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
"What??" Sara's exasperated tone explosively cut through the break room's silence, but she couldn't take Hodges' sideways glances at her one more minute before she clobbered him one. Nick's head shot up as she spoke, and his eyes widened in horror as he saw who Sara had fixed with an immobilizing glare. Hodges' made a bland face and shrugged, but the corners of his mouth twitched up, and Nick read the expression correctly.
"Oh, Sanders said you looked like you were in a state of post-coital bliss or something like that," he told her off-handedly, taking the moment she was rendered speechless to scrutinize her face carefully before shaking his head dismissively. "But I don't see it."
Nick would have laughed to see Sara's head lowering like a bull about to strike, but he knew any sound would bring her wrath down on his head, and he really didn't want that. While Sara recovered her voice to shriek "He said WHAT?" Nick slipped out the door.
"You better run," he advised the young man from the doorway, grinning as Greg looked up from a surfing magazine in confusion. "Sara just caught Hodges looking for evidence of 'post-orgasmic bliss' and he ratted you out." Greg's eyebrows hit his hairline as his mouth dropped to the floor. "I imagine she's on her way here." Greg's panicked scramble got him out of the door before Nick even had a chance to move, and he sprinted down the hall to parts unknown, leaving Nick to amble along after him, in the direction the garage where Warrick was working on a car.
A couple of hours later, he was cursing his impulse to help Greg out as he looked around the DNA lab fruitlessly for his results. Warrick stuck his head in and shook h is head. "Still no Greg? Man, where is that guy hiding?" he asked as they made their way down to the break room.
"Yeah, this is getting ridiculous," Nick agreed. They saw Greg standing over the coffee pot, looking anxiously around him as he waited for his coffee to brew. Warrick caught Nick's eye and indicated the lab that Sara had been working in a few minutes prior as he continued into the room.
"Hey man, been looking for my results."
Greg spared him a glance as he kept up scanning the hallways, "I can't go back to the lab. Sara will find me." He turned back to the coffee maker, muttering under his breath for it to hurry. Warrick caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and stepped over to block Greg's view of Sara heading toward the break room.
When she reached the door and effectively had him trapped, Warrick discretely eased himself out of the door just as Sara said "Hey Greg" with a definite edge in her voice. He caught one last look at Greg's terrified face before moving out of sight of the room, bumping into Nick as he did so. They shared a conspiratorial smile as they listened in on the scene in the break room, where Sara was systematically taking Greg to task for starting rumors, invading her privacy, and speculating on her social life, among other things.
This is how Catherine found them a couple minutes later. "Have you guys seen Greg?" she asked curiously, "I need to get some blood evidence to him and he's AWOL from the lab." She caught Sara's voice rising in the break room, and she cocked an eyebrow at them both for an explanation.
"Um, give him a few minutes. He'll be back in the lab shortly," Nick laughed. Warrick filled in the rest. "He, um, said something about Sara's mood within earshot of Hodges, who passed it along to Sara. He's been hiding from her since."
"So you arranged for an intervention?" Warrick's smirk said it all. "What did he say about her mood?"
"Oh, that she looks like she's in a state of post-orgasmic bliss or something like that."
Catherine didn't hear the rest of Nick's explanation as she fought to keep from laughing, blushing, and declaring that she was the reason Sara was in such a good mood, all at the same time. Instead, she stifled a chortle with her hand, wishing she could see Sara's face right now. And Greg's. Sara would be livid and Catherine could imagine Greg cowering in a corner while Sara lambasted him from top to bottom. After a particularly quiet but lethal comment from Sara, she grinned over at the guys. "Do we think Greg will get out of this alive?"
Warrick answered her grin with a wink. "He better hope he was right about her mood. That's about the only thing that might save him."
Silence descending on the break room gave them a second to scatter before Greg rushed by, making a beeline for the lab where Grissom was standing, an annoyed look on his face. Catherine saw Sara slip out of the break room herself, heading in the direction of the locker rooms and she followed, catching up with her splashing water on her face. Catherine picked up the towel and leaned against the adjacent sink, handing it to her when Sara extended her hand.
"So " Catherine began carefully, not sure about Sara's mood, "I hear Greg's been hiding from you." Sara groaned into the towel, still bent over the sink as she scrubbed her face.
"Tell me " Sara said finally, "why my social life is the subject of such speculation?" She peaked out of the towel to give Catherine a sideways glance, "And why, given your glow, why aren't the same rumors circulating about you?"
Catherine smirked, teasingly. "I have a glow? Really?"
Sara's eyes narrowed a second before she threw the towel at Catherine, who caught it and whipped it back at her head, giggling as they tussled over the towel. When Sara finally collapsed back against the sink, her ironic half-grin and cocked eyebrow speaking volumes: amusement, satisfaction, and just a hint of embarrassment.
"Well, for one, people are used to me having a glow," Catherine explained, to Sara's strangled outraged laugh. "And," she hurried on, "I'm not as secretive about my personal life, so people aren't gossiping about me and trying to figure out what I'm doing all the time."
The ironic half-smile returned. "So you are saying I should tell everyone?" Her eyes danced above her smile, challengingly.
"What would you tell them?" Catherine asked, propping her hip against the sink so she was facing the taller woman, who matched her movements so they were smirking at each other across the slowly closing distance.
Sara reached out to toy with a button on the collar of Catherine's shirt, watching her catch her breath at the unexpected move, and slide a little closer, tilting her chin up. "I'd think of something," Sara muttered as their lips met. They sprang apart when a loud voice in the hallway startled them, and Sara dropped her head, lips stretched tight by a grin she was trying to hold in. "We probably shouldn't "
Catherine licked her lips, tasting Sara's peach lip gloss, slowly letting the realization of where they were penetrate her suddenly lightheaded brain. "Yeah " She headed to the door, pausing as she grinned back at Sara. "Oh, by the way, the fact that you didn't kill Greg today is being taken as evidence that he's right about what's causing your good mood." She ducked out and closed the door just as the towel hit it.
Catherine sighed as she slid down on the bench in front of her locker. Exhaustion settled into her muscles, and she rotated her head, trying to relieve the tension. Warm hands settled on her shoulders and started to knead the muscles there. She leaned back, exhaling a long 'mmmmmm' as a particularly tight knot was soothed. The shift had gone from a fairly dull night to a sudden rush of cases, and everyone had doubled up. Catherine's second case had gone fairly easily, and she was one of the lucky ones, getting to go home almost on time.
"Better?" Warrick asked, his hands still working on her back.
"Yeah," she replied, dreamily. "Thanks, Rick. Are you out of here?"
He chuckled, and patted her arm. "Nope. I'm just in to change my shirt and get to work processing the trace from my second scene."
"You seen Sara?"
"She's out at that multiple at Red Rock with Grissom and Nick. It's going to be hours before they even get back to the lab, I think."
Catherine sighed. She had wanted to say goodbye before she left. "Ok, thanks, Rick." He shut his locker door with a clang and headed toward the exit. "I'll see you tonight."
The thin sheet of paper fluttered down as Sara swung open her locker, the pale lavender paper surprising in a workplace of computer printouts. She unfolded it, catching a whiff of the perfume Catherine usually sprayed on at the end of a shift.
Hey, sorry we won't get a chance to continue our locker room conversation. See you tonight. Breakfast after shift tomorrow?
Sara's weary smile turned up the wattage as she read Catherine's careless scrawl, and she inhaled the scent from the paper one last time before sticking the note in her bag and heading out of locker room, determined to get a few hours of sleep and a shower before shift that night.
Let's take a picture now
I do not want to forget
The way you look at me
When everything is perfect
A perfect memory
Of when things are so good
And everything has worked out
Just the way we knew it would
Catherine stretched, sighing in frustration as the evidence yielded no further clues to the identity of the serial purse snatcher who was getting increasingly violent with the women he stole from. He had struck in five separate hotel or shopping mall parking garages, seemingly choosing his victims at random over the course of two weeks. The escalation was troubling; the last victim had ended up in the hospital with a broken jaw and concussion. The only consistent thing about the attacks was the uncanny ability of the perp to avoid video surveillance and the lack of evidence he left at the scene.
She rolled her head on her shoulders and propped her chin on her hand, staring at the wide-angle pictures of the crime scenes, trying to imagine where and how the perp had managed to surprise the women, two of whom had been on guard since the story had been on the news. Unbidden, thoughts of Sara overtook her concentration; instead of the crime scene photos, images of Sara wandering into the break room for coffee at the start of shift, the black button down short-sleeve shirt and black pants already showing creases, indicating that she had been in the lab for a couple of hours already. Catching Catherine staring as she turned from the coffee machine, the slight blush on her cheeks, and her knowing smirk, made Catherine wish for a camera, to catch the perfect picture of Sara Sidle: tired from a lack of sleep, overworking herself again, slightly wrinkled and bare of makeup, but beautiful, wearing her clothes like a model, carefully propped against counter, and relentless, every inch of her body poised and intense, her mind churning on a case behind the dark eyes that smoldered as they caught Catherine's over the lip of her coffee cup.
I can't believe what she does to me. She had started to stand, to do what, Catherine didn't know, when Nick and Greg came into the break room. To cover, she went to pour herself a cup of coffee, brushing shoulders with Sara as she poured, and then reaching behind her back, lightly running her fingers along her waist as she found the sugar. The deliberately casual stance shifted a little, so that Sara's hip bumped Catherine's, almost causing her to drop the sugar in response. Shift hadn't even started yet, and already Catherine couldn't wait for the end.
"The case must be looking up." Warrick was propped in the door of the layout room, his arms folded across his chest.
"Huh?" Catherine looked up, coming out of her reverie slowly. "Um, no, it isn't the case."
"Really?" He took a couple of steps into the room to look over the photographs spread out on the table. "You and Sara are quite a pair."
Warrick went on, in his amused voice. "Yeah, she's all blissed out on some new guy and now I catch you staring off into space with a huge smile on your face. Must be something in the water."
Catherine concealed her exhalation of relief. "I guess so. Who ever thought Sara would start dating?"
They made it through the door of Sara's apartment just barely. As soon as the rest of the world was locked away, Catherine pushed Sara up against the wall, kissing her soundly while starting on the buttons of her shirt. "I've been wanting to do this for hours," she confessed against the skin of Sara's throat as she parted the fabric to run her fingers along Sara's belly. Sara's fingers were already tangled in her hair, pulling her head back for another kiss.
"Who knew getting coffee at the beginning of shift could be so fun?" she quipped, inhaling the strawberry scent of Catherine's shampoo. "But I thought we were going to get breakfast?"
"Later," Catherine growled, stopping Sara's teasing with her tongue and hands. They made their way to the couch, shedding clothes as they did so. The shrill buzz of Sara's pager cut through the quiet of the room, and she silenced it and threw it on the chair in one smooth motion, without even pausing in her assault on Catherine's lips. Her cell phone rang a second later.
"Sidle," she said into the mouthpiece, breathlessly, as Catherine nibbled on an earlobe. "Grissom Grissom!" She broke into his recitation of an address where he wanted her to meet him. "Call Nick. I'm busy."
At his startled 'what,' she cut the call short and turned off the phone, tossing it over to join her pager as Catherine began to chortle. "What?"
"You are never going to live this down. Sara Sidle, SuperCSI, refusing extra work time."
"I'm busy," Sara repeated, lowering her mouth to catch Catherine's nipple between her teeth. Catherine wound her hands in Sara's hair, holding her mouth there, as she forgot about work entirely.
Later, Sara snuggled against Catherine's back. "I can't believe we didn't make it to the bed."
Catherine lifted her head and looked around the sun-filled apartment. "I'm surprised we made it to the couch, myself." Scooting back, she caught Sara's hand and pulled her arms tighter around her stomach. "Did you ever have that perfect moment? The one you want to stop time for, and just exist right then until the end of time?" Sara was silent, prompting Catherine to continue. "I remember feeling that way the first time I held Lindsey. She was so tiny, and sleeping, her fingers twitching as if she wasn't used to the feeling of air on her skin. I remember thinking that I never wanted anything to touch her, keep her just like that forever." Sara brushed Catherine's hair back, to press a kiss to her temple, unsure of where Catherine was going with this. "Think we could stay here forever?" Catherine asked finally, her tone serious.
"No," Sara answered, equally seriously, "but we have a few more minutes."
Catherine smiled softly at that, taking in everything, the fluttering of the curtains and the play of light on the carpet, Sara's warm breath and warmer body against her back as she slid into sleep.
"Tell me it isn't true." Nick's words caught Sara as she was putting her bag into her locker. She straightened, giving him a confused look.
"That Grissom called you while you were um, indisposed, and you told him to call me." Sara opened her mouth to protest, while he continued with a southern-preacher drawl," because I think Sara Sidle turning down work is one of the first signs of the apocalypse, right before the horsemen ride."
"I was busy," she said, blandly, her tone belying the cocked eyebrow and half-smirk that caused Nick's mouth to drop open and shake his head. "I knew it! The world is going to hell in a handbasket." He laughed, giving Sara one last mock-disproving shake of his head before heading out of the door.
Sara finished putting her jacket away, looking at the few pictures that she had taped up there, one of the ocean to remind her of her home by the bay, a dog she had had when she was young, and she imagined one of her and Catherine there, her arms snaked around Catherine's waist and her head on her shoulder, both of them smiling and happy, maybe laughing at something the photographer said, caught in one of those perfect moments that Catherine had been talking about earlier. Absentmindedly stroking the surface of another photograph, she imagined the two of them, prominently displayed for all to see. Finally, she swung the door shut and headed out in search of coffee.
I bought a picture frame
And I made room on the wall
I hold you close to my chest
Cuz I made room in my heart
You ask me what I'm doing
I say, displaying our love
Catherine paced the halls of the lab like a caged animal. She had been pacing in Trace, until Hodges had finally ordered her out of the room with a promise to page her the instant he got any results for her. Coffee had long since stopped working its usual magic, but the outrage and anger churning in the pit of her stomach continued to propel her through the halls. Sara had tried to talk her into going home, at the end of the double shift, but that had been right after post, and then there had still been some hope of quickly finding the monster who had brutally attacked and murdered the young girl with the bright, soft blonde curls, which were now covered by a sheet in the morgue. She was eleven, a child, blonde with pale skin, and the before and after pictures of the girl haunted Catherine. She knew she couldn't rest until whoever did this was locked away.
"Cath " Sara's voice called to her from the hallway outside of the DNA lab. Catherine turned, barely taking in the rumpled clothes and deep, dark circles under the taller woman's eyes. All she saw was the sheath of papers in her hands. "We got the trace back." Sara's lips pulled into a grimace, and she shook her head sadly. "Nothing probative."
"What?" Snatching the papers out of her hands, Catherine scanned the contents quickly. "How can there be nothing?" Her eyes seemed to focus on the figure in front of her, to finally see her for the first time. "And why did Hodges give these to you? He was supposed to page me for this." She shook the papers in Sara's face angrily.
"I'm the lead on this case, Catherine. He's supposed to page me." Her soft tones were meant to soothe Catherine's anger and take the sting out of the words. "Look " she began.
"Yeah, and we need to get that fixed." The rancor in Catherine's words shocked Sara speechless and she could feel her mouth working but no words came out. Waving her hands as if she were washing her hands of the whole conversation, Catherine started to turn, saying, "I'm going to go see Grissom."
"Catherine!" The quiet force of Sara's tone stopped her in her tracks. Stepping closer to give their confrontation some measure of privacy, Sara kept talking. "You've been working this case non-stop for 32 hours. And " she said, cutting off Catherine's attempt to interrupt, "Lindsey gets out of school soon. You need to go, pick her up from school, and forget about this case for a while."
"Don't tell me what to do," Catherine hissed in response.
"If you don't leave now, I'll remove you from the case." Sara's hard features softened a little as she tried to explain. "You're too close. You need to step back."
"There's a little girl on a slab who needs me to find out what happened to her. That's not too close. That's my job. And I'm senior to you which means that you don't get to tell me how to do my job." The last bit was said between clenched teeth.
"That little girl needs you?" Sara's finger gestured wildly in the direction of the morgue. "THAT little girl?" Against her will, Sara's voice rose. "Catherine, she's dead. She has no more needs. But there is a little girl who does need you and she's standing outside of her school waiting for her mother to pick her up."
SLAP. The sound of her palm striking Sara's cheek didn't even register with Catherine. "How DARE you tell me how to take care of my daughter."
Sara stood her ground, her dark eyes glaring into Catherine's light ones, ignoring the red mark that was spreading across her cheek. "Well, obviously someone has to." Her words seem to hang in the silence that had descended onto the hallway for a long moment before Sara turned and walked away, past Nick and Warrick who stood at the end of the hallway watching the two women in shock. Both of them cast an incredulous look at Catherine before following in the direction Sara had gone.
The anger drained from her frame in a second, and Catherine felt her legs start to give way underneath her. Her palm stung curiously and she rubbed it absentmindedly with her other hand. What did I just do? Unfortunately, she didn't have any time to think through the events that had just transpired as she heard the quiet footfalls of Grissom coming up behind her. His simple, "Catherine?" conveyed both his questions and concern, and she dropped her head into her hands in response.
"I she was right. I have to go. I Lindsey." She was already walking toward the exit as she babbled, her thoughts chaotic. Grissom's quiet voice cut through some of the chaos as he said, "Catherine, take the night off. Spend time with Lindsey and get some sleep." She had stopped her headlong flight to nod in his direction, acknowledging his instructions. "Report in the morning after you drop Lindsey off at school." On that note, she left, and Grissom sighed, tapping the folders against his hand as he went off in search of Sara.
Grissom found Sara in the break room, where Nick and Warrick were trying to question her about the confrontation with Catherine, but she didn't seem to be in the mood to answer any questions. "Look, things got a little heated. End of story." She tried to walk past them, but they didn't budge. "Excuse me," she said, glaring at them both.
"Sara," Grissom's quiet voice cut off what was brewing to be another confrontation. "I'd like to see you in my office." A sharp exhalation from Sara indicated how thrilled she was by the suggestion, but Nick and Warrick finally let her past to follow her supervisor down the hall. "Close the door," he said as he seated himself behind the desk. She did so, but propped against the door, deliberately not getting comfortable. "Catherine left to go pick up Lindsey. I told her to take the night off and report in the morning. I thought that would give the two of you a break from each other." Sara nodded, a bit surprised by his politically astute move. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"No, not really," she sighed, staring at the ground and worrying her bottom lip with her teeth before meeting his eyes. "I'd like to go back to working on my case."
"You've been working on that nonstop, same as Catherine. Do I need to give you the same advice you gave her?" he asked, pointedly, staring at her over the top of his glasses with a raised eyebrow.
"No. I'll back off if I need to." Her level gaze conveyed confidence in her assertion, and he decided not to fight her on it. He nodded, glancing for one last time at the angry red handprint on her cheek. She nodded in turn, and turned to head back to her lab space. "But, Sara? When this case is over and both of you have had some sleep, all three of us are going to discuss what happened here today." Her nod seemed resigned, but at least she accepted the suggestion.
A few hours later, only three hours before the end of her regular shift, Sara was ready to call it a night. She had been over the vic's clothes two more times, yielding no further evidence, and all the coffee she had drank was making her cross-eyed and light-headed. Packing the evidence box, her mind had already strayed to the idea of a hot bath and a glass of wine to relax her when her phone rang. She let the vision fade as Brass reported an abandoned vehicle found a few miles from the dump site. It was probably a dead end, but Sara could feel the adrenaline giving her a boost, better than any triple latte.
"I have blood on the back seat and in the trunk," Sara straightened from where she was bent over the seat of the car to look over at Brass. "It's possible that this is the vehicle used to transport our vic. However," she huffed in frustration, "the VIN on the vehicle has been obliterated by something on both the body and the windshield, looks like a metal sander and acid, and the license plate has been removed."
"So there's no way to quickly identify the owner?" Jim's own frustration leaked into his words. "Damn."
"And it looks like the car has been wiped down to remove fingerprints," she continued, holding up a rag in an evidence bag. "There are these footprints, all around the vehicle, and they go off in the direction of that gas station we passed on our way." Sara's eyebrows scrunched together thoughtfully. "What was that, about 4 or 5 miles up the road?"
"Yeah, about that. I'll get an officer to go canvas the station, see if anyone saw anything."
"Yeah," she replied, absentmindedly. "Oh, and get this car towed back to CSI. Catherine can process it."
He cast her a look as something in her voice told him she was up to something. "And what will you be doing?"
Slinging a camera over her shoulder, Sara motioned in the direction of the footprints. "I'm going to take a walk." Brass started to call to her, but stopped, knowing that trying to talk her out of it would just end up with one of her death glares. Instead, he turned to the uniformed officer standing nearby. "Do you have water in your car? Good. Follow her with your flashers to make sure she doesn't get hit and make her drink a bottle of water every half hour. Call me if she gives you any trouble, ok?" The officer nodded seriously, but Brass could see he was hiding a grin. He shook his head, helplessly, and pulled out his cell phone.
When she reported to Grissom in the morning, Catherine didn't know what to expect, but compared to the tongue-lashing or silent disappointed look she was expecting, his quiet explanation of the car waiting for her in the garage was anticlimactic to say the least.
In some ways, she had actually wanted to be yelled at, thinking that if someone verbalized the thoughts that were going through her head, the mantra of how many ways she had fucked up might quiet, just a little bit. When she had asked where Sara was, her question hesitant, he simply told her that he thought Sara was still out at the scene. Catherine headed to the garage, glad that she hadn't had to explain the scene with Sara to Grissom yet, and disappointed that the din in her head was in no way lessened. But she wondered what could possibly be taking Sara so long at the drop site.
Brass watched for the hundredth time as Sara bent over to place an evidence marker, snap a picture, and scan the ground ahead of her intently, and he stifled a sigh of boredom. He had taken over from the uniform about an hour into Sara's 'walk,' and he was beginning to regret his decision. Sara seemed supernaturally focused on following the footprints which had disappeared and reappeared along the side of the road for over three miles, and he wondered if she actually thought she was going to find something, if she was being this doggedly determined because so far the case seemed dead-ended, or if she was just delaying her return to the lab. Any of the motivations seemed possible. He, at least, was in the air-conditioned SUV; Sara was down to a tank top in the direct morning sun.
Noticing that Sara had wandered off the shoulder, stooping and taking pictures in a smooth, practiced motion, and was headed toward a rock formation a dozen meters away from the road, he put the car into park and followed, careful to avoid the footsteps that she was following.
"Find something?" he asked, trying to look over her shoulder as she snapped a pair of gloves on and scanned a crevice in the rock with her penlight.
"Maybe," she replied, frowning in concentration, and then reaching into the crevice with her right hand, coming out with a small crescent wrench. She quickly secured the wrench in a bag, and handed it to Jim, handing him a second, larger evidence bag as well. "Hold this for me, will ya?" she asked as she leaned closer to the rocks, straining to reach something that seemed just out of her reach. Turning her body to get her entire arm in the crevice, Brass thought he heard a grunt of triumph as she pulled her arm out of the rock. He held the bag and she dropped a license plate into it, finally meeting his eyes with a small smile of satisfaction. "Run that number for me, will you?"
He called it in while she straightened and dusted off her jeans. "How did you know the perp would leave the license plate out here somewhere?" he asked as he hung up.
"I didn't. But it seemed like a long way to walk with something in your hands."
Sara shrugged, and then started when Jim caught her arm and steered her toward her SUV. "You're bleeding," he said by way of explanation, pointing to her shoulder where she had scraped it against the rocks to retrieve the license plate. He cleaned the cut, ignoring her irritated glare as he took care of her. "So are we done out here?"
Glancing in the direction of the road and then back at him, she nodded. "Yeah, I think so. I should go back to the lab and fingerprint those."
"Good." He motioned her into the SUV, catching her puzzled expression as he circled around to set behind the wheel. "What? I had one of the uniforms drive my sedan back to the crime lab an hour ago." Blithely ignoring her exasperated look, he handed her a bottle of water. "Now drink this and take a nap while I drive us back."
Sara disappeared into the lab as soon as Jim handed her the keys, but he didn't immediately drive back to the police station, since he knew dispatch would call him if they got a hit on the license plate. He had been surprised when Sara hadn't argued with himmuchabout driving, and even more surprised when she had fallen asleep almost as soon as they were on the road. She had looked embarrassed when he had had to shake her away when they arrived at the lab, and her quick exit robbed him of a valuable opportunity to tease her about her snoring.
Instead, he ran into Catherine in the DNA lab, worrying her bottom lip as she watched the hallway in the direction Sara had gone. He caught her up on the case, both saddened and relieved when she told him the blood found in the car was indeed their vics, but that she couldn't get much more than a couple smudged partials from the car, and she wasn't sure that they would be enough to get a hit on AFIS.
"Well, let's hope Sara has better luck," he said, heading to the door. Pausing in the door, he threw a comment back to Catherine, saying almost conversationally, "You know, that handprint on her cheek finally faded."
Sara leaned her head against the glass in the observation room, exhaustion finally washing over her. Her shoulder stung from the scrape, and her face and neck felt sunburned, even though she had put sunblock on. Catherine and Brass were in the next room, slowly teasing a confession out of the boyfriend of the vic's mother, an interview she knew she should be doing, but her mind had ceased to be sharp hours before, not long after she had raised the prints from the license plate and wrench and confirmed a match to the name Brass supplied from the vehicle registration. So she just stood there, her forehead resting against the cool glass, watching the case close in front of her.
Grissom slipped into the room and gave her a wry smile. "You look beat." She simply grunted, too tired to form words, and he shook his head. "Go home. Take the night off." After one last look at Catherine, whose clipped voice showed how carefully controlled she was keeping herself, Sara physically pushed herself off of the glass and started to shuffle toward the door. "You did a great job on this case," he told her retreating back.
"Thanks," she said quietly, stepping out into the hallway and heading toward the doors. I'm not avoiding Catherine, she lied to herself as she cleared the building without running into her co-worker, I'm just exhausted and need a good night's sleep before I talk to her. But the honest part of her brain chided her, yeah right.
The door swung open to Catherine, standing in the doorway, hugging herself as if she were cold in the 100-degree heat. If she hadn't known better, Sara would have sworn that the lines that seemed etched around the corners of Catherine's hard-set mouth and the dark circles underscoring her pain-filled eyes had appeared since she had seen her last. "Cath, hey." Sara was unnerved by the fact that Catherine didn't reply, didn't even seem to see her. "Come in," she continued, moving out of the way so Catherine could make her way into the apartment. Gesturing at her wet hair and robe, she said, "I'm just going to go and dry my hair. If I don't blow it dry immediately, it goes crazy. There's coffee. I'll be out in a minute."
Sara hurried into the bathroom and turned on the hairdryer, trying desperately to quell the inner voice that was telling her she was still avoiding Catherine. The truth was, she had woken up late after collapsing as soon as she had gotten home yesterday, and hadn't even begun to think about what she would say to Catherine. And now, she was running late for work and Catherine was in her apartment, ready to talk. She turned off the dryer and leaned against the sink, staring at her reflection in the mirror for a moment, but looking into her own eyes yielded no answers, only more questions.
"I'm just going to change " she began as she came out of the bathroom, only to stop dead in her tracks when she realized Catherine hadn't gotten coffee or sat down to wait for her; in fact, she hadn't moved from where she came in the door at all. Approaching carefully, Sara called her name softly and touched her arm to get her attention. "Catherine?" she repeated, a little louder.
Pulling her arm out from under Sara's hand, Catherine's arms tightened across her chest, as if to protect her self. "I don't I don't know what to say." She still wasn't looking at Sara and her voice was as close to an emotionless parody of her normal warm tones as it could get, but she kept talking, as if the words were gathering momentum as they spilled from her mouth. "I can't say I'm sorry, there is no sorry, no words, to even begin to make up for an assault." The acid in her tone on that last word scared Sara more then the rest; Sara was no stranger to self-loathing and recognized it when she heard it. "I hit you and there's no going back from that."
Unable to listen to that dead voice, Sara cut off the flow of words with a simple, "No." When Catherine finally turned her head to look at her, her eyes focused for what seemed to the be first time since she had entered the apartment, she continued. "There is no going back from that."
Nodding wordlessly, Catherine shuffled around, heading for the door, but Sara caught her arm, forcing her to turn around and meet her eyes. "You're right, Catherine, you don't go back and pretend something didn't happen. You deal with what's happened and move forward for that." Catherine blinked once, twice, trying to comprehend Sara's words, blinking back the tears that threatened as well, until a choked sob escaped her throat, and she gave in. Arms circled her behind her head and she buried her head in the soft cotton of Sara's robe.
When the wracking sobs lessened, she felt Sara gently leading her to the couch. A moment later, a tissue box appeared on the coffee table, along with two steaming cups of coffee. "I still don't know what to say," Catherine began. "I, you know, Eddie and I, we argued with our hands as well as with our mouths, sometimes. I thought, just with him." The cry had released something that she had been holding deep inside her, a frozen core of fear and anguish, for the last two days, and she could finally look at Sara without trepidation. "I don't want to be the person I was with him," she said, firmly, seeing the understanding in Sara's eyes. "I can't be that person again."
"You aren't. And you won't be."
"But I "
"I won't let you, Catherine." Sara's voice rose. "I would never hit you, and I won't be your punching bag. So you will never be that person. With me. But that doesn't mean that we can't be together, it just means that we need to make sure that that doesn't happen again." Sara sank back against the cushions of the couch, surprised a little by her outburst. She had been more angry than she had realized, and she exhaled shakily. "Understand?"
"You are more forgiving than I deserve."
Sara snagged her cup of coffee from the table, sipping the bitter warmth to give her a moment to think about Catherine's words. The self-loathing lingered there, in Catherine's tone, and it worried Sara. "No, I'm not. We're both volatile people, and I provoked you." Catherine opened her mouth to protest, but Sara shook her head. "I knew what I was doing. I was pushing your buttons to try to get through to you, to get you out of that avenging angel mode. And I knew exactly which button to push."
"Yes. That was unfair of me."
"That still doesn't excuse my response."
"No, no, it doesn't," Sara agreed.
They lapsed into silence for a moment, Sara's thoughts going to the moment Catherine had swung her hand. She hadn't really been surprised by the blow; she had known that Catherine would reactbadlyto the suggestion that she was neglecting her child. She wished she had gotten them out of the hallway before the argument had erupted so the incident could have been just between the two of them, and not, as it was now, speculation for the entire lab. Lost in thoughts of her own faults, Sara missed Catherine's increasing agitation as the silence stretched.
"I, I should go," Catherine blurted out, reaching for her jacket and purse. Startled out of her reverie, Sara almost missed Catherine's arm when she grabbed for it. In her lunge to keep Catherine from running away, Sara misjudged the distance, catching Catherine's wrist but unbalancing herself as she half-stood, half-leaned across the coffee table. Falling, she managed to twist herself around and keep a hold on Catherine, so she thudded to the floor in the narrow space between the coffee table and the couch, with Catherine in her lap. For a shocked moment, they just stared at each other, until Sara's mouth twisted as she tried to contain her grin and Catherine began to giggle. They collapsed into each other, laughing uncontrollably.
Finally, as they quieted down, Sara managed, "I was trying to get you to stay."
"Mission accomplished," Catherine retorted, starting a fresh wave of chuckles. Sara's hand had found its way into Catherine's hair, smoothing it down, before leaning her head in to rest against Catherine's forehead. "Hon, it's ok. We'll figure out different ways to argue, ok?" she whispered into the quiet. Sara heard Catherine's sigh, and then her head rocked in a small nod. "I just can't be that person again," she repeated, in the same hushed tone Sara had used.
"You won't, I promise."
Reluctant to leave the embrace, Catherine rested there on Sara's lap, her eyes closed and so still, Sara almost thought she had fallen asleep. Finally, she exhaled slowly, opened her eyes, and pressed a light kiss to Sara's cheek. "Thanks," she breathed against the soft skin as she leveraged herself up and onto the couch. "I know you keep your promises."
"Lindsey told me."
"At least now I know it doesn't take you an hour just to get two sandwiches." Catherine sighed, remembering how reluctant Lindsey had been. "When I got there to pick her up, I suddenly realized that I had no idea of how she had gotten to her grandmother's the day before. I guess I was still a little wired after our argument and I was freaked out that she may have hitchhiked again. She told me you promised I would be there and she was so happy that I was."
Sara shrugged. "I hate to break promises to children." There was a sad, wistful tone in her voice, and she rubbed her thumb across the back of her hand, in an absent, comforting gesture. "You should have to grow up to before you become used to disappointment."
Catherine covered Sara's hands with one of her own. "Thanks," she said, gauging Sara's response carefully, wondering if she should ask about the memories that caused such a deep sadness in Sara's eyes. Sara glanced left and saw what Catherine was thinking and quickly forestalled her. "Is that the time?" she asked, indicating Catherine's watch. "I need to change or I'll be late for work."
"Wanna carpool in?"
"No, you should go. No reason for both of us to be late."
Catherine frowned but agreed. "Ok. I'll see you at work, then." She waved from the doorway as she opened the apartment door and Sara headed to her bedroom, mentally trying to figure out what she was going to wear. "Yeah, I'll see you in a few."
It was a hectic shift that night, with everyone spinning off in all different directions working solo on a venerable blizzard of criminal activity in Vegas that night. Sara hadn't seen Catherine for hours, and when she got to the locker room two hours after the end of shift, she thought that she might have missed her. Sara took in the empty room and sighed; she wanted to apologize for her sudden bout of moodiness the night before, but it looked like she wouldn't have the chance. Leaning over to untie a stubborn boot lace, she caught the words before the door behind her opened. "Sara's been out in the field most of the night," Warrick's voice sounded concerned and Sara automatically knew who he was talking to, "Have you had a chance to talk to her since, um " He stopped in the doorway when he saw Sara on the bench, and quickly backed out, "I just remembered I have some results waiting in DNA."
Catherine stood just inside the door, looking everywhere except at Sara. "Gil wanted to see us this morning before we left." Narrowing her eyes, Sara took in Catherine's demeanor, the slightly slumped shoulders, the way she studiously avoided meeting Sara's eyes, and frowned in vexation.
"Ok, give me a minute. I want to change my shirt," Sara replied, unbuttoning her shirt until she felt Catherine's eyes on her. She smirked as she deliberately caught Catherine's gaze. "I thought that might get your attention. Hey," she said, becoming more serious, "I know the guys have been giving you some grief about what happened, but remember what we talked about before shift. Remember that we're ok and that's all that matters, ok?"
Catherine sighed and sank down on the bench. "I know, it's just "
Sara reached out and rubbed her shoulder through the silk fabric of her blouse, "Yeah, I know. But just focus on me and let what the guys say slide off, ok?"
"Focus on you, huh?" Catherine muttered as she leaned forward, pressing a quick, soft kiss on Sara's stomach, chuckling as Sara drew a sharp breath, pulling her stomach muscles in so that the skin she was kissing retreated from Catherine's lips. "Not difficult when you are standing around, half-dressed." Sara swiped her head playfully, a smile promising more twisting her lips, before turning to change her shirt.
The bright morning sun blinded Sara as she stepped out of the lab, causing her to curse as she slid her sunglasses down to block out the sun. Sometimes, she missed the clouds and wind of the California coast so much it caused an ache of longing deep in her stomach. Standing there in the harsh sun that made every surface seem sharper and harder, no blurred edges or softness anywhere, Sara wished she could rewind the clock a few days so that this latest complication hadn't happened as stress tightened her back muscles. Rotating her head on her shoulders, she scanned the parking lot, seeing Catherine's car still in the lot. She had stopped by the DNA lab after their meeting with Grissom, when he requested a few minutes alone with the older CSI.
"Hey." Startled, she spun around to face the woman whose weary voice had called to her.
"Hey yourself. Everything ok?" she asked, apprehensively.
"Yeah," Catherine said, nodding, looking weary but relieved. She caught Sara's worried look and reassured her. "It really is. He just wanted to make sure that everything was ok at home."
"Ok." Sara accepted the explanation, thinking there was more, but glad Catherine felt relieved. It had been a stressful couple of days for the blonde, she was sure, and she turned back to the desolate landscape under the sharp sun, exhaling audibly.
Catherine stepped up behind her, so her shoulder discretely rubbed against Sara's shoulder blades. "Breakfast? My place? One hour?' she asked, a quiet mummer, as private as their touching.
"Your place? Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. I'll make pancakes."
Sara eased her body back a little, leaning imperceptibly into Catherine and feeling a little electric spark leap between their bodies. "Sounds good."
The bright sun was muted inside by light drapes that moved with a slight breeze, but it still warmed the room and cast everything with a golden glow, especially Catherine's already-golden hair. Sara sat on a stool, watching as Catherine made pancakes. Sara enjoyed the chance to get in some unabashed staring; Catherine had changed from her work clothes into a pair of yoga pants and a light blue tank, pulling her hair back into a simple ponytail, a casual, relaxed look Sara found more sexy on her than most of her other outfits. When she reached up to take down the maple syrup, her tank rode up, showing a broad swath of skin at her back, and Sara spent a long moment imagining her lips pressed to the small of Catherine's back and her hands elsewhere. Catherine was obvious to her scrutiny, so when she turned away from the stove a few minutes later, Sara's wide smile surprised her. "What?" she asked, puzzled, as she carried the dishes to the table.
Sara laughed, shook her head and joined Catherine at the table, carrying over both coffee cups. "No, seriously, what?"
"I love that outfit."
Catherine's eyebrow shot up and she gave Sara a disbelieving look, but she didn't question. Sara pursed her lips, a half-smile lighting her eyes, before she started on her breakfast, only glancing up when she felt Catherine's eyes on her. She glanced self-consciously around her and wiped her mouth, afraid she had food on her chin. "What?"
"I know so little about you." Catherine's expression and tone were pensive, and it was obvious to Sara that the incident at work was still on her mind. "You have to know a lot about me, because my past is pretty much public knowledge, but I don't know much about you."
Sara leaned back in her chair and toyed with her coffee cup, finding a spot of sunlight like a cat and turning her face to the sun. She seemed relaxed, but she didn't meet Catherine's eyes. "Like what?"
"Like why you went to Harvard instead of Stanford or Berkley. Why you studied physics as an undergrad. When and how you met Grissom. Why you decided to move here on a moment's notice when he asked. Why you never take a vacation and visit your family."
"I don't have any family," Sara answered quickly, a little too quickly, staring out the plate glass window of Catherine's sliding patio doors. "I don't talk about it. As for Harvard, I wanted a change from California and Boston seemed as far as I could get without leaving the country. I got into Berkley, but it was too close to home. Too many people from my area were going to college there." Her eyebrows slanted over her eyes as she tried to reconstruct the thoughts of a young, 17-year old girl. "I like science and I was really good with computers, calculations, and math in high school, so physics seemed the best fit. And I moved here because Grissom asked, I had just broken up with Terry, and it's the number two lab in the country. I guess you could say I was ready for a change."
"Do you always run away from your problems?" Catherine teased, but the sudden stillness of Sara's hands on her coffee cup and the way her eyes darted around the room told Catherine she had struck a chord.
"Maybe," Sara answered after a long pause. Shaking off the quiet and stillness, she smiled and picked up her fork. "But the past is the past, right?"
They had retired to the couch to catch the news, Catherine leaning back against the pillows, and Sara curled up against her stomach, her hands caressing the skin exposed by Catherine's waistband and Catherine's fingers toying with Sara's riot of curls. After only a few minutes, the movement of Sara's hands stopped, and Catherine laughed silently when she realized that Sara was fast asleep. Well, there went my post-breakfast plans.
Her smile faded as she contemplated the relaxed features, the eyelids closed against the swirls of emotion in those brown depths. The closer I get, the further away I feel, she thought. She like one of those maps of the world in the middle ages: vague contours of the countries drawnbadlywith large swathes of land simply blank, bearing the legend, Here be dragons. Her pessimistic thoughts surprised her, as did the knowledge that she had badly misjudged Sara. Once, I thought I knew all there was to know about Sara, and it all boiled down to her job and Grissom. Seeing more of this map she was charting in her head, Catherine realized that she had had two tiny puzzle pieces laid on a vast canvas, and that she didn't even know where the rest of the pieces were, much less how to fit them together.
Musing on the thoughts running through her head, Catherine absent-mindedly kissed the top of Sara's hair and then was surprised by a rumble of laughter. "Mmm, sorry I fell asleep on you," Sara muttered, her eyes still closed.
"You aren't awake now."
"Yeah," Sara purred, nuzzling her head against Catherine's stomach, pressing a soft kiss below the navel. Her head settled back down and her expression relaxed into sleep once more. Teetering on the edge of sleep, Catherine wasn't sure Sara even realized what she was saying when she mumbled, "I love you."
Return to C.S.I. Fiction
Return to Main Page