DISCLAIMER: CSI and all characters are the property of CBS and Bruckheimer.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Through season 4 of CSI.
Map of You
Title from the song, Map of You by Susan Voelz:
What about your lips?
Underneath my fingertips
In a dark room
Touch is true
Im drawing a map of you
My dreams are at your feet
"Sara, I need you to work the bathroom. I think the original crime scene is the bathroom, not the backyard, and I want you to work that." Catherine braced for the argument she knew was coming. Sara always wanted to be in the middle of every investigation and for her, that meant the place where the body was found. Catherine was already framing her counterarguments in her head, but instead of the spirited rationale she expected, she got a quiet, resigned "okay" as Sara picked up her kit and turned her back.
Catherine watched as the taller CSI headed indoors, puzzled. That wasn't like Sara at all, not even considering how subdued and quiet Sara had been the last few months. She frowned in concern, not for the first time, over the changes that had come over the younger CSI, before turning back to her work of mapping and photographing the scene.
Catherine straightened up from where she was crouched and had been for the last half hour, feeling a little lightheaded, to realize she had been hard at work for the last two solid hours. She hadn't seen Sara come out of the house yet, and she frowned in irritation as she headed to the bathroom.
Sara was laying on the floor, surrounded by at least a whole container of fingerprint dust layered over every surface in the bathroom. Her long legs stretched out almost the entire length of the bathroom and she would have looked like she was sleeping, except for the quiet, almost-whispered strains of a Joan Jett song. She often sang when she got caught up in something, but she tried to hide it from the rest of the crew, Catherine knew, because it seemed to embarrass her even though she had a nice singing voice. Catherine couldn't make out what she was working on; a small stack of evidence bags was piled by the kit, but Sara seemed intent on swirling even more fingerprint dust on the underside of the rim of the claw-foot tub. Catherine crouched in the doorway to get a better look as Sara blew even more fingerprint dust over a small section.
"Sara?" She got a grunt in reply, but she was still singing, so Catherine didn't know if she really heard her. Sara applied a film to the spot she had been powdering and humphed again. "Sara?" Catherine called her name again, a little louder. "How are you doing?" She expected Sara to jump or react, but instead she just started talking like they had been deep in conversation for the last few minutes.
"Looks like our perp cleaned and bleached the whole tub. There's blood, probably the vic's, so you were right about the crime scene being here." She lapsed into silence as she peered up at the rim again.
"What did you get?"
"Partial." Sara replied. She frowned up at the film in her hand, as if it had failed her somehow.
"So are you done in there?"
"Huh?" She was back to looking at the underside of the rim. "Oh." She came out of her daze just a little, looking around the room and pushing herself up into a sitting position, her long legs tucking under her as she rose. "Yeah, I guess so." Sara dragged a gloved hand across her face, leaving a long streak of dust along her cheek. "Yeah, I'm done."
"I told you to be thorough, but... whoa." Catherine's sentence was cut short as her legs buckled a little as she tried to rise. She caught the doorframe and pulled herself up, bodily.
"Catherine? You ok?" Sara was looking up at her from where she was crouched by her kit, packing up her gear. Her voice sounded concerned and she had half-risen, as if to catch her.
"Yeah." Catherine shook her head to clear it. "Got up too fast or something."
"When's the last time you ate?"
"I dunno. Is this today or tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow. Probably got low blood-sugar or something." Sara's voice was clinical as she snapped the locks to her case shut and stood. "Come on, let's go." With her long legs, she quickly out-paced Catherine and was out the door. Catherine shook her head and followed with a wry look on her face.
Sara's kit was packed and the SUV was already running by the time Catherine got to the truck. She climbed into the passenger seat, still trying to get the slight dizziness to recede. "Here." Sara offered her a powerbar from whatever stash she always seemed to have when they were working. "This will hold you until you get real food."
"Thanks." Catherine smiled gratefully, although Sara's manner was abrupt and cold. "You sure you don't need it?" She asked, but Sara was ignoring her completely.
"Dispatch. CSI Unit 2. We are leaving the scene with an ETA of one hour, over."
"An hour? It's only about 20 minutes back to the lab."
Sara put the SUV into gear and pulled away from the curb, tapping her fingers restlessly against the steering wheel as she drove. "Lunch. We're over three hours into a double and we need to eat. Besides, I know a good cafe right around the corner."
"I can wait til..." Catherine started to protest until Sara cut her off.
"I can't." Sara seemed to be taking a page from Gil's playbook, Catherine mused. Gil often made autocratic judgments based on whatever he thought people needed without asking. But Catherine knew Sara was right --this time-- and decided not to argue.
Sara swung the SUV into a gravel parking lot and cut the engine. Catherine caught her arm as she was about to get out of the truck, and said, "Um, Sara?" Catherine tried to smother her grin at the puzzled look and the big smear of pink power, and indicated her own cheek.
Sara glanced in the mirror and looked dismayed. "Shit. Why didn't you tell me?" she asked as she smeared it further. "Dammit."
"Here. Hold still." Catherine leaned over, catching Sara's chin between her fingers and wiping carefully with a tissue. Sara's eyes went wide and she started to jerk her head back at the unexpected touch, but Catherine finished before she could complete the gesture. "There." Sara was still giving her an odd look. "What? It was the least I could do since I didn't tell you about it in the first place. I was going to, but I then I almost fell over from lack of food." She flashed Sara a lopsided grin. "And it did look kind of cute." Sara's nose wrinkled in a look of disbelief and she bolted out of the SUV, and laughing, Catherine followed.
Sara was already seated at a booth when Catherine found her. Catherine slid into the seat across and considered switching the coffee in the break room to decaf and not telling anyone. Sara needs to slow down, she mused, as Sara's fingers drummed on the table top, not impatiently, but to some hidden beat.
"Hey Sara, long time, no see." The waitress came up, pouring a cup of coffee automatically for Sara before looking at Catherine questioningly.
"Hey." Sara smiled up at the waitress, the first time Catherine had seen her smile in days. "Yeah, I haven't been eating out as much. How's biz?"
Catherine pretended to study the menu while watching Sara and the waitress, Liz, chat for a couple of minutes. Sara's smile glowed at the waitress as she teased her about someone named Mike.
"So what are you having today, now that you've finally decided to grace us with your presence?" The waitress teased back, swiping at Sara with a menu.
Sara realized that she wasn't alone, and looked across the table. "Cath? Are you ready? Oh, btw, Liz, this is my colleague Catherine. Catherine, Liz."
"Nice to meet you." Catherine smiled at the pretty brunette, who smiled back. "And yeah, I'll take the turkey club on wheat, no bacon, and water, thanks."
Sara gathered up the menus from the table, handing them to the waitress, as she told her, "The usual."
"Of course! Thanks. Oh, hey, Liz, make that two smoothies. Thanks." She caught Catherine's comical outraged look and shrugged. "What? They make the best fresh fruit smoothies here. It'll boost your blood sugar faster than anything."
"So you are, or were, a regular?" Catherine's voice picked up right at the end to turn the statement into a question.
"Yeah. I live not too far from here and often stop by for a smoothie or something when I go for a long run, like my reward for having gotten the seven miles in. But I haven't had time to run in like a month." She smiled at something Catherine wasn't privy to, and then explained when she caught her puzzled look. "Usually I sit up at the counter and harass the wait staff."
"What, you?" They shared a smile for a second before Sara brows knitted and she seemed to withdraw, as if she wasn't sure if that was a dig at her or not. She had done that too often, Catherine thought, cut her down like that. "Sara, I..."
The ringing of Sara's cell stopped her. "Sidle. Yeah? What?" She snapped at whoever was on the other end. "We just stopped for lunch on our way back. I don't think I have to explain to you what happens to the human body... Yeah, we'll be there shortly." She snapped the phone closed without saying goodbye and glared down at it.
"Grissom?" Catherine ventured a guess.
Catherine glanced down to the cell phone on her belt to check that it was on. "I'm primary on this. Why'd he call you?"
"I'm more fun to yell at, I suppose." She answered, her eyes and voice flat and emotionless.
"He's been really hard on you lately."
"Yeah." Layers and layers of meaning were packed into that single word, and Catherine had no idea how to read them.
Catherine waited for Sara to say more, but she just sat there, staring off somewhere in the middle distance, lost in thought. Her cheekbones seemed more pronounced than usual, and Catherine realized she had lost some weight. Along with her sense of humor, she thought, and again wondered at the change. Sara had never been outgoing in a personal sense; she hadn't talked much to any of the other CSIs about anything much beyond work. Grissom seemed to be in her confidence the most, but Catherine doubted she opened up to him any more than the rest of them. Professionally, though, she had been outgoing and involved. Had been, that is. Until about seven months ago, right after the lab explosion, when she had become, not less intense about her work, but more, bitter. Like a light had been snuffed out, some burning passion that had always shone through the way her mouth would twist, both in confusion and pleasure, as she relentlessly tracked down traces and clues, was extinguished. She still did her work as conscientiously as always, as the bathroom this morning evidenced, but without her prior energy.
Sara noticed Catherine's gaze and her eyes narrowed, causing Catherine to take a sip of her drink quickly. "You were right, by the way." Catherine smiled one of those smiles that usually works on just about any body with a pulse and was glad to see the hard lines of Sara's face relax a little. "This smoothie is great. I should let you order me around more often," she teased.
There was a snort of laughter from the other side of the table. "Yeah, that will happen."
"Where's Sara?" Gil asked as he sat down in the break room.
"I just saw her in the hallway a few minutes ago," Nick said, looking around the table.
"I'm sure she'll be here." Catherine gave him a look to say, back off, but he ignored it. "You're late," he snapped at Sara as she came in the door. Sara pointedly ignored him as she sat down, dropping a stack of folders down on table in front of her. Grissom glared at her for a moment, and then looked around at the rest of the table. "So where do we stand?"
Catherine sighed. "We're waiting for analysis on the trace."
"Um, actually, we got a hit off of the partial and blood from the bathroom. Two types of blood from the bathroom." Catherine shot her an annoyed look down the table and Sara's shoulders hunched defensively. "Sorry. I tried to page you."
Catherine looked down at her belt. "Oh, shit, Sara, I must have taken it off. Sorry."
Sara's face was emotionless, as was her voice. "Anyway, the perp just got out of prison in California a little over a week ago, a Daniel Green." She slid a folder down in front of Grissom. "Apparently, this isn't his first stop. There were a couple of DBs with a similar MO in the last week in California. A contact of mine faxed me the files." She slid another folder down the table to Grissom, still only looking about two feet in front of her. "And I just got a call about," She glances at her watch, "8 minutes ago that vic #2's cash card was used in the Strip about an hour ago to make a hefty withdraw. I stopped to map the location with hotels and casinos nearby before I came in since I imagine he's probably still near that location, gambling or something." She slid the last folder down in front of Grissom, keeping her eyes down.
"I'll..." Gil seemed a little unnerved by her demeanor, unsure what to say. "I'll call Brass. Excellent work, Sara." There was a chorus of agreement from around the table. Gil paused in his dialing, "Did you want to go on the search?"
Sara gave him a blank look. "Nah, I have paperwork to finish up before the end of shift." She hoisted herself out of the chair and was out the door, to the puzzled stares of her colleagues.
Everyone else followed her out, but Grissom motioned for Catherine to stay. After hanging up the phone with Brass, he asked, "What's wrong with Sara? Do you know?"
Catherine sighed. "No. But something has been bothering her lately, especially this last week." She gave him the patented pay-attention look that Gil usually registered and did, in fact, pay attention to what she was telling him. "And you are not helping any. Jumping on her for taking lunch? Calling her when you should have called me anyway? And embarrassing her in front of everyone just now about being late?" Grissom looked more and more uncomfortable as she read off the list of things. "And that's just today. You've been really hard on her, for months, when you aren't actively avoiding her."
Gil shifted in his chair and didn't meet Catherine's eyes when she looked at him. "What? What's going on, Gil?" When he didn't answer, she put a note of warning into her voice. "Gil?"
"She asked me out."
"She did what? When?" She glanced around behind her, quickly, to make sure nobody was in the break room.
"Last year. After the explosion."
"Did you? You didn't? Right?"
Catherine tried to catch his eye, but he didn't look up. She read his avoidance and sighed. "You wanted to, didn't you?" He nodded. "So you overcompensated by being hard on her so you wouldn't be accused of favoritism?" He seemed to be thinking, as if unsure that's what he had been doing. She sighed again in exasperation.
"Damn it, Gil." Catherine slammed her hands down on the table, breaking him out of his train of thought. "Everyone's noticed how you haven't been working with her on cases and how hyper-aware you are when she makes the slightest mistake." She leaned back in her chair and glared at him. "You've..." She blew air out noisily. It wouldn't help to list his offenses to him, again. "Well, that explains the last few months. But I think something else is going on this last week."
"Do you think I should talk to her?"
Catherine rolled her eyes before shaking her head, emphatically. "No. I'll try to talk to her." She snapped her chair back to upright. "What you need to do is get over this. You can't date and I'm sure Sara knows that. It was right after the explosion?" He nodded. "That shook us all up. Remember that incident with Brass? Where she rushed in instead of waiting for the PD to secure the scene?" Gil nodded again. "Maybe there was something going on there, risk-taking."
"But you need to start working on rebuilding your working relationship with her." She caught his confused look. "Lighten up on her. Trust her to do her job. And start working on cases with her as much as the rest of us. Work with her, not against her, professionally, and that will go a long way." He looked at her questioningly. "She messed up by asking you out, personally, but you are taking it out on her professionally. Because the two are so close for you. For both of you." She shook her head sadly. For a genius, he was so dense sometimes. "You just get back on track professionally." He nodded thoughtfully, his mind already working on what was probably already labeled "The Problem of Sara" somewhere in his head.
Catherine paused outside 'Sara's lab,' as it was called by most everyone else. None of the labs were actually assigned, but Sara always seemed to work in that particular one. Her head was hunched over her paperwork, dark hair cascading down over her face, as if to shut out the world. Poor kid, Catherine thought, remembering her defensive look from the break room earlier. She's just expecting everyone to come down on her. And she's not wrong most of the time, Catherine admitted ruefully.
"Hey." She leaned against the doorframe.
Sara glanced up from her paperwork for the moment it took to register her presence and then went back to pretending to be absorbed in her paperwork. "Hey."
"You lied." Sara looked up at her again, her nose wrinkling and her eyebrows knitting together. Catherine held up her pager. "You tried to page me three times. I'm sorry, Sara. I shouldn't have assumed you didn't try to contact me." Catherine couldn't tell if Sara accepted her apology; she just sat there looking worn and tired. "Not that you needed my help anyway," Catherine continued brightly. "That was great work. They caught the guy only like 200 feet from that cash machine, playing slots. He was all packed up and ready to leave after spending the afternoon gambling. Your work on this case stopped a serial spree killer before he moved on."
"Thanks," she replied, less monotone but with nothing remotely close to warmth.
"Look, I know we're not exactly friends..."
"Yeah, you are right about that," Sara interrupted, a note of scorn in her voice. "So if you are about to tell me I can talk to you, well, why don't we just wait for the spirit to move me?" Her eyes sparked with defiance, but pain lurked there as well. "We both know when that will be, right?"
Catherine stopped herself from retorting, although having the snippy comments she made years ago thrown back in her face stung. "You know what I like about working with you? Or liked, anyway?" Sara's eyebrow quirked in an you're-not-gone-yet expression. "How enthused you are. Every crime scene is just like a big adult playground for you. Or was. A year ago, you would have been out the door when you got that info about the ATM with your hair on fire, dialing up Brass when you were already half way to the Strip, and nobody would have been able to stop you. Would have been like getting in the way of a hurricane. Now you 'politely' decline and get caught up on your paperwork. I don't know what's going on, but I do know I miss that enthusiasm. I miss that Sara." Catherine lets the silence stretch for a moment. "Anyway, you have my number. If the spirit moves you." She left at that, leaving Sara staring after her with a thoughtful expression remarkably similar to Gil's.
Catherine hesitated outside of the oak door to Sara's apartment. She knew she probably shouldn't be pushing so hard so soon, but she had to admit she was concerned. Still, Sara had made it pretty clear she didn't want to talk to her, but the pain she had seen lurking in Sara's eyes made her wonder if Sara really meant it or if the words were just a barrier put up to see if anyone would make the effort to get through. She can always slam the door in my face if she wants, after all, Catherine chuckled to herself, as she raised her hand.
Knocking hard, she waited, hearing strains of music coming from behind the door. At least she's not sleeping. The volume increased dramatically when Sara swung open the door.
"Wow. That's... loud."
Sara scowled. "Don't tell me you are my new neighbor and you came to complain about the noise." She leaned a shoulder against the door, arms crossed and head tilted questioningly. She seemed to be deliberately blocking the door and the scowl on her face did nothing to belie the impression. But for all her belligerence, she seemed more at ease, softer around the edges, than she had at work earlier. Ragged levis and a black tank top replaced the pants and blouse she had had on earlier, and her barefeet peaked out from under the cuffs, making her shorter and less imposing. It was a good look for her, Catherine thought.
"No. But I'm surprised there's not a line down the hall." Catherine grinned to show she was joking and got a ghost of a grin in return.
"The guy downstairs usually just bangs on the ceiling," Sara deadpanned.
"So... can I come in?" Catherine waited for the slamming door, but Sara just leaned back slightly and indicated the interior with a movement of her shoulder. Catherine had to squeeze by her in the narrow hallway since Sara didn't move far enough back to give her room. She brushed by, noticing not for the first time the distinct height advantage Sara had, even with bare feet. Catherine glanced up just as she passed and saw a smirk on Sara's face, confirming her suspicions that Sara had crowded her deliberately. While Catherine lingered just inside the living room, Sara pushed past her to grab a stereo remote and reduce the volume on the music. She flipped a couple more buttons and something quiet and jazzy replaced the loud rock. Catherine smiled her thanks and got a shrug in return.
Sara walked around behind the kitchen island off the living room and poured a couple of fingers of amber liquid into a highball. She sighed, in resignation, and, as if in spite of herself, asked, "Do you want a drink?"
"What are you drinking?" Catherine rounded the island, checking out the clean but sparse kitchen. The microwave looked like it had seen heavy use. The rest of the apartment was modern and tastefully minimalist; white walls and dark furniture, and books but no pictures or mementos gracing the bookcase. It was tasteful, but devoid of personality.
"Scotch? I didn't know you drank Scotch." She took in the label of the bottle in Sara's hand. "A 21-year-old Glennfiddich? Nice." She grinned up at the taller woman. "You have expensive tastes."
Sara shrugged. "Only in a few things. This..." she indicated the bottle in her hand, "is a rare indulgence."
"You don't mind me sharing?" The teasing tone in her voice could be, and has been, called flirtatious, but it seemed to be putting Sara at ease so Catherine kept it up. She knew she could charm anyone, but the charm usually came out a little sexual. An occupational hazard of her previous job, she knew.
"No. I get out the really good stuff for all my uninvited guests," Sara replied sarcastically. She got a second highball and poured another glass. Handing it to Catherine, Sara went into the living room and flopped on the sofa, a modern black-leather affair that ended up being much more comfortable than Catherine would have imagined by looking at it. Catherine looked around the apartment while Sara sipped her drink and ignored her.
"So Scotch, wine, and stereo equipment. Anything else you have expensive tastes in?" she asked, turning back to Sara. Sara smirked at her, as if to say, no need to impress me with your observational prowess.
"A couple. Computer." She nodded her head toward a far wall. "Mountain bike." Catherine had missed that when she was looked around the room. It was muddy and scratched, like it saw hard, and frequent, use. Sara broke the silence. "So... you're here to talk? Figured you'd corner me in my apartment to have the conversation you've been suggesting all day?"
"Yeah," Catherine said cautiously, as Sara's tone edged into belligerence.
"So talk." She met her eyes over the top of her highball. "Since I still have nothing to say."
"Sara..." Catherine shifted on the couch so that she was facing Sara, resting her glass on a knee and propping her head on her hand, elbow on the back cushion of the couch. "I know something is bothering you and while I know we're not close, I'm concerned. Frankly, I'm a little scared for you. You seem like you are under a lot of pressure and I don't know what kind of support network you have or what you do to deal with the stress. Showing up here may be too little, too late, but there's not much I can do about the past. But you let me in the door so I'm assuming that means you want me here." She met Sara's glare calmly. "It's not like you wouldn't have slammed the door in my face if you'd really wanted me to leave."
Sara's mouth quirked into a grin in spite of herself, both because she had considered doing just that and because she really would have, regardless of how rude it would have been. Catherine read the look and grinned. "I actually kind of expected it." She took another tiny sip of her drink. "This is heady stuff."
"Yeah. It'll take me a couple of hours to finish this," Sara said, indicating her own glass.
A comfortable silence stretched as Sara slid down into a slouch and propped her feet on the coffee table, lost in thought. Finally, she broke it. "You're..." she began, shaking her head a little, "probably not going to leave until I give you something, huh?" She glanced at Catherine, who smiled like a shark and shook her head. She leaned her head back and studied the ceiling, playing with the glass in her hands. "I could lie, make something up. You'd never know the difference."
Catherine sniffed. "Give me a little credit."
"So yeah, something is going on. But it's not work-related. It's personal."
Sara glared at her surprised tone. "Give ME a little credit. I do have a personal life. Not much of one, and it's not very social, but I do. A lot of what I do, I do alone. Like biking. Like running. Like going to art galleries. I'm comfortable alone." Her tone wasn't defensive, but factual. Sara wasn't trying to convince herself or Catherine that she was alone by choice, not by circumstance, Catherine realized, but was stating a truth.
Sara contemplated the ceiling in silence for a few more minutes. Her voice was quiet when she spoke again, and Catherine strained to hear her over the music. "I have a friend. In San Francisco. She was shot. About a week ago. Line of duty. They're..." She paused and took a deep breath, "Not sure she's going to make it." Catherine could see she wasn't staring at the ceiling anymore, but rather was squeezing her eyes closed. Her jaw was clenched, holding in some emotion that she didn't want to show. Finally, she let out a ragged breath and twisted her head to meet Catherine's eye. "That's it."
"That's it." Catherine echoed, disbelief evident in her tone. She let the silence stretch but Sara made no effort to fill it. She was contemplating the ceiling again, and seemed to be concentrating on getting Catherine out of the apartment by the power of her mind alone. "So you're worried about your friend? So why don't you take one of your million vacation days and go to San Francisco?"
"You can't?" Catherine shook her head in confusion. "You have the days. And the lab can function without you."
"Thanks, good to know I'm expendable."
"That's not what I meant and you know it. Now are you going to stop avoiding my question and answer me?"
"I can't. If she..." Sara struggled with the words, blinking back tears, "dies, then..." she shrugged. "But if she wakes up, she won't want to see me. So going there won't help. Either of us."
"Why wouldn't she want to see you? If she's a friend..."
"She's an ex." Sara blurted the words out so suddenly that it took Catherine a moment to register what Sara just told her. Sara, she noticed, was studiously looking anywhere but at her. Catherine wondered if she was nervous because she told her something so personal, or because she had admitted she was bisexual. Or something like that - the label didn't seem to fit somehow, she mused.
"I take it, it didn't end well?" Catherine asked, ignoring for a moment the other questions that had bubbled to the surface of her mind.
"You might say that. Flying plates, screaming obscenities, a visit from the cops bad, in fact." Sara's mouth twisted into a bitter smile. "And all my fault."
"You... were throwing plates?" Catherine knew Sara had a temper, and she had heard Sara had even gotten in a few suspects' faces, but she couldn't imagine Sara violent or out-of-control like that.
"Me? No, no, but I deserved them being thrown at me."
"Did... it happen often?" Catherine asked cautiously. Sara had always gotten very emotionally involved in their domestic assault cases and Catherine wondered if this was a sudden insight into why.
Sara must have read her look, because she shook her head vigorously and managed a self-conscious smile. "Just once. I'm not that socially-inept - I figured out kinda quick that we weren't going to kiss and make up. I moved out the next day. Minus a few dishes."
Catherine found she couldn't help asking the next question. "So... had you dated other women? Before or since?"
"In San Francisco, yeah. A few while Lucy and I, uhh," she dropped her head into her hand and squeezed her eyes shut, "were together." Sara met Catherine's eyes, seeing Catherine's battle with her own emotions. Infidelity was never a favorite with the older woman, she knew. "We were 'supposedly' non-monogamous, in theory at least, but I was the only one who put it into practice. And I wasn't exactly discrete."
Catherine leaned back, her eyes wide. "Wow. I never..." she shook her head, amazed, "would have guessed. Both the women thing and the sleeping around thing." She gave Sara a sheepish look, as she couldn't think of a better way to phrase that last point. Sara pushed a lock of hair back behind her ear and pursed her lips as she studied the floor, clearly embarrassed.
"Grissom called like a week later and I left. I haven't seen her in almost four years." Sara realized she was still holding her glass, and took a big drink, feeling the alcohol burn down her throat. "And that really is it."
Catherine laid a hand on Sara's shoulder. "Now was that so hard?"
"Excruciatingly painful, yes," she laughed, a little of her sarcasm and wit resurfacing. Catherine watched her mouth soften into a smile and a little warmth seep into her eyes, like watching the sun peek through the clouds. Sara slid her chin down to her shoulder, trapping Catherine's hand, and they sat like that for a long time.
"Dispatch? Where's the officer who's supposed to be with CSI 2?" Catherine glanced around the hulking stacks of wrecked cars and other appliances surrounding their crime scene, a stolen Mercedes. A dim overhead light wavered as Catherine waiting for an answer, watching as Sara walked around, checking the ground around the car.
"The officer secured the scene and got called to a bar fight around the corner," the dispatcher reported, a little snippy. "He will return to your location shortly."
Catherine sighed and got out of the SUV, walking around to get her kit out. Sara was already taking photographs and getting a soil sample near the trunk. "I think our perp carried something away from the car." She flicked her light toward an old mobile home sitting on the lot. "Headed that way." She started to follow the tracks, looking intent. "You want to work the car?" she asked, already ten feet away.
"Sara? Where...?" Catherine looked around and realized Sara had already disappeared around a stack of crushed cars. Catherine sighed. Sara was getting more and more like Gil; he had a remarkably bad habit of just wandering off while at a crime scene, following wherever the evidence took him. Catherine resolved to talk to Sara at the end of shift. She couldn't do anything about Gil, but Sara was another matter.
She was just pulling out the slim-jim from her kit when she heard the shot. Catherine stopped herself before she ran blindly to where she had last seen Sara, and ran over to the SUV instead. Her blood was pounding in her ears, so much she could barely hear herself speak, as she called dispatch. "Shots fired. Request backup." She sucked a breath past a sudden lump in her throat. "Send an ambulance."
Procedure satisfied, she pulled her gun and followed the path through the piles where she had seen Sara disappear. As she glanced around the corner of the mobile home, she saw a man with a shotgun illuminated by Sara's maglight lying on the ground. For a moment, her heart stopped, but then she heard voices, too quiet to make out the words, but the husky tenor of Sara's voice was identifiable. Without hesitation, she stepped around the corner, turning on her light at the same time, and yelled, "Police. Drop your weapon." Blinded, the guy swung the gun toward her, but a voice froze him in his tracks. "She said drop the gun, asshole." In the silence, the sound of the safety clicking off preceded the shotgun rattling to the ground by just a second. Catherine ordered him to the ground and kicked the gun away as the sound of sirens converging on their location cut through the night.
"Sara?" Catherine called, keeping her gun trained on the suspect. Why didn't we carry handcuffs, she fumed, as she covered him, trying to look over where Sara had been standing. She pitched her voice louder. "Sara?"
Four officers came barreling around the corner as she began to panic. As soon as they had the suspect covered, Catherine grabbed a light and trained it on where Sara was slumped on the ground, a long streak of blood trailing down the side of the trailer. Before she could get over her shock, a paramedic pushed her back, already calling for a stretcher as she knelt by Sara's limp body. Catherine watched the scene numbly as they worked. She heard Sara groan as they put her on the stretcher and Catherine let out the breath she didn't know she had been holding. An IV was already running, and a huge blood-soaked bandage covered Sara's shoulder and upper arm.
"Is she going to be alright?" Catherine asked as she followed the EMTs.
The woman who had been first on the scene fell in beside Catherine. "Yeah, she'll be fine. She got clipped in the shoulder with a shotgun blast and she lost a lot of blood, but she's stabilized." Sara seemed to be struggling in the stretcher. "See? She's coming around already."
"Cath?" Sara's voice was weak, but got stronger the second time she called Catherine's name. Catherine moved to follow them into the ambulance, but the medic stopped her.
"We're about to push a pain med. She'll be under in just a minute."
Catherine nodded, and watched as they closed up the doors and drove off. She stood there until she couldn't hear the sirens anymore, only coming out of the daze when one of the police officers came up to her. "We've secured the scene."
Catherine rounded on him. "Where's the officer who was supposed to have secured this scene earlier?" she yelled, glaring at him. "I want him here. Right now." The officer stammered something, but she didn't listen. "Right now," she snapped, cutting him off. She walked back to the scene, pulling out her cell phone as she walked. She got back to the scene and picked up her light, looking around the area where Sara had been shot and then back to where the suspect had been standing, ignoring the police officers standing around scene, overkill now that the perp had been arrested.
"Gil? Who do we have?"
"Catherine? What's going on?"
"I have..." her breath caught for a moment, "a secondary crime scene." She played her light over debris, and then bent down for a closer look. "Actually, make that three crime scenes."
"More cars? Can't you and Sara work those?" Her silence must have alerted him, because his voice was anxious when he spoke again. "Catherine? What's wrong?"
"Sara's on her way to the hospital. And I have a DB here."
Mercifully, Gil didn't ask any more questions. "Warrick and Nick are on their way."
Catherine closed the phone without another word and walked over to the officers, who seemed to gathering just beyond her reach. Brass joined the group just as Catherine reached them. "Who secured this scene earlier? Before my partner got shot?" Her voice was quiet, but lethal. A young patrolman stepped forward, meeting her gaze for a minute before dropping his eyes. She glared at him. "How did you secure the scene? How?" she demanded when he didn't answer. "And how did you miss a guy burying a body 100 feet away from where you were supposedly securing the scene? Did you even get out of the car? Or did you just survey the area with the spotlight?"
He shifted restlessly and she could tell her summarized his actions, or lack thereof, correctly. "Brass. I want this written up." He nodded. "Now I have a scene to work."
She stalked back to the scene, shaking with anger as she surveyed the blood stain again. She snapped her phone open again, knowing Gil was probably wanting more details after her minimal report earlier. "It's me. Sorry. Sara started following some footprints leading away from the stolen car and must have come across the perp hiding a body. She was clipped by a shotgun blast. She's going to be ok. Yeah, the officer got called away after inadequately securing the scene." Her voice had been factual and emotionless, but it broke as she realized what a close call it had really been. "She, it was short range, and the perp, I don't know how he... missed. Six inches to the right and..."
A hand took the phone from her and Warrick caught her just as she started to sob. "Gris? Yeah, we're here. Yeah, she's ok. Yeah, we'll keep you posted." He hung up the phone and held her for a few minutes while she got herself under control.
Her sobs lessened, and finally she broke free of the strong arms that held her. "Thanks. I'm ok." She met his questioning look. "Really. It was just all so sudden." She straightened and glanced around the scene. "Ok, the cops and paramedics made a real mess of our scene. There's the car, the DB, and the, uh, shooting. Nick, you have the body. Warrick, the car." Warrick started to protest, but she overrode him. "I saw the scene before they moved Sa... the victim. Now let's get this done." Nick and Warrick nodded and they got to work.
The doctor left after assuring her that Sara would be fine and be waking up soon. Catherine sat and flipped through a magazine, looking at the pictures without registering them. Throwing that down in disgust, she stretched her neck, trying in vain to release the tension, and thought maybe she should go get some awful coffee from the machine she had seen as she came in when Sara stirred on the bed. Her eyes blinked open and closed a couple of times, before finally settling on open. "Catherine?" Her eyes seemed a little unfocused and she squinted. "You ok?"
"Sara, hey, how do you feel?" Catherine stepped up to the bed, her tone soft. Sara was staring at her intently.
"Like a pincushion. Or something like that." A frown creased her forehead. "I guess pins and little balls of lead aren't quite the same." She smiled weakly. "Not so good with the metaphors right now."
Catherine smiled in return. "You're forgiven. But just this once," she warned with a smile in her voice, and Sara's smile widened.
"I was worried about you. The guy, the perp, he was going to fire. Shotgun. Wide distribution of shot at that range. I thought he..."
"You stopped him."
"I did? Don't remember." Her eyes narrowed as she tried to remember.
"You did." Catherine caught her hand and squeezed it tight before turning to the business at hand. "Sara, I need to get your statement. What do you remember?"
Sara told her what the crime scene had already told them, more or less. "So..." she grimaced down at her shoulder. "What's the deal here?"
"You are going to be fine. Some occupational therapy for a few weeks, but it should heal up good as new." Catherine glared at her, half in jest. "You scared me at that crime scene. If you ever wander off like that again, I'll shoot you myself." Sara laughed a little at that, and the sound made Catherine realize how long she had heard Sara's laugh. "Although I will only shoot you in the leg to slow you down."
Sara held up her right hand in surrender. "Lesson learned. Promise."
Catherine looked her over and seemed satisfied with her answer. "Good. They are going to keep you for most of the day today, but I think they are going to release you this afternoon. I'll be back to pick you up."
"Cath, you don't..." Catherine glared at her with more seriousness this time and Sara held up her hand in surrender again. "Ok, ok," she said with mock fear in her voice. She yawned and closed her eyes, blinked them open for another moment, before drifting off to sleep again.
When Catherine returned to the hospital, a nurse with a look of weary resignation was pushing Sara into the reception area. "Do you see the bandages and the sling?" Sara demanded, gesturing with her right hand at her injury. "I was shot in the ARM, not the legs. I told you I don't need a wheelchair."
Catherine joined them, feeling sympathy for the poor nurse who was stuck with Sara as a patient. "Quite the handful, isn't she?" she quipped.
"You have no idea," the nurse deadpanned as she shot one last disgruntled look at the brunette before walking off.
Catherine tried to hide her grin as Sara glared at the nurse's back. "Working the charm, Sidle?" Sara's eyes flicked up to Catherine, not in the least amused.
"I hate hospitals." She saw Catherine still fighting a grin, and said wearily, "Just get me out of here. Please?"
Catherine reached down and tousled her hair playfully. "It's what I'm here for," she said. The gesture caught Sara off-guard and Sara glanced up at her with a look Catherine was beginning to recognize; startled, wary, and confused, as if they were in a play and Catherine was improvising the dialogue and Sara didn't know how to play along.
Sara slumped down beside Lindsey on the sofa with a sigh on contentment, feeling relaxed, full, and dead tired. Catherine's suggestion of pizza for dinner had been the perfect comfort food after the sludge they had served at the hospital. She tried to concentrate on some cartoon Lindsey was watching, but her eyes kept closing of their own accord. Catherine woke her some time later, gently nudging her uninjured shoulder and whispering her name.
"Mmmph. Sorry," she slurred sleepily. "I fell asleep on you."
Catherine's smile was soft as she gazed down at Sara. "You are just out of the hospital. And I bet those pain meds make you sleepy." She was stroking Sara's hair back from her forehead and twirling her fingers in the little curls that Sara tried but couldn't control. Sara closed her eyes again, enjoying the feeling of Catherine touching her until her eyes snapped open and she sat up suddenly, too quick for her shoulder as she felt something pull. She groaned and sat back, biting her lip.
"Sara? Sara? Are you ok?" Catherine's panic cut through the pain. Catherine was leaning over her, pressing a hand against her collarbone to hold her back against the cushions, afraid Sara was going to jump up again.
"Yeah, yeah, sorry," she mumbled. "I was starting to nod off again and then I just..." She shook her head, feeling the grogginess coming back.
The pressure of Catherine's hand lifted. "Come on. We need to get you to bed."
As Sara struggled up from the couch, Catherine slipped an arm around her waist to steady the taller woman, and Sara held herself as upright as possible to minimize contact with the smaller woman. She started toward her bedroom, only to stop abruptly when she realized Catherine was walking with her. "Umm, what are you doing?"
Catherine's voice was amused. "I'm coming to help you."
"Sara, do you really think you can change without help?" Sara knew a denial would be unconvincing, but she really didn't think she could handle Catherine's help either. The drugs seemed to be making her loopy since every time Catherine touched her, her body was reacting in a very unexpected way. She sighed, audibly. "It's not like I haven't seen you change before," Catherine argued.
"Yeah, but you haven't helped me change before."
"Yes, helping is usually a violation of the un-written locker room rules," Catherine laughed. "However, this is a special occasion." She ushered Sara into her own bedroom. "I bet you are a t-shirt and shorts gal, aren't you?"
Sara blushed. "Umm, ahh..." she stammered as she walked over to her closet. "I actually do have a pair of pajamas," she said as she pulled out the white linen drawstring pants and matching shirt. "Christmas present from my mom," she explained as she threw them on the bed.
"Good. Because you'll probably want something that buttons so you don't have to lift your arm to get a shirt over your head." Catherine noted the very new-looking pajamas. "Have you ever worn these before?"
Sara shook her head. "Nah, too encumbering." Sara caught Catherine's eyes widening as she said the last, and blushed again.
"So was I right? T-shirt and shorts?" Catherine tried to catch Sara's eye, but Sara's hair obscured her face, deliberately so, Catherine was sure. Catherine's smile widened. "Less?" she guessed, sensing Sara's discomfort.
"Um, were you going to help me change or not?"
"Well, if you are going to sleep naked, you may not need my help after all."
Sara's mouth quirked into a rueful smile as she studied the carpet intensely. "I usually just sleep in boxers, ok? Happy now that I'm completely embarrassed?"
Catherine stepped close, breaking Sara's line of sight to the carpet and forcing her to meet her gaze. "You're really cute when you are embarrassed." Sara shifted uncomfortably, her eyes fixed on a spot on the wall. "But you need to lighten up." Catherine chuckled, and gave Sara a poke in the ribs until she laughed, self-consciously. Walking around behind Sara, Catherine loosened the sling, being careful not to jar her shoulder. Sara struggled with the buttons on her shirt, cursing a little as she felt slow and clumsy one-handed.
Catherine shoed her hands away and finished the job, deftly undoing the buttons of the light fabric. She reached up to slide the shirt off Sara's right arm when she stopped, seeing Sara's eyes squeezed shut and her teeth gnawing on her lower lip. "Sara, are you ok? Does this hurt?"
"No, yeah, I'm ok. This is just embarrassing is all. I can't even dress myself." Catherine knew that someone as self-sufficient and independent as Sara had a hard time asking for help, but this seemed a bit much. She shook her head, but didn't say anything as she slid the shirt off, first on shoulder and then much more carefully from the other shoulder. Raising the pajama shirt, she worked in reverse order, carefully starting with the injured arm. As she wrapped the fabric around, Catherine noted how thin yet muscular Sara was, and she couldn't resist running her fingers lightly over the soft skin of her back. Glancing at the taller woman's face, she guessed that the movements hurt, seeing the thin sheen of sweat that covered Sara's forehead.
Sara, for her part, welcomed the pain as a much-needed distraction from the feather-like touches of Catherine's fingers on her skin. She found herself hoping that the response of her body to these touches was only some kind of weird side effect of the medication. She had been concentrating so hard on controlling her body's response that Catherine's voice startled her out of her reverie.
"Sara? Do you want me to put the sling on while you sleep?" Sara's eyes opened and she was relieved to see her top on and buttoned, until she realized that Catherine still had to help her with her pants.
"Um, yeah," she said, startling herself with a huge yawn that brought tears to her eyes. Catherine secured the sling loosely, before reaching down to undo Sara's pants, seeing an embarrassed flush cover the younger woman's face again at the need for help. Sara kicked the pants off, hurriedly, and then, blushing, said, "Um, Cath, I think I can take it from here." Her eyes were pleading with Catherine not to argue. "I'll, um, yell if I need you, ok?"
Catherine relented now that the hard part was over. "Ok, but don't overdo it. I'll be outside the door." Sara sighed with relief as she was left alone to struggle with her underwear and pajama bottoms, thanking the manufacturers for putting elastic in the waist as well as draw-string, since she didn't want to struggle with tying her pants.
"Cath?" She called when she was fully dressed. Catherine wasn't lying about being outside the door; she in the room in a second. "See? All dressed," Sara told her, her words and tone putting a decidedly child-like cast on the words, and she grinned as Catherine caught the joke.
"Off to bed with you, then." Catherine pulled back the covers, smirking at Sara's surprised glance. "I'll tuck you in," she kidded. "Do you want me to read you a story?" She eyed the stack of books on the nightstand. "Light bed-time reading like, Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death--An Exploration of the Haunting Science of Forensic Ecology?" Sara shook her head at that, her eyes already drooping. "Ok, then, sleep tight." Catherine leaned over and gave her a playful kiss on the forehead before snapping off the light.
Sara's cell phone rang as Catherine was picking up the kitchen, enjoying the simple task as Lindsey carried dishes for her. She only had an hour or so before she had to drop Lindsey off and head to work, so she decided to join Lindsey on the couch for some bonding instead of spending half an hour of their precious time in the car just to get back into the car again. Lindsey updated her on the schoolyard gossip, who was crushed on who and who was mean. Their quiet time was so special to Catherine, when she just got to listen and cuddle with her daughter, that she did this as often as they could.
Lindsey stopped mid-sentence. "Mommy, is that your phone?"
"Oh, no, Sara's," Catherine said, already reaching for it. She made a split-second decision to answer it so she could decide whether she should wake Sara or just take a message.
"You're not Sara," said the female voice on the other end.
"No, I'm Catherine. Sara's, uh, sleeping." She paused, waiting for the woman on the other line to say something, but nothing was forthcoming. "Can I help you?" she prompted.
"You're in her house? Answering her phone? Who are you?" The question was direct, tactless, and almost rude. This, Catherine guessed, must be a friend of Sara's. Or her personality twin. Catherine responded in kind. "Like I said, I'm Catherine. Who are you?"
A soft chuckle reached her ears. "Sorry, that didn't come out right. I'm Sta, uh, Stacey, a friend of Sara's. It's just " she hesitated, "Sara doesn't really let people into her space. So I was surprised."
"Well, I didn't actually take no for an answer."
Genuine mirth sounded over the phone. "Oh, I like you. That's actually the way you have to do it. So are you the Catherine from work?" Catherine frowned, unsure if she should be offended by the incredulous note in the woman's voice or not.
"Yes, that's me."
"I just didn't know you two were close."
"We're not, really."
"But you're in her house?" Catherine wasn't sure what to say to that, so she didn't even try. "Could I speak to Sara, actually? It's important."
Catherine sighed. "I'll see if I can wake her." She knocked on the door first, opening it and turning on the light. "Sara? Sara? You have a call." Sara mumbled but didn't open her eyes, and taking in the dark circles under her eyes, Catherine didn't have the heart to try again.
"Um, Sta, she's out of it and I really don't want to wake her," she said as she backed out of the bedroom. "Can I take a message?"
"It's important," the other woman repeated.
"Yes, I know. It's just " Catherine sighed. Sara is so gonna kill me, she thought. "Sara just got out of the hospital. She was injured at work last night and I think the painkillers have her out for the count. I'm really sorry."
"Oh, yeah, right, of course." There was another period of silence on the other end. "Could you tell her something for me?" Catherine wasn't sure her muttered 'of course' was even heard as Sta rushed on. "A friend of Sara's is in the hospital "
"Yes, I know."
"You do?" Again, that note of disbelief and Catherine wasn't sure if it was a reflection on her or Sara at this point. "Ok, well, she woke today and she asked for Sara. Could you tell her to call me?"
Sara fumbled for the bottle of pills she found at her bedside, beside the bottle of water, both courtesy of Catherine, she was sure. Her back and shoulder throbbed painfully, and she cursed at the stab of pain as she shifted up in bed. Managing to get two pills out one-handed, she dry-swallowed them before she even tried to get the water bottle open. Every movement caused sharp pains to cascade through her shoulder, so that by the time she set the water bottle down, she was sweating with exertion. She hated being hurt and helpless, and her injured shoulder was going to be aggravating until it healed. Her mind traveled along those lines until she recalled Catherine helping her last night, her fingertips sliding along the bare skin of her back, and she groaned as she remembered the way her pulse had picked up and the flush that had crept up her cheeks. I just told Catherine about my experience with woman, so Catherine must think I'm a pervert after that display, she thought bitterly. Damn.
She picked up her book, determined to focus her thoughts on another topic, but her eyes drooped after five minutes and she slid back into a thick, dreamless sleep. Groggy from the drugs, she woke several hours later and staggered out of her bedroom toward the bath, stopping dead in her tracks when she saw Catherine in her kitchen, cooking and humming along with the radio. Closing her eyes and rubbing them, hard, she told herself that the drugs were once again messing with her and she was either still asleep or hallucinating a perky-looking Catherine flitting around her kitchen. When she opened her eyes, she let out a strangled groan as the apparition was still there. Making what smelled to be vegetable soup, no less.
Catherine turned when she heard Sara's groan, and grinned at the sleepy woman in front of her, rubbing her eyes tiredly and squinting in the light from the kitchen. Once again she found herself thinking about how cute her younger colleague was, until she realized where her thoughts were leading her and she clamped down, hard, on any ruminations about the desirability of one Sara Sidle. Covering, she moved to help Sara to a chair, speaking non-stop. "I was just about to wake you. Are you feeling ok? Are you in any pain? Do you need your pills?"
Sara stopped dead, pulling her good arm from Catherine's hand, causing a ripple of pain across her back. Her soft tone tempered her abrupt actions as she shook her head slightly. "Cath, what are you doing here? You didn't stay, did you?" She blinked in the bright light in the kitchen and looked around.
Catherine's expression eased. "No, I didn't stay. I came by to check on you and make you something to eat." She waved a hand at the counter, stacked with a variety of packages liberally labeled with words like organic and vegetarian. "I picked you up some groceries too, easy to make stuff so you can fend for yourself." Feeling pleased in spite of what seemed to be a huge invasion of her privacy, Sara wandered over to the stove to peak into the pot. "This smells great. Vegetable soup?"
"Yeah. And it's ready. Sit down."
Sara waved a hand toward the interior of the apartment. "Um, I'll be right back." Catherine ladled out two bowls and set them down on the table with a platter of multi-grain bread before pouring glasses of juice and water. Joining her at the table, Sara marveled at the display, the steaming bowls of soup, bread, and even a vase of flowers, and looked at Catherine, embarrassed. "You really didn't '
Catherine waved a hand, cutting her off. "Nonsense. Now sit down and eat. If you've been sleeping since I left, you haven't eaten in almost thirteen hours."
"Really? Wow. I haven't slept that much in Wow, I can't even remember." Blowing on a spoonful of soup, she leaned in the bowl, careful not to jar her arm. Her sudden, huge smile caught Catherine by surprise, and Catherine had to clamp down, again, on a surge of unbidden thoughts about her young co-worker. "This is great."
"You, uh, need to let me pay for the groceries. And the pizza last night,' Sara suggested as she tried the bread.
"That's ok," Catherine began, but she saw the stubborn glint in Sara's eye and she knew she had already lost the argument. "No, it's not. I'm paying." Catherine put her hands up in surrender, and they ate the remainder of their meal in silence.
"Do you want coffee?" Catherine asked as she collected the plates and headed to the kitchen.
"Cath, you don't need to, I mean, you should go you need sleep." Sara was feeling uncomfortable again, and Catherine waiting on her hand and foot wasn't helping any.
"Oh, I'm off tonight, so I figured I'd hang with you some today before I go pick up Lindsey from school." Catherine froze suddenly, and glanced at Sara with apprehension. "Unless you don't want me here."
"Oh, no, no, it's not that. I just don't want you to feel obligated to take care of me or anything." Although if I spend any more time with you with these drugs in my system, I'll probably make an even bigger fool of myself, Sara added silently. She settled herself on the couch gingerly, listening to the domestic sounds of Catherine washing the dishes and making coffee. She wondered if the incident triggered Catherine's maternal instinct and if Catherine would go back to being critical and distant as soon as she was ok. Her pensive sigh reached Catherine as she carried two coffee mugs into the living room.
"Oh, nothing, I was just thinking."
"Oh, uh, just " Damn, she was too direct for her own good. She never learned to equivocate in situations that required it. Too late to begin now. "I was just trying to figure out what's behind this sudden friendliness," she said with a sigh, bracing for the inevitable outburst.
I did ask, Catherine thought, as she clamped down on initial response, which would have involved yelling at the very least and a slamming door as she left at the worst. Controlling her emotions, one way or the other, seemed to be a necessity around the younger woman today, but Catherine worked hard to put herself in Sara's position. She hadn't always been friendly, or even kind, to the younger CSI, and Sara was right to be suspicious of her motives, Catherine realized. It must seem an abrupt change.
"Sara, I know we haven't been friends," Catherine said, choosing her words carefully, "but I'd really like to change that." She had another moment of uncertainty as she had been the one pushing the friendship and Sara had given no real indication that she wanted any such thing. "If you'd like that,' she added hurriedly.
Sara stopped herself from saying, 'I've always wanted that' in the nick of time, closing her mouth on the harsh words. "I'd like that."
"Good. Then I better tell you something now, in case you want to take that back." When Sara cast her a puzzled look, Catherine knew her expression looked guilty, probably because she was, in fact, guilty. "You got a call last night and I answered the phone. In case it was an emergency or your family or something," she explained hurriedly. "It was Sta, a friend of yours from San Francisco. Apparently, um, Terry is awake and is asking for you. Sta wants you to call her." As Catherine relayed the message, Sara grew alarmingly pale and she seemed to flinch, as if the words struck her physically. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have."
"It's it's ok," Sara got out, although it felt like the wind had been knocked out of her and she was having trouble breathing.
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah. Hey, um, you wanna watch a movie or something?" she offered. Catherine let her change the topic of conversation and they settled on a movie out of the stack by Sara's TV. Sara fell asleep half-way through, sliding down the back of the couch until her head was propped up on Catherine's shoulder at what looked like an uncomfortable angle. Catherine carefully shifted Sara so that she slid down further, until her head was resting on a pillow in Catherine's lap, curled up on her good side. Catherine played with her hair absentmindedly, stroking her unruly curls and watching them spring back up again, never fully tamed. Switching to re-runs of Law and Order, Catherine mused about the puzzle that she was slowly starting to piece together that was Sara Sidle. One set of contradictions after another suggested themselves to explain and define her: tough yet gentle, angry yet quiet, unassuming yet stunning.
It was to this thoughtful expression that Sara awoke some time later as she felt someone toying with her hair, and turned just as Catherine smiled down at her. "Good morning, sleepyhead," she teased. "How do you feel?" Sara shifted, trying to get out of the compromising position she found herself in, and grunted in pain as she jarred her shoulder. Catherine helped her up, stifling her sigh of disappointment as Sara slid to the other end of the couch. "Time for your medication?"
Sara glanced at the clock on the VCR. "Yeah. Uh, what time do you have to pick up Lindsey?"
"Soon," Catherine called from the bedroom as she found the pain medication. "I was just about to wake you." She shook out two pills and handed them to Sara, holding the bottle of water for her until she needed it. "These things really knock you out, huh?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I think I'm going to go in on the bed and read."
"Yeah, and I have to go. Need anything before I leave?"
"No, but thanks. For everything. Cath you've been great."
"I'll call you tomorrow to check in and call me if you need anything, ok?" At Sara's nod, Catherine left, leaving Sara alone with her thoughts.
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