DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters or CSI. I am just letting them out of the box for a while.
SPOILERS: It takes place post-Nesting Dolls and contains spoilers for many other episodes. This story is, at times, quite dark and deals with Sara's childhood abuse.
WARNING: This story deals with the subject of child abuse and its aftermath.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

No Matter How Far You Go
By sydneysmoms

Part One

Sara decided to drive. She had no particular destination in mind. She just needed the mind clearing sensation of having miles of road ahead of her, the lane markings passing her by in an almost hypnotizing rhythm.

She had been back to work for a month following her suspension by Ecklie. She felt even further isolated from her co-workers than she had before. Except for, perhaps, Sofia. They seemed to have forged some sort of understanding or bond, probably because they were both in Ecklie's doghouse. Most of the techs seemed standoffish at best and outright uncomfortable around her at worst, as if associating with her would bring Ecklie's wrath down on their heads. Nick and Warrick, with whom she had at least a comfortable familiarity, were on a different shift entirely. Greg was adjusting to his promotion and needed guidance, not to be loaded down with someone else's baggage.

Grissom was still….Grissom. He had been kind since their discussion at her apartment some weeks before, but there was always an expression of pity lurking behind his eyes whenever he saw her. He also seemed to be getting very cozy with Sofia and that bothered Sara. She had thought that it was the work thing, that he hadn't wanted to muddy the waters by getting involved with a co-worker, but, clearly, he was willing to become involved with people at work, just not Sara. Not that she still wanted him. In fact, she wasn't at all sure she had actually wanted him in the first place, but the renewed sting of his rejection was the icing on a very complex cake.

And then there was Catherine. They had always had a tenuous working relationship. From the beginning Catherine seemed to look at Sara as Grissom's pet, a mole brought in to spy on Warrick and, by extension, the rest of them. It took a long time to build the fragile truce they usually enjoyed. They made a great team when they could bottle the acid long enough to work together, but Catherine could push her buttons better than almost anyone she had ever known. Sara had already been on the ragged edge after the interview with that asshole Melton. She lost it with Catherine in the hallway in front of Ecklie, then she lost it with Ecklie and damn near got fired. Now Ecklie lurked in the hallways like he was trying to catch her doing something wrong, she and Catherine had barely glanced at each other for a month and she really didn't know what to do about any of it.

Hence, the driving. Of course, she would have preferred to be riding her new Ridgeback, but it was still in the paint shop. So until her new ride was ready she was in the car on her way to nowhere and, apparently, catching every red traffic light in Las Vegas.

Some movement to her right drew her attention to the mouth of an alley. Four young men were surrounding what looked to be a young girl, but it was difficult to see her. The teens looked like gangster wannabes. LVPD was seeing more and more suburban white kids hanging out in the more depressed areas of town, dressing the part, trying to increase their street cred. She pulled over, wishing she had her sidearm in case the boys were a little more dangerous than they appeared to be.

Sara carefully approached the group and, sounding more confident than she actually felt, asked, "What's going on guys?"

When the group turned around, she got her first good look at the girl and realized with a start that it was Lindsey Willows. Just as she began to wonder what Lindsey was doing by herself in this part of town, her attention was drawn back to the boys that caused her to pull over in the first place.

"None of your business. We are just talking to our friend here. So why don't you just keep on going wherever you were going?" the largest of the four said.

"See the problem is, Lindsey actually is my friend. I work with her mom at the Las Vegas Police Department, so unless you look forward to sharing a cell with someone a lot bigger and meaner than you for the next, say, ten or fifteen years, you should just run along on back to mommy and daddy, like the good little boys I know you are, and leave the girl alone."

The four teens looked at Sara then at each other deciding what to do, before their leader spoke up and said, "Yo, man, this little blonde bitch isn't worth the effort anyways. We're out." And with that they walked down the street looking for someone else to hassle.

Satisfied the boys were gone, Sara turned her attention to Lindsey, who was trying not to look as frightened as she actually was.

"Lindsey, are you alright? Did they hurt you?"

"No. I'm OK."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, thanks, though, for…you know," Lindsey said gesturing towards the direction her harassers fled.

"No problem."

"Yeah, well…thanks," she said and began to walk away.

"Hey, hold on a second," Sara said, following Lindsey. "Why don't you get in the car and I will take you wherever you need to go. This isn't such a great neighborhood, Lindsey."

"No, that's OK. I'll be fine."

"Lindsey, I can't let you do that. Come on, get in the car. I'll drop you at home or your aunt's or something."

Lindsey was quiet for a moment before she said, "I don't want to go home."

Sara looked at Lindsey, who was sullenly looking at the pavement. Sara didn't know what to do, but she knew she couldn't leave Lindsey in this part of town. "Well, look, I'm sure we can figure something out. Get in the car. Please."

"OK." Lindsey got in Sara's car and fastened her seatbelt.

Sara walked around to the driver's side and got in. She started the car and drove off. They drove several blocks in silence. Sara was really feeling out of her depth. Not only was Lindsey a kid, which made her uncomfortable to begin with, but she was Catherine's kid, a woman with whom her relationship could currently be described as absolutely glacial. Putting those two things together was a recipe for disaster, but her choices were quite limited.

"So…uh…if you don't want to go home, where do you want to go?" Sara asked.

"Somewhere else."

"Well that narrows it down." Sara said with a sigh. She looked at Lindsey before making a decision. "Let's get some coffee."

"I don't drink coffee, Sara." Lindsey said with a small grin.

"Ah…strictly an espresso girl, huh?"


Sara thought for a moment. "Hot chocolate?"


Sara made a right and kept driving. But for the first time today she had a destination in mind.

Sara and Lindsey sat in Wired, Sara's favorite coffee haunt, with their drinks in hand neither quite knowing how to start a conversation. Lindsey was staring into the rapidly melting whipped cream on top of her hot chocolate. Sara didn't have the first idea where to begin. Conversation, especially 'touchy feely' conversation, was not her forte. She had always been the strong and silent type, first by necessity and now by habit.

"You can't tell Mom where you found me," Lindsey's voice brought Sara out of her musings. She looked up to find Lindsey looking at her intently.

"I think I have to, Lindsey," Lindsey opened her mouth to protest, but Sara stopped her by continuing, "Lindsey, she is going to find out eventually. Trust me, moms always do. And when she does, and I haven't told her, it won't be pretty for either of us. Your mom and I …well…I just don't want to add fuel to the fire. She hates me enough already."

"Join the club," Lindsey snorted.

That statement brought Sara up short. "Catherine doesn't hate you, Lindsey."

"Yes, she does."

"No. No, she doesn't. Why would you think that?"

"She's never home. And when she is, she is always mad about something."

"So, you don't see her much?" Sara asked, trying to understand.

"Sara, I go to school at 7:30. I get out at 2:30. Her shift starts at 4. I see her for maybe an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. If she doesn't go to work early like today," Lindsey said bitterly.

"OK, but what did you mean 'she's always mad'? What is she mad about?"

Lindsey shrugged her shoulders. "Lots of stuff. My grades, my 'attitude'," she said using her fingers to make quotation marks in the air.

"I thought you liked school. I mean, Catherine's always saying how smart you are."

Lindsey looked surprised and then sad. "She used to help me with my homework and stuff, or just hang out, watch a movie or whatever. But now I'm asleep when she gets home and…."

Sara let the sentence hang for a minute before quietly saying, "And you miss her."

Lindsey's eyes filled with tears before answering in a small voice, "Yeah."

"Have you told her that?"

"She doesn't care. She'd rather be at work."

"She cares, Linds. With her promotion and everything, it's important she does a good job."

"She loves her stupid job more than she loves me."

"I don't think…."

"And it's not like I have a dad anymore. Aunt Nancy is OK, but I'm not her kid. I might as well not have a mom at all."

Sara started to feel a familiar flash of regret at the mention of Eddie Willows, but that was quickly overtaken by a crushing sadness at Lindsey's last statement.

"Lindsey….look….," Sara struggled between her desire to help the girl and the things she would have to talk about in order to offer that help. "You're how old? Twelve?"


"Lindsey, I…I know what it's like to grow up without any parents. My dad….well, he was….he died when I was about your age. And then my mom…had to leave, I guess you could say, and I spent the next six years going from foster home to foster home, without anyone who really knew me or cared about me or what I wanted. Not that I had that when my parents were around either, but … I would have given anything to spend a couple of hours a day with someone who loved me as much as I know Catherine loves you." 'I still would,' Sara added silently.

"So I should just be grateful for what I can get, is that what you are saying?" Lindsey said petulantly.

"No, no that's not…God, I suck at this…It's just… You have people who care about you a lot and that's more than a lot of other people have. It's more than I ever….I just think that if you talk to her, like you are talking to me now, and explain everything, she will do everything she can to fix things and make you happy."

"She won't listen. The minute she hears I was hitchhiking again she will start yelling and ground me for, like, a year and everything will be the same as it is now."

"Well then make her promise to listen to everything you have to say before she gets to talk." Lindsey looked at Sara skeptically. "I don't know. Make her pinkie promise or something," Sara said desperately.

"Pinkie promise?" Lindsey asked with a grin.

"What? Nobody can break a pinkie promise. It's a scientific fact. People do still pinkie promise, don't they?" Sara said with an answering smile.

"I guess I could give it a try."


They sat in silence for a few minutes before Lindsey shyly said, "Thanks Sara."

"Sure," Sara looked around self-consciously. "And if you ever need to…well, here are my numbers." Sara took out a business card and started to write something on the back. "That is my cell and that's my apartment, if you ever need to talk or…. whatever."


"No sweat," Sara paused for a minute, wanting to know something, wondering if she should even ask. "Hey, Linds?"


"Were you, maybe, trying to make your mom mad on purpose, so she'd notice you more?"

Lindsey shrugged, "At least when she's yelling at me, I know she's paying attention."

Sara nodded and looked into her empty coffee cup with a soft laugh.

"Why is that funny?" Lindsey asked, not understanding Sara's amusement.

"It's not," Sara said looking into Lindsey's questioning eyes. "I was, actually, just thinking that you and I have a lot in common."

"Yeah, I guess." Lindsey paused for a moment, thinking. "I'm sorry all that stuff happened to you, Sara. With your parents, I mean."

Sara stared at Lindsey for a minute before looking down at the table and replying, "Thanks. Lindsey, um, some of the things I told about my past…well, nobody else really knows about. Well, except Grissom, I guess. And I would appreciate it if we could keep those things between us, OK?"


Sara released a breath she didn't realize she was holding and said, "Thanks."

"So, can you drop me at my aunt's house?"

Sara pretended to think about the request before saying, "Only if you do something for me in exchange."

"What?" Lindsey asked suspiciously.

"Talk to your mom in the morning. Tell her what you told me."

"Yeah, I will."

"Promise?" Sara asked holding out her pinkie.

Lindsey smiled and shook her head before grabbing Sara's pinkie with her own. "Promise."

"OK. Let's go."

As Sara and Lindsey walked to the car Sara suddenly had an idea, "Hey, doesn't your school hold double sessions because of overcrowding or something?"

Lindsey looked at Sara curiously before answering, "Yeah. Half the kids come to school at 10 and don't get out until five. Why?"

"Well, I was just thinking that if you switched to the late session, you could have three solid hours with your mom in the mornings. It's just a thought." Sara shrugged.

"Maybe." Lindsey said, obviously giving the suggestion serious thought.

At about 10 o'clock Catherine was in her office, finally having a moment to herself. It was turning out to be a rough shift. She sighed, running a hand through her hair. She had hoped to spend a little time with Lindsey after she got out of school, but she had been called in early to deal with double murder and was now waiting on some test results from Hodges.

Her promotion to swing shift supervisor, while good for her career, had been hell on her personal life. Lindsey was acting out, hitchhiking, mouthing off and generally being a real pain in the ass. Catherine knew she needed to spend more time with her daughter, but with this new schedule, she didn't know how to make it work.

Picking up the phone, she dialed her sister's number, wanting to check on Lindsey.


"Hey Nance. How's Linds?"

"She's fine. Sleeping."

"And she was good for you tonight?"

"She was great tonight, actually," Nancy said with some amazement in her voice. "A little quiet, but I'll take that over the sarcasm and moodiness any day."

"Good. Maybe she's finally adjusting to this new schedule."

"Hmmm. Maybe."

"I hope so. I'm close to the end of my rope with her."

"She's a good kid, Catherine. You guys will work this out," Nancy said confidently. Things had been very strained between her sister and niece for a while, even before Catherine's promotion. Nancy had thought Lindsey was jealous because her mom was getting serious about Chris, but, even after the breakup, Lindsay continued to act out.


"Oh and, by the way, if you are going to have someone pick her up from school, let me know so I don't worry."

Catherine's brow furrowed. "What are you talking about?"

"She was really late. I was getting worried and was just about to call you, when she pulled up in a car with that woman from the lab."

"Woman from the.." Catherine began. She could feel her anger rising by the minute. "Do you mean Sara – Sara Sidle?"

"Yeah, that's the one. I thought you knew."

"No. I didn't." Catherine said through clenched teeth. "When did she finally get to the house?"

"About 4:30."

"She gets out of school at 2:30. What the hell was she doing with Sara for two hours?"

"Catherine, I'm sorry. I thought you knew what was going on."

"No, but I am sure as hell going to find out," Catherine replied. "Thanks, Nancy. I will be by to pick her up at about 12:30."

"OK, see you then."

Catherine hung up the phone and immediately started to pace around her office, her mind going a mile a minute. Why would Lindsey be with Sara at all, much less spend two hours with her. Catherine's mind was furiously creating a thousand different scenarios, none of them good.

By the time she saw Sara enter the locker room down the hall, she was seeing nothing but red.

Sara arrived about an hour early for her shift, as usual, and was changing into her work clothes when the door to the locker room nearly came off the hinges from the force exerted to open it.

She turned around to see an absolutely enraged Catherine bearing down on her until they were face to face.

"What were you doing with my daughter?"

"Catherine –"

"What? I don't take enough of your garbage here at work? Are you trying to fill my daughter's head with your bullshit? What did you tell her, huh? How her mother uses her sexuality to get ahead?"

"No, Catherine. I –"

"I don't know what your problem is with me, but whatever it is, you need to deal with ME. Don't take your fucked up, irrational, socially retarded point of view and try to poison my daughter's mind. You stay away from me and you stay the hell away from my daughter. Do you understand?"

"Catherine, I –" Sara tried to respond, but her breath was stolen when she was pushed roughly into the lockers behind her. She closed her eyes as her head and upper back collided with lockers with a loud crash and the pain made her gasp.

Catherine's voice passed through the shock and fog in Sara's mind and she opened her eyes to find Catherine's face just inches from her own. Catherine's arm was across Sara's chest keeping her pinned to the lockers. "Do. You. Understand. Me.?"

Memories and Sara's own fear caused tears to well up in her eyes as she answered in a small voice, "Yes. I understand."


Catherine stepped back and walked out of the room without looking back.

Sara slid down to the floor, still not quite believing what had just happened. After trying to calm down, she stood up and, with shaking hands, she finished getting dressed.

She thought she was doing the right thing by talking to Lindsey, but, obviously, she had fucked up again. As far as Catherine was concerned, Sara had never done anything right and never would. As she felt the rapidly rising lump on the back of her head, Sara cursed herself for letting anyone hurt her. Again. She rolled her shoulders and winced, knowing she would end up with an ugly bruise on her back. She had never seen Catherine that angry. She hadn't seen anyone that angry for a long time.

She had thought she was helping Lindsey, but, clearly, Catherine didn't want Sara anywhere near her daughter. Sara just wished she knew what she had done that was so wrong.

Catherine awoke from a fitful sleep. She needed to talk to Lindsey and find out what she was doing with Sara. As she tried to formulate a plan for the conversation, she heard her bedroom door open and looked up to find Lindsey dressed and ready for school.

"Lindsey, we don't have to leave for another hour."

"I know, but I wanted to talk to you and I didn't want to have to stop to get ready for school."

"Good thinking," Catherine said, patting the bed next to her offering Lindsey a seat next to her in the bed. "What did you want to talk about?"

Lindsey was nervous as she looked at her mom and said, "First you have to promise to let me tell you everything all the way through before you say anything. Can you do that?"

Catherine looked confused but said, "Sure, honey."

"Pinkie Promise?" Lindsey said offering her pinkie to her mother.

Catherine smiled and linked pinkies with her daughter. "Pinkie promise," she affirmed. "I didn't know kids still did the pinkie promise thing."

"We don't, but Sara said nobody can break a pinkie promise, so I thought it was worth a try."


"That's part of the story that you're not allowed to interrupt, OK?"

"Sorry. Go ahead."

"Yesterday, after school, I didn't get the school bus to Aunt Nancy's. I was trying to hitchhike again."

The fear that flashed through Catherine's soul at the thought of what could have happened to her daughter while hitch hiking, overrode the pinkie promise and Catherine said, "Lindsey, you know how dangerous –"

"MOM! I know that now. That's part of the story too. You promised to let me tell you the whole thing. Please."

Catherine took a deep breath to calm down. "Alright. I'm sorry. Keep talking."

"Anyway, I was walking down the street and ...." Lindsey briefly thought about skipping over the part about the gang of boys, but decided to be completely honest. "And four big guys came up to me and sort of surrounded me."

Catherine closed her eyes, dreading what was coming next.

"They were trying to make me go in this alley. I was starting to get really scared. I didn't know what to do, Mommy. And then all of a sudden I heard a voice asking the boys what they were doing. I looked up and it was Sara. She told them to leave me alone and they did. They left."

Catherine breathed a heavy sigh of relief and whispered, "Oh, thank God."

"She said she'd give me a ride, but I told her I was fine, that I didn't need one. But she said she couldn't leave me by myself and made me get in the car."

Catherine knew then that she had been wrong about Sara. Catherine didn't remember exactly what had happened in the locker room. In her rage, the confrontation was a bit of a blur. She did remember she said some awful things to Sara. Catherine was beginning to understand just how wrong she had been the night before, but she pushed that to the back of her mind. She needed to focus on Lindsey.

"Anyway, I didn't feel like going home or to Aunt Nancy's, so Sara took me for coffee."

Lindsey noticed Catherine's raised eyebrow.

"Well, she had coffee. I had hot chocolate. She took me to this really cool place called Wired. Have you been there?"

Catherine shook her head.

"It was neat. Good whipped cream, too."

Catherine smiled.

"So, Sara and I talked for a long time about a lot of stuff. About you. About Daddy."

Lindsey stopped talking for a minute to collect herself. Catherine ran a soothing hand through Lindsey's hair.

"We talked about how I've been acting and why. It all sort of comes down to the fact that...." Lindsey looked Catherine straight in the eye and finished, "I miss you, Mom, and I want for us to have more time together."

Catherine could feel her tears begin as she listened to her daughter.

"Sara helped me understand that I've been doing things I knew would upset you, just so you would notice me again. But I don't want to do that anymore. I want things to be more like they were before. I mean, I know you have to work as much as you do to catch the bad guys and I know you didn't get to pick your new shift, so I've been trying to figure out a way we can spend more time together and I think I have a plan."

Lindsey looked at her mother expectantly, but Catherine just raised her eyebrows and waited for Lindsey to lay out her plan. Lindsey looked confused for a moment before remembering, "Oh, right! You're not allowed to talk." Catherine simply nodded and waited patiently.

"OK, so...I want to switch to the second session at school. I mean, that way I won't have to be there until 10 and we can at least have a few more hours in the morning to hang out or whatever." Lindsey paused making sure there wasn't anything else she wanted to tell her mom. "Yeah, so that's my plan. What do you think? You can talk now."

But instead of talking, Catherine simply pulled Lindsey into her arms and held her tight.

"I love you so much. Do you know that?" Catherine said as she pulled out of the embrace.

"I love you too, Mom."

"And I am so sorry you felt like I was ignoring you. I know I get wrapped up in my job, but I am going to make sure that I am giving you what you need." Catherine sighed before continuing, "It seems like forever since we have done this, you know. Just sat and talked. You are the most important thing in my life, Lindsey, and I'm not sure I would have known how to get this talk started. I am so glad you came to me this morning."

"Well, I was kind of afraid to, but Sara made me pinkie promise so…."

"She did, huh?"

"Yeah. I really like her, Mom. She was so cool yesterday, chasing those boys off and then treating me like a grown-up at the coffee shop. She talked to me like I was a person, not just a little kid. She really helped me figure some things out."

"She did all that?"

"She's really cool. Maybe it's because we have so much in common."

"You two have a lot a lot in common?"

"Yeah, I mean, she told some things about when she was growing up and she really understood how I was feeling."

"What kind of things did she tell you?"

"Well…um…I sort of promised to keep it between the two of us. I mean, Sara and me. She said that she had never told anyone, well, except for Mr. Grissom, and now me, I guess, so I told her I wouldn't tell. Is that OK?"

Catherine thought about that for a minute. If Sara felt a need for privacy, Catherine shouldn't intrude on that. But she also didn't want her daughter overwhelmed by a secret she felt she needed to keep out of loyalty to her new friend.

"Well, are you confused by anything Sara told you or is there something she said that you think I should know?"

"No. It wasn't anything bad, Mom. Just some things she thought would help me think things through."

"OK. If you are sure."

"I am. She's really nice. She said I could call her whenever I wanted to. She even gave me all her numbers." Lindsey pulled the card Sara gave her out of her pocket and showed it to Catherine.

"That is really nice," Catherine said, looking at the strong handwriting on the card. "I'm glad she could help you think things through, honey. And speaking of thinking, that is a great plan you came up with."

Lindsey looked at her mother sheepishly, "Well….that was sort of Sara's idea, too."

Catherine smiled and said, "Well, it doesn't matter whose idea it was. It's a really good one. In fact, we should get out of here and get to school, so we can fill out whatever forms we need to switch you over."

"Cool. Thanks, Mom. I love you."

"I love you, too, baby," Catherine said as she watched her daughter bounce out of the room.

Catherine sighed. Now that things were more settled with Lindsey, Catherine allowed herself to think about Sara. When she thought about the things she remembered saying to Sara last night, given what she now knew about what had actually happened, she felt like the worst human being on the planet. She knew she had to find Sara as soon as she could. She had to try to make things right. The problem was, she didn't know if that was even possible.

Catherine made it to the lab right before nightshift was scheduled to end. She checked the locker room and the break room with no luck. She walked down the hall towards Sara's favorite layout room and looked through the glass. Instead of Sara, Catherine found Sofia. "Well, it won't hurt to ask, I guess...," Catherine whispered to herself as she opened the door.

Sofia looked up as the door opened. "Catherine," Sofia said with some disdain in her voice. She and Catherine had had a run in during the infantilism case a few weeks ago and things had been pretty chilly between them since.

"Sofia," Catherine said with a sigh.

"Did you need something or are you just here to interrupt my work?"

Catherine bit back a particularly satisfying retort and simply explained why she was there. "Actually, I'm looking for Sara. Do you know where she is?"

"She's not here."

"Could you be any less specific, Sofia?"

"I could try, but I don't think so."

"Is she at a scene?"


"Jesus Christ, Sofia. Do you know where she is or not?" Catherine had had enough of Sofia's attitude. 'Why does this woman have to be so infuriating?'

Sofia looked at Catherine for a long moment before she said, "She left at about one. She seemed out of sorts. Couldn't really focus. She said she might be coming down with something. I assume she went home."

"Thank you." Catherine turned on her heel and left the lab.

As she got into her car to go to Sara's house, Catherine realized she had no idea where the young brunette lived. "Well, shit," she said as she pulled out her cell phone to call Grissom.

Sara was sitting on her sofa, still in her work clothes, a heating pad on her upper back and an icepack on her head. 'Just like old times,' she thought wryly as she drained the last of her beer. Try as she might, she couldn't get the confrontation with Catherine out of her head, so she had stayed up all night dissecting the conversation like she would a crime scene. It never seemed to fail, anytime she tried to do the right thing, especially where Catherine was concerned, it always blew up in her face.

Sara knew helping Lindsey was the right thing to do, but somehow her attempt to help the girl had come back to bite her in ass, or, rather, the head and upper back. Sara doubted Lindsey had even talked to her mother yet, but it didn't really matter. Catherine would find some way to turn it around and blame something on Sara.

The fact that Catherine had gotten physical with her in the locker room shouldn't have surprised Sara. She had seen Catherine like that during Eddie's case, when that awful woman with the pink hair had admitted to leaving Lindsey in a sinking car. Sara thought Catherine was going to kill the would-be singer. And Sara had wanted to let her. 'Catherine reacted the same way tonight. She thought I was messing with Lindsey.'

Although she could see where Catherine was coming from, the moment Catherine pushed her scared Sara and brought back memories of her parents that Sara just wanted to forget. With a heavy sigh, Sara decided to try and get some sleep, returning the chemical ice pack to the freezer and putting the heating pad away. She tentatively moved her aching muscles and padded to her bedroom to get changed. Halfway down the hallway, she heard a tentative knock on the door. She let out another sigh and hung her head, not wanting to deal with a visitor. "Well, it's either a Jehovah's Witness or Grissom," she said as she made her way to the door.

Looking through the peephole, Sara froze as she saw a shock of strawberry blond hair. Surprise and annoyance mixed with anger raced through her at the sight of Catherine standing outside her door. She also couldn't contain a small rush of fear, which pissed her off. Fear made her feel small and weak. Two things she never wanted to feel again.

Sara took a deep breath as she prepared to open the door. She opened the door and looked at Catherine through the three- inch space the security chain allowed. Sara fixed Catherine with a cold stare and said, "I got the message Catherine. You shouldn't be here."

"Sara, I just want to talk to you. Please."

"I think we've talked enough for one day, don't you?"

"No, as a matter of fact, I don't. Please, Sara, I just need 5 minutes."

"Go home, Catherine."

"Sara, I will stand out here all day if I have to."

Sara closed her eyes and sighed. "Fine." She looked at Catherine for a few seconds before closing the door. She unhooked the chain and opened the door a few inches before she walked across the room and waited for Catherine to come in.

Catherine heard the chain being unlatched and saw the door open a few inches. She waited a few seconds expecting the door to continue opening. When it didn't, she pushed it open and looked into the apartment. By force of habit, Catherine looked around, studying the room as she would a crime scene. Her eyes scanned the room until they landed on Sara, who stood on the other side of the room, watching the older woman scan her apartment.

Catherine's scrutiny of Sara's home made the younger woman feel vulnerable and unaccountably angry. "Are you looking for something?"

Catherine was surprised by the venom in Sara's voice and stammered, "No..I just..."

"If you have something to say, you should say it."

Catherine studied her own hands, knowing Sara was not going to make this easy. 'Nor should she,' she thought to herself. "I had a talk with Lindsey this morning," Catherine began, "and she told me what happened yesterday." Catherine glanced up at Sara trying to gauge her reaction. Sara's face was as stoic as she had ever seen it, but Catherine knew she had to look Sara in the eye when she said what was on her mind. "I owe you an apology. I let everything that had happened at work, the new shift, everything that had happened between us, things with Lindsey, with Chris -- just everything, all that frustration-- build up and I aimed it straight at you.

"All I knew last night was that Lindsey was two hours late getting to Nancy's and that you had dropped her off. Honestly, given our history, I couldn't think of any good reason that would happen. I worked myself up over it for an hour and then, when I saw you, I just lost it. You didn't deserve that and I'm sorry," Catherine finished, looking at Sara for some sort of reaction.

Sara was honestly surprised. She had expected more of the same vitriol from last night. Catherine had never apologized to her. Not in the five years. Sara wasn't sure how to handle this new development, so she remained silent.

When Catherine realized Sara wasn't going to say anything, she continued, "But I didn't just come here to apologize. I also have to thank you." Catherine paused, trying to gather her thoughts and make sure she said everything she needed to say. "Lindsey and I had a long talk this morning. She told me that you helped her figure some things out and that you encouraged her to tell me how she was feeling. We haven't talked like that in a long time and I know you had a lot to do with that. So thank you."

Sara felt a light blush crawl up from her neck as she replied, "She's a good kid. She would have talked to you eventually."

"I don't know about that. At the rate we were going, she might never have talked to me again," Catherine replied. "But that's not what I am most thankful to you for."

Sara's brow furrowed in confusion, clearly not knowing where Catherine was going with this.

"Lindsey told me about the boys that had cornered her and how you ran them off." Catherine took a few tentative steps towards Sara as she continued, "Sara, you probably saved her life yesterday. At the very least, you saved her body, and there is nothing I can do to thank you enough for that."

"I didn't know it was Lindsey at first. Besides, anybody would have done that," Sara said, trying to deflect Catherine's praise.

"That's not true and we both know it. We see it every day. People don't want to get involved and most would have left my baby there to let God knows what happen to her. You didn't do that. You protected her. Just know that I will always be grateful to you and if there is anything I can do for you, if it's in my power, I will do it."

"Every kid should be protected," Sara whispered.

"Yeah, they should." Catherine looked at Sara and, once again, wondered what in the woman's past could be responsible for her, sometimes, unpredictable behavior. Most of the time Sara was stoic and inscrutable, which drove Catherine crazy, but there were also flashes of uncontrollable anger and a deep hurt that made the mother in Catherine want to make it all better.

They were both silent for a few minutes, neither knowing how or if to continue this conversation. Sara apparently found the coffee table to be extremely interesting and Catherine watched Sara watch nothing. Just as Catherine had decided to leave, Sara spoke up, "I shouldn't have said those things to you that day. I was out of line." Sara had not raised her eyes from the coffee table during the admission, but Catherine could hear the genuine remorse in her voice.

"Thank you," Catherine replied. Thinking this might be the opening she had been looking for, Catherine ventured, "You never did answer my question that day. Why do those cases bother you so much?"

"I…," Sara floundered, wondering how to deflect the question. Wondering if she should deflect the question. "It's personal."

"Okay," Catherine said after a moment, deciding to let the evasion go. For now. "Lindsey really likes you, you know. She thinks you're pretty great."

Sara shrugged and chuckled darkly, "Yeah, well, at least someone thinks so."

Catherine didn't know how to respond to Sara's statement, struck by the undeniable sense of low self esteem it communicated.

The silence was broken by the chirp of a cell phone ringing. They both reached for their belts to check their phones and Sara came up the winner.

"Sidle," Sara said into the phone, grateful for the interruption.

Catherine watched as the brightest smile she had ever seen stole across Sara's face. Catherine was fascinated by the difference the smile made on the younger woman's countenance. She wondered what could make Sara so happy.

"It's ready?" Sara's voice brought Catherine out of her musings. "The helmet, too? That's great, Mike."

Catherine continued to listen to Sara's half of the conversation, trying to decipher what the call was about.

"Yeah, yeah, definitely. Let me call a cab. I can probably be there in about forty-five minutes. Sweet! Thanks, babe. I'll see you soon."

Sara hung up the phone and her smile disappeared as she looked back at Catherine, "Um….I have to go take care of something." Sara turned to her desk and grabbed the yellow pages to look for the number of a taxi service, expecting Catherine to let herself out.

While Catherine knew a dismissal when she heard one, she didn't want to let go of the first decent exchange she and Sara had had in a month. "You don't need a cab, Sara," Catherine offered. "I can drop you somewhere." Catherine had to smother a grin at the look of outright shock on Sara's face.

"You don't have to.."

"Sara, please. My car's downstairs. There's no reason for you to spend money on a cab. Let me, at least, do this for you. Please."

Sara studied Catherine, skeptical of her motives, but hopeful that maybe their relationship could reach a place where they weren't at each other's throats. "Okay, let me just get my boots and jacket."

"It's eighty degrees outside," Catherine questioned.

"Yeah, but I'm picking up my new bike and it's not safe to ride without some protection."


"An '05 Big Dog Ridgeback. 117 cubic inch engine. Ultra fat rear tire. Enhanced clutch design. Thick triple trees. Sculptured struts. Flush mounted hidden axles," Sara looked up from tying her boots to see a blank look on Catherine's face. "….and that's probably more than you really wanted to know. Anyway, I had a custom paint done, asked Michael to juice it up a bit and it's finished….obviously…so…..thanks...for the ride." Sara finished feebly , wondering how she could turn into an unintelligible fool so quickly.

"No problem," Catherine replied. "I didn't know you were into motorcycles."

"Always have been," Sara said as she grabbed her leather jacket and went to put it on. "It makes me feel --," a twinge of pain drew a hiss from Sara as her abused back muscles protested when she slung on her jacket.

"Sara? Are you okay?"

"Yes," Sara replied quickly.

Sara's answer was much too quick for Catherine's taste, so she crossed to Sara and reached out to put her hand on Sara's shoulder, "Are you sure?"

Sara stepped away from Catherine quickly, not allowing the touch. After all, the last time Catherine touched her resulted in the injuries in the first place. "Don't touch me again, Catherine. I'm fine." Sara had no intention of letting her guard down around Catherine after what had happened in the locker room.

Catherine was surprised and vaguely hurt by Sara's reaction. Catherine knew Sara had never been a 'touchy' person, but she had never been so vehement about her aversion before. If Catherine didn't know any better, she would think Sara was afraid of her.

"Alright," Catherine said as she backed off a few steps. "Are you ready to go?"


Catherine stepped out into the hallway and waited for Sara to lock the door. She had a feeling this was going to be a long morning.

They had been driving for ten minutes before Sara broke the silence for something other than directions. "So…how did you know where I live, anyway?"

"Oh. I called Grissom."

"That must have been interesting," Sara said with a half grin.

"Yeah," Catherine agreed. "He grilled me like I was a perp. I think he thought I was going to firebomb your apartment or something."

"Take a left on Industrial."

As Catherine was making the turn, Sara's phone rang again.

"You're popular today," Catherine joked as Sara pulled the phone from her belt.

Sara looked at Catherine, trying to decide if the comment was meant as an insult. Satisfied Catherine was joking, Sara looked at the caller ID on the phone. Her brows furrowed in confusion as she looked at the unknown number.


"Hi Sara. It's Lindsey!"

"Um…hi," Sara said, shooting a nervous glance toward Catherine. Sara wasn't at all sure she should be having this conversation. Sara clearly remembered being told to 'stay the hell away from my daughter.' Sara unconsciously moved as far away from Catherine as the car would allow and was practically clinging to the passenger door.

"I talked to Mom this morning like I promised."

"Yeah?" Sara asked, trying, and failing, to sound surprised. "How did that go?"

"Good, I think. I'm even transferring to the later school session like you said."

"Cool. I'm glad," Sara replied, while watching Catherine out of the corner of her eye. Sara wasn't sure how to handle this situation. She didn't know if Catherine wanted her talking to Lindsey, but Sara had promised Lindsey she could call Sara whenever she wanted. "Um…can you hang on a second?" Sara said, pressing the mute button.

Catherine Willows did not become a CSI Level Three and shift supervisor for nothing. Between Sara's stilted replies to the caller and the dozen nervous, furtive glances thrown Catherine's way, the blonde was fairly certain that the mysterious caller was her daughter, Lindsey. So when Sara put Lindsey on hold, Catherine was prepared. Since Lindsey was responding to Sara and seemed to trust her, Catherine wasn't going to interfere with the burgeoning friendship.

Sara turned to Catherine nervously and said, "Um…it's Lindsey."

"I figured."


"Talk to her, Sara."

"But last night you said…"

Catherine held up a hand to stop Sara and said, "To be honest, I was so angry I don't remember exactly what happened in that room. Only that none of it was good. And, again, I'm sorry. I'd like to think we could get past it and, maybe even, be friends, if you want. Lindsey likes you. And I think you like her, so talk to her. Please."

Sara looked at Catherine before nodding and saying, "Take a left on Burns." She turned back to her phone and began talking to her youngest friend. "Sorry about that. So you get to sleep in now, huh?" Sara teased with a grin.

"That is a bonus, yes," Lindsey said, causing Sara to chuckle. "Do you think maybe we could go to that coffee shop again today?"

"I don't know Linds. I'm about to pick up my new bike and I am going take her out later."

"A motorcycle?"



"Thanks, I think. Anyway, don't you think you should ask your mom if it's cool for us to go first?"

"I guess so."

"Well, ask her this afternoon and, if she says yes, we can go tomorrow. How's that?"

"Do you think she'll say yes?"

Sara looked over at Catherine who was desperately trying to look like she wasn't listening to the phone conversation. "You'll never know until you ask."

"If she says yes, will you pick me up on your new bike?" Lindsey asked excitedly.

"You'll have to ask her that too," Sara replied, smiling and shaking her head, knowing the chances of Catherine letting Lindsey on a motorcycle were between dismal and non-existent.

"Do you think she'll say yes?"

"No," Sara said, adding mentally, 'no chance in hell'.

"Me either."

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained, kiddo."

"Whatever. See you tomorrow."


Sara let out an amused sigh as she hung up.

Catherine looked at Sara with a raised eyebrow and asked, "So what am I in for?"

Sara looked at Catherine with a small smile and tentatively said, "She wants to know if you'll let her go to the coffee shop with me again tomorrow."

"That's fine, Sara."

"She also wants me to pick her up on my new bike."

"No chance in hell."

As Catherine pulled the Tahoe up to the garage Sara had directed her to, Catherine recognized it immediately.

"Nicky and I were here a few years ago."

"What for?"

"A street racing case. One of the cars involved was built here."

"Mike does great work."

"So….your Mike is Michelangelo, the artist?"

"He is definitely that," Sara said as she opened the door. "Thanks for the lift, Catherine. It was, you know, not that painful spending some time with you," Sara finished with a small smile, hoping Catherine would know she was just teasing.

Catherine was caught flat-footed by Sara's teasing comment. She liked a more relaxed Sara Sidle.

"Careful, Sidle. People might think we actually like each other."

"Heaven forefend," Sara said as she started to close the door.

"Hey, wait!"

Sara paused and looked at Catherine expectantly.

"Do you mind if I take a look at your new baby?"

Sara was surprised Catherine was interested.

"If you want," she shrugged.

Catherine turned off the Tahoe, got out of the car and joined Sara.

"And, for the record, he's not my Mike," Sara said. "He is, however, the most talented customizer in Nevada."

"At $650 an hour, he had better be," Catherine rejoined, remembering the huge amount of money the mechanic mentioned charging when she and Nick had talked to him two years ago.

As Sara walked to the garage, she chastised herself for telling Catherine that Mike was not 'hers'. Before she gave her motives any real thought, she reached out and opened the door, allowing Catherine to enter ahead of her.

As she entered the garage behind Catherine, she heard Mike say, "I haven't done anything, lady. And I don't know anything."

Before she could step in, Sara heard Catherine reply, "I never doubted that, Leonardo, but I'm not here on business."

Sara jumped in before things turned ugly, saying, "Don't mind her, Mike. She been a little cranky for the last four or five….years."

Catherine shot Sara a mock angry glare.

Mike lightened up when he recognized Sara. "Hey, Sar. Your ride's in the back. Come on." He turned and walked to the back of the garage, clearly expecting the women to follow.

As they approached the bike, Mike pulled the drop cloth off the machine with a flourish. "She turned out really good, if I do say so myself."

Sara stood paralyzed taking in the amazing work Mike had done on her bike.

"Mike, I…I'm speechless. It's really beautiful. Thank you so much."

"It was my pleasure. Anything for you, babe. Helmet's on the table," Mike said as he walked back to the front of the garage, leaving the two women to admire his work.

As Sara walked around her motorcycle in delight, Catherine was staring in awe of the, well, paint job didn't really do it justice. "Michelangelo, indeed," she muttered as she marveled at his work. "This is really beautiful, Sara."

"Yeah, it is. God, he does great work."

"The design seems familiar, somehow."

Sara chuckled and said, "It'll come to you."

Catherine nodded absently, transfixed by the design. She reached out to brush the body of the bike with her fingertips, but paused and looked at Sara.

"May I?"


Catherine reverently traced the intricate design with her fingers, as if touching it would bring her closer to solving the puzzle of what it was. Sara watched as Catherine tried to work out what was familiar about the design. Catherine was studying the bike with an intensity she usually reserved for evidence. Suddenly she saw Catherine's eyes clear and the brunette's eyes were captured by an amused azure gaze.

"You really are a geek, aren't you?"

"Yep," Sara said with a sheepish grin.

Embedded in the deep purple base paint were elegantly intertwined, twisting double helices in delicate hues of amber and titian. It you knew what to look for you could spot the hidden DNA pattern, but the average observer wouldn't have a clue.

"It's beautiful, Sara."

"Thanks. It took forever to get it right before I gave it to Mike."

"Your drew this?"

At Sara's answering nod, Catherine whistled and said, "I'm impressed. You know, Greg would kill or die for this."

"We can only hope," Sara said with a smile firmly in place.

Sara walked into the CSI labs feeling better than she had in a long time. She wanted to think it was because of the gloriously liberating ride she had that afternoon and evening. But, realistically, she knew there was more to it than just that. When she examined the events of the previous month, she could accept that everything, even the disastrous moments, contributed to her contentment. Without the mail order bride case and her subsequent fight with Catherine and suspension, she would never have told Grissom, or anyone else for that matter, about her past. While that conversation with Grissom was very difficult at the time, it now seemed as if the weight on her shoulders was a little bit lighter than it had been before.

A blossoming friendship with Lindsey Willows and fairly decent hour spent with Catherine this morning also contributed to her sense of optimism. When she had seen Catherine this morning she had braced herself for another round of antagonism and bitter feuding. She had certainly never expected an apology and a tentative offer of friendship. Things were definitely looking up.

As if conjured by Sara's thoughts, Catherine walked out of the break room. Seeing Sara, Catherine walked over to her and said, "You're only five minutes early. Somebody call Guinness. Good ride?"

"You have no idea."

"Well, congratulations, Ms. Sidle, your little field trip tomorrow afternoon has the official mom seal of approval. As long as you leave the bike at home, of course."

"I know," Sara chuckled. "She called me earlier. Thanks."

"No need. See you tomorrow," Catherine said as she walked to her office to gather her things and head to Nancy's to pick up Lindsey.

Sara entered the locker room and crossed to her locker. She was changing into work clothes when she heard a gasp from behind her. She turned to see Catherine in the doorway her hand over her mouth.

"Catherine? What?"

"What happened to you?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Your back, Sara. What happened to your back?" Catherine asked as she crossed to Sara to get a closer look.

Sara backed away and put a shirt on, her good mood disappearing quickly. "Don't worry about it."

"Don't worry -- Sara, how did you get those bruises?"

Sara looked at Catherine like she'd grown another head. "Why are you asking me that?" 'Surely, Catherine remembers putting me into the lockers last night.'

Catherine let go of an exasperated sigh. "Because I want to know what happened, Sara."

"You happened, Catherine."

"What are you talking about?"

"What am I talking ab ---," Sara said incredulously. "I can buy that you don't remember everything you said last night, but how can you possibly not remember slamming a forearm across my chest and putting me into the lockers? Christ, Catherine, I am surprised there's not a dent!"

Catherine looked at Sara, horrified, before asking, "I did that?"

"Yeah, Catherine, you did. How can you not remember?"

"I don't…I was just so angry…I didn't..," Catherine stammered. "I can't believe I….I am so sorry…"

Sara looked at Catherine, believing, no matter how incredible it might seem, that the older woman really didn't remember exactly what happened in the locker room twenty-four hours ago. Sara had a sudden urge to take pity on the woman.

"Just forget about it," Sara said as she closed the door to her locker with a bang.

"Forget about it? How do you expect me to do that?"

"I don't know, Catherine. Just pretend you never remembered in the first place."

Catherine could only watch as Sara walked through the locker room door.

Sara was in her favorite layout room, trying to compose herself. She didn't know why she was willing to forgive Catherine for doing exactly what she would never forgive her parents for doing. Maybe it was because she now knew Catherine thought she was protecting her daughter. Maybe it was because, deep down, she half expected to be treated that way by everyone. Maybe it was because she could never push her feelings for Catherine down deep enough that they wouldn't ever come back. Probably all three of those reasons. Sara put her head in her hands, slowly rubbing her forehead, so involved in her thoughts she didn't hear the door open.

Catherine stood watching the silent figure hunched over the layout table. The last twenty-four hours had been a revelation. She felt as if she was seeing Sara for the very first time. They had always had a turbulent working relationship. They didn't start out right in the first place. Sara came in to investigate Warrick after Holly's shooting. Grissom's hand- picked spy. Or so she thought. After Sara decided to stay, she only saw the younger woman as competition. So similar to her with respect to drive and commitment, so different to her in almost every other way. Dark to her light. Youth to her age. Harvard to her night school.

There were times when they worked so well together the two women were the best team CSI had ever seen, but then one of them would say something that set the other one off and the battles that followed were legendary. They always came to some sort of truce by the next time they worked a case together, but they could never negotiate anything more permanent, which would allow them the easy relationships Catherine shared with Nick and Warrick, or even Grissom. In fact, this morning was the first time they had a conversation that didn't revolve around a case since they had drinks after Sara found out Hank was cheating on her.

Catherine could now see the woman behind Sara's bad ass persona. The woman who pulled over to help a complete stranger who had turned out to be Lindsey. The woman who got a troubled eleven year old talking to her mother again. The woman who carried so much pain behind her eyes, she couldn't keep it from bubbling to the surface sometimes. The woman she had physically hurt without even remembering.

"Is it just your back?"

Sara sighed, but didn't turn around to face Catherine. She couldn't look into those eyes any more today. It hurt too much. "Catherine, please…"

"Did I hurt anything besides your back?" Catherine asked again. Sara knew by the tone of Catherine's voice that she wasn't leaving until she had answers. She had heard that tone often enough, in the interrogation room, to know what it meant.

"My head," Sara said, finally resigned to having this conversation.

Catherine closed her eyes as the guilt flowed through her body. "Have you seen a doctor? You could have a concussion."

"I don't."

"How do you know that?"

"Because I have had concussions before. I know what they feel like."


"Catherine, just leave it alone."

"I can't do that, Sara. Why did you even let me in the door this morning? How could you let someone who hurt you near you ever again?"


Catherine stared at Sara's back, mulling over the potential meaning of the simple word. Disjointed pieces of a puzzle started to come together in Catherine's mind, clicking into place one by one. Sara's single-minded determination to find justice for victims. Her tendency to hold on to cases she couldn't solve. Her all-consuming fierceness when dealing with any case involving rape or domestic violence. All of these things merged to form one thought in Catherine's mind. 'Someone had hurt Sara.'

"Who hurt you, Sara?" The words were out of Catherine's mouth before she had time to censor herself. She watched Sara stiffen and become preternaturally still.

"You mean besides you?" was the bitter and defensive response. Sara felt bad the moment she said it, but there was no taking the words back.

Catherine flinched as the words hit home. There were several moments of stunned silence as they both absorbed what had just happened.

Catherine hung her head and turned to go, saying, "I'm sorry, Sara."

When Sara heard the door open, she knew she couldn't let Catherine leave. "Wait. You didn't deserve that."

"I think maybe I did," Catherine said with regret as she turned back towards Sara.

"No. No, you didn't," Sara said as she turned to face Catherine for the first time. "You were just trying to protect Lindsey."

"I never meant to hurt you like that, Sara."

"I know."

The women looked at each other, neither one knowing how to continue, and an uncomfortable silence reigned until the door was pushed open by Sofia. She took in the tense scene, immediately suspicious of Catherine's presence. Sofia looked at the defeated set of Sara's shoulders and asked, "You OK, Sara?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Sara answered, still looking at Catherine.

Sofia threw another suspicious glance at Catherine before saying, "We're meeting in the break room in five minutes for assignments."

"OK. Thanks."

Wondering what was going on between the two, Sofia's curious gaze bounced between the two women for a moment before she closed the door behind her as she left.

Once again alone, Catherine took a few tentative steps toward Sara, wondering if the brunette would allow the closeness Catherine wanted to offer.

The urge to flee was strong as Sara watched Catherine approach her. As Catherine reached out and ran a gentle hand down her arm, Sara consciously fought the impulse to pull away from the touch. When she felt her hand enclosed in Catherine's impossibly tender grasp, she then fought the desire to melt into this woman and hide in her soft embrace.

Seeing Sara tense at her touch and then relax into herself as the nearness became more comfortable, Catherine breathed a sigh of relief and said, "I'd like to help you, Sara."

Sara closed her eyes as she felt the tears come, trying to force them back. One escaped and slipped down her cheek before she could stop them. When she felt the tear land on their joined hands, she opened her eyes and whispered, "I don't know how to let you."

Catherine was silent as Sara brought her free hand toward their joined ones and reverently rubbed the salty fluid from her tear away. She felt Sara straighten and take a deep breath as she composed herself and said, "I should go get my assignment."

Not letting go of Sara's hand, Catherine nodded and said, "I should go pick up Lindsey."

Sara stood up and reluctantly stepped back from Catherine, immediately missing her warmth.

"Tell her I'll see her this afternoon."

"I will."

Sara nodded and walked to the door. As her hand touched the knob, she stopped and spoke without looking back, "During the Julie Waters case, you asked me if my father ever told me I was smart. And he did, but usually when he was telling me to shut my smart mouth before he shut it for me." Sara paused as if she wanted to say more, but stopped and walked out the door, leaving Catherine to examine another piece of the puzzle.

Sara was on automatic as she dusted the windowsill for prints. She was working a garden variety B & E. Although not one to wish ill on others, Sara had been hoping for a more extensive crime scene to keep her mind off her own stupidity. Since leaving Catherine in the layout room, she had been cursing her foolishness. 'Why did I say that to Catherine?' She hadn't told anyone about her childhood in 18 years and now suddenly it seemed she couldn't keep her trap shut about it. First Grissom, then Lindsey (although that was a vague version of the truth), and now Catherine.

Catherine. The woman she had barely spoken to in a month. The woman she had constantly and bitterly feuded with for five years. The woman she could never quite get out of her head. Sara had felt an instant attraction to the older blonde woman, even after a rocky first meeting.

--- Do you know where I can find Catherine Willows?

-- She's out in the field. Lemme guess. Sara Sidle...

-- I know who I am. I think you're a little confused.

-- If you think you're taking my case, forget it...

-- Look, we can stand here and argue or we can get out there and find who did this to Holly Gribbs. Two sharp women are better than one.

-- Pager. Found at the crime scene.

-- Where'd you get the "pager nest?"

-- Grissom won it on E-bay.

-- They're great for tracing. If you can rely on the suspect's honesty.

-- Desmond Tutu???

-- See what I mean... Don't feel bad. My last four traces have come up Eminem. So... Look you seem to have everything under control here. Where can I find Warrick Brown?

-- Try one of the casinos.

-- Oh, I'll page you with any information.

Sara was proud of that final flirty comment and really good interactions with Catherine for the rest of the Gribbs case. It was part of the reason Sara decided to stay in Las Vegas. Sara thought she and Catherine could become close, but those feelings were pretty quickly dashed when it became clear that Catherine had no interest in even being Sara's friend, let alone anything more. Each cutting remark was another nail in the coffin for Sara's hopes.

-- When the spirit moves you. Sara, so, in your case, I guess never.

-- Since when do you care about your appearance?

She had always wanted to earn Catherine's respect, but every time she thought she had it something would happen to pull the rug out. The most remarkable and obvious example was Eddie's case and their heated confrontation in the hallway after Catherine threatened the witness/suspect in the case.

-- What the hell are you doing? Do you know where you're at right now?

-- I've been here a lot longer than you ...

-- And you should know better.

-- And I wouldn't have to be here if you were doing your job properly.

-- 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.

-- You're going to tell me what I want, huh?

'The question is, what do I want?', Sara thought to herself as she packed up her kit. Loading everything in the Tahoe, Sara wondered if it would really be so bad to tell Catherine more about her life. Her family. What was the worst thing that could happen? 'She'll know just how fucked up you really are and never see you the same way again', Sara answered for herself. She had told Grissom about 'the looks' she got after everyone in her hometown knew about her father's murder. Fascination mixed with pity. She didn't want to see 'that look' ever again and definitely not from Catherine.

As she pulled up to the lab, she tried to focus on the job and push Catherine out of her mind. Nodding to the receptionist, she headed to her box to check for any new assignments or messages and found a folded piece of paper with her name on it in Catherine's handwriting. She put her kit down and stared at the note, not really wanting to open it. 'She probably wants me to keep me and my baggage as far away from her as possible.' After a deep breath, Sara opened the note and read,

S –

I left your name at the school, so you're cleared to pick Linds up today. She gets out at five and will be waiting out front. Nancy usually gives her dinner at 6:30, so have her back by then, please. And don't let her get all sugared up! And REMEMBER, any vehicle in which my daughter rides must have four wheels and roof. Have fun.


Sara grinned as she read the note again, thankful that everything seemed to be okay. She picked up her kit, headed to her favorite layout room and got to work.

"Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

Sara looked up from her coffee and looked at Lindsey. So far they had stayed away from bigger topics, instead talking about Lindsey's new school schedule and Sara's bike, so Sara was a little surprised at the change of subject.

"Um, yeah. I have a brother. He's nine years older than me."

"Do you talk to him much?"

"Not really," Sara said cautiously. "It's been a while."

"How come? I mean, I always wanted a brother or a sister. I think it would be like having a built-in person to talk to about stuff."

"Well, um, like I said, he's a lot older and we were never…close," Sara said evasively, deciding it was time to change the subject. "What did you do with your mom this morning?"

"She checked my homework and we played Monopoly, Junior."

"Who won?"

"Mom. She's pretty cutthroat."

"I bet," Sara said with a chuckle, imagining Catherine gleefully busting her daughter's bank of monopoly money.

"So, it's just you, then?" Lindsey asked, looking at Sara with a furrowed brow.

Sara blinked, not really understanding the question. "I'm not really sure what you mean."

"Well, I mean, since your family's not really around, are you all alone?"

The innocent question felt like a punch to the stomach. Sara stared at Lindsey, trying to formulate an answer. "Well…not really. I mean, I have friends at work and some people back in California that I talk to sometimes. I have a really good friend in Washington, DC that I talk to on the phone pretty often…." Sara trailed off, thinking just how pathetic she sounded.

"And you have me."

Lindsey's voice brought Sara out of her destructive thoughts. "What?"

"I'm your friend, right?" Lindsey asked eagerly.

The simplicity and genuine innocence of the question almost brought tears to Sara's eyes. This little girl was offering Sara her hand in friendship without wanting anything from her in return and it made Sara's heart soar.

"Yeah, Lindsey, you're my friend," Sara said with a smile.

"Cool," Lindsey replied. A moment later, the look in Lindsey's eye started making Sara nervous. It was a sparkle that she had seen a number of times in Catherine's eye when she was about to nail a suspect to the wall. It was the look that said, 'I've got you right where I want you.'

"Well, Sara, as your friend, I think you should take me to see your new bike," Lindsey said nearly bursting with excitement.

"Lindsey…" Sara said with a hint of warning in her voice.

"Just to look," Lindsey said, holding her hands in front of her in a calming gesture. "I think that as friends, we should share these things, don't you?"

Sara took one look at those sweet blue eyes and big smile and knew there wasn't much she would refuse Lindsey ever again. "I can't believe I'm being manipulated by an eleven year old," Sara said, at least wanting to pretend she was still in charge.

"I'm almost twelve," Lindsey said indignantly. "And I am not manipu…whatever that means, I am just good at getting you to do what I want," Lindsey finished with a big grin.

"Come on, let's go," Sara sighed, conceding defeat.

"Yes," Lindsey exclaimed in victory.

The next morning Catherine noticed Lindsey staring at her eggs, deep in thought.

"What are you thinking so hard about?"


Catherine smiled, "You look like you're thinking about something. Want to share?"

"Oh," Lindsey smiled and blushed a little. "I was just thinking about Sara."

'Looks like Sara has an admirer', Catherine thought with a smile, noticing the pink in her daughter's cheeks. "What about her?"

Lindsey shrugged and said, "Just that she's really neat. She showed me her motorcycle. It's sooo pretty…"

"Lindsey," Catherine warned, "you are not getting on that bike."

"I know, I know. I was just looking at it. Sara wouldn't even let me sit on it. She said you would filet her if she did."

"I think you mean flay, and I wouldn't go that far, but I wouldn't be very happy, either."

"She let me wear her helmet, though. That was cool."

"She did?"

"Yeah," Lindsey said and then looked at her mother seriously. "I'm glad I can be her friend."

"Why?" Catherine asked, wondering what drew her daughter to the quiet brunette.

"I like her," Lindsey said with a shrug. "She's really pretty and she's super smart. She explains things so I can understand them, but doesn't treat me like I'm a stupid kid. And…."

"And?" Catherine prompted.

Lindsey looked her mother in the eye before saying, "And I think she's kind of lonely."

For a few weeks, Sara spent every early evening with Lindsey, at the coffee shop or the park or a museum. Their time together had been good for both of them. Lindsey's behavior had definitely improved, for which Catherine was eternally grateful, and Sara seemed somehow…lighter…too.

Lindsey's words a few weeks ago about Sara being lonely stayed with Catherine and she began to watch Sara when their shifts overlapped. She had known Sara tended to keep to herself, but was surprised to notice just how much time Sara spent alone. Even in the break room, when the others were around, the young woman was likely to be secluded on the couch reading something, separated from her co-workers.

Catherine was beginning to realize she had never taken the time to get to know Sara. Catherine had been too busy making sure her position wasn't usurped by the new kid. Even offers of breakfast, which, when given by Grissom or any of the other guys were accepted, were turned down, just because the offer was made by Sara. Catherine was learning to see Sara as a brilliant woman whom, under different circumstances, Catherine would have immediately been attracted to as something of a kindred spirit. Catherine wanted to spend some time with Sara and try to start over with her.

Catherine had also been thinking about Sara's admission about her father's offer to 'shut her smart mouth'. Catherine had let the subject go, thinking that Sara would open up about it eventually, but 'eventually' was starting to look like 'never'. 'I think it's time to do something about that' Catherine thought as she set off for Sara's favorite lab.

Catherine found Sara hunched over some clothes, meticulously combing them for trace evidence.

"Hey," Catherine said quietly, so as not to startle the young woman.

Sara looked up at the sound of Catherine's voice.

"Hey," Sara replied. "What are you still doing here?"

"It's nice to see you, too," Catherine said with a raised eyebrow.

"I didn't mean…," Sara stammered, thinking Catherine misunderstood her question.

"I'm just kidding. Don't worry."

"Good," Sara sighed with relief. "What's up?"

"I just want to tell you that Lindsey really enjoys hanging out with you and I want to thank you for making time for her."

"It's no problem, Catherine. Lindsey's a great kid. I like hanging out with her, too."

"Well," Catherine took a deep breath before continuing, not knowing how the offer would be received, "how about hanging out with both of us? I checked with Grissom and he said you are off Saturday, and so am I, and I was wondering if you wanted to come over to the house and have dinner."

Sara stared at Catherine, not sure if she had heard the older woman correctly. Finally, she shook herself out of her stupor and asked, "You want me to come to dinner? At your house? On Saturday? With you?"

Catherine smiled at Sara's surprise and said, "That is, indeed, what I asked. Although, not in as many sentences."

Sara just continued to stare at Catherine as though she had spoken Chinese.

"Sara?" Catherine asked, now very amused. "It's not a difficult question."



"Yeah, why? Why do you want me to come to dinner?"

"Because, Sara, you are important to my daughter. I want to get to know you better and that can't happen here in the lab. Hence, dinner at my house."

Sara studied Catherine for a moment, assessing the blonde's answer and weighing her options. Of course, she wanted to say yes. She loved spending time with Lindsey and wanted to spend time with Catherine but she was also relieved that Catherine hadn't brought up Sara's past. She wondered if more time with Catherine would stir the woman's curiosity and start her asking questions, but Sara had opened the door to those questions weeks ago. She could answer the questions. She wanted to answer the questions.

Catherine watched as Sara tried to decide what to do. Sara was mulling it all over like it was the most important decision she had ever made.

"Okay," Sara said suddenly.

"Okay? Okay, what?"

"Okay. I'll come to dinner. What time?"

"Um…seven o'clock?"


"Okay. Good."

Sara sighed as Catherine left, wondering what dinner would bring.

On Catherine's next shift, she was hit hard by the first case that was called in. Kidnapping and sexual assault of a minor. An eight-year-old girl. Little Karen Thompson had been taken from a playground, raped and dumped at a construction site. She was found, barely alive, by a security guard.

Catherine collected a rape kit at the hospital while Warrick processed the dumpsite and Nick processed the playground. The things people could do to children never ceased to amaze and sicken Catherine. This particular guy left a lot of trace behind and Catherine was looking forward to making him pay for what he had done.

She dropped the semen samples she had collected off to Mia and went to her office. While she waited for Warrick and Nick to finish testing the girl's clothes, she let her mind wander to Sara and Lindsey. Lindsey was beyond excited about dinner on Saturday and had been diligently pumping Sara for information about her favorite food and drink choices, so everything would be perfect for her new best friend. Sara seemed to be looking forward to dinner too, although she still seemed a little nervous.

Sara and Lindsey were going to the planetarium today. Sara rarely chose an activity without some educational component, which made Catherine happy, but the excursions were cool enough that Lindsey barely noticed she was learning anything. Sometimes they went to dinner afterward, usually some health food place. Last week, Lindsey wanted to be a vegetarian, like Sara. This week she was eating poultry, but only because Sara said teenaged girls needed the protein that meat provided and that Lindsey could choose vegetarianism later if she wanted. Catherine had to smile at the size of Lindsey's crush on Sara, as well as Sara's obliviousness to Lindsey's attentions.

A few hours later, Catherine's pager went off. It was Mia in DNA. As she made her way to Mia's lab, Conrad Ecklie caught up with her in the hallway.

"Catherine, do you have anything on the Thompson case yet? The Sheriff is getting anxious."

"We are working on it, Conrad. Warrick and Nick are going over the clothes. There is a lot of evidence in trace from the dumpsite. Just a matter of time. He's not exactly a criminal genius. He left a lot of himself behind. In fact, I was just headed to DNA. Mia paged me."

"Did she get a hit on the sample?"

"I don't know yet, Conrad. My psychic powers just aren't what they used to be."

"Mind if I tag along?" Ecklie asked with an annoying smirk.

"Of course not," Catherine answered, although the last thing she wanted was Ecklie looking over her shoulder.

Entering the DNA lab, Catherine said, "You have something for me, Mia?"

"In a manner of speaking."

Ecklie jumped in impatiently, saying, "What does that mean? Did you get a hit or not?"

Mia shared a look of exasperation with Catherine before continuing, "As I said, in a manner of speaking. No hits in CODIS or AFIS, but I did get a partial match, with seven alleles in common to someone in the Compliance database, so your suspect is a first generation relative, a father or brother."

"Compliance database? Someone who works for the PD?" Catherine asked.

"Yeah," Mia reluctantly replied.

"Who?" Ecklie asked with menace.

"Sara Sidle."

"Well that figures," Ecklie said, shaking his head.

Seeing Mia's curious glance towards Ecklie, Catherine decided to take control of the situation, "Thanks, Mia. Keep this under your hat for now, okay?"

"Sure," Mia nodded, understanding Catherine's need for discretion.

"Conrad, why don't we go to my office and discuss this," Catherine said, already walking out the door. Although she was the last one to judge anyone by their genetics, after all, her own father was a notorious casino owner and, Catherine suspected, a killer, Catherine was still a little shaken. She and Sara had reached an understanding, with the help of Lindsey, recently, and Catherine didn't want Sara hurt by this. Ecklie was certain to use this against Sara any way he could and Catherine wanted to do what she could to protect her daughter's friend.

Following Ecklie into her office, Catherine closed the door behind her and leaned against it. She watched Ecklie pace for a few minutes before she heard him say, "Why doesn't it surprise me that Sidle's mixed up in something like this?"

Catherine felt her anger flare. "First of all, Conrad, Sara's not 'mixed up' in anything. The suspect in my case happens to be her brother or maybe her father. That doesn't mean she had anything to do with it. In fact, knowing Sara, and how she feels about sex assault cases, she would absolutely turn him in herself, even if it was her own father."

"The father's dead. It must be a brother," Ecklie interrupted.

Catherine turned to look at Ecklie. "Exactly how do you know that?" Catherine knew Sara would never tell Ecklie, of all people, something so personal.

"I know everything, Catherine. Information is out there on all of us. You just have to know where to look," Ecklie said with a smug smile.

"You checked into her background? Into her family?" Catherine asked incredulously.

"I make it my business to know everything about my employees, Catherine, especially ones as unstable as Sidle. Get her in here. I want her questioned," Ecklie replied.

"She's not a perp, Conrad. She works here."

"Not by my choice," Ecklie said derisively. "She may not be a perp, but she may know where the brother is. Call her in."

Catherine sighed and looked at her watch. It was 7:30pm. Sara would have dropped Lindsey off an hour ago. Feeling Ecklie watching her, Catherine picked up the phone and started to dial.

Sara had just hit 90mph on a deserted stretch of Nevada roadway when she felt her pager vibrate against her stomach. Cursing Grissom and whatever he wanted, she gradually brought her bike to a stop and pulled off her helmet. She unzipped her leather jacket and pulled out her pager. She hit a button and revealed the text message that had disrupted her ride.

S –

Come to the lab. Urgent.


Sara furrowed her brow as she thought about the message. If it were a work thing it would have been Grissom that called her in. 'Why would Catherine call me in?' Then another thought alarmed Sara. 'I hope Lindsey's OK.'

Part 2

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