DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of these characters. Sorry for treading on any toes I do it only for my sanity.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: After the episode Swap Meet, I couldn't get out of my head the vision of Dina Meyer's character meeting a blonde woman for a midnight tryst. Coupling that with the absence of Catherine from the episode, I came up with this convoluted offering starring two (or is that three?) of the most gorgeous women ever to grace my television screen *G*
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Swap Meet, Crow's Feet.

Life Jim But Not As We Know It
By Debbie

"Meg! Meg! I'm here," called the blonde woman across the lobby of the Bellagio.

Catherine Willows strode towards Meg Cunningham with a look of delight on her face, as Meg called, "Hey babe, sorry I'm late, but you know how things are, took me ages to push Tom on to some awful woman. Jeez, I hate those parties so much, but at least I get to meet up with you..."

Her words were stopped by the welcoming kiss of her lover. As the kiss deepened neither woman took notice of the watching CCTV, they couldn't have cared less who saw their moment of happiness.

Jim Brass turned to face Sara Sidle and murmured, "Well that sure isn't Mr. Cunningham; I guess I'll go have a quiet word with Mrs. C."

The dour faced detective was surprised when he received no acknowledgement to his comment. The younger CSI was staring at the screen, the look on her face one of stunned surprise.

"Sara? Sara, are you ok?"

She turned towards the detective and managed to mumble, "Yeah fine Jim, you go ahead, I just need a few minutes quiet. OK?"

Smiling gently, Jim Brass nodded his head and left Sara to her musings.

Quickly rewinding the videotape, Sara watched again the moment when Meg Cunningham entered the hotel lobby and the graceful blonde woman strode over to greet her with such a kiss of passion it nearly caused the camera to steam over.

She grimaced, Jim Brass might not have recognized the blonde, but Sara Sidle had. She would have recognized that walk anywhere, it belonged to the woman she had had a secret crush on for nearly 5 years: her colleague, Catherine Willows.

If only Sara had had the courage to pursue Catherine instead of hiding behind an unrequited love for her boss, it might have been her in the hotel lobby. Instead, it appeared Catherine was having an affair with a married woman.

She got up quickly, Sara had to see Brass' interview with Meg Cunningham.

Carefully watching from behind the two-way mirror, Sara studied the woman talking to Jim Brass.

A beautiful redhead with piercing green eyes, obviously intelligent, obviously hiding something. For now, her hair was untamed and she looked nervous, constantly flicking the long locks back from her face. Yet Sara could see the attractiveness, the high cheekbones, the distinguished nose, the kissable lips; suddenly she could see what her colleague had obviously seen, a woman to cherish.

Quietly flicking the speakers on, the brunette heard Jim suggest there was 'conspiracy after the fact' if Meg was covering for her husband and 'did she really want to go to jail for him'. She then saw a rueful yet brilliant smile light up the previously dull eyes of the striking redhead. Believing her own beauty was no match to this gorgeous woman a surge of jealously shot through her. Her unrequited love would probably remain just that, unrequited.

Sara had to suppress a chuckle at Jim's next words, "Late 20's, blonde, she even paid for breakfast with her credit card." Catherine would have loved to hear those words; especially after the recent case with the quack whose sole purpose had been to make older women believe they needed to look and act younger. Sara knew that Catherine had hurt psychologically during that case, even though they had all tried to convince her she was still beautiful. Jim's description of her would have made Catherine smile.

As Meg began to tell Jim about covering for her husband, Sara pondered the credit card. If that was true, if Jim had really followed through on the credit card check, then he probably knew about Catherine being the blonde. Sara decided she maybe ought to warn Catherine about the discovery and got up to leave before Jim had finished.

Sara was finally back at Headquarters after picking up the Cunningham's computer and finding out the crux of the case through scouring the emails of Tom Cunningham to the Keaton's daughter. Finally surmising, the girl had stabbed her mother in a pique of jealousy and the older man had tried to cover up by getting Meg to lie about his whereabouts.

The brunette CSI was searching the building for the missing Catherine. Where the hell was she? Did she know that any of this had happened? Had Meg contacted her? Did the others know that it was Catherine with Meg?

Sara needed to know. Sara needed…

Finally, after dragging out of Gil that Catherine had begged three nights off to spend some quality time with Lindsey, Sara wound up at Catherine's house.

Nervously, she shifted her weight from side to side, her hand hovering over the doorbell, but somehow unable to initiate the action. Suddenly, the brunette heard the sound of an approaching car, and turned to see who else was visiting the older CSI.

Seeing that it was Catherine turning into her own drive, Sara's heart rate increased. Now the time had come she really wasn't sure she could approach Cath with her news, and yet she knew, for Catherine's sake she had to let her know what had happened.

The two women greeted each other with a smile and Catherine spoke first.

"Hey Sara. What brings you to my place?"

"I need to talk to you; about a case we pulled last night."

Catherine looked towards her colleague and saw that she was obviously nervous. Trying to lighten the somewhat heavy mood, she teased, "Didn't Gil tell you I'm on leave. That means 'no work', Sidle, and absolutely no cases."

Sara jumped, missing the teasing tone completely, she immediately thought Catherine was angry at the intrusion into her privacy. Mollified, she turned away and mumbled, "Oh! Sorry, Catherine, I really didn't mean to intrude, but..."

Catherine reached out and placed a gentle hand on the taller woman's shoulder, "Hey! Lighten up, I was teasing. You know you're always welcome here, or I hope you do. Come on in, if you want to talk, you want to talk. Come on." And with that the older CSI opened her front door and beckoned Sara inside.

Going straight through to the kitchen she offered Sara coffee, then indicated the lounge for Sara to wait. While waiting Sara glanced around the homey room. She had only ever visited Catherine socially in the company of one or all of the guys; this was the first time she had had a chance to look around freely. She saw that the room was the family room. There was both adult and child DVD's, there was evidence of Lindsey, and there was evidence of Catherine. Dotted around the room were the occasional photographs; one of Eddie with Lindsey, one of Catherine with Lindsey, a few of the CSI Graveyard shift, and even one of Sara and Lindsey. Sara's eyebrow twitched at that discovery. Only for her attention to be captured by a beautiful photograph of Catherine with her arm around the shoulder of Meg Cunningham; partially hidden behind one of Catherine and Jim Brass, it was only noticeable because of the reason for Sara's visit.

Sara stood and walked over to the photographs. Fingering the snap of her and Lindsey, she smiled before grasping the snap of Meg gently. Gazing into the green eyes of Meg, smiling towards the joyful face of Catherine, a twinge of jealousy once again hit Sara.

A soft cough from Catherine penetrated the fog that had descended over Sara. Turning to face Catherine, she smiled apologetically, "Oh sorry, Cath, I was just admiring your snaps." She fingered the snap of her and Lindsey again and was warmed by the smile that Catherine threw her way.

"That's ok, Lindsey loves that one of the two of you. I think she has a bit of a crush on you, you know."

Sara felt a blush creep up her neck at Catherine's throwaway comment. Catherine obviously had no problem with lesbian crushes nor apparently with lesbian relationships, so maybe the conversation that the brunette was about to start would hold no surprises.

Holding out the photograph in her hand she said, "Cath, I need to talk to you about Meg Cunningham."

The look of surprise on Catherine's face told Sara that she knew nothing of the previous night's case. The blonde woman motioned for the two of them to sit down and then answered, "How do you know, Meg, Sara? What's going on here? Please tell me."

The blush on Sara's face refused to die down as she stumbled into some sort of explanation, "Um, yesterday a body was found in a water fountain, long story short, Meg's pool was the actual crime scene." Seeing the color drain from Catherine's face Sara rushed on, "Of course, Meg and Tom were suspects and alibis had to be checked. Meg told Brass and Gil that she and Tom were together at the Bellagio."

The brunette paused for a second, giving Catherine time to digest the facts and to offer her the chance to intervene. She didn't, just nodding for Sara to continue.

"Brass asked me to check the CCTV footage with him and we saw that Meg actually spent the night with a blonde woman. In Brass' words, 'with a blonde woman in her late 20's'." She paused once again to offer a comforting smile to her colleague, who had yet to show any sort of reaction to the news. Rushing on the nervous CSI finished her tale, "Brass interviewed Meg again, told her of the security footage and the credit card receipts that proved she wasn't with Tom, and she admitted she had been covering for her husband. Long story short again, Tom is under arrest for statutory rape of a minor, and the minor admitted to the killing."

Finally, Catherine reacted, asking in a quiet pained voice, "And Meg?"

"Meg was released immediately and, as far as I know, is at home with her son." Seeing only a stunned face looking back at her Sara plunged on, "Cath? That was you that spent the night with Meg Cunningham." It was a statement not a question.

Catherine raised her eyebrow slightly.

"I'd recognize you anywhere, Catherine," murmured Sara quietly. "I thought you needed to know because I'm not sure whether Brass really has the credit card receipts. He didn't recognize you on camera I'm sure of that, but if he has your receipts, he..."

Catherine interrupted in a whisper, "Sara, I used a card that I still have in my maiden name, I don't think Brass could have recognized me."

"Oh. Then I really don't need to be here, please forgive me."

Catherine reached for Sara's hand. "No Sara, I appreciate it. Please don't apologize. In a sense I have nothing to hide, though it would be uncomfortable for everyone to know I spent the night with a married women, so your discretion is much appreciated." The blonde smiled and then shrugged her shoulders slightly, before looking into Sara's eyes. "I'd like to explain."

Sara jumped up, saying, "No Catherine, there's no need."

"I want to, Sara. Please?" Catherine grabbed the hand of Sara and pulled her back down onto the couch. Seeing a slight nod from the younger woman she started, "Meg and I met 10 years ago. She had just married Tom and I had just married Eddie. We lived in a different part of Vegas and the four of us became good friends. When Eddie hit his rough patch, Tom lost interest and we drifted apart as a foursome. Meg and I remained friends and would call on each other whenever there was crisis, whenever we needed a friend."

"About four years ago, Tom started dragging Meg to his "swingers" parties. She hated it and refused to participate. Eventually, whenever Tom had a party, we had a standing arrangement to meet up at the Bellagio and spend the night together. She'd go to the party with Tom, and then, as soon as he snagged his first prize of the evening, she'd leave and drive across town to me. That was why I took 3 nights leave, one for Meg and two for Linds."

Catherine paused and stared into Sara's eyes. Over the years Catherine had learned to read Sara's various facial expressions and could see the question that Sara would never dare voice written plainly in her deep ebony eyes. "We didn't have sex, Sara, I couldn't do that with a married woman."

Sara started; surprised that Catherine appeared to be able to read her mind. Catherine couldn't have sex with a married woman but could she have sex with a single woman? She would never ask but now the question was sitting at the back of her mind. She mumbled, "You don't need to tell me that, Cath. Your life is your own. I could see you were close, but..."

"I love her and will do anything for her but we aren't lovers. Not now. Meg has a gorgeous young woman she met at work waiting patiently in the wings till the time is right. Grace, a beautiful brunette, has been waiting for her to leave Tom, because neither of them could do to Tom what he does to Meg three and four times a night sometimes. Maybe now the time is right, maybe Meg'll finally have the courage to leave Tom."

Sara listened intently to Catherine's words, immediately homing in on two words that meant more than they ought, 'not now'. Did that mean that Catherine and Meg had once been lovers? Sara smiled inwardly; maybe Catherine could, maybe Catherine would be interested in dating a woman if the conditions were right, maybe Sara had a chance.

Suddenly Catherine jumped up pulling Sara with her. Holding both Sara's hands in her own she said, "Thank you Sara for caring enough to come over here to tell me about Meg. I know it probably wasn't the easiest thing you've ever done, so thanks. But now I must go, I need to go and see Meg. You don't mind, do you?"

"Oh no, Cath, please go to your friend. I think she'll need you. Go."

Catherine pulled Sara in to a tight hug, whispering in her ear, "Thanks hon, it really means a lot."

Walking out of the house together, Catherine reached her car and turned to Sara, "Hey Sidle, may I take you out for a meal to say thank you? Please?"

Blushing again, Sara nodded, "That would be nice, Cath, thank you. Now go, give my regards to Meg, tell her sorry for the intrusion, and... well you know what else, huh?"

"Yeah! Take care you. I'll see you at work to arrange a date."

Sara smiled and gave a small wave. Turning away she left with a spring in her step, a sway to her hips, and hope in her eyes.

Catherine climbed in her car and watched the retreating Sara with an intrigued twinkle in her eye. Something told her that the next few weeks might be interesting.

The End

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