DISCLAIMER: the characters aren't mine, they belong to CBS, Jerry Bruckheimer,…, I'm just borrowing them for a while. After I'm done playing with them, I'll put them back, virtually unharmed. Please don't sue, the only thing of value I have are my brain cells and even those are shrinking fast due to non use.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I juggled the seasons a bit to fit my story better. The Donna Marks case takes place in the fourth season, Hank never happened and Eddie, well let's just say he's still alive and kicking. No real spoilers I think. Oh and no animals were harmed, after I splattered them, I always gave them the kiss of life before sending them on their way again.
WARNING: English isn't my mother tongue. There are bound to be spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Please don't start throwing things every time you spot one, you could seriously damage your pc with the multitude you'll encounter.
THANKS: to my beta for all her help.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Letting Go of the Past
By Piranha

Chapter 11

Part 1.

Precisely at seven thirty there was a short knock on Sara's door. A rather ragged looking Sara walked over to open it, yawning widely all the way. "Hey, come on in," she said, desperately trying to suppress another yawn. "Sorry about this," she muttered, pointing at the boxers and T-shirt she slept in. "I finished the bookcase last night and then started watching some old movie. It finished really late and I kind of overslept," she admitted sheepishly. Catherine, who couldn't get over how cute Sara looked in her Taz outfit, said nothing and just continued ogling her. Padding over to the kitchen, Sara asked: "do you want some coffee?" When there was no answer, she tried again:" earth to Catherine, coffee?"

Shaken abruptly from her reverie by a not so gentle nudge from Lindsey, Catherine said: "yeah, coffee sounds fine, just a quick one though, then I'd better be off."

"How about you, Lindsey? I've got orange juice, tea, milk, lemonade, …"

"Orange juice is fine, thanks." came the reply.

While Sara was busy getting everyone their drink, Catherine walked over to admire the bookcase. It looked like any regular bookcase: big, sturdy and almost overflowing with books. Then she noticed the complicated motif on the side frame. Tracing the pattern with her fingers, she said: "this is really beautiful Sara. I just love the way you carved this design. Does it have a special meaning?"

"Yeah, it's the Celtic tree of life. Trees were very important to the Celts, not only did they think trees were our connection with the world of spirits and our ancestors, they also believed that trees were the ancestors of mankind: elder beings of wisdom who provided the alphabet, the calendar and the entrance to the world of the Gods. Anyway, I thought it was fitting pattern." Sarah said shyly.

"It's really beautiful", Catherine repeated. Looking at her watch, she said:" damn, got to go otherwise I'll be late. Bye, see you round six. If I'm running late, I'll call." She bent down to kiss Lindsey on the cheek and then kissed Sara on the lips. Catherine didn't realise what she had done until she reached the door. So much for not rushing her, she thought. Well, too late to take it back now. She turned around and found Sara frozen on the spot, staring directly in front of her. Deciding to act like it never happened, Catherine said a final goodbye and left for work.

"Hey Sara, are you ok? You look kind of spaced out?" Lindsey asked.

Touching her lips, still feeling them tingle, she croaked:" Yeah, I'm fine." In a more resolute tone, she continued:" Lindsey, do you mind if I get ready now? I'll just take a quick shower and then I'm all yours."

"Sure, go ahead. I'll just watch some cartoons."

Fifteen minutes later Sara emerged from her bedroom, wearing brown leather pants and a red tank top. When she jumped next to Lindsey on the couch, Lindsey looked up and said "you look really cool Sara", before diverting her attention back to the wild antics of Tom and Jerry. When the end credits rolled over the screen, Lindsey started to look around Sara's apartment. Noticing the funny shaped ashtray on the table, she asked if maybe one of her nephews made it.

Sara started laughing, saying: "Erm no, I made it. Erin, my erm a friend of mine in San Francisco, was very interested in pottery and persuaded me to give it a shot too. As you can tell, I'm not very good at it. It was meant to be a vase, but somehow my vase caved in and turned into that thing .My first and last attempt at pottery: I was filthy from head to toe and there was just clay everywhere. I keep that thing because it's so ugly, I use it as an ashtray."

Looking at the photographs on the wall, Lindsey said: "these are really cool. Did you buy them? Do you know the boy in that picture?"

"No, I didn't buy them, I took those photographs myself. When I was still living in San Francisco, I used to go out every weekend, just to take pictures of things I saw and found interesting. I then developed them in the dark room at work. I didn't know the boy, I just met him in the park and thought he was so cute. I just had to take his picture."

"Why do you take black and white pictures and not coloured ones?" Lindsey asked curiously.

"I think black and white pictures are more emotional and confrontational. The contrast is sharper. They're more in your face, you get more meaning out of them. I'm sorry, I can't really explain it. I just like them better" Sara said.

"Do you think you could teach me? How to take photographs and then develop them I mean? " Lindsey asked eagerly.

"Sure, if you want me to. Tell you what, I've still got my old camera and a couple of film rolls. If you're interested, we could go out to Lake Mead this afternoon. I could show you how to take photographs and then develop yours at the lab tomorrow."

"Cool. I'd like that."

Shortly after ten, there was another knock on the door. "I'll get it", Lindsey said sprinting to the door, leaving Sara to turn off the Nintendo game they were playing. She was actually relieved to turn the game off, she had been losing and badly. If there was one thing she couldn't stand, it was losing. Gran always told me I was too damn competitive for my own good, she mused. "Hey Sara, he says he's here to drop off your Harley", Lindsey yelled.

Thinking the kid had a very good pair of lungs on her - she was sure people three blocks away had heard – Sara joined Lindsey at the door. "Hi Bill" she greeted. "Lindsey, this is Bill, Greg's brother in law. Bill, this is Lindsey, a very good friend of mine."

Beaming at Sara's last words, the girl gave Bill another curious once over. Intrigued by the spider tattoo on his bold head, she said:" Greg was right, you have a lot of tattoos. Are you a Hell's Angel?"

Bill started laughing at this. "Greg was right about you too, you know. You're not exactly backwards in coming forwards, are you? You go straight for the jugular, I like that. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you kiddo, but no I'm not a Hell's Angel. I was just really wild when I was younger. You know, Greg told me some stories about you too. Are you still whooping his ass at Nintendo?" When Lindsey smiled and nodded, he continued: "you know, he regrets the day he showed you how to cheat on that thing. Serves him right though, the cheater being outwitted by an even greater cheater."

"You cheated?" Sara screeched flabbergasted. When Lindsey turned bright red, she added "you're evil munchkin", throwing her a mock glare.

Bill just started laughing harder at this. "You're even better than I thought, kiddo. I applaud your cunningness and your guts, oh queen of deception," he said reverently, taking a big bow.

Lindsey giggled at this and primly said "thank you", making the three of them burst into laughter at her almost regal tone. When the laughter died down, Lindsey turned to face Sara and asked:" Can we go and see the Harley now?"

"Yeah, sure, let me just grab my keys."

Sitting on Matilda, Lindsey asked "Can we go to Lake Mead on the Harley this afternoon?"

Sara shook her head and apologetically said:" I'm sorry munchkin, but no we can't. Your mother would flay me alive if I took you out on the Harley. Besides, I haven't got any protective gear for you."

The young girl pouted and said in a whiny voice:" it's not fair, mum never lets me do anything fun or cool."

"Tell you what, short stuff," Bill said. "I've got a mate with a sidecar who still owes me a favour or two. If you mother's okay with it, I'll take you out on it sometime. But only if she agrees with it, you hear?"

Happy again, the girl nodded and said: "thanks Bill, that sounds really cool. I can't wait to tell all my friends, they'll be sooooo jealous."

"Hey munchkin, don't count your chickens yet, you still have to get your mother to agree to it," Sara laughed.

" Oh don't worry, I'll talk her into it," the girl said knowingly.

"Somehow I don't doubt you will," Sara laughed.

Part 2.

After putting the Harley in Sara's garage and exchanging money and papers with Bill, Sara and Lindsey set off for Lake Mead. Arriving there around noon, they decided to look for a nice and quiet spot to have their pick nick.

When they were finished, Sara took her camera out of the rucksack and gave Lindsey her first lesson. "Before we begin, I think I should tell you that I never took a photography course. Everything I tell you could be completely wrong, my advice could be totally worthless. I'll just tell you what I do. Okay?" Lindsey just nodded.

"Essentially it's very simple, well at least it is to me, photography comes from the heart. You know, painters use their canvass to show you how they feel, musicians give you their deepest thoughts through their music. They put their heart and soul into it. Have you ever seen that painting by Edvard Munch, "the Scream"? That painting shows fear, total despair, someone who just can't take it anymore. That's how Munch felt at that time. Photography is exactly the same, a camera is just another medium of self-expression. You use the camera to capture an image that touches your heart. The photograph shows how you felt at that time. What you see can make you laugh and feel happy, like that picture I took of that boy, it can make you feel sad, proud, .. It can make you feel any number of ways. You know that photograph of the tree being hit by lightning? When I took that picture, I stood in the middle of a big field, completely surrounded by nature. No houses nearby, no cars to be seen. Just me and nature. I was getting soaked because it was raining so hard, but the moment I hit that button, lightning struck hitting that tree. I've never felt so tiny and insignificant in my life. I was awestruck by the unforgiving and brutal force of nature. I thought it was simply beautiful. No matter what picture you take, as long you put your heart and soul in it, you can't go wrong. So my advice to you is to look for something that you find interesting, something that touches your heart in its own way: Bill because you're intrigued by his tattoos, a puppy because you think they're cute, your mother because you love her,… Now the all important question, how to take a picture? We'll just keep it really simple for now. You look through that tiny hole here, yeah like that. Do you see me through it? Okay, you see that big thing over here, that's the lens. Light passes through the lens opening, forming an image. The lens makes the image sharper. There are still a couple of other gadgets on a camera, but we'll save that for another time. All you have to do is look through that opening and when you feel the image is sharp enough, that you're happy about it, you just press this button. Ok? You want to try?"

When Lindsey nodded, Sara handed her the camera and told her to explore their surroundings. Eagerly the young girl went on her search, while Sara lay down on the grass. Warning Lindsey not to wander off too far, she started reading her book. It was a beautiful, hot and sunny day, so pretty soon Sara fell asleep, her book on her chest. Deep in slumber, she didn't notice Lindsey's return. The young girl thought it would be fun snapping some pictures of a sleeping Sara before waking her. "Hey Sara," she said, gently nudging her shoulder, "it's three o'clock. You said we still had to go to the supermarket before making a start on dinner."

"God, I fell asleep, seems I'm more tired than I thought, sorry about that," she said sheepishly. "So how was it? Have you shot some interesting pictures?" she asked, while they both walked back to the car.

"It was fun. I think I've got some interesting pictures", Lindsey said with an enigmatic smile on her face. "There are still a couple of pictures left on the roll. Do you mind if I hang on to the camera until we reach your apartment? Maybe I'll see something interesting on the way? Oh and do you promise to develop and give me every photograph I shot today?"

"Erm, sure I promise," Sara said a bit perplexed. "I'll take the roll with me to work tomorrow and develop them for you. If you want, I can drop them off on Sunday, before I go out with Greg."

"Is uncle Greg your boyfriend?" the young girl asked inquisitively.

Sara laughed. "Hell no, he's just a friend. I don't have a boyfriend at the moment," she said, pre-empting Lindsey's next question. "Why do you think that?"

"Well, it's just that he talks about you all the time and you're going out with him again, I just thought…"

"I had lunch with your mother yesterday, we went to a restaurant together last Saturday and had breakfast at your place on Sunday, that doesn't mean she's my girlfriend, does it?" Sara pointed out.

"No, I guess it doesn't. I wouldn't mind if you were though," the girl said climbing into the car.

"You wouldn't?" Sara said agog.

"No, I think you're cool. You know a lot of interesting stuff and you explain it to me in a way I understand. You don't talk down to me like I'm a baby, but talk to me like I'm an adult, like my opinion matters to you. You always answer my questions and make time for me. You know how to play Nintendo and weren't really mad when I cheated, you watch the same cartoons I do and you have a really cool Harley," the girl said matter of factly.

"Off course your opinion matters to me and I'll always be there for you, but all that just makes me your friend. It doesn't explain why you wouldn't mind me dating your mother."

"I just think you'd be good for her, you know. I know she likes you, otherwise she wouldn't have asked you over for breakfast and she trusts you, or we wouldn't be here together. She couldn't stop looking at you this morning and I think it would be really cool if you were together. That way you could help me with my maths, I really suck at it and I could use your camera more often. And maybe you could help me convince my mother to let me go on that trip with Bill," the girl said, flipping on the radio. It seemed that, as far as Lindsey was concerned, the conversation was over, because she started singing along with the radio.

Sara started the car and as Lindsey seemed all talked out – she was far too busy singing along with the radio and looking outside, trying to find the perfect picture-, Sara began thinking about what the young girl had just said. Could Lindsey be right, could Catherine be interested in me? Well Lindsey didn't actually say she's interested in me, she just said she likes me. That's true enough I suppose. We don't argue as much anymore, just yesterday she said she wanted to get to know me better and she's gone out of her way to make me feel better: consoling me when I was down, bringing me coffee just the way I like it and even giving me a massage. She must like me. What else did Lindsey say? Ah, that Catherine trusts me. I guess that's true too, otherwise she would never have left me in charge of her daughter. But surely Lindsey was mistaken when she said Catherine was ogling me this morning? She couldn't have been, could she? She did take a long time in replying, but that doesn't mean anything, does it? How about the strange way she reacted when we first met Sasha, it was like she was jealous or something. And she kissed me this morning! Granted, it was a very chaste peck on the lips, but still… Could this be true? Could Catherine be interested in me? Sara thought about that question for a while, not really coming up with an answer. She decided to watch Catherine closely over the next couple of days, maybe it would reveal some more clues. Besides, it would give her time to sort out her own feelings.

After a quick dash to the supermarket, they walked back into Sara's apartment. " Do you want to help me make dinner or would you rather do something else? As you already know I've got a Nintendo, I also have a couple of video's that might interest you,…"

"I'd rather do something else, if you don't mind," Lindsey said," you said that when you lived in San Francisco, you used to go out every weekend to take pictures. Do you still have those? Could I see them?"

"Erm sure, I brought some with me when I moved," Sara said, "they're in my bedroom, I'll just go and get them." Rummaging through a drawer of her dresser, Sara was secretly relieved she had put all her photographs of Erin in another pile. Walking back into her lounge, she told Lindsey:" if you see a picture you really like, you can keep it, it's yours. I'll even make a couple of frames for you, if you like. That way you can hang your own pictures on the wall if you want to."

"Could you make those frames by Sunday?" the girl asked.

"I don't know about that," Sara laughed, " but I'll do my best."

Part 3.

Catherine arrived at Sara's around six and was enthusiastically greeted by her own daughter. "Hey mom, come on in," the young girl babbled, practically dragging Catherine to the lounge, "you've really got to see this. It's so cool."

Catherine started laughing at her daughter's obvious eagerness and said: "Hey pumpkin. I'll just go and say hi to Sara first, then you can tell me all about your day, okay? Where is Sara?"

"Sara's in the kitchen, she's cooking something Italian."

Catherine walked to the kitchen and found Sara busy stirring a pot. " Hi Sara," she greeted, "what are you making? It smells delicious."

Turning around, spoon still in her hand, Sara shyly said:" hi Catherine, erm I'm making a fish risotto. I hope that's okay? I mean Lindsey said you both like fish and I know you like Italian, so…"

"It smells divine and don't worry, we both love fish," the older woman said. "Can I do anything to help?"

"No, that's ok. I've got everything pretty much under control and Lindsey was very helpful in setting the table earlier. Just go and sit down, relax, you've been working all day. I'll call when dinner's ready. Do you want a glass of wine?"

"That would be great, thanks." Taking the glass with her, she obeyed the younger woman and walked over to where her daughter was sitting. "So pumpkin, what got you so excited a minute ago?"

"You've got to take a look at these mom," the girl said. "You've got to help me choose one."

Setting her glass back on the table after taking a sip – Sara really knows her wine, she thought-, Catherine said:" Okay, I can do that. What are they?"

Scooting closer to her mother, Lindsey started to explain. "When Sara was still living in San Francisco, she used to go out every weekend just to take pictures. She says photographs are like paintings and music, they tell you so much about the artist, about what is living inside their heart. Sara's much better at explaining it. Anyway, these are some of the photographs she took then. She said that if I really liked one, I could keep it. Problem is I like them all, so I need you to help me pick one out."

Taking the pile of pictures out of Lindsey's hands, Catherine slowly started flipping through them, trying to absorb as many clues as she could. The photographs told her volumes about Sara: her thoughts and feelings, what touched her heart, what interested her,…"Sara made these you say?"

"Yeah, she's really good, isn't she?" Not really waiting for her mother's answer, the girl continued:" she's showing me how to take photographs. I could tell she was really nervous at first, she was afraid she'd give me bad advice because she never took a photography course. But she was great and she'll even develop the pictures I took at the lab tomorrow. So what do you think? Which one should I choose?"

"You're right, it's a very tough decision. Why don't we choose the three we like best and then let Sara decide?" Lindsey agreed, so the two of them started flipping through the pile again, telling each other why they liked a certain photograph. It took a while, but in the end they agreed to three pictures and called Sara over. "Sara, we need your help with this. We've narrowed the choice down to three, but we can't decide which one we like best. You'll have to decide which one we take home with us," Catherine said.

"Maybe it would help if I told you the story behind them?" When they both nodded, Sara went to sit in between Catherine and Lindsey. Taking the first picture in her hand, she started laughing. "This is my dog Cerberus, Cerb for short. My parents gave him to me for my 13th birthday. I had been nagging them for weeks and they finally gave in, on the condition that he was my responsibility. You know the drill: I had to feed him, take him for his walks, clean up after him,…He was a very mischievous pup, always doing stuff he wasn't supposed to. When you told him off, he'd just look at you with those puppy dog eyes and that sorry look on his face, you just melted on the spot. Here he had just stolen my gran's sausages, something she wasn't very pleased about, let me tell you." Taking the next picture in her hand, she said: "I took this one when we were on holiday in Mexico. We were staying with some old friends of my parents and Benita was their granddaughter. She was a very cute and gorgeous girl, with the most expressive face. She really wore her heart on her sleeve. Here she was crying because Erin and I were going home. Erin, erm the friend I was travelling with, had been playing with her all week long and Benita was sad to lose her playmate." Looking at the last picture, she said: "I just love the ocean. On a beautiful and sunny day, the sight and sound of the waves makes me calm. It soothes all my aches and pains away, makes me forget all my worries, doubts and problems. On a stormy day it makes me realise nature isn't a force to be messed with. The day I took this photographs there was one of the worst storms I've ever seen. When I saw those huge waves, swept up by the gale force winds, crash onto the beach, I was awestruck. I had to take a picture of that, it was simply beautiful, nature at it's best." Seeing Catherine and Lindsey were still indecisive, she said: "why don't you take all three of them? I still have the negatives here somewhere, so it's really not a problem. Now let's eat, all this talking has made me hungry."

Dinner was a very pleasant affair, conversation reaching a whole range of topics: Sara's love for photography, her culinary skills (which made Sara turn bright red at the compliments) and Lindsey's aptness at Nintendo. "You cheated again, didn't you?" Catherine said.

Lindsey just shrugged and quite cleverly steered the conversation towards Bill and his offer. "So can I?" the girl asked, enthusiasm and eagerness obvious in her gleaming eyes.

"I'll think about it", Catherine answered.

"Oh mom, you always say that and that always means no," the girl whined. "I never get to do any fun things. This morning Sara wouldn't take me for a ride on Matilda because she was afraid you would filet her alive."

"I actually said flay," Sara laughed," but you caught my drift."

Knowing Sara had more experience with motorcycles and instinctively feeling she'd be honest and wouldn't let any harm come to her little girl, Catherine asked:" what do you think Sara? Should I let Bill take her for a ride?"

"I can certainly understand your concerns for Lindsey's safety and all that. But in my honest opinion,… if Lindsey were my child… I'd say yes. Bill really is an excellent rider and he knows exactly what he can't and can do. He'd never put Lindsey at risk. He'd only take her for a leisurely drive, you know to watch the scenery. It's not like he'd be training for the Indy 500. Besides it's actually quite safe, she'd be wearing a crash helmet and you can strap her down. If you're still not sure, you could always ask Bill to take you for a ride first. That way you could assess the situation first hand. You'd not only see just how safe it is, but also how exhilaration a ride is. But that's just my opinion. Ultimately it's our decision."

"I'm not promising anything, but IF and I mean IF, after my ride, I feel it's safe enough, then yes I'll let you go with Bill for a ride."

Lindsey knew it was as far as she would get with her mother and smiling she said: "thanks mom."

Catherine insisted on helping with the dishes. Soon they were finished and as Lindsey's eyelids were growing heavy, she said:" guess it's time for us to go home, this little girl needs her bed." Hugging Sara at the door, she said "thank you for the lovely dinner and thanks for taking care of Lindsey."

"That's quite alright, it was my pleasure."

When Sara bended down a bit to hug Lindsey, the girl whispered in her ear:" thank you for convincing my mom Sara, you're the greatest."

Smiling brightly at that comment, she wished them both a goodnight and still smiling as she waved them goodbye, she closed door.

Chapter 12


Arriving at work extra early, Sara walked into Warrick who had just ended his shift. "Hey Sara," he said, "how's the case going?"

"Okay I think. He left some clues behind at the last scene and he's getting a bit edgy. He'll get more sloppy, so I think we have a good chance of nailing him. How's nightshift doing?"

"Well thank God it's a slow period or the cases would be piling up. As it is, the three of us can just about cope. We can't double up though, we have to handle each case single handedly."

"I bet Nick's thrilled about that," she laughed.

"Yeah, he's not complaining," Warrick laughed. "So is Catherine coming in early too? I haven't seen her in over a week and I'd really like her opinion on something."

"No, it's just Greg and me today. Catherine and Sasha both took the weekend off. Maybe you could call her, I think she said she'd be home all day."

"Thanks, that's a good idea, I'll do that. It's just that my cousin has had a baby and I'd like to know what to buy her, you know. So, how about that agent Blake? How's she working out then? The usual arrogant, superior FBI attitude?"

"No, she's great actually. She's not trying to take over the case or impose her superiority as I first feared. She's quite willing to do some grunt work. She's spent days on the phone gathering information, helped Greg with the data input and even helped us process scenes. So I guess she's okay….. for a Fed and a shrink."

"So you're stuck with Greg today, huh? When's he coming in?"

"I'm not expecting him for another hour. I came in early to use the photo lab. I promised Lindsey I'd develop the photographs she took yesterday. Erm, don't tell Grissom, okay? He'd blow a fuse, unauthorised use of office material and all that crap."

"Don't worry, I won't tell a soul," Warrick whispered conspiratorially. "Your secret's safe with me. Anyway, I've got to run. Good luck with the case."

After Warrick left, Sara went to the dark room, leaving Greg a note she'd meet him in Catherine's office. Lindsey's photographs were actually quite good for a first timer, the kid's a natural, Sara thought. She was surprised to find she was on a couple of them, but remembering her promise to the young girl, she slid them all in a big brown envelop. Putting it in her locker, she looked at her watch and knew Greg would be waiting for her. "Hey Greg, how are you doing?" she asked walking into Catherine's office.

"I'm good. As I had to switch to day shift to help you guys, I could go to that rock concert after all. It was really awesome," he enthused.

"Well you can tell me all about it on the way. Catherine and Sasha made good progress yesterday, we've only got about ten addresses left. So maybe we'll clock out early today."

"Great," Greg said. "How about a beer after shift? You know we still got to settle that pool bet."

"I'd love to, but not today. I've kind of promised Lindsey I'd make her some frames by tomorrow. But we could hang out at my place instead if you want. You know, get some beer and videos. You could even stay over, sleep on the sofa again. That way I wouldn't have to come and pick you up tomorrow morning. How about it?"

"Sounds good to me, but could we swing by my place first before we head to yours? I haven't taken any spare clothing with me and I think I'd be freezing riding Matilda in just a T-shirt."

"Yeah, probably. We'll stop at your place, I've got to go to the glass shop in your street anyway. Here, you drive to the first address," she said, throwing him the keys. "Just make sure we get there in one piece."

They went through the addresses in record time, leaving the gathered information in Sasha's tray for her to analyse on Monday. Clocking out at four, they ran their errands and stumbled through Sara's door round six, their hands filled with bags. "I'll just grab a quick shower first," she said, "why don't you order us a couple of pizza's? Make mine a veggie, would you?" With that she disappeared into the bathroom, to emerge a couple of minutes later wearing her gym sweats.

"Pizza will be here in about fifteen minutes. I've already set the table."

"Okay, thanks. How about I make the frames after dinner, it won't take that long, then we can watch those videos?"

"Sure. I'll wash up and then I'll help you."

Soon they had eaten, washed up and made five frames. They were sitting in the sofa, beer in hand, watching the second video in companiable silence. When the end credits appeared, she asked Greg: "you want to watch the last video?"

"Nah, don't really feel like it. Do you mind if we just talked?"

"Not at all, anything specific you want to talk about?"

"Well yeah," he mumbled shyly," I really like Jasmine, you know the girl at the front desk. I think she's beautiful. He looked at Sara for confirmation, but she just nodded. "Anyway, I want to ask her out and I thought that maybe you could give me some advice. You know, you being a woman and being into women. God, she's not gay, is she?" he suddenly uttered.

"Gee thanks Greg, you make it sound like a disease. But let me assure you, I haven't picked up any vibes. Then again, my gaydar thingy might be in deep hibernation," she laughed. Seeing the worried look on Greg's face, she decided to put him out of his misery. "Look, you've got nothing to worry about, I think she used that cop, erm Johanson I think his name was. So I'm pretty sure you've got nothing to worry about."

"Thanks. Sorry about that, I didn't mean it the way it sounded. You do know that, don't you?"

Sarah just laughed. "Yeah, Greg, I know. I was just yanking your chain. Don't worry about it, I wasn't offended.

Relief visible on his face, he asked: "so, how about some advice? How do I do this?"

"You sure you want my advice? I'm not really sure I could help you. I mean I haven't dated in four years and I was in a committed relationship before that. It's not like I needed any chat up lines is it?. My advice is to just be yourself…."

"Okay, but where do I take her for our first date, do I give her flowers? I mean.. where did you take Erin for your first couple of dates? Maybe that will give me some ideas."

"Erm God, let me see. Well you already know we went for drinks on our first date. I took her to Billie's, a small and very cosy jazz bar in San Francisco. You know, nice music on the background, but not so loud that you don't hear what's being said. Our second date was the very next day. I took her to a little restaurant I knew and then we went for a romantic walk on the beach. I gave her flowers that day. I think our third date was to a local art gallery, but I can't really remember now. … You know, I think you should go to a quiet spot on your first date, talk to her, get to know her better, find out what her hobbies and interests are. You can use that information for your further dates. You know, take her somewhere you know she'll like. I would advice you to only give her flowers when you're picking her up. That way she has to invite you in and she can also put the flowers away immediately. Otherwise, she would be stuck with them all night long and they'd be withered by the time she gets home. Be attentive, chivalrous and most importantly, be yourself. You can't go wrong."

"Thanks Sara. So how about you? How are you doing now?"

"Well I'm more confused than ever. But in a good way." She added, seeing the worried expression on Greg's face. "Don't worry. I'll work it out. Well I'm beat, think I'm going to bed, early day tomorrow. Night Greg."

" Yeah, night," he said, making his bed on the sofa.

Part 2.

By nine Sara and Greg had already finished breakfast and were getting ready for their road trip: Greg in jeans and leather coat, Sara in full black leathers. "We have to stop at Catherine's first," she said. "I promised Lindsey I'd give her the photographs today. You don't mind, do you?"

"No, I don't mind. I haven't seen the little squirt in ages, it'll do me good to catch up with her."

Getting Matilda out of the garage, she handed Greg the second helmet she bought the day before. "Hold on tight," she said, "and remember to bend with the curb. Don't worry, you won't fall off."

"Where should I hold you?" Greg asked, securing his helmet.

"Around the waist is best. You ready?" When Greg nodded, she started the engine and took off at a dazzling speed. Pretty soon they arrived at Catherine's doorstep. Lindsey had already heard the roaring of the engine and waited for them at the door. Their helmets safely tucked under their arm, they walked up to the little girl.

"Hey uncle Greg, hey Sara," she said. "Come on in, mom's in the kitchen." Turning to face Sara and stopping her, she asked:" Have you developed them? Are they any good? Have you brought them with you?"

Sara smiled and said:" Yes. Very good and yes. Greg's got them in the rucksack." When they entered the kitchen, Greg was already there, chatting with Catherine. "Hi Catherine," she said, noticing Catherine's eyes widen at her outfit.

"Hi Sara," the older woman said hoarsely, "you look nice".

"Thanks" Sara grinned, "you too."

Pulling on Sara's sleeve to get her attention – she was still staring at Catherine-, Lindsey asked:" Can I see them now, please?"

"Yeah, sure. Greg, pass me the rucksack, would you?" Getting out the envelop and the frames, she handed them to the little girl.

Lindsey admired the frames for a second, but couldn't contain herself any longer and ripped open the envelop. Catherine, who came over to stand next to her daughter, said:" So you took these, huh Lindsey?" The girl nodded, flipping through the photographs. When they came to the ones of Sara, Catherine went wide eyed again, something Sara didn't miss. "They're really beautiful, pumpkin", Catherine said. Especially the last ones, she thought. "What are you going to do with them?"

"I'll put a couple of them on my wall and the rest in an album. Will you help me put them up, Sara?"

"Erm sure," she said, hanging her leather coat on a kitchen chair. She followed Lindsey out of the kitchen, leaving Greg and Catherine on their own.

"So how's the road trip so far?"

"Really great. You can't believe the rush you get on a Harley and Sara's just wonderful, you know. Not only as a driver, but in general I mean. Just this morning she made me a special breakfast. Said it was the last thing she could do after I spent the night…."

"You spent the night with Sara?" Catherine screeched, interrupting Greg mid-sentence.

"Uh, yeah," he said, not understanding what Catherine was getting so worked up about. When it finally dawned on him, he said:" not like that. Sara and I are just friends. I spent the night on her lumpy couch. That's why she made me that breakfast, because she knows sleeping on that thing is pure torture." Looking at Catherine, he continued:" so you and Sara, huh?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Catherine stammered, turning beet red.

"Oh, come on, don't give me that. I saw the way you checked her out when she came in and your eyes were practically glued to her when she left with Lindsey. Just now, you practically blew up when you thought I slept with her. So you fancy her, huh?"

"God, am I that obvious?"

"No, not really. I don't think Sara has noticed, but then again she's walking with blinds on these days. I don't she notices anyone hitting on her, she certainly didn't notice yesterday when that guy in the video store walked up to her and…"

"Do you think she'd freak if I told her?"

Greg didn't have the time to answer as Sara and Lindsey walked back in. A silence fell and as both Greg and Catherine were avoiding her eyes, Sara had the distinct impression they had been talking about her. I must remember to grill Greg on that, she thought. "Ready to hit the road again Greg?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm ready." He replied, standing up and putting his helmet on.

Sara put her coat back on and saying their goodbyes to Catherine and Lindsey, they continued their trip.

Part 3.

Pulled abruptly from a very pleasant dream by the continuous ringing of the doorbell, Catherine mumbled:" hold your horses, I'm coming already." Putting on her robe, she padded downstairs and opened the door. "Sara? What are you doing here?" she asked, very surprised to find the subject of her dreams on her doorstep.

"I'm sorry for waking you at this ungodly hour, but Grissom called. We have to go in immediately. Apparently a patrol car pulled over a car matching our description. When they saw the scratches on the front, they asked the driver about them. He got very nervous and tried to run, but didn't get far. They then ordered him to open his trunk, thinking he'd have a stash of coke or something in there. To the officers' surprise, they found a carpet. Nothing strange about that, you might think. Well the officers thought the same and knew there had to be something more because the driver was really sweating by then, almost hyperventilating. They rolled the carpet open and a dead body fell out. Female, brunette, single stab wound through the heart. Seems we've caught him. Brass is processing the driver as we speak, so we've got to go in and find enough evidence to nail him. Greg's picking up Sasha at her motel and they'd meet us at the lab."

"Okay. I'll just grab a quick shower. I'll just be a second. Do you mind making us some coffee in the mean time? I can't really think without a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. I'll wake Nancy and tell her what's going on." She was already on the stairs, when she thought of something. "Hey Sara, do you mind giving me a lift? I picked Nancy up from the airport last night, so she doesn't have her car with her. She'll need to borrow mine to drop Lindsey off at her friend's and go to work."

"Sure, no problem. I came on the Harley though. But don't worry, I've got a second helmet in the carrier bag and I'm a very good driver."

"Ah, you're on the Harley. Erm what do you suggest I wear?" Oh God, Catherine thought. I've been having very erotic dreams about her all night long and now I'll have to hold her tightly all the way to work. How on earth am I going to survive that? How am I going to keep my already raging hormones under control?.

"Well, I'd suggest pants, jeans or leather if you got any and a leather jacket. You can always put a change of clothes in the carrier bag. That's what I've done."

"Okay. I think I can manage that. Just go on through to the kitchen. I'll be right down."

A couple of minutes later a very bleary eyed Nancy stumbled into the kitchen. "Morning", she grumbled, immediately reaching for the coffee Sara had just made. Taking a sip, she groaned her appreciation and said:" Cat's just in the shower, she'll be right down."

"Okay. Erm sorry to wake you so early. It's just that Catherine is the lead investigator and we finally have a suspect."

"That's okay. Don't worry about it, I got a couple of hours of sleep on the plane. I'm just glad you caught the bastard."

"Me too. So how was New York?"

Just then Catherine walked in, wearing a jeans and a leather coat. "Ah coffee," she said, immediately pouring a cup. Sara just looked at her, still trying to take in the vision before her. Emptying her cup, Catherine said:" ready to go now. Bye Nancy, I'll call if I'm going to be late." Sara followed her out on automatic pilot, her eyes glued to Catherine's back. She handed her the spare helmet, put her own on and started the Harley. Once Catherine was seated behind her, her arms tightly around her waist, they took off.

Arriving at the lab, neither of them spoke, both trying desperately to get a handle on their hormones and feelings. "I'll just let Greg and Sasha know we're here," Sara said while Catherine walked to the locker room. Sara knew she had to escape the other woman's presence for a while. Watching her change in the locker room would be just too much, she wouldn't be able to control her hormones if she caught a glimpse of a half naked Catherine. Popping her head around the door to Catherine's office, she told Greg they'd be there in a minute. Slowly she made her way to the locker room, hoping Catherine would be decent by the time she walked in.

"So Brass is interrogating him, but so far he isn't talking,." Sasha said.

"Okay, that means we've got several scenes to process," Catherine said. "Sara, why don't you and Greg take the car and the body. They're both still on the scene, police have sectioned it off for curious bystanders. Sasha and I will do the suspect's house. Once you've established the victim's identity Warrick will search her house. He said he didn't mind the overtime. Everybody okay with that?" When they all nodded, she said:" let's nail him."

Chapter 13

Part 1.

Catherine and Sasha vowed to meticulously search the house for clues, evidence that would connect the suspect with both the Los Angeles and Las Vegas killings. Him transporting a body killed in a similar fashion wasn't enough, they needed to link him to the other murders too. Sasha thought they had a pretty good chance of doing just that: he used his own knife for the killings and the guy was obviously a collector. Why else would he take a finger if not to have a little memento? A little reminder of all his accomplishments that he uses to relive the experience over and over again until the urge to kill again is too strong to resist? As Sasha saw it, there would be a whole room devoted to his murderous deeds. The killer was far too organised and obsessed with cleanliness to leave his collection scattered around the house. It would be an easily accessible place, but still out of sight. Visitors would never expect it to be there.

The only option Catherine and Sasha had was to search the house from top to bottom, not only processing each room very carefully, but also trying to locate secret doors and passages. Four hours later the only room left was the cellar. Opening the door, Catherine reached for a light switch. A faint light came on, just enough to climb down the squeaky wooden stairs. At first sight it looked like any regular cellar: some pieces of old junk, a bag of potatoes and beer crates, stacked against a wall. Putting their flash lights on, they ventured a bit further into the dusty and stuffy place to find a little door, cleverly hidden behind a rusty old refrigerator. Pushing it aside, they opened the door and immediately knew they had hit the jackpot. They had found the killer's lair. The wall on the right was plastered with photographs, pieces of paper, tiny notes, newspaper clippings, …. More to the left, right in the middle of the room, there was a shrine of some sorts: a little dresser with pictures stuck to the mirror, a big knife and two white, silk scarves on the table. Against the left wall, there was an open wooden cupboard. Getting a bit closer to see what was on the cupboard, Catherine shrieked. Fourteen glass jars, filled with formaldehyde and fingers, each jar carefully named and dated. There was no doubt in her mind they found their evidence. Those fingers would link him to every victim found.

They knew they had to process the room carefully. The first thing they did, was take pictures. Sasha even pulled a video camera from the rucksack, just to be on the safe side. Once they were sure they had every centimetre of the room on film, they went towards the table. They sprayed the knife with luminol and found that there were blood remnants left on it. They knew further analysis would reveal more, so they carefully put the knife into an evidence bag. Then they bagged the scarves. If he used these as restraints – remembering the ligature marks on the victims, they knew that was a very strong possibility - , there would be epithelia left on the scarves, so they'd have another shot at linking him to several murders. After putting the jars in a bag, they finally moved their attention to the wall. It seemed the killer kept detailed files on each victim. Under their photographs, both before and after death shots with the date of their murder upon them with a big red marker pen, they found detailed descriptions of the women's lives: their routines, their habits, the hours they kept, ….

Following the photographs from left to right, they noticed there were more than fifteen pictures. All the future victims were on there too. Suddenly Catherine gasped. She was looking at (what would have been) the seventeenth victim, born on the sixteenth of September 1971: Sara Sidle. It was too much for her, she couldn't handle it and fell down onto the floor in a trembling and crying heap. When Sasha saw why Catherine was so upset, she said:" go upstairs, get some fresh air, I'll do the rest of them." Catherine could only nod and staggered towards the stairs, her legs feeling like lead and a sick and burning feeling in her stomach. Once outside, she sank down onto the grass, trying to comprehend it all. When Sasha was finished with the cellar an hour later, Catherine hadn't moved an inch. She was still sitting in the same position, white as a sheet, her body shaking violently. She seemed in some sort of catatonic state: staring into space, not responding to Sasha's questions. Sasha pulled her into her arms, not only to soothe and comfort her, but also to share some body heat. Slowly Catherine came to her senses, the shaking lessening to quiet trembling. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked.

Catherine just shrugged and stayed silent for a long time. Just when Sasha was about to ask again, she began to speak: "It's just that it was such a shock, you know? Seeing Sara on that wall, I can't even begin to describe what that did to me. He would have killed her if it wasn't for us catching him and that was just down to damn luck. I could have lost her forever, I never would have had the chance to tell her how I feel."

"And how do you feel about her?"

"I love her, really love her. I want to be with her for the rest of my life, comfort her when she's sad, hold her when she's happy, calm her down when she's angry. I want to wake up in her arms every single morning, I want to kiss away her frown when she's confused, I want to see her eyes shining with enthusiasm as she's trying to explain something to Lindsey. I just want her to be mine forever. And that's exactly what I'll tell her when we get back to the lab."

"I would wait a bit longer to tell her if I were you."

"Why? Why should I wait any longer? I already lost so much time. It's you who said I had to wait until I was sure in the first place and then tell her. Well I am sure dammit. Why shouldn't I tell her?"

"Think about it for a minute. Do you want to tell her you love her right after you've informed her she was going to be one of his next victims? Do you really think that's such a good idea? She'll be shocked, hyped even from your first revelation. I very much doubt she'll really hear what you'll be telling her next. Just wait until the whole case is wrapped up and we've nailed him to the wall. Surely you can hold out until then? With any luck, he'll confess although I doubt that will make any difference, he's going down anyway. What I mean is, when the case is closed, Sara will be more receptive. She'll know she doesn't have to fear him any longer. She'll have faced her unknown terror and come out victorious. So hang on a little longer, just until tonight, eh?"

"You're right, off course you're right. I wasn't thinking straight. Yes, that's what I'll do, I'll tell her tonight." Turning towards the house, she said: "Are we finished in there? I really don't feel like ever setting foot in that place again. It gives me the creeps."

"No, we're done. Everything's bagged, tagged and in the car, waiting for further analysis. Come on, let's get back to the lab."

Back at the lab, they found Greg in the lounge, a huge smile on his face. "Hey ladies," he said, "good news. We found he put the bodies in a, damn how do you call such a thing, erm… you know a plastic bag to put coats in, a coat protector or something. Anyway he put them in that thing first and then rolled them up in a carpet. We found blood spatters on the inside of the plastic thing, results say they belong to the Las Vegas victims. We also found skin cells on two white scarves, belonging to the three local victims. I think he used another set of scarves in L.A. The paint we found on the bin is an exact match with his car and he looks exactly like Mr. Robinson described him. Maybe he'll be able to pick him out of a line up. So far we haven't found anything to connect him to the L.A. killings, but it's still good news, huh?" When they didn't answer and he saw their crestfallen faces, he became scared. "What? What did you find?"

"Greg, where's Sara?" Catherine asked.

"She's with Doc Robbins, he's doing the last victim's autopsy and Sara wanted to be there," he said confused. "Just tell me what you found."

"I'll tell him, you just go and find Sara" Sasha said. Catherine nodded and left for the mortuary, leaving Sasha to tell Greg the devastating news.

Part 2.

Catherine found Sara just as she was saying goodbye to the pathologist. "Hey Catherine" she said. Noticing the stricken look on Catherine's face, she asked: "What's the matter? What's happened? Is it Lindsey?" When Catherine told her what they had found, Sara went rigid before breaking down completely, crying in Catherine's arms. After a while the sobbing subsided, the only evidence of Sara's tears an occasional hiccup and heavy, laboured sigh. She was still in Catherine's arms, clinging onto her like dear life, trying to extract hope, life and determination out of the other woman's presence. Slowly she felt an eerie calm invade her and she pulled away gently. A very determined look on her face, she said:" I want to interrogate him. I want to show that evil bastard I'm not afraid of him. That he'll never get me down."

"I'm still not sure this is such a good idea," Catherine said. "Why would we send Sara in? That sick, twisted psycho was planning to kill her, God knows what he's going to do to her in there. He'll fuck with her mind, I don't want her subjected to that. Hasn't she been through enough already?"

"Actually it's a very good idea to send Sara in, not only for us, but also for her. Not only will she be able to put some ghosts to rest, Sara's presence will also destabilise him further. He'll be confronted with her, but not in the submissive position he'd have wanted. She'll be the superior, she'll be the one who brings him down instead of the other way around. He'll confess quicker, tell us how and why he did it," Sasha explained.

"Okay, I'll go along with it, but only as long as I can be in the room with her. I'm not really happy about it, but I can see where you're coming from. Where is Sara anyway?"

"She went to chase down the results of our evidence. She just wanted to get all her facts straight before going in for the kill. You'll find her in one of the labs."

She didn't find her in the labs, but outside, smoking a cigarette. "Here you are," Catherine said," I've been searching all over. Are you ready?"

"Yeah. I just needed a cigarette to calm my nerves. I'm ready, let's go."

A very thick file under her arm, Sara opened the door to the interrogation room, Catherine following close behind. Sitting down before the suspect – Patrick McPherson- and his solicitor, Sara was silent for a couple of minutes, gathering her thoughts. Catherine used that silence to observe McPherson. He seemed really rattled by Sara's presence, he kept staring at her with an incredulous and baffled look on his face. Maybe Sasha was right, maybe he'll be more talkative faced with one of his intended targets in a superior position, she thought.

"It's quite unfortunate you were pulled over early this morning, isn't it Mr McPherson? Otherwise we wouldn't have caught you yet. As it is we have you on fifteen counts of murder. One body in the trunk of your car, fourteen fingers in your lair. Yes, we did find your secret shrine. We also found the knife you used with blood remnants on it, blood and DNA in the coat protector, we can place you at miss Stewart's house at the time of her murder. Paint scratches on her bin match your car and we have an eye witness. The forensic evidence is irrefutable. There's no way you can wriggle out of this one, we can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt you killed them all. So why don't you satisfy my curiosity and tell us how you did it? How did you select your victims? Where did you find the syringes and narcotics?"

The man smiled insincerely. "You think you're so clever, don't you? You only caught me through dumb luck. If it wasn't for that patrol car, you would never have caught me, you would never have known who I was. I'm so much smarter than you are. You see, you still can't figure out exactly how I did it, can you? Well, let me tell you, it was just too easy. I'd follow them around for a couple of weeks, figure out their habits, get their routine down to pat. Then I stole their keys. I went into their house and just waited. Nobody ever saw me, the neighbours are all too obsessed with making money, they're hardly ever home. And even if they did see me, they just didn't care. We live in a very egotistical age, everybody's out for number one and to hell with anybody else. When the women came in, I drugged them. I stole the syringes and narcotics at work, not that my stupid bosses ever noticed, the ignorant fools. I just gave the loons I'm supposed to look after a smaller dose than described, they're overdrugged anyway. Little by little I saved up a big amount of narcotics and for the syringes, humpf I just used the same one on several patients. Nobody checks anyway. Killing the women was easy, they were drowsy anyway, so I just plunged my knife into their heart and watched as life slowly slipped away from them. I destroyed their heart just like mine was ripped apart, they only got what they deserved. I bound their hands and feet together, put them in the clothing bag and then into the carpet. Stupid neighbours never even knew there was a body in there, if they noticed at all. Then I just dumped them."

" Why Robert Burns? Why cut off their ring finger? Why those women?"

"Three years ago, my fiancée left me standing at the altar, leaving me a note. Seems she wasn't ready to be tied down, that her career was more important to her. I was totally devastated, even had to stop my studies for it. I was going to be a surgeon. As for the poem, I'd chosen Robert Burns as my wedding vow. I thought it only fitting to choose it again, to show Michelle what she made me do. I cut their ring finger off, because they'd never use it anyway. They were all career professionals, only interested in making money and getting promoted. They weren't interested in getting married, settling down or raising a family. They were all like Michelle, out for number one, obsessed with work. They all look like her, act like her. So I killed them, just like I want to kill her." Looking Sara straight in the eye, a smug smile on his face, he sneered: "I would have killed you too, you know? With your pathetic little life, you're just like them. All you do is sleep and work, I know, I watched you for weeks. Coming home in the morning, ordering take away and then going to bed. No room for friends or a lover. I doubt you even know what love is. Look at you, you're pathetic." When Sara saw Catherine was about to jump out of her seat and react, she just grabbed her hand and restrained her. The suspect hadn't even noticed, he was too focused in tearing Sara apart with his words, trying to inflict as much pain as he could. If he couldn't kill her physically, at least he could kill her psychologically. "I mean, you're 32 and what have you got to show for yourself? No husband, no children, only your job. I would have done the world a favour getting rid of you. Nobody would have missed you anyway."

Interrupting his vicious ramblings, Sara said: "until a couple of weeks ago, I would have agreed with you Mr McPherson. I had no life. But then I took matters into my own hands and turned my life around. I have friends, I picked up my old hobbies, cut down on overtime and even bought myself a Harley. I'm not the recluse you thought me to be. As for my single status……..I regret to inform you that your information is flawed. I'm not single, I'm widowed. My wife Erin died almost four years ago, giving birth to my son Matthew." After dropping that bomb shell, Sara left the room, leaving both the suspect and Catherine momentarily stunned.

Processing what Sara had just said, Catherine scrambled up and ran after her. Turning her around, she asked:" is it true? What you've just said, is it true?"

"What do you mean? About me turning my life around or about me being gay and widowed?" Sara smirked. "In answer to your question, yes it's both true."

Catherine didn't say anything, she just put her arms around Sara and kissed her. In the middle of the corridor, not caring who saw them. She slowly licked Sara's lower lip, demanding entrance. Sara hesitated for a second, but then opened her mouth and kissed her back fiercely, passionately. They only broke apart to breathe. Licking her lips, still feeling Catherine's upon them, Sara tried to speak. Catherine put a finger on Sara's lips to still her and looking her straight in the eyes, she whispered: "don't say anything. Just think about it. I just wanted to let you know how I feel. Tell you that I love you. I don't want to pressure you, just take your time, think it through and then come and see me."

Sara wanted to say something, tell Catherine she thought she felt the same way, but was interrupted by Jasmine's arrival. "Erm Sara, I'm sorry to bother you, but there's someone at the front desk wanting to see you."

"Who is it?" she asked absentmindedly, her thoughts and eyes still on Catherine.

"I don't know, she wouldn't tell me. She just said to tell you <<baby girl, come over here and give me a bone breaking hug>>."

"Gwen" Sara said, a bright smile on her face. With a last lingering look at Catherine, she followed Jasmine to the front desk.

Part 3.

Catherine was very curious to know what woman had Sara smiling so brightly, she wanted to see with her own eyes just who this Gwen was. Walking to the reception area, she was very surprised to find Sara hugging the other woman tightly, even kissing her on the lips. A pang of jealousy shot through Catherine's veins, immediately followed by doubt. Had she waited too long? Was that other woman Sara's lover? She did look like she could easily be Sara's mother, but who knew? Maybe Sara was into much older women. She kept staring at them, her mind going a million miles an hour, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by Gwen.

Gently breaking out of Sara's bone breaking hug, she said:" honey, there's someone over there to see you. You'd better get over there and talk to her, she looks like she's about to faint or something."

"Huh, what?" Sara muttered. Turning around, she saw Catherine staring at them, her face white as a sheet. "Erm that's Catherine erm a colleague of mine. I'll just go and say bye and then you can tell me what you're doing here. You're the last person I was expecting. Just stay here for a minute, I'll be right back." She slowly walked up to Catherine, trying to determine what to say.

"Am I too late? Is she your lover?" Catherine asked in a very defeated tone.

"What? My lover?" Sara started laughing. " God no, she's not my lover, far from it. Let's just say she's a very old and dear friend of mine from San Francisco. I haven't seen her in four years, she was the last person I expected to find. I'm just going to go home, ok? Find out what she's doing here. I'll see you tomorrow, bright and early for the debriefing.

"Do you want a beer?" Sara asked. When the other woman nodded, she said: "go and sit down, make yourself comfortable. I'll bring them over." Putting a couple of Buds on the table, she sank down in her favourite leather chair. "So tell me, what brings you here? Not that I'm not delighted to see you, but it's just so unexpected. It's been four years."

"Well Sidle, you're a hard woman to track down. After Erin and Matthew's funeral, you just disappeared without a trace. You never called, you never wrote. I only found out a couple of weeks ago you're here in Vegas now. I just had to see you. I wanted to know how you're doing, see if you're happy again. And I have to talk some business with you, but that can wait. So tell me, why did you leave without saying goodbye?"

Picking at the label of her beer bottle, Sara stammered nervously: "I'm sorry about that Gwen, really I am. I know I sneaked off like a thief in the night, but I really had no other choice. I just couldn't handle it anymore. I had to get away or I would have lost my mind. I wanted a clean break, start over somewhere else where I wouldn't be reminded of it all. I didn't tell you because I knew you would try and talk me out of it and I didn't want that. I just wanted to start over."

"I can understand why you did it, but why didn't you tell me you were feeling this way? I mean I knew you were grieving, so was I, but I could have helped you somehow. I don't know, talked with you, stayed with you for a while, I could have done something to help you, to make the pain go away."

"That's just it, you couldn't. Nobody could help me. Everybody I knew in San Francisco, all the places we used to visit, our house, … everything reminded me of them. I just had to get away. I know I can talk to you about everything, but I couldn't tell you that. Every time I saw you, I saw her. It was just too much."

"So you came to Vegas, huh? Are you happy?"

"A couple of weeks after the funeral, Grissom called. He's my boss. He needed a CSI urgently and asked me if I was interested. I said yes and hopped on the first plane. I really didn't care where I ended up. Anchorage, Las Vegas, Seattle,… I just wanted to get away. Am I happy? I don't know. I went through the motions for four years, but that's all. I led an empty life, I worked, slept and lived on take away and junk food. Nothing else. No friends, no hobbies, nothing. I just wanted to be alone, you know. I wanted to live in a make believe world where everything was all right, so I didn't let anyone in. That way I could keep the illusion alive. But everything changed recently. A case totally shook me up, I realised I couldn't continue like this, so I turned my life around. I painted the walls, put some pictures up and made a bookcase. I made some friends, I even bought myself a Harley."

"How did you name this one?" Gwen laughed.

"Matilda" Sara said embarrassed. "So am I happy? The answer is I'm getting there."

"How about love? You didn't mention that. Is there someone new in your life?"

"Sort of. Someone told me today she loved me, but …"

"What's holding you back?"

"Well, there's Erin. I feel like I would be unfaithful to her. I know she's dead, but I still feel that way. I'm not sure I'm ready."

"Honey, it's been four years. You know Erin would want you to be happy, she'd want you to find someone else. God, you're only 32, far too young to remain single all your life. You're still alive, you need to live your life to the fullest, you know that's what she'd want you to do. What else is holding you back?"

"Essentially I'm afraid. I don't want to be hurt like that again. I wouldn't survive it. What if I start a relationship with this woman and it happens again?"

"You can't live your life thinking what if? It's not healthy. I know you've been hurt, but that shouldn't stop you from trying again. No' one can predict what's going to happen in the future. Do you regret marrying Erin?"

"God no, why would I? I was so very happy with her."

"That's what I mean. You have to take the chance. There's every chance you'll be just as happy with this woman, why would something happen to her? Even if it does happen again, at least you'll have had her love. If you don't do anything, you won't even have that. It's Catherine, that woman we saw in the hall, isn't it? I saw the way she was looking at you. She probably thought I was an old lover or something. Tell me, do you love her?"

"She only told me today that she loves me, I didn't know she felt something for me. Well, that's not exactly true, I was trying to find out if she felt something for me, but… I don't really know how I feel about her. I mean I know I'm attracted to her, I love spending time with her and I love how she makes me feel. I know I love her, but I don't know if it's the same kind of love like I felt for Erin."

"Love has many shapes and forms. Just because you love her differently than Erin doesn't mean you don't love her. I think you just need to have closure. You need to say goodbye to Erin and stop comparing everyone you meet with her. And I know just the way to do that. You know I told you I had some business to discuss with you? Well, you need to come to San Francisco to sign some papers. I have you're your house, so you need to sign for your part and then there's the furniture and the art. We need to take care of that. I was thinking that maybe we could both pick out the pieces we want and then we could sell the rest. You know, contact an art gallery, they'd be very willing to help. Erin's work is very much in demand at the moment. We could split the profits."

"Why now all of a sudden?"

"Well, like you I spent the last four years in a haze. Unlike you I needed to be surrounded by my memories. I needed to feel, see and hear Erin and Matthew everywhere I went. So after you left and it became clear you weren't coming back anytime soon, I moved into your house, in the spare bedroom. I didn't touch anything: the nursery's still as it was when you left, her art pieces are still in the studio. I just needed to feel close to her. But a couple of months ago, I realised I had to let her go. I don't mean I'll forget her or stop loving her, but life goes on. You can't keep living in the past, you have to move forward. So I decided to track you down to get the ball rolling and here I am. So will you come back to San Francisco with me? It would give us a chance to put our ghosts to rest."

"Erm, yeah sure. I think you're right. It's time to say goodbye, to let go of the past and move forward. I still have a lot of vacation days, I'll talk to Grissom tomorrow after the debriefing about taking them up."

"What about Catherine, that was her name, wasn't it?"

"Yes, Catherine. She told me she didn't want to rush me, she said to take me time to make up my mind. I'll tell her I need to say goodbye to someone before I can answer her question. Think that's fair on her?"

"Just explain why you're doing it. That without saying goodbye, you'd always be in doubt, that you wouldn't be able to fully commit. She looks like a smart woman, she'll understand."

Chapter 14


When Catherine walked into the lounge after the debriefing, she found Gwen sitting on the sofa, chatting animatedly with Nick. "No way. Sara did that? She actually dared to say that to her boss?" Nick asked incredulously. The woman just smiled brightly and nodded. "She really is a dark horse, unbelievable," he replied, totally aghast. Noticing Catherine in the doorway, he said "hey Catherine."

"Hey Nick, doing some overtime, huh?" Turning towards Gwen, she put her hand out and said: "hi, I'm Catherine Willows, another one of Sara's colleagues."

"Gwen Conlon," the woman replied, firmly shaking the offered hand.

"Well, I'm off. See you tomorrow night Catherine. Gwen, nice talking to you," Nick said and with a final wave goodbye, he was out the door.

"Are you waiting here for Sara? It's just that she's still talking to special agent Blake about the case and then she has a meeting with Grissom, so she may be a while. Maybe you'd like a coffee while you wait?"

"Yes, thank you, a coffee would be good."

"Sara said you're an old friend of hers from San Francisco. Would you mind telling me about Erin? I gather you knew the both of them?"

"Well I should know Erin," the woman laughed, "after all she was my daughter."

"Oh God, I'm sorry, I didn't know that you're Sara's mother in law. I mean she told me you're a friend. I never thought…." Catherine stammered embarrassed.

"That's quite alright Catherine. You weren't to know. Sara always introduces me as her friend for some reason," Gwen laughed. "Probably makes sense to her too in a weird and twisted way. I mean we do get on. Anyway, you wanted to know about Erin?"

"I don't expect you to … I mean you're her mother… Why would you talk to me of all people? I mean Erin was your daughter and I …."

Interrupting Catherine's ramblings, Gwen cut right to the chase. "You're in love with Sara, aren't you?" When she saw the shocked and obviously embarrassed look on Catherine's face – she was gawping like a fish and had turned beet red-, Gwen immediately reassured her. "You don't have to be afraid of me, just relax would you? I don't mind, in fact I applaud and encourage it. Sara deserves to be happy. Her life didn't stop just because my daughter isn't here anymore. Sara is still young, she can't mourn Erin for the rest of her life. Besides Erin wouldn't want that, she'd want Sara to love again, to be happy again. And that's exactly what I told Sara too. My advice to you is to hang in there. Sara is a very shy, reserved and private person. She finds it very difficult to figure out how she truly feels, she has problems expressing her inner most thoughts and feelings. But when she does, she's definitely worth the wait and effort. I always like to compare her to a wolf: loyal, intelligent, easily rattled, mysterious and a bit of a wild side. Off course wolves mate for life. She'll come to you once she's ready. She's already given you her heart, she just hasn't realised it yet. Just be patient. Now you wanted to know about Erin and Sara? Well…." Gwen told Catherine the whole story.

Just as she finished, Sara walked in, startling both women. She immediately went for the coffee pot, so she had her back to the women sitting on the couch. Her mind on something else entirely, Sara didn't see the expression on their faces. She didn't notice the very emotional and shaken state Catherine was in. Catherine felt she understood Sara so much better now, she understood why Sara had been so distanced at first, why she was so hesitant now. Both Gwen and Sasha were right, she just had to be patient. Sara would come to her when she was good and ready, not a minute sooner.

Having downed the last of her coffee, Sara turned around to face Catherine and Gwen. "Gwen, I'll just be another minute, okay? Catherine, could I speak to you for a minute please? In your office?"

Catherine used the short walk to her office to get her emotions in check. Once inside, Sara went to stand right in front of Catherine. "Catherine, I don't really know how to tell you this, so I'm just going to come out and say it. I asked Grissom about an extended leave, which he immediately granted. This has nothing to do with what you said yesterday or our kiss, well it does, but not in the way you might think. I'm going back home to San Francisco for a while, there are a few things I have to take care of up there. Things I should have done a long time ago. Anyway, the thing is that I never really said goodbye to Erin and Matthew and that's what I'm going to do now. I need to get some closure. It wouldn't really be fair on you to start a relationship, not when I'm still carrying around a lot of unresolved baggage. So I'm going away for a while to take care of that, but I'm coming back. Maybe then, if you're still interested, we could date?" Sara asked, a really shy and insecure voice at the last sentence.

"How long will you be gone for?" Catherine asked.

"I asked Grissom for six weeks. Gwen and I are planning an exposition of Erin's work, so that'll take at least a month to organise."

"Then I'm expecting you on my doorstep in six weeks time," Catherine smiled. Turning serious again, she said:" I know what you're trying to do and I know it's not going to be easy on you. I love you and I'd wait for you forever if I had to. Just remember, I'm only a phone call away. Call me if you need me, night or day."

Taking one of Catherine's hands in her own, Sara gently squeezed it. "Thank you for being so understanding," she said almost humbly. Smiling she added "I'll see you in six weeks." Only hesitating for a split second, she kissed Catherine. Not a chaste peck on the cheek or the lips, but a hungry, passionate and open mouthed kiss. When they finally pulled apart to breath, Catherine's eyes were glazed over and her heart was hammering rapidly in her chest. Sara gave her another light kiss before saying a final goodbye. If that's a taste of what I can expect, I'll definitely wait forever, Catherine thought, her knees still weak and trembling.

Part 2.

It actually felt good to be back in San Francisco, to reacquaint herself with her old haunts and favourite places. She had a couple of meetings with local gallery owners lined up for tomorrow, but today she was free to do whatever she wanted. She decided to make the most of it, the rest of her stay would no doubt consist of running around, organising a million and one things.

She had already visited her parents and was very pleased to see they hadn't changed one bit; they were still as carefree, disorganised and unconventional as they always were. Her parents had welcomed her back with open arms, hugging and kissing her, even shedding a few tears. They had spent a genuinely pleasant morning together, the four years of exile Sara had placed upon herself never mentioned. They had chatted animatedly about the B & B and the sometimes very weird guests, had strolled down memory lane over coffee (Sara wisely staying away from the brownies, knowing her parents, they were no doubt spiked) and talked about Sara's Las Vegas life. She told them all about Catherine and Lindsey and her parents were just pleased she had found someone again. When Sara was about to leave, her dad asked her if she wanted some of her stuff that was still in the shed. Intrigued, she followed him out, laughing when she saw what her parents had kept all these years: photo albums, sport trophies, drawings she had made as a kid,…… Rummaging through the boxes, she relived the happy moments of her childhood, the time she was still carefree and full of hope and enthusiasm of conquering the world. Then, against the wall, half hidden behind some bins, she spotted her very first motorcycle, the one her granddad gave her.

"She still works," her dad said softly, "I made sure of that. I knew that you'd want to keep her, you and dad worked so hard to get her in mint condition. I know how much Dad meant to you, how much you loved him. That bike sort of symbolises the whole connection you had with him, so I knew you'd want her back someday. "

Crying Sara hugged her dad and whispered:" thanks Dad, you don't know how much that means to me."

"All the papers are in order, I kept her in your name, even paid insurance and all. So if you want, you can take her back with you to Vegas. What was the name again you and Dad gave her? I can't remember now?"

"Gonzalez," she laughed, "Granddad called her Gonzalez after Speedy Gonzalez, you know the cartoon? The fastest mouse in the whole wide world? You know how he loved cartoons and he did nickname me Mouse for a while. He thought it was fitting. He even tried to baptise her with a bottle of tequila. The bottle didn't break immediately, so he had an almighty fit about that, cursing the damn Mexicans and their stupid bottles."

"Sounds like a thing that would do," her dad laughed. "Anyway, you want to take her with you? She's got a full tank and the papers are in the kitchen drawer." When Sara nodded, he continued:" I'll just go and get them, you try getting Speedy here out of the shed."

After her dad handed her the necessary paperwork, Sara hugged her parents and promised them to call soon. She got on the bike and drove off, convinced she'd made an excellent start on her little project. At least she had lain one of her ghosts to rest, she had made her peace with her parents.

"So have you seen any pieces you'd like to keep?" Gwen asked, looking at Erin's sculptures.

"Yeah, if you don't mind, I'd like to keep a couple of pieces. Sculptures Erin gave me or pieces that hold some special memories. I've put them aside. You know, she gave me that marble sculpture over there for our first wedding anniversary and she made this when we found out it was going to be a boy. Some pieces just hold too much memories, have too much sentimental value, I just can't see those sold off to the highest bidder. They wouldn't really understand why Erin made them, they wouldn't understand what she meant by them, what they meant to her."

"That's okay, you don't really have to explain, I feel the same way. I picked out several pieces myself. Like you said, some pieces just hold too many memories, they simply mean to much. While we're on the subject, I talked to the Miss Esposito, gallery owner, today, she said she's already getting a good response. Word is out about the exposition we're planning and several big shot art buyers and museums have already called, requesting an invite. So that's good news, huh?" Sara just smiled brightly and nodded.

They continued working silently for a while, side by side, wrapping the sculptures up and putting them into cardboard boxes. The exposition was in two weeks time, so the sculptures had to get to the gallery today. The owner wanted to get a little portfolio going, to get more people interested. Suddenly Gwen asked: "What about the furniture? Have you thought about that? Decided what you're going to do with it? The buyers are moving in in about a week's time, so we have to get this place empty quick sharp."

"Yes I know, I already contacted a moving company, they're willing to keep the furniture in storage until I go back to Las Vegas and deliver it then. I've tagged the things I want to keep. It's just a couple of bits and pieces. I already took some furniture with me when I moved to Las Vegas, so it's just the odd table or cupboard I quite like. You know things that have a special meaning to me, like the rocking chair Erin bought when she was pregnant. I really can't take that much with me, I haven't got the room in my tiny apartment. The other things I'm taking are really small. Like personal mementos, the photographs I've taken over the years, my old camera, … I'm thinking about giving my old camera to Lindsey, that's Catherine's daughter. She's taken a shine to photography and she's really good at it too, she's really a natural. I think she'd like working with my old camera." Sara smiled at that thought.

"What are you going to do with the rest of the furniture?" Gwen asked.

"I don't know. I wanted to ask if you had any ideas? Maybe you would like to keep some things? If not, maybe you know somebody who needs furniture, a charity or something. With all the special projects and charities you're involved with, you're bound to know somebody?"

"Yeah, leave it to me, I'll think of something. I know the community centre down the road is in desperate need of some donations. Maybe I could even persuade them to do the heavy lifting," Gwen laughed. Taking the last of the sculptures, she continued: "I saw you arrive on your old bike today, are you going to take her back with you?"

"Yeah, I was thrilled when I found out Dad kept her all those years, I never thought he'd do that. That bike really means a lot to me, I suppose it's the only thing I have left of my Granddad. I could never sell her to a total stranger, I would feel like I'm betraying his memory. Besides the new owner would never appreciate the hard work we've put in restoring her. But I know someone who would. I've got a really close friend in Las Vegas, Greg. Maybe you've met him, he's another one of my colleagues? Well Greg, he's a bit of a goof, but he has always been there for me when I was down, you know? I can talk to him about anything. He doesn't judge me, he takes me like I am. He's the best friend I ever had, I think. Anyway, I took him for a ride on the Harley a couple of weeks ago and you should have seen his face. It was like a kid in a candy store. I think I'm going to give Gonzalez to him, as a way of thanking him. I know he'll appreciate the work Granddad and I put in and he'll just be so happy, it really is the perfect gift for him. I e-mailed him a couple of days ago and he mentioned he's taking driving lessons, so by the time I get back he might have his license. I could really surprise him with his very own motorcycle."

"That's a really nice gesture, Sara. I just hope he knows what that bike means to you and takes care of it."

"Don't worry, he will. Now are you done with those? I'll just go and take them to your van, so you can bring them to the gallery."

Part 3.

The exposition was a big success. Every single item they had put up for sale, even some of Erin's earlier pieces, had fetched astronomical prices. Sara felt elated and sad at the same time. She was happy, ecstatic even that Erin finally got the artistic recognition she deserved, sad because Erin didn't get the chance to witness and celebrate the success she worked so hard for. Sara knew her time in San Francisco was coming to an end, but she still had one last import thing to do, one other ghost to put to rest and that was saying goodbye to Erin and Matthew.

The morning after the exposition Sara got up early and went to buy some fresh flowers. White orchids, Erin's favourites. It was a very nice and sunny August day, so she decided to walk to the cemetery, it wasn't that far from Gwen's house. Leaving Gwen a little note, she was soon on her way. Arriving there some fifteen minutes later, Sara quickly made her way through the rows and rows of tomb stones, only occasionally meeting another visitor. Finally she spotted the right one. She had always thought Gwen had chosen the perfect spot for Erin and Matthew: a little secluded from the other graves, surrounded by little flowers and overshadowed by the top of a big and sturdy oak tree. When you listened carefully, you could hear the whistling of the tree singing it's own kind of soothing song. She was sure Erin would have loved this spot, it would have appealed to her fondness of the magical, the quaint. Sitting in front of the stone, Sara started talking.

"Hey babe. I know it's been a long time since I've been here, but I really couldn't face it anymore. After you left, I felt so lost without you, I just fell apart. My whole world came crashing down and I couldn't take anymore. I felt I was going slightly mad, that I was slowly losing my mind. You know me, I did what I usually do when faced with an emotional problem, I ran and brooded. I ran all the way to Las Vegas actually. I didn't say goodbye to anyone, not to my parents, not to Gwen, I just hopped on a plane and left. Another rash decision, but in the end I don't regret it, not really. The only thing I regret is leaving like a thief in the night. I should at least have told the people I loved what I was doing, where I was going, but no. I kept silent all that time, never wrote, never called. I just wanted to be alone. Away from all the people and the places that reminded me of you. I just missed you so much, I felt my whole world had ended that day. First they take you away from me, then Matthew. I held him in my arms for a while, you know? He was so beautiful. I fell in love with him all over again that instant. With his tiny fingers and toes, a cute little nose and then his bald head. I swear he looked like you, not the bold head I mean, but his eyes, his chin, the way he scrunched his nose. I know that's impossible since we used my eggs, but still…. He gripped my finger with his tiny little hand and I swear he smiled at me, like he knew who I was, like he knew he'd always be safe with me….And then he died too. The only consolation I have is that I know he's not alone, that he's with you wherever you both are….

Anyway, I was angry with you for a very long time for leaving me behind. Irrational I know, but I wasn't exactly thinking straight at that time. I even thought about joining you for a while, but I never did. I remembered what we promised each other all those years ago. I knew I was well on the road to self-destruction when Grissom, he's my boss, called with a job offer. It required an immediate move to Las Vegas, but it was just what I needed, so I said yes. I've been living there for the past four years now and there didn't go a day by that I didn't think of you. I used to hear your laughter everywhere I went, I even thought I saw you a couple of times in a crowd only to find out I was mistaken. I couldn't stand being reminded of you two, so I never took your pictures out of the moving boxes, never put any knick knacks from San Francisco out,. I only did that a couple of weeks ago. I realised that I wasn't really living, merely existing. I wasn't keeping my promise to you, that I'd rebuild my life if ever anything happened to you.

But like I said, I turned my life around: I painted my walls, even built myself a book cabinet. I think granddad would have been proud, he always said I had a talent for carpentry. Along the way, I found out I had friends in Las Vegas after all. You'd really like Greg. He's like the younger brother I never had. He listened to me rambling on about you and Matthew one night and comforted me. He's always there when I need him. He was the first one I talked to about you and Matthew. It's not that I wanted to deny you ever existed, but I thought that talking about you with my new colleagues, virtual strangers who didn't know me or you, would only lead to them pitying me. I didn't want that, I was already wallowing in self pity, I didn't need their pity on top of that. So I never mentioned you. I'm sure they all thought I was this unemotional, cold fish, but I didn't care. I just wanted the pain to go away and the only way to do that was to throw myself into work. I became an even bigger workaholic than I was back home.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, we had a case and that was the big eye opener for me. The victim led my life, well my empty existence. Then I knew I couldn't go on like that, I was becoming a recluse, talking with no' one outside work, never going out, just eating, sleeping and working. Like I said I turned my life around then: I made my apartment a real home, I bought myself a new Harley and even picked up my old hobbies again. What I'm trying to get at is that I realised it's time for me to let you go. I can't keep living in the past, I have to live in the present, have to make plans for my future. I fell in love with someone. I struggled hard against it, I thought I was betraying you, but I guess she stole my heart a long time ago, I just didn't realise it. I still have lingering doubts and fears, but I've got to take this chance. I want to be happy again, I want to live again. I'll always love you, but my place is with Catherine now. She's one of my colleagues and in a way I think you'd like her. She's strong, outgoing, feisty and I love her. I don't know why, but for some weird reason she loves me too. So I guess what I'm saying is goodbye. I'll always love you and Matthew, you'll both be in my heart and thoughts forever, but I've got to let go of the past. I've got to let go of you….." Getting up, she kissed the headstone and said a final "goodbye, I'll always love you" before walking away to her new future.

She said goodbye to Gwen and promised her to keep in touch. Slinging on her rucksack, she climbed on Gonzalez and took off, driving all the way to Nevada. She slept in some sleazy motel about halfway through, but she didn't care. Her mind was to preoccupied to even see the cockroaches and the filth laying around. She was too busy thinking about the way Catherine would react when she arrived on her doorstep. Her doubts and fears were kicking in again. She feared she would be too late, that Catherine would have moved on. Although Catherine had said she would wait forever if she had to, Sara wasn't sure that was true. Sure, their emails had been loving and friendly enough, but that wasn't really the same was it. Maybe Catherine had grown tired of waiting, maybe she wasn't really in love with her after all, maybe….

Sara couldn't really sleep, her doubts gnawing at her all through the night, so she took off again at four in the morning. She wasn't really that far off anymore, so she arrived at Catherine's doorstep around six. Anxiously she pushed the doorbell, fearing the reaction she'd receive. When she heard stumbling on the stairs, she knew the moment of truth had arrived. Now she'd know if her worrying had been warranted or not. Slowly the door opened and a rather frumpy looking Catherine stood in the doorway. "Hi" Sara said, a hesitating smile upon her face.

Chapter 15

Part 1.

Catherine just stood there for a couple of seconds, open mouthed and shell-shocked, not really fully awake yet. Could it be that Sara was back or was she still dreaming? She blinked a couple of times, but no, the image didn't fade, it really was Sara who was standing there, now with a rather anxious and worried expression on her face. Catherine didn't say a word, she just grabbed Sara by the lapels of her black leather jacket and pulled her into the house. When the door closed with a loud thud, she threw her almost roughly against it and started kissing her senseless. Fiery, wild and passionate kisses, trying to tell Sara wordlessly how much she had missed her and how very happy she was she came back to her.

Guess I had nothing to worry about after all, was the last rational thought Sara's lust filled mind could form before she gave up completely and let her senses guide her. She snaked her arms around Catherine's waist, one gently caressing her lower back, the other one slowly migrating towards her neck. She played with the hairs in Catherine's neck and pulled her even closer, sliding down the door a bit so they were of the same height. When they both pulled away, their need to breathe temporarily overpowering their lust and almost carnal desire, Catherine gently and tenderly caressed Sara's flushed cheek with a finger and asked huskily: "when did you get back?"

"Just now," was all Sara could utter before Catherine's lips were on hers again. Sara's lips were just too close by, she had to taste them again, feel them against her own. She nibbled on Sara's lower lip with her teeth, immediately laving the pain with her tongue. When Sara couldn't hold back a moan, Catherine invaded her mouth with her tongue, darting it along Sara's teeth and swirling it around her velvety tongue. This made Sara groan even louder, as she began duelling with Catherine's tongue, trying to get control over the kiss. Their arms snaked around each other again, they latched onto each other's lips hungrily and passionately as their excitement escalated. Suddenly Sara pulled back abruptly, leaving Catherine bewildered, immediately feeling a deep sense of loss. "What is it baby?" she asked, fearing Sara was about to turn her down, that she wasn't ready for this after all.

"Lindsey" Sara answered in a very lust filled voice. "Is she here? I don't want her walking in to us."

"Don't worry, it's Eddie's weekend. She won't be home until Sunday evening. We have the whole weekend."

Sara didn't answer, she just pulled Catherine into another searing kiss, their tongues tangling widely, trying to taste and absorb every ounce of each other. Catherine moaned loudly, her hands running up and down Sara's sides. Sara started planting feather light kisses on Catherine's neck, which made the older woman crane her back, giving Sara even greater access. Reversing their position, settling Catherine against the door, she licked the hollow at the base of her neck and sucked on a pulse point for a moment before descending further down, placing butterfly kisses on every centimetre of exposed skin she found. Her lips descending softly onto Catherine's again, she slowly untied her dressing gown and pushed it off of Catherine's shoulders until it was in a puddle on the floor. Her hands fell down to the hem of her nightshirt and timidly snuck underneath. She let them slide up ever so slowly, tracing soft and lazy patterns on Catherine's belly with the tip of her fingers, making her shiver and groan softly. Unhurriedly her hands wandered up even further, gently brushing over Catherine's breasts, making her shudder. Suckling her lower lip and then biting down gently, she let the tip of a finger run over an already rock hard and ultra sensitive nipple. With her other hand, she began bunching the nightshirt up, revealing naked skin to her very appreciating eyes.

When the older woman understood what she was trying to do, she helped by quickly pulling the nightshirt over her head and tossing it aside, leaving her clad in only her panties. The goddess like vision before her drew a very throaty growl of admiration from Sara. "You're beautiful Catherine", she whispered huskily, looking directly into her eyes. Sara pushed her back against the door, placing soft kisses on Catherine's collarbone before venturing down further, alternating between kissing and licking. She let her lips float down between her breasts and gently brushed over a nipple. She flicked her tongue over its hardness and licked it unhurriedly, making Catherine whimper almost inaudibly. Catherine's hand dug into her skull, telling her she wanted more. She opened her lips to take the nipple into her mouth, sucking lightly on it while her fingers pinched the other nipple. She bit down softly with her teeth, making Catherine release a high-pitched moan. Not wanting to play favourites, she released the bud to kiss, lick and suck the other one.

Her hand wandered down, her nails delicately scraping over Catherine's stomach until she reached the panties. Looking at Catherine again, she kneeled down in front of her. Inhaling the smell of Catherine's obvious desire, Sara felt herself grow even wetter and shuddered. Placing a light kiss on the black lace panties, she slowly pulled them down, making Catherine clasp her shoulders to keep her balance. Catherine closed her eyes and held on tightly to Sara's shoulders, biting her lip as she felt Sara trail her fingers slowly up her legs. Sara softly caressed the inside of her thighs, before putting one leg over her shoulder to gain greater access. Her tongue slid all the way along Catherine's slit, eagerly lapping at the thick, sweet juices pooled there before returning to her very swollen clit. Licking it with the flat of her tongue, Catherine moaned deeply and pressed Sara's head even closer. Sara took the nub between her lips, grazing it softly with her teeth before she started sucking it. She gently entered her with one, then two fingers, going in and out at a slow pace. "Oh God….. Yes… Sara…. Please… Please don't stop," Catherine moaned pleadingly, her breathing very laboured. As Sara felt that Catherine was very close, she decided to tease her no longer and to push her right over the edge. She sucked even harder, curling her finger up to rub that special spot. As the pleasure came flooding through her in waves, Catherine loudly screamed Sara's name and slid across her shoulders, as her legs finally gave out.

Sara took her in her arms and hugged her tightly, softly rubbing her back. She placed soft kisses on Catherine's lips, nose, cheeks and forehead, all the while whispering soothing words in her ear. When Catherine finally came back to earth, she lifted her head from Sara's shoulder and looked at the face before her. Giving her a very passionate kiss, she said:" God, I love you Sara. You're amazing. I can't believe what you just did to me, how you made me feel." Trailing a finger across Sara's lips, she took a closer look at her lover. "You're still fully clothed?!?" she said bewildered. "Well not for long, I'm taking you to bed," she added, a lecherous and mischievous grin on her face. She took a very eager Sara by the hand and led her to the bedroom.

Once they were in the bedroom, Catherine went to stand in front of Sara. She took her head between her hands and said "I love you Sara" before kissing her passionately. Still kissing Sara hungrily, Catherine slid the leather coat off of Sara's shoulders and down to the floor. She tugged at the black tank top and momentarily let go of Sara's luscious lips to pull it over her head. She was very pleased to see that Sara wasn't wearing a bra, a pair of very erect nipples staring back at her. Pressing up closely against her, she gave Sara's nipples a gentle squeeze before beginning to unbutton Sara's leather pants as fast as she could. Pushing them down along with Sara's boxers, she bent down to remove them along with Sara's boots and socks. She studied Sara's body as if she were a work of art and said:" you're incredibly beautiful Sara," trailing her fingers all over Sara's body, making her shiver. She closed the gap between them once again, gently pushing Sara backwards while kissing her, making her tumble upon the bed. Catherine slowly climbed on top of her, making sure their bodies touched in all the right places. As they kissed, Sara let her hands trail from Catherine's back to her hair, pulling her in even closer as their tongues explored each other eagerly. Catherine let her hand caress Sara's stomach before slowly ascending towards her breasts. She circled a nipple with a fingertip, making Sara gasp and shudder. Scooting down a bit, Catherine's lips teased the nipple, flicking it gently and licking it teasingly before sucking at it. Sara's whole body was throbbing and tingling pleasantly as Catherine's hand unhurriedly travelled southwards, her middle finger sliding down teasingly between her thighs. " Oh fuck, please touch me Catherine," Sara begged, her voice husky and low with arousal. Adding another finger, Catherine let her fingers trail the smooth wetness for a while before concentrating on Sara's throbbing and incredibly swollen core. She rubbed slowly at first, then faster and faster in rhythm to Sara's bucking hips. Sara tensed up and screamed out Catherine's name as her fingers kept pushing her further, making her come again. Looking Sara straight in the eye, Catherine took her fingers and put them in her mouth, licking them clean with her tongue, making them both moan with pleasure.

When Sara relaxed, Catherine hugged her tight, holding her close while she came back from her physical and emotional high. Sara kissed her lovingly and caressing her lips, she said: "I love you Catherine," before putting her head on Catherine's shoulder and snaking an arm over her stomach. Softly stroking Sara's hair, she whispered "I love you too".

Part 2.

Sara slowly woke from her deep slumber when she felt fingers tenderly stroking and caressing her hair. She hadn't felt this good in quite a long time, her body still tingling all over, her mind momentarily lulled into a delightful peace. She felt alive again, like a big, black veil had been lifted from her eyes and she could finally see the world again in Technicolor. She stirred, her eyes slowly fluttering open to see Catherine's baby blues lovingly staring back at her. "Hi," she croaked before scooting up a bit to place a light kiss on Catherine's lips. "Sorry about dozing off like that, but I didn't really get any sleep last night, I just tossed and turned all night long," she said sheepishly.

"How come?" Catherine asked, still stroking Sara's hair and lifting Sara's chin up a bit to look her in the eye.

"Well I stayed in a really sleazy motel just outside Barstow last night, you know the kind: bugs everywhere, a carpet that hasn't been cleaned in centuries, filthy bathroom…. Anyway, I had the mattress from hell, lumps and bumps everywhere. That didn't really help. But I guess the main reason is that I was a bit too wired. I was scared of how you'd react when you found me on your doorstep, that I'd be too late, that you'd have moved on. So I tossed and turned, until I finally gave up around four and just drove on."

"You had nothing to worry about, baby, I love you and nothing will ever change that. I told you I'd wait forever if I had to."

"Yeah, I know, I guess I was just a bit insecure. I get like that sometimes. And I have been away for five weeks, a lot can change in that time. I know we sent e-mails, but that's not really the same, is it? It's kind of impersonal and distanced. Anyway, I just got scared all of a sudden, but I'm not anymore. Not after you went cavewoman on me and practically dragged me inside, kissing me senseless," Sara laughed.

Catherine blushed deep red at the memory, but said nothing. They laid in each others arms for a while, just content to be together at last, no words needing to be said. "So how was San Francisco?" Catherine suddenly asked, trying to keep her tone casual, but not really succeeding.

It was clear to Sara she was looking for reassurance, confirmation that she really did love her. She wrapped her arms around her even more tightly and said: "it was good, I was finally able to put some ghosts to rest. They had been haunting me for far too long. I visited my parents for the first time in four years and spent a nice morning with them. You know just talking about everything and nothing, it was really great. I told them all about you. They can't wait to meet you and Lindsey. With Gwen's help, I packed up my furniture and sold my house. And I finally said goodbye to Erin and Matthew. I told her that although they'd have a special place in my heart forever, I had to let them go and move on. That I'm hopelessly in love with you and belong to you now, heart, mind and soul."

Kissing Catherine softly, she looked her straight in the eye and said:" I do, you know. I'm not really good at all that romantic, mushy stuff, but… I'm totally and hopelessly in love with you. I love every little thing about you, I love the way you kiss me, the way you nibble on lip when you're nervous, the way you laugh, I even love the way you sing…. I just love you. You and Lindsey are my future now. You know, I generally hate Celine Dion songs, but I'd sing her song "seduces me" right this minute to tell you exactly how I feel about you. But as my voice isn't that great, like I said a bunch of cats in mating season, the words will have to do. <All that I am and all that I'll be means nothing at all, if you can't be with me. Your most innocent kiss or your sweetest caress seduces me. I don't care about tomorrow, I've given up on yesterday, here and now is all that matters, right here with you is where I'll stay>."

Leaning down again to give Catherine another sweet and light kiss, she was very surprised to see a solitary tear in Catherine's eye. She yelped when Catherine pulled her down almost roughly, kissing her as if her life depended on it. When she started to moan, Catherine slipped her tongue in, making Sara groan even louder. They exchanged wild and passionate kisses for a couple of minutes until Sara broke away. Her breathing very ragged, she asked huskily: "what was that for?"

"It's what you do to me. That was the single most beautiful thing anyone ever said to me. It just blows me away how much I love you." Kissing her again, feeling more confident now, she asked:" how did the exposition go?"

"It was a big success, we went through all kinds of hell trying to organise it, but it was definitely worth it in the end. Every single item we decide to put up for sale, sold at a very high price. I don't really care about the money, I'm just glad Erin finally got the artistic recognition she so rightly deserved. We didn't sell all sculptures though, Gwen and I kept some, you know the one's that just mean too much."

"Can I see them sometime?"

"Erm sure, you can see them later today if you like. The moving company said the van would be there around three. If you want, we can go over to my place. I just got to put some of the furniture in my apartment." Shyly she stammered: "then I'd like to take you out somewhere, you know like a first date. I mean I know we're doing this whole thing kind of backwards, but I'd really like to take you out somewhere, dinner and a show perhaps? If you don't want to, that's okay too, we could just stay in. Or maybe you'd like to be alone tonight, I mean I wouldn't want to presume…"

Putting a finger on Sara's lips to interrupt her nervous ramblings, Catherine kissed her softly and said:" I'd love to out with you Sara. I just want to be wherever you are, wake up next to you every single morning and go to sleep every night, wrapped up in your arms. I want to hold you when life gets you down, comfort you when you're sad, grow old, wrinkly and grumpy with you. I just want to be with you all of the time." Kissing her lightly, she continued: "Well, if the moving company is going to be at your place at three, I guess we'd better get ready, it's one o'clock all ready. Shower with me?" Catherine asked mischievously.

Three years later.

Catherine was in the middle of processing a rather bloody crime scene with Warrick when her cell phone went off. Looking at the tiny screen, she saw it was Sara and went outside to get some more privacy. "Catherine, it's Nancy. No need to be alarmed, but you'd better get to the hospital, You're about to become a mom again. Sara's water just broke. Lindsey and I will take her in and we'll meet you there, okay? Wait, hang on, Sara's got something to say to you."

Sara came on the phone and shouted:" Willows, you'd better get your butt over there, Junior's about to pop out. You've got me into this mess, you'd better be there to get me out of it. Oh God that hurt," Sara groaned when another contraction hit. In a much softer, almost whispering voice she pleaded:" please baby, I need you to be there, to hold my hand and talk me through it."

Catherine knew how scared Sara must be right now, knowing what happened to Erin in the back of her mind. Suppressing her own rising dread and panic, she reassured her:" don't worry baby, okay? Everything's going to be fine. Nancy will drive you to the hospital and I'll be there to meet you, even if I have to steal a patrol car and break every speed limit to get there on time. I wouldn't miss it for the world. So don't worry. I'll be there to hold your hand. I love you Sara and I'll see you soon."

Ending the conversation, she went back inside to look for Brass and Warrick. Finding Brass first, she said:" Hey Jim, could you do me a huge favour? Could you drive me to the hospital in record time, you know with the police lights on and the siren blaring? Sara has just gone into labour and I need to be with her."

"Sure, I'll go and get the car," Brass said, "Meet me upfront. I'll get you there in five minutes."

"I'll be right there, I just need to tell Warrick where I'm going." Finding Warrick in the victim's kitchen dusting a gun, she said:" Warrick, I have to go now, family emergency. I'm very sorry to leave you in the lurch like that, but Sara's having our baby right now. I need to get over there. Tell Grissom where I went, okay?"

"Sure, just go. Good luck and tell Sara the gang will be there as soon as shift's over, okay?"

Catherine was already running through the hall and just waved to tell she'd heard. All the way to the hospital, she nervously fiddled at her golden wedding ring. She and Sara had gotten married a year ago in a little informal ceremony in the garden of their new home. Just the two of them declaring their love for each other in front of family members and their closest friends. Even Sara's parents and Gwen had come over all the way from San Francisco to celebrate with them. When Brass screeched the car to an abrupt halt, Catherine leapt out and sprinted towards the reception desk. "I'm looking for a Sara Sidle, she would have been just brought in, she's in labour," she stammered, totally out of breath.

"She's in the maternity ward. Down the hall and then to the right. Just follow the yellow line, you can't miss it," the desk girl said after checking her computer.

"Thanks," Catherine muttered, already sprinting away. Arriving in the maternity ward, she quickly scanned the place, but didn't see Sara.

"Over here mom," Lindsey yelled. "Sara's just filling in some forms with aunt Nancy. Sara will be so glad you're here, she's really nervous. I think aunt Nancy will be glad too, she said Sara was breaking her hand, squeezing it so hard." Just then Nancy wheeled Sara over in a wheelchair. Catherine took Sara's hand and squeezed it, giving her an encouraging smile.

"Sara Sidle?" a nurse called out.

"Over here," Catherine replied, pushing Sara towards the nurse.

"And who might you be?" the nurse asked curiously.

"She's the father," Sara replied, "now can we get on with it damn it, this baby wants to come out NOW."

"You'd both better get in then," the nurse said smiling. "I guess you want to be present at the birth?" the nurse asked. Receiving a very eager nod, she continued: "put this on, then you can help me with your wife. I'll just check to see how far along she is. Hmmm, fully dilated. Seems you're right, miss Sidle, the baby does want to get out now. I'll call for the doctor immediately. You took Lamaze class together, right? Okay, then you'll know what to do when another contraction hits. I'll be right back."

Taking Sara's hand back in her own, she kissed her forehead and murmured:" you're doing just fine, baby. Don't worry, not long now."

Meanwhile in the hall, Lindsey an Nancy were fidgeting on their chairs nervously, while Brass was trying to wear the floor out with his constant pacing. Just then Greg, Nick and Warrick walked in. "Grissom will be right here, he's just parking the car." Nick said to no' one in particular. "Any news yet?" he asked. Lindsey answered: "the doctor went in there half an hour ago, he said it wouldn't be long now."

An hour later, Catherine came out of the room, a huge smile plastered on her face. "It's a boy," she said, "51 cm, 6 pounds. He's bald, he only has a few black hairs and looks just like Sara. He's beautiful, ten little fingers and toes and a very good set of lungs."

"Congratulations" they all said at the same time. "How's Sara doing? Can we see them?"

"Sara's fine, very tired but fine. You can all come in to take a look. Not long though, they both need their rest."

"Congratulations Sara," Warrick said when he entered the room. A rather tired and slightly dishevelled looking Sara was sitting up in bed, holding a very sleepy baby. His eyes were fluttering open and shut and he was squeezing Sara's pinky finger with his tiny little hand. "He's beautiful. What are you going to call him?" Nick asked.

Catherine looked at Sara, who just nodded, before saying: "Lucas Gregory Sidle. Lindsey and Greg, we'd like you to be the godparents."

"Really? Thanks. I'd love to," both Greg and Lindsey said simultaneously, making the whole room laugh. Everybody took their turn looking at the baby, cooing him and making funny faces. Lindsey even got her camera out and took pictures of Sara, Catherine and little Luke.

When they saw Sara was getting tired, they all said their goodbyes, promising to visit again soon. When they were alone again, Catherine took little Luke out of Sara's arms and giving him a little kiss on his tiny nose, she put him into his crib. Settling down next to Sara on the bed, she gave her a light kiss on the lips and whispered: "he's really beautiful Sara, our baby boy. I love you baby, now and forever."

"I love you too," Sara said tiredly, snuggling closer into Catherine before dozing off.

The End

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