exhausted probably wouldn't go over well. Instead, I enter her apartment and stare at her.

She really looks adorable in sleepwear. I smile as she tries to cover a yawn with her hand. I must have woken her up. I didn't mean to interrupt her sleep, but given how cute she looks right now, I can't really be sorry.

"Cath? Is something wrong?"

I shake my head, still staring at her. "No. I just needed to make sure you were alive."

She makes a face and nods. "Debbie Marlin case, right?"

I shrug guiltily at her annoyed expression. "Yeah."

She rubs her forehead and sighs, looking at me tiredly. "It was interesting, seeing her in the morgue."

"You did look at her face, then." I knew she was lying when she said she didn't. I just didn't have the energy to call her on it at the time. Now, I still don't have the energy. I'm hoping that since she brought it up, she won't try to deny it.

"Yeah," she says softly. She rolls her shoulders and meets my gaze awkwardly. "You look exhausted."

That's an understatement. I went home between shifts and attempted to sleep. I spent several hours on my bed tossing and turning, wishing that I had Sara to hold me like she did that one time after-

I cut the thought off, feeling an uncomfortable amount of heat rising up my neck. "I am. I haven't really been sleeping lately." I don't add that 'lately' has been since I saw Debbie Marlin. Sara's uncomfortable enough already.

She stares at me for a few moments, biting her lip nervously. "You could, uh, sleep on my bed until you have to pick up Lindsey. If you want, of course. It's just… you look really tired."

I smile at her. "Your bed, huh? You planning on sharing?"

She blushes slightly, but doesn't look away. "I'd sleep on the couch."

I shake my head, not at all surprised that she said that. "No way. I'm not kicking you out of your own bed." I contemplate her for several seconds, smirking when I finally come up with a solution I'm happy with.

"I'm going to take a wild guess and say that you won't let me sleep on the couch." She immediately opens her mouth to object, clearly opposed to the mere thought of me sleeping on her couch. I hold up a hand to stop her. "So I guess the only way to make this work would be to share your bed. Do you have any problems with that, Ms. Sidle?"

I can see her brain working overtime trying to think of a different solution. When she can't think of one, she sighs. "No."

I grin and walk down her hallway. My grin vanishes when I hear her muttering under her breath.

"After all, it's only fair. We've already shared yours."

Early Rollout

I feel myself grinning as I leave the lab. Seven months without a date, and finally, finally I'm going out. And it's been nine months since I've actually been looking forward to a date. One of the unfortunate side-effects of allowing my sister to set me up. Tonight, though, I'm excited. Chris sparked something in me that I haven't felt in ages, and I can't wait to explore that feeling.

When I was called in early in the morning to investigate the Trent's deaths, I wasn't in the best of moods. Seeing Sara pop a cough drop in her mouth every minute did nothing to improve my temper. Thank God Jim talked to her- she wouldn't have listened to me.

Then, there was Grissom. If he had just done the damn evaluation on time… the shift had already been shot to hell before he showed up. Discussing the check I cashed from Sam… Good God, I think someone was hell-bent on fucking with my life.

Meeting Chris made me re-evaluate my opinion of the shift from hell. It had still been downright miserable, but I could say that I had gotten something out of it. It was almost worth being called in just after I fell asleep.

A flash of movement catches my eye. My grin widens, and I walk towards Sara. She looks up at me, and for a moment, she looks confused. As if I'm a piece of evidence she can't quite figure out. Then comprehension flickers in her eyes, and she forces herself to smile.

I almost miss a step walking forward. What's wrong? I know she's figured it out- why does she have a problem with me going out on a date? She's acting like nothing's wrong. The only reason for that would be if something actually is wrong.

"Ah… I think I'm underdressed. Where exactly are we going to dinner, Cat?"

Oh, fuck. I completely forgot about that. When we first greeted each other at the scene, I asked her if she wanted to go to dinner after we finished the case up. With everything that happened later with Grissom and Chris… How could I have forgotten?

I clamp my eyes shut, not wanting to see the disappointment in hers. I hear her walking towards me.

"The nightclub manager, right? I take it that's not just a rumor, then?"

"Word travels fast." I wince at my bland reply. Can't I think of anything useful to say? Like, 'sorry for being a complete bitch and forgetting that I had already made plans with you'?

"Well, I guess there's no point in me leaving work. See you tomorrow, Catherine."

I can't even say anything as she walks back into the lab. Damn it.

Way to go, Cath.


I pace back and forth in front of Sara's apartment, waiting impatiently for a glimpse of Grissom's car. He called me to tell me that Sara almost got a DUI. Then, he hung up. If I didn't know better, I would say he did it on purpose. How does someone 'almost' get a DUI? Sara almost getting a DUI…

I stop pacing and bang my head against her door. I remember a few months ago when she came into work with all those cough drops. I thought it was just a one time thing- she probably wasn't expecting to be called in that early. I also thought that since Jim talked to her, if there was an actual problem, it would be taken care of.

I can't believe this. Sara is the last person on Earth I would ever imagine driving under the influence. So what happened?

I rub at my eyes. Unfortunately, it's entirely possible that something's wrong with her, and I just haven't noticed. Since I started seeing Chris, I haven't been paying much to her. I've cancelled plans with her several times so that I could be with him. She always said it was fine.

Damn it! She's my friend, I should have noticed if something was wrong! But I didn't, and now Grissom's driving her home from the police station. The second she gets here, I'm going to force her to talk to me.

I hear a car pull up, and I spin around so quickly I nearly get whiplash. That's definitely Grissom's car. My heart jumps when Sara steps out of it. She's okay. She's not hurt. So I don't have to feel guilty about yelling at her for being so stupid.

I watch her and Grissom argue for a moment. I'm guessing that she's trying to convince him that she doesn't need his help to get into her apartment. Despite the seriousness of the situation, I smile. It's been so long since I've seen her get riled up about something. She's been like a ghost lately.

She walks up the stairs and I crouch slightly. I don't want her to know that I'm here until she's too close to run away. We're going to talk about this.

"Grissom already told me you'd be here," she says, crossing her arms as she approaches me. I step away from her door, giving her a chance to unlock it. She doesn't. She just stands in front of me, looking at the floor.

I sigh. I wanted avoid having this conversation outside, but if she isn't going to let me in her apartment, fine. "What happened, Sara?"

She rolls her eyes. "Nothing, really. Warrick, Nick, and I went out for drinks to congratulate Nick on his almost-promotion. I got pulled over, and, apparently, I was over the limit. But since the limit was just lowered, Grissom was called and I didn't get in any real trouble."

At least she wasn't drinking alone. That's something. But this is the second time in just a few months that I've been concerned about the possibility of her drinking more than she should.

"So this was just a one time thing? Like that time you came to work with all of those cough drops? Sara, what's going on?" I didn't mean to sound so accusing, but I'm frustrated. This is the first time in weeks we're having a conversation outside work, and it's only because she nearly got a DUI.

She glares at me furiously. "That is really none of your business, Catherine. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to go into my apartment and get some sleep."

"Sara-" I start, but she just shakes her head and sticks a key into the doorknob. I bite my lip and watch as she opens the door. "Do you want to have dinner with me and Linds tomorrow?"

She pauses before entering her apartment. "I'm not going to talk about it, Cat."

"I don't expect you to. I'd just enjoy your company tomorrow evening, and I'm sure Lindsey would too." I miss her, and if she comes over for dinner, I'll know she's not drinking.

She chuckles under her breath and enters her apartment. Before she closes the door in my face, she smiles softly at me. "I'd love to have dinner with you and Lindsey, even if it is just a clever ploy to keep an eye on me."

My face flushes, and I smile back as she shuts the door. Once it's closed, I sigh. That didn't go well at all. I was hoping she'd at least say good night. Or tell me what was wrong. I was hoping that we'd actually talk.

Well, if nothing else, Lindsey will be thrilled that I'm canceling my date with Chris tomorrow.

Viva Las Vegas

It figures. My first long-term relationship since Paul, and the bastard cheats on me. The worst part is I didn't even know. With Eddie, I was aware of his extracurricular activities for months until I caught him. With Chris, I didn't have a clue. It shouldn't have surprised me, really. After all, like he said, he's a nightclub manager.

I wonder how many different waitresses from his club he's slept with. How many younger, prettier women he's fucked behind my back. Definitely more than one. After all these months, if it was only one, he would have had a better excuse than, 'What do you expect? I run a nightclub'.

I concentrate on keeping my car on the road. I'm headed back to work. I don't want to go home and see my daughter while I look so defeated. I doubt Grissom will complain if I throw myself into my paperwork.

Honestly, I should have known that Chris was cheating on me. Why else would he ask if he was going to see me tonight when he was already planning to work late? I stop the car in front of the lab and look at myself in the rearview mirror.

I'm getting old. My appearance isn't what it used to be, and tonight has made me painfully aware of that. I sigh and get out of the car.

By the time I get to my office, I am cursing glass walls. As if I really needed every tech who works in this lab knowing that I came into work after a date. Not that it was a date, but that's what they'll assume. Knowing the office grapevine, by next shift everyone will have heard about 'Catherine's lousy date' or something similar.


I look up at Sara and smile. She has the best timing. I reach out for the offered cup of coffee, inhaling the scent. Before this job, I never understood the people who would wake up and immediately start their coffeemakers. Of course, before this job, I was snorting cocaine.

"What did Chris do?"

I take a sip of the coffee and close my eyes. "What makes you think Chris did something?"

"Because you put on a dress before leaving the lab, and you only do that when you're seeing him, and you came back less than an hour later. What did he do?"

I sigh and place the styrofoam cup on my desk. "I walked in on him and one of his waitresses."

"He cheated… he cheated on you?" She actually sounds surprised. I wish I could be.

"Yeah. Not that I can blame him. The woman in his lap was a lot younger and cuter than I am. I doubt she has any wrinkles or needs reading glasses or-"

"Shut up." I look into the eyes of a furious Sara Sidle.

I've seen her angry before, but nothing like this. Fury is rolling off of her in waves, and if anyone else looked at me like this, I would be fearing for my life. 'Pissed off' doesn't even begin to describe the look in her eyes.

She marches towards me and slams her own cup of coffee down on my desk. For a second, she seems breathless with rage, but then she starts speaking in a soft, slow tone that tells me just how close she is to losing control.

"Catherine, you are one of the most beautiful, sexy, intelligent women I have ever met. Unless the woman in his lap was Aphrodite herself, there is no way she could even begin to compete with you. He's the one with the problem- not you. He's the idiot who couldn't see what he had."

She raises a hand to cup my face, brushing away the tears that have fallen from my eyes. There's not a single trace of anger in her touch, though she's obviously still upset. I close my eyes against a new wave of tears as I remember what happened the last time one of us broke up with someone.

I hear Sara moving things around on my desk, but I ignore it, still enjoying the feel of her hand against my cheek. When I feel a weight against my legs, I open my eyes. Her boot-clad feet are dangling off my desk, brushing my legs.

Without really thinking about it, I wrap my arms around her neck, letting her draw me into her arms. I sigh into her shoulder before lifting my head to kiss her cheek. "Thank you."

"For what?"

I can think of at least a million things to thank her for right now. "For being you."


I march out of the morgue, intent on finding my daughter. I scared her. Didn't I tell Gil that I didn't want to do that? Great. Just great. Who knows where Lindsey's ran off to. She's probably found a phone and called my mother by now. She obviously doesn't care about asking my permission to go somewhere.

Our relationship suffered when Eddie died; I know that. She was upset about losing her father, and I was trying to avoid thinking about it by throwing myself into work. It's no wonder we grew apart.

I didn't think things were this bad, though. Mouthing off to teachers; the occasional fight- I certainly wasn't happy with the way she was acting, but I figured that she was just going through the whole 'teenage rebellion' phase a little early.

But hitchhiking… That's more than just attitude. She put herself in danger, and didn't seem to care at all. I was worried that if I didn't do something, she would end up getting hurt. So I did something. I showed her a corpse. I scared her.

And now, I feel guilty. If I had just paid more attention to her instead of working and meeting with Chris… God, if I had just been a better mother, she never would have gone hitchhiking, and I wouldn't have had to show her… I can't believe I let this happen. Fuck. What am I supposed to do now?

I remember laughing with Warrick about the amount of people that got lost in the morgue or in the lab. At the moment, I can't imagine laughing. Finding Lindsey in this labyrinth isn't going to be easy.

I walk around for several minutes before deciding that I should just start somewhere Lindsey's familiar with- the break room. Besides, I could use some caffeine. I'm exhausted. Dealing with the case was hard enough without worrying about my daughter.

I'm about to enter the break room when I see something that stops me. Sara's sitting on the couch with Lindsey, looking extremely uncomfortable. But she's listening to whatever Lindsey's saying- beneath her discomfort is the focused expression I usually find so adorable.

As if sensing my presence, she looks up at me. So does Lindsey once she realizes that something else has Sara's attention. My daughter glares at me. I concentrate on Sara, pleased that she isn't showing any visible signs of disapproval. Considering that she's probably been listening to my daughter's ranting, that's saying something.

For a few seconds, the three of us just stare at each other. Then Sara stands up and breaks the silence.

"Uh, Archie paged me ten minutes ago. I should probably leave. See ya, Linds."

She brushes against me on her way out of the break room, kissing me on the cheek. When she pulls away, I meet her eyes in confusion. She just grins and brushes a strand of hair away from my face. "She definitely inherited your stubborn side. Good luck, Cat."

I watch her walk off to the A/V lab for a moment before looking back at my still scowling daughter. I sigh and turn back to the now Sara-less space.

Why couldn't Archie have paged someone else?

Mea Culpa

I sit down behind my new desk, trying to dwell on the positives of being the new Swing Shift Supervisor. Just because I wanted days doesn't automatically make this bad. I'm still in charge of my own shift, right? And I get to work with Warrick and Nick- if I had gotten days, I probably wouldn't see any of the former nightshift during work.

I really wanted days, though. I wanted to work normal hours so that I could spend more time with my daughter- actually be a good mother. My new work hours pretty much destroy any chance of that happening. I thought I hated Ecklie before- hell, I know I hated him before- but compared to my current desire to rip his head off… I wonder if any CSI in this lab would actually put effort into investigating his murder? Probably not.

What made him decide to do this? He's been the Assistant Director for several weeks. Why did he wait so long to split us up? Did it just take him that long to figure out how to do it? Jerk…

"I guess it's better than the 'cupboard', right?"

My heart skips a beat at Sara's voice. She's leaning against the doorframe of my new office, appraising the empty space casually. I grin at her relaxed pose. Usually I have to wait until after work to see her like this.

"Much. I can't believe they actually called that thing an office."

She shrugs and walks forward, still not looking directly at me. "I don't know. I kind of liked the smaller one. You have to admit that it had its advantages." She stops in front of my desk and stares at the empty bookshelf behind me. It's only then that I realize she's holding something behind her back.

I raise an eyebrow and nod at her. "What are you hiding from me?"

She shrugs and continues to look around. "Sorry that you didn't get days. Ecklie's a jerk."

I sigh and cross my arms on top of my desk. "Yeah, he is. Hey, you wouldn't put to much effort into investigating his murder, right?"

She laughs and walks around my desk, kneeling in front of me. "Do you need an accomplice?" My breath catches when she leans closer. For several seconds, we stare into each other's eyes, not moving a single inch. Then she tilts her head to the side and whispers into my ear.

"I got you a book."

Before the words even register in my mind, I feel the warmth of her body vanishing, and I groan at the loss. I close my eyes, and when I open them again, I'm not surprised to find her gone.

I look down at my desk. A brand new forensics textbook is sitting in the middle of it.

I guess that's another plus to being Swing Shift Supervisor. Sara always comes in early- during my new shift. If I need her, she's mine.

Nesting Dolls

I pull into my driveway, collapsing against the steering wheel as I turn off the car. I'm exhausted. No- exhausted doesn't even begin to cover it. I don't think there's a word for how drained I feel.

The shift started out as wonderfully as any other- we uncovered two bodies at a construction site. They were completely encased in tar. Of course, that made the case interesting enough for Grissom to get involved. I can admit that I would have had trouble removing the tar from the bodies without his help. But he still destroyed one of the skulls.

Not that I didn't get something out of that- he was willing to give me Sara for the night. I wasted no time in getting to the locker room and making sure she knew she was mine. As childish as an analogy as it is, I felt like I had just discovered a lost, coveted toy. It had been ages since I had been able to work with Sara.

Things had been going great before she went around hitting every E.R. in town. I never should have let her do that. I know how she gets when it comes to domestic abuse cases. Even if this one wasn't, staring at all of those pictures of battered women was bound to get to her.

She crossed a line with Andrew Melton. The odd thing was that even though I knew how horribly the slightest hint of domestic violence affected her, I was surprised. I didn't expect her to be so blunt with her questions. And the sarcasm was anything but helpful.

By the time we were walking down the hallway, I wasn't feeling too friendly towards her. I was also extremely concerned, not that I put much effort into expressing it. I didn't even bother trying to keep our conversation private; I just stopped in the middle of the hallway and started in on her.

Things probably would have ended differently if I had just dragged her into my office and tried talking to her. She probably wouldn't be suspended. We'd be eating breakfast together, or dinner, or whatever meal normal people eat at this time of day. Damn it. Why did our first case together after so long have to go so badly? It isn't fair…

I get out of the car, slamming the door behind me. I walk up to the door, praying that nothing will happen in the next two minutes to keep me from my bed. Right now, I want nothing more than to fall asleep and never wake up.

I almost trip over something as I get my key into the lock, and I look down in shock at a deathly pale Sara Sidle. Despite my current conflicted emotions when it comes to her, I drop everything and kneel down next to her. I brush a hand over her forehead. She has a fever. And it looks like she's been crying. God, how long has she been sitting here?

I shake her shoulder gently. "C'mon, Sara. Time to get up, sweetheart."

Her eyes open a fraction, and I see her trying to make sense of her surroundings. Realizing that someone's sitting next to her, she opens her eyes completely and looks up at me. I wrap an arm around her and lift her up off the ground. I unlock the door and guide her inside, shocked at how light she is.

"I'm so sorry, Catherine," she whispers.

I shake my head at her apology and sit down on the couch with her. I pick up a blanket off of the floor and place it on top of us. "Don't worry about it."

She stares blankly at the floor. "I was out of line… saying those things to you. I didn't mean- damn it…" She rubs at her eyes and spares me a glance before turning back to the floor. "I sort of hoped things would go better than they did. I've missed you so much, and when we finally get a chance to work together…"

I take a deep breath and wrap the blanket tighter around us, leaning against her shoulder. It looks like we both wanted the same thing out of last shift. Neither of us got it. "Sorry we weren't out of the hallway when I started on you."

She shrugs. We stay quiet for few minutes. I want to ask if she's willing to share my bed for a few hours, but I'm afraid that if I do that, she'll find some reason to leave.

"I told Ecklie I wasn't going to apologize."

She did, though. "Are you going to tell me why you 'go off the deep end'? It's a bit disconcerting to see you so out of control. I just- I'd like to know that you're all right."

Sara opens and shuts her mouth several times before she gets any words out. "You know… it was so easy to tell Grissom what happened. Only… I didn't really tell him all of it. With you… when I tell you, I want to tell you all of it. Right now, I don't think I can."

The hesitance in her voice breaks my heart. I slip my hand into hers, entwining our fingers. "Okay. That's fine. Then could you at least explain the remark you made about my sexuality?" I make sure to keep my tone light, letting her know that I'm not trying to start another fight.

She rolls her eyes. "I wanted to piss you off. And…" Even in the dim lighting, I can see her blushing.


"You go out on a lot of dates. Not a whole lot since Chris, but…" Her eyes stay focused on the floor for a moment, but then she fixes them on me.

"I really wanted it to happen again, Cat."


I try to contain my worry as I hurry towards the locker room. I have never hated Grissom so much for being vague. Of course, if I hadn't bolted out of his office, he probably would have given me a more detailed version of what happened, but still. If he had just given me the full version to begin with…

I ignore the looks I'm getting from some of the lab techs. I couldn't care less about their opinions of me at the moment. I need to make sure that Sara's okay. I need something more than Grissom's 'she got attacked by one of the mental hospital's inmates, but she was still able to help wrap up the case'. Sara can work through just about anything. Her being healthy enough to finish up a case means absolutely nothing.

I burst into the locker room, relief flooding me when I see Sara sitting on one of the benches. I stand still for a second, just watching her. Then I walk over to the bench and sit down next to her. Besides an angry red mark on her neck, she seems fine. But she still hasn't looked at me.

Hesitantly, I reach out and touch her shoulder. She flinches violently, but doesn't bother pulling away. I lean forward, trying to get a better look at her face. That's when she moves away. The rejection stings, but I try to ignore it. I can snap at her after I figure out what's wrong.

"Sara, are you okay?"

The second I ask, I feel like kicking myself. She hates that question. And I already know the answer. She is not okay. If she was okay, she'd at least look at me. I try to rephrase my concern. Before I can, though, she speaks up.


Sara's staring determinedly at the ceiling, still avoiding my gaze. Well great.

"Do you want to tell me what happened, or-"

She interrupts me. "You know what, Cath? I really don't want to talk to you right now. About anything. Could you just leave me alone for once?"

If she didn't sound so Goddamn pathetic, I would be yelling at her. I'm trying to help, and she's completely shutting me out. It's irritating. We're supposed to be friends- hell, we're more than friends. Why won't she just let me help her?

I try to keep the irritation and slight hurt out of my voice. Getting in a fight right now is not going to help either of us. "Sara, I think it would help if you talked to someone about it. It's obviously bothering you-"

"You have no idea what's bothering me."

I'm starting to lose my temper with her. Not only has she interrupted me twice, she's acting like a child. I know that whatever happened at the mental hospital hurt her, but she's pouting. I get enough of that from Lindsey.

I don't really know what happened to her, but screw it. There isn't a scratch on her. It couldn't have been that bad. "I've been attacked on the job too, remember?"

She lowers her gaze to the floor. I doubt she remembers Dwayne Gallo hitting me over the head. Back then, we were barely civil. I reach out and cup her face, jerking her head towards me. Our eyes meet, and I glare at her. "Tell me what happened."

For a second it looks like she's going to tell me to go to hell, but then she sighs and slips her hands over mine, entwining them as much as possible. "Cath… it was nothing. Really. I'm fine. It was just…" she hesitates for a moment before speaking again. "I don't like feeling vulnerable. The guy had a piece of pottery against my throat, and I couldn't do anything to fight back…"

She shrugs helplessly, and I untangle our hands in favor of wrapping my arms around her. It takes a few seconds before she relaxes. Then she rests her head in the crook of my neck, sighing slightly.

"I was serious when I said I didn't want to talk to you."

I bite down on my lip. "Okay."

Sara shifts uncomfortably in my arms. "You know me too well. I'm not used to being around someone I don't have any defenses against… to trusting someone so completely. I thought that if I could just keep quiet about one thing, I'd be able to protect myself."

"Do you honestly think I'd hurt you?" I know she has problems opening up to people, but she has to know that I'd never abuse her trust.

She chuckles into my neck, and I close my eyes at the pleasurable sensation. "No. That's part of the problem. I can't think of a single reason not to trust you."

Warmth floods me when I hear that. I pull away, smiling when I hear her whimper at the loss of contact. I pick up one of her hands and press a kiss into the center of her palm. The scar from the explosion is still there.

She smiles confusedly at me, staring down at my lips. She slowly moves her hand closer to my face, letting the pad of her thumb brush my lips. For a minute she keeps her hand completely still. Then she moves it down to my neck, pulling me towards her. "Catherine-"

I feel her hot breath against my face and I close my eyes, opening them again when her other hand brushes my side. She's still staring avidly at me, something close to awe in her gaze.

God help me, I've fallen so hard for this woman.

Weeping Willows

Word travels fast. That's what I told Sara when she asked if my association with Chris was just a rumor. And it's true. Word travels fast, especially in a lab full of glass walls and inquisitive people. By now, half of the lab knows what happened between me and Novak. With any luck, that half won't include Sara.

I drop my cold cup of coffee on the break room table, watching some of the bitter liquid spill over the sides. I can't believe I flirted with him. Not to mention kissing him.... Why didn't I just go home after work? Then this whole mess would have been avoided.

The bastard just had to be a suspect in a case. I guess I'm not allowed to make mistakes without the whole world calling attention to them. Now Grissom's not talking to me, and… Sara hasn't been anywhere near the case since Novak was brought in. I don't know what that means.

I feel like I cheated on her even though I know I didn't. We aren't together. We've never even kissed. Admittedly, that's only because Greg came bouncing into the locker room last week, but… damn it. Nothing's happened between us. How could I have cheated on someone I'm not involved with?

"Catherine, are you and Lindsey all right?"

Sara's frantic voice reaches my ears, and I spin around in my chair, nearly toppling it over. Sara catches the back of it before I end up sprawled on the floor. I look up at her, my throat going dry at the concern in her eyes. She knows Novak came to my house. Fuck. If she knows that…

"We're fine, Sara."

She nods distractedly, focusing on the cut on my cheek. She noticed it earlier, but didn't say anything. "What was he doing at your house?"

"He thought I was manipulating evidence to make him look guilty." I almost wish he had taken one step forward. Then I would have had an excuse to shoot him. He came to my house and talked to my mother and daughter. The second I saw him outside with them, causing him physical harm was at the front of my mind.

Sara frowns slightly. "Why would he think that?"

I close my eyes and rub my forehead. "He thought I was upset that he came on to strong."

She doesn't say anything. I open my eyes and turn my attention to the cold coffee on the table. I take a sip and try not to shiver at the horrible taste. I look back at Sara. Her stony expression makes me wince.

"I went to a bar to unwind after work. I met Novak there and had a cocktail on his tab. We… flirted. I told him I should get home, and he offered to walk me to my car. I… I kissed him." That's the worst part. I kissed him. Not the other way around. "I pulled away and told him that I couldn't… I told him I'd call him."

Sara grabs one of the chairs around the table and sits down. She looks hurt. There's a reason to feel guilty, Willows. I take another sip of coffee and stare at the floor. We spend several uncomfortable minutes in silence.

"Are we going to be okay?"

She pushes away from the table and stands up. "Of course. It's not like we're dating or anything."

Grave Danger

I jerk awake, still breathing erratically thanks to my nightmare. Every time I've closed my eyes since it happened, I see Nick in that box. The images just won't leave me alone. I can only imagine what he's going through. I've never considered myself claustrophobic, but after watching the live feed for all those hours…

I shiver slightly, drawing the sheets closer to my body. I felt selfish, leaving the hospital so soon after Nick woke up, but right now I'm just grateful that I'm in the comfort of my own home. Being able to check on my daughter was also comforting. Thankfully, she was asleep, so she didn't whine about me checking up on her.

"Trouble sleeping?"

I roll over and look into my favorite pair of brown eyes. I managed to convince Sara not to go back to her apartment. Lucky me, she didn't even argue about sharing my bed. I sigh and slump against my pillow.

"Yeah. Nightmares."

She closes her eyes and nods. "Me too. I almost wish I had just stayed at the hospital. At least then I could sneak into his room and check on him; make sure he really is all right."

"You could always go back." I don't want her to leave. I really don't. But I'll understand if she wants to. Honestly, I'm surprised she's stayed this long. I thought she'd be gone when I woke up. Granted, I'm up a little earlier than I planned on…

"I don't want to." She brushes a strand of hair behind my ear, smiling gently. "I'd rather stay here. I don't like hospitals at all."

I return her smile, relaxing into her touch. "And you don't have a car." She drove us home in my car. Apparently she had trusted Greg to drive her to the hospital. I forgot she was stuck at my house unless she hotwired my car. Perfect.

"True." She drops her hand and sighs. "We're not falling asleep, are we?"

I chuckle under my breath. "It doesn't seem like it."

She watches me for a few moments before moving over to my side of the bed and opening her arms to me. "C'mere."

My mind goes blanks for several seconds. Then, trembling slightly, I curl into Sara, letting her wrap her arms around me. I sigh at the glorious sensation, snuggling into her chest. She's a thousand times better than any pillow I've ever had. Her steady heartbeat thrums under my cheek, lulling me into a blissful haze.

Something tells me my nightmares are done for the night.

Bodies in Motion

I lie down on my couch, listening to Lindsey stomping up the stairs. We barely talked after I picked her up from school. That's probably an improvement. Lately we've been fighting a lot. Hopefully, things will get better now that I'm back on the night shift. Not that they could get any worse.

Getting the team back together took a few months. The main problem was that the only shift that had a reasonable number of CSIs was days. With Nick on leave and Sofia arresting people in Boulder City, Warrick and I were all on our own on swing shift, and Grissom only had Sara and Greg. Ecklie had to create an entirely new swing shift before we could all work together again.

Of course, the second we're all working the same case, Warrick and I end up on a different one. And then I find out that one of my closest friends got married without even telling me.

I was pissed when I saw the ring on Warrick's finger. How could he get married without telling me? We're friends. Friends tell each other these things. He didn't even bother to tell me he was seeing someone.

Married… God. It's ridiculous, but I always sort of thought that Warrick would be… available. I all but told him he was a fantasy of mine, and I suppose that's accurate enough. Every once in a while…

Whatever's going on between me and Sara is moving way too slowly for my liking. Every insecure bone in my body is telling me that she could just be playing with my emotions, and that's why nothing's happened. Deep down, I know Sara wouldn't do that. She respects me, if nothing else.

Still… part of me always felt that if my heart ever got broken, Warrick would be around. And available. Now he isn't, and in a way, the last line of defense around my heart has collapsed. Losing the fantasy of having someone to hold on to if I ever really got hurt… it sucks. I feel vulnerable. I don't do vulnerable well.

A knock at my door rouses me from my thoughts. I sigh. I should probably go answer that. I don't want to, though. It's childish, but all I want to do is stay on the couch and pout. I can't help smiling, ruining my good bad mood. I can be worse than Lindsey sometimes.

I get up and walk over to the door. I open it reluctantly, almost positive that nothing pleasant is behind it. I guess my good bad mood isn't completely ruined. Rolling my eyes, I turn my attention to the person standing on my porch. I feel a new smile light up my face.

Sara grins at me and takes a hesitant step forward. "Hey. Can I come in?"

I can't believe she still feels the need to ask that. She should know by now that I love her company too much to turn her away. I step back from the door and shut it behind her as she walks into my house.

"What are you doing here?"

She looks down at the floor, the most adorable blush covering her face. "Uh, well, I just thought that you might want some company. I know you and Warrick…" She trails off, clearly not knowing what she wants to say.

I reach out and grab her hand, rubbing my thumb over her wrist. She looks back up at me, looking extremely embarrassed. I smile tenderly at her. "He was just a fantasy, Sara. Nothing more."

Something that looks suspiciously like relief flashes in her eyes. I shake my head and let go of her hand. I turn around and walk towards the kitchen. I need a cold glass of water. "Do you want anything to drink?"

"No thanks."

I nod absently and grab a glass out of a cupboard. I let my eyes wander over to where Sara's standing. She's still blushing, though judging from the way she's staring at me, I doubt it's from embarrassment. I smirk.

I may have lost a fantasy, but soon, I'll have her. That's all that really matters.

Secrets and Flies

I pick up one of the ducks off of my desk and glare at it. I don't know what the day shift supervisor was smoking when she decided that they were an appropriate decorating choice. What I would give to have my own office again… I mean, waterfowl, in a crime lab? I thought Grissom and his bugs were bad, but at least multi-legged creature he has on his desk doesn't have painted-on eyes.

I remember Lindsey's second grade teacher having similar ducks. Every parent-teacher conference, the damn ducks would have their eyes focused on me. By the end of the year, I had decided that I hated ceramic ducks. Apparently, I still do. Why couldn't Grissom be the one to share an office with her?

Then again, forcing someone to share an office with Grissom and his bugs could be constituted as 'cruel and unusual'. Still, why me? Ecklie or whatever idiot who approved this has to know how territorial I can get. Were they just trying to torture me?

A knock on my office door makes me look up. Sara's standing there with a package in hand. My face flushes. I remember the last gift she gave me in this office. I had more fun receiving it than reading it. I clear my throat and put the ceramic duck back on the desk.

"Sara, what can I do for you?"

She eyes the duck for a moment before moving to the chair in front of my desk. She places the package in front of me. "You could open that."

I grab a pair of scissors from a drawer and slice through the tape keeping the box shut. I open the package. It's full of styrofoam peanuts. I shoot an exasperated glance at Sara, who completely ignores it. I dig through the peanuts, waiting for my hand to hit something.

Rubber. I raise an eyebrow and grab the object, pulling it out of the box. For several seconds, all I can do is stare. The bright yellow rubber ducky in my hand stares back. I try to convince myself that throwing said ducky at Sara is childish. It is, but it's still tempting.

She's smirking at me, and I open my mouth to yell at her for making fun of my current office situation. Then I catch sight of a note taped to the duck. I tear it off and unfold it, curiosity replacing my annoyance.

Hey Cath-

According to Greg, you're having lunch with the new DNA tech, so I guess I can't really ask you out to lunch. So, do you have time for a late breakfast?


I shake my head. Greg should at least make some attempt to verify his information. I'm not having lunch with Wendy. I look up and smile at Sara, a plan forming in my mind. I stand up from my chair and walk around the desk, standing directly in front of her. "Breakfast, huh?"

She shrugs awkwardly, clearly uncomfortable with our close proximity. "Yeah."

I tilt my head to the side and pretend to contemplate my answer. Sara continues to shift nervously in her chair.

"You know what? I don't think I want to go to breakfast."

"Oh. Okay."

Her dejected tone nearly breaks my heart, but the thought of having her keeps the smile shining brightly on my face. "Going out to dinner on a first date is more typical, don't you think?"

Sara stays completely still for almost a minute before jerking her head up and staring at me. She shakes her head, trying to clear it. "Did you- are you asking me out?"

I don't bother answering. Instead, I grab her by the front of her shirt and kiss her.

A Bullet Runs Through It

The sound of my phone ringing wakes me up from an extremely pleasant dream of Sara. I groan, barely able to resist screaming into my pillow. Whoever's calling me had better have a damn good reason for doing so at- good God. Noon. Why the hell am I working on the night shift again?

I yank my cell phone off my nightstand. "Willows," I spit out furiously.


My anger immediately melts away when I hear Sara's voice. I lean back against my pillow with a smile on my face, happiness wiping away any exhaustion my chronic lack of sleep has caused. "Sara. Hey."

"I woke you up, didn't I?" Figures that she'd focus on that. Affection wells up in my heart, and I let the glow of it wash over me. It's been a week since we kissed- not to mention our first official date- and I'm already falling even deeper in love with her. A week ago I wouldn't have believed but it was possible, but here I am; grinning like an idiot just because she called me.

"Don't worry about it. I'd rather be talking to you, anyway." Admittedly, the dream I was having of her was nice, but compared to the real thing…

"Can I come over?"

I sit up quickly, nearly toppling off of the bed. "Uh, sure- of course!" Fuck, how am I supposed to get rid of the 'just-rolled-out-of-bed' look before she gets here?

"Thank you."

"You don't need to thank me, Sara." Somehow I manage to get the sentence out of my mouth without sounding too nervous- damn it. The logical part of my brain reminds me that she's seen me looking much worse than I do right now, but that was different. …God, I'm being ridiculous.

All the same, I get out of bed and run a comb through my hair. I sigh when I hear a knock on the front door. It's too early for Sara to be here, and she's the only one I'm interested in seeing right now. I go down the stairs and open the door, thoughts of my appearance forgotten.

Sara's on the other side. Confusion covers the swooping sensation in my chest. I raise an eyebrow and look over her shoulder. Her car's in the driveway. She had to have been less than a block away when she called me. That, or she was just sitting in my driveway. "How long have you been here?"

She shrugs uncomfortably. "A while. I came here after talking to Jim, and that was a few hours ago."

I shake my head and wrap my arms around Sara. "You should've called earlier." I'd ask about Jim, but I already know what she got out of talking to him. Nothing. Maybe a beer or two, but still nothing that matters. Jim's been through hell- pretty much every cop except Sofia hates him. It's still too early in the game to get anything out of him. He can be worse than Sara sometimes.

She shrugs again, looking slightly guilty. "I didn't want to wake you up."

I kiss her cheek and rest my head in the crook of her neck. "Don't worry about it." She nods and wraps her arms snugly around me, pulling us close. I sigh happily, perfectly content. A minute later, I pull away and run my fingers over the dark circles under her eyes. She probably hasn't slept at all since shift ended.

"You look exhausted."

"I'm fine."

I roll my eyes at her stubbornness. "Well, since someone woke me up, I'm not." She opens her mouth to apologize but I stop her. "I'd probably sleep better if you joined me."

Sara smiles and pulls me back to her. "So would I." She leans down and kisses me, brushing her tongue briefly against my upper lip before slipping it into my mouth. I moan and tighten my grip around her neck, using her to prevent my weak knees from taking over.

When we finally part, we're both panting and looking significantly less tired. I cough lightly. "We really should sleep."

She nods slowly. "Yeah, we should." Her eyes are still on my lips, though. We stand there, just staring at each other, for what seems like an eternity. Eventually, we manage to make our way upstairs to my bedroom. We curl up on my bed and rest in each other's arms.

I sigh and run my hand through my girlfriend's hair. Just because we should sleep doesn't mean I want to.

Kiss-Kiss, Bye-Bye

I smooth out some of the wrinkles in my dress, feeling slightly ridiculous going to all of this trouble. It's not like Mom or Sam will care what I wear. Of course, I'm not planning to spend the entire night with them. I feel a small smile pulling at the corners of my mouth. I might be having dinner with Mom and Sam, but with any luck, Sara will be providing dessert.

"Nice dress."

I almost jump at the husky timber, but two strong arms wrap around me, keeping me still. I laugh softly and place my hands over Sara's, leaning back into her. I turn my head slightly, taking in as much of her appearance as possible. I smirk when I notice my scarf still around her neck.

"Nice scarf."

She chuckles at the teasing remark before pressing a light kiss on the back of my neck. "I wouldn't have needed to borrow it in the first place if not for you, Cat." She lowers her mouth to my shoulder, clearly enjoying the extra expanse of skin the dress is revealing.

I almost laugh as I remember the hickies on her neck. Any conscious use of my vocal chords is postponed, however, when Sara presses her lips to my collarbone, biting down gently. I gasp at the sensation, thoughts of dinner completely forgotten.

I spin around in her arms and pull on the scarf around Sara's neck. Within seconds, I have her pressed against my locker and am kissing her senseless. We both moan, and rational thought awakens in the back of my head. I pull away, breathing heavily.

"I need to get to dinner."

Sara sighs and pulls me close for a hug "I know. And I should get out of here before Grissom lectures me about spending too much time in the lab again."

I kiss the side of her jaw and pull away completely. "I'll come by your apartment after dinner, okay?"

She nods reluctantly. "Okay." We stay quiet for a few moments, neither of us really wanting to leave. After a minute of staring at each other, we both whisper the same words for the first time.

"I love you."

Up In Smoke

I rub my temples tiredly, trying to ease away the headache that's been annoying me since this case first popped up. It would probably help if I got out of this fish tank known as a workplace, but I want to find Sara before I go home. Hopefully, she'll be able to come home with me. Even if she can't, I want to at least see her before I get out of here.

I make my way through the lab, not really paying much attention to where I'm going. I don't know where Sara is—damn it, how can it be so hard to find someone in a building where the walls are made of glass? I shake my head, wincing at the stab of pain that goes through it.

Before I know it, I'm standing in the doorway of 'Sara's lab', watching her fill out her paperwork. For a second, my headache vanishes completely as I remember just how good she looked drilling into the chimney. Then it's back again when I remember why she was drilling into the chimney.

I close my eyes for a second before I walk over to my lover and drape my arms around her. Sara's shoulders tense for a second, but then she relaxes into me, sighing contentedly. I smile into her neck and tighten my grip on her. Her paperwork looks almost finished. I'm more than willing to wait a few more minutes while she works on it if it means going home with her.

It only takes a few seconds for her to complete the last page. She turns around in my arms and kisses me softly. When she draws back, she smiles and pulls me into her, hugging me gently. "Ready to go?"

I nod into her chest. "I was ready yesterday."

I don't have to see her face to know that she's just dying to tell me that yesterday was just a few hours ago. The words don't actually leave her mouth, though. Thank God. I'd rather not think about how little time has passed since we wrapped up this case. I just want to go home and take a long, hot bubble bath with my lover.

"All right, then. Let's go home."

Hours later, when I wake up in her arms, I realize that Sara called this her home. My body freezes for a second, but then I grin and lean down to kiss my girlfriend. I doubt she'll mind the early wake-up-call. She usually wakes up before me, anyway.

The Unusual Suspect

I walk past my office on my way to the locker room. Yes, shift isn't officially over yet, yes, I still have paperwork that needs finishing, and yes, Grissom is trying to get me to help him with one of his stupid experiments that puts the entire lab off some food group for weeks.

I've reached the point where I no longer care.

It's not that I'm tired, I'm just completely sick of any and all things work-related. Every once and a while that happens. Honestly, I wanted to be out of here several hours ago. The only thing that stopped me was my memory of Sara telling me about all of the different sorts of bacteria found at spas, and I couldn't think of anywhere else relaxing to go.

Of course, now I've decided that anywhere would be more relaxing than here at the morning. God, I'm sick of work. I need a vacation. I wonder if Sara and Linds would mind a trip to Hawaii? Probably not. …Especially since Lindsey has school. Okay, so no vacation. Great.

I stop walking for a second and run a hand through my hair. Maybe I should just go out, rent a bunch of sappy movies, get a gallon of ice cream, and sit on the couch for a few days while Sara and Lindsey whine about my horrible taste in movies.

Impulsively, I look into my office and glare at the ducks on my desk. The ceramic ones, at least. I actually like the rubber one. Not that it's actually on the desk. I keep it inside one of the drawers so that no one comments on it. I might like it, but it's still a bright yellow rubber ducky.

…That Sara's holding. Why is Sara in my office? I open the door and walk in, somewhat surprised when Sara doesn't bother looking up. She just sits in my chair, holding the duck in her hands. I go over to the desk and touch her shoulder cautiously.


She looks up and drops the duck. I frown at the obvious stress in her eyes. "Sweetheart, what happened?"

She sighs and lets her head fall into her hands. "I screwed up the case."

I don't have to ask what case she's talking about. I'm glad I didn't have a major part in that case. Can anybody say 'reasonable doubt'? It was enough to give anyone a headache. Judging from Sara's expression, she got more than just a headache out of that mess.


She scoffs and picks up the duck again, using it as a stress ball. I snatch it out of her hands before she causes it any permanent damage. She sighs again. "I let my personal feelings get in the way. I saw how smart Hannah was, and how Stacy tortured her, so I believed her when she said she killed Stacy."

I don't have to ask why she believed Hannah. I've heard little snippets of her high school life, and I know there were at least a few girls that Sara wanted to hurt because of the way they treated her. Looking at the case from that perspective… I can't blame her for believing Hannah.

"Then, after we arrest her, she says that Marlon really was the one that killed Stacy. Nick and—hell, Nick and Ecklie both agreed it was Marlon. I… didn't."

I interrupt her. I'm pretty sure I know what happened after that. I know that Marlon got off, and that we arrested Hannah. Sara must have talked to Hannah after the arrest. "Sara, it wasn't your fault. No matter what had happened with this case… look, I know you. Your emotions might have influenced your opinion as far as who was guilty, but if there had been a single shred of evidence that proved your opinion wrong, you would have let it go. You did not screw up the case."

Sara glares at the ceramic ducks on my desk, and I can't help smiling. I wrap my arms around her neck and sit on her lap. "Sara, even without your opinion, Marlon would have gotten off, and DA Sinclair would want to pin the murder on someone. Hannah would probably be on trial no matter what."

Sara seems to struggle with what I'm saying for a few moments before she relaxes slightly and hugs me back. She sighs into my neck. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." I lean back and look her in the eye. "Now, I was planning on skipping out of here early. Care to join me?"


One of the pluses of being a CSI is that I always have a camera handy. I look over at the seat next to me and smile. Sara's fast asleep, leaning against the car window and looking absolutely adorable. This is probably the first time she's gotten a chance to sleep since I woke her up in the locker room.

I pull into my driveway slowly and stop the car, hoping that the sudden lack of noise won't wake my girlfriend up. I unbuckle my seatbelt and climb to the back where my camera is. Sara doesn't even twitch. God, she must be exhausted.

I move back to the front and turn on the camera. I focus it on Sara and wait a few seconds, just in case she decides to wake up suddenly and ruin the photo. Not that awake Sara isn't wonderful, too, but I've never managed to catch her asleep before. She always wakes up several seconds before I take the picture.

This time, though, it looks like she's staying asleep. I smile to myself and take the picture. Unfortunately, I forgot to turn the flash off, and moments after the unexpected light, Sara's eyes open.

She stares blankly at me for a second, clearly not understanding why I'm kneeling in front of her with a camera in my hands. Then her eyes widen in understanding and she smirks at me.

That's all the warning I get before I'm pulled into her lap, camera and all.

"Got you," she whispers into my ear. I shiver at her low tone, nearly letting the camera slip out of my grasp.

"Yeah," I manage to whisper back. I swallow and try to make some sense of what just happened. She was asleep, I finally got a picture of a sleeping Sara, and then the not-so-sleeping Sara grabbed me. …Not that I'm complaining, it was just a bit of a surprise.

"And you finally got me. I guess I don't have to worry about flashing lights waking me up anymore, right Cath?"

I shrug my shoulders as much as my current position allows. "Guess not." We sit silently for several minutes before I say anything else. "Sara?"


"We should probably go inside." There's still time for both of us to sleep before next shift, and I'd like to take advantage of it.

Sara shifts in her seat so that she's looking directly into my eyes. "Probably. I don't really want to, though. I'm too comfortable here."

She kisses me and I relax completely in her arms. I have to agree with her. Compared to this, going inside doesn't seem nearly as important. Eventually we pull away, and I rest my head on her shoulder.

"Nick says your opinion of weddings leaves something to be desired."

I feel her sigh and I chuckle. Nick was already moping over his car—Sara's anti-wedding tirades didn't really help.

I go on, ignoring the attempt she makes to start off on yet another tirade. "Which is really a shame. I mean, what if I asked you to marry me? Would I have to put up with some really boring, unromantic wedding?"

Sara opens and closes her mouth several times, obviously at a loss for words. Then she rolls her eyes and unbuckles her seatbelt. "I think it's about time we head inside."

She slides out from under me, taking extra care to keep me from falling over. She gets out of the car and I follow, suddenly worried that I might have crossed some sort of line. I walk in front of her so that I can unlock the door, but she stops me.

"For the record, Cat, there is no way I would let our wedding be anything less than perfect."

Way To Go

Sara collapses limply into one of the uncomfortable hospital benches outside of Jim's room. "He made it. He really made it."

I nod my head wearily as I go to sit next to her. I lean against her shoulder and grab her hand tightly. "Yeah. He made it."

I'm slightly ashamed of myself. I'm relieved that Jim is okay, but at the same time, I think I'm more relieved that Sara didn't lose him. He's like a father to her—she even told him about our relationship. She loves him just as much as Lindsey ever loved Eddie, and she could have lost him. The thought of Sara having to go through the same pain my not-so-little girl did is heartbreaking.

I sigh and shift closer to Sara, letting her warm body comfort any lingering guilt. They're both okay. Maybe part of me wanted Jim to be okay for the wrong reasons, but my girls will always be my first priority.

I look over to the bench Gil was sitting on a few minutes ago. He isn't there anymore. Funny, I didn't notice him leaving. "Where—"

"I think he's spending the night at a hotel with his girlfriend."

"Grissom has a girlfriend?" I'm not sure which surprises me more; Grissom having a girlfriend, or Sara knowing about said girlfriend before I did. "For how long?"

Sara shrugs and kisses the top of my head. "I don't know. I found out on accident. He was making the arrangements when I walked into his office to ask for some vacation time. I don't think he meant for anybody to find out. I'm sure he would've told you first if he had a choice in the matter, Cat."

I nod slightly. I'm not entirely sure he would've told me first. He might've made some offhand remark in my presence the way he would with any of the night shift, but that's it. I can't see him going out of his way to tell anyone that he's dating someone. It just isn't… him. I'd be willing to be he hasn't actually told Sara yet—she probably just connected the dots.

"Vacation time?"

"Yeah. I figured we could both use it. It's been a long week."

No kidding. I grab Sara's other hand with mine and drop my head against the wall. Spending a few days away from work with Sara and Lindsey sounds wonderful. I'm sure Lindsey will appreciate it, too. The three of us haven't been able to spend much time together lately.

"You know… if we leave now, we could probably pick Lindsey up in time to see the movie."

I glance at my watch. She's right. We could still go through with our original plans for the evening. I stand up, pulling Sara along with me. "All right then, let's get out of here."

We walk out to my car still holding hands. On our way there, I think about what I've been trying to ask her for over three weeks. You'd think it would be so simple—I mean, we just celebrated our six-month anniversary. It's unbelievably difficult, though. Whenever the timing seems right, I can't get the words out.

…Like now.

I take a deep breath and look at Sara. God, she's gorgeous. I swallow around the lump in my throat. All I have to do is ask. One simple question. It's simple. I take another deep breath, vaguely noting Sara's concerned expression.

"Catherine, are you—"

"Will you move in with me?" I blurt out.

Sara stops mid-sentence and stares at me. I stare back, not quite able to tear my gaze away. After almost a minute of silence, Sara reaches out to touch my cheek. A slow smile spreads across her face, and she pulls me into her arms, laughing happily.

"Yes! Yes, yes, yes!" She kisses me deeply, not drawing back until both of us are thoroughly breathless. She's grinning madly, mirroring my expression perfectly. I hug her tightly to me, hopelessly happy. We'll be officially living together. I get to completely share my life with the woman I love.

The End

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