DISCLAIMER: CSI and all characters are the property of CBS and Bruckheimer. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For P&P's Big 5000: Congrats on the milestone, Ralst! Obviously, I'm in a jazzy CSI mood the last couple of fics, and if you've never heard Julia Fordham, you are missing out.
CHALLENGE: Written for Passion & Perfection's Big 5000.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By zennie


Sara saw herself mirrored in the glass, superimposed on vision of Adam Trent's mother being handcuffed and escorted out of the interview room. She focuses in on the conversation just in time to hear Grissom say, "She'll die without her son."

She knows it doesn't help—will, in fact, increase all the 'concerned' looks directed at her—but she says what's on her mind anyway. "That would be better for both of them." And she was right; she can see him searching her face out of the corner of her eye before he turns to go.

She's not sure how long she stands there, trying to get some semblance of control over herself before venturing the halls, when the door opens behind her, and she thinks that maybe, just maybe, he understood and came to offer her the comfort she needs but can't ask for.

Instead, she sees Catherine reflected in the glass, her blonde hair haloed around her face. She too is looking with concern, and Sara pulls tighter inside herself, blinking several times to clear the tears brightening her eyes. Sara refuses to look at the other woman, hoping that if she ignores her, Catherine will go away. But this is Catherine, who is made of sterner stuff than Grissom, so Sara is not surprised when the door behind stays stubbornly closed.

Long moments pass in silence until Sara feels a hand, warm and soothing, resting on her shoulder. And as much as Sara wants to shake it off, pretend that she's strong and capable, the bigger part of her needs what Catherine is offering, even though it is Catherine, who tried to get her fired just a few weeks ago, doing the offering. And so she turns into Catherine's waiting embrace, her sobs already beginning as surprisingly strong arms tighten around her.

Sara buries her head into the crook of Catherine's shoulder; the scent of Catherine's shampoo surrounds as fingers travel up her spine to massage the tight muscles of her neck. Later, she'll probably regret this moment of weakness, but maybe not. They've done this dance before, many times: it begins with fights, harsh words neither of them ever apologize for, and then, at moments like these, unexpected kindness and compassion. Sara flashes back to Catherine, framed in a doorway, insulting Sara's skills as an investigator, and then to the same woman asking, barely a month later, "Got plans?" All of these instances, the good and the bad, exist in isolation: they never go anywhere, never become part of a gradual movement toward either real friendship or actual animosity. The unspoken rule is just that: they come together to fight or comfort, but never to speak. So it's possible, Sara thinks, that her lapse will have no repercussions, since neither of them will mention this again.

Gradually, the storm of emotion fades and Sara quiets. She is wrapped around the smaller woman, and both would be embarrassed to be found in this position were a colleague to walk in, but Catherine's hold doesn't subside. It's up to Sara to break the hold, carefully extracting herself from the embrace, unsure what to say. Catherine still has a hand on her waist and a hand tangled in Sara's hair as she forces the taller woman to make eye contact. She pauses, hesitant, an uncharacteristic expression for the fiery blonde, before saying, "Let's get you home."

Sara realizes, somewhat tangently, that these are the first words Catherine has spoken to her since their yelling match in the hallway a few weeks ago that had resulted in her suspension. It should be awkward, but it's not. It's just Catherine. Feeling her limbs heavy as exhaustion, physical as well as emotional, seeps into body, as well as an odd desire to prolong this moment between them, Sara nods and replies, "Okay."

When Catherine pulls up in front of Sara's building, Sara clears her throat to break the silence and offers her own version of an olive branch. "Want to come up for a drink?" This is how Catherine ends up in her kitchen for the first time in the five years they've known each other. She feels Catherine's scrutiny like a physical presence against her back as she searches in her liquor cabinet for the Scotch. She finds the bottle and sets it on the counter before turning to face her inquisitor. "I'm not a drunk."

"I know."

They settle onto the couch, a single light illuminating the room. "Why?" Sara asks, breaking, at long last, the silence and their unspoken rules in one fell swoop.

"Why did I come to you?" At Sara's nod, Catherine continues, "I got attacked at a crime scene before." Sara remembers the incident, remembers how the whole lab buzzed about how tough Catherine was. "I needed someone and Warrick was there. When I saw Gil leave the observation room, I thought, maybe…" she trails off, finds Sara's eyes in the dim light. "And, well, an abuse case…" Sara looks away, shifting on the couch so she is not facing the blonde woman.

"I figured it out," Catherine explains, simply. "Wanna talk about it?"

Sara considers the offer, but the weight of the day presses down on her and she is not up to another loop on the emotional rollercoaster she's been on. "Not… right now," she answers in hopes Catherine understands that she's not saying no, not completely.

Catherine lays her hand on Sara's, squeezing tightly. "Any time."

And Sara, looking down at their joined hands, realizes she just might take Catherine up on her offer.

If you make yourself an island, I'm gonna sail straight out to you
If you burn your bridges one by one, I'll not give up on you.
But if you scratch, scratch the surface, underneath the skin
Under the armour of that iron woman
So many things lie within...

So don't you test my love like you test the love of your boyfriends
Oh don't you know the love for a woman, for a woman,
Is there to the end, there to the end...?

-Julia Fordham, "Island"

The End

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