DISCLAIMER: Not mine. No money made. C.S.I. and C and S belong to CBS & Mr. Bruckheimer, while I belong to myself, as does this little story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was – sort of – inspired by a throwaway challenge that was issued by Jolie in the catherinesara yahoogroup a long time ago (as in May 24th, 2004). The storyboard sat on my hard drive for the past 18 months and would probably have remained there indefinitely if it hadn't been for the constant and supportive nagging of a few people: Storm, Anja, and especially Rykö., so this one's for them!
TIMEFRAME/SPOILERS: late Season Three. Lady Heather's Box; Crash and Burn; Inside the Box; Nesting Dolls.
BETA: This story would never have made it past the A draft without the diligent and valiant editing of Rykö and the greatly appreciated comment(arie)s by Caren.
ARCHIVING: Passion & Perfection and var[title] only.
BANNER: made by Rykö.

By Nique Bartok



She slid from her barstool, watching the scene that unfolded before her with trepidation.

The girl was tall now that she stood, taller than she had seemed earlier. She had her shoulders squared and there was some serious menace to her stance – for a moment, she wondered if it wasn't the first drunk jerk to fight off for the girl, either – but her lanky frame was no match for the two-hundred pounds of muscle in front of her.

She checked the bar again, hoping that Rob would look her way. Of course, he didn't. Luke, the bouncer, was nowhere in sight, even though it was his fucking job to prevent things like this. Knowing Luke, he was off somewhere banging Kelli from the wardrobe for the second time this shift.

She had to go get Rob…

A sharp crack brought her back to the present, and she looked up just in time to see the girl's head snap back before she went down in slow motion, crumbling in front of the bar.

"Are you out of your fucking mind?" she yelled, and barely managed to grasp the girl's shoulders before her head hit the floor. A few drops of blood trickled from her lower lip and as she awkwardly pulled her into her lap, the girl's head lolled back. Yep, she was clearly out of it. Carefully, she tried to dab at the blood with her robe. She hoped it was only a split lip.

The man seemed to be dumbstruck by his own punch, staring at the scene on the floor. She hoped he wouldn't try anything else. With the girl in her lap, she couldn't even use her heels to step onto his feet. Hell, she couldn't even signal Rob behind the bar for a bloody glass of water to bring the girl to again.

Luke chose this moment to come running from the backstage area, two other bouncers on his heels. He was red in the face and his shirt was half hanging out of his pants. The other two men grabbed the attacker who thankfully didn't try to put up much of a fight.

"Luke, you idiot! Can't you screw Kelli when you're both off the clock for a change?" She gestured at the girl in her lap. "I really don't want to explain this to Sam!"

Rob had finally realized that something was going on and came hurrying along the bar. "What the hell happened?"

"Luke couldn't keep it in his pants, that's what happened," she hissed. "Quick, help me get her backstage before anyone notices." She motioned for Luke to grasp the girl's legs. "And be careful! He decked her pretty good." When the two men lifted the unconscious girl up, she got a first close look at her face under the bright lights that strayed over from the stage. The girl looked very pale. And very young.

"Fuck." She muttered. She bet that girl was a minor.



"Fuck," I mutter. Catherine as a stripper, that image is a libido feed I sure don't need. Looking at her, I can't imagine her like that – she's so… well, yes, she flirts a lot, and I've made comments about it more than once, but I would never go that far.

"So… your first crush was a stripper?" She looks very interested all of a sudden and I almost squirm under her inquisitive gaze. She seems nervous, and that puts me on edge in return. – Didn't she think I was into girls?

"Yep." From all the things I'd have imagined I would talk about with Catherine over a drink, my teenage crush on a stripper was not on the list. "Here in Vegas, even – she was a dancer in some Egypt themed show. I don't even remember the club." Even though I remember 'Kitty' very clearly. I know that she probably stopped dancing long ago and that the drugs most likely dragged her down, but during my first year here, whenever we had a crime scene to work in a strip joint, I almost expected her to walk in at any given moment, with long black hair and stiletto heels, wearing that little corsage.

Catherine still looks at me expectantly, and at the same time as if there were something she really doesn't want to know.

"What?" I shrug defensively. "There's not much to tell. I stumbled into a strip show when I was seventeen, and before I knew it, I was part of the floor show."

Catherine seems surprised at that. "Seventeen?" She shakes her head at me and I'm beginning to feel embarrassed. "So what happened?"

"She gave me a lap dance," I admit and I can feel that I'm about to blush, so I barge on. "Even though back then, I didn't know that's what it was." I conveniently skip the parts of my sudden sexual awakening and subsequent interest in all things Egypt. "Then some drunk jerk molested her and I stepped in and took a shiner for her. End of story."

"Ouch," Catherine comments, and she waves at the waitress for another beer without ever really taking her eyes off me. I read something akin to respect in them when she adds, "But very chivalrous of you."

"It wasn't so bad," I say and then I can't hide the smile creeping onto my face at the memory of my reward. "I got my first kiss for it."

"Your first kiss?" For some reason, that seems to shock Catherine. "Ever?"

I blink at her. "Yes." What does she expect I did before seventeen? Do I need to spell out 'late bloomer' for her, or does she want to rub her years of wild experiences in my face to make me feel even more awkward?

"I couldn't have told," she murmurs, more to herself, and I don't know what she means.

"What was that?"

"Nothing." She shakes her head. "It just seems a high price for a kiss."

Now I'm grinning. "You didn't get that kiss."

"You didn't see that shiner up close," she counters and then she leans in a little bit further, reaching out with her hand so that she almost touches my temple. "You could barely open that eye…"

Her gesture feels intimate and I'm lost in the tenderness of her gaze. Absently, I agree. "Yeah, I could hardly se…"

And then it hits me. I'm still looking at her, thinking that I've never sat across a table from her like this and when I look into her eyes, a frisson of awareness trickles down my spine.

"What are you saying?" I manage to get out, and it sounds choked. It can't be, can it? I feel nausea, and suddenly it's hard to breathe.

"I'm saying that you could barely open your eye after you stepped between me and that jerk." She's still looking at me with that strangely soft expression and it occurs to me that I've never really looked at her up close like this before, not in all the years we've worked together.

I touch my fingers to my temple, staring at her incredulously. "…You?"

For the first time, I take note of her eyes, and that they're blue. A piercing blue. And if she wore heavy black eyeliner…


I must have said that out loud because she chuckles, although it doesn't really sound too amused. "That's pretty much what I thought when you walked into the lab three years ago."

Shit. Shit! I'm still gaping at her. "…You knew?"

"How many Saras your size with a Harvard degree in Physics are running around this country?" she asks me with a pointed look. "Besides, it's not like you went blond."

"I still should have realized…" I mumble, and I feel stupid. "I guess I've just never really looked at you that closely. But I'm sure I would have remembered if I'd just once seen your eyes up close like this," I state in my defense. That, and I'd never have expected 'Kitty' to show up in my line of work, in my lab, and holding a higher rank than I do.

She just nods. "That's why I never let you get that close."

"You knew right away?" It unnerves me that she is so much more observant than I am. I'm supposed to be a CSI, goddammit. I make my living off my observation skills.

"Right away." She peels the aluminum wrapping from the neck of her second beer bottle. "The first few months, I was afraid you'd realize it every moment."

Afraid? What does she have to be afraid of? "Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"It's not exactly the thing you bring up in conversation," she says angrily and puts her beer down on the table with more force than necessary. "– 'Hey, here are the DNA results, and by the way, do you remember I gave you a lap dance in 1988?'"

"I do remember." I glare at her obstinately, even though I know she's probably right. I'd be mortified to admit that to the new colleague, even if it had been a dozen years ago. Not that I'd ever be doing any dancing of that kind in the first place. "You always say you aren't ashamed of the dancing," I challenge her. Of course, when I heard that bit around the lab, I still thought she had been a showgirl. I make the mistake of briefly looking away from her face and my eyes trail down her cleavage of their own volition. I remember sparkling underwear and a tiny corsage, her breasts pushing against the flimsy restraint and I blush furiously.

"I'm not ashamed," she states hotly. Thank God, she has mercy on me and doesn't comment on my flushed state. "And you still blush the same way."

No mercy, then. God, I don't know where to look anymore. Catherine. …Kitty… My head is spinning.

She sighs and I realize I'm not the only one for whom this feels awkward. "Sara, you were a minor back then." I curse myself for staring at her lips as she says my name. "Not to mention the fact that I practically assaulted you. – Ever hear of statutory rape?"

"Oh, come on, Cath," I scoff. I don't want her to be embarrassed about it. It's one of the few prized teenage memories I have, and I won't have her put it down. Distantly, I wonder whether perhaps we'd have fought a whole lot less these past three years if I had known, or whether we fought so much in the first place because she was so keen on keeping her distance. "I wasn't exactly opposing the idea," I remind her. "And we were both pretty out of it at the time."

"Not out enough to not remember," she contradicts me, swiftly rejecting the easy way out.

Shit. Especially since part of me likes that she doesn't take the easy way out. Although I have a sinking feeling that I haven't hit rock bottom yet when Catherine smiles slyly at me.

"So… you had a crush on me?"

"No!" Crushing on Catherine is something I refuse to think about. "I didn't know it was you – I didn't know you yet – " I shut up because I realize that I'm only digging myself in deeper. This still feels like I've been dropped in the twilight zone. Again, I look at her face, searching for the carefully guarded image of the dancer I never knew, in the features of the colleague I thought I knew. "How much make-up did you wear back then?"

She laughs at the non-sequitur. "It was the eighties!" She hesitates for a moment before she continues. "And I had a thing or two done over the years."

"You?" I'm glad my beer is empty because I'm sure I'd sputter it all over the table right now.

"Anniversary gifts from Eddie." Her voice is noncommittally, but when she continues, it sounds sarcastic. "The really selfless kind."

"You should have gotten him glasses in return," I mumble. It makes her laugh, and the sound moves down my body like the taste of something smooth and sweet.

"When did you stop dancing?" I'm still trying to piece everything together.

"That same year, actually," she says and pushes the hair back from her face. For one moment, I see a long black wig and shiny pink lipstick in front of my mind's eye. "Jimmy – Jimmy Tadeiro, my old mentor? – showed up with Gil in my wardrobe one night. In the end, they got me a trainee tech position with the lab and I went back to school." She eyes me warily. "Thank God you and Gil never got together to talk about strippers you used to have crushes on."

"Grissom?" I can't believe it. Grissom crushing on Catherine? I want to add a jibe as to when she grew another six legs, but it would probably be very immature of me to belatedly get jealous over my teenage crush. At my boss, no less, whom I was still interested in myself, and not too long ago, either. This is the most awkward triangle I' ever heard of.

"I know, it's funny." Catherine clearly doesn't get my predicament. She plays with the rim of her beer bottle instead, regarding me pensively. And there's that softness again as well that makes me nervous in an entirely unprofessional manner. "You know what's funny as well?"

I don't think anything's funny about this at all, but Catherine is smiling and I think I'll need another beer. Or maybe a scotch.

She looks straight at me when she speaks, and I think I should have recognized those eyes. "In all those years, Eddie never took a shiner for me like you did."




Warm hands were patting her cheeks and there was a voice urgently whispering her name. She blinked her eyes open and groaned. Her head felt as if it had been hit by a train and her tongue was numb. She tasted blood in her mouth.

"What the hell…?"

"Welcome back." Crouched in front of her, surveying her intently, was the dancer, still clad in that satin robe, long dark hair falling over her shoulders. She looked different in the cool, bright light around them. At the short distance, small lines around her eyes were visible through the layers of her make-up. She looked a little older like this, but no less beautiful.

She blinked as she realized the woman was talking to her. "You had me worried there for a minute. – Here."

She stared at the ice pack was held out to her. "Huh?"

"For your lip." The dancer gestured at her face. "I tried to put ice spray on your temple."

She reached up gingerly. Ouch. So that was why it hurt. She remembered the man's fist coming up to her face. With a wince, she sat up, leaning against the wall behind her before she put the ice pack back against her cheek. "What happened?"

"The bouncers tossed the jerk out." The dancer reached out to touch her jaw. "Unfortunately, only after he decked you."

She looked around the room, seeing a row of make-up tables line one wall like a counter, with mirrors above. There were various chairs and mannequins and a small set of lockers. They were alone. "Where are we?"

"You hit the jackpot, honey." The dancer leaned back on her heels before she stood up, leaving her to stare at the legs showing underneath the robe. "This is my wardrobe."

The dancer sat down on a chair and put her feet up on the counter, her stiletto heels almost touching the mirrors. She reached up with her hands, undoing her hair, and then she… pulled it off?

A wig. Of course. She felt a little stupid that she hadn't caught on to it earlier. Bright red hair tumbled down over the woman's shoulders, a much better match to her light complexion. And to her eyes.

The dancer caught her baffled expression in the mirror, and was clearly amused. "Honey, I'm three hair colors per night." She gestured at a rack to the side that she now saw contained a variety of wigs, corsages, and caps. "Have your pick."

She thought that she really liked the way the dancer called her 'honey'.

"How old are you?" The dancer kicked off her heels, leaving them on the counter upside down.

"Twenty," she replied defensively. Nobody needed to know that she was only seventeen.

"Really?" The dancer reached for a pair of stockings, her expression pensive ."Twenty... - I started dancing when I was twenty." She slid one foot into a black piece of hosiery without even looking. "What are you doing?" She rolled the stocking up her leg.

"I'm trying out for Harvard," she replied, distracted by the sight of sheer stocking and smooth leg. "For a scholarship," She had never before seen someone actually wear fishnet stockings.

"Really?" The stocking came to a halt mid-calf.

She shrugged, a tad embarrassed. "Yep. In physics."

"Wow." The dancer resumed the slow rolling motion, taking her time to adjust the lace tops. She caught her look in the mirror again, her tone half-amused and teasing. "You not into dancing then?"

She snorted. "As if I had the looks."

The dancer turned around, assessing her frankly. "I think you're cute." She walked back to where she was still leaning against the wall, crouching down before her in her stockinged feet. Carefully, she reached out with her fingers. "Sorry about the shiner."

Even the gently probing touch against her temple hurt like a mother, but she still didn't want the dancer to take her hand away. Instead, she tried to shrug nonchalantly. "No need to be sorry. You didn't slug me."

"But you got slugged on my behalf," the dancer corrected her, taking the ice pack from her and rewrapping the towel around it with a few quick motions. "Very cavalier of you." Her voice wasn't teasing now, but warm.

"You're welcome." And despite sitting on the floor with her head pounding and her lip split, she felt tall and dashing and handsome.

"And you even got the smile to go with the attitude," the dancer noted, stroking once more across her temple. She handed her back the icepack before she stood up again. "You'll be breaking the girls' hearts before you know it."



Well, talking to her was certainly easier before she knew we had already met. Granted, she and I talking involved a whole lot of yelling and bitching at times, but Sara never backed away from it. Now, she's avoiding me whenever she can. We haven't worked a scene together in over a week and I'm beginning to wonder whether she asked Gil to organize that. Probably not, though. Sara's not the scheming kind. Either way, I've hardly seen her lately. And here I thought that having a beer with her might improve the atmosphere between us. Of course, that was before I suddenly decided to let her in on the carefully guarded fact that we've met before.

Damn her for looking so endearing when she was talking about her 'crush', as if it was a really treasured memory. Her smile reminded me of how she looked at me fifteen years ago, and then I just wanted her to know it was me.

Possessive much, Cath?

It was the one big thing that stood between us. And telling her seems to have made things worse, although I don't know what she has to be embarrassed about, unless she's put off by my barging in on her memories – her least favorite colleague turning out to be her own teenage crush, that's got to be a blow. But I really thought we were making some headway after the whole Eddie fiasco. I didn't expect it, I certainly didn't plan on it, but I liked getting along with her better. And now that I really tried to let her in, she backs away. It's been almost fifteen years, for God's sake! I didn't know she even remembered.

I didn't know she used to have a crush on me, either. For some reason, I find that too cute for words. And, entirely flattering. Sara too-independent-for-her-boots Sidle with a crush. On me. Back then, I mean.

I still can't believe that I was the first person she ever kissed. Part of me can't help but wonder how she kisses now, several men and women later – a few of whom I'd like to smack around for how they treated her. Especially the bastard who ran off with her grad work, although I'm ultimately grateful that the incident made her turn toward the coroner's office, and then to CSI work.

So here we are, although I don't see much of her these days - just when shift starts and Gil hands out the cases, and then perhaps later, when I walk past a lab where she's so focused on her work that she doesn't even notice me passing by.

I've been looking at her a lot lately, noticing the way she touches her lips to her mug of coffee while she's reading a file on the side, or how tapered her back really is when she bends down to study evidence laid out on a table.

Suddenly, I can't stop comparing her to the girl she was back then. I never gave much thought to it, even though I knew all along that it was her, but now that I told her – now that I know that she knows – it seems I can think of little else when I look at her. To be honest, I don't remember too much about the dance that impressed her so, but I remember her eyes, and how she stood up to that jerk who was so much heavier than she was, and I remember how she kissed me in the wardrobe.

I try to remember how I danced for her, but in my mind, I don't see her as she looked back then, but as she looks now – her body lean, but more muscled and not as gangly anymore, in jeans and a short-sleeved black tee, with her hair falling over her shoulders. And with a small frown creasing her brow. Her gaze challenging. And those same, intense eyes… although I imagine she wouldn't look up at me as helplessly as she did back then. I don't know what she might do instead, but the possibilities alone send an entirely too delighted shiver down my spine.

What does she see when she looks at me now, now that she knows? Does she see the stripper I used to be, her fantasy image, the colleague she always resented? Or does she see me?

What I remember most about her from back then is that she looked into my face.

"Are you okay?"

Gil breaks into my reverie, asking me how I am. I must look really lost to the world, if even he picks up on it.

This whole mess I'm in with Sara started with our fight over Eddie's death. "Why did you give her my case, Gil? Eddie's case?"

He blinks in his usual, slightly befuddled way, probably trying to follow my jagged trail of thought. And now he'll say it was because he knew Sara would tackle the case with her head, and not with her heart. He shrugs. "Because she's the best."

The answer throws me for a loop, and then I wonder if he ever told her that.

An hour later, he puts me on a new case with her and Sara looks chagrined when I wave the small paper slip in her face. DB at the Luxor.

She walks down the corridor next to me, her kit in hand, and she walks a little closer to me than she has to. I'm not about to object, suddenly utterly aware of her body so close to mine, of the way her hands grip the handle of the kit, and of what else she could grasp in these hands, of the way she walks, as if she were on a prowl, with her shoulders tensed and her legs at a wider stance. There's that shiver down my spine again and I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm not really in a position to wisecrack about anyone's crushes.

I risk a quick glance to the side and fall back a step over the sudden realization that, actually, Sara is exactly my type. Tall, dark and unpredictable, with an edge of something wild underneath.

Her hand brushes against mine as I reach to open the door for her, and the shiver trickles all the way down to my fingertips.



The girl's eyes were on her as she brushed out her hair, and even though she could hardly be more than twenty and was probably as innocent as they come, she felt a tingle down her spine at that look. The girl had these dark, serious eyes that seemed so much older than the rest of her face. Eyes that followed her every move, staring at her with both a frankness and a sincerity that threw her for a loop.

A knock interrupted the loaded silence.

"Stay down, it could be my boss," she advised the girl as the door already opened and Sam Brown entered unasked. She positioned herself right inside the door so that he couldn't see the girl leaning against the wall around the corner.

Sam's eyes wandered over her. "I heard you got into a brawl?"

"A drunk jerk tried to get too friendly," she downplayed the situation. Sam might have taken her under his wing years ago because he had once dated her mother, but when it came to his business, she was an employee like any other. And Sam hated business disruptions. "Nothing I couldn't handle."

He wasn't calmed that easily, though. "A customer got into it?" he peered at her intently. "A young woman? …Very young?"

"Nah." She waved it off, thinking about the girl who was sitting a few feet away, nursing a bruise because she had shown some old-fashioned manners that weren't too common around here. "She was just trying to defend me. Nothing happened."

"Good," Sam nodded, although his expression was still skeptical. "I don't want any complaints."

"About me?" She batted her eyes at him. "Never."

"That's my kitten." He laughed, slapping her ass for good measure. "Thirty minutes till your next set."

When she closed the door behind him, she took a deep breath.

The girl was still sitting against the wall, the ice pack on her cheek, a stark crease showing between her brows. "That your boss?"

She shrugged, feeling older than only minutes before. "Yeah."

The girl readjusted the ice pack against her face. "Shit."

She didn't say anything in reply as she sat down again, staring at her face in the mirror. She reached for a high heeled boot that lay strew across the counter, fingering a small plastic bag out of its tip. "I need to get ready for my next set." Only a teeny, tiny line. Just enough to get through the rest of tonight's show. From the corner of her eyes, she saw the girl slowly rising to her feet, still holding onto the wall with a hand.

"You don't need to leave," she said over her shoulder, carefully laying out her utensils. "You better keep that ice pack on for another few minutes." The girl leaned back against the wall, but her gaze changed, making her feel uncomfortable in return.

"What – do you mind?" What did the kid know, really. Frowning at her as if she were doing something she shouldn't.

The girl shook her head, her arms defensively crossed in front of her chest, the ice pack still dangling form her hand. "I'm not into the stuff."

"Suit yourself," she snapped, not liking the condescension in the girl's tone. She bent her head over the counter, careful not to spill any of the precious powder. The sound of her sniffing echoed through the room, but then she didn't care anymore.

"You just don't look as if you'd need it," the girl observed from the other side of the room, but she just smiled at the worry in that voice.

"Sara, honey, you still have a lot to learn," she drawled. She was still the best out here, and even if the younger girls called her 'granny' and vied for a spot with her personal high rollers, they didn't stand a chance. She was the best and she could have anyone.

"Haven't you ever wanted to do something else?" The girl…Sara… was walking over to her. She really was tall and lanky, moving as if she wasn't quite at home yet in her own body. Which was a shame, really. The split lip gave her a rakish look, along with her left eye swelling shut fast. Yes, she could have anyone, if even young girls took shiners for her. The girl's voice rang out at her again. "Not that you aren't good at what you do… you know you are… but, I don't know, haven't you ever wanted to do something else? Like a day time job?"

She got up and leaned herself back against the counter, arching a brow at the advancing girl. "One where I keep my clothes on?"

"One where you don't take drugs to make it through a shift."

The girl's voice was very soft, but something slithered through her at the tone, scratching at the haze of invincibility. "Who made you the judge, Harvard kid?"

"I'm no Harvard kid." The girl's voice was sharp as well, and she could only guess at the pain behind it. Looking at the girl now, she thought that there was probably no Ivy League childhood, either. But then that strangely clear and soft voice was back. "I'm only asking you what you really want."

Something about the tone made her mad, but it also turned her on. The girl was now standing directly in front of her and she had to look up to gaze into her eyes. Dark. Serious. Slowly, she slid a hand down the girl's shirt front, her smile widening when she heard a sharp intake of breath.

"A good question," she murmured, canting her head to the side as she looked up at the girl. Her other hand edged up the white t-shirt until she felt lean muscles and a slim waist against her fingertips. She drew tiny circles across warm skin, enjoying the ripple that went through the girl's body under her touch. "And what do you really want …Sara?"



I really want to. Ask Catherine out for another beer, that is. Or a coffee. Or breakfast after shift. But I can't do it.

I bend lower over the evidence on the table, examining a piece of glass shard.

Apart from the fact that, as of recently, I've turned into a blushing teenager again when it comes to her, I can't do it just after having learned about her past as a stripper – I mean, what would it look like if I asked her out now? – Even if it were just breakfast, and not a date.

I really wouldn't mind if it were a date, though.

Not a fun date with no strings attached, like Hank, but a real date, with dressing up and being nervous beforehand and throughout, and fretting over whether I dare to kiss her goodnight on the doorstep in the end.

It's different from what I wanted from Grissom, too. With him, it was about the connection, about being understood – about knowing each other and wordlessly getting each other's quirks. We think alike and shared the same mental space.

With Catherine, I'm struggling for words all the time and we're most likely from different spheres. She drives me crazy, and I know nothing about how it might turn out, and when I'm around her, I don't think at all. But when she walks into the room, I can't look anywhere else. How the color of her shirt – today it was powder blue, with three buttons undone – compliments her eyes. How her hair moves when she turns her head. How she walks down the corridor, in those snug pants that accentuate her legs with every step, the sound of her heels resounding on the lab floors.

Thinking about her seems to conjure her up out of thin air. She's suddenly leaning against the evidence table with a hip, arms crossed over chest, smiling down at me.

"What do you want?" I'm not glancing at her shirt. I'm not. I'm not.

She purses her lips and cants her head slightly to the side. "Talk?" she suggests, looking at me as if I'm particularly dense.

"You weren't so keen on talking the past three years," I observe gruffly. Seems I'm still not over her letting me in the dark for so long.

"Perhaps I wanted to avoid precisely this?" she shoots back acidly.

She has a point, I have to admit that. And I can't help staring at where she's leaning against the table with her hip. Her pants are so snug that they don't even crease over the curve of her hip as she shifts to the side.

"Think about it, Sara." There it is, she's saying my name again. "You barge in here, all Harvard graduate, all successful and arrogant, honing in on my territory – do you really think I'd lay myself bare in such a situation?"

"I wasn't arrogant," I mumble. I thought she was, but perhaps she was simply protecting her own. Just like I was.

"No, you just were young and smart and beautiful and very conscious of the fact." She pushes loose from the table and walks closer, getting right in my face. I try to ignore the fact that there are still those three buttons open on her shirt. "And you and Gil had this instant connection. Where did that leave me?"

"Right atop things?" I bite back. I can't imagine Catherine being insecure, ever, and I sound as incredulous as I am. "You're the uncrowned queen of this lab, now as much as back then, and everyone knows it -- You never even gave me a chance to fit in!"

"Because I thought you'd just take over!" She shakes her head in frustration and her hair tumbles over her shoulders before it settles anew. "You were Grissom's new star out of nowhere, while I was stuck with a bad marriage on its last legs. And not getting any younger, either. And just to top it off, you were a former customer! - I thought you'd sneer and walk all over me!"

I just stare at her. She just doesn't get it, does she? "You changed my fucking life!" I nearly shout. "Kitty changed my fucking life!" And I wasn't after her position, and I wouldn't have sneered at her. I'd probably have asked her out before fixating on Grissom in the first place.

"How was I supposed to know that?" she retorts hotly and can only think about how good she looks when she's angry, eyes flashing and talking agitatedly. "You were interested in Grissom! Just how much farther could you get away from a female stripper, as far as types go?" But the sarcastic tone is gone when she continues. "How was I to know you even remembered that dancer from back then? It's not like you recognized me!"

"You made sure I didn't get close enough." I sound accusing, and I still don't understand how I didn't get it. Now, when I watch her at a crime scene, the fluid grace of her movements even when she has to crouch down or bend across something, I can't believe I didn't see it sooner. "Would it have made a difference? If I found out?"

"Hell, yes!" she states with vehemence and I wonder what that difference might have been.

Now I lean back against the table. "You should have let me closer," I say gruffly, but the smile in my voice is audible.

She stands right in front of me, poking at me with an outstretched finger. "You should have tried harder." She is smiling, too.

Something else occurs to me. "Did you just call me beautiful a minute ago?"

She grins at me. "Yeah, I did."

I know I'm blushing again and her grin just gets wider. "You don't want to know how many gratuitous fantasies you fed over the years," I toss back at her, but she doesn't stop grinning.

The slow, thorough once-over she gives me makes me feel like a fish out of water yapping for air. "Perhaps I do." Out of water and tossed into a very hot pan.

"This is so not good for my concentration." I sound whiny as I gesture toward the half forgotten evidence on the table behind us. God, I want to kiss her again, and not stop.

She leans in close, easily stepping over one of my legs. Even for that little move, her foot is perfectly stretched. Her lips almost brush my ear when she whispers, "Then I'd advise you to focus."

I'm just glad I'm safely perched against the table as I watch her walk to the door, following the movement of her hips with my eyes. How wrong is it to picture a perfectly respectable colleague in fishnet stockings? It's cheap, and disrespectful, and, unfortunately, incredibly hot. Especially since I know how good they look on her.

"Sara, you okay?"

Nick is glancing at me oddly. He's probably stopped by for an update on the glass shards, but the only update I could give him is that my legs feel like jelly and that Catherine still knows how to leave me breathless.

"Are you pulling a triple again?!" He peers at me closely, his expression worried. "Because your eyes are kind of glazing over…"



She looked into the dilated pupils right across from her own. Vague memories flashed through her mind, her mother on the couch with glazed eyes, the empty dinner table, her own stomach tight, feeling weak with hunger. Large cigarette stubs in the ashtray. The smell of her father's unwashed hair…

She blinked, looking back into the dancer's eyes . Something about this was wrong, but she couldn't bring herself to step back, away from the hands that were drawing light circles across the skin of her hips. Never before had she been so aware of her own body. She could almost hear her own blood rushing through her veins, felt her limbs grow hot and solid under the teasing touch of those fingertips. It was as if all her senses were heightened – the room they were in, shabby except for the bright costumes and starkly lit by the bright lamps lining the mirrors. The near inaudible sound of the satin robe brushing against her shirt. The smell of the dancer's hair: sweat, make-up and shampoo. The fading taste of blood and smoke against her tongue, together with the remnants of the drink she had never gotten to finish. The feeling of the dancer's hands against her skin, melting her from the inside out, turning her into something ardent and wild that would explode any minute now…

What was happening to her body?

She tried to stand still, not to move, afraid she would burst.

The dancer withdrew her fingers and pushed her back a little. It wasn't more than a nudge with two fingertips, but off balance as she was, she stumbled backward, coming to stand in the middle of the room with the dancer slowly advancing on her. Before she could even comprehend what was happening, the dancer had loosened her belt, the satin robe falling open to reveal a very small brassiere set with pink, sparkling gemstones and matching panties that, really, didn't consist of more than a few strings.

Her eyes followed the lines of the lace top stockings.

Her mouth was dry, and yet she tried to swallow reflexively. How could she feel so hot and not melt away from the inside out? She shifted her shoulders, determinedly fixing her gaze on the dancer's face. The sultry smile she found there didn't ease her condition in the least. Before she knew it, the dancer was standing right in front of her, leaning in.

"Don't be so tense," she whispered in her ear and when she leaned back, she felt a tongue accidentally graze her ear. She stumbled backwards again, looking at the dancer in shock.

Or perhaps the move hadn't been that accidental, she thought when she caught sight of the smile that had grown even more sultry. And again, the dancer stood right before her. With one stockinged foot, she kicked her legs apart a bit. "Better stance."

She managed to right herself again without stumbling, but the dancer didn't withdraw her leg. A toe slid along her ankle. A knee nudge against the inside of her thigh, and then, grabbing her hips for support, the dancer shimmied down her body, never once taking her eyes off her face. And never once ceasing to smile in a way that made heat flare up through her like a white flame.

When the tiny brassiere scraped across the zipper of her jeans, she couldn't bite back a strangled gasp. She could feel curved, warm skin press into the waistband of her jeans, and lower.

Agonizingly slow, the dancer moved up her body again, never once losing body contact. She thought she would fall backwards and pass out all over again any second.

The dancer winked at her when they were face to face again. "Some men would kill for this."

"I'm no man," she croaked and she thought that her head didn't hurt any more. At all.

"No," the dancer purred, one hand again sliding down the front of her shirt, this time with more pressure. "But you like this just as much." With that, the dancer firmly took hold of her hands and pushed them underneath her robe, placing them right on her hips and covering them with her own.

She could feel the little gemstones on the tiny panty strings pressing into her hands. When she had started breathing through her mouth, she didn't know, and then she didn't breathe anymore at all when the dancer slowly dragged their joined hands up her torso.

She stumbled forward, and for one moment, a flash of pain shot through her cheek and jaw when the dancer pulled her head down, and then she forgot all about it at the taste of the dancer's lips against her own. It only lasted for a second or two, until a smooth tongue pushed past her lips and into her mouth.

Lush, wet heat, tasting of smoke, liquor and more.

After a first moment of surprise, she kissed the dancer back, almost pushing them both off balance, and she distantly heard them stumble against the counter, but nothing mattered but the dancer kissing her, and her kissing the woman back.

She didn't know where to put her hands at first, or how to keep her balance, but she remembered the dancer's earlier move and pushed a knee between unresisting legs, sliding her hands a bit higher. In response, she felt a hand close tightly around her neck and the other edging underneath her t-shirt again, moving higher than before.

She leaned into the dancer, almost bending her back across the make-up table, but instead of pushing back, the dancer arched her back, pressing her body more tightly against her. A sexy little moan escaped the dancer's lips and she thought that this was what flying had to be like, as she slowly brought her hands up and around, burying them in red hair. Flying, and driving really fast cars, and falling in love.

A low catcall interrupted them and she turned around, feeling caught red-handed. In the doorframe leaned a man in tight jeans and cowboy boots, his arms crossed over his chest. He had beard stubble, and his dark hair was cut short in the front but reached his shoulders in the back.

From the corner of their eye, she could see the display they offered reflected in the mirror behind them – her standing between the dancer's legs, lipstick smeared across her mouth, the dancer's robe splayed open, and their hands all over each other.

She moved back, blushing.

The man ambled into the room as if he came into here all the time, and she wondered who he was. He nodded at her. "Nice show!"

The dancer didn't seem too perturbed, merely drawing her robe closed again and setting one leg pointedly right next to the other. Only the slight shaking of her hand when she reached for her cigarette case betrayed her cool, or perhaps it was just the drugs.

"Whatever," the dancer shrugged at the man and lit her cigarette. Her fingers were still trembling. "You wanna stay for the last set, honey?"

She looked at her again, and from the gaze, nobody would have guessed they had been kissing passionately less than a minute ago, if it weren't for her mussed up hair and her lips that were red and swollen.

The man just trailed a long glance over the dancer. "You need to get dressed," he stated coolly and then he turned to look at her, with her split lip and swollen cheek. She had the odd impression that he was sizing her up and she wondered whether he was just another bouncer, or perhaps something more. "Come on, I'll bring you out."

He didn't even sound unfriendly. Perhaps this happened all the time? She glanced back at the dancer who had turned around and was slipping into another pair of heels, and then felt the man press something into her hands. She looked down to see the half-melted ice pack in her fingers.

"You better keep that." He gestured at her face. "Looks like you'll need it."

With that, he ushered her through the door and she barely managed to catch one last look at the dancer through the mirror, standing in her heels with her robe wrapped around her, taking a drag from her smoke. She couldn't tell if the dancer was looking back.



Looking back, I should have known. Fucking bastard.

One of my earliest memories is 'Uncle Sam' sitting on my mother's couch, drinking scotch and letting me play with his shoestrings. Uncle my ass. He's my father. I had to turn forty to find out who my real father is. And he didn't even seem too surprised when I told him what I found out. Bastard.

This case was tough enough already, with a murdered cop and Sam ultimately involved in stabbing a waitress from one of his own hotels. He swore to me that he didn't do it, but after I saw his eyes when I told him I was his daughter, cold and smug, I don't think I'll believe anything he says ever again. Even though I want to. Somehow, he's still the same Uncle Sam who bought me my first doll as a kid – a thing a father would do.

And he let me dance in his clubs!

I think I'm going to be sick. I feel dirty. I guess I could have asked more questions as kid, or have been more suspicious about how he always favored me over Nancy, but it's not my fault. I still feel dirty, though. Used. It's a feeling I know and that I doused with coke in my dancing days, and that I had again, briefly, after I tossed out Eddie for good – when he left me broke, with a helpless child to care for.

It suddenly strikes me that he's Lindsey's grandfather. Bastard!

I don't know where to go with my ire. And with my grief, over a father I didn't know, and that now, I don't want to know anymore.

First Eddie, then Sam… I feel like I've recently stumbled into quicksand, where everything that I had come to perceive as reliable around me is sinking away and disappearing. I need to talk to someone. I need a hold -

An image flashes through my brain, Sara awkwardly pulling me into her arms after Eddie's funeral, exuding an odd mix of safety, comfort and protectiveness.

I think about calling Nancy, but she is at work. Lindsey is at school. Gil is at the hospital, and, even though he is a dear friend, he wouldn't understand my need to vent and rage. I know I could call Warrick, but my first, impulsive thought is to call Sara.

She would just look at me and listen, and I know she understands how tough parents can be. From the few allusions I've gotten out of her, it seems her deceased father isn't someone she likes to be reminded of, either, and she doesn't speak about her mother at all.

When I started shift last night, I was investigating my former boss, one I still had friendly ties to because he knew me as a kid. This morning, I have a father who is most likely a killer. Thinking about our odd relationship, little snippets rise to the surface – how he hired me as a dancer, how often he dropped by my wardrobe without knocking, how he looked at me when I was in one of my show costumes. He never tried to sleep with me, and that should probably tell me he knew all along, but he flirted with me nonetheless.

If he knew, he let his own daughter work as a stripper, in his clubs. And only yesterday, he was still trying to get to me, when he pointed out – in front of Gil – how his right-hand man, Benny, used to move the high rollers my way when I was still dancing.

My own dad pimped me out.


I'm incredibly mad, and incredibly exhausted at the same time, and what I really want right now is to hit something really hard, and then cry and then get a hug. I want Sara looking at me with that little frown of hers and telling me that she understands what I'm going through, and then I want her to hug me and take it all away.

Shit. Somewhere in the back of my head I know that this is fast exceeding crush territory, but I don't care. Briefly, when I start my car and catch my own image in the rear-view mirror, it occurs to me that I probably shouldn't be driving like this.



She felt tired as she looked at herself in the wardrobe mirror, not satisfied with herself. The last set tonight hadn't been as good and she was just relieved it was over.

She thought of the girl – there had been something about her. Absently, she touched her lips and shivered, drawing the robe closer around her. Damn desert nights. The girl's eyes had seemed much older than her body, and despite her youthful lankiness, there had been something very serious about her.

Critically surveying herself in the mirror, she thought she looked old despite her mere twenty-five years. She was already the oldest dancer in the solo set.

Was dancing still what she wanted?

She was the best, she knew it, she still could give all those teenagers a run for their money. But for how much longer could she do this? Her feet hurt as she slid off her heels. What would she do if she couldn't dance anymore?

She remembered her career aspirations over the years. Princess. Show jumper. Rockstar groupie. Veterinarian. Medical Assistant. She'd even gone to college over that one, trying to make enough money as a waitress to pay for her tuition. It had been nothing more than scraping through most of the time.

And then Sam had offered her the job as a dancer – glamour, men, and money.

She felt so tired.

A knock sounded on her door that was immediately opened without waiting for an answer and she thought he really should have learned from the earlier scene to wait for her to ask him in. Perhaps it was time they made something more serious out of themselves as well, when she was already reevaluating her life. "You know, Eddie," she said, reaching for her cigarette case without even turning around. "Perhaps we should move in together or get married or something."

But the voice behind her wasn't Eddie's. "Good to know, kitten."


Her favorite cop - and one of her favorite customers – stood in the door grinning at her. She enjoyed being the sounding board for his cases; it took her mind off of her aching feet and the other girls during slow nights. He gestured at someone behind him. "I brought someone who wants to meet you…"

She was about to roll her eyes and tell him off, the last thing she needed now was another jerk trying to hit on her. She'd rather see the girl again – trying not to look at her body, and blushing. Cute. Not to mention she had been a good kisser. Any gruff comment, however, died on her lips when her eyes fell onto the man next to Jimmy and she was hard-pressed not to laugh. Everything about him screamed geek, from his glasses to his neatly buttoned shirt, from his slightly stocky, but untrained frame to his pants that were ironed, but an inch too short. He moved towards her, his eyes briefly skittering down her body. He squinted, and a few seconds passed before he spoke. "Hello, my name is Gil Grissom, and I'm with the cleava... Crime Lab."

He offered her his hand, which she shook, and she gestured for him to take a seat. Jimmy had already made himself comfortable, leaning over to offer her a light for her cigarette. "I told him how you cracked that last case with your hunch about the ex-boyfriend. He was curious."

She leaned back against the counter, briefly flashing back two hours, to the girl standing between her legs, bending her half over the counter and kissing her like no tomorrow. She took a long draft of her smoke. "So, gentlemen… what's the case tonight?"



The case kept me up all night and I dropped straight into bed when I got home, so when my doorbell is ringing insistently, it yanks me out of a surprisingly sound sleep and I stumble towards the door with my eyes still half closed, barely aware of my surroundings. That changes when I pull open the door and come face to face with a very agitated Catherine.

She looks as if she's either incredibly mad, or incredibly rattled, and the first thing my still addled brain unhelpfully supplies is that she looks incredibly good like this. Her light jacket hangs open, and the shirt underneath – something black and snug with a low v-cut – rises and falls with her every breath and I wonder whether she ran up my stairs. Her hair is tousled, falling over her shoulders in streaks of blond, and her cheeks are flushed.

For a moment, I think she's going to yell at me again, but she doesn't. "Cath…" My voice is still gravelly with sleep. "What happened?"

She just stares at me with wide eyes and she looks about pretty darn perfect and I self-consciously shift from one bare foot to the other, which are peeking out from below my long, striped pajama pants. I pull my crinkled white t-shirt down, wishing I'd look a little more appealing than I do right now.

Her eyes follow the movement, thin cotton stretching taut against my skin, and only when her eyes linger a little too long on my chest, I remember that I'm not wearing a bra. I cross my arms in front of me.

She blinks as she looks up into my eyes again. "Can I come in…?"

"Sure…" I step to the side, wondering what could have happened. She seems shaken, her movements less graceful than usual as she brushes past me. My gaze is drawn to her feet at the muted sounds of her heels on my hallway carpet. They're high and I swallow reflexively. I wonder if I've ever seen her wear purely sensible shoes. Probably not. My eyes slowly travel up her body, almost on their own volition. When they reach her face, she's looking straight back at me and for a moment, I can literally see the atmosphere quiver between us, like air over a hot desert road.

Catherine's expression suddenly changes, from frayed to focused, and her gaze on me feels like touching an electrical current. A moment before she moves, it hits me and I know what is about to happen, but then I find myself backed against my own hallway already, and Catherine is kissing me. Thoroughly.

I'm struggling to keep my balance, leaning heavily against the wall behind me. My arms are full of Catherine, the warmth of her body permeating the thin layer of my clothes. I feel one of her thighs pressing between mine as she pulls my bottom lip between her teeth. Her nails scrape across my shoulders, I can feel them through the worn cotton of my shirt.

I've possibly died and gone to heaven. I'm swept under a thick and heady wave of nothing but pleasure, and I don't want it to stop. Because then I'd have to think about that she is my colleague, and that things between us aren't exactly resolved, and…

Her tongue pushes into my mouth and she grips my upper arms tightly.

I've dreamed about this since I was seventeen and I curse my conscience for making me break the kiss and pull away. Her eyes are wild and glazed, and I can't shake the feeling that something is wrong. She isn't drunk, and I don't believe it's drugs, but she's not quite herself, and even though I'm terribly tempted to ignore that fact, I can't.

I still have to work with her, after whatever she's on has worn off. I have to work with her tonight, and a lot of nights to come.

But, looking at her, my attempts at sensibility are crumbling. Fast.

She has her hands in my hair now, so tightly that I can feel the pull on my scalp. Holding my head firmly in between her hands, she leans in, so closely that I can feel her breath against my lips when she speaks again. "Didn't you like kissing me back then?" Her smile is sultry, and so is her voice.

"You know I did," I mumble and I can't believe how turned on I am. She slides one hand down my body and I'm on the verge of passing out when I realize she's playing with the drawstrings of my pants.

"What happened?" I finally manage to get out, but even as I hear my own question, I'm blissfully oblivious to why I was asking it, distracting by soft fingertips edging up my t-shirt.

"It doesn't matter," she murmurs against my neck, trailing kisses in her wake.

I know I should make her stop. I know I should sit her down and ask her what's wrong. Make her a coffee. Comfort her.

She senses my hesitation and pushes me back against the wall a little harder. Her eyes are flashing hotly, and I feel a resounding sensation somewhere low in my stomach. "Can you say that you don't want me right now?"

Her tongue flicks across my pulse point.

I give up, my arms closing around her waist. She smiles into our shared kiss, and I'm thinking that she's too smug for her own good, but I don't care. My head thumps back against the wall as her kisses become more insistent.

Distantly, I hear the rip of fabric over the pounding of my own blood, and it takes me a few seconds to realize that she has torn my shirt off. My knees are weak.

She drags me away from the wall, her hands raking up my back, and I try to steer us towards my bedroom, but we don't make it farther than the coffee table. When I tumble down gracelessly on the rug in front of it, I absently wish I owned a couch. But that's as far as I get with my thoughts because she's on me in a heartbeat, straddling my hips and I expect a triumphant grin or a teasing remark, but her expression is dead serious. And hungry.

Her eyes have narrowed and her movements have a catlike grace – prowling, precise, with something fatal rippling underneath the surface. She isn't straddling me directly, she's holding her hips slightly above my lap, circling them slowly, but she's close enough that I can feel the heat emanating from her.

She drags her hands over my exposed breasts, and I gasp at the sensation.

She's looking down at me now, challengingly, and her hair is tumbling around her face. The necklace she's wearing dangles between us as she bends forward, something heavy and silver on a leather string and it's glinting in the sunlight.

I put my hands on her hips, grinding her against me and my heels dig into the rug when I feel her move against me. I feel my blood pour heavier through my veins, making me see everything through a haze of want. It's wild and thick, and I'm firmly lodged in between strong thighs, but at the same time, she's soft and hot and the material of her pants shifts against my palms.

I see a flash of light as she sinks her teeth into her lower lip, and then she arches up, throwing her head back and sliding half up my torso in one, slow, undulating movement and the rug under me scrapes against my back.

My head is spinning. I've never felt so hot in my life and my hands are clenching her sides reflexively. Her hair is all mussed up when she looks down at me again, her eyes so blue they're almost violet. She's trying to gauge my reaction, I realize, and for some reason, that irks me. She doesn't have to scheme for maximum effort. I don't want her to put on a show. I want her for real.

In some distant part of my brain, I'm aware that this admission just made whatever it is that's happening between us here a few sizes bigger than merely enacting an old fantasy. It's not about Kitty anymore. It's about Catherine – the Catherine I'm only just getting to know.

I tense my stomach muscles and she bites her lip again; it almost manages to throw me off focus, but then I shift and flip us over, very nearly straining my shoulder and banging my elbow on the glass plate of the coffee table in addition for good measure.

The bruise will so be worth it, I think as I look at her sprawled underneath me, her jacket having fallen open, her shirt riding up, gazing at me with heavily lidded eyes. There is a smile playing about her lips that is half impressed, and half daring me to make the next move.

I want to, but I also don't want this to be over too soon. Perhaps I should slow things down, just a little, but at that point, she has already shifted her hips and hooks a calf across my thighs, pulling me down on top of her and I'm lost in the vee of warm skin that her shirt leaves bare. She is still moving her hips against me, and her nails are scraping up my bare back and then she drags my head level with hers, and we're kissing again, her tongue slick and silky against mine.

She is fumbling for the drawstrings of my pants again and when I expect her to struggle with the ties, she's simply edging her hand underneath the waistband, her fingers suddenly splayed against the skin of my stomach and I jump, but she's already moving lower, and before I know it, she's touching me.

I don't think I've ever been so ready in my life, but she is content to tease and wait, drawing light circles over slick skin and evading me when I try to move my hips more firmly against her. My arms are shaking so badly, I can barely hold myself up above her, but Catherine just looks at me, her pupils so large that only small bands of blue remain visible around them.

I think I'll weep, and I don't know whether she wants to make me beg, and just as I realize that I probably would, she bends her wrist, and there's a split second where I already move into the touch that I know it's going to come, and then she pushes deep without preamble.

"Fuck," I ground out and my eyes are squeezing shut with pleasure. My whole body seems to contract around her touch, and I try to gather my bearings, but she just keeps moving, slow, and deep, and with just enough pressure to make any thought impossible for me. Her wrist is pressed tightly against my lower stomach, and I feel the sinews in her forearm flex with every thrust.

It strikes me that she moves too smoothly for someone who would have no experience in sleeping with a woman. I've always seen Catherine as someone who gets around, but only with men. But then, that certainly doesn't go for Kitty, and I'm reminded again that I really need to readjust my image of this woman. "You did this before," I manage to ground out, lost in her touch.

She grins that sexy little grin of hers. "Perhaps." A flick of her thumb sends my eyes squeezed shut again and I only hear her voice against my ear, low and breathless. "But not with you."

With effort, I blink my eyes open. It is so hard to think with her body underneath my own, warm and pliant and moving against me, and I can only stare at her. Something inside of me is going to explode, or to melt, and it'll devour both of us in its path.

Suddenly, she stops her movements. She just doesn't move anymore, at all. Only her breaths are still coming quicker, but other than that, she's holding perfectly still. And then I see her grin and I want to be mad at her, but it only pushes me higher and I can't believe how she does it. I know I'll come at the tiniest flicker of her fingers inside me, probably even at a single batting of her eyelashes, but she doesn't move. She doesn't even blink.

I stare at her helplessly, breathing shallowly, suspended between her touch and the wave that's threatening to pull me under any moment.

I'm completely at her mercy and I'm thinking she enjoys it way too much. But then, so do I.

"Of course, there's no way of telling what would have happened if we hadn't been interrupted back then," she states lightly and she's still grinning, but her eyes are serious.

I just gape at her. "You wouldn't have…" I gasp incredulously, but at the same time, I know she would have done it. First tremors are running low through my stomach.

"We would have," she says and it feels like an eternity until she finally moves her fingers again. "But you know…" Slowly. "…what they say…" Intently. "…about things being worth the wait."

"Fuck, Cath…" The last thought flashing through my brain is that she can't know my body that well, but she does and I crash into her, my arms giving way under my own weight, and my only thought is that I don't want this to end, ever.

I don't know if I screamed, much less what, but from how she looks at me when I manage to blink my eyes open and raise my head, I may very well have.

I can't believe we're both still more or less dressed. She hasn't even shed her jacket yet. I lean back on wobbly legs and then pull her up by the lapels. I notice that my hands are shaking as I drag her into the large lounge chair. She settles down and slowly crosses her legs, although the movement is much slower than usual and I see her draw a ragged breath. She's still wearing her heels.

They're the first thing I slip off when I move in, setting her feet down gently before I come to stand in between her legs. She looks up at me and I notice how her eyes are lingering on my breasts again. Her eyelids seem to grow heavier when I balance myself with a knee on the chair that sways a little under the added weight. I lean forward, but before Catherine can reach up to touch me, I'm already pushing her jacket open and backwards, trapping her arms behind her so she can't distract me from leaning in and kissing up her cleavage, and then her neck. She leans back more heavily into the chair when my breath hits her ear, but I'm inching away already, dragging the jacket off her and tossing it into the room, and when she tries to reach for me again, I do the same with her shirt, trapping her hands above her head.

She squirms under my lips when I lick my way up her torso, and across the swell of her breasts. The bra she wears is small and lacy and mint green, with tiny white pearls stitched in the middle and they're cool against my tongue. I wonder whether she always wears underwear like this, or whether she planned on me seeing it when she put it on. I don't know which scenario excites me more and I haphazardly toss the shirt in direction of her jacket.

She leans back against the backrest – the leather has to be warm against her skin by now – and just looks at me from underneath heavy eyelids, observing my fingers that are on the zipper of her pants and that are shaking so badly that I need two tries to pull it down. She slides a little lower in the chair, her hair splayed wildly around her now, and when she looks up at me, it takes her a moment to focus.

I feel a rush at being able to put her in such a state and I grope for the handle on the side of the chair without tearing my eyes away from hers. I don't find it immediately and this time, when she reaches out to touch me, I have no free hand to hinder her.

Her hands are hot on my skin, over my breasts, and I lean heavily into her touch. When I finally find the handle, I'm almost as surprised as she is when the backrest gives way, leaving her stretched out on her back as she were sitting in a lounge chair on a beach.

At the moment, I'm incredibly glad that this is a single household that may not have a couch, but a very expensive TV chair instead that never has been more worth its cost.

I let my fingers scrape along the inside of her thighs as I ease back a little, and she looks at me, breathing heavily through her mouth. Her gaze makes it a lot easier to go through with what I'm about to do.

I take another step back, until she can see me perfectly from where she's sitting. Slowly, I reach for the strings of my pants and pull them open. I inch them across my hips, and I try to make my movements look smooth. From the way she stares at me, it seems to work. With one last tug, the pants slide to the floor and pool around my feet. I kick them to the side, standing bared to her gaze.

I expected to feel ridiculous, but I don't. Her eyes are on me like a touch and I don't know if she realizes it, but her mouth is hanging open. I valiantly try to fight the blush that is creeping up my chest and face, but I know it's a lost battle.

"God, Sara… " she moans and struggles to sit up, but I push her back with a hand on her chest. I move in to tug down her pants in return, but they're tight and it takes me a little longer. Especially since she's trying to help, attempting to shimmy out of the fabric while she holds tightly onto the armrests so I don't pull her off the chair. It's very distracting, watch her writhe against the chair, pale skin against dark leather, and I almost fall backwards when the pants finally give way because I'm not paying attention anymore.

I balance myself with my hands on her thighs and I have to tip my head up a little to look at her. For some reason, that makes me feel even more lightheaded. The look in her eyes is feral.

"C'mere," she growls, and I slowly drag my body level with hers, skin against skin and I think that by now, everything inside me is trembling, but her hands are unsteady, too, as she pulls me into another long kiss. She squirms against me and moves her hands up between our bodies. It takes me a minute to realize she's trying to get rid of her bra, but she doesn't stop kissing me, so I don't stop kissing her, either, and I groan into her mouth when she finally tosses the flimsy garment aside and pulls me closer, wrapping a leg over my thighs to keep me where she wants me.

Her breasts are shifting against mine, heavy, sticky with sweat, and I break the kiss to put more weight into the movement. I guess I'm about to find out if the chair really was worth the price.

She holds my head firmly between her hands as I trail my lips over her breasts, losing myself in the sensation of smooth curve and the strong grip against my scalp. At first, I don't hear that she's mumbling softly.

"God Sara, please…please…"

The breathless whisper makes my own breath hitch in return and when I look up, her eyes are closed. She's so beautiful that I can't quite believe that this is really happening, and it's with something akin to awe that I slowly move a hand down her torso.

She intercepts me in mid-motion, impatiently dragging my hand down and against her sex.

Her breath hitches a little, but it's me who's seeing stars. She feels so incredibly hot. And I've barely touched her, and she's already grinding into my hand. I feel my own body clench in response and I know that it will take only a little more of this, and I'll come again before she does.

I bite my lip in concentration and try to steady my hold on the chair. Her nails are digging into my back and I can feel her breath come in short, hot gasps against my shoulder. I feel a few drops of sweat trickle down my chest and her hair is sticking to my skin.

The chair beneath us is rocking rhythmically. And then, not so rhythmically. There's sunlight streaming into the windows and briefly, I'm aware that I'm fucking Catherine Willows. In my apartment. In broad daylight.

But then her grip tightens even more and just when I think I'm about to explode, her teeth sink sharply into my shoulder, and she whimpers as her hips buck into my hand and it's the sexiest thing I've ever heard.

There's a brief flash of pain traveling up from my shoulder, but I don't care and when I shift against the chair to hold onto Catherine, I feel wetness smeared across the inside of my own thighs.

Finally, her shudders subside and I loosen my death grip on the chair. My arms are trembling and I hope she doesn't want me to move, because I couldn't move a muscle if I wanted to.

For a long minute, there's just the sound of our mingled breathing.

"Fuck," she murmurs finally, her lips still against my shoulder.

"Yeah," I agree and I grin against her temple. I stroke her hair, awkwardly trying to arrange myself next to her, which doesn't get any easier as her arms tighten around me. The chill from the air condition against my sweaty back makes me shiver, and I try to turn and grab the blanket off the edge of the coffee table without letting go off her, but in the end, we slide back to the floor, still wrapped around each other.



The Elvis wedding wasn't too hard to find in the end since they had turned the music up. The scene she stepped into was a wildly surreal swing dance tableau, but in comparison to what she had seen the past hour or two, perhaps it wasn't so surreal after all.

What was very real, however, was a very worried looking Janet heading her way.

"Sara! Where have you been?" The light in the hall was low, but not low enough to hide the condition her face was in. "Where'd you get that black eye?"

She didn't refuse when Janet pulled her off to one side of the dance floor and sat her down on a chair. In front of her mind's eye, she saw Kitty the dancer advancing on her again, fake black hair falling across bare shoulders. She didn't care if Janet grounded her until she was eighteen.

"What happened to your face?!"

She blinked at the harsh tone, noting that it was harder with the left eye that was now almost swollen shut. She shrugged. "I went to get some air and walked too close to a pair of flying fists on my way back in." That didn't seem to calm Janet in the slightest, and she held up the ice pack. "See, I even got it looked at already." That was a bit of a stretch, but she knew the blow had only met her cheekbone and lip. Really bad blows to the head felt different.

"Walked too close to a pair of flying fists?" Janet glared at her furiously. "That's it?"

"Yep." She nodded.

"Are you sure?" Janet asked in what she called her emotional voice.

Aww, shit. Janet had to be growing on her when she started to react to all that processing and conscience mumbo jumbo. "Some jerk tried to molest a dancer down the hall," she mumbled. That wasn't even a lie, really. "I told him that no means no, and he told me this." She gestured at her face.

Janet looked at her oddly, and for a moment she was sure the woman was going to smile. But then she just shook her head with as sigh. "Just keep that ice pack on, alright? – And don't ever fucking pull something like this on me again!"

She grinned. "Sure, Janet."

Already in walking away, her foster mom turned around again. "And I sure hope he looks worse than you do right now."

At that, she had to grin so broadly that she felt a tightening in he lower lip and she pursed her mouth, trying not to open up the cut again. She had to smile again as she remembered the cure the dancer had administered. Her lips were still tingling with the memory of the kiss. With a happy sigh, she slid a little lower in her seat, stopping when she came to sit on something hard and knobby. She shifted, reaching for her back pocket and found her package of cigarettes, crumpled beyond saving. She tried to pinpoint when and how that had happened, and when she had figured it out, she slid yet a little lower in her seat, her grin widening despite her split lip.

Red hair. Hot lips. Fishnet stockings.

Black wig. Sheer coat. A tiny sparkling corsage.



Janet didn't complain when she brought home a poster of the pyramids to hang up in her room the following week. She kindly overlooked the one with the scantily clad belly dancer, as well. She didn't protest when Sara talked about dying her hair black and carried home stacks of books on ancient Egypt. Only when she announced that she wanted to go up to San Francisco to see an exhibition on the pharaohs, Janet became suspicious.

"You're telling me you're going up there to look at dusty exsanguinated bodies that have a few thousand years on us?"

"Yep." She hunched up her shoulders defensively.

Janet was giving her the karma conscience eye again. "Are you sure that's all?"

"Yes!" For once she was not trying to sneak off or smoke, and Janet didn't even get it. Sure, this whole thing might have started because of the dancer, but some of the books she had read on ancient astronomy and medicine had been so fascinating that she really wanted to go see that exhibition. "Mummies are so interesting," she tried to explain. But then, she had already tried to explain it to Regis when he had asked her what she was reading, and he clearly hadn't gotten it. "It's about the whole process of what they did, without knowing anything about modern medicine --- I read about how they drew the brain out of the body through the nose, with a special fork…"

Janet nodded with a pained expression. "You'll call every two hours."

She grinned. "Sure."

"And you better don't get back with a black eye…"

"Sure, Janet." She was already half out of the door.

"…or with a mummy!"

She shifted the bag with her notebooks under the other arm, arm feeling the sun on her bare shoulders as she walked down the driveway. She smiled.



I smile at the sensation of sunlight on my bare shoulders and an arm slung across my waist. My body feels sore, but at the same time I feel more energized that I did the whole last year.

I blink my eyes open and stare at a white wall. This isn't my bedroom. And this isn't my bed. I'm not sure how I got here, the last thing I remember is the floor… and Sara…

My pulse suddenly jumpstarts as the memory of the past few hours flashes back and I turn abruptly, finding myself face to face with Sara and something in the close vicinity of my heart is clenching with affection.

She's looking at me and I've never seen her eyes hold such a fond and soft expression. Her hair is splayed out over her shoulders and on the pillow beneath her and all the lines of her body – she has a sheet drawn over her, haphazardly bunched around her hips – are lean and smooth and relaxed.

She looks serene. And incredibly beautiful.

"I was wondering when you'd wake up," she says, pushing a strand of hair from my forehead. She half rises on an elbow and I see a huge, angry bite mark marking her shoulder, standing out doubly against the paleness of her skin.

I gasp at the sight. "God, I'm so sorry!"

She needs a moment to understand what I'm talking about, following my gaze with her own. "Don't be," she says and she smiles. "I'm not."

"No." She's not getting it. "Not just about that. About everything. Coming here… " Even when I was standing in her door, all I wanted was a talk and a hug. And then she looked at me like that, and something inside of me just snapped. "I'm sorry for jumping you like that." I look at her intently, trying to make myself crystal clear. "I never meant to use you."

She shakes her head. "You didn't –"

I don't let her finish "I did…"

This time she intercepts me. "It's not like I said stop. And I would have if I hadn't wanted this."

She has a point there. I still see her standing in front of me, looking straight into my eyes as she let her pants fall to the floor. Something warm and very inappropriate is moving down my spine at the image.

"Do you regret it?" She doesn't look at me when she asks the question.

Regret it? I blink incredulously. My legs still turn to jelly when I merely think about how she looked at me, and she thinks I could regret it?

I lay a hand atop hers, pulling it towards me across the sheets. "Not a chance," I say and stroke her palm with my thumb.

She smiles, and it's so unguarded that it leaves me breathless all over again. "Will you tell me what happened now?" she prods gently and already at that tone I know I'm going to tell her whatever she asks of me.

I slump back against the pillow and blow a strand of hair out of my face. Her ceiling is white, too. In the end, I opt for short and honest. "Sam Brown is my father."

Her hold on my hand tightens and there is an odd bout of silence before she breathes. "No way."

I turn to look at her and my look clearly answers that question.

She nods slowly. "How…?"

I heave a sigh. "I tested the unknown male DNA from the waitress murder against my own blood, and it's related to mine."

She doesn't question it. "So that's what Greg was doing last night?"

I really need to tell Greg a thing or two about doing tests off the record unobtrusively. "Yeah."

"And now we can't nail him…" I see the wheels turning in her head and she knows that after the testing, the evidence is out, and so is the case because I am a relative of the suspect.

"Yeah," I agree dejectedly. Part of me wants to see Sam in jail for what he did, but there's still part of me that's glad I won't have to step up to the stand and testify against the man who gave me my first doll as a child.

Sara tenses suddenly. "Did he know?" Shit sits up, moving so that she can see my face. "That you are his daughter?"

It's still odd to hear it spoken out loud. "He wasn't surprised."

"And he let you dance in his clubs?" Sara yells incredulously. "Even though he's as rich as it gets? That rotten bastard!" She pushes the covers down, angrily gesturing with her hands. Then something else seems to occur to her and she turns toward me again. "I saw him grab your ass that night in the wardrobe! – And he's your father?" she roars, even though her face has become paler now. If anything, she's even more agitated. "That godforsaken son of a…"

I bask in her protectiveness, but just when I want to reach for her hand again, I see that it's shaking and the puzzle pieces click together in my mind. I suddenly have a pretty good grasp of what happened with her father. Her ire at Sam right now. Her rage when it comes to cases of domestic violence and child abuse, even though she never loses her cool otherwise.

"How did your father die, Sara?"

"Don't!" She looks at me wildly, and then shields her face in her hands. "Just don't."

For a frightening second, a wild suspicion rises at the back of my mind. "…you didn't kill him, did you?" I whisper.

"No." She whispers as well now. It's a long minute before she takes her hands away from her face and when she looks at me, she seems so much younger. Finally, she takes a deep breath. "My mother did," she admits tonelessly.

There's more silence, and it seems to spread out and wrap around us. I don't know what to say. Or if there even is anything I could say.

Sara is the first one to speak again. "Maybe I can tell you one day," she says slowly and I will probably never be able to grasp just how much this offer costs her. "But mostly, I can't. I just can't."

"Okay." I nod and I wrap my arms around her from behind, pulling her back until she's resting against my chest. "Okay." Her hands feel cold and clammy to my touch and I cover them with my own. I wonder how she could sleep with me like she did earlier, after what must have happened to her.

It takes a minute or two, but she finally relaxes against me, turning her head to press a kiss to my collarbone. I swear to myself then and there that I'll do anything I can to keep her safe and close forever.

Well. No time to start like the present. "Listen…" I clear my throat. "I admit that I'm getting this whole thing backwards, but… would you like to go out with me sometime?"

She raises her head from where it's pillowed against my shoulder. "As in a date?"

Her brows are furrowed and my heart suddenly drops to my stomach as I wonder whether this was a onetime fantasy thing for her. I mentally square my shoulders and saunter on. If I'm going to dig myself in, I might just as well do it real deep. "Yes." I sound a lot calmer than I am. "A real date, where I fret over what to wear and where you drive me home afterwards so that I can ask you whether you want to come in for a drink."

There's a small smile playing about the corners of her mouth but her eyes are almost solemn as she answers. "Yes." She sits up and moves until she kneels across from me on the mattress. "Yes. Yes I would."

"Oh thank God," I mutter and now she is smiling. I let myself fall back against the bed and revel in the soft covers against my back. "Your sheets are Egyptian cotton, aren't they?"

"300 count," she replies demurely, as if she's almost embarrassed by the decadent possession.

I gnaw on my lower lip and bat my eyelashes at her for good measure. "When do we have to be at work?"

She laughs, and after the heavy revelations of the past half hour, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. "Three and a half hours," she states with a glance at her nightstand alarm.

"Egyptian cotton, huh?" I draw one of the luxuriously soft sheets across our bodies before I bend over to softly kiss her on the lips.




She looked up from where she was bent over the lab table, peering at the different wires to figure out why her latest experiment had gone wrong. In front of her stood a girl in a Harvard sweater and jeans, hair pulled back into a ponytail, probably a little older than she was herself.

"Is this seat free?"

"Sure." She gestured at the other half of the table, wiping her leftover wires and tools over onto just one half of the desk.

"Thanks." The girl put her books down, but she still felt her eyes boring into her back.

Finally, she looked up from her wires again. "What?"

"Nothing." The girl smiled at her and now she could see that she had bright blue eyes. "You're taking the class on quantum mechanics, aren't you?"

Now she looked a little more closely. The quantum lecture was actually a graduate class the she was only sneaking into. Aloud she said, "I guess."

"I guess so, too." The other girl smiled again and held her hand out. "I'm Karin."

She shook the proffered hand, thinking that she liked names starting with a capital K. "Sara."

Karin didn't stop smiling. She also didn't let go of her hand right away. "Perhaps you'd like to go get a coffee with me later?"

She almost did a double take. A graduate student was hitting on her? And one with blue eyes and a pretty smile at that. She wiped her hands on her pants. "Sure."

Later, gazing away from Karin's face for a minute and into her steaming cup, she saw her teenage fantasies of riding into Las Vegas like some Indiana Jones with a Nobel prize in Physics to sweep a certain dancer off her heels and into the sunset blowing away in the steam as well, disappearing into thin air.

Karin just outlined another point about molecular structure and the concept of time. She had also agreed on the concept of spending more time with her, at the movies, two days from now.

She smiled happily, and took another sip of coffee.

Staring distrustfully into her cup of decaf, she took another sip only to grimace at the taste. Really, the biggest sacrifice about it all was not having to give up on alcohol and cigarettes, but on coffee. She shifted in her chair again and cracked the volume of her walkman up another notch, absently tapping the rhythm with her wedding band against the surface of the table.

The final exam was in a week, she'd put in all her field hours already, and she only had one try before the last months of pregnancy put her on lab duty only. She really wanted to make it to CSI before that.

Pushing her chewing gum from one cheek to the other, she turned to the next page of notes and shifted in her seat once again. She still wasn't used to her body feeling so heavy, not even now when the end was already in sight and she knew that it was going to be a little baby girl.

Eddie had been so excited and invited all his pals over to paint the nursery pink, and to have some beer in celebration and she had spent most of the next morning collecting empty beer bottles and getting stains out of the newly laid out pink carpet before she left for her shift at the lab.

Most of the nights, Eddie was out now. Producing, he said. She didn't know whether it was work or another woman – it wouldn't be the first – but she was too busy to care, with the exam coming up and the baby on the way. Half of the lab was counting the days with her and she already had enough gifts to make sure her little girl would turn into a science geek before she even turned three.

Some gifts, she wasn't sure she would pass on, like the little stuffed spider from Gil. Really, leave it to him to find a stuffed spider pet. It had taken a while to accept him as her boss – for a long time, he had been the geek who stumbled into her wardrobe and her cleavage in one awkward move, with pants that were an inch too short.

Now he was a man whose work she admired and whom she was proud to call a friend, and who had been there for her more than once during a few rough sport over that past years, both personally and professionally. She had even gotten him to wear pants that had the appropriate length in the meantime. It had been a pet project of hers that had taken her almost two years, and here she was now, getting her CSI degree and her child within a mere two months of each other. Out with a bang.

She pressed the rewind button on her walkman and turned the next page.



"Well, you know what they say," Catherine says as she carefully places a band-aid on my temple. "Out with a bang."

"Har har," I murmur gruffly and I wince when I reach up to touch the side of my face. We're in one of the smaller labs, to avoid even more of a commotion. "Why does it always have to be me who ends up with the bruises?"

She stretches up and oh-so-gently places a kiss next to the band-aid. "I'm really sorry – I didn't notice that the door of that locker was only ajar."

I still want to be mad, I really do, but I just can't. "It's not like I noticed it, either," I concede. This whole relationship thing is doing strange things to my moods. Next thing I'll go around and start hugging people.

It's nerve-wrecking, dating for real, but it's also fucking wonderful. Including the sex – amazing sex – on every available surface of Catherine's place. And my place – I even own a proper couch now – and Catherine's place again.

I can't help but smile whenever I see her, and constantly notice all the little things that are perfect about her – the crinkle around her eyes when she smiles, the sway of her hips when she walks from a room, and the accidental way she brushes past me at work.

Which is how I got into this whole mess in the first place. I got changed to head out on a case, and just as I was slipping my shirt off, Catherine walked in and I swear it was only about a little kiss, at first, but then it turned into more kissing, and a bit of making out, even though we had agreed on keeping it out of the workplace, but the locker room technically isn't a workplace, and it didn't matter anyway with me backed against the lockers and Catherine having that intent look as she pushed me back harder.

Next thing I know, I had an open locker door show up from nowhere and hit me right across the face. And then I had to head out with a murder headache and all kinds off odd stares and remarks from the guys. And now I'm getting a band-aid I don't really need anymore, four hours later.

"If it's any consolation, the guys think that you got into a fight with Hank," Catherine offers. She's still trying to make sure that band-aid sits perfectly right, or at least she's pretending to, but I'm not about to complain about her closeness.

"What?" True, Hank was in the lab earlier, dropping off some evidence one of the swing shift collected at the hospital, but I didn't even look at him twice.

"The bet is he looks ten times worse," Catherine relays with a grin.

"Oh." Well, I'd rather have them lay into me about that than leering at Catherine and me and making suggestive remarks, although I know it's only a matter of time before they'll find out. Something else puzzles me, though. "They have placed bets on this?"

"Does it still hurt?" Catherine asks, stroking the hair back from my forehead and I realize that she's not answering my question. "I'll try to think of something to make it up to you after shift."

"How about now?" I suggest only half-jokingly and I hardly recognize my own voice. It's strange, all this – needing someone. Being needed. It's scary, but it's pretty darn wonderful, as well.

Catherine shakes her head at me. "You're incorrigible." Although I have to say in my defense that we didn't get much time alone this week. Lindsey had a day off school and we spent the whole day together, all three of us. It went surprisingly well. So well that last night before shift started, Lindsey insisted on afternoon ice-cream at the mall with Catherine and me. I needed new sneakers anyway, so it didn't feel too much like I was tagging along. Lindsey declared the shoes I finally got as 'totally wicked'. I guess that means I'm in.

Tonight, Lindsey's staying with Nancy because she has school extra early – some kind of 'wicked' project I haven't really understood yet – and we won't be able to bring her to school ourselves because shift will barely be over by then, if we're lucky.

I already brought Lindsey to school on my own a few times, when Catherine was tied up on a case. I even picked her up once, with dozens of soccer moms staring at me.

Anyway, when we get off shift in – I glance at my watch – less than two hours, Catherine and I will have the whole house to ourselves. All day long.

When Catherine leaves me alone to sort through the evidence before shift ends – and I really don't want to pull any overtime today – I'm trying to imagine what she might do to make me forget about my bruise. Although to be honest, by the time we stumble through the door, I'll hardly remember it.

Sometimes, she still dances when we're alone. Just for fun, and just because it makes her feel good, but I think she also enjoys driving me out of my mind.

I think that one day, I'd like to take her to Egypt.

The End

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