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 16.

"Looks like the daughter is our main suspect," Sara said when they exited Mrs. Smith's hospital room later that night. "I mean, Mrs. Smith said her daughter prepared the toxic dinner and you've got to admit, with her debts she's got one hell of a motive. Now all we have to figure out is what she used."

Catherine nodded before saying: "I'll call Brass and have him organize a search warrant."

"Okay, I'll just go and talk to Mel for a minute. I want to grill her on Alex and then inform her on the punishment I've cooked up. And boy will she be pissed." With a devious smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, Sara turned around and headed for the blonde doctor.

Once again Catherine was surprised at how different Sara appeared to be in private. She was a hard nut to crack, but definitely worth the effort. Shaking her head at the fluffy words and feelings that popped up in her every time she thought about Sara, she began dialing her cell phone.

"So I take it you two have finally told each other how you feel?" Mel asked, her hunger for details quite obvious in her eager tone of voice. When Sara just nodded, her face totally sphinx like, she exclaimed: "good God woman, do I have to drag it out of you? How did it go, what did she say?"

A bright smile broke out on Sara's face, already giving Mel an inkling of the positive news she was about to receive. Still beaming, Sara said: "it went really well, in the end anyway." When she noticed Mel's scrunched eyebrows, she laughed softly: "hey, it's me we're talking about, remember? There were bound to be a few hiccups along the way. You see, what happened was ….. "

Enthusiastically recounting everything that happened the past twenty four hours - well not everything, some things were too private in Sara's opinion – Sara seemed less edgy and happier than she had ever been, something that didn't go unnoticed by the very observant Mel. "So despite my initial flight reaction, we're together. It's early days yet, but I'm confident. I feel like we've passed the biggest hurdle, the rest should be a breeze. At least I hope so. Anyway, enough about me, let's talk about you for a change. A little birdie told me you've been caught in a compromising situation, on a supermarket parking lot no less. So what gives?"

Mel turned uncharacteristically shy and almost inaudibly whispered: "I like Alex, I mean I REALLY like her. You know I loved you, but what I feel for her is so much more, so different, …. I feel she could be the one, you know?"

"Isn't that a turnabout for the books," Sara chuckled softly, "the great hunter finally caught and brought down to her knees." Turning serious again, she said: "I'm happy for you Mel. You deserve it. So you're thinking long term for once, huh?"

Mel just nodded and –as always embarrassed at showing any weaknesses, even if it was Sara she was talking to – she continued in a very hushed tone of voice: "I'm scared to death actually. I haven't done long term since… well you. What if I fuck up? She's too important for me to …"

"Hey, what's this? I thought I was the insecure one? Why would you screw it up? You were perfect when we were together and I'm sure you'll be perfect again. I know you don't do things by halves, you always give it your all and that's all you need to do. You'll be just fine, don't worry about it. You know, I'll miss dissing all your dates and flings. The way you always described what was wrong with them was hilarious. Oh! Now I think of it, are we still on for Thursday?"

"Catherine's okay with that? I mean, you've only been together for five seconds, she might not be willing to share you just yet." When she caught the sheepish expression on Sara's face, Mel chuckled: "you haven't run it by her yet, have you? Looks like I'm not the only one who has to get used to being involved. Head's up, she's coming over. Well, you can ask her now, I suppose."

When Sara turned around abruptly and stared like a besotted teenager at the nearing form of Catherine, her eyes sparkling and a goofy grin plastered on her face, Mel thought to herself << another one bites the dust>>.

Flipping her cell phone shut, happy in the knowledge that Brass was securing the search warrant, Catherine turned around and started walking towards Sara and Mel. Her heart began to thunder wildly when she noticed Sara's adoring stare. She returned the goofy grin and with an extra spring in her step, she made her way over. "Hi Mel," she said, sliding her hand in the back pocket of Sara's tight jeans and giving her a light squeeze.

Chuckling when Sara emitted a low-pitched moan, Mel said: "good to see you again Catherine, especially now that you're not armed with a supermarket trolley and spitting fire." When she saw Catherine lower her head in embarrassment and that she was about to apologize for the umpteenth time, Mel held out her hand and continued: "it's okay, I was only kidding. I thought it was really adorable and heartwarming the way you were sticking up for Sara over here. Anyway, she's got something to ask you."

Catherine turned around to fully face Sara, her hands sliding to her hips. "you have?," she asked.

Drowning in the deep blue of Catherine's eyes for a moment, Sara mumbled: "I have? Oh yes, I have. Erm, you see … Mel, Greg and I try to get together once a week. Nothing special really, I just throw something together to eat, they bring something to drink. I was just wondering if you and Lindsey would like to join us next time. That's Thursday. It'll just be a simple dinner as we all have to work that night, but you know …."

Totally perplexed at this tidbit of Sara information, Catherine screeched: "you can cook?"

"Of course I can cook," came Sara's indignant reply, followed by rolling of the eyes.

"I'm sorry, baby, I didn't mean it like that, " Catherine soothed, trying to smooth Sara's ruffled feathers. "It's just that I can't quite picture you in an apron, slaving over a hot stove."

"Well, it's quite a sight to behold," Mel interjected laughingly, "but damn, the girl can cook."

When Sara turned bright red, Catherine looked her in the eye and said: "I simply love finding out these new things about you. Lindsey is staying over at Nancy's on Thursday, but I'd love to come."

When Catherine gave Sara a small kiss that turned into a full blown make out session in the busy hallway, Mel cleared her throat and said: "guess that's settled then. Well ladies, I'll leave you to it, I've got interns to torment."

"Not so fast Doc," Sara said, quickly grabbing the arm of the hastily retreating Mel. "I still have a bone to pick with you, something to do with that embarrassing video turning up in Greg's hands."

"Oh shit," Mel muttered under her breathe, visibly blanching at the thought of what Sara might do.

"Oh shit is right," Sara smirked with a devious grin. "I already told Greg he's to be my personal slave for three days, but you my dear …. get to be his."

"What?" Mel shouted at the top of her lungs, making the three of them the center of the whole E.R.'s attention. "You can't possibly be serious, you know what he's like. He'll have me do one humiliating thing after another. Don't I score some brownie points for getting you and Catherine together? I did play an instrumental roll, you know", Mel whined.

"Well, I considered that for a moment, but then I remembered that I got you and Alex together, so I guess we're even on that score. Nah, you'll just have to grunt and bear it for three days. You should have thought of that when you made the bet."

"Oh God," Mel pouted, "he's going to make my life a living hell. You do realize that, don't you?"

"Of course I do," Sara said with glee, "Why do you think I chose that particular punishment? I know Greg has been trying to get his own back ever since you completely humiliated him a couple of weeks ago . I just thought I'd give the poor guy a break."

"What did you do to him?" Catherine asked curiously. She didn't know Mel all that well, but she realized it had to be something major otherwise the woman wouldn't be squirming in agony like she was.

"Well it was a stroke of pure genius, even if I say so myself. I had him dress up in a bright pink ballet costume and told him he had to do some plies and pirouettes in the E.R. Then the hospital security guards, not the brightest bunch I must admit, thought he had escaped from the psychiatry wing and began chasing him. You should have seen him run on those pointy little shoes."

Catherine just burst out laughing: "God Mel, you're evil. I wish I could have seen that."

"Well, as a matter of fact you can, come to think of it. I taped the whole thing. Guess I have something on Greg after all. If he goes overboard with this slave business, I'll just send a copy of that tape to every single one of his colleagues. That should keep him in line. Thanks Catherine, I feel so much better now about my punishment." With that Mel walked away, whistling a cheery tune like she didn't have a care in the world.

"Ooooo, I hate that woman sometimes," Sara grumbled, "she always seems to wriggle out of everything. It's so unfair."

Laughing at Sara's pouting face, Catherine threw her arm around Sara's shoulder and said: "come on, let's grab a bite to eat before we go catch us some bad guys. You know, you're really adorable when you pout,…."

When they got to Maya Smith's house, Brass stood already waiting for them. Throwing away his cigarette when they neared him, he greeted them with a jovial "evening ladies."

"Hey Jim, I thought you quit?" Catherine asked.

"So did I," he sighed heavily. "Anyway, doesn't look like there's anyone home. The place is pitch dark and there's a couple of days worth of junk mail piling up on the doormat. Maybe I should call in a locksmith, seems to me our chief suspect has done a runner."

"Nah, give it a couple of more minutes. Her mother told us she's due back from Mexico tonight. She's probably just held up at custom or something." Noticing Sara's continued silence, she turned around to see if anything was wrong. Maybe she was feeling sick again? When she noticed her lover staring longingly at Brass' half smoked cigarette, she admonished: "Sara, you can't."

"Why not?" the younger woman replied in a slightly whiney voice.

"Well, erm well … because" Catherine exasperatedly told her, not wanting to give anything away.

Brass, who hadn't seen what Sara had been staring at, looked at them both a bit perplexed. He didn't have a clue what they were talking about, but when Sara didn't reply to the lame excuse, he simply chalked it up to the mysterious and weird quirks of women.

He looked at them both again and was surprised to find they seemed to be having a whole conversation without uttering a single word. Sighing slightly he realized that he'd never fully understand women, good thing he gave up trying to figure them out a long time ago. To get their attention back, he asked: "what are we looking for anyway?"

"I don't know yet, I'll let you know when I find it," came Sara's distracted reply. As she was still desperately craving for a smoke, her mind was elsewhere. Then she noticed something interesting in the corner of her eye. Peering into Ms. Smith's garden, scrunching her eyes like it would make her see further in the dark night, she said: "hey Catherine, didn't Mrs. Smith say that her daughter works in a garden center?"

"Yeah, 'McDougal's Pots and Plants' I think it was. You onto something?"

"Maybe", Sara answered enigmatically.

When Sara didn't elaborate, but kept on peering into the garden, Catherine shrugged and started talking to Brass. She realized that Sara was off in a world of her own right now, that she'd come clean about her suspicions soon enough. She knew better than to disturb her, Sara had a really mercurial mind, so it would definitely pay off to let her simmer for a while.

About fifteen minutes later a cab came to a screeching halt in front of the house. When a slightly tanned woman, laden with parcels and bags crawled her way out of the back seat, Catherine gave the still distracted Sara a gentle nudge. Sara looked at her questioningly for a second, but quickly followed Catherine and Brass out when she noticed their prime suspect had finally arrived.

"Miss Maya Smith?", Brass asked the woman who was desperately trying to stay upright with all her bags.

Struggling to get her keys out of her purse, she shoved a couple of bags in the arms of the totally unsuspecting Catherine. Eying Brass suspiciously before grabbing the bags back, not even giving Catherine as much as a thank you, she said in a very scratchy voice:" yes, I am. Who wants to know?"

Showing her his shiny police badge, he answered: "my name's Brass and I'm with the police. These are Catherine Willows and Sara Sidle, they're CSI's."

"CSI's? What are those when they're at home?", she asked with a dumbfounded expression on her face.

It seemed to Sara that they had a stereotypical dumb blonde on their hands, as the woman's facial expression and manners made her seriously doubt her intelligence. Then again, she was the chief suspect in a ghastly murder so maybe the dumb blonde routine was just a ploy to throw them off the scent. She'd reserve judgment for the moment, at least until she had seen the woman react to the news they were delivering.

Maybe she was wrong, maybe the woman just rubbed her the wrong way? Maybe it was just the fact that her voice sounded like nails scraping over a blackboard that grated on her? Ever the professional, she didn't let her misgivings about the woman show when she politely answered: "we're crime scene investigators, ma'am."

"Oh …. Good heavens, crime scene investigators…. But… I don't understand? What could you possibly want with me?" Maya stammered, the confusion clear on her face.

This made Sara doubt for a second, but then she noticed the woman's balled up fists. <<So she's not as cool and collected as she'd like us to believe>>, she thought. <<She's one hell of an actress though, I have to give her that>>. She continued to observe the woman in silence while Brass and Catherine explained what had happened and why they were there. The shock, concern and surprise the woman feigned didn't fool her for a second.

When they all entered the house, where Brass and Catherine would ask Maya a couple of questions while she conducted a thorough search, Sara held Catherine back in the hallway for a minute. "What's wrong? Are you nauseous again?"

"What?" Sara asked confused. "Oh no, I'm not. It's not that. Erm, could you get her to open up about her gardening skills, see how extensive her botanic knowledge is? Maybe you could look around and see if she has any gardening books laying around or something. We could take those with us too …."

When she saw that Sara was yet again a couple of steps ahead of her, Catherine tried to shake her out of her reverie by asking: "so, you're thinking she used rhubarb to poison her parents?"

"Yeah, something along those lines anyway. I mean, with her working in a garden center, she must know that rhubarb is poisonous… I'll have a look around her garden, see if she has rhubarb there. I'll save that for last though, I'll search the house first. Guess I'd better get started." Snapping on her gloves, Sara gave Catherine a light kiss before walking away, leaving a dumbfounded Catherine standing in the hallway.

Chapter 17.

To all Celine Dion fans out there, it's not my intention to offend you, but ….. let's just say that she's not my favorite singer.

Nearly an hour later Sara got up from her crouched position underneath the kitchen sink and added another bottle to the already impressive pile. Wiping away a small trickle of sweat from her forehead, she groaned softly when her leg muscles twitched in protest to the sudden position change.

Rubbing them softly, giving them time to adapt to an upright position, she took a look at the evidence bags. In record time she had gathered and catalogued all possible sources of oxalic acid she could find in the house. Now all that was left was the garden.

Walking towards the French windows that led onto the patio, she took a peek outside only to be met by an ink dark night. Realizing that her puny little flashlight simply wouldn't do, she decided to get out the big guns. She turned on her heels and made her way through the house, digging in her pocket for the keys to the SUV.

She was rummaging through the trunk, looking for the mega torch she had used in Baconman's case when someone tapped her on the shoulder. Letting out a shrill shriek, she jumped up startled, banging her head on the hatch.

"God I'm sorry Sara, I didn't mean to surprise you. I thought that you had heard me coming. Are you okay? Does it hurt?", Catherine asked concerned.

Rubbing the back of her head, already feeling a big lump forming, Sara said: "no, not really." Giving Catherine a sly wink, she added: "but you can always kiss it better."

Smiling brightly, Catherine checked if they had any witnesses; they were at work after all so kissing a colleague, especially a female one, was a big no no. Seeing that they were in some kind of blind spot in between the two lamp posts and that the open trunk obscured them even further from curious neighbors, she took Sara's head between her hands and gave her a passionate kiss.

She had wanted to do that ever since leaving Sara's apartment, the chaste kiss Sara gave her in the hallway earlier only adding fuel to an already roaring fire. Both of them groaning, Catherine was the first to regain her senses and giving Sara a final kiss, she took a step backwards. An amused smirk on her face at Sara's adorable pout, she husked: "did it help?"

Licking her still tingling lips before she answered, the blush on her cheeks evidence of her pleasure, Sara whispered: "oh I don't know, I think I might need another dose of that medicine just to be sure."

Her heart already beating faster in anticipation, Catherine deftly escaped from Sara's grabbing hands and promised: "later. Anyway, I came to tell you that I've found a couple of gardening books. I also looked at her financial statements and saying she's in trouble is the understatement of the century. Ms. Smith is in desperate need of money, a lot of it and fast.

It seems that she has been living beyond her means for years, spending more than she can afford just to retain her social position.

She used to be the mistress of one of the big casino owners, giving her access to the upper crust of society. But you know how the story goes …. When she got older, she was traded in for a younger model. Now losing the man she could take, but losing her social standing …

By the looks of things she's indebted to every loan shark in town and you know what they do when you don't cough up on time. She must have been so desperate knowing that the only obstacle between her and salvation was her parents.

Anyway, Brass reckons he's got enough to warrant a trip downtown, he's just waiting for you to confirm she had the means to commit that particular murder. So? Have you find any oxalic acid?"

"Yes. I found several bottles of bleach and cleaner. It seems Ms. Smith is a bit of a clean freak. I only have to give the garden a quick once over and then I'm done."

"Do you want me to give you a hand with that?" Catherine asked.

Although Sara's initial reaction was to say yes, she simply wanted to be near Catherine all the time, she reconsidered when she saw her shiver in the cold Autumn night. "No, that's okay," she said instead, "I won't be that long. Why don't you wait inside? It's bound to be warmer there."

"If you're sure," Catherine said, inwardly relieved. "But just so you'd know, I plan on warming you up in my own special way after shift." With that Catherine went back to the house, leaving Sara standing there rooted to the spot, her mouth agape.

Sara had to take a little breather to get back into professional mode, the thought of what Catherine had planned proving a bit too much for the otherwise so in control Sara. Shaking her head to clear her mind of all non work related thoughts, she lifted the mega torch out of the trunk and made her way over to the garden.

It was obvious that Ms. Smith had put a lot of time, effort and especially money into her garden: it was sheer perfection. No stray leaves or weeds were to be seen and even the small fountain in the middle of the garden looked like it was scrubbed on a regular basis with a small toothbrush. Everything just looked squeaky clean.

<<Guess her obsessive compulsive cleanliness doesn't stop at the house>>, Sara thought. << I wonder what she'd do if I told her that most dust particles in a house are tiny flecks of human flesh?>> Amusing herself with the mental image of a fainting Ms. Smith, Sara walked from one flowerbed to another, carefully examining each and every plant she encountered.

She had immediately realized that there was no way that the proud and elegant Ms Smith would have her own vegetable garden and although she could therefore cross off rhubarb of her mental list, there were still infinite possibilities of organic oxalic acid. Desperately wishing she had brought a jacket as it started to drizzle, she shone her torch over the back of the garden.

She was about to give up for the night when she noticed something near the fence, half hidden behind some thick rosebushes. "Aha, got you now," she mumbled. After fighting her way through a pretty resistant rosebush to reach her goal, considering the bloodied scratches on her arms war wounds, she took out her pocket knife. Crouching down, she took a couple of pictures before cutting out a bit of the stem and the leaves of the huge plant.

She rummaged around and was delighted to find that one of the stems was cut down from the root up. Taking another batch of pictures, she sealed the evidence batch with a huge smile on her face. She was in no doubt that the tox screen of this plant would be identical to the one of the killer dinner. Determined to confront the cold hearted and calculated Ms. Smith with the damning evidence, she made her way into the house again.

Slightly out of breath, her panting making the three of them look up, she arrived back in the living room. "Ms. Smith," she stated decidedly, "I couldn't help but notice that you have elephant ears."

"I beg your pardon?" the woman screeched indignantly. Having been cast aside like an old cloth for a snot nosed girl half her age, beauty was still somewhat a sore point for the aging woman. She wasn't the only one startled by Sara's statement, Brass was looking at her like she had suddenly grown a second head and even Catherine, who was quite used to Sara's bluntness, cringed at the words.

Sara wasn't easily deterred however and simply not paying any attention to the stupefied looks, she slowly, as if talking to a belligerent five year old, explained: "Caladium Esculentum or Elephant Ears. A huge plant, prized for it's bold textured foliage but notorious for it's toxicity. Both the stem and the leaves contain Ethanedioic acid, more commonly known as oxalic acid, the poison that was used to murder your father. I noticed that one of the plants was cut down recently without apparent reason."

That was all the information Brass needed and whipping out his handcuffs, he began reading the woman her rights: "Ms. Maya Smith, I'm arresting you on suspicion of patricide and the attempted murder of your mother, you don't have to say anything, but everything you do say, can and will be used against you in a court of law, …" Leading the suspect out the door, his voice gradually died down.

Catherine turned to face Sara and said: "good work Sara. Although I have to admit that you had me worried there for a bit. I thought Ms. Smith was going to strangle you for insulting her."

"Insulting her?", Sara said totally flabbergasted, "I hardly said two words to her."

When Catherine saw that Sara had no idea what she was talking about - she was a mini Grissom after all, no people skills whatsoever – she continued: "never mind. Let's get back to the lab, the sooner we get there, the sooner we can wrap up this case and go home. After all, I have a promise to fulfill." When Sara smiled at that, her eyes sparkling brightly at the prospect, Catherine snorted: "my, my someone's eager. So do you want to do the interview or shall I?"

"Nah, that's okay. I'd rather you do it. I'm not that good with people. Besides I want to run the tox screen on that plant myself. At least that way we don't have to wait for slowpoke Hodges to get his ass into gear. I'm convinced she used the plant to poison her parents, but I'll ask Hodges to run a tox screen on the rest just to be safe. If my hunch is right though, we can wrap up this case by shift end."

"I like your way of thinking," Catherine smiled.

"That's got to be the fastest and easiest confession in my entire career," Brass told Catherine, closing the door to the interrogation room behind them.

"Yeah. I guess that, confronted with all the incriminating evidence and the perfectly matched tox screens, she had no other choice than to sing like Celine Dion on speed. Good thing too, it means I won't have to put in any overtime for a change."

"Speak for yourself," Brass grunted, "I still have to process her and then bring her to a holding cell. My shift isn't over yet. Anyway, I'd better get going. Guess I'll be seeing you tonight?"

"No, you won't", Catherine laughed, "I've got the next two shifts off." When Brass turned green with envy, Catherine bid him goodbye and went in search of Sara. The younger woman had promised she'd take care of the necessary paperwork so that they'd be able to clock out as soon as shift officially ended.

Not finding her in any of the labs, not even the small outer lab everybody dubbed lovingly 'Sara's little dungeon', Catherine walked into the DNA lab, fully expecting to find Sara there, laughing and joking with Greg. She only found the lab tech though who didn't even look up, fully engrossed as he was in his magazine, his headphones full blast.

When calling his name out didn't work, Catherine decided to get his attention by knocking his feet, resting snugly atop his desk, to the ground. His chair thumping to the ground with a loud thud, a startled Greg stammered: "Christ Cath, what are you trying to do? Give me a heart attack or something?" When he saw her eyes narrow dangerously at the use of the nickname, he swallowed loudly and squeaked: "sorry, Catherine."

"Have you seen Sara?"

"Erm yeah, I saw her about fifteen minutes ago. She said she was going to put her report on Grissom's desk." When Catherine turned around abruptly and walked out again, Greg heaved a huge sigh of relief. Both Catherine and Sara were damn scary when angered.

Finding Grissom's creepy little office dark and deserted, Catherine walked into the lounge. At first she thought it was empty, but then she noticed Nick, laying flat out on the couch. "Hey Nick," she said, "you look beat".

"I am," he groaned, "I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for a week."

"I gather you're no closer to identifying your corpse?"

"No, we'll need the head to do that. The killer poured some kind of acid on the victim's fingertips, burning the prints off. We'll need the dental records to make a positive I.D. and for that we'll need the head, which is nowhere to be found. We went through an area of a square mile tonight, but nothing."

"Oh well, don't despair, something's bound to come up eventually. Anyway, what I wanted to ask you, have you seen Sara?"

"Yeah, crossed her in the hallway about five minutes ago, she was heading to the locker room. Said something about a shower."

"Thanks Nick," Catherine said, hoping Sara was still busy soaping herself up. Vivid images of all she could do with Sara in the shower and knowing she had a promise to keep, Catherine sprinted towards the locker room.

Just before she reached the locker room Catherine decided to change tactics, the element of surprise always an advantage she opted for sneaking in rather than barging in like a woman possessed. Gently turning the handle, desperately hoping that the door wouldn't creak, she tiptoed in.

To her great disappointment her grand plans of seduction in the shower went up in smoke as Sara was already out of the shower, but she was still treated to the mesmerizing sight of Sara toweling dry. Silently closing the door behind her, Catherine had to lean against a wall for a minute as enticing visuals of their wild and passionate afternoon flashed before her eyes.

Wide eyed, her mouth dry and her heart beating a hundred miles a minute, she was hypnotized by the slow and sensual moves of Sara. With bated breath she watched Sara pull up her Levi's achingly slow until it finally covered her racy black thong, not bothering to button up just yet. With lust filled eyes Catherine followed the trail of a tiny drop of water, making its way down Sara's spine to finally disappear out of sight.

Getting more and more aroused by the minute - who knew a reversed striptease could be so captivating? – Catherine resolutely decided to have Sara then and there. She didn't give a damn that they were in the locker room at work, that anybody could walk in on them, she needed to be with Sara. It was as simple as that. If truth be told, that extra little element of danger only turned her on even more, taking her lust to incredible heights.

Catherine realized with a devious smirk that she had a definite advantage as Sara was still oblivious to her presence. Pushing herself off of the wall, she stealthily moved in on Sara like an unrelenting and famished predator approaching its innocent and unsuspecting prey. Her breathing increasing by the minute, Catherine pushed herself against Sara's back, her right hand sliding over Sara's hip.

Her voice thick with scarcely concealed lust, she purred into Sara's ear: "why are you putting your clothes on? You know I'll only take them off again." Sara went rigid for a second before emitting a low pitched growl and molding herself even further to Catherine's form. Catherine's hand slowly wandered from Sara's hip to the bare flesh of her stomach, making Sara's breath hitch.

Infinitely glad she was wearing stiletto heels –at least now she was nearly as tall as Sara – Catherine took Sara's earlobe in her mouth and started sucking on it before diverting her attention to Sara's neck. Craning her neck, Sara arched backwards, giving Catherine all the access she needed. Swaying on her feet, her knees threatening to collapse, Sara grabbed behind her and held onto Catherine for dear life.

Slowly Catherine's fingers crept upwards, leaving behind a trail of goose bumps and quivering muscles. Still licking the pulse point in Sara's neck, she raked a fingernail over an already rock hard nipple, making Sara gasp. Tweaking the nipple between her fingers, her other hand slowly ventured down, leaving Sara groaning in anticipation.

She cupped Sara through her pants, the tantalizing friction causing Sara to shudder. Feeling Sara push herself onto her hand, desperately looking for some kind of release, she teasingly stroked her a couple of times before removing her hand completely.

When Sara let her displeasure be known with a strangled grunt, she whispered into her ear: "don't worry, baby. I'll take care of you," making Sara whimper. Her hand went down once again, sliding under the thong, her nails scraping the curls.

Totally oblivious to their surroundings, far too hypnotized by each other, they were startled when Warrick called out: "Catherine? Sara? You two in here?"

"Shit", Catherine cursed under her breath, the both of them springing apart at the unwelcome interruption. She knew she couldn't let Warrick come in here. One look at Sara and he'd immediately know just what they had been up to. Her mind in overdrive, she pushed Sara with her back against the lockers. Pleading her to remain silent, keeping her hand where it was, she called out: "Yeah, we're in here. We're just. erm….having a shower. What's up?"

"Grissom just walked in. He wants to have a meeting before everybody clocks out. You know, to see where we stand."

Cursing Grissom for his poor timing and his recent obsession with team meetings, Catherine contemplated her next step. One look at Sara's still dilated eyes, blackened by desire and she knew she really only had one option and that was to finish what she had started.

Caressing Sara's cheek and giving her a five star smile, she said: "give us …. twenty minutes, okay Warrick?" When she heard Warrick's retreating footsteps, she released a tiny sigh of relief. Before she could finish her husky "now, where were we", Sara had grabbed her by the neck and was kissing her ferociously.

Catherine was momentarily taken aback by the force of Sara's passion, but quickly began to fight her for dominance. Her tongue sliding over and against Sara's, she cupped Sara's breast again. Pulling back from Sara's swollen lips, thinking the pink flush on her cheeks really looked adorable, she began placing open mouthed kisses along Sara's jaw and neck, ever moving south.

Reaching Sara's breast she curled her tongue around the nipple before blowing on it softly, making it even harder. Suckling it softly she felt Sara's hand on her head, pushing her even closer. Pushing Sara's jeans down a bit, she trailed her fingers through the copious wetness before sliding two fingers inside.

Slowly pushing in and out, she increased the speed when Sara started to whimper and quiver. Kissing Sara to drown out the moans, knowing Sara could be quite vocal, Catherine flicked her thumb over the extended clit. That was all it took.

Letting out a high pitched shriek, Sara seemed suspended in the air for a moment before crashing down again. Whispering sweet nothings in her ear, Catherine coaxed her down gently before easing her fingers out.

"Come on", Catherine said, "we've got a meeting to go to."

"What? …… But? …. What about you?", Sara stammered.

"I know you'll take very good care of me once we get home. The sooner we go to this meeting, the sooner we can leave." Giving Sara a wink, she added: "told you I'd warm you up when shift was over."

Chapter 18.

The song is "the power of love" by Frankie goes to Hollywood.

Although her morning had been passionate, titillating and exhausting to say the very least, Sara still woke up at her usual hour. Staring at the all too familiar crack in her ceiling, she sighed heavily. Being an incurable insomniac isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

Generally sleeping only four hours a night, it left the action driven and thrill seeking Sara with too many hours unaccounted for. Easily bored with the mundane, day to day stuff, she sought refuge in the things she did enjoy: reading, hanging out with Mel and Greg and more importantly working all the hours that God sends.

She knew she was dubbed the resident workaholic by her colleagues, a description she couldn't really find fault with, it was the truth after all. She worked long hours, maxes out on overtime nearly every month and had about three months worth of vacation days stashed up.

Everybody knew that work is the sole focus in Sara's life, but only a selected few realized the truth and the reasoning behind this. Never one to divulge much of herself or to be the focus of the group's scrutiny, she never once mentions the terrifying nightmares that haunt her incessantly, sometimes even throughout the day. She never talks about the nights she wakes up in a sweat, screaming silently at her inner demons.

Everybody sees her as this broody, taciturn and very independent career woman who never lets her emotions cloud her professional judgement. Admired for her tough as nails attitude and her tenacity, but denigrated as a cold fish, who could really blame her for keeping her worries and fears to herself?

Not wanting to appear weak and fragile in front of her peers, Sara never mentions just how far off the truth they really are. Sometimes she wants to scream at them that she does care, that in fact she cares too much, but in the end she never does. Why tangle with the tough, über bitch image that they have created?

Nobody needs to know that she feels like a complete failure every time a murderer, rapist or psychopath gets off Scot free. Nobody needs to know that she blames herself for not finding enough incriminating evidence to nail them. Nobody needs to know that she feels like she has let down the victim a second time when she closes an unsolved case.

Haunted by the faces of victims and taunted by the idea of injustice, she simply works harder and longer. She vows to do whatever it takes to fight for justice and the truth. And when it all gets too much for her, when she desperately needs to unleash some of her pent up anger and frustration, she simply kicks the shit out of the punching bag in her spare room.

But all of that had changed. Now she did have someone to talk to and confide in. Now she did have a shoulder to cry on, someone to focus her undivided attention on. Blinking a couple of times at the thought, she smiled when she noticed Catherine curled up around her, still in deep slumber. She still couldn't quite believe her luck, Catherine loving her was so much more than a dream come true.

Gently stroking her hair, careful not to wake her up, Sara snuggled in closer. She was desperate to feel Catherine's arms around her, letting her know that this time she wasn't alone, that this time she had someone fighting in her corner. Knowing that Catherine needed her sleep, especially after their morning's escapades, she was content to simply watch her, the steady rise and fall of Catherine's breathing easing away all of the demons that plagued her during her own short nap.

Chuckling softly at the light snore that escaped Catherine's mouth, she realized that she had never felt so relaxed in her life. No more listening to the police scanner to keep her distracted, no more working overtime to avoid facing her nocturnal ghosts, Catherine was all she needed to keep the big bad at bay.

How did that song go again? "Love is the light, scaring darkness away. I'm so in love with you. Purge the soul. Make love your goal." That's exactly how she felt about Catherine, just being near her was enough to banish all the negative thoughts and anxieties.

Knowing it would at least be another couple of hours before Catherine even stirred, Sara gave her a light kiss on the forehead before gently detangling their entwined limbs. Gingerly sitting up, watching the daylight peek through the dark curtains, she realized that a next chapter in her life's story had begun. Pulling the sheets back over the still sleeping Catherine, making sure the Autumn chill didn't wake her, she smiled when she saw her snuggle into the pillow, hugging it tighter.

Shivering slightly, cursing her lazybone janitor for still not having the damn heater fixed, she picked up her clothes that laid strewn around the bedroom. Flushing a light pink at the sight of her bra dangling precariously from the chandelier, vividly remembering just how it got there, Sara padded to the bathroom.

A long and invigorating shower later, she felt ready to face the big bad world again. Still unaccustomed to having overnight visitors, she desperately tried to keep the noise to a minimum while going about her daily routine: fixing herself a cup of tea, feeding her nowhere to be seen cats and putting a load in the washing machine.

The CD-player a soft murmur on the background, she settled down on the couch with a book, happily munching on some salty crackers. Tequila and Garfield, both still a bit miffed at being so ostentatiously thrown out of the bedroom, what they considered to be their inner sanctum, earlier that day, decided that the coast was finally clear and came out of hiding.

Purring their delight at having Sara all to themselves again, they almost regally strutted over to the couch and jumped on, nestling themselves closely to Sara. The intermittent and distracted strokes she gave them enough to keep them content, Garfield and Tequila yawned widely before getting back to their afternoon slumber.

Momentarily overlooking the amateur mistakes in evidence gathering because the plot was so captivating and exhilarating, Sara was just reading about the protagonist's investigation of a rather gruesome murder when Catherine's cell phone started to ring. Desperately trying to locate the damn thing before Catherine woke up, she jumped off the couch, knocking two startled cats down with her in the process.

Unused to seeing a near panic stricken Sara they scurried away to hide under a cupboard while Sara was still searching for Catherine's seemingly ellusive handbag. Finally spotting it underneath the kitchen table, she hurried over and checking if it wasn't Grissom she answered slightly out of breath: "Catherine Willow's phone. Sara Sidle speaking."

"Sara?" a flabbergasted female voice said before mumbling "well I'll be damned, she pulled it off after all." Clearing her throat, the woman continued: "sorry about that. It's Nancy, Catherine's sister. Can I speak to her?"

"Um, well … she's still sleeping, but I can wake her up if you want."

"No, no don't bother. So you wore her out, did you?" Nancy laughingly asked. When Sara didn't answer that, not really knowing what to say, she continued: "Your silence tells me all I need to know. Now, the reason I'm calling … I'm supposed to pick up Lindsey at school this afternoon, but I'm afraid I won't make it. Headquarters is sending someone down here to check up on us and my boss is in an almighty panic. There's an emergency meeting planned at four and I'm afraid I really can't get out of it. Would you mind picking her up instead?"

"Sure, I'll pick her up, no problem. When does school finish and more importantly, will they allow me to pick her up?"

"School finishes at three o'clock and I'll call them to inform them of the change in plans, don't worry. Tell Cath that I'll stop by her house later to catch up on all the gossip. Oops, got to go, the boss is coming. Bye."

With that Nancy hung up, leaving a flabbergasted Sara staring at the phone. <<Now that was seriously weird>>, she thought, <<she didn't even question my picking up the phone>>. Looking at her watch, noticing she only had half an hour to spare, she scrambled up. Picking up Catherine's clothes that were scattered over the lounge and kitchen floor, no need for Lindsey to see just what they had been up to, she wrote Catherine a note. Grabbing her keys and leather jacket, she closed the front door behind her.

Reversing the car into a tiny parking space near Lindsey's school, Sara reluctantly got out. She was nervous as hell and seriously beginning to regret her hung go decision of picking Lindsey up. Although she kept telling herself that it really wasn't that big of a deal, in her heart she knew better. This was another major turning point in her relationship with Catherine and distractedly she wondered whatever happened to taking things slowly.

Mustering up all her courage, she walked over to the school gates, just in time to hear the bell ring. What seemed like seconds later in Sara's opinion, the doors burst open and hundreds of running and screaming kids ran out, elated that they could go home at last. Unused to the boisterous masses of laughing and babbling parents and kids, Sara was beginning to seriously freak out. How was she ever going to find Lindsey in this crowd?

Desperately scanning the bodiless faces swarming around her, she was startled when someone yanked her sleeve. Looking down she was happy to see Lindsey standing there with a confused expression on her face. "There you are short stuff," Sara said, with a bright smile of relief tinting her lips.

"Hi Sara. Ummm …. What are you doing here? I mean, I thought aunt Nancy was supposed to pick me up today?"

"Well, she's held up at work. A major crisis or something. She asked me if I could pick you up instead."

"Oh, okay. Where's mom? Is she still working? I mean, aunt Nancy usually calls mom when she's held up."

"Umm, well your mother is still at my place. She was sleeping when Nancy called and I didn't want to wake her up just yet. So I decided to come instead."

"Why is she sleeping at your place? Does this mean that, now you're my mom's girlfriend, we're moving in with you?"

<Oh hell, I knew picking up Lindsey was a bad idea>, she thought, <how do I get out of this one?> Racking her brain to find the perfect answer, but coming up blank Sara decided to be as honest as possible without divulging too many details. "Umm …. See it's like this …. Your mom couldn't wait to get to bed this morning, she was so … um tired… I thought I'd better take her to my place seeing it's closer and all.

Now that doesn't mean that you're moving in with me or that I'm moving in with you for that matter. Although I'm your mother's girlfriend, we still have to get to know each other a little bit better before we do that. We're still only dating, you know? Besides if and when we do decide to start living together, I'd always run it by you to see if you're okay with that."

"Oh, okay", the girl good naturedly replied. Then she thought of something and eyeing Sara suspiciously, she added: "if you do move in, you can't get my room."

Sara had to laugh at that and said: "Don't worry short stuff, your room is quite safe." Arriving back at the car, she made sure Lindsey was buckled up safely before adding: "since your mom's still sleeping, I thought that maybe we could hang out together for a while. What do you say?"

"Cool. Can we go and have an ice cream?" the girl enthusiastically asked.

Her stomach doing dangerous flip flops at the thought of chocolate ice cream, Sara quickly asked: "how about we go to the House of Pancakes instead? I quite fancy some banana pancakes and I'm willing to bet that I can eat more of them than you can." Lindsey, not one to back down on a challenge, agreed to the change of venue and soon they were on their way. "So, how did your pop quiz go?" Sara asked, looking at Lindsey in the rear view mirror.

"Very good. I think I answered all of the questions correctly, although the others thought it to be very difficult. My teacher said she'd have it graded by tomorrow, so I guess I'll know then. I've got a biology test tomorrow. Could you help me prepare for that too? When we get home later, I mean."

"Sure, but first our brain needs nourishment," Sara said, parking in front of the House of Pancakes. "Come on short stuff, a stack of pancakes with my name on it is waiting to be eaten."

When the front door closed with a thud, Catherine woke up. Not willing to open her eyes just yet, she burrowed deeper into the covers, fully intent on drifting back to sleep. But her efforts were in vain, the noise outside just too loud to ignore, she found herself waking up more and more by the minute. When even hiding under the pillows didn't help, she decided to give up.

Carefully cracking one eye open, she was startled when she met unfamiliar surroundings, but when the memories of that very morning hit her full force, she realized with a smile that she was in Sara's bed. Stretching pleasantly aching muscles, she turned around, fully expecting Sara to be there to take her into her arms.

A bit disappointed to find out that she was on her own and, if the cold pillow beside her was anything to go by, had been for quite some time. Finally remembering Mel's mention of Sara's insomnia, she called out "Sara?", only to be met by an almost deafening silence. Intrigued and definitely a bit anxious, she got out of bed and grabbed one of Sara's robes that hung on a hook near the door.

Loving Sara's unique smell around her and still fumbling with the knot, she opened the bedroom door only to stare into a totally deserted apartment. All kinds of strange thoughts ran through her mind. Not really knowing what to do with the situation, feeling a rush of awkwardness fall over her, she just stood there frozen to the spot until Garfield started rubbing her leg.

Bending down to pick up the already purring cat, she whispered softly: "it's a pity you can't speak, buddy. I'm sure you'd be able to tell me where Sara fled to and more importantly why." Sighing deeply she realized that there was still a lot she needed to learn about Sara. She seemed to be a wonderfully complex person, but Catherine really wouldn't have it any other way. At least this way life would never be dull nor predictable.

Scratching the lazy cat under the chin, she muttered: "come on then, let's go to the kitchen. I can't think properly before I have my first cup of coffee." Entering the kitchen, she put Garfield to the ground again and began searching through Sara's cupboards. Only when the coffee was ready, the rich deep aroma making her mouth water in anticipation, did she notice the little note Sara had left her.

Putting her steaming hot mug in front of her on the kitchen table, she sat down and gingerly folded the note open. Reading it, her smile turned brighter as Sara's thoughtfulness became clear. The only downside was reading Sara's post scriptum on how Nancy was going to drop by later that evening. She loved her big sister dearly, but still dreaded the grilling she knew she'd receive.

Knowing she'd at least have an hour before Sara and Lindsey were back, she decided to get ready. She still had a lot to learn about Sara, but maybe the apartment would offer her some additional insights. She felt she had only scratched the surface on her walkthrough yesterday. Happy with her plan, she padded to the bathroom to emerge some twenty minutes later.

Reading the back cover of the book Sara had been reading, Catherine wasn't at all surprised to find it was a thriller. Flipping it open, she found Sara was already on page 73. <Either she's a speed reader or she was up longer than I originally realized>, Catherine thought. Chuckling at Sara's odd choice for a bookmarker, an extract from the Nevada criminal code, she put the book down again.

Reminding herself to ask Sara about her insomnia later, she walked over to the wall to inspect the photographs that hung there. Every single photograph taught her something new about Sara, made her a bit less of a mystery. Thinking that searching through Sara's cupboards was taking things too far, she scanned Sara's book collection again. Fully intent on finding a captivating murder mystery to read, her eye fell on two odd looking books tucked away in a corner.

Bending down to reach them, she tried to pull them out. When the books decided to put up a bit of a struggle, her curiosity grew even bigger. After finally managing to pull them out, she settled down on the couch, Tequila and Garfield keeping her company.

The first book appeared to be a photo album, spanning from birth to Sara's college years. She looked at them all with a smile on her face, sometimes chuckling softly at a particular picture. Sara as a toddler running around carefree and stark naked in her parents' back yard, Sara with a serious look on her face as she received her high school degree, Sara and Mel sleeping in each other's arms in a hammock, …

The second one was a scrap book filled with newspaper clippings. At first Catherine thought it was on all the cases that Sara had solved over the years, but when she neared the end, the Las Vegas section, she realized that it was on cases that Sara hadn't solved. Finally understanding what drove Sara to work so hard, which demons she was fighting all the time, she sighed. Putting the books back where she had found them, she sat down again, her mind in overdrive on how she was going to help Sara.

Catherine looked up from her deep contemplation when she heard keys rattling in the lock. She heard her daughter before she saw her. "…. And that's when Sam told Melissa that he really, really likes her."

"Then what did she do?", Sara asked the girl, pushing the door open with her foot as she was carrying various shopping bags.

"Well, she said 'EEEUUUWW' really loud and then gave him a big push, making him fall backwards into the sandbox."

Sara had to laugh at that. Kicking the door shut, she said "Hi Catherine" before disappearing into the kitchen to put the groceries away, her laughter still clear in her voice.

Only now noticing her mother on the couch, Lindsey walked over and unceremoniously plopped down beside her. "Hi mom," she said, "how was your nap? Are you still so tired?"

"What do you mean?" Catherine asked with scrunched eyebrows.

Pulling Tequila onto her lap, the little girl replied: "well Sara said she had put you to bed immediately after shift because you were so tired and that you're only here because her place was closer."

"She said that, huh?" Catherine said, desperately trying to suppress a giggle at the thought of her daughter giving her lover the third degree over their sleeping arrangements. "What else did she say?"

"Umm …. Let me see …", the girl answered with a pensive look on her face. "Oh, she promised me that she wasn't after my bedroom." When Catherine was stupefied, Sara and Lindsey must have had quite a conversation, Lindsey continued: "she said that you two weren't moving in together, that you had to get to know each other a little better first. She also said that if and when you do, she'd ask for my permission first. And she promised me she'd help me prepare for my biology test tomorrow."

"I see," Catherine said, trying to take it all in. Although Sara had always proclaimed that she wasn't good with kids, she seemed to get on with Lindsey like a house on fire. Curious about the rest of their little outing, she asked: "what else did you two get up to this afternoon?"

"Well, we went to the House of Pancakes and then we went to the supermarket."

"Sara took you grocery shopping?" Catherine asked bug-eyed, thinking that Sara was infinitely braver than she had originally assumed. She wouldn't even send her worst enemy grocery shopping with Lindsey.

"Yes, I did," Sara answered, her hands stuffed in her back pockets. "It was fun."

Checking to see if Sara was being sarcastic, but soon realizing she was completely sincere, Catherine whispered "you're amazing", making Sara turn bright red. The moment was broken when Lindsey asked Sara if she can help her with her homework by explaining photosynthesis.

"Sure short stuff, why don't you go and set everything up at the kitchen table, I'll be right there." Nodding the young girl disappeared in the direction of the kitchen, Garfield and Tequila hot on her trail. Bending down to capture Catherine's lips with her own, Sara whispered: "stay for dinner tonight?"

"Only if you promise to come to my place after shift," Catherine whispered back.

"Deal," Sara muttered, kissing Catherine again. With a sad sigh she pulled back from their embrace when an impatient Lindsey hollered Sara's name. "Duty calls', she said, before turning around and walking to the kitchen.

Chapter 19.

Coming to a stop right in front of the labs, Sara cut the engine on her motorcycle and quickly dismounted. Taking off her helmet, she whistled a cheery tune and walked into the building. In the hallway she met a grinning Warrick. "You look happy", he squeaked, his eyeballs nearly falling out of their sockets when he noticed the hickey that Sara tried to hide by wearing a turtleneck jumper.

"I am," she said, walking on before he could ask her more questions.

< So she has a new boyfriend>, Warrick thought, < I wonder who mystery man is? Well, whoever he is, I just hope he treats her better than that scumbag Hank. Sara deserves to be happy.> Determined to discover the mystery man's identity before shift was over, he walked towards Greg's little lab.

Knowing Sara would only clam up like an oyster if he asked her directly, interrogating Greg was the next best step. Not only was he Sara's best friend, he was also the biggest gossip in the building. There was nothing he didn't know, Big brother didn't even come close. "Hey Greg," he greeted. Standing really close to him, he whispered conspiratorially:" listen, I think Sara has a new boyfriend. Do you know who it is?"

Taken aback for a minute by the question, he hadn't expected the guys to find out quite so soon, he pondered his next step. He was dying to divulge this tidbit of juicy gossip, but on the other hand he also remembered Sara's barely concealed threat. Just thinking about it made him shudder. "Why do you think that I'd know a thing like that?" he asked.

"Oh come on," Warrick said, "You always seem to know everything that goes on in here. It stands to reason that you'd know who the new man in Sara's life is. You know you can trust me, I'd never tell Sara that you were the one who told me."

"Why don't you ask Sara herself?" Greg asked, trying to buy some time as he had seen Sara approaching.

"You know damn well why I don't want to ask Sara herself. She'd never tell me, that's why."

"What would I never tell you?" Sara asked, leaning against the doorframe, an amused smirk on her face. Startled Warrick spun around, a slight blush gracing his face. He was really relieved that Sara was in one of her good moods today, otherwise he was a dead man. Now he only risked being maimed for life.

Warrick audibly gulped when he heard Greg answer the question, a twinkle of delight clear in his voice: "Warrick wanted to know who your new boyfriend is."

Rather surprised that Warrick had already picked up that something had significantly changed in her life, Sara asked him: "why do you think I'm seeing anybody?"

"Well," he stammered, "you just seem incredibly happy. You were whistling when I met you in the hallway and you can't stop smiling."

"And that leads you to believe that I have a new boyfriend?" Sara asked flabbergasted.

"Well, that and the hickey the size of Nevada on your neck," Warrick quipped, his audacity returning.

Unconsciously putting her hand on the hickey, Sara turned bright red. Her wits quickly returning, she answered: "Well, you're right. I am seeing someone, but I'm not telling you who it is. Oh, and don't bother asking Greg. He's been sworn to secrecy. He can't tell you who it is even if he wanted to. Not if he knows what's good for him anyway." Throwing poor Greg a predatory smile to reinforce the threat, she turned back to face Warrick. "You're a trained CSI, why don't you try finding out for yourself? l bet you can't."

His investigative skills called into question and moreover never one to back out of a bet, Warrick accepted the challenge. "What's in it for me when I do find out?", he asked.

"Besides the pleasure of knowing something that neither Grissom nor Nick knows, I guess I can invite you to have dinner with the two of us. Is that incentive enough?" she asked with a smirk.

"You're on," Warrick said, extending his hand to clench the deal. "Prepare to be defeated."

Not really paying any attention to Greg's amused smirk or Warrick's pondering stare – maybe he thought that if he kept staring at her long enough some kind of hidden clue would be revealed -, Sara sat reading the local rag that was euphemistically called a newspaper, occasionally taking a sip of tea. Only having the gossip section left and not really interested who was doing whom at the moment, she sighed deeply and folded the paper up again.

It was unlike Grissom to be so late; rivaling Sara's workaholic tendencies, he was usually found somewhere in the lab hours before shift started. Now the man was nowhere to be seen, his creepy little office ominously black. Drumming her fingers on the table, Sara took an annoyed look at the clock. She was just about to comment when Grissom finally burst through the doors, barely keeping a hold of the files he was carrying.

Not even bothering to acknowledge or explain his tardiness, he dumped the files on a nearby table and looked around the lounge. Furrowing his eyebrows, he asked: "aren't Catherine and Nick here yet? It's not like them to be so late."

Greg, who was sitting behind Grissom's back, rolled his eyes in an overly dramatic fashion, making it almost impossible for Sara to contain a chuckle. Noticing Sara had to bite her lip to keep herself from laughing, he decided to take pity on her and stopped his goofing around. Instead he said: "they both have the night off, remember? Catherine explicitly reminded you during this morning's meeting."

"Oh yeah, that's right. I remember now. Sorry, I'm still a bit jetlagged," Grissom admitted sheepishly. Then, reclaiming his cool and collected posture, he said: "right well, assignments. Only two new cases have come in. Warrick, I want you to continue your search for that missing head, but I'm putting you on standby. When a new case comes in, I want you to drop everything and investigate the new scene. Your headless body gets bumped to the back burner then. Okay?"

Receiving an acknowledging nod from Warrick, he continued: "I'll take the B&E and Sara, just for you I have an especially weird and baffling case. I'm not sure which article of the criminal code it falls under, but the mayor wants it dealt with. Pronto."

"Whoopee," Sara sarcastically remarked," now I'll have the whole of city hall breathing down my neck until it's solved, calling me every five minutes to see if I'm making any progress. What's it about anyway?"

"Well, a little over a month ago someone thought it incredibly funny to stare through old people's windows, dressed as the Grim Reaper. At first they thought they were dealing with a couple of kids, it being Halloween and all, but the complaints kept coming in. One man was so scared he had a heart attack, so you can understand why the mayor wants this solved."

Handing her a thick file, he said: "those are the names and addresses of all the victims. The top page has the most recent ones. He struck again tonight, twice. A word of warning though, one of tonight's victims was the mayor's mother, so you'd better treat her with kid gloves."

"Are you sure that I'm the right person to handle this case? I mean, I'm not exactly known for my tact and diplomacy."

"You'll do just fine," Grissom said, looking at her over the rim of his glasses. "I have every faith in you."

Startled when he heard Greg's none too subtle cough, he had totally forgotten about him, Grissom looked at the young trainee with a pensive look on his face. Coming to a decision, he said: "well Greg, it seems to be your lucky night. You get to pick and choose who you work with. So who's it going to be?"

Greg really had to give that some thought. He didn't particularly fancy traipsing up and down the desert, looking for a head that didn't want to be found, nor did he want to be constantly badgered about the identity of Sara's mystery man, so that meant Warrick was out for the count.

Working a politically charged case with the additional possibility of insulting the mayor's mother, something nobody in their right mind would ever do, not really his cup of tea and desperate to avoid Sara as his three days of slavery had begun, all that Greg was left with was Grissom's B&E.

Though he'd never admit it, sometimes the man scared him to death. But admittedly he could learn a great deal by just watching Grissom in action and in this case Grissom was definitely the lesser of two evils. "I think I'll tag along with you," he therefore said.

"Okay, guess that's settled then. I suggest we all get to work," Grissom answered. When everybody started to leave, he added: "Sara, could I talk to you for a minute, please?"

Nodding, she let Warrick and Greg pass before turning to face Grissom. "What's up? Is it to do with the case?"

"Ummm … No. Brass told me that Catherine had to take you home twice this week because you weren't feeling well. Are you okay? Is something bothering you? You know that you can always come to me when something 's bothering you, don't you?"

Touched by Grissom's unexpected gesture and concern, knowing he really meant it and realizing that even Grissom's people skills weren't all that bad, Sara said: "I'm fine, Catherine took really good care of me. You don't have to worry about me skipping another shift, it won't happen again."

"I'm not worried about you missing work, I'm worried about you. Have you seen a doctor? Do you need some time off? I mean, I noticed that you've been working hard the last couple of weeks, even harder than before, so maybe …"

Interrupting Grissom Sara reassuringly told him: "there's nothing to worry about. Like I said, I'm fine. My doctor just said that I have to watch what I eat." <Well, at least that's not a blatant lie, she thought.>

"As long as you're sure …." Reassured by her nod, he continued: "guess we'd better get to work then."

Although she realized it was totally out of character, not to mention utterly unprofessional, the thought of visiting Mrs. Burrows had Sara quaking in her boots. Everybody knew that the mayor's mother was a first class bitch, you really had to come from Mars not to have heard about her bitter feud with the sheriff's wife. After all their public bickering and mud slinging had kept the gossip pages filled for months. Dreading to be on the receiving end of one of Mrs. Burrows' infamous humiliating diatribes, she decided to save her until last, the other victim had reported the crime first anyway so she found herself knocking on Ms. Mac Gregor's door instead.

Thinking the old dear probably hadn't heard her, the file had her listed as 79 years old after all, Sara was about to knock again when the door swished open. "Ah you must be Sara Sidle," the woman said in a gentle voice, her thick accent revealing her Scottish ancestry. Sara just stared at her, thinking she had landed in an episode of the The Twilight Zone. Ms. Mac Gregor looked like she had walked straight out of the fairytales of a 1001 nights.

She was wearing what can only be described as a brightly colored Arabian jallabia, covering her from head to toe with a golden turban to round things off. Big earrings dangled from her ears and silver bracelets rattled with every move the woman made. Noticing the flabbergasted look on Sara's face, not the first time she had invoked such a reaction, she laughingly said: "well, don't just stand there lass. Come in, you're letting the freezing cold get in."

Utterly confused, Sara immediately obeyed and stepped inside the house. There was something about the woman that made Sara want to divulge her deepest and darkest secrets. Not really knowing why she was feeling this way, she decided to focus on other things instead. "How did you know my name?" she asked, her scrunched eyebrows a sign of her perplexity.

"No mystery there I'm afraid lass," the woman laughed, "wee Jimmy told me you'd be dropping by. He just left, said something about helping a colleague of yours locate a missing head."

Finally making the connection, now more confused than ever, Sara mumbled: "Brass? … But what would he be doing here?.... I mean he's homicide, I don't understand… ."

"Oh, I've known Jimmy since he was a wee bairn in New Jersey. A good lad he is, although he got into all kinds of mischief let me tell you. He used to drive his mother crazy with his wild antics." Chuckling softly when she remembered a particular event, she continued: "his mother was my best friend so when he heard what happened, he stopped by to check up on me. But enough about Jimmy, I suppose you have some questions to ask me?"

Totally bewildered, Sara stammered: "Umm … yeah, just a couple. Then I have to check a couple of things outside. So Ms. Mac Gregor, could you tell me exactly what you saw?"

"Sorcha, please. Anyway, it's pretty straightforward actually. I saw someone dressed up as the Grim reaper peering through my window, probably thinking he'd scare the hell out of me. It takes more than a black costume and a plastic scythe to shock me."

Believing Sorcha at her word, she then asked: "did you see his face?"

"Aye, do you want me to give you a description?" When Sara nodded, her pen in hand, Sorcha continued: "Caucasian, male, about 25 years old I guess. Umm… piercing blue eyes, I mean the kind of blue you don't see that often. He had a jagged scar above his right eye, a pock-marked face and a nose that's been broken at least once. I'm afraid that's all I can tell you, I only looked at him for a couple of seconds, then my temper got the better of me."

"That's just fine," Sara said reassuringly," you're actually the first to give us such a detailed description. You know, I've got a colleague who's pretty good with computers, do you think you'd be able to help Archie compile a composition photograph?"

"Aye, should be a doddle, just tell me when and where."

Thinking out loud, Sara answered: "Well, I know Archie is working tonight, but I suppose it's getting rather late. I mean, you probably want to go to bed soon. Maybe it's better if we do it tomorrow."

"Oh, don't worry about the time lass, I'm a night owl. I rarely go to bed before three in the morning, so later tonight would be just fine."

"Great," Sara said, smiling brightly. "I'll be over to pick you up after I've visited Mrs. Burrows then."

"Deirdre Burrows?" Sorcha chuckled loudly. "Don't tell me that old witch had a visit from the Grim reaper too. Well, all I can say is that it couldn't have happened to a nicer woman."

Choosing not to comment, but silently agreeing with the sarcastic remark, Sara asked: "so what happened then? You said something about your temper flaring up?"

A bit embarrassed, Sorcha admitted: "normally I wouldn't behave in such a fashion, but …. He WAS trampling all over my prized Charles Aznavour roses so I'm afraid I lost my temper. I just opened my front door and started yelling and cursing in Gaelic. Not a very smart thing to do, I know but it seems to have done the trick. Guess the wild banshee act put the fear of God into him because he ran off with his tail between his legs."

Not really knowing if she should be commenting on Sorcha's reckless behavior or applauding her bravery, Sara asked: "could you show me exactly where he stood?"

"Aye lass, let me just get my coat. It's colder than a witch's tit out there tonight."

As it was indeed extremely cold that night, Sara sent Sorcha back inside after she had pinpointed the exact spot. Extremely glad she was wearing a warm sweater, she crouched down beside the rosebush. Shining her torch on the ground, she was delighted to find some clear footprints. She took a couple of pictures from different angles before studying the prints a bit more intently. The prints themselves didn't look all that promising, as far as Sara could tell they were from your average sneakers, but the toes of the left foot showed a really interesting and irregular pattern. Definitely not your normal wear and tear marks.

Casting a mold, she shone her torch underneath the bushes, thinking that maybe the perp had left some other clues behind. Spotting something in the thick of the bush, she took a picture before taking a pair of tweezers out of her bag. Laying flat on her stomach, stretching as far out as she possibly could, she picked up a cigarette bud. Holding it in front of her, she noticed it wasn't wet at all although it had been raining quite heavily until three hours ago. Whoever threw it here, had done it recently.

Sliding the bud in an evidence bag, she checked the molds, but they still weren't dry. As dusting Sorcha's window hadn't revealed anything, well she had lifted a couple of paw prints but she could hardly arrest the neighborhood cats for that, she diverted her attention to the rosebush.

Sorcha had told her that the perp had took off like a bat out of hell, so Sara was thinking that maybe a little piece of his cape got snagged by the prickly thorns. She didn't spot any black cloth, but she did notice some bloodied thorns. After the obligatory snapshot, she took a swab and put it into an evidence bag. Not only did she now have the Grim Reaper's DNA, he'd also be very recognizable with the deep scratches he no doubt had on his arm.

The molds finally dry, Sara put them into an evidence bag and giving the crime scene a final once-over, making sure she hadn't forgotten something, she went back inside the house.

"So I'll come pick you up in about an hour and a half, okay?"

"Aye lass, that's just fine. I'll make sure I'll have some Gaelic coffee waiting for you, God knows you'll need it after facing the wicked witch or the West. Oh that's right, you can't drink that in your condition, how about some herbal tea instead? That's bound to be better for your bairns."

"Uh? … What? … How did you know….?"

Giving Sara a sly wink before practically shoving her out of the door, Sorcha whispered: "don't break your pretty head on that now lass. I'll explain everything when you get back. Now off you go…"

"Umm … okay", was all Sara managed to say to that, but the door was already closed. Walking towards her car, she put her hand on her stomach to feel if she was already showing, but no bump to be found. Shaking her head, thinking that Sorcha had taken a lucky guess, she got into her car. Then Sorcha's last sentence came to mind. "Bairns? What the hell does she mean by bairns?"

Sara felt like the whole world was conspiring against her. Fumbling with her car key, her fingers trembling from suppressed anger, she wanted to scream, but she didn't want to give Mrs. Burrows that satisfaction. Still fuming and cursing Mrs. Burrows name, thinking the damn woman definitely deserved her bitch reputation, she finally managed to open the door and slipped behind the steering wheel.

She simply couldn't believe the nerve of her. First she chewed her ear off for keeping her waiting and then, when it became clear Sara had been interviewing an earlier victim, she had the gall of calling Ms. Mac Gregor a nobody. She went on claiming that as the mayor's mother she should have been Sara's priority.

Sara had taken it all in her stride and had stayed polite, a fake smile plastered on her face. But when Mrs. Burrows, displeased with how Sara was conducting the investigation, had called up her son, continuously referring to her as 'that incompetent snot nosed punk' her blood had begun to boil.

So when Mrs. Burrows had handed her the phone with glee, obviously expecting her son to haul Sara over the coals for the second time, Sara had politely, but firmly informed him of the progress she had made, mostly thanks to Sorcha's observations as Mrs. Burrows hadn't been helpful at all, fainting when she saw the perp.

Then she told him she was being paid to investigate crime scenes, regardless of whom the victim was. That mollycoddling his mother wasn't in her job description the last time she checked, but if he should disagree with that, he could always lodge a complaint with her supervisor and have her removed from the case. In the meantime however, she would continue doing her job and find the perp.

Handing Mrs. Burrows the phone again, she walked outside to investigate the crime scene. Only finding a partial thumb print, she went back inside to inform a decidedly miffed looking Mrs. Burrows – she hadn't been given permission to call her Deirdre, she was only a minion after all- that she'd be back with a composition photograph. Politely bidding her goodnight, she closed the door behind her.

So there she was, sitting in her car, seriously thinking that her once promising career had just gone up in smoke. And all because of her own stupid temper and one stuck up, arrogant, egotistical prima Donna. Thinking that Sorcha's cup of herbal tea sounded like heaven on earth right about now, she started her car and drove off.

Chapter 20.

The whole drive over Sara was alternating between cursing herself for being so utterly stupid and Grissom for handing her the damn case in the first place. Getting more and more worked up by the minute, convinced she'd be out of a job this time tomorrow, big fat tears were rolling over her cheeks by the time she reached Ms. Mac Gregor's house.

Sorcha, having seen Sara's headlights illuminate the driveway, was a bit perplexed when there still wasn't a knock on the door a minute later. Moving to her window to see what was keeping Sara, she got worried when she saw Sara hunched over the steering wheel, crying her eyes out.

Having sensed that Sara's an extremely private person, unwilling to let others see her in a moment of weakness, she was of two minds on what to do. In the end her common sense prevailed and grabbing her coat, she walked over to the car.

Tapping on the window, her heart broke when she saw Sara's puffy red eyes looking back at her. She could fully well imagine what had happened and cursing Deirdre Burrows for her arrogant, callous behavior she opened the car door.

In a very gentle tone of voice she said: "there, there lass. I'm sure it's not half as bad as you think it is. Deirdre certainly isn't worth all these tears. Come inside and tell me all about it. I'm sure we can work something out."

When Sara still didn't make ready to get out, Sorcha pleaded: "come on lass, make an old woman happy. These old bones can't take the blistering cold anymore, but don't tell wee Jimmy that, he'd only start fussing over me like a mother hen."

The thought of the tough as nails Brass mothering anyone bringing a small smile to Sara's face, she acquiesced and got out of the car. Grateful for the offered handkerchief, she wiped her tear stained face and let herself be led inside the house.

Taking Sara's coat off before settling her down on the couch, a steaming hot cup of her own very special tea on a nearby table, Sorcha asked: "what happened?"

"Oh nothing much, I only committed professional suicide today," Sara squeaked out, a fresh batch of tears threatening to fall. By fits and starts Sara told Sorcha the whole story. She didn't know why, but there was something about the old woman that made Sara trust her completely. It was like she knew instinctively that the woman would be able to help her or at least make her feel better.

"What I don't understand is how all of that constitutes professional suicide?" Sorcha asked in a calm and soothing voice. "Admittedly, you could have put it … erm a bit more diplomatically, but you only spoke the truth. Deirdre Burrows can't boss you around. It isn't up to her to decide how you should do your job or which victim you should interview first. I'm sure you've got a protocol you have to stick to. So I don't really see how you being rude to her and her son might jeopardize your career?"

Putting the mug back on the table, Sara sighed deeply before saying: "the mayor is my boss". She fell silent for a moment, staring blankly in front of her. Just when Sorcha was about to ask her a question, she continued:" normally he doesn't interfere with the day to day running of the lab or the way we conduct our investigations as he delegates those responsibilities to the sheriff. This time however he has formally and explicitly asked to have this case dealt with.

I don't answer to him directly, but rather to my shift supervisor and the lab director, still … at the end of the day he's my boss, just way up in the hierarchy. So it's not really looking good. I mean, in hindsight I realized that I was pretty rude to him."

"Being rude after getting your head chewed off by his acidic mother is hardly a sackable offence. Besides, wouldn't your boss back you up?"

Thinking back to when she first arrived in Las Vegas and the way Grissom had unwaveringly supported Warrick during his spot of trouble, Sara said: "yeah, I'm sure Grissom would stick up for me and maybe the sheriff would too. I mean, the sheriff and Grissom aren't best buddies and normally the sheriff doesn't take our side, but Mrs. Burrows said some things about his wife that were really below the belt. I suppose that could persuade him to back Grissom for once."

"Well, there you go then, things aren't looking so bleak as they did half an hour ago. I do think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself though. I mean, what it all boils down to is you being a bit rude, nothing more, nothing less. Did the mayor give you any indication that he took offence?"

Replaying the short, but definitely memorable conversation in her head, Sara had to admit:" well no. I didn't really give him the chance. I just said my piece and then handed the phone back to Mrs. Burrows. You're right though, when you put it like that, it does sound rather ridiculous to get upset about nothing. I mean, he's a politician, I doubt he'd last long if he got worked up about every little insult thrown his way.

Besides he doesn't really need the negative publicity he'd get if journalists got wind of it, his mother has damaged his electoral campaign enough as it is." Hanging her head in shame, Sara whispered sheepishly: "I feel silly now. You probably think that I'm a total basket case, getting nearly hysterical over a trivial thing like that."

Patting Sara in the knee, Sorcha answered: "not at all lass. I'm just glad I could help, although I'm sure you would have come to the same conclusion on your own. And it wasn't a trivial matter either, not to you at that time. You take pride in what you do for a living so when Mrs. Burrows started criticizing every single thing you said and did, she hurt your sense of self-worth.

It's only a natural human reaction to retaliate when attacked or threatened. It was even perfectly normal for you to blow your top as your hormones are all over the place, making you react a bit differently than usual, making you do things you immediately regret. Add to that the daunting experience of meeting Cruella Deville to the hormonal mix and …."

"I end up a blubbering mess", Sara finished, chuckling wryly. If this was how she was going to behave during the whole of her pregnancy, she had a bumpy couple of months to look forward to. "Anyway, thanks for listening to me, I really appreciate it, especially since you don't know me from Adam."

"Think nothing of it lass, I was glad to help. Anyway, I think we'd better get going, don't you?"

Checking her watch, amazed to see that nearly an hour had flown by, Sara agreed and quickly got to her feet. Helping Sorcha into her coat, both woman walked over to the car. After a tiny hiccup, Sorcha needing help to climb into the SUV, they were soon on their way to the lab.

Walking into the lab, courteously holding the heavy door open for the grateful Sorcha, Sara asked: "is it okay if I just drop you off with Archie? He already knows we're coming and has promised to give you a nickel tour if you're interested. That way I can make a start on processing the evidence I've collected."

"Aye, of course it's alright. I'm sure Archie and I will get along just fine, especially if he's willing to give me a guided tour of this place. Jimmy is forever bragging about you science geeks, about how you always manage to solve even the most baffling cases with science. It would be very fascinating to see just how you do it."

"So science geeks, huh?" Sara laughed. "That's high praise coming from Brass I suppose. Well here we are, Archie's little hideaway. Archie, meet Sorcha Mac Gregor, a very good friend of Brass and my self and one of the best eyewitnesses I've ever seen. Sorcha, this is Archie, the resident computer whiz."

When the obligatory handshakes and 'how do you do's ' were over and done with, Sara continued: "Well, I guess I'll leave you guys to it, I've got some tests to run. Oh Archie, did you manage to get that overview done?"

"Yeah, piece of cake. I mailed it to you. Seems to me that your guy's operating in a three block radius. I also put the blue prints of the victim's houses on it, you never know, it might come in useful."

"Okay, thanks Archie. I'll be in my lab or in Catherine's office if you should need me. Have fun you both." Picking up the evidence bag, Sara exited the media room only to bump into a rather hurried Grissom in the hallway. After giving him a quick rundown on the case and warning him he might receive an angry phone call from the mayor's office, she continued her way through the labs.

She asked Greg's replacement to put a rush on the blood and quickly escaped the tiny cubicle again, before he could ask her all sorts of annoying questions. She hoped to God he was only temporary, there was something about the guy that gave her the creeps. She could handle his offbeat comments and even his lecherous leers, but still …. She couldn't really put her finger on it, but something about him rubbed her the wrong way.

Thinking that another round with Mrs. Burrows might seriously jeopardize her sanity, Sara wanted this case wrapped up sooner rather than later. Glad to find Jacqui working nights again, she practically begged the swamped woman to work her magic on her thumbprint first. Considering two tickets for the theater a small price to pay for jumping the queue, she left the fingerprint lab with a smile on her face. She knew Jacqui would be true to her word.

Entering her favorite lab, as always dark and deserted as everybody else seemed to hate it, she flicked the computer on. Measuring the shoe print had already let her know that it was a size ten, so now all she had to find out was the brand name.

When the computer was finally up and running, she opened the shoe database. She knew the program would run an automatic search through thousands of shoes and brands, so all she had to do was scan the shoeprint into the computer.

Five minutes later the computer bleeped, letting her know a match had been found. Diligently she set to work, scribbling down all the clues she had to identify the Grim Reaper.

On their way back to Sorcha's place, Sara turned to face the old woman and asked, a hint of curiosity tinting her voice: "how did you know I was pregnant? I haven't told Brass and I know I'm not showing yet?"

Chuckling softly Sorcha answered: "I was wondering when you'd bring that up. I'm surprised you held out so long actually. It's simple really, I have 'An Dà Shealladh'." When she noticed Sara's dumbfounded expression, her eyebrows and nose scrunched up while she was trying to figure out exactly what Sorcha had meant, Sorcha couldn't help but laugh harder.

"It's Gaelic lass. It mean second vision, the third eye, ESP or whatever name you want to give it. When you shook my hand earlier tonight, I just immediately knew certain things about you. It doesn't mean that I can predict your whole future or that I can give detailed descriptions of your past. I only see and feel a couple of things, tiny blurbs that don't always make a lot of sense to me. But I definitely felt that you're pregnant. Congratulations by the way."

"Thanks," Sara absentmindedly responded. "So when you said bairns, you mean that …"

"… you're having twins yes, identical twins to be exact."

"Twins" was all Sara said, trying to take it all in, not really knowing whether she should believe Sorcha at her word.

Noticing Sara's pensive and rather befuddled look, Sorcha smiled. "I know exactly what you're thinking," she said. "You're trying to figure out if I'm one card short of a full deck, aren't you?" When Sara turned slightly pink and nodded sheepishly, the old woman couldn't contain her laughter.

"I don't blame you lass. If an old biddy were to come up to me and tell me that I'm pregnant with twins, I'd also think the old bat is going doolally.

You're a scientist, you believe in cold hard facts and theories that have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. You work with certainties and material, visual truths, not maybes and immaterial, paranormal hypotheses.

But like they say, there's more to life than meets the eye. There's more between heaven and earth than just the plain visual. I'll try to prove it to you, if you want? That way you can make up your own mind. Deal?"

Figuring she had nothing to lose by agreeing and pretty curious about what Sorcha had found out about her, Sara simply said "deal".

"I'll prove to you that I'm not talking utter crap by revealing something that I have no way of knowing. Something from your past that you have never told anyone. But before I do that, I'll tell you something about your future.

Like I said, I only catch glimpses and It doesn't always make a lot of sense to me, but here goes…. In a couple of months time, you'll go on a short holiday. I don't know exactly where, but you know the place very well.

At first you won't be very comfortable as you'll have to face ghosts from the past, something you'll find very daunting. You won't be alone though, you'll be surrounded by really good friends who will help you every step of the way.

I also feel a lot of laughter, friendship and love, so it won't be all bad. It'll actually be a life changing experience, for various reasons.

Now, on your past I can be really brief as you'll immediately know whether or not I'm telling you the truth. What you've kept a secret from everybody, even from your best friend who's known you since you were a teenager, is that you're adopted."

Chapter 21

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