DISCLAIMER: I know they're not mine, but it's fun to play...
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Just for the record, this doesn't make us friends." The words from the fiery red-head, punctated by the slamming of the front door, echoed through Sara's head emphasising the confusion that had been building for the last ten minutes.
What had happened tonight?
Or rather this morning the harsh desert sun shining around the edges of her curtains seemed an odd counterpoint to emotions that were more suited to the concealment of night.
What had happened?
Drinks with the guys at the end of a hard shift. The guys had left early, then an initially friendly conversation turned into an argument.
What about? Sara had to fight her way through the haze in her brain before she remembered her attempted apology to Catherine over Eddie's case and how the argument had turned into a venomous attack by the red-head, forcing Sara to defend her professionalism then eventually to fight back, pointing out times when Catherine had made mistakes of her own.
Then somehow they were kissing, all the passion of their arguments transmuted into...
It certainly seemed that way. Spiteful argument, passionate kissing both at the bar and in the taxi and then...
"Shit!" Sara's pillow flew out to hit the open door then fell to the floor, lying next to the shirt and bra that had been discarded there. "Shit, shit, bugger, damn!"
The string of curses did nothing to make her feel better. Not that she had though it would. Her relationship with Catherine had always been a complicated blend of admiration, respect, and resentment. She honestly liked her colleauge and was impressed by her flamboyant style, her professionalism, and the way she precariously balanced her career with the demands of raising a daughter: and yet they had always clashed, snapping at each other as if it were a compulsion. Their work together was top rate, no-one denied that, yet their colleagues were reputed to be running a book on whether they would one day come to blows,
Sara threw back the covers and strode naked into the bathroom, turning on the water and standing under the steaming jets, feeling the water crash into her upturned face.
"How do I get past this?" She wondered out loud. "How do I go into work tomorrow and pretend nothing happened? How do I work with her?"
A few minutes later her thoughts had changed. "This doesn't make us friends? So she would call me a friend?"
Recognising the beginning of a destructive thought pattern Sara tried to regain control of her wayward thoughts.
"Wash, get dressed, then clean up. Distract yourself." She picked up the shampoo, washing her hair quickly then picked up the soap.
"Bad Idea," Sara realised as the movement of soap on her skin triggered a vivid flashback of Catherine's hand following the same path while her lips...
"Don't go there," she commanded herself harshly. "Don't remember that."
But once triggered the flashback wouldn't stop, as in her mind Sara recalled the way Catherine's fingers had teased her nipples while her tongue dipped into her navel, sending shivers through her...
"Stop!" She didn't realise she'd spoken aloud until she heard the echo from the tiled walls. Sara forced her eyes open, as if the light of day could banish the memory, then realised her hands had acted on their own, moving to cup one breast while the other stroked the skin on her stomach, following the path that Catherine's tongue had followed.
The profanity helped her regain control of her hands, turning of the water and drying herself roughly with a thick towel. She strode into the bedroom and dressed herself in track pants and a singlet before turning to look at the bed.
The bed where Catherine had hovered over her, eyes full of triumph as she lowered her head between Sara's thighs, a look of conquest which had triggered Sara to use her strength to reverse their positions and to take, almost forcefully, the first lick between those red-gold curls. Not that her dominion lasted long, a few seconds later she had been powerless to resist when Catherine urged her to turn around. After that it was more like a race as each tried to drive the other over the edge again and again.
"Don't do this," Sara tried to command her brain, before deciding to remove the scene of the crime, so to speak. She knew from professional experience how well sheets retained the memory of what had transpired, so she stripped them ruthlessly from the bed and threw them in the hamper in the corner. Maybe with new covers she would be able to look at her bed and not remember.
It was as she was folding the corners of the new sheets that she noticed an unfamiliar sock just under the bed. It was thin, and had a floral pattern at the edge, definitely not one of her own.
"Great," she thought, "Another thing to deal with. Do I return it, or pretend I haven't found it?" Alternate scenarios ran through her mind. "Good morning Catherine, how are you? Oh, I found one of your socks under my bed?" Or Catherine asking for it with a flippant "I'm not the kind of girl to leave souvenirs." But if she didin't return it what would Catherine think? Maybe she could sneak it into Catherine's locker before shift. Or should she wash it?
She looked again at the bed, remembering the grace with which Catherine had removed her slacks; her own clumsiness as she responded to the unspoken challenge; the feel of skin on skin as they fell back.
Just then there was a knocking at the front door. Looking around quickly to see if any evidence of the morning's events remained Sara kicked her discarded clothes into the hamper and put the incriminating sock into her pocket before going to the door and looking through the peep hole.
Red hair and blue eyes looked back at her.
After a few moments though Sara realised she had to choice but to open it, even though her first instinct was to run back into the bedroom and hide her head under the pillow until Catherine went away. Only, in real terms, Catherine would never go away: she'd be there at work everyday.
So she undid the locks then retreated to the couch, unable to take the step of opening the door. It didn't matter, Catherine pushed the door open a few seconds later and stepped hesitantly into the room, closing the door behind her.
"We need to talk," the red-head said softly.
"Really?" It took concentration to keep her voice from revealing her inner turmoil "I thought you'd said it all with your snappy exit line. It sounds pretty practiced actually, I'm a bit worried."
Catherine winced slightly at the retort then took a deep breath, looking around at the room she hadn't noticed on her earlier arrival, nor on her precipitous departure less than an hour later. Her eyes returned to her brown-haired colleague, noticing that though her words had been harsh Sara's eyes couldn't meet her own.
"I didn't come here to fight again, even though our last fight had such..." Catherine paused, struggling for words, "spectacular results."
"Why did you come back then?"
Catherine took an uninvited seat on the couch, forcing Sara to turn to look at her. "I wanted to apologise, and to explain."
"Why would you want to explain anything, it's not like we're friends." The hurt was palpable in those words, and without conscious thought Catherine reached out to take Sara's hand, holding it even though her younger colleague tensed at the contact.
"Maybe we're not conventional, going shopping, toe-nail painting friends," Catherine began, "But I definitely think of you as a friend. I guess I'm not so good at showing that sometimes."
"Sometimes?" Sara noted sarcastically.
"Let me finish, please?" she asked, waiting for Sara's faint nod before continuing, "I've never had a lot of female friends, especially in the last few years. It seems like every moment is either work or Lindsay. Since her father died it's been so much worse: he may not have been the best dad in the world, but he was the only dad Lindsay had: and the only break I had from her. The last few months I feel like it's been a constant struggle just to keep it together. Then you apologised to me and I realised..."
Sara was finally looking at her, deep brown eyes sparkling with... what? Unshed tears?
"I know I lashed out at you when it happened Sara, but I should never have left you feeling like you let us down. If you didn't find enough evidence to put them away it's because the evidence wasn't there to find. When you tried to apologise this morning I was so angry at myself for making you feel that way, I just lashed out blindly. It was a wrong thing to do, and a rotten way to treat a friend. I'm sorry."
There tears were flowing down Sara's face now, silently leaving wet paths down her cheeks, and Catherine reached across to brush the tears away.
"I'm not crying," the Sidle defiance came to the fore as Sara fumbled in her pocket for a handkerchief. Instead she pulled out a brightly flowered sock, then froze.
Catherine stared for a moment, her unclad foot wriggling uncomfortably in her boot, then found herself laughing uncontrollably at the sight of her colleague; no, her friend; staring at that sock as if it were evidence of some great crime. Catherine struggled to control the laughter.
"Nice sock," she couldn't resist saying when she finally got her breath back. "I used to have a pair just like that, but I seem to have lost one..."
That set them both off. The relief laughter provided from the earlier tension was so great that every time they met each other's eyes it triggered another wave. Finally Catherine took the sock from Sara's hand, looking at it bemusedly.
"You know, I couldn't find it earlier. I was so confused that I felt like I couldn't be in the same room as you, so I just shoved my foot into the boot anyway and ran out. Not very comfortable."
"God, aren't you? One second we're yelling at each other, the next..." Catherine paused, searching again for words. "I'm no angel Sara, and sometimes I've done things I wasn't proud of, and that includes one night stands. But I've never... Last night, or this morning, that was..." Catherine closed her eyes at the memory. "Afterwards I just wanted to curl up in your arms and stay there. That's what scared me, confuses me."
"That's what threw me," Sara admitted. "One second we're lying there, and I was feeling confused but good. Then the next thing I know you're getting dressed and running out the door."
"I'm sorry for leaving that way, and I'm sorry for what I said. If it makes you feel better I didn't get far; just back to the bar to pick up my car, then instead of driving home I found myself coming back here."
"Why did you come back?" Sara asked defensively.
"Because I really love this sock?" Catherine offered with a grin, then turned serious. "Because I was scared that if I waited you'd never let me back in, and for some reason it's important to me that you don't shut me out."
"What do you want from me Catherine?"
"Honestly, I'm not sure." The guarded look was back in Sara's eyes. "I guess there's two possible answers to that. The easy answer is that I want to be your friend. The other answer is much more complicated than that."
"Why is it complicated?"
"Because I'm not in the habit of being screwed senseless by my friends. I don't think about my friends naked, and I've never wanted to fall asleep in my firends arms, and after last night..."
It was out in the open now, the topic they'd been shying around since Catherine returned.
"You think about me naked?"
"I didn't, but now... Sara, you do know that you're beautiful, right?"
"Right," she replied sarcastically.
"I'm serious," Catherine said simply. "I, uh, this was the second time I came to the door. The first time I heard the shower running and I couldn't stop myself imagining you... instead of ringing the bell I bolted for the car."
"I was thinking about you too," Sara blushed. "Only instead of running to the car I got dressed and stripped the bed."
"You changed the sheets?" Catherine didn't know whether to feel disappointed of pleased. "Why?"
"Because every time I saw the bed I had flashbacks to you," Sara said wryly. "I'm thinking I may need to buy a new bed if I ever intend to get a full nights sleep again."
Catherine was smiling now. "Really?"
"That, and I was wondering how I was going to face you at work."
"So what now? Are we still friends?"
"I want us to be." Sara looked down at her hands, then looked up again when Catherine brushed her thumb over the back of Sara's hand.
"What about this morning?" Catherine asked. "Was it just an aberration?"
"Or something more?" Sara suggested hesitantly. "A revelation?"
"I don't know," Catherine was thoughtful. "But I'm still thinking about falling asleep in your arms."
"It'll be difficult," Sara warned. "We'd fight a lot." She paused at the sudden grin on Catherine's face. "What?"
"Okay, but don't go thinking I'm crazy." After a deep breath Catherine continued. "I was thinking after this morning that maybe fighting isn't so bad after all. And then there's always the making up."
"Oh... ooh!" Sara went red.
"You're so cute when you blush." The red deepened. "Who would have thought you could blush like that."
"Leave me alone."
"Is that what you really want?"
"I don't know, there's something I need to..." Sara leant forward and asked hesitantly, "Catherine, may I kiss you?"
Catherine didn't bother to reply, just moved in closer with parted lips. Sara closed the distance, brushing her lips against Catherine's. Everything that had been lacking in their earlier, angrier clashes of tongues and teeth was there in this gentle tentative exploration.
An unknown time late they pulled apart.
"Is that what you needed to know?" Catherine whispered. Sara just nodded, then held out her hand to the petite red-head before leading her into the bedroom and closing the door.
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