DISCLAIMER: CSI is the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Lady Heather's Box.
Four Characters in Search of a Plot
I meet many people in my line of work. I see them stripped down not just physically but emotionally. I exist to fulfil their deepest desire their darkest fantasy. They all think that they are unique, fascinating individuals. Sadly the majority are not. Our standard package submission/domination scenario fulfils 95% of their needs.
It is not often that I meet two fascinating people in one day. Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows of the Las Vegas Crime Lab. They were both fascinated by my dominion but in very different ways.
Gil Grissom is the ultimate observer. He works so hard to keep himself apart - not necessarily above - but to the side. He values his isolation. He thinks himself the answer to the paradigm: no man is an island. He sought to understand me but from his own particular viewpoint.
"I find all deviant behaviour fascinating in that to understand human nature we have to understand our aberrations."
Catherine Willows embraced my world. She saw beyond the 'mystery' intuitively understanding the structures behind it, the power games that are played. She accepted the compliment I paid her: that she would make an excellent dominatrix. I sensed that she is not one to accept her normal role. She is a single mother, she works in a male dominated world. It fulfils her but not as much as she would like. My lifestyle intrigues her. She is open to extreme possibilities. I might be one of them.
Their relationship fascinated me. They are not lovers nor I think will they ever be but they have considered it, flirted with the idea, perhaps even crossed the line in their professional relationship - but not to the extent of any real intimacy. He believes himself incapable of such emotion. He would see any advance by her as a way to professional advancement with no personal force behind him. She, I think, pities him. She would like to teach him but knows he would never accept the lesson. I sense there is a third force in their deliberations, someone else to whom they are both attracted. I would very much like to meet her. I am certain that it is another woman. Whoever she is, she must be exceptional.
"What you see and what I feel are two very different things."
She fascinated me. I admit it. I didn't let it influence me though I admit I don't usually take tea with people I'm investigating. Lady Heather was studying me as intently as I studied her. She came to some startling conclusions.
"What happens here isn't about violence, it's about challenging preconceived notions of Victorian normalcy. Bringing people's fantasies to life making them real and acceptable."
"Like the Theatre." I examine the toys that are on display as if they are ancient artefacts. Some of them have probably been used in one form or other since the first sex act was performed.
"It's the people who don't come to places like this that I worry about. The ones who don't have an outlet say... someone like yourself."
She challenges me. I defend myself automatically. "I have an outlet. I read, I study bugs, I sometimes even ride rollercoasters."
"And your sex life?"
I knew we would get to that sooner or later. "It doesn't involve going to the theatre."
She smiled at me, knowingly. "In my experience Mr Grissom, some men go to the theatre, some men are the theatre. Either way what I offer is a chance for submission or control, whichever is required. Sometimes a client doesn't know what he requires until I show him."
I was determined not to let her get to me. "No man is a complete mystery except to himself. Marcel Proust."
She was still one step ahead of me. "I bet he would have enjoyed himself here."
I gave in gracefully. "Probably."
"I feel like I'm trapped in the Marquis de Sade's brain pan."
I think it was the conversation I had with Nick that pointed it out to me. His insistence that only 'freaks' would come to a place like Lady Heather's.
"People are just as twisted in their own living rooms - props are different here that's all," I said. When did I get so hard? Why did I let his insistence that he would never do something like this get to me?
"Just because you never did doesn't mean you never could."
Was I asking myself what I was capable of? Why did this place, this woman intrigue me so much?"
"One thing you learn on this job is that human beings are capable of anything."
What was I capable of? Certainly Lady Heather thought I was capable of many things. We talked. I liked her. She liked me.
"Sex pays a lot better than death." And as the lady said, the outfits were cooler.
We talked about our kids. And it struck me how alike we were, Lady Heather and I. How it would not have taken very much for me to become something like her. Especially considering where I started from. So alike - in our pasts, our attitudes to the present. Our philosophies on life. On men. We did what we had to do to get by, to put food on the table for our children. We knew who we were and we were strong and we held on to our power in the face of all the macho crap the world threw at us.
I like a little bit of civilisation before it gets dark and all the needy little boys show up. And so I offered Mr Grissom afternoon tea and a little homespun psychoanalysis. "I can read anyone who walks through this door and know their desires - sometimes even before they do. Why do you think I chose china and table linen?"
"You like fine things."
"Or maybe I knew you'd like them - same way I know you enjoy most of the superficial trappings of civilisation."
Superficial trappings. That stung him. "I'm that obvious."
"Only because you try not to be. You spend your life uncovering what goes on beneath the surface of civility and acceptable behaviour so it's a release for you to indulge in something like high tea where it seems even if only for a moment that the world really is civilised."
He tried flattery. I was a little disappointed. "You're very good - you could work for me."
"You want to be my boss?"
He redeemed himself with his next remark. "You never know - we both might learn something."
"The most telling thing about anyone is what scares them," I said. "And I know what you fear more than anything Mr Grissom."
"Being known. You can't accept that I might know what you really desire because that would mean that I know you, something that for whatever reason you spend your entire life making sure that no one else does."
That did it. I had him. He was fascinated. "Lady Heather, you are an anthropologist."
She asked me about Grissom - what he was like to work for - whether he was one of the macho creeps we had talked about earlier.
"Macho - no. Anal - yes. And sometimes incredibly insensitive. But at least he tries. He's just... not good with people. He understands them, he studies what makes them tick, what makes them snap. His understanding of abnormal pathologies is incredible. He just."
"He does not comprehend them," she said. "He understands what he classes as abnormal, but the normal defeats him."
"Pretty much," I agreed. I continued to tag and bag the masks and other fetishistic items we were confiscating as evidence. She watched me work never taking her eyes off me. I did not dare look at her. I didn't think I could cope just then with what I might see in those cool green eyes. But she was still interested in Grissom and me and how we fit together. She asked if we had a relationship outside work.
"No! No - it's complicated."
"Of course. He is your boss."
"It's not that - not just that. Grissom is."
"Complicated, many layered, extremely focused on what he is good at - which isn't people. Just when you think you've got to know him. boom! He does something and you realise that you don't know him at all. Because he doesn't want to be known. By anyone."
I stared at her. "Wow, you're good. You got all that from five minutes conversation with him."
"I am good at reading people. I have to be in my line of work." She smiled and gestured around her. "You must also have realised in your job how fine the line is between fantasy and reality, how quickly it can be crossed. What are your fantasies, Catherine?"
I ducked my head, embarrassed. "I don't know you well enough yet to have that kind of conversation."
"How well would you have to know me, Catherine?" She leaned in closer, her eyes intent on mine. I could feel my eyes drifting closed and fought to keep them open as she kissed me. Her lips were so soft. The tip of her tongue softly grazed my lower lip and I opened myself to her.
I put my hands on her shoulders, let them drift down her arms and felt the strength of her as we continued to kiss, neither of us seeking dominance for the moment.
She drew back, her incredible green-brown eyes dilated, her cheeks flushed. "I was right about you, Catherine Willows."
I tried to catch my breath. This was so not the place nor the time to be doing this. The woman was under investigation. But what she had done to me went straight to my core bypassing my brain entirely. I wanted her.
Again, she seemed to read my mind. "Consider it a promise, Catherine. Once you are free of this case and any relationship between us does not compromise you professionally then you may come and see me again. And we will talk of fantasies and realities, of the realms of possibility." Her hand caressed my cheek and then she turned and left.
I've never seen Catherine so distracted. All the way through the meeting she kept touching her lips as if she's remembering something - a kiss? Someone kissed my Cat. And it wasn't me. Come on, how could it have been me. She hasn't the slightest idea how I feel about her. And the way I act around her how could she. Could I be any more nerdy, any more obnoxious around her. No wonder everyone thinks I have a thing for Grissom. I'm turning into his female counterpart.
The sad truth is I don't know what I feel for Grissom. If he did indicate that yes, he would want to pursue a relationship with me I'd be pleased, flattered. And I would sleep with him, not because I necessarily want to, but because he asked me. What I feel for him isn't love, or even necessarily affection. I suppose the sad fact is that I'm just attention seeking. Trouble is I don't know whose attention I'm seeking...
And we would be very bad for each other, feeding off each other's worst character traits. Catherine would be good for me. And I think I would be good for her.
I considered Lady Heather's words. What did I know of people, of myself? What did I want?
Companionship - no. I like my solitude. I need my solitude. Pleasure - perhaps. No man was an island after all.
I have an open invitation to Lady Heather's. I have an open invitation with Lady Heather. But that might mean one too many compromises.
My colleagues then - Catherine - bright, beautiful and far too observant. Letting her into my private life would be a step too far. I would be lost.
Sara - again, bright, beautiful and too much like me. The one difference is that she has not yet perfected her walls against the world. She was needy. She had all but offered herself to me more than once. But I could see clearer than she could. She thought she needed me. But she doesn't. She needs Catherine. She just had not realised it yet.
And Lady Heather had also taken an interest in Catherine. That does not disturb me. Catherine can look after herself. In fact if anyone was a match for Lady Heather it was probably Catherine Willows. The thought obscurely consoles me.
We have got into the habit of having breakfast together at the end of our shift. Just Sara and me. No boys allowed. Winding down, sometimes talking shop, sometimes just sitting sipping our coffee and people watching knowing better than almost anyone the darkness that lay behind the brightness of the Las Vegas streets.
"So, what's with Grissom lately?" Sara asked. "He's even more Zen than usual?"
"I know. I swear he was quoting haikus at me earlier," I said. "But I tell you something, that Lady Heather, she rattled him." I could not put into words the effect she had had on me. Especially not to Sara Sidle.
"What was she like?"
"Confident. Powerful. Sexy as hell. And leather, lots of leather." I grinned. "She could be anything she wanted to be, do anything she wanted to do. That kind of person."
"So why is she running a fetish club?"
"She's like you and me. A people watcher. She just likes to do it under, shall we say, extreme circumstances." I tilted my head, a mischievous expression on my face. "You know, I think you'd like her."
Sara looked sceptical at that. "I hardly think so. Those people are all... freaks!"
"That's what Nick said as well. I didn't think you'd be quite so judgemental."
Sara shifted uncomfortably. "I'm not being judgemental, I just find it so." she made a half formed gesture with her hands, unable to find a word to describe what she felt that didn't sound like... judgemental. She sighed. "I'm sorry, I'm just not comfortable with... all that."
"Nothing to apologise for, Sara. Different strokes and all that."
"I envy you, you know. You're so... open."
"Sara, the upbringing I had there was no other way to be," I laughed. "Believe me. Lady Heather's is heading towards the extreme end of the spectrum I know. But I'll bet very similar things are happening behind closed doors all over this city."
"But that's just it. It's behind closed doors. It's private."
"As it is in her domain. She told us that all she does is provide a safety valve," I shrugged. "And I can't argue with that. No one is forced to go there. It's all roleplay. 'The theatrics of pleasure' she calls it."
And as I watched the still sceptical expression on the face of this woman who had grown to be more than a friend or a colleague, I wondered not for the first time what kind of pleasure I could enjoy with her.
Silently I filed away that particular titbit of information. Catherine liked leather. I can do leather. Daily I'm becoming more sure that I can do anything that Catherine wants.
She tilted her head, a mischievous expression on her face. "You know, I think you'd like her."
Possibly, probably I silently agreed with her. But it's never going to happen. What I would really like to know is how much you like her, my sweet Catherine.
I should stop doing this. I should stop wanting to be in her company outside work. But it's hard. I have feelings for her. Real feelings. Roleplay. I know all about roleplay. I do it every day. Sara Sidle is a role. The men I've dated are part of that role. My fascination with Grissom is part of that role.
What I feel for Catherine, for my beautiful Cat, has no part of that. That is the real me. And I can never let her see it.
My unease at what she described at Lady Heather's was genuine, but not for the reason I said. It intrigued me. The thought of giving myself utterly to another person. To Grissom. to Cat.
"Are you losing your hearing?"
"I'm losing my balance."
"Your sense of self?"
"No. I know who I am."
"Yes I do."
I think I noticed that Grissom was losing his hearing before he did. He was always very intent, but I noticed instead of looking at my eyes he was looking at my lips.
The lack of clarity in his hearing, the lack of clarity in our relationship troubled him. I had been his safety valve for several months now. Sometimes I would not see him for several weeks and then he would be at my private entrance three or four days in a row. And yes, I fully intended the double entendre in that statement. He would arrive early in the morning and we would have breakfast together before we were physically intimate. Again, my choice of words is precise. We did not have sex. We certainly did not make love. Sometimes there would be penetration but often enough it was me penetrating him.
He was neither submissive nor dominant. Sometimes he left it to me to decide what roles we would play at other times he would dictate the pace.
"The language we speak in here doesn't necessarily translate to the world out there."
When he climaxed he called out a name. Sometimes mine but more often than not someone elses. I did not mind. As I had said to Catherine once before - we were all playing roles. Sometimes he would call out Catherine's name when he was in the moment and sometimes the mysterious Sara. I look forward to meeting her one day.
I thought of asking Catherine to bring her to see me more than once. If the early morning's belonged to Grissom then the early evenings were Catherine's. Again, it was an irregular thing governed by her daughter's whereabouts as much as anything else.
She is a good lover, considerate, giving, open. Her beauty is quite breathtaking. She still has the body of a dancer, long slender strong legs, her skin is petal soft, golden. Childbirth has inevitably left its mark on her but the small imperfections only add to her allure.
I haven't felt like this about anyone in a long time. I'm going to have to be very careful with this one.
When I am with her I don't always see her. Sometimes it is not her name that I cry out when her skilled hands and mouth bring me to climax. The first time it happened I apologised.
"I am who you need me to be," she said, shushing me, kissing my lips, my chest. "Don't worry about it Gil. Just concentrate on being yourself. That is what matters here. Just be yourself."
I can't tell her that I don't know who that is any more. As for the other names I cry out, they belong to emotions and feelings that I can never express. Even if our working relationship did not make these things entirely inappropriate
Things had been going well between us. Nothing definite had been said, no lines had been crossed, nothing so far that stepped beyond the bounds of friendship and professional respect. But the possibility was there.
And then Eddie died.
We had been apart for years. If it wasn't for Lindsay we would probably have had nothing more to do with each other. As it was all we did when they were together for more than a few minutes was argue. And Lindsay hated that.
And now he was dead. And my colleagues and friends were trying to catch his killer. My daughter was hurting so I was hurting.
"There is a difference between me doing my job and you wanting to do it for me. You don't want to get the job done. What you want, right now, is revenge."
We lashed out at each other. I had hurt Sara by questioning her professional abilities, her commitment to solving the case.
And Sara had blanked me.
"Go home, Catherine. Be with your daughter. She's the one that needs you."
And then they had had to let the murder charge drop for lack of evidence. Sara had explained it to me. I understood. It was the way about one in five of our cases played out. It was just a pity that it had to be Eddie. I went home to Lindsay and told her that it was over that the pink haired lady was going to be punished for leaving her in the car but not for her father's death. Lindsay just nodded and went to bed. Later, I surprised myself with the intensity of the tears I shed for Eddie. And the one good thing to come from that relationship, my daughter, crawled into bed with me and comforted me.
Later, much later that night, there was a soft rap at the door. I went to open it and Sara stood there. And there were more tears. I found myself on the couch, wrapped in Sara's strong arms.
At last it got to the point where I could ask Catherine to bring Sara to see me. It was obvious that their relationship was on the point of coming to a beautiful fruition. They just needed the confidence to take that first step.
The opportunity arose after the case with poor deluded Chloe. Once I was cleared of any involvement in her crimes, Catherine returned the equipment that had been confiscated to me. I extended my condolences on the recent death of her ex-husband and asked after her daughter. She said that Lindsey was doing well under the circumstances and that Sara had been a great support to both of them. It seemed very easy to invite her as well.
I didn't make any special effort in my appearance. Catherine had told me about her ambivalence to my little world. Didn't want to frighten her away. But neither did I pretend to be something I was not.
Catherine knocked on the door then walked straight in as she had become accustomed to. I did not stand on ceremony, not with her. I was walking down the stairs as the two women came into the hall. I paused half way down to greet them and let the new girl get a good look at me. She wasn't exactly how I had pictured her from Catherine's description but that only served to show me the depth of Catherine's feelings for her. Her face was a pale oval framed by straight dark hair, dark eyes staring up at me, her expression slightly sulky as she stared up at me, as if she had a permanent slight grudge against the world. She was a couple of inches taller than Catherine and very slimly built - the slimness that comes with self-neglect rather than exercise. And she was like Grissom - a mercurial, dominant or submissive depending on circumstance and partner. With Grissom and with Catherine she would always be a submissive. With most others the force of her personality and her intellect
would ensure her dominance. With me...
Ah, but I was here to look, not to touch. I felt certain that this was one toy that Catherine Willows would not be willing to share. No matter how nicely I asked.
Catherine leaned in to her and whispered something in her ear. I caught the tail end of it "won't bite... not unless you ask her nicely." Then Sara smiled and I knew exactly why this woman intrigued Catherine Willows and Gil Grissom so completely.
I didn't know what to say to this woman I had heard so much about - both openly and in whispers about her relationship with my boss and my colleague. Not that anyone would dare to say anything to their faces about what was going on. Not even Brass. I saw someone who had such an aura about her, what one of my old college friends would have termed a psychic space that would effortlessly dominate any room, any company. And she was beautiful, in nature and in artifice. Her perfect mane of hair, her feline eyes, her body clad in skin tight leather that shaped her generous curves to perfection. There was a stillness about her that drew you. She did not need to move or speak to make a statement of the fact that this was a lady who not only enjoyed being in control but was used to being in control. And the maintenance of that control was effortless to her. She was not just a stereotypical dominatrix. She was the archetype.
I looked away. I had heard of her abilities to read characters with startling accuracy and I didn't want her to know the real me. I didn't even want Catherine to know the real me.
"Welcome, both of you. Are you here for pleasure or in a professional capacity."
"I came to return the items that we took into evidence, Lady Heather," Catherine said. "And to introduce you to my colleague, Sara."
"Ah, the enigmatic Sara Sidle. Catherine thinks a great deal of you, my dear but I wager she's never told you to your face," She descended the rest of the stairs and crossed the room to stand beside us. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that Catherine was blushing and gave me what I could only describe as a pleading look.
Lady Heather was obviously in the mood to have a little fun. "You will both take tea with me, I hope?"
"That would be very nice, thank you," I murmured politely. I still would not look directly at her but given her taste in interior decoration, was not entirely comfortable looking anywhere else, either.
"You may leave the equipment here. One of my staff will see to it." We followed the almost regal woman out of the room. No matter what I thought of the way she earned her living she effortlessly commanded my respect. I refused to contemplate what that said about me. Or what I might want from her.
Catherine had already tried to put me at my ease with her 'she won't bite' remark. And she did seem perfectly at her ease in these surroundings. Just how often did she come here? And how well did she know Lady Heather? Body language was never my forte. I couldn't tell. I was in the dark here. I just knew that I was showing every ounce of the discomfort I was feeling on my face. I always did. I was lousy at poker.
Could she tell what I felt for Catherine? Would she care? Or was she of the 'It's not who you love it's how you love and genitalia are only an accessory created by nature' school. I dared to glance up at her, caught her staring at me. Oh god. She wants me too.
This just got a whole lot more complicated.
"Your relationship is still very new, isn't it?" I asked.
Sara glanced across at Catherine as if willing her to take the lead on this. Definitely a submissive, I thought, but probably only to Catherine. There was still some strain between them, they were both speaking the language but neither of them were yet listening. Catherine dominated because she was the senior in years, in experience, in their outer lives. But Sara willingly gave her the control, but without letting go of her own power. Like Grissom she maintained her silence, her secrets. And she had many - some that she had kept for years, probably so lost in the mists that only she knew or cared about why it was a secret any more. And that bothered Catherine more than she would ever willingly admit. To her, keeping secrets from each other could only be bad. Her husband, her father both had many secrets. At the same time she has so many secrets of her own. She guards them well.
"What do you think you know about our relationship?" Sara asked.
"I know that either you control your desire or your desire will control you. You don't control anything by repressing it and pretending it doesn't exist. Do that and you've given your power up. I know that you haven't yet fully consummated your relationship, probably because of concerns over your daughter's reaction to it, Catherine. I know that you accept this, Sara because you are the submissive in this relationship but because that is not your natural state you are also confused by it."
I could see that both women were more than a little unnerved by what I had told them.
"Are you saying that we're bad for each other and we shouldn't be contemplating this?" Catherine asked. I watched the fingers of her left hand, the side closest to Sarah grasp at the air for a moment as if seeking something to hold on to and then even though she had been watching me and never even glanced at Catherine, Sara's fingers meshed with hers.
"I'm saying that if you don't act on your feelings soon, other things will get in the way and you will never act on them. You will have lost not only your personal relationship but also your professional one," I said. "You would never be at ease working with one another again. Within a few months one or both of you would leave."
"I don't need you or anyone to read me my fortune, lady," Sara sneered. Somehow I had antagonised her beyond her usual bounds. That hadn't been my intention.
"Conquer what you desire Catherine, or she will leave, and you will have lost everything."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing, what this woman was implying. And Catherine appeared to be taking every word this woman spoke as gospel. Did she have some sort of hold over her?
"Excuse me?" I interrupted. "You don't know anything about me. What gives you the right to think that you can say things about me like that. I'm not. I've never. Hell, how come it's any of your business what Cat and I do?"
"Because I count Catherine Willows as a friend. And I will not see her hurt," Lady Heather said evenly.
But it's okay to hurt me then. Are you reading me as a submissive? Your submissive? Never, no way, lady!
"Heather, it's okay, let me." Catherine started to say. I put up my hand.
"No, Cat. It is not okay. Why do you want her approval of our relationship? What the hell is she to you? I think I have a right to know."
"She is a friend, Sara. And we have been... lovers."
I noted the use of the past tense with some sadness. "We have been lovers." I would be lying if I didn't hope that Catherine Willows might have been the one, at last. The one who would stay. But no, not to be.
It saddens me but I accept it. She has moved on. I have helped her to do this. That is my self-chosen role. I can only be happy that for a little while at least, she was mine.
I cannot relax. So as usual I welcomed being busy, working on processing the evidence from a series of robberies that showed signs of an escalating level of violence. Brass wanted to catch these guys before someone died. Catherine had taken a few days personal leave to finally sort out Eddie's business affairs. We have not seen or spoken to each other for three days.
It was when I found myself crying that I realised this was slowly killing me.
Greg won't have my results for a couple of hours yet. I've done as much on the case as I could humanly do for now. I badly need to eat and to sleep but before I can allow myself that I have to go and make things right with Catherine and with Lady Heather.
So I seek out Grissom. He was feeding his spiders with what looked very much like other spiders. I carefully positioned myself so that I wouldn't have to look at them. "Griss... is it okay if I take a few hours personal time?"
"If it means you'll leave your lab and see the light of day for a change then yes," Grissom looked at me over the top of his glasses. "Is everything okay?"
I nodded, shrugged and then sighed. Great job of convincing him, I thought. If I had to talk to someone it might as well be Grissom. "It's just... everything was so much simpler when I didn't have a personal life, you know?"
"Unfortunately, yes I know exactly what you mean," Grissom said. "But the rewards are that much greater as well."
"I'm not too sure of that at the moment," I said softly.
"Things like this are never going to be easy for people like us," Grissom said. "You just have to work at it. Give it the same attention you would give one of your cases."
"Can you apply logic to love?" I asked.
He shrugged, gave a half smile. "Now you're really asking the wrong person. Go, talk to Catherine. She'll steer you right, don't worry."
Sequel Meditations on a Butterfly
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