DISCLAIMER: the characters don't belong to me, but to CBS, Jerry Bruckheimer,…I'm just borrowing them for a while. After I'm done toying with them, I'll give them back in one piece, I promise *evil laugh* Please don't sue, I'm a poor uni student, all I have left in my wallet after paying a very hefty entrance fee is a couple of Euro' s. Not worth the hassle.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: no real spoilers. I'll probably introduce a lot of new characters and change cannon along the way. I don't know anything about Nevada criminal law, so I've probably made huge procedural mistakes. Same goes for possible medical procedures: I'm not a doctor, so everything you'll read is most probably quite impossible in real life. I don't care, I live in la la land anyway. It's set about four weeks after the Hank thing.
WARNING: English still isn't my mother tongue, so you'll probably encounter a lot of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes along the way. It's my way of annoying the hell out of everyone lol
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: to my betas for all their help.

With a Little Help
By Piranha

Chapter 11.

Two hours later Catherine sat crouched on the hardwood floor and with a scrunched up nose she scooped the last bit of Mr. Smith's vomit into an evidence bag. With a heavy sigh of contentment, she stood up and gathered all the evidence bags before she went in search of Sara.

She was finally done processing the scene and it was not a minute too soon in her opinion. She had dusted for fingerprints, searched for footprints, scooped up vomit, collected the Smith's dinner plates and glasses and looked for evidence of a break in, but had found nothing out of the ordinary. She just hoped Sara'd had more luck in that department.

She found her younger colleague in the garage, pulling out what looked like a bottle of bleach and carefully reading the components, before she bagged the bottle and put it on top of a small pile. "Hey, you about done?" Catherine asked.

Looking up from her sitting position, Sara pulled off her plastic gloves before she answered: "yeah, that was the last one." Pointing to the pile of bottles, she continued: "these all have oxalic acid in them, I'll take them back to the lab and dust them for fingerprint before I use the gas Chromatograph to isolate the different components. I'll compare the graphics with the graphics of Mr. Smith's vomit so that I'll know what the murderer used. Maybe I…"

Just then Sara's cell phone rang. Looking at her tiny screen, she said to Catherine: "it's Brass."

"Sidle. Brass I hope you have some good news for me. ……"

"Mel, what are you doing with Brass' phone? ……"

"You got stuck with graveyard shift again, huh? So about the Smith's, did Brass explain to you what I want? ……"

"Oh, okay, uhuh….."

"You want us to come over? Now? Why?......."

"Ah, that's good news, we'll be right there. ……."

"What? Oh I'm working the case with Catherine. …."

"Mel, stop it. "

"So tell me, how did your date go? …… That bad, huh? You've got to tell me all about it, I want details. Erm, we'll be there in about thirty minutes, okay?... Yeah, see you then."

Turning back to face Catherine, she quite unnecessarily said: "that was Mel. She said Mrs. Smith is off the critical list. They've pumped her stomach, but Mel said Mrs. Smith had already purged out a substantial amount of poison herself by drinking milk. She's in and out of consciousness at the moment, but we can see her and ask her a couple of questions as long as we don't upset her. Oh and Brass said he'd go back to the police station, nothing more for him to do here at the moment."

When Sara began to gather all her bags, Catherine went back to the lounge to do the same, Sara hot on her trail. Leaving the house together and putting back the police tape, Catherine said: "that's indeed good news. Maybe she can tell us a bit more about who did this to her. We'd better get over there. Erm, do you want to drive or….?"

"No, that's okay, you go ahead," Sara said before climbing in the passenger's seat.

Carefully reversing in the narrow street before heading towards the hospital, Catherine looked at Sara and said: "so your friend Mel works in the E.R. huh? How did you meet her? I mean, you've never talked about her before."

Her eyes sparkling brightly as soon as her friend's name was mentioned, Sara began: "she was my next door neighbor when I was a kid. She moved to Tamales Bay when I was about sixteen and immediately became my best friend. We were inseparable, virtually each other's shadow, we really clicked from the start. She knows me like the back of her hand. She knows what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling, what makes me tick. We even finish each other's sentences from time to time.

We lost touch after graduation, each going to college in another state. I bumped into her again about a year ago quite by accident. I had to go interview a rape victim and was running a bit late. I wasn't really minding where I was going and knocked right into a solid wall of flesh, Mel. We had no idea we were living in the same town again. Although we hadn't seen each other for such a long time, it was like we'd never been apart."

"She sounds like a real friend," Catherine stated warmly.

"She's the greatest. She's just…. Mel, you know? You'll see what I mean when you meet her," Sara answered, treating Catherine to one of her rare gap toothed smiles, making the older woman feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Giving Sara one last look before concentrating on the dark road again, she just hoped that one day Sara would speak about her with such affection.

Pretty soon the hospital came in sight, putting an end to the women's silent contemplation. Finding a parking spot nearby, it was the middle of the night after all, they were soon heading towards the hospital entrance. A nurse looked up when the doors swished open, but recognizing Sara and seeing she wasn't bleeding profusively nor on the brink of near collapse, she lost interest again and resumed her reading of the latest gossip magazine. The E.R. seemed to be having a really slow night, the deserted hallways and diminished lights giving the place a creepy and almost ghostly appearance. Only the occasional hissing and bleeping of machines broke the eerie silence that seemed to reign over the E.R.

Deftly making her way through a mysterious maze of hallways, Sara led Catherine deeper into the inner sanctum of the hospital. "Hey Sara," a young intern smiled timidly when they bumped into him turning yet another corner.

"Tim, how are you doing? I hope the Dragon Lady hasn't been working you too hard?" When the young man fumbled out an embarrassed reply, blushing profusively while doing so, Sara continued: "any ideas where I can find her?"

"Erm… yeah… she's in her usual spot," he stammered, almost fainting on the spot when Sara thanked him with a wink of the eye and a lopsided grin.

Chuckling softly at the lovesick, dopey and even slightly lecherous look on the intern's face, Catherine began trailing Sara again, who seemed oblivious to the young man's crush. The younger woman pushed the umpteenth door open, leading them back into the cold Las Vegas night. Shivering slightly and readjusting the lapels of her jacket, Catherine was about to ask what they were doing there when she saw that Sara's attention was grabbed by the lone figure out on the courtyard. When the door shut closed behind them with a thud, the woman on the courtyard turned around to face them. Recognizing Sara, she slowly jogged over.

"Babe, I was wondering when you'd get here. I was getting bored out of my skull, so I decided to shoot some hoops. No new cases have come in and there's only so much I can pester Tim with."

"Oh no, what have you told him this time? He couldn't stop blushing when I ran into him."

"Nothing really, I just told him you were coming over to have wild monkey sex with me right here on the courtyard," Mel stated.

"Meeeeeellllll," Sara laughed, giving her a friendly thump on the arm, "he won't be able to look me in the eye for weeks. You know how shy and easily embarrassed he is."

Mel just started laughing harder and turning around to face an amused Catherine, her arm still around Sara's shoulder, she said: "hi, I'm Mel Kendricks. Pleased to meet you."

Shaking the offered hand, she smiled: "Catherine Willows. Nice to meet you too."

"Okay, back to business, Mrs. Smith's tox screen and stomach content. They just confirmed my original idea of homicidal oxalic acid poisoning. We'd better get back to my office, I'll be able to show you what I mean there." When Sara was about to open the door, Mel stopped her with a soft yank on her arm. "Not so fast there slugger, I've got to do something first." She ran her fingers through Sara's hair, messing it up completely before pinching Sara's cheeks. "There, that's better. Now you look totally ravished. I've got a bit of a reputation to uphold, you know?" she smirked, giving Catherine and Sara a playful wink.

Sara just rolled her eyes before following her friend out, politely holding the door open for a thoroughly amused Catherine. Catherine couldn't believe how relaxed and carefree Sara was around Mel, she looked like a totally different woman. She didn't seem to mind Mel's playful ribbings or bear hugs, she just returned them with equal favor. It was obvious the two were close friends, something that gave Catherine hope. If Mel could break down Sara's walls, then she had a chance too.

When they arrived at Mel's tiny office, she ushered them in with a wave of her hand. "Sit down, sit down," she said, pointing to a couple of chairs that seemed to be overflowing with books and papers. When she noticed Catherine's hesitant look, she continued: "just put them on the floor somewhere, I don't mind. I'm not the tidiest person in the world." When Sara snorted at that, she started laughing. "Okay, I admit it, I'm a first class slob." Becoming serious again, she pulled out some papers and began explaining Mrs. Smith's test result in great detail.

The techno babble soon going over Catherine's head, she tuned out and began looking around Mel's office. She hadn't been kidding when she said she was a slob: the place was a real mess. Overlooking the papers and books which seemed to be stacked everywhere, her eyes lingered when they found a couple of photographs on the book shelf. The last one showed a young Mel and Sara on the beach, arm in arm and laughing in the camera. Although the picture didn't suggest them being anything more than friends, there was something about the way they were looking at each other that made Catherine wonder. Telling herself that her imagination was running away with her again, she decided to concentrate on the conversation.

"… so drinking all that milk really saved her life. She's drifting in and out of consciousness at the moment, but one of you can see her. Not long though, she still needs her rest. Besides, she's not very lucid at the moment."

"Okay, thanks Mel. Can I keep these?" Sara asked, waving a stack of papers.

"Yeah, those are the copies I made for you. Follow me, I'll take you to Mrs. Smith."

Standing before Mrs. Smith's closed door, Sara asked Catherine: "do you want to talk to her or…?"

"No, I think you'd better do it. You'll have a better idea what to ask her."

Nodding lightly, Sara stepped into the hospital room and sat down in the chair beside the bed. Through the window Catherine and Mel watched Sara take Mrs. Smith's hand into her own before talking to her in a gentle and polite way.

"She's pretty wonderful, isn't she?" Mel asked when she saw Catherine's eyes glued to Sara's form.

"Yeah," Catherine replied without thinking. When she realized who she was talking to, she turned bright red with embarrassment.

"Let's go wait for Sara over there," Mel said, directing Catherine towards some plastic chairs. "You like Sara, don't you?"

"God, you don't beat around the bush, do you? You just come out with it, never mind the consequences. I really like that. To answer your question, yes, I like Sara."

"As a friend or….?"

"Well, I really don't think that's any of your business, but I know you're only looking out for Sara, so I'll answer it anyway. I really like Sara, but I realize I've hurt her immensely a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't fair to her, I know she did everything in her power to help me, but I still said it wasn't enough.

Sara defines herself through her work, it's a big part of who she is. By telling her she had failed professionally, I basically told her she had failed as a person too. I really didn't mean what I said then. I was just sounding off, I was hurting so I lashed out at the first person available. Unfortunately it was Sara. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I'd like us to be more than friends someday, but for the moment I'll settle for her friendship. I still have a lot of making up to do. She said she has forgiven me for my verbal lashing, but I know she's still a bit wary. I know I have to regain her trust."

Hearing the absolute sincerity in Catherine's heartfelt words, Mel decided to give her a bit of advice. She was after all the resident expert on Sara Sidle's strange ways of thinking. "I think that's the best way to go about it. Honesty and trust are very important to Sara, that's why she was so upset about Hank. It's not like she loved him or anything, god knows she only saw him as a diversion, someone to chase away the cold and lonely nights, but still … he used her. She wasn't heartbroken when she found out, but she was hurt in her pride. He hadn't been honest with her, I think the fact that he betrayed her trust hurt her the most.

If you want to have any kind of relationship with Sara, you'll have to show her she can trust you, that you'll be open and honest with her always. Otherwise she'll never open up to you, she'll remain the clammed up oyster she usually is. She has that little trick down pat, it's her defense mechanism so to speak. Sure, she will tell you stuff, but you'll never hear her inner most thoughts, the secret desires she harbors or the failures that haunt her through the day. If you want to hear her midnight confessions, you have a lot of work ahead of you. But from my own personal experience, I can definitely tell you she's worth it."

"Yeah, she told me about you two," Catherine said absentmindedly, trying to take in Mel's advice.

"Wow, she told you I'm her ex?" Mel said agog. She would never have thought that Sara would divulge something so deeply personal to Catherine so soon. After all, they had been involved in some sort of Cold War until very recently.

"Erm no," Catherine said wide eyed, reeling a bit at the latest revelation. Not only had she an adversary to contend with, one that had a head start on her by the looks of that kiss, there was also an ex lover hovering the scene. Not exactly the best situation to start the grand plan of seduction she had in mind once she had regained Sara's trust. "Sara just told me that you two were really close. That you knew each other inside and out. Well I guess you do, literally," she said in a defeated tone.

"Oh, don't beat yourself up about it, Sara's a very closed off person, you have to prod her really hard before she divulges anything remotely personal. Let me tell you about how Sara and I met and how we came to be an item. It'll give you some insight about how Sara's mind works. You'll know what to do then. You see, Sara and I met in ……."

Chapter 12.

When Sara stepped out of the room, she found Catherine and Mel deep in conversation. She had a sneaking suspicion they were talking about her, especially when the whispered exchange came to an abrupt halt as soon as she was within hearing range. Deciding to ignore the guilty look on Mel's face - she knew she'd only have told Catherine some minor stuff and nothing about her crush or her pregnancy - she said: "The Smith's had just gotten home from seeing their daughter Maya off. Apparently she's going to Mexico for a couple of days and they wanted to say goodbye.

Anyway, Mrs Smith said that Walter, erm that's her husband, became very ill right after dinner. He had been complaining about dinner being scorching hot, but Delia hadn't really paid him any attention because apparently he always found something to complain or fuss about. Delia hadn't eaten that much of her plate when Walter became ill, she had been too busy waiting on him and preparing her milk. She likes to drink a glass of warm milk before she goes to bed. Guess that would explain why she wasn't so ill.

Delia couldn't think of anyone who would do such a thing to them, but the way she spoke of Walter I got the impression he was a bit of a pain. You know the sort, always complaining about neighbors' television being too loud or kids sneaking into his garden. She even said that Walter and Maya had some sort of major dust up a couple of weeks ago. Something to do with money, but she couldn't be more specific. That leaves us with a couple of possible suspects I suppose.

She couldn't really tell me anything else, she was a bit too drowsy and incoherent for that. I guess we'd better talk to her again in a couple of days, when she's feeling a bit better. She's asleep now."

"Yeah, that's probably a good idea," Mel stated, "she's been given enough painkillers and sedatives to numb an elephant. She'll be more alert in a couple of days."

Nodding her agreement with Mel's assessment, Sara couldn't contain her curiosity any longer, Catherine was staring at her too intently for that, so she asked: "what were you two whispering about? You haven't been divulging all my deepest and darkest secrets, have you Mel?"

Before Catherine could even formulate an answer to that, Mel piped up: "sort of." When she saw the spooked look on Sara's face, she immediately went to reassure her: "I just told her about our wild escapades in high school. You know, about the time we dyed Stella's hair blue or the time we convinced that stupid jock that it was a scientific fact that wearing women's underwear greatly enhances athletic performance…"

"Yeah, I never thought you'd be so mischievous and adventurous Sara," Catherine said, smiling brightly at her younger colleague.

"Oh well, you know,…" Sara stammered embarrassedly, shuffling her feet.

"Speaking of high school," Mel said, "I found out where Robert's been hiding all these years. Seems he joined the army immediately after graduation and that he's been overseas ever since. When I told him about our reunion, he said he's really looking forward to your little gig. His exact words were <<tell SS she'd better warm up her fingers and clear her throat or there will be hell to pay.>> He even threatened to tell the whole school about our spin the bottle moment. So I guess you'd better start rehearsing girl, it looks like the whole band's in."

Not really understanding Robert's threat, but too curious about the latest revelation, Catherine asked: "you were in a band?"

Catherine's admiration, obvious in warmth of her voice and the twinkle in her eye, made Sara turn bright red. She just stood there, not really knowing what to say. In the end, Mel answered for her: "yes, she was. She was the lead singer and the bass player. They mostly played covers, but they had a couple of songs of their own. They weren't half bad, you know? They had some gigs from time to time and they've even been asked to perform on our high school reunion in a couple of months. That's why Robert wants her to rehearse."

Looking from Mel to Sara and back to Mel again, Catherine asked: "so Mel, were you part of this band too?"

"Good heavens no, I can't carry a tune if my life depends on it. No, I stood very much on the sidelines for this little project."

"That's not really true," Sara said, "you were our number one fan, our best roadie and you co-wrote a couple of songs with me."

"I was your only roadie," Mel snorted, "and if you call co-writing being in the same room with you while you wrote the songs, then I guess you have a point."

"You were always my inspiration so in a way you co-wrote the songs," Sara said softly.

Neither women really knew what to say to that, although it confirmed Catherine's idea of just how adorably cute and sweet Sara is. There fell an awkward silence and the three of them were relieved when Mel's beeper started to vibrate. Looking at the screen before turning it off, she said: "I've got to go ladies, seems I have a heart attack coming in. Catherine, very nice to have met you." Turning around to face Sara and giving her a kiss, she continued: "babe, I'll talk to you later. Oh and if you happen to run into Tim on your way out, tell him how spectacular I was, okay?" With a last lecherous smile and a teasing wink, she was off towards the thick of the action.

Looking at her watch, Catherine was surprised to find her shift nearly over. "I guess we'd better get going too." When they reached the car, she said: "I can see why you like Mel so much. She's ….."

When Catherine couldn't find the right words to describe Mel, Sara began to laugh and said: "I know exactly what you mean. She's just Mel."

Catherine laughed too before she asked: "do you fancy grabbing breakfast together? My treat? My way of making up for my awful behavior a couple of weeks ago to you."

"There's really nothing to forgive, Catherine. Like I said, it's all water under the bridge. I can certainly understand why you acted the way you did. Erm about breakfast I'd really love to, but I can't today. I'm going to Lake Mead this afternoon with Greg and then I have that dinner thing tonight. I need to get some sleep, I'm wiped."

Feeling slightly disappointed at the rebuff, she felt she had really made some progress today, Catherine understood that Sara was really genuine about her regret when she looked at her. Seeing not only the same disappointment painted all over the younger woman's face, but also noticing the dark circles under her eyes, she said: "that's okay. Some other time. I guess I'll see you tomorrow then."

Laying down on the grass after a leisurely picnic, Sara felt her eyelids steadily grow heavier. The warm, teasing glow of the midday sun and the relaxing sound of Lake Mead lapping at the nearby shore were making her feel drowsy and tired. Vowing herself to only close her eyes for a minute, Sara promptly fell asleep, the bright smile painted on her face evidence of her highly pleasant dreams.

Greg knew that Sara couldn't have had more than four hours of sleep before he came banging on her door, so he just let her snooze for a while. Sara would probably vehemently deny it, but he knew she needed the well deserved rest, especially now. He was content just being with her and silently read the latest issue of his rock magazine, letting out a small chuckle when Sara began to snore lightly.

Two hours later Sara slowly awoke from her slumber when a bee kept buzzing around her ear. Yawning widely, she sat up and rubbed the last remnants of sleep out of her eyes. Looking at her watch, she was horrified to find that it was almost time to go and turning around to a slightly smirking Greg, she embarrassedly said: "I'm so sorry Greg. Here we are meant to be having some fun and I fall asleep on you. Some friend I am! I swear I only meant to close my eyes for five minutes."

"Don't worry about it," Greg laughed, "you gave an Oscar winning performance of Sleeping Beauty. But seriously, you must have needed the rest. The emotional rollercoaster you've been on the past couple of days must have drained you of all your energy."

"Probably, but still …. Not much fun for you though, is it?"

"Oh, don't worry about me, I still had some fun," Greg smirked thinking how he taped a snoring and slightly drooling Sara. He and Mel had this bet going on: capturing Sara's most embarrassing, adorable or endearing moments for posterity. As the winner would have the other as his personal slave for an entire week, Greg was already thinking up nasty and humiliating tasks he could order the cute little blonde doctor to do.

Sara, who had no idea of this bet, couldn't really understand what Greg was so happy about, but just assumed he was thinking about his girlfriend again. Every time he fell in love, he got the same goofy grin on his face. Shaking her head at his silliness, she stood up and said: "come on Rat Boy, we'd better get going. I've still got dinner for four to prepare."

"Oh, yeah that's right. You've invited that fire specialist too, haven't you? So tell me. Is she a babe?"

"Yeah, she's pretty hot. Anyway, what's it to you? I thought you were head over heels in love with Samantha?"

"I am, but a man can still look, can't he?"

"Well, looking is all you'll be doing in this case," Sara laughed. "Alex will probably be far too busy drooling all over Mel to even notice you."

"You mean …..? Oh man, that is just not fair. There I'll be, surrounded by three gorgeous babes and none of them will be even remotely interested in me," he whined unconvincingly, the smile tugging at his lips betraying him immediately.

"Get over it already," Sara laughed, climbing on her Harley. Greg gave her a mock pout before pulling on his helmet and climbing on behind her.

Just when Sara was trying to take a hot plate out of the oven without burning her fingers, the doorbell rang. Recognizing the rather impetuous way Mel always announced her arrival, she shouted out to the living room: "Greg, get that, would you? It's Mel."

Greg opened the door with a bright smile, happy he'd be able to talk to Mel in private. After all, Sara hovering around them would seriously impede his chances of winning the bet and he desperately wanted Mel to bite the dust. "Doc," he said before she could even enter the apartment, "your cute little ass is mine for a whole week. Whatever will I do with it?" Wagging his eyes suggestively, he made some room for her to enter.

Taking off her coat, Mel laughed: "it will take more than just your word Rat Boy to turn me into your personal slave. You'd better be able to cough up the goods."

Greg had already anticipated this statement and had his head in his rucksack, desperately trying to locate the seemingly elusive tape. Finally finding it, he said: "here you go. Sara Sidle's take on Sleeping Beauty."

"Thanks, but I'd better warn you. I've been rummaging through some old tapes this afternoon and I found some real beauties. Don't count your chickens just yet, your scrawny ass could still be mine. Anyway, I had some time on my hands, frankly I was bored out of my skull, so I made a kind of compilation tape. A <<best of Sara Sidle, the uncensored version>> so to speak. I'll fed ex it to you tomorrow, okay? I accidentally left it in my locker at work when I had to go in to sign some papers."

"Cool," Greg said, his anticipation obvious in the gleaming of his eyes.

Just then Sara walked in, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel. "Hey you two," she said, "what are you whispering about?"

Although Mel knew that Sara wouldn't be all that mad about the bet – Sara had after all pulled the same prank on her in high school, going so far as to call in the help of her totally obnoxious older brother,- she still thought it wiser to keep her out of the loop for a little while. She really didn't need the additional stress at the moment.

Winking, she instead told her: "oh you know, the usual. Greg over here on bare knees begging me to marry him and me telling him when hell freezes over or when pigs fly, which ever comes first." When Sara started laughing at that, Mel continued: "you know, I can understand why you like Catherine. I talked to her for a bit last night and she's really not the bogey man I thought her to be. I think she cares for you, you should just go for it."

"I know, I know," Sara sighed, "everybody keeps telling me that: you, Greg, even Alex"

"Who's Alex?" Mel asked confused.

"Alexandra Matthews, the fire specialist I told you about? Hmm guess I didn't, I only met her two days ago. Well, you'll meet her later, I've asked her to join us for dinner. Anyway, she said that if it hadn't been for her presence, Catherine would have jumped my bones right then and there in that diner. When I told Alex that I'm pregnant and that there's no way I can ask Catherine out now, she basically told me I'm being a big coward. That I should lay all my cards on the table and let Catherine decide."

"She sounds like a very smart woman, that Alex," Greg remarked.

Sara hadn't even heard him, she just continued: "but what if she says no? What if she rejects me? I don't think I'd be able to handle that, I'd be totally crushed and heartbroken."

"Think about it this way," Mel said; "at least you'd know for sure then. You'd be able to move on…." Deciding that the topic was becoming way too serious and gloomy for a fun and leisurely Saturday night, she continued in an overly exaggerated flirting tone: "you could always succumb to my incessant pleas and make an honest woman out of me."

"In your dreams Doc," Greg snorted, "this girl's mine. AAAllll mine."

Just then the doorbell rang again, announcing Alex's arrival. When Sara opened the door, a sheepishly smiling Alex stuffed a big, fluffy teddy bear in her arms. "Sorry about that, it was becoming a tad difficult holding this", Alex said, holding out a little crate of wine. "Anyway, hi."

"You shouldn't have, but thank you. Come on in and I'll introduce you to the guys. This is Mel, a total nutcase but she'll grow on you. It's just taken her seventeen years to worm her way into my heart."

"More like seventeen minutes," Mel muttered under her breath before greeting Alex with a very enthusiastic "Hi".

"And this is Greg, a general goofball, but we keep him because he makes damn good coffee. Guys, this is Alex, the woman who dared to ask me about my personal life the day we met and lived to tell the tale."

After the initial handshakes and introductions were over, Sara led her guests over to the dining table and a fun filled Saturday night began. Around two in the morning, a slightly inebriated Mel said she'd better head home and asked Sara to call her a cab.

"That won't be necessary, Alex will drive you home, won't you?" She had seen the lustful looks the two had thrown each other all night long and wanted to help them get together. When Alex didn't respond right away to her rather blatant suggestion, she gave her an almighty kick on the shin to make her comply.

"Erm, yeah sure. It would be my pleasure," Alex mumbled. Saying goodbye to Sara at the door, Alex pulled Sara into a hug and whispered: "thanks for that. I really like her, but I seem a bit tongue tied at the moment. I owe you one."

"That's quite all right," Sara laughed, "just take good care of her, she's very dear to me."

Giving them a final wave as the car drove off, Sara closed the door and went back to the living room. Now she only had Greg left to take care off. "Come on Rat Boy," she said, "you're coming with me." Struggling to get a very drunk Greg onto his feet, she decided to just dump him onto her bed, not even bothering to undress him.

Knowing that there was no way she'd be sleeping in her bed tonight - Greg would be sprawled out like an octopus in five minutes - , Sara made her way back to the living room. Sleeping on the couch was out of the question too, Greg had accidentally dropped a bottle of water on it. She had no other choice than to sleep on a chair, knowing she'd regret it in the morning. Sinking down onto her easy chair, she started thinking about the day she'd had.

Chapter 13.

After spending a fun filled Sunday afternoon at the local park, it was time for Catherine to drop Lindsey off at her friend's house. Melissa was turning eleven today and in all her kid wisdom she had decided to celebrate her birthday big style with a good old fashioned sleepover. To say that Lindsey had been looking forward to it was an understatement, she had been gushing about it all week long. Not only did she get to spend the night with her best friends, she also had the day off tomorrow. What more could a girl want?

When they finally reached their destination, Lindsey chattering non stop all the way over, Catherine didn't even have time to turn off the engine before Lindsey bounded out of the car. Smiling brightly at Lindsey's exuberant eagerness Catherine got out of the car too and followed her daughter in. When she finally reached the house Lindsey was already inside, giggling like mad along with all the other girls. Not envying Melissa's mother's fate for the night, she went to talk to the woman. Arranging to have Lindsey dropped off around three in the afternoon and deeply sympathizing with the poor woman's plight, she got into her car again.

As she still had a few hours to kill before shift started, Catherine decided to go grocery shopping, her cupboards were frightfully empty at the moment. Fed up with the constant nagging, she had made it a rule a long time ago to never take Lindsey along when she went to the stores. Of course this meant that the little time she got to spend with her daughter was cut even shorter, but it really worked out for the best. At least this way they both got to enjoy their time together.

Driving to the nearest supermarket Catherine made a mental checklist, she knew that otherwise she'd only end up having to return. Like a woman on a mission, she purposefully drove her cart down the long aisles, only grabbing the bare essentials. Somehow by magic the cart still turned out overfull so when the pimple faced cashier rattled off the total sum a slightly grumbling Catherine reached for her Mastercard. Having unloaded her bags into the car and taking the cart back, she meticulously checked the receipt for mistakes, not really minding where she was going.

Bumping her cart into something soft, she was ready to apologize when she looked up to the shocked faces of Mel and Alex. the flush on their faces and their slightly swollen lips left no doubt as to what she had accidentally interrupted, Catherine felt her anger rise. "What the hell do you two think you are doing?" she shouted.

"Erm… what do you mean?" a rather dumbfounded Alex said. "It's you who ran into us."

Looking Alex straight in the eye and incessantly poking her in the chest with a finger, Catherine continued in an indignant tone of voice: "That's not what I meant and you damn well know it. How could you do this to Sara? Does she really mean that little to you that you have to go behind her back with the first bit of skirt you see?" Turning to face Mel, her eyes really shooting fire by now, she yelled: "and you. You proclaim to be her best friend. You were the one who told me trust and honesty were very important to Sara. How could you betray her like that? Just for a quick make out session with her girlfriend?"

Mel and Alex looked at each other, having no idea what Catherine was going on about. Finally it dawned on them and they started to laugh.

This only further enraged Catherine. "You really think this is a laughing matter?"

"No, no, no," Mel soothed. "You've got the wrong idea. Neither of us is betraying Sara, in fact I think she's been playing matchmaker yesterday just to get us together." When she saw Catherine really had no idea what she was talking about, she continued: "you know what, we'll tell you everything. But not here, let's just go to that little bistro next door. We'll be a bit more comfortable there."

When they were finally seated, Alex asked: "so tell me. Why did you think Sara and I were together?"

"Erm well, I saw you practically undress her with your eyes when you first met her, then I saw you kiss her on Friday morning and when I asked Sara if she would be seeing you again, she said she'd asked you over for dinner."

"And you deduced that we were lovers from that?" Alex laughed. "What you witnessed was just a friendly kiss goodbye, nothing more, nothing less. The three of us know full well how attractive Sara is, hell she's a babe and she doesn't even realize it. I won't deny I was interested in her at first but Sara and I are just friends. She turned me down telling me she was already in love with someone."

"She's in love with someone else?" Catherine said crestfallen. When Alex and Mel had told her that she had the wrong end of the stick, she had felt a glimmer of hope again.

When she suddenly looked at Mel, the blonde laughed: "what are you looking at me for? Sure Sara loves me, but she's no longer in love with me. We're just friends and before you think it's Greg she's in love with, let me assure you that it's not. Although I sometimes think he wishes it is."

When Catherine still didn't look any happier, Alex groaned: "for the love of God, you're as bad as each other. She loves YOU Catherine. You're the one she's in love with."

"Oh God I'm so embarrassed. The things I said, the things I accused you of, no wonder you started laughing…. " Catherine muttered softly.

Snickering slightly Mel said: "don't worry about it. It just shows you care about her. But let me tell you, you can be one scary woman when you're fired up. And they call me the Dragon Lady."

"Sara loves me," Catherine whispered softly, a goofy expression tainting her face. Totally overjoyed she just stared in front of her for a couple of minutes before speaking again. "Why didn't she ever tell me? Oh, don't answer that, it was a stupid question. I scared her off when I blew up at her."

"Well, that's part of it I guess," Mel said, "but it's not the main reason. Sara thinks she has very good reasons for keeping quiet. Just talk to her, let her know you feel the same way. I only ask you this: when you talk to her, how ever she may react, whatever she may say, always remember that she loves you."

"What do you mean? You're not making much sense, it's like you're expecting that Sara might turn me down after all."

"Like I said Sara THINKS she has very good reasons to keep quiet or to turn you down. I don't know if they are good reasons, that's for you to decide. Just remember she loves you and that she wants the best for you."

After the very revealing, yet at the same time totally confusing conversation with Alex and Mel, Catherine had gone straight home, to unload her grocery bags. Having done that, she was off to work. She had to do something to keep her busy or she would go stir crazy trying to think up what possible reasons Sara might have to push her away.

She had already decided to talk to Sara later that night when the two of them were alone. The boys were still busy with their headless corpse, so catching Sara on her own shouldn't really pose that big a problem. She still wasn't sure what she was going to say to Sara though.

Deep in thought, desperately trying to come up with the most perfect declaration of love, Catherine wasn't really looking where she was going and for the second time in a couple of hours she bumped into someone. Sara. "Hi Sara," she said, knowing full well the busy hallway wasn't the place to confess her undying love to her younger colleague. "What are you doing here? I mean, shift doesn't start for another two hours."

"Yeah, I know," Sara said, yawning widely in the process. "Oops sorry about that, it's just that I haven't slept a wink last night. My easy chair isn't all that it's cracked up to be."

"Why were you sleeping in your chair?" Catherine asked confused.

"Oh Greg had a bit too much too drink last night, so I just dumped his ass on my bed. As he always hogs all the covers and sprawls himself wide out, the bedroom was out of the question. Besides he snores like a freight train, especially when he's drunk. I couldn't sleep on my couch either as Greg accidentally dumped a bottle of water all over it. So my easy chair was the only option left. I haven't slept at all. I finally gave up around nine this morning. I puttered around the house for a bit, but as Greg was still sleeping like the dead I decided to come in at the end."

"You've been here all day?" Catherine said totally flabbergasted.

"Yeah, managed to get a fair bit of work done too. You'll be pleased to know that I've identified Mr. Baconman. It turns out his name is Anthony Adams, he's the co-owner of the warehouse. Roger Pinkney, that's the other owner, thought Adams was on a business trip in Morocco. When he didn't turn up on time, Pinkney went to his house to check and found his luggage and plane tickets still on the kitchen table. Pinkney got worried and called the police. I managed to track down Adams' dental records and made a positive ID from it. I already finished all the paperwork, I left it on your desk for you to sign."

"How come Adams' wasn't missed any sooner?"

"Well, like I said, Pinkney thought he was in Morocco. Seems our mister Adams was a bit of a loner: widower, no children, hardly any friends,…. Seems Pinkney was the only one he was really close to.

Erm I also finished the chromatograph tests in the Smiths' case. No luck, I'm afraid. The poison was definitely in the food, but none of the poisonous materials I found in the house was a match."

"Damn. What do you think our next step should be? I did find out yesterday that the daughter has one hell of a motive: she's heavily indebted and stands to inherit an absolute fortune when her parents die. Seems the Smiths are loaded, they invested well during the Silicon boom and got out before the market started to crumble again."

"Hmmm, she's worth checking out then. I also want to talk to Mrs. Smith again. You know, to find out a bit more about that dinner. Where she bought it, how she prepared it, …. That sort of thing."

"Okay. That sounds like a good idea."

"Erm I'm just going to pop back home for a minute. I want to grab a quick shower and a change of clothing before the flies begin to follow me around," Sara laughed.

Smiling too, Catherine said: "okay, I'll see you later then."

"God damn it Greg, give me that tape," Sara shouted angrily, her nostrils flaring dangerously as she glared at him. Thinking this must be what Medusa looked like right before she turned people to stone, Greg audibly gulped but stood his ground, holding the tape protectively behind his back. Sara had just yanked Greg down by the lapels of his shirt, ready to punch his lights out when Catherine walked in.

"What the hell is going on in here?" she asked, momentarily fearing for Greg's life when she noticed the almost feral look on Sara's face. Greg had never been more happy to see his colleague walk in than now, Sara was absolutely terrifying when she was pissed off. Straightening his crumpled shirt, he quickly stepped back a couple feet away from Sara.

"This, this … bastard over here," Sara said, glaring at Greg like he was the scum of the earth, "refuses to hand over a tape that Mel has sent him. A tape of me in high school. I don't want embarrassing pictures of me plastered all over the bulletin board. You know what he did to Nick. I want that tape and I want it NOW," Sara hissed, directing her last sentence towards Greg, with absolute venom dripping from every word.

Catherine knew she had to defuse the potentially explosive situation right away otherwise she'd have a homicide on her hands. Walking over to stand between them, she said: "Greg, give me the tape."

"What? … But… I wasn't going to use it like that, I swear…I…," he stammered, seeing his dream of a totally submissive Mel go up in smoke.

"Greg, just give me the damn tape if you know what's good for you," Catherine said, pleading him with her eyes to give in. When he reluctantly gave her the tape, she sighed a relieved "thank you" before turning towards a still very agitated Sara. "Come on Sara," she said, grabbing the younger woman by the hand, "you need to cool down for a bit."

Exiting Greg's little lab and heading towards her own office, Catherine asked: "why would Mel send Greg a tape like that? I mean, I don't understand, what's in it for her? I thought she was your friend?"

"She is, they both are. It seems they have a little bet going: get as much incriminating stuff as they possibly can. You know embarrassing moments like me taking a tumble or something. I'm not mad at them for that. Hell, I don't have grounds to be mad, Mel is just getting her own back, I pulled the same trick on her in high school. It's just… You know what Greg did to Nick, he just doesn't know when to quit sometimes. I know he didn't mean me any harm, but …. I guess I just blew up, I don't want an embarrassing picture of me circulating the building."

"But wouldn't Greg have done that by now if that was his sole aim? I mean, you say that they have a longstanding bet going on, that means he's got to have some embarrassing pictures or tapes of you already," Catherine pointed out logically.

"Yeah, I guess … I overreacted. I'm probably just irritable because I'm so tired. I'll apologize to Greg later. I probably scared the living daylights out of him," Sara chuckled softly.

Having arrived at her office, Catherine thought that perhaps now the time had come to tell Sara: Nick and Warrick were still chasing after the elusive head of their desert body and Greg sure as hell wouldn't dare go near them now. Taking Sara's hand in her own again, she said: "come inside for a minute, there's something I've been wanting to tell you for quite some time now."

Once they were inside her office, Sara casually leaning against the desk, looking at her expectantly, Catherine was at a sudden loss for words. Pacing the tiny room, she hesitantly muttered: "see Sara, the thing is… Erm the thing is…."

"What's the thing?" Sara asked curiously.

Stopping right in front of Sara, getting lost in her inquisitive brown eyes, Catherine decided that action speaks so much louder than words and planted a soft kiss on Sara's waiting lips.

Sara froze for a second before giving in to the pressure, opening her mouth for Catherine's eager tongue to slip in. Pulling Catherine closer, she weaved her fingers through Catherine's silken tresses, groaning softly when she felt Catherine's tongue slide over her own.

They had kissed passionately for a couple of minutes when Sara suddenly pushed Catherine back. Still somewhat dazed the older woman looked up into Sara's eyes, her heart constricting when she saw Sara's haunted and frightened expression.

"I can't do this, not now," Sara mumbled before sprinting out of Catherine's office.

Chapter 14.

After Sara's mumbled rejection, Catherine stood there frozen to the spot. It only took a couple of seconds for her senses to kick in again. Remembering what Mel had told her and thinking about the toe curling way Sara had kissed her back – her heart went into overdrive again at the mere thought - , Catherine went in search of Sara. In the end she found her in the bathroom, hugging the toilet bowl. Suddenly everything fell into place and kneeling down beside a softly crying Sara, she whispered: "you're pregnant, aren't you?"

Taken aback by Catherine's sudden presence, she hadn't even heard her come in, Sara looked up at her through red rimmed eyes and croaked: "Yes. That's why I can't be with you, however much I would want to be. I just can't expect you to…."

When a fresh batch of tears started rolling down Sara's cheeks, Catherine shushed her mid-sentence by placing a finger on Sara's softly trembling lips. Yet again noticing the haunted look on Sara's face, she pulled her upright and very firmly stated: "Come on, you're coming with me."

When Sara tried to pull her fingers away, she found that Catherine only clasped their hands tighter. "Where are we going?" she asked.

"To my place," Catherine responded. When she felt Sara struggling to get away again, she continued: "to sleep Sara, just to sleep. Look at you, you're exhausted. You've hardly slept in two days and you've been through a whirlwind of emotions in a matter of minutes, you need the rest. Then we'll talk about this."

Feeling the fatigue wash all over her, Sara simply nodded and let herself be guided to Catherine's car.

After putting the extremely tired Sara to bed, needing to help her button up the pajama's she had given her, Catherine went downstairs again. She needed to think. Secure in the knowledge that Sara was out like a light, she had fallen asleep the moment her head hit the pillow, Catherine walked into her living room. Fixing herself a stiff drink, she sank down on her couch and sighed deeply. The evening really hadn't gone as planned, Sara being pregnant was the very last thing she had expected.

<<And you call yourself a first class investigator>>, she mentally admonished herself, <<all the clues were there and you didn't pick up on them. Morning sickness, increased appetite, even sudden mood swings. I guess I have some soul searching to do now. Does this change anything? Do I love Sara enough to seriously consider this? Does Sara being pregnant really make that big a difference?>>

Catherine thought long and hard about these questions and in the end she could only come to one conclusion: yes, she loved Sara enough to do this. Sara meant everything to her, she wanted her to be part of her little family. Granted, she had always thought that the family would consist of Sara, Lindsey and herself, but she really didn't mind an additional member.

She just loved babies and was really looking forward to meeting a miniature version of Sara. A cute little boy or girl with big brown eyes and curly hair. She first thought she was a bit too old to be raising another child, the dirty nappies, midnight feeding sessions and teething tantrums put her off temporarily, but in the end she realized that she wouldn't be on her own this time around. Sara wasn't like Eddie at all, she wouldn't skirt away from her responsibilities. No, they'd do everything together, they'd really be a team.

She also worried that this baby came a bit early in their relationship, hell officially they hadn't even gotten together yet, but then she figured she already knew Sara. Sure there were still little things to discover like favorite color and stories about her youth, but they had all the time in the world for that. No, she loved Sara and wanted to be with her. Catherine vowed to tell Sara just that as soon as she was awake.

Immensely pleased with herself, Catherine suddenly remembered where she was supposed to be right now. Rummaging through her bag, she flicked open her cell phone and called Brass. Telling him where they both were and to call in a couple of guys from dayshift to cover for them, she put her cell phone in her bag again only to come across a long rectangular object. Sara's tape. After Greg had handed it over, she had just put it in her bag, far too preoccupied with getting Sara out of there before she had a murder on her hands.

Looking at the tape like it was the forbidden apple in the garden of Eden, she contemplated whether or not she should watch it. In the end her curiosity won out and inserting the tape in the VCR, she sat back and watched it, a warm smile on her face when a teenaged version of Sara appeared on the screen.

The short little glimpses of Sara's life made her fall in love with her even more. Sara sleeping in a hammock with a gurgling baby nephew on her chest, Sara singing "you are" on an apparently very successful gig all the while looking Mel straight in the eye, Sara washing a great big Labrador in a tub outside and getting soaked in the process, … There was even a little blurb about Sara explaining math to Lindsey, the both of them sitting side by side at Greg's kitchen table with looks of intense concentration on their faces.

When the screen faded to grey, Catherine got up and headed towards her bedroom again. She had to be near Sara right now, even if it was to just hold her in her sleep. Changing into her night gear, she crawled into bed, careful not to wake the still sleeping Sara. Very happy that Sara unconsciously sought out her warmth and curled herself around her, never waking up, Catherine drifted off to sleep with a smile on her face.

Later that night a thirsty Catherine managed to extricate herself from Sara, who stirred but kept on sleeping. She needed a glass of water, her mouth felt like the dregs of the earth as it always did after drinking whiskey. Tiptoeing back into the bedroom, she slipped beneath the covers again, listening to Sara's soft and steady breathing. Too exhausted to deny her body the rest it deserved, Catherine fell asleep again fairly quickly. This time around there was no means of escape, Sara's arms and legs entwining themselves around her completely.

Catherine slowly woke from her deep slumber when she heard her old and slightly deaf neighbor yelling his wife goodbye before starting his rattling and battered old truck. Knowing Mr. Hayes always left around six and that Lindsey was staying over at a friend's house, she burrowed a bit deeper into the covers. When she felt Sara snuggling closer, throwing her arm around her stomach and putting her head on her shoulder, she looked over at the sleeping woman and was totally mesmerized.

Catherine thought nothing looked more angelic and serene than Sara sleeping. She somehow seemed younger and even more beautiful, sleep chasing away all the worries and doubts that nagged at Sara during the day. Lazily she started combing her fingers through Sara's hair, thinking that today could very well be the start of the rest of their lives.

Sara stirred and gently woke up when she felt someone stroking her hair. Reluctant to leave the safe and warm cocoon she was wrapped up in, her eyelids fluttered a couple of times before her eyes opened. When still sleepy hazy brown eyes met bright and twinkling blue ones, Catherine felt Sara freeze and not wanting the younger woman to retreat back to her own little world where no 'one and nothing could touch her, she smiled a good morning to her. Sara mumbled a reply and started to crawl out of their tight embrace only to find Catherine held on to her even tighter.

Catherine rolled Sara onto her back and raised above her, pleased when she felt Sara's hands unconsciously slide to her back to keep her there. Looking her straight in the eye, she said: "I know you think we can't be together because you're pregnant, but just hear me out, will you?" When Sara nodded, she continued: "Do you love me?"

"More than anything in the world, that's why I can't let you ruin your …"

Interrupting Sara mid-sentence Catherine said: "I love you too, the both of you. I'll admit that this isn't exactly how I imagined us starting out, but … I thought long and hard about this last night and I realized we both have baggage from our past. I'm a 41 year old divorced woman with a checkered past, a teenage daughter, a murdered ex-husband and a ton of insecurities. All these things could hold me back too or even frighten you off, we all have things in our past that we bring into a new relationship. You being pregnant is just one of them. I mean, I'm a mother too, I have Lindsey … Do you also consider her to be an obstacle in our relationship?"

"No, off course not, I love Lindsey, but it's not really the same, is it?"

"Off course it's the same. You'd be just as much a parent to Lindsey as I'd be to your baby. If you're not frightened off by this, why would I be?"

When Catherine saw that Sara was about to protest again, she said: "I know we have to talk about this some more, but for the time being please understand that I love you and that I'm not going anywhere. I don't scare that easily. I want to be with you, I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side and I'd be honored to raise this baby with you. So, what do you say?"

Sara didn't immediately reply to this, she just stared at Catherine for a very long time, seemingly looking for the veracity behind the words in Catherine's eyes. Catherine began to worry that she hadn't gotten through to Sara after all but then she saw a slow smile spread over Sara's face. The younger woman didn't say anything, she just grabbed Catherine by the neck and started kissing her passionately. Breaking away from the kiss a couple of minutes later, Catherine whispered with a goofy expression on her face: "so I guess that's a yes then?"

"Yes," Sara huskily whispered before capturing Catherine's lips again. The kiss was soft and teasing at first, but both women needed the kiss to deepen so when Catherine's tongue slid across Sara's lower lip she was only to willing to open her mouth even further.

One of Sara's hands slid underneath the nightshirt Catherine was wearing, kneading the muscles of her back and pulling her even closer. Catherine backed up for a minute and seeing the same lust and desire reflected in Sara's dilated and almost pitch black eyes, she shivered involuntarily before targeting Sara's lips again. After giving her an almost chaste peck on the lips, she began placing kisses on Sara's jaw and neck, infinitely pleased when Sara 's breath hitched.

Sucking at her pulse point, feeling it hammering wildly beneath her lips, Catherine slowly trailed her fingers towards the buttons on Sara's pajama's, teasingly raking her nail over an already hard nipple. Popping the first button open, she kissed her way down before popping the next button. Eagerly kissing and nipping at the freshly exposed skin, she looked up to Sara when she reached the final button.

Almost tearing it open, exposing Sara's naked chest to her hungry roaming eyes, Catherine huskily whispered "you're beautiful Sara" before placing a tender kiss on Sara's still flat belly. Eliciting a small moan from Sara, her fingers roamed all over Sara's stomach before venturing upwards, quickly followed by her lips and tongue.

Scraping her nails over Sara's right nipple again, making it even more erect, Catherine's tongue licked her left nipple before sucking it in her mouth. When Sara's back arched and the younger woman hissed her name in approval, she started sucking harder until she heard Sara's stomach grumble. Her head popping up, still hovering above Sara's breast, she looked Sara in the eye and said: "you're hungry".

"Yes, for you", Sara grumbled, trying to guide Catherine's head down again.

Catherine would have none of it however and sitting up, she began buttoning up Sara's pajama top again. When she saw Sara's flushed cheeks and the disappointment in her eyes, she promised: "later. We have all the time in the world, remember? Right now, you need to eat. We need to take extra special care of Junior in there, you're eating for two now."

Groaning loudly, her lips set in an adorable pout, Sara let her be pulled to an upright position and after receiving a last quick kiss, she padded behind Catherine down the stairs.

Washing down the omelet Catherine had prepared for them both with a huge gulp of orange juice – Catherine didn't have any tea, but she had made a mental note to pick some up as soon as possible-, Sara asked: "so where do we go from here?"

"Well we can go back upstairs and finish off what we started if you want? Lindsey doesn't come home until three."

"That's good to know, but that wasn't what I meant. I mean with us?"

Taking Sara's hand in her own across the table, Catherine said: "I love you Sara and I want nothing more than to be with you. I know we can't really take it slowly on account of Junior, but we shouldn't rush into things either. I guess for the time being we'll just take it one day at a time, you know? Maybe we could go on a date, get to know each other a little better,…. I mean, I already know I love you, but there are still so many things I don't know about you.

Besides we were involved in some kind of cold war until a couple of days ago. Although you say you've forgiven me, I also know that deep down in your heart you're still afraid. But that's okay. That's why I want us to always be honest with each other, no matter how painful the truth may be for the both of us. I want us to work, the only way that can happen is if we communicate with each other. You're too important for me to just let you slip away. I love you, baby."

When she saw Sara's eyes brimming, Catherine quickly got off her chair and kneeling beside Sara, a pang of fear in her heart, she said: "what is it Sara? Why are you crying?"

"It's nothing really. I'm just being silly. It's going to take some getting used to, you calling me baby… But I love it and I love you too." After reaching down and placing a quick kiss on Catherine's already waiting lips, Sara leaned back again and smiling brightly she asked: "what about Lindsey? I mean, what will you tell her about us?"

"I think it's best if we're totally honest with her and tell her we're together."

"Do you think she'll be freaked?"

"I don't think so, she knows I've dated women before. Not that she met any of them or boyfriends for that matter, I always tried to keep Lindsey away from that. You know, to avoid her getting attached to them too much in case it didn't work out. But you're special. The four of us will be a family soon." When she saw Sara still wasn't totally convinced, she continued: "you've got nothing to worry about, Lindsey likes you."

"How can you be so sure?"

Catherine had the good grace to turn slightly pink when she confessed: "I know I shouldn't have done it, that I should have asked you first, but … I've watched Mel's tape last night. There were some bits and pieces of you and Lindsey on it and believe me when I say that you've got nothing to worry about. The way she looks at you, I just know she worships the ground you walk on. How could she not? You're funny, sweet, adorable, patient,… You catch my drift. Anyway, I'm sorry for watching it, but I really couldn't control myself."

"That's okay, I don't really mind. So Lindsey likes me, huh?"

"Yeah, you've got a way with us Willows women", Catherine smiled.

Sara chuckled at that before she asked: "what about the guys at work? Do we tell them? I mean, it could cause us some problems…."

"Us being together or you being pregnant you mean?"

"Either, both."

"I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I just want to enjoy us for a while. Speaking of which, we still have some unfinished business to attend to." Waggling her eyebrows, she grabbed Sara, who was only too willing to follow, by the hand and led her back upstairs.

Chapter 15.

With her head on Catherine's shoulder, her fingers tracing lazy patterns over her chest, Sara asked: "so what made you decide to confess your love for me yesterday? Not that I'm not grateful, mind you. I'm just wondering what was so special about yesterday."

Hiding herself under an arm, Catherine loudly groaned before muttering: "God, this is so embarrassing."

Sara rolled over until she was fully laying on top of Catherine and peeling her arm away from over her face to look at her fully in the eyes, she asked: "what? Tell me, how can it be embarrassing?" Wiping a stray hair from Catherine's forehead, she gave her an encouraging smile.

"Erm, okay. Promise me you won't laugh?"

Intrigued to know where this was going, Sara gave her a mock salute, stating "scout's honor".

"Well after I dropped Linds off yesterday, I went shopping. I wasn't really paying any attention to where I was going and I ran my cart straight into Mel and Alex, making out like teenagers in the parking lot."

"You did? That's great," Sara enthused. "Not you crashing into them I mean, but them making out. I just knew they'd be perfect for each other." When she noticed the slightly exasperated expression on Catherine's face, she continued: "but I'm interrupting, do go on."

"Erm well I blew up at them. I accused them of going behind your back and playing you for a fool." Sara's scrunched eyebrows let her know that she had no idea what she was going on about, so Catherine clarified: "I had gotten it into my head that you and Alex were together, so when I saw the two of them together I just saw red, you know? I thought that Alex was fooling around on you and you deserve so much better than that. I really laid into them.

When they finally finished laughing their heads off, they told me the score, that you were in love with someone else. It still didn't click, in the end Alex said that we were as bad as each other. That it's me you're in love with. From that moment on, there was no stopping me. I just had to tell you how I feel."

Giving Catherine a quick kiss, Sara said: "that's so sweet. You were willing to take the both of them on for me. You're my knight in shining armor…." When Catherine muttered "knight in rusty armor more like", she didn't pay any attention, but just continued: "I guess Alex is right, we really are as bad as each other, she had to point it out in big bold letters that you love me too. Guess we both needed a little help."

"We really deserve each other," Catherine laughed. Rolling them over again, so she was laying on top, she then asked: "about the baby. Have you told Hank?" When she felt Sara stiffen underneath her, she softly caressed Sara's cheek and quickly added: "hey, it's okay. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. I didn't mean to pry or push you. I just thought I'd ask, you know? See where we stand…."

"No, you're right, you need to know, we're in this together. I haven't told Hank yet and I'm not planning to either. As far as I'm concerned he forfeited his rights the day I found out about him. I know a lousy father is better than no father at all, but in this case…. He repeatedly told me he didn't want any children, that they'd only hold him back and curb all his fun.

Believe me when I say he wouldn't welcome this news. Guys like Hank, they're all about fun, as soon as responsibility or emotional investment is involved they run a mile. Besides he'd have to come clean to Elaine about his philandering and I think he's genuinely scared to death of that. You should have seen the relief on his face when I told him I hadn't said anything to her about his affair. I think she's the only one he genuinely cares about."

"You mean that you didn't rat on him? God Sara, you're a much better person than I am."

"I don't know about that, but ….. I just didn't see the point of breaking the girl's heart. For some reason she really loves him."

"You really are an incredible person Sara Sidle," Catherine smiled giving her a long and slow kiss. Noticing the time on the clock radio, she said: "come on, we'd better get up. My little whirlwind is going to be here soon." When Sara pouted at the thought of having to leave the bed, Catherine chuckled: "I know, I feel the same way, I want to stay here too. But maybe I can interest you in a long, hot shower?"

When Sara saw the lecherous grin on Catherine's face, she couldn't get out of bed fast enough. They both raced towards the bathroom, giggling all the way. In the end they had to settle for a very short and cold shower, the hot water not lasting nearly long enough for the amount of time they spent in there.

Descending the stairs behind Catherine, still toweling her hair dry, Sara asked: "Catherine, do you mind swinging by my place before we head for work? It's just that I need a change of clothes, these feel a bit grungy. Besides I still need to check up on Garfield and Tequila." When she noticed the dumbfounded expression on Catherine's face, she elaborated: "my cats. I need to feed them and empty their litter box. I want to reduce the chances of toxoplasmosis to a bare minimum."

"Sure. Nancy will be here around seven to pick Lindsey up, that'll give us more than enough time to head over to your place. So Garfield and Tequila, huh? How did you come up with those names?"

"Well, naming Garfield was pretty easy. He acts and looks just like the cartoon version. He's really the spitting image. Naming my other cat was a bit trickier. In the end I just named her Tequila because she's fiery and feisty, like a shot of Tequila going down."

"I didn't know you were a cat lover? You always struck me more as a dog kind of person."

"I just like animals in general. I really like dogs, I've had several while growing up. The one good thing about growing up in Tamales Bay is that the outdoors is great. My last dog, Tash, loved running through the flood-water and fetching sticks I threw into the sea. Off course my mother wasn't too pleased when we got home, dripping wet and all muddy. One time she even used the garden hose on me because I was so filthy."

Smiling at the memory, she continued: "anyway, my lease doesn't allow for a dog. It doesn't say anything about cats though, so when I found two abandoned kittens I took them in. I was only planning to keep them for a while until I found a good home for them, but you know how it goes. They just threw me one look and my heart melted, they've been with me ever since."

Settling down on the sofa, their fingers linked, they decided to watch television for a while. Aimlessly flipping through the channels, not really finding anything remotely interesting, they finally settled for an old movie with Marlene Dietrich. Curled up closely, they began watching it together. Fifteen minutes later Catherine was snoring lightly in Sara's lap, film noir never did appeal to her, while Sara was totally engrossed in the intricately woven plot.

She was so into the story that she sprang up, almost making Catherine tumble onto the floor when the doorbell rang. "That will be Lindsey," Catherine chuckled. Sara, who was desperately trying to get her heartbeat back under control just nodded and sat back down again. She heard Lindsey talking a mile a minute, telling her mother all about the fun she had on her sleepover, until she spotted Sara on the couch.

"Hey Sara, what are you doing here?" the little girl asked.

Sara didn't seem to make an effort to answer Lindsey's question, she looked scared to death and was far too busy envisaging all kinds of doom scenario's of Lindsey freaking out. She genuinely thought Catherine was a better choice for answering that question and threw her lover a pleading look, at least Catherine had practical experience of breaking news to a ten year old.

Giving in to Sara's puppy dog look, Catherine took her daughter by the hand and sat her in between them. "Well Lindsey, it's like this. You know how we talked a little while ago about me dating women?" When Lindsey just nodded, Catherine continued:" well erm, you see . . . , it's like this,. . .erm… "

When she found that Catherine was at a loss for words too, Sara decided to just be her blunt self. Hoping for the best, she just blurted out: "what you're mother's trying to say Lindsey is that we're dating and we'd like to ask you if you're okay with that."

When the girl asked: "you're my mom's new girlfriend?", Sara simply nodded. Lindsey was silent for a while, staring intently at Sara while assessing her. Sara was becoming even more nervous under the close scrutiny, all the while thinking that Lindsey should definitely go into law enforcement, she'd get the crooks to confess by simply looking at them.

In the end all Lindsey said was "okay" before turning towards her mother and asking: "what's for dinner? I'm starving. Mrs. Daniels is great, but she's the worst cook in the world. Even Uncle Greg makes better dinner than she does and he managed to burn my eggs the last time he was watching me."

Even Catherine was flabbergasted at that answer and mumbled: "what? That's it? Okay? Just like that?"

Lindsey looked at them like they had just sprouted wings. She really didn't get adults. They asked her for her opinion and when she gave it to them, they still weren't satisfied. Rolling her eyes, she said: "I don't mind Sara being your girlfriend. I like her, she's really cool. She has a Harley and two really strange cats, she always lets me play with her computer when me and Uncle Greg go over and she's even shown me some tricks so I can beat Uncle Greg on Nintendo. Oh and she explains math to me way better than my teacher does. Her friend Mel is a bit weird, but she always has funny stories about Sara, so she's okay too." With that said, Lindsey sprang up and ran up the stairs towards her room.

"Guess I'm officially approved then," Sara chuckled to an equally smiling Catherine. When they heard Lindsey barging down again, they looked at her expectantly.

"Erm Sara, could you help me with my math while mom makes dinner? There's something I still don't understand and I have a pop quiz tomorrow."


"You left that a bit late, didn't you Linds? You had the whole weekend to work on it," Catherine admonished.

"Oh mom," Lindsey whined, "I asked Melissa today to explain it to me, but she doesn't understand either. And you know I can't ask you, you're terrible at math."

Properly chastised, Catherine turned slightly pink and mumbled something incomprehensible when she heard Sara snicker. Turning her back on the both of them with a huff, she walked to the kitchen and decided to make a start on dinner. Looking up about a half an hour later, she saw the two women in her life sitting side by side, deeply engrossed in Lindsey's math book, Sara patiently explaining to Lindsey where she went wrong. With a bright smile on her face, Catherine thought that this is what she had been missing for most of her life, a real family.

They made a quick stop at Sara's apartment, Catherine opting to stay in the living room while Sara changed, otherwise they'd only give in to temptation again. Having only visited the apartment once before to drop off a sick Sara, Catherine took the time to look around and satisfy her innate curiosity. Expecting a typical bachelor pad, she was pleasantly surprised. Sara's place really looked like a home with it's warm colored walls, rugs and cushions, photographs and quirky bits and pieces.

She didn't really know what she had been expecting, but certainly not this. Walking towards an almost overflowing bookcase, she was startled by one of Sara's cats rubbing her shin. Picking up the purring cat and scratching him under the chin, she mumbled: "you must be Garfield. Sara wasn't kidding when she said you're the spitting image."

Holding the lazy and overweight cat in her arms, she took a closer look at the rows and rows of books. The work related shelf hardly came as a big surprise, Catherine expected nothing less from a workaholic like Sara. What surprised and fascinated her at the same time though, was Sara's massive collection of fiction. She recognized a lot of titles and authors, even read some of them too, but she wasn't as near an avid reader as Sara appeared to be.

She was just reading the back of an interesting looking book when she felt Sara's arms slide round her waist. Sighing softly, she leaned back in the embrace, her heart starting to leap again when she felt Sara trace lazy patterns over her stomach with her fingers.

Reading along over Catherine's shoulder, Sara said: "you have to read that one sometime, it's really good" before giving her a light peck on the cheek and padding over to the kitchen.

Immediately feeling the loss of Sara's embrace and not quite willing to let go of her just yet, Catherine immediately followed her out. Propping herself up on one of the counter stools, she watched Sara puttering around her kitchen, smiling brightly when she heard Sara talking nonsensical words to her cats. "So do you want a drink before we go in or…?" Sara asked, bending down to stroke a very affectionate Tequila.

It took Catherine a while to answer, Sara in tight Levi's jeans playing havoc with her still raging hormones. In the end she managed a croaky: no. Thanks." Clearing her throat, she continued: "We'd better get going…", mentally adding <<before I ravish you here and now over this kitchen counter>>. The visual she just got a bit too vivid to remain unaffected, Catherine tossed Sara the car keys, mumbling: "here. You drive."

Turning off the engine, Sara stared at Catherine for a minute, seemingly lost in thought, before saying: "I guess we'd better keep our relationship quiet for a while. Keep our distance or something…. I mean, only if you're okay with that off course. It's not that I'm ashamed or anything, far from it in fact, I'd shout it to the world if I had to, but I'd rather the guys didn't know just yet. I mean, I realize that Greg knows already and although he's the biggest gossip in the world, God he's worse than an old biddy in a tea party sometimes, you'd never believe the things he sometimes finds out… Anyway, what was I saying just now?..... Ah yes, Greg. I'm sure he'll keep his mouth shut…."

Catherine just sat there, laughing softly at the continuous rambling. She had never known Sara to talk so much. Sara hadn't noticed Catherine's amused stare and started gesticulating wildly to prove her point. "….especially when I make it part of his punishment. I haven't figured out just yet what I'll make him do, but I'm sure I'll think of something devious. Mel is different matter however, she doesn't humiliate that easily. I'll really have to come up with an elaborate plot to get my own back. It'll have to be embarrassing as hell and nasty, a stroke of real evil genius because I still remember what she had me do. I've never been so mortified in my life. Anyway, what do you think?"

<<I think you're cute when you ramble, especially the way your eyes sparkle brightly when you're enthused or the way your eyebrows frown to emphasize something>>, Catherine thought. She didn't say this out loud however.

A bright smile still tugging at her lips, she answered instead: "I agree. I just want to enjoy us for a while, I'm not willing to share you just yet. We can hold off telling the others for the time being. Not too long though, they're trained investigators, they're bound to pick up on it eventually. Could be fun to see how long it takes them, I suppose."

When Sara smiled at that idea, Catherine continued: "I also wouldn't worry about Greg, he's probably still cowering in his tiny little office, scared shitless. He wouldn't want to be on your bad side again, not the way you went ballistic on him yesterday."

Groaning loudly, Sara rested her head on the steering wheel, muttering softly: "oh God, I had forgotten about that. I went cavewoman on him, didn't I? I really don't know what came over me. I've got to apologize to him."

"You just overreacted a bit, he'll understand. Anyway, we'd better go inside. Any thoughts on the Smith case? What do you think our next move should be?"

"Well, funny you should mention that, because I've been thinking….."

Chapter 16

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