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
By zennie

Part Twenty-Five

The next couple of weeks passed without incident at work, as they tried to fit into a routine at work and at home, keeping the lines between the two spheres of their lives separate. They managed, most of the time, although a few incidents marred their perfect track record. When Catherine had reached out to clean an oil smear from Sara's cheek, she let her fingers linger on the soft skin, tracing down Sara's neck until Nick's voice in the hallway caused them to jump apart hurriedly. Sara had hidden her blush by disappearing under the car, and Catherine's overactive imagination filled in the visual of joining Sara on the creeper so that when Nick came into the room, he gave Catherine an odd look. Later that morning, Catherine shared the image, leading to a long session on Sara's couch and the subsequent prohibition of working with Sara in the garage. She violated said prohibition two nights later but made sure to lock the door so that no one would be able to see four jumpsuit-covered legs entwined on the floor of the garage.

The guys continued to bet in the Sara-dating pool and watch her like a hawk for any indication of who she might be seeing, especially after news of her turning down overtime hit the halls, but the speculation and interest had finally died down a little, as she gave no clue as to who she was dating. Greg continued to be the most interested, but luckily he was in the lab most of the time and so didn't see her as much as her other co-workers. Catherine didn't contribute much to the speculation, but did put down a twenty on Vartann.

Sara seemed unaware of her sleepy confession and Catherine didn't bring it up; for once in her life, she was unsure as to how to broach a topic, especially when she wasn't sure of her own feelings toward the younger CSI. Nothing had prepared her for falling for a co-worker, much less the younger, female co-worker who she had fought epic battles with on a regular basis, and even now, after a month of dating, just hearing Sara's voice in hallway made her breath hitch or seeing her unexpectedly when she stepped into the break room made her knees weak, it had been so long that Catherine had felt this kind of freefall of emotions in a relationship, she didn't know how to label it.


"No way, Sara."


"But nothing. I'm not letting you in there to interview this guy." Catherine swung around so that she stopped them both dead in the hallway of the police station, grabbing Sara's arm to pull her into the soundproof observation room. "Do I have to point out that we have this guy for raping and killing four tall, thin, pretty brunettes who bear a striking resemblance to you? And that he tried to get close to you during the arrest? He's already fixed on you and I'm not going to give him any more opportunities to get close. Ok?"

Sara stared at her in silence for a few moments, a calm before the evitable storm of words Catherine surmised would begin at any minute, but Sara surprised her yet again. "You remember the Julie Waters' case?" she began, the seeming non-sequitor confusing Catherine, as did the quiet, controlled tone of her voice. "You told me that you decided to exploit the situation with Delhomme when he had the same fixation on you," Sara's hand cut Catherine off just when she was about to speak, "AND you told me when I'm in your shoes, I'd do the same thing." She shrugged, in her deliberately bland way that hid a grin. "You were right."

A door opening in the interview room drew Catherine's gaze to the subject of their conversation, a thin, bookish looking man with sandy hair falling over cheap, black-framed glasses. From the moment Catherine had looked into the dead, pale blue eyes of this rapist and murderer, a chill had lodged in the base of her spine and her stomach had turned. There had been no soul behind those eyes. She rarely had reactions to their suspects, and never to this degree, so when a look of sick happiness washed over his face as he looked from her to Sara walking up behind her, Catherine had slid over to deliberately stand between them. Now, even though the orange prison jumpsuit seemed to diminish the man and turn his pallor a sickly yellow, when he turned his head to stare directly into the mirror, like he knew they were there, Catherine suppressed an urge to step back from the glass. She wanted nothing more than to keep this evil creature away from Sara.

But she knew here protective instincts would not win her any favors with Sara. Working against her own inclinations and the trickle of fear that she couldn't quite squelch, Catherine nodded. "Ok." Sara's reflection in the glass answered her nod a second before the door clicked shut.

A few moments later, Sara and Brass walked into the interview room together, and their suspect, George Stubben, immediately perked up at the sight of Sara. Jim asked him a couple of questions, but he never looked away from Sara.

"Are you sure you don't want a lawyer present?" Brass suggested, making sure that their air-tight case wouldn't be tossed on a technicality.

"No, I'm caught. No lawyer is going to undo that."

"So, George, we have you on one count of rape and murder in the first degree, and we have you linked to three other open cases." Jim shook his head sadly. "What, a good-looking guy like you couldn't get a date?"

George took his eyes off of Sara for just a second to glare at Brass contemptuously. "No."

"No, you couldn't get…"

He swung back to stare directly into Sara's eyes, his watery gaze trying to penetrate the ebony depths of Sara's. "Not three… six." He smiled as Sara and Brass exchanged a surprised look

"Six?" Sara repeated, trying to prompt him to supply more information.



He shook his head. "I never knew their names…" Smirking at Sara's suspicious expression, his eyes slipped down to linger on Sara's hands, her chest, her neck, before fixing back on her smoldering eyes, "just their bodies."


He seemed to not hear her. "A name isn't intimate, now is it, Ms. Sidle? Or should I call you Sara?" A shrug, leaning back in his chair like he was explaining the secrets of the universe over coffee at a bistro. "It doesn't really matter. What matters is that look of fear in your eyes, so strong I can almost taste it." His gaze lingered on her again, and Sara willed her hands to remain relaxed and loose through an effort of will alone. He licked his lips as he leaned forward and continued, "Pain would look exquisite on you."

Sara broke eye contact, looking down at her note pad, her fingers wrapped around her pen so tightly they ached. "Where are the bodies?"

"I won't tell you. I'll show you. We can take the good detective with us." Another smirk at another exchanged glance. "That's the deal: the three of us, alone, and I'll take you to all the bodies."

Part 26

Catherine found herself repeating the same argument she had lost just an hour before, but now with more vehemence. "You are not going, traipsing around the desert with this guy." Sara tried to interrupt, but Catherine steamrolled through her attempt, her eyes flashing as tried to stare Sara down. "I don't care what he promised you. He could be taking you to incontrovertible proof that Bigfoot exists for all I care. YOU are NOT going."

Fuming, Sara fired back. "Catherine, this isn't about me. We have two responsibilities in this job: to find the bad guy and give peace to the victims and their families. There may be three more families out there that we don't know about who are waiting to find out what happened to their loved ones. You are not going to keep me from doing my job!"

"But what if he's just making those other three victims up to lure you out there?"

"That's a risk I'm willing to take."

"I'm not," Catherine snapped.

"Too bad."

Stung, Catherine stared into the blazing depths of Sara's eyes. How many times have we gone around and around this particular point? The content of the arguments changes, but it's always the two of us, staring, glaring, and not backing down a centimeter. Catherine circled around to a question that plagued her when she felt vulnerable and scared about their relationship: How can we be good to each other if all we have between us is passion and anger? And where does all her anger come from? Will she ever let down those walls and let me see who she really is, what made her the way she is? Catherine broke eye contact first, unable and unwilling to keep up the battle of wills that they were engaged in, but not before seeing a look of triumph cross Sara's face at her seeming acquiesce.

Grissom stepped into the interview room then, and put himself between the two women staring each other down. "This entire argument may be unnecessary. Brass is asking for the Sheriff's approval on this operation right now. Until we have that, there's no reason to fight. But I want to go on the record to say that I think it's a bad idea for you to go, Sara. There's no reason to risk your self for people who are already dead. We have other means at our disposal."

"That could take months if not years. Those families deserve to know the truth now. And if we find the bodies, we have him on all counts."

Catherine couldn't take it any more; Sara's arguments, while all good and fine about the job, were missing the point entirely. She stepped around Grissom, almost shoving him into the table. "He's up to something, Sara, can't you see that? He wants you, specifically, out there, alone with him for a reason." And damn it, I'm scared for you. Can't you see that too?

"Brass will be there."

"That isn't reassuring. What if he has an accomplice? Or has set some kind of trap? You'd both be walking right into it."

Catherine could see Sara's mind running over the possibilities, giving some credence to her argument, but then Brass re-entered the interview room, saying, "The Sheriff gave the go-ahead," and Catherine knew that there wasn't a chance in hell that Sara would turn back now. Instead, she looked to the chain of command, knowing Sara would kill her in private later, but it was better than Sara being hurt by that monster. She turned to Gil, "That's insane! You can't let her go."

The glare from Sara told her that what waited her at home was not going to be pleasant. "The Sheriff has approved the operation. I'm going," she said, steel in her voice.

Grissom grimaced, but shrugged his shoulders helplessly.

Brass interjected, trying to bring some semblance of civility to the argument. "Look, we're taking precautions. We're going to be wired and monitored from a mobile command station with a GPS tracker the entire time we're out. SWAT is mobilized and will be following at a safe distance." For a long moment, he gazed at Sara, and then spoke directly to her. "We're going in hot, which means that weapons will be free the entire time. Any wrong move from this guy and we take him down, no hesitation. Do you think you can handle that? Because if you can't, then the deal is off."

Catherine held her breath for a long moment as Sara frowned and glanced down, but then she met Brass's gaze firmly and nodded. "I can handle it."


Waving a hand at her black pantsuit and cream-colored silk top, Sara said, "I'm going to go get my windbreaker and hat from my truck."

"And I'll dial up the comm guys and get them here. We'll leave in about thirty minutes in my car."

Sara walked out of the station, hearing Catherine's footsteps behind her. She slipped out of her jacket, tugged on her windbreaker, and tucked her hair back underneath her hat, all the while silently ignoring the other woman. It wasn't until she locked the truck and faced the shorter woman that she spoke. "Catherine, you are not going to talk me out of this. You did the same thing with Delhomme."

"This is different."


"Because…" Catherine sighed, searching the station parking lot to see if anyone was within hearing distance. "This isn't the time or the place… but…" In the streetlamps, Sara's eyes were shadowed under the brim of her hat, so Catherine had no way to see how her next words would be received, but she said them anyway, "I love you."

She let the words hang there in the space between them, wishing she could see Sara's face, her reaction, something, anything. Catherine was surprised to feel how right, how true, it felt to say, but still Sara was standing in front of her, unmoving. Catherine hurried on, to try to blunt the surprise of her words. "That's why it's different. I love you and I don't want to lose you for something so, trivial, so avoidable. I can't… lose you." The last was said with a hitch in her voice, as Catherine realized yet another truth about her feelings for Sara. God help me, I'm in this for the long haul and I've never been so scared in my life.

Wrapped up in her own thoughts, Catherine missed how Sara's defiant stance slowly crumbled as she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around the smaller woman and pulled her into a tight hug. "I love you too." Catherine felt the tears burning her eyes as she snuggled into Sara's warmth, not caring who might see as she sought reassurance and comfort. "But this is the job and we can't let our relationship interfere with our work. I can't let you interfere with this. It's too important."

"I have a bad feeling about this," Catherine confessed, feeling like a child admitting to being afraid of monsters under the bed. The difference was that Catherine knew real-live monsters did exist, and the man Sara was going out with was one of them.

"I know." Sara tighten her hold on the woman in her arms before pulling back to meet Catherine's eyes. "But I still have to go." Catherine finally saw Sara's eyes, saw the mixture of courage and fear lurking there, and she swallowed past the lump in her throat to nod and mutter, "Ok."

Sara caressed her cheek softly, catching tears Catherine hadn't realized she had shed, before pressing a quick kiss against her forehead. "We'll talk more after work, ok?"

Catherine drew back, and then glanced around the parking lot, amazed that nobody had come out of the station or driven up to see them, and even more amazed that Sara had hugged and kissed her right here in front of the police department. She let Sara lead her back into the building, schooling her face into a mask of professionalism as they made their way in. Catherine stopped right in front of Brass. "I'm riding along with the mobile command station." Brass's expression was openly speculative about what had happened out in the parking lot, but he kept his mouth shut and just nodded.

"Me too," Grissom chimed in.

"Ok, fine," he said blandly before grinning at Sara with a devil-may-care gleam in his eyes. "Ready? Let's go get mic'ed up."


Mercifully, the ride out to the desert had been quiet, as their suspect had requested a country music station and had hummed along with the songs the entire trip, leaving Sara alone with her thoughts. Not surprisingly, all she had thought about was that bombshell conversation they had had in the police department parking lot. Sara had known, on some level, that Catherine cared deeply for her, but the fear in her voice and the desperate way she had clung to Sara told Sara, far beyond her words, how deeply her feelings ran. 'I can't lose you' reverberated through Sara's head, the quiet intensity of Catherine's words going far deeper than her declaration of love. It had puzzled Sara from the start that the usually confident and composed Catherine was so insecure about Sara's feelings for her. Ok, so I'm not really vocal about my feelings, but I don't think I've given her reason to doubt that I care for her. That I care for her a lot. Why doesn't she trust that, trust me? She's been running scared since day one, with so little reason. She's the one who could have any man or woman she wants. Sara's line of thought was cut short by Brass announcing that they had arrived at the location Stubben had given them.

The wind whipping around the valley as Sara stepped out of the sedan made her thankful she had had the forethought to grab her baseball cap. Dawn was just breaking over the cliffs to their east, and the long angle of the rays were blinding. She hastily slid her sunglasses down over her eyes, rotating her head to ease the stiffness out of her shoulders before she slid her weapon free of her holster. Brass caught her movement and did his own surveillance of the area before opening the back door to the sedan.

He quietly instructed the prisoner to walk in front of them at all times and to lead them directly to the area. "If I even think that you are leading us in a circle or delaying just to stay out of your cell, we'll be out of here so fast you'll think it was all a dream. Understood?"

As Stubben mumbled 'understood,' under his breath, he locked eyes with Sara, giving her the slightest hint of a smile, which caused her stomach to take a slow roll.

"So where are they?"

Back at the mobile command post, Catherine cursed the designer, who put plenty of electronics and communications equipment but gave her no room to pace as they listened.

"The bodies are about a mile out along a hiking trail."

"A mile? You carried them for a mile?" Brass's voice was patently disbelieving, even through the comm line.

"They were tall and skinny and easy to carry, like Ms. Sidle over there. She can't weight more than 110 lbs, right, sweetheart?"

Sara's voice held a tightly controlled anger, but she was ignoring his attempts to provoke her. "Which way?"

"Over here."

A few moments of shuffling feet and wind came over the comms, and then, "Did you notice the resemblance, Ms. Sidle? How much you look like all of them? Or maybe they look like you? It's so hard to tell where they end and you begin."

"Keep walking," Brass cautioned.

"Are you afraid of me, Ms. Sidle?"


"The other one, the blonde one, she was. She knew she was looking at pure evil. What do you think?"

"I've seen pure evil," Sara replied, the certainty in her voice sending a chill down Catherine's back, "and you're not even close." The contempt in her voice came through the speaker loud and clear. "You're just a garden-variety psychopath and we deal with your type every day in this job."

"Garden-variety?" Stubben's voice went up an octave, almost squeaking in his disbelief, before he got his anger under control and he chuckled. "Ah, Ms. Sidle, you are taunting me, but just you wait." The promise in his voice made Catherine's stomach constrict and for a second she thought she was going to lose her lunch. Please don't let me be right about this, she prayed silently as she never in her life wished to be wrong more than she did right now.

"Hey! What are you doing?" Brass's voice cut through the command post like a lightening bolt, everyone tensing to the alarm in his tone.

Back in the desert, Stubben had dropped to his knees at a trailhead and was scrabbling around in the dirt with his cuffed hands. "I marked my path with these buried pieces of turquoise so I could always find my way back," he explained, digging the blue rock out dirt. "I had to find my way back. I didn't want any of my girls to get lonely." He looked up at the two gun barrels pointing at him before indicating the trail with a nod of his head. "It's this way."

When he had dropped down to his knees, Sara had swung her gun up and braced it with her free hand, just like she had been taught at the firing range, her heart beating painfully in her chest as her fingers gripped the handle so tightly her fingers were numb after a few seconds. She finally sucked in a breath when Stubben had hoisted the turquoise, feeling the moment of hyper-awareness and near panic pass. She watched as Brass pulled Stubben roughly to his feet and they started along the trail he had indicated, with Sara following after a moment, a few steps behind. This trail was narrow and Brass and Sara walked back-to-back, both keeping their weapons down and out, on edge after the scare.

He had stopped trying to carry on a conversation and instead focused on the ground at his feet, dropping down twice more to dig into the dirt. Sara, however, had noticed a difference, as he wasn't paying attention to his hands as he dug but instead was scoping out the terrain surreptitiously, and the piece of turquoise in his hands looked remarkably similar to the first one. Brass didn't seem to notice and Sara sighed, wishing she had a private comm line to him to warn him that their prisoner was up to something. Instead, she increased her own vigilance as the time wore on and they made their way further out into the desert, the tension building in her stomach and shoulders with every step.

Stubben finally broke the silence as they reached the bottom of a low crest, where the trail split at campsite into three different paths, the site level and wide enough for Jim to move several steps to his left to cover Stubben, his weapon poised but pointed down to the sand. "Almost there, I think," Stubben muttered as he dropped to his knees yet again, pawing through the dirt, his eyes intently searching the ground where his fingers scraped into the loose sand and rocks. Sara felt the gun in her hand raise in response to the mounting tension, her finger tightening on the trigger as Stubben's head snapped up to fix on Jim.

Back in the mobile command post, Sara's shout of "Gun!" broke the stillness of the listeners a second before several shots rang out.

Part 27

After the shocked silence, Catherine fell heavily back onto the bench behind her, her rubbery legs unable to hold her up, while Grissom took over and ordered the driver to head to the coordinates on the GPS unit. Jim's voice just barely carried over the motor roaring to life. "This is Brass, we need back up and a bus at our position." There was a pause and Catherine's heart plunged to the floor upon hearing the call for an ambulance.

"Suspect is down, I repeat, suspect is down. Two officers on scene are unharmed," Brass continued and Catherine remembered how to breathe again, taking each breath as if it were her first, still grateful for the bench holding her up. From the mic pick-up, Catherine could hear Jim ask, "Are you ok?" and Sara's seemingly distracted reply, "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine." Another faint voice, tight with pain, spoke over the loudspeaker, so low that Catherine had to strain to hear:

"You were going to be my masterpiece, my crowing achievement. I would have stopped after you, because how could I have topped taking and killing the policewoman who had me in custody? No better statement, no more perfect moment, than when your fellow cops found your dead body waiting for them and me gone. I would have been a legend!"

"Sorry we spoiled your plans, then," Jim commented, as the sirens in the distance grew louder. "Instead of a legend, I guess you'll have to settle for being a run-of-the-mill psychopath."

The roar of motorbikes and people shouting spoiled the reception then, and Catherine didn't hear anything else. Instead, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes, trying to figure out which deity she might pick to pray to. When their van pulled up beside Brass's car a few minutes later, she stumbled out on still nerveless legs, following Grissom up the path, now well marked with tire treads and foot prints. After about five minutes, they passed several emergency personel and police manhandling a stretcher out with the unconscious body of Stubben. Grissom's hand tightened on Catherine's arm, holding her in place as they carried him past, and afterwards she wasn't sure if Grissom's restraint had been for her or for him.

At the actual crime scene, Sara, pale, too pale in the golden light of the early morning sun, was staring down at the blood pooling the ground at her feet like she had never seen blood before. In her relief at seeing Sara unharmed, Catherine fought the urge to wrap her arms around the taller woman and never let go, a thought that was as comforting as it was unrealistic. Instead, she reached out and stroked Sara's arm lightly, hoping to convey her concern in touch and voice. "You ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Sara head stayed bowed, staring at the ground, her words sounding like she was reading a line that she had been told to repeat regardless of the question or circumstance.

"I'll need your gun, Jim," Grissom said. The emotion in Brass's eyes was unreadable as he handed over his weapon and glanced at the tall brunette standing just a few paces away.

Grissom frowned as he checked the load and then he looked back to Brass. "I'll need the weapon that was used in the shooting," he said with exasperation. The click as Sara unsnapped her holster and handed over her gun to Grissom caused every eye to fix on her. "Sara?" Grissom's voice contained a note of disbelief as he accepted the gun from her.

She shrugged, a careless gesture contradicting the tight way she held herself. "I saw the gun first. I shot him."

"Two tight bursts of three in the arm, shoulder, and chest," Brass explained, pride and curiosity coloring his voice, "extremely precise shooting."

Another shrug. "I qualify every year."

"That kind of precision doesn't come from a once-a-year weapons proficiency and you know it."

"I go to the range every once in a while to practice." She could feel the frowns and confused looks directed at her back. "It's ok, I just," she sighed, "I don't want to accidentally kill someone if I have to fire my weapon. So I practice." The ghost of a conversation echoed in Catherine's head, from long ago, and Sara's voice saying I could never take a life. She just wished Sara would look up, look at her; the way Sara's eyes were fixed on the ground frightened her and she wished there was some way to get the reassurance she needed.

Any further conversation was cut short by Brass's cell. "IAB wants us to come in and give our statements on the officer-involved shooting," he explained, reaching out to lead Sara back to his car. Brass nodded at one of the paths. "Stubben was leading us up that way. That might be the place to start looking."

As they left, Catherine squinted into the morning sun, feeling the heat of the day already begin to build "You should handle the shooting," she said, hoping Grissom wouldn't ask why she was recusing herself, "and I'll continue with the Stubben case, since it was our case to begin with."

Warrick and Nick walked up then, and Catherine filled them in and sent them up the path. A few minutes later, Warrick called to her. "Catherine! I think you need to see this." It had been years since Catherine had felt nauseous at a crime scene, but when she saw what Warrick was pointing to, she felt the bile rise in her throat.


Sara fidgeted in the interview room, looking for what seemed like the fiftieth time at her watch. She had been escorted to this room and told to wait; she had seen the uniformed officer posted at the door around the hallways a few times, and he had politely offered to get her coffee or water, but mercifully hadn't tried to engage in small talk. Sipping her tea, now long cold, Sara mused on the experience of being a perp. If they are making me wait to make me nervous, well, mission accomplished, she fretted, glancing at the two-way glass. Is someone in there, watching me, judging my responses, seeing if I'll crack? She tried to remember how many times she had stood on the other side of that exact glass, planning an interview, while the suspect stewed. Stop it, Sara, she chastised herself, this is just routine, standard procedure after an officer-involved shooting. You did nothing wrong. Frowning into the glass, her reflection a striking contrast of pale skin and ebony hair, she recalled a play she had seen in Boston based on Bertram's idea of the panoptican, where the sign inscribed with the saying "God Sees You" was the threat that the prisoners had responded with the most diligence. Not imprisonment, not torture, but surveillance as the control method of choice. The criminal, the insane, the revolutionary, all becoming one under the system of the surveillance. I wonder which one am I?

Her dark train of thought was interrupted as the door to the interview opened and three plain-clothes officers entered, two sitting across from her and one beside her. "Captain Brass insisted that the union representative be present for your interview, even though we'll just be asking standard questions." As the video camera started, Sara thought, Showtime, and almost giggled at the irrelevant path her thoughts seemed to be taking her.

The two IAB officers, named Carter and Jenkins, let her tell her statement uninterrupted before asking her questions. "Ms. Sidle, you expended six rounds when you shot the suspect. You know the protocol is to fire until your weapon is empty if you or the life of another officer is in immediate danger."


"So why didn't you follow protocol?"

"The suspect was down and he didn't have his weapon. There was no need to continue firing."

"Your first round struck his arm and you didn't fire into his chest until about the third hit. Why is that?"

"I was watching his hands. I must have been aiming at the same place I had my eyes trained." She frowned at the rookie mistake, even though she, as a CSI, wasn't expected to know any better. "When I saw the gun, I just started shooting."

"You said you saw the gun first. Why do you think an experienced officer like Captain Brass wasn't paying as close attention as you were?"

"He was. I had a better angle to see the suspect's hands as he brought them up from the ground."

Carter frowned and wrote a quick note. "Captain Brass reported that he was taken by surprise."

"We both were. But I thought something was off when the suspect stopped to dig in the ground so I may have been hyperaware of the suspect's actions."

"The tape shows that the suspect claimed to have planned on raping and killing you." Sara closed her eyes a second, replaying those words in her head, the mental images swirling, and she felt a familiar queasiness. "Do you believe he planned on making good on his threat had he managed to subdue you?"

Sara opened her eyes and stared at the man sitting across from her, feeling angry for the first time during the interview. "I don't know. He's a psychopath and he raped and murdered four women that we know of. But I can't predict what might have happened."

"Were you aware that the forensics team found a blanket, handcuffs, condoms, and a knife just over the rise on that trail?" Her stomach rolled over and she swallowed hard, and just shook her head wordlessly. Carter went on, "They have found at least four other bodies, lined up one beside the other, directly below that blanket. They are still searching for more. What do you think about that?"

"That I'm glad I didn't get to be number eight!" Sara snapped. She looked around the room, suddenly feeling very claustrophobic. "Are we done here?"

Carter glanced at his partner before nodding. "I think we have everything we need. We'll contact you within 48 hours about the outcome of our investigation. Until then, you are on paid leave." With that, they got up and left, followed by the union rep who had paused to give Sara his business card. A moment later, Sara followed them out the door, just barely making it across the hall in time.

Brass had been pacing the hallway outside of Sara's interview for over an hour when he saw the IAB officers leave. Just as he was heading in, Sara darted down the hall and into the women's rest room. Jim followed, not giving the action a second thought as he pushed open the door. The sound of retching led him to Sara, bent over the toilet, and he caught her dark hair up and rubbed her back while she emptied her stomach. When she finally raised her head, leaning back against the stall partition, resting her head in her hands, he asked, "You heard about…?"


He examined her gaunt face and haunted eyes, knowing she was going over the 'what ifs' in her head. "Sara, you got the bastard. You didn't become one of his victims." Sara didn't answer, didn't meet his eyes, keeping them tightly closed. "Come on," Brass said, straightening and extending his hand, "I don't know about you, but I'm sick of the police station. Let's get you home." He knew just how upset she was when she allowed him drive her home with minimal fuss, so when she invited him up for a drink, admitting that she didn't want to be alone, he accepted the invitation immediately.

One Scotch had turned into several as he told her about the times he had been involved in a shooting, about the guilt when a civilian had gotten killed during one of those times, and about the coping methods he had used in the aftermath. The conversation had turned to other things, finally, to fine Scotch, to audio equipment and to classic, black-and-white movies, discovering they both had a passion for noir. The hours passed and Sara didn't notice that she hadn't turned her cell phone ringer back on after the interview.


Catherine tossed her cell phone down into the passenger seat with a snarl of frustration when she heard Sara's voice mail greeting for the tenth time. After countless hours working the scene in the desert and finding six bodies buried out there, day shift had taken over the search of the surrounding hills and she, Warrick, and Nick were finally able to leave. She had been trying Sara's cell every twenty minutes since the moment she had hopped into the SUV with Nick, and then every five minutes since Grissom had called her into his office to show her the tail end of Sara's IAB interview, the sick expression on Sara's face not concealed by the glare she had directed at the questioner. Catherine hadn't even had to ask; Grissom had ordered her to go check in on Sara and to take the rest of the night off, and for once, Catherine was thankful for his inability to deal with people.

Pulling into the parking lot of Sara's apartment complex, Catherine didn't see Sara's car. The nerves she had been running on all day finally shot and a thousand different worst-case scenarios running through her head, Catherine took the stairs two-at-a-time before pounding on Sara's door. The door opened onto Sara's strained but smiling face, and Catherine enveloped the taller woman in a hug, her mouth searching for Sara's soft lips, only to have Sara avoid her kiss and try to pull away.

"Cath, uh, Jim is here."

It took Catherine a second to understand, and then she released Sara hurriedly. "Oh." She tried to apologize with her eyes as she straightened, looking over Sara's shoulder to Brass sitting on her couch. "Hi Jim," she said, waving, before turning back to Sara. "I came to check in on you. We've been trying to contact you but your cell phone's turned off."

"Oh," Sara walked over to the counter and picked it up, and then grinned, laughing to herself. "I forgot to turn the ringer back on after my interview. Sorry." Catherine stared at her, perplexed. "Jim and I were just having a drink," Sara motioned to the half-empty bottle of Scotch, sloshing a little of her drink on the counter. "Want to join us?"

"Are you drunk, Sara?" Catherine questioned, suddenly putting the pieces together and glaring at Brass. He had settled back into the cushions of the couch, raising a highball of amber liquid to his lips.

"Maybe. Why?" Even drunk, Sara recognized Catherine's look of anger. "What? Is something wrong, Catherine?" When Catherine didn't answer, Sara continued, "Look, I had a shitty day and I'm unwinding." Sara took a couple steps closer to the shorter woman, seeing a look of disappointment in her eyes, but she was too wrapped up in herself to care. "You can either join us or you can leave."

"I, I need to go pick up Lindsey," Catherine stammered.

"Fine." Sara plopped down on the couch beside Brass, throwing a companionable arm over his shoulders as she picked up a line of conversation they had obviously been on before Catherine had arrived. "So what do you think of the 500 series? Worth the extra money or not?" As Brass answered, comparing one line of cars to another, Catherine tried to suppress the flash of jealousy she felt, seeing Sara draped over Jim's shoulders, talking to him instead of her, and let herself out.

Part 28

The sound of the doorbell penetrated Sara's consciousness, setting off a sympathetic throbbing in her head. She silently willed the person into a deep black hole, even though she had a pretty good idea of who it was, as she rolled over to try to get back asleep. Big mistake, she told herself as the sunlight coming through the shades hit her eyes, burning a path from her retinas straight to her muddled brain. Grabbing a pillow, she covered her head and face and tried to ignore the buzzing, the throbbing, and the spinning.

Ten minutes later, she threw the pillow across the room in disgust and squinted at the clock, realizing she had only been asleep for four hours. The person at the doorbell was now alternating between two short and one long on the doorbell and was obviously not going away. Rolling off the bed, Sara unbalanced as soon as her feet hit the floor and the room took a slow, lopsided spin and she sunk back to the mattress, her hands shaking and her stomach queasy.

Not fair. I can't be hung over and still drunk at the same time, she reasoned, so she tried opening her eyes again and watched the room go around again. Somebody, kill me now. Then the events of the day before played against her eyelids like a 'this is your life' movie and the irony hit her. Oh yeah, that's how I got into this mess in the first place. The doorbell was now buzzing out SOS in Morse code, and she vowed to break the thing with her bare hands. Once I'm able to stand, that is.

Trying again, she felt a bit more stable, able to stumble the three steps to the opposite wall, using it to hold her up as she slid to the bathroom. Toothpaste, mouthwash, and a glass of water later, Sara felt vaguely alive and almost up to trying to make it across the living room. Once that heroic feat was accomplished, she decided to skip the victory dance and instead stumbled the last few steps to the door. Foregoing the obligatory glance through the peephole, since there was only one person she could imagine being this stubborn and annoying, she swung open the door and glared at the person on the stoop.


"It took you long enough. I've been out here for over half an hour." Catherine pushed past her into the hallway, not waiting to be invited in.

"You could have left," Sara said, bluntly, wishing the blonde had taken that option instead of deciding to have this confrontation right now, when she was barely able to stand, much less deal with an emotional Catherine. "In fact, Catherine, it'd probably be better if you did."

"What?" Catherine's shout cut like a razorblade through Sara's head, and she winced. "You want me to leave? Like you wanted me to leave last night?" Sara saw the hurt painted in stark relief across Catherine's face, and it almost penetrated the throbbing fuzziness that was Sara's brain.

In a softer tone, Sara tried to appease the visibly shaking woman in front of her, "Now is not the time to have a conversation, Catherine. Please."

"Hung over?" Catherine asked, satisfaction and anger edging into her voice. Sara squinted open her eyes to see Catherine's smirk, and felt her own anger rise is response. After all, it's never been said that Sara Sidle couldn't give as good as she got.

"Not. Drunk. Enough."

Catherine spun around to hide her expression from Sara, but not quick enough to keep Sara from seeing her barb hit. God, what is wrong with me? I'm acting like a child. She started to reach out when the edge of anger and fear that had been driving Sara for the last 24 hours resurfaced. Wait, when did this become all about Catherine and her feelings? I seem to recall I'm the one who had to shoot a guy who wanted to rape and murder me.

Catherine had spun back to face her, fury replacing the hurt in a classic Willows' move: lash out instead of taking the pain in, putting it all on the people around her instead of dealing with it herself. Still, her words stung. "Do you have a drinking problem?"

The juvenile "I drink, I fall down, no problem" flashed through Sara's head as a first response, and for a second, those irrelevant giggles from the previous day returned. Catherine was staring at her, wide-eyed and furious, and Sara thought for a second that the words had slipped out.

"Do you think this is funny?" When Sara didn't immediately respond, Catherine asked again, "I asked you if you have a drinking problem."

"No, Catherine, I don't," Sara shot back. "I had a few drinks. That's it." Suddenly Sara's own rage came bubbling up, pouring into her words. "I'm not your kid, Catherine, I don't need you to take care of me, ok? I'm not Lindsey, you are not my mother, and you don't get to tell me what to do." Sara's voice had risen during her outburst, and Catherine took a step back, surprised. "Not at work and especially not in my own house. I drink, yes. I drank last night because I had to shut my mind off, for just a few hours. I suggested you leave last night because I couldn't look at the disappointment in your eyes because I desperately needed not to feel and you weren't helping. Got it?" A stunned silence descended on the apartment as Sara finished, and she banged her head against the wall at her back, adding to the throbbing behind her eyes.

After a long minute, Catherine finally spoke, choosing her words carefully. "You're right. I'm not your mother and I can't control you. But I am your lover, and…"

"Prove it," came a throaty growl from Sara.

"What? Prove whaaa…. unh." Catherine's words trailed off in a gasp as Sara caught her up, pushing her back against the wall, her tongue sliding between Catherine's lips as their bodies crashed together. Caught off guard and off-balance, Catherine could only cling to Sara as she was overwhelmed by Sara's sudden onslaught. Sara pressed her advantage, forcing Catherine's head back so she could deepen the kiss, her hands on Catherine's hips digging in to bring their bodies even closer.

Catherine could taste the minty flavor of Sara's toothpaste and the faintest tinge of Scotch, could feel the harsh plaster at her back where her shirt was already hiked up, and could hear herself moan as Sara's insistent hands stroked and caressed her overheated skin. Sara broke the kiss, whipping Catherine's shirt and bra off, and the much-needed oxygen returned some ability to process to Catherine's brain.

"Sara," she whimpered as Sara nibbled and bit her way down Catherine's neck, her hands finding Catherine's breasts, squeezing and twisting, "Sara, please…."

"Please what?" Sara whispered into Catherine's ear, feeling the shorter woman shiver in her arms.

"Please stop."

"You really don't want me to do that," Sara muttered against her neck, licking the sensitive spot just above Catherine's collarbone as she teased Catherine's nipples with her thumbs, eliciting another throaty moan. Her mouth dipped lower and Catherine arched to meet her lips. Sara's hands slid over Catherine's hips and down her thighs before sliding under her skirt and cupping her ass.

Catherine tried one last time. "Sara… we need to talk."

Sara pulled her mouth back from Catherine's breasts, teasing, taunting, the sensitive flesh with her breath, lightly blowing and watching the quivers in her lover's stomach in response. "Talk later. Fuck now."

"Is that… what we're doing?" Catherine gasped out as her body played traitor, craving Sara's touch. She squirmed under Sara's fingers and mouth, begging to be touched more deeply, more thoroughly.

"You want to call me doing you against a wall making love?" Sara teased Catherine's nipple with the lightest of feather kisses, watching as Catherine's body strained to sustain contact, watching as Catherine caught her bottom lip between her teeth. Catherine flushed as Sara's words, so dirty and immature, so out of character for her tender and sensitive lover, embarrassed and exhilarated her, all at the same time. "Come on, Cath" Sara continued, almost conversationally except for the deep, husky timbre of her voice, "Four-inch heels… a skirt… a thong? You honestly expect me to believe you came here for conversation?"

"I… " Unable to take any more teasing, Catherine wrapped her arms around Sara's waist, pulling her up and in for a smoldering kiss, pressing her body as tightly against Sara's as she could, and still finding too much space. If she could have dissolved her body into Sara's, sliding through her like osmosis, Catherine wasn't sure if she would have been satisfied. She could feel Sara's smirk against her lips, but she just parted them under the pressure, inviting Sara to enter, her fingers raking the tender skin of Sara's back, marking her with long, deep scratches, as Sara's fingers caressed her stomach on their way to her breasts.

Dizzy from the lack of oxygen and from Sara's expert hands, Catherine pulled back from the kiss, forcing Sara's mouth to relocate to her ear, Sara's fingers tangling in her golden hair to hold her head still, her tongue and breath alternating between wetting the sensitive passage and blowing it dry, driving her crazy with want, until Catherine grabbed a handful of hair and pulled Sara's head back, whispering "Do me now" through clenched teeth.

Pushing on Sara's shoulder, Catherine drove the taller woman to her knees and held her there, one hand digging deep into the brunette's shoulder, flailing with her free hand until she caught the coat rack and held on. Sara's delicate fingers slid her underwear down her legs, teasing the skin between her thighs with a gentle caress as she did so, and dove under the fabric of Catherine's skirt, her tongue repeating the journey of her fingers a moment before.

Catherine braced her leg on Sara's other shoulder, opening herself to Sara's insistent tongue, holding on for dear life as Sara traced lazy circles around her clit, never directly putting pressure on the sensitive flesh. "Sara," Catherine warned, digging her heel into Sara's back and rocking her hips against Sara's mouth, "Now." Sara sucked the flesh into her mouth, flicking her tongue back and forth as she build a steady rhythm, Catherine's body dancing to match.

Catherine's fingers clutched Sara's shoulder under her hand, desperately trying to convey her need. "Sara, please," she begged as Sara lightened her touch, teasing her clit with quick but faint flicks of her tongue. Wrapping one arm around Catherine's waist to hold her steady, Sara parted Catherine's lips with her fingers, feeling the wetness coat her fingers and eliciting a gasp from her lover. Catherine wanted to scream but she couldn't find the breath as Sara's fingers teased, tracing the moist folds up and over but never in; she could hear her own voice muttering "Oh god, please, yes, please, Sara, please," like a mantra, pleading for the satisfaction that Sara promised with every touch, every movement of her tongue.

Just when Catherine thought she couldn't take the touch any longer, Sara's fingers slid home, filling Catherine completely. Catherine's head thudded into the wall behind her, grinding her hips as Sara's fingers slipped out and then filled her again, slowly increasing the tempo with each thrust. Sara built her up expertly, each new thrust taking her closer to the edge, but never enough to take her over. No longer able to move, Catherine rode the waves of sensation as every touch caused her body to buck and shudder.

Just as Catherine felt her legs begin to shake with her impending orgasm, Sara slowed the tempo and eased the pressure on her clit, pulling Catherine back from the edge while Catherine pleaded and begged her for release, her hand finding its way into the auburn hair to pull Sara's mouth tight against her until she felt Sara's fingers again thrusting into her.

Sara took her up and eased her back twice more, until all of Catherine's body was liquid, every nerve ending jumping and quivering, and everything in her screaming for release. Catherine's pleading was wordless, just a long moan punctuated by gasps and yelps as Sara's tongue brought her up again, fingers thrusting in harder and faster, finally driving Catherine over the edge. Catherine screamed then, her body thrashing and shaking as wave after wave washed over her.

When she was able to breathe again, Catherine was thankful for Sara's strong arms holding her up as she unclamped her cramping hand from the coat rack, wiping at the tears in her eyes. Sliding up her body, Sara caught her and cradled her, suddenly, unexpectedly, tender and soothing. Catherine reveled in the feeling of safety and security that washed over her as she was cocooned by Sara's body.

Wrapped up in Sara felt like home, she realized, like this was the place she could rest and lay down her burdens, and the anxiety of the previous two days suddenly made sense. I couldn't touch her, I haven't really touched her for the last two days. I just needed to put my arms around her and breathe her in. Catherine nuzzled into Sara's neck, pressing soft kisses there, feeling utterly spent but knowing, more than anything, that she wanted to touch and taste every inch of Sara's body.

She heard and felt Sara's laugh rumble through her chest as Catherine's kisses got more insistent, her teeth fastening on the soft skin and biting down hard. "Are you sure you don't want to talk now?" Sara asked. Ignoring her teasing, Catherine caught her chin and kissed her way up to Sara's mouth, tasting Sara's toothpaste and herself on Sara's lips. Sara's lips parted, allowing entrance, but Catherine didn't take her up on the invitation, instead feathering kisses along her cheekbones and over her eyelids.

Her fingers traced the places where she had raked Sara's smooth back, liking the idea that Sara was carrying her marks. She wanted to imprint her touch on Sara's body, tattoo herself onto every inch of skin, and Catherine was shocked by her possessiveness. She wanted to erase the memory of every past lover and make it so that only her touch remained, forever and ever.

Pulling back, Catherine stared into Sara's ebony eyes, clouded with desire, raw with want, and she reached out, stroking Sara's face gently while she brought Sara's hand to her mouth, kissing and licking the palm, sucking her fingers, nibbling the pulse at her wrist, all the while keeping her eyes locked on Sara's. Sliding Sara's boxers down her legs and her own skirt off as they moved, Catherine backed Sara up and bent her back over the kitchen counter.

Catherine leaned against the long muscular body and brushed her nipples against Sara's, loving the fact that her heels gave her the height advantage for once. Bracing herself against the counter and dipping her mouth down, Catherine gave Sara a slow, deep, open-mouthed kiss that went on forever, her tongue exploring every inch of Sara's mouth and Sara let her dominate with no resistance. She parted Sara's thighs, sliding her own between them to press against the wetness at Sara's center, and heard Sara whimper deep in her throat in response. Seeing Sara's glazed expression when she raised her head, Catherine smirked, rubbing her thigh against the sensitive skin while Sara's stomach contracted and she bit back a moan.

Sara's hands wrapped around Catherine's waist to try to pull her closer, but Catherine caught them and forced them back to the kitchen counter. "Keep them there," she growled in Sara's ear, catching the earlobe between her teeth, "And keep your eyes closed." Catherine watched as Sara's eyelids obediently fluttered closed. Sara's immediate and unquestioning acquiesce unleashed a wild passion inside of Catherine and she bared her teeth in a feral smile as she attacked the already bruised flesh of Sara's shoulder with her mouth. She continued her assault down Sara's chest, leaving a trail of bites down to her breasts.

Sucking Sara's nipple into her mouth, she teased the taut flesh with quick, forceful strokes, feeling Sara's body quiver under her with each flick of her tongue. Catherine raised her head and gazed up at Sara's face, with her closed eyes and clenched teeth, appearing preternaturally quiet and calm, standing as still as a statue. Catherine nibbled her way back up Sara's neck, leaving a trail of kisses instead of bites this time. She stopped, poised above the trembling body of her lover, and watched as Sara braced herself on shaky arms and waited. Catherine let her weight sink into Sara, trusting in Sara's strength to hold them both up, as she began to slowly grind into her body, hip to hip, breast to breast, mouth to mouth. Her hands curled around Sara's ass and crushed their bodies together, eliciting a soft gasp from Sara, as Catherine kept up her slow grind.

Sara's head had fallen back, her eyes still closed, obviously concentrating on every movement Catherine made. Her hands free, Catherine let them roam, leaving marks everywhere they wandered, scratches along the sensitive skin of Sara's back, bruises on her thighs. Her hands roamed, pausing only for moments, never long enough if Sara's gasps were any indication. Smiling into the kiss, Catherine teased Sara's taunt body, stretched tight and trembling with every touch, every sensation. Leaving Sara's mouth, Catherine began a painfully slow journey down Sara's body, tasting and nibbling every inch of flesh as she made her way across Sara's stomach and down her thighs.

Sara's body was a study in tension, every muscle stretched taut to the absolute breaking point as Catherine played Sara's body like a musical instrument, every kiss, every lick, and every slightest touch setting off a resonant tremble rippling through Sara's body, her stomach twitching with every caress. Catherine had never seen her so quiet yet so focused in her passion, and it drove her to tease and touch Sara everywhere but where she most needed it. Sara, to her credit, didn't plead or beg, but instead let Catherine play her body until each stroke elicited a gasp of pain and need from her.

Sliding back up Sara's torso, Catherine stared at her lover's face as she entered her, driving three fingers deep into Sara, Sara's already taunt body going absolutely rigid as Catherine filled her completely. Catherine pulled her fingers out, hearing Sara whimper in protest only to catch her breath as Catherine's thumb rubbed across her clit roughly. Catherine began her worst tease yet, alternating between her hand and thumb, between filling and withdrawing, between stroking Sara's sensitive clit and leaving it untouched.

Her whole body shaking under Catherine's onslaught, Sara's breath came in short, sharp gasps as she fought to find the release Catherine's touches denied her again and again. When Catherine finally slid her other hand down, taking over from her thumb to set up a steady rhythm on Sara's clit, penetrating her faster and faster, Sara convulsed, her entire body collapsing as all the tension in her body let go, and all her breath left her body in a rush.

Catherine caught Sara as she collapsed onto the counter, arms and body giving way suddenly, completely spent. Pulling Sara into a hug, Catherine pressed soft kisses into Sara's neck, feeling Sara drape her body over her shoulders.

Finally, Catherine managed to maneuver them into the bedroom, kicking her shoes off somewhere along the way, her eyes closing the instant her head hit the pillow.

I can't sleep

When I'm not next to you

I cry

This is love

This is how I love you

-Me'shell Ndegeochello, Love Song #1

Part 29

And who am I for Christ's sake anyway

To judge your life this way

When my own's in disarray

So it's not for me to say

Cuz I change my mind from day to day

And when I look at you

I only see bits of myself anyway

So go on

Stop listening to me

Don't ask me how I feel

-Everything but the Girl, Two Star


When Catherine woke, they were entangled on the bed, so entwined that Catherine had a hard time telling where Sara's body ended and hers began. She pushed up, staring at the alabaster skin of her lover, still a bit shocked at how the morning had turned out. She had expected an argument or a stormy silence or the experience of being kicked out of Sara's apartment, but wild and uncontrolled sex in Sara's hallway and kitchen hadn't been on the agenda. In fact, Catherine had expected to have that part of their relationship on hold as they dealt with the aftermath of the yelling and screaming Catherine had anticipated that morning. Catherine was even more amazed at the lethargy that pulled her back down into the warmth of Sara's embrace, unable to resist just a few more minutes snuggled against her lover before they had to face the day.

When she awoke again, Catherine felt Sara's hands smoothing her hair back and her moan of pleasure rumbled from her chest. "Mmmmmm." She experimentally tried to raise her head, collapsing back into the comfort of Sara with a happy sigh. "I can't move. I think I'll stay here forever."

Sara chuckled at that. "What do you think Grissom would say when we both tendered our resignations, citing an inability to leave my bed as grounds?"

"That I'm a lucky, lucky woman," Catherine muttered, imagining the look on her friend's face. She grinned at the image in her head and pressed a kiss to Sara's collarbone, thinking about how lucky she really was.

"Hmmph," Sara replied.

"Sara?" Catherine snuck a peek at the pensive expression on Sara's face as she stared at the ceiling, still absently stroking Catherine's hair. Catherine reached up to caress Sara's cheek, concerned. "What's wrong, honey?"

Sara refused to meet Catherine's eyes. "I'm sorry about… this morning. I was… out of control."

"Mmmmm… yeah," Catherine purred in agreement. When Sara didn't reply, she glanced up again, seeing the far away look in Sara's eyes. "I'm not complaining. Far from it, in fact."

Sara's eyes were almost black, clouded by her unsettled emotions. "That wasn't…" Catherine's fingers on her lips cut her off.

"Sara, Sara, honey, look at me," she commanded, meeting the stormy eyes when Sara glanced down, her mouth curled in contempt, for herself, not for Catherine. "Sara, this morning was fine. Hell, it was more than fine. It was amazing…."

"Yeah, less than twenty-four hours after you tell me you love me, I'm fucking you in the hallway." Again, Sara's deliberately crass language made Catherine's mouth go dry and caused a throbbing in the pit of her stomach. She knew Sara was hoping to elicit disgust or repulsion, but Catherine found herself anything but disgusted and she had to restrain herself from sliding up Sara's body to show her just how turned on she was.

Instead, Catherine smiled at the memory of their antics of the morning and gave a self-satisfied sigh. "Yeah," she said, a dreamy note in her voice. Sara shifted under her uncomfortably, and Catherine cut off the stream of self-condemnation and disgust she knew was coming. "Sara… I liked that, I like you, wild, out of control like that. Not… not all the time, of course, but sometimes…. Although if you get into the habit of making me wait like that I may have to kill you for teasing me." Once again Catherine relived the morning and she felt her body heating.

Sara chuckled for a second before continuing more seriously, "Are you sure? I, it scared me, a little. I don't…" she paused, searching for the word, but not finding a good one, "like being out of control."

"It didn't scare me. I know you wouldn't hurt me…" Catherine's mouth stretched into a wide grin, "except in ways that I want you to." Her voice was more serious as she continued, "I trust you, hon."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. And besides," Catherine stroked the pale skin of Sara's chest, fingering the red bite marks there, "I don't think you are the one who should be apologizing for being too rough."

"I'm fine," Sara replied, brushing off Catherine's concern with a shake of her head.

"Are you?" Catherine questioned carefully, watching Sara's face as she pressed. Sara shook her head, resolutely. Catherine thought it was odd that, given the fact Catherine had slapped her, that Sara was concerned that she might hurt Catherine, but not the other way around. Shaking off the misgivings in her head, Catherine regulated the morning's activities to old business and decided to begin the conversation they really had to have. "How are you feeling about what happened yesterday?" she asked, keeping the subject vague so Sara could interpret and address any of the events surrounding the Stubben case.

"I, I'm fine," Sara's pensive sigh filled the room, speaking volumes about how not fine she really was. "It was just a stressful day."

"Yeah," Catherine agreed, reliving the fear and anxiety for a moment before speaking again. "I was so terrified, and so helpless, sitting there. I thought… I'm sorry." Sara raised her head to give Catherine a puzzled glance. "I shouldn't have made such a fuss about you doing your job. I mean, you're right. You're not my child and I have no right to try to protect you from your own choices. And just so you know, it's not because I didn't think you could handle yourself. I just don't trust everyone else. But I should have just trusted you." Lapsing into silence, Catherine stroked the smooth skin of Sara's stomach, listening to Sara's heart beat, slow and steady, under her ear.

"Thanks." Sara's dark eyes had that faraway look Catherine was beginning to recognize, the one that signaled that Sara was mulling over some past that Catherine wasn't a part of, and Catherine's heart sank as her fears about ever knowing the past of the woman she desperately wanted to love with all of her being surfaced.

This time, Catherine's sigh filled the room, drawing Sara's attention back to her. "What?" Sara asked softly, rubbing Catherine's back as Catherine snuggled against her neck, suddenly needing the physical closeness to reassure her that Sara was still there.

"I love you." Even to her own ears, the words rang hollow, empty, like she was trying to convince herself rather than voicing a surety, and Sara picked up the tone immediately.

"It sounds like you mean to add a 'but' to that sentence," Sara asked carefully, as if she were afraid to ask, afraid to know the answer.

"But sometimes I don't know if I even know you, know who you are. I get so scared, because how can I love someone I don't know?" Catherine felt the tears starting as she voiced a fear that had held her heart for days, maybe even weeks. How can I love someone I don't know, care so much when I know so little?

Sara's eyes closed and her arms snaked around Catherine to give her a tight hug, squeezing their bodies together. "I'm no good at talking about myself. I never got into the habit. I…" There was an almost painful silence as Sara searched for the words, "…never had anyone to listen."


"Never." The certainty in Sara's voice was frightening, that tone that she got in her voice that told Catherine she was remembering a past hurt and a deep pain. Whatever it was, it had shaped Sara so fundamentally that it was a part of her truths, those things that made her who she was today, and it was a part of her she couldn't seem to share. Even with Catherine wrapped around her body, so close there was no space between them, Sara still sounded so alone, so solitary, that Catherine tightened her hold on the slim body beneath hers.

"What about friends? Sta? Your ex? What about your parents?"

"I learned at a very early age that I only had myself. I learned not to rely on anyone else."

"You didn't feel like you relied on your parents?" Catherine asked, incredulously.

"Growing up, my parents, um, my parents were ex-hippies, not exactly reliable. They made promises, but… then they'd forget." The remembered pain in Sara's voice was unlike any Catherine had heard before and it spoke of a little girl who had spent too much time wishing for things she had realized at an early age that she was never going to have. "Little stuff, big stuff… it all slipped through the cracks. But you know when you are a kid, everything's big, everything's important. The promises to go get ice cream or a new book. The permission slip that never got signed. Every year was the year that we'd actually go to the zoo. After a while and after I got old enough to mow grass for neighbors or pull weeds, I just bought the books I wanted or forged my mother's name to be able to go on that class trip to the museum."

Sara had stopped talking, caught up in her memories, and Catherine wondered how her parents had been that inattentive. "Was it drugs?"

"No, no, by then, it was just alcohol. They ran a bed-and-breakfast, kinda rundown and cheap, and most of the clientele was bikers and hippies, and they'd sit out with the guests on the porch for hours drinking and talking. The guests would smoke sometimes, but my parents didn't."

Just as Catherine was going to ask another question, Sara clearly concluded any more discussion of her family with a curt, "I learned to be self-sufficient early and I never did break the habit."

"Even with friends or girlfriends?"

A heartbreakingly sad expression graced Sara's features as she contemplated the question. "I don't trust easily." And again the silence stretched.

Finally, Catherine asked the question that she had been dying to ask since the conversation began, "What about me?"

Sara drew in a deep breath and exhaled with a sigh. "I don't know," she answered truthfully, and although her words caused another sliver of fear to worm its way into Catherine's heart, at least she knew where she stood. "I, this thing with us, it's so new. It's… amazing, unexpected, but it's so new." Sara's fingers began to trace circles on Catherine's back, a soothing gesture that seemed to work for both of them. "It'll take time."

There was a long pause before she spoke again. "I love you," Sara breathed softly into Catherine's hair, sounding almost like a confession rather than a declaration of love. "No buts, no reservations, just love." The words warmed Catherine, and the quiet surety in Sara's tone told her that this, too, was one of Sara's truths, and she clung to that. "Trust is different than love, and for me, it takes longer." Catherine nodded her understanding, afraid to look up and meet Sara's eyes, afraid that her uncertainty would show, feeling both chilled and warmed, reassured and denied at the same time.

"You wanted to know about yesterday?" Sara asked, surprising Catherine, who had thought that the conversation was over. "What do you want to know?"

Catherine thought for a few moments, thinking about all the questions that had swirled around her head. "I saw the tape of your interview with IAB and I know you know about what he" Catherine couldn't bring herself to name the monster, "was planning. I almost threw up at the crime scene when Warrick showed me that." She paused for a second, gathering her thoughts." I'm not sure what the question is, I just want to know what you are thinking about that and if you really are ok."

"I threw up. I ran out of that interrogation room and puked my guts out as soon as they left." Sara's admission seemed wrenched from her almost painfully, as if she hated to admit to any weakness. "Jim found me. That's why he drove me home."

Catherine flashed back to Sara and Jim, drunk and chummy on the couch, and she sighed before admitting to her insecurity. "I was jealous. I saw you with him and it hurt that you could talk to him and not me. God, from the moment I saw you in the desert, all I wanted to do was be your strength and confidante. Then I walk in and Jim was here instead of me…." Her voice trailed off and she rubbed her face against Sara's stomach, pressing a kiss there.

Sara shook her head. "No, not really. I invited Jim up because I didn't want to be alone, but also because with him, I really didn't have to talk. He… and the alcohol… were good distractions. Jim told war stories about his experiences for a little while and then we talked about movies and cars for the rest of the night. He didn't ask questions and he didn't expect me to open up about my feelings. And I needed that last night."

"And that's why I had to leave?" Catherine questioned quietly, knowing a sliver of hurt colored her tone.

"I," Sara pressed a kiss into the golden tresses of Catherine's hair before continuing, "I didn't know how to tell what I needed," she confessed quietly, "I didn't know how to say that I needed to be distracted, that I couldn't handle your questions or your fear or your need for reassurance. I haven't had to explain myself to anyone or ask for space when all I've had is space for years." Catherine nodded in understanding against her stomach, seeing how different their lives have been. She, with her daughter, her family, and her friends all around, didn't have much time for quiet contemplation or strategic withdraw; for Catherine it was hit every problem, confront every issue, head-on and immediately because she didn't have any time before the next problem presented itself. Sara, obviously, dealt with problems differently, and her next words confirmed this, "Sometimes, I'll need to retreat when I'm working through something; I'll need time and space, but next time I'll articulate that need more clearly."

Pushing herself up so her light eyes could search the depths of Sara's dark ones, Catherine asked, "Promise?"

Sara nodded solemnly. "Promise." After a few moments, Catherine broke the gaze as she slid up Sara's body to kiss her softly. She watched as a brief smile slid from Sara's face, her eyes focusing on the walls. Stroking Sara's cheek gently, Catherine drew Sara's eyes back to her, "What?"

"I was scared." Sara's eyes slid away again. "I knew he was going to try something, just like you did. I, I think I almost shot my own foot when he dropped down to dig in the sand that first time. My hand was shaking so hard." She shook her head like she was disappointed in herself. "I don't know which was worse, the idea that maybe I could shoot him or that maybe I couldn't. It's one of these questions you really don't want to have answered about yourself, what's your capacity to harm another person?"

Her eyes narrowed, like she was holding in tears, and Sara bit her lower lip in an effort to control them. "Then I saw the gun and there was no hesitation. I just started shooting. I, I don't remember stopping…" Her voice cracked on that and the next words seemed almost painful for her to speak aloud. "I wanted him dead and I almost killed him."

Catherine knew Sara had serious issues with the idea of hurting others, but she was surprised to see the anguish in her lover's face as she recounted the experience of shooting Stubben. She hadn't expected that that would be the issue Sara agonized over. "He deserves to die," Catherine stated flatly, her own anger at the man who had wanted to hurt the woman in her arms flaring to life yet again in the pit of her stomach.

"Maybe. But he doesn't deserve to die by my hand. It's not my place to be his executioner." Her choked voice belayed the rational, almost clinical words she spoke and Sara's eyes closed tightly.

"You didn't kill him," Catherine reassured her.

"I still wanted him dead." Finally, the tears began to fall and Sara buried her face in her hand for a second before Catherine gathered the lanky frame into her arms, cradling her in her arms tightly, while the sobs racked her body. When Sara finally quieted, she sat up, wiping at her face, embarrassed. "Thanks," she whispered, trying to convey more than a simple thanks for holding her while she cried, hoping the word would convey the enormity of what she was feeling.

Catherine's soft, knowing smile as she pushed Sara's hair back behind her ears and caught a few stray tears conveyed her understanding without words, and she wondered if Sara would think she was crazy if she thanked her in turn. Sara's quiet admission and moment of weakness, signifying a crack in the walls Sara used to keep everyone else out, was infinitely precious to Catherine, bespeaking a level of trust that Catherine wasn't sure Sara even knew she had given yet.

They cuddled on the bed for what seemed like hours, each giving and receiving of strength and reassurance from the other, until Sara's cell phone rang and she hurried out to take the call. When she came back in, her wide smile warmed her face, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. "That was Brass. He said the IAB board cleared me in the shooting and I can go back to work tonight. He's, uh, coming by in about an hour to pick up his car. He took a cab home last night."

"Well, I should head out then," Catherine said, stretching to her fullest extension as she got out of bed, the soreness of her limbs making her want to crawl back into the bed.

"You don't have to," Sara frowned, her eyes troubled as she gazed at her lover, naked in the middle of her bedroom. She knew they weren't ready to tell people about their relationship, they hadn't even talked about the possibility yet, but Sara hated feeling like they were hiding or sneaking around. Catherine read the expression and leaned in to give Sara a long kiss, wishing they had the time and energy for a repeat performance, before breaking off, leaving Sara breathless. "I know I don't have to for Jim's sake. But I do have to pick up Lindsey and I promised her I would take her shopping this afternoon." She then sauntered toward the bathroom, giving Sara ample opportunity to watch before turning with a seductive smile, "Join me?"

After Catherine left, Jim came by, offering Sara dinner and a drive to work to celebrate the IAB's decision, and since she was up and ready, Sara agreed. They spent a couple of comfortable hours at a steak and seafood place off the Strip, comfortable except for the fact that Jim's eyes kept being drawn away from Sara's face to her neck.

Unable to take it any longer, Sara finally just snapped, "what?" and Jim gave her a look that was half-guilty and half-sheepish. He squirmed uncomfortably for a few moments before telling her, "You, uh, have a…" he flicked at a spot on his own neck, "on your neck."

"A…" Sara began before her eyes went wide as she realized exactly what she had on her neck, and she flushed crimson as she realized the night of hell in store for her at the lab. I'm going to kill her.

Part 30

Catherine was walking down the hallway toward the break room when a strong hand caught her arm and pulled her into the locker room. Recognizing the scent of her lover's shampoo, the same scent in her hair tonight, Catherine immediately tangled her hands in the dark strands and pulled Sara in for an open-mouthed kiss. They had only been apart for a few hours, but Catherine had been hard pressed to keep up with the steady stream of chatter from Lindsey and one loud whiny "MOM!" in the food court had pulled her away from a particularly vivid memory of Sara's trembling stomach and pleading moans the day before. Now, with the object of her desire in front of her, she didn't waste any time.

"Catherine!" Sara whispered, trying to untangle their bodies. "That's not why I pulled you in here."

"It's not?" Catherine's hands slid down Sara's neck and along her sides, tickling as she did so. "That's too bad," she purred in Sara's ear, "because I was thinking…."

"Catherine," Sara warned, finally breaking completely away from the shorter woman and putting the bench between them. Catherine could feel her mouth curving into a predatory grin as she took in the flush that stained Sara's cheeks and ears, the annoyed glare, and the way she struggled to control her breathing. "Did you notice?"

The seeming nonsequitor caused Catherine to pause in her climb over the bench for a second, but only for a second, as she advanced on the taller woman. "Notice what?" she asked distractedly as she tried to close the distance between them.

"This!" The outrage in Sara's voice was clear as she swept her hair back, exposing the large bruise marring her pale skin.

Catherine pushed Sara back against the lockers and pulled her head back to inspect her handiwork. "This?" she repeated as she stroked the red skin. "I like it," she smirked. "It's just too bad the rest are hidden…" Sara's eyes widened as Catherine catalogued the damage she had done the day before, "The bites on your shoulders and breasts, the scratches and heel print on your back, the bruises on your hips and thighs…"

"Catherine," Sara growled warningly as she tried to pull away again, but Catherine's body had her trapped against the lockers, her fingers burning a path up and down her sides.

"This… lets the lovestruck boys know that you are taken," she whispered, "that you are taken often and well." Catherine ran her tongue over the bruised skin lightly. "Your body belongs to me. I like that they know it."

"Actually, I think my body belongs to me," Sara replied cheekily. Catherine's reply was a long, deep, wet kiss that left Sara dazed and breathless. Surveying her handiwork once more, Catherine smiled her predatory smile and watched as Sara's eyes darkened with desire.

"You are mine," Catherine told her, "so anything that belongs to you belongs to me." She ran her hands down Sara's body, brushing over her nipples, along the curves of her hipbones, and down her thighs. "Including this." With that, Catherine turned and walked out, leaving Sara to stare after her on trembling legs.

Still dazed, Sara wandered into the break room a few moments later and poured a cup of coffee, hoping the caffeine would help her mind to function again. Sipping the hot liquid carefully, she turned, staring off into space, not even noticing that everyone was sitting around the table, chatting about the news while waiting for Grissom.

A voice penetrated the fog. "Sara? Earth to Sara?" Nick was calling, and apparently had been calling for a while. His voice had a concerned note, and she suddenly realized that this was the first time since the incident with Stubben that the guys had seen her. It all seemed so long ago now.

"Oh, hey Nick. Hey guys." Sara said brightly, a fake smile plastered on her face as she hung her head down, hoping her hair would hide the mark. She shot a look at Catherine, whose twinkling eyes and tight smirk showed her obvious enjoyment of Sara's discomfort.

"Sara, hey, where were you?" Nick's voice was a tone deeper and his accent more pronounced as he stepped closer, his worry obvious on his face. "You were like a thousand miles away just now." Nick stepped even closer when Sara didn't meet his eye. "You sure you're ok?" A pace away from the counter, he stopped dead, his eyes widening, mouth hanging open, staring at Sara's neck.

"Nick?" Greg called from the table, "now what's wrong with you?" He looked from where Nick was frozen in place to the spot on Sara's neck where Nick's eyes were fixated and then aped Nick's expression perfectly. Unfortunately, he recovered his ability to speak much quicker than Nick. "So the mystery man is a biter, huh? God, that's so juvenile. Even I haven't had a hickey since I was like 15."

Nick had retreated back to the table and dropped into his seat with a thud where he and Warrick exchanged a disturbed look before fixing back on Sara as if asking for an explanation. With one last, 'don't you dare laugh' glare at Catherine, Sara announced, "I have work," and left the break room.

Later, right at the end of shift, she caught up with Catherine in the locker room again. She trapped Catherine in the narrow space between the bench and the lockers, her thigh parting Catherine's expertly to apply subtle pressure while her hands mussed Catherine's hair. "Do you know what you started?" Sara asked, irritation clear in her voice, although not her actions. "It's no longer 'Sara's mystery guy,' it's 'Mr. Lovebite'."

Catherine tried to stifle her smile, given her lover's apparent anger, but it was near impossible. The guys had been merciless, from what Catherine had seen, and Sara had walked through the lab all night with a scowl, daring anyone to say anything to her that wasn't work related. Catherine had reveled in it, not simply because she had been in on the secret, but because Sara had been adorable in her anger.

Sara's voice dropped to a low intense whisper. "I'm glad you are enjoying this, but don't worry, I will get you back."

"But if you give me one, the guys will get suspicious," Catherine reasoned as Sara's mouth lowered toward her ear, teasing her with breath and tongue.

"Who said anything about giving you a hickey?" Sara asked as she ran her hands up under Catherine's shirt, cupping her breasts, her thumbs lazily circling the nipples. The sharp inhalation of breath turned into a moan; Catherine's breathing was suddenly labored and her eyes glazed. Taking Catherine's head thrown back and parted lips as invitation, Sara gave her a deep, hungry kiss that turned Catherine's legs to jelly.

"I have something else planned for you…" Sara explained, stepping back to appraise her lover's smudged lipstick, messed hair, and dazed expression. She grinned and turned to the mirror to check her lipstick just as the door burst open and Nick, Warrick, and Greg exploded into the locker room, laughing and joking. Catherine's synapses, still misfiring after that blazing kiss, wouldn't carry any commands to the rest of her body, so she just stood there, braced against the wall of lockers, as the guys walked back to them. Sara's tight, satisfied smile in the reflection in the mirror told Catherine she had known the guys were right behind her.

"Hey, Cath, you ok?" Greg asked.

His voice seemed to break the thrall Catherine was in, and she managed to push herself off the locker, running a hand through her hair to try to tame the messed curls. "Um, yeah, yeah, I'm fine," she said, turning to her locker so she didn't have to see Sara's triumphant smirk while she tried to get her raging hormones under control.

"Hey guys, what do you say to breakfast?" Sara chimed in then, "My treat." The guys gave her surprised looks all around, given her mood for most of shift, and Catherine tried to hide her consternation, knowing that Sara was subtly baiting a trap for her. "One catch though," Sara cautioned with raised eyebrows, "no mention of my love life or the um…"

"Coughhickeycough," Greg supplied, then backed away from Sara as he caught her narrowed eyes. "What, I had to clear my throat." His innocent look lasted all of a second before he relented, shrugging his shoulders in 'what can I do, that's just me' gesture. "Ok, deal," Greg said, and Nick and Warrick chimed in as well. "Sounds good to me." "I'm starved."

Lockers slammed shut and the rustle of jackets and bags being grabbed filled the locker room, while Catherine stood rooted in front of her locker, trying to decide if she wanted to join them or not. Her girlfriend's pleased expression made her distinctly nervous and she knew there was more to breakfast than breakfast. But then, as the gang all gathered by the door, Warrick called to her, "Catherine, are you coming?"

"Yeah, Catherine, are you coming?" Sara asked innocently, her eyes dancing with mirth.


Catherine squirmed in her seat again as Sara's fingers trailed down her inner thigh while Greg and Nick tried to convince Warrick that the new Xbox coming out was going to be the best one yet. Sara had been subtle in her torture all morning, but Catherine was near the breaking point and when she glanced over at those amused brown eyes, she knew Sara knew it too. Instead of pulling her in for a heated kiss or ripping her clothes off right there in the middle of the restaurant like she wanted to, Catherine simply stilled Sara's hand on her leg and asked to be let out of the booth.

As Catherine made her retreat on shaky legs, Greg looked up from their conversation and frowned. "Catherine's pretty spacey this morning. Is she ok?"

"I'll… just go check on her," Sara reassured him as she slid out of the booth and followed her girlfriend to the back of the restaurant. She only got a foot in the bathroom before Catherine grabbed her jacket and hauled her into a rough embrace and a bruising kiss.

"What took you so long?" Catherine growled as her arms snaked around Sara's waist and cupped her ass, grinding their bodies together as she did so. "God, Sara," she gasped as Sara nibbled on her collarbone, "you're killing me."

"I know," Sara's honeyed tones perfectly conveyed her pleasure at the situation.

"Please, baby," Catherine begged, trying to get Sara's hands to where she needed them, "please."



Sara's throaty laughter rumbled in her ear. "I told you I would get you back. I'm afraid you are going to have to wait."

"Wait?" Oh, god, no. She can't be serious. But one look into Sara's eyes and Catherine knew she was. Her head thudded back into the wall behind her. "How long?"

"Hmm, that's a good question. Maybe I should make you wait til all the teasing stops about the hickey." Sara pretended to mull that option over while Catherine stared at her, open-mouthed. "I'm going to endure days of teasing about this, you know." Catherine nodded her head in agreement. "So I think the least you can do is endure oh," checking her watch "say 23, 24 hours."

Feeling the liquid heat raging through her body, Catherine doubted she could last 24 seconds, much less 24 hours. "Maybe I'll relieve the pressure myself," Catherine challenged.

"Yeah, you could…" Sara devoured Catherine's body with her eyes hungrily, like she was breakfast and smirked at the flush painting Catherine's cheeks, "but it wouldn't be anywhere near as good. And I'd know… and then you'd have a longer wait."

"You wouldn't." Sara simply smirked, and then lowered her head to toy with Catherine's earlobe, licking the sensitive flesh, "I'll call you later, baby," she whispered as she left. And when Catherine had composed herself to go back to the table, the guys told her Sara had to run and said she'd see her later.


Catherine rolled over and tried to find a halfway comfortable position on the bed once more, punching the pillow under her head in utter frustration. Incredibly vivid dreams had woken her after just an hour after falling asleep and now, the afterimages of the dreams flashed through her mind every time she closed her eyes. Or images of Sara, in her Forensics jumpsuit, in that navy peacoat, naked in the shower… With a groan, Catherine sat up and brushed her hair back out of her eyes and surveyed her bedroom with a critical eye. I'm not going to get any sleep in this bedroom, so I might as well do something else with my time. As was her norm when cases or worrying about Lindsey kept her up during the day, Catherine put on a pair of grubby sweats and pulled her hair back and started in on cleaning the house.

Four hours later, her house spotless and still two hours before she had to pick up Lindsey, Catherine sank into the couch cushions and closed her eyes, her thoughts scattered as she tried to compose her body into a short nap. At times like these, the changes in the nature of her relationship with Sara, and indeed in who Sara was beyond work and the lab, overwhelmed Catherine. Who knew Sara could be so wicked and so funny, and god, so damn irresistible. How did I miss this side of her for all those years? So much hidden underneath, and I'm the lucky one who gets to see it. Although, she thought as she considered her predicament, lucky is a relative term. It's never been like this with anyone else, this constant need, to be with her, to get inside her head, to have her under my hands and in my heart all the time.

She was still musing when her cellphone rang several minutes later and Sara's voice greeted her.

"Sleep well?" she asked, a smile in her voice.

"Not at all."

"Oh, I'm sorry, baby." The way the word 'baby' rolled off Sara's tongue in that low, rough whisper made Catherine suddenly breathless, the sound vibrations traveling through her body like a caress, and she bit back a moan. "What's the matter, baby? Why can't you sleep?"

"You know why."

An evil chuckle filled her ears. "Yeah, maybe I do. It's good to know you miss me."

"When I get my hands on you…" Catherine threatened, but she couldn't come up with a credible threat to complete her sentence as a rush of images of Sara's body flooded her head.

"What will you do?"

"You'll just have to wait," Catherine purred, determined to come up with a suitable torture of her own, but one that didn't leave visible marks this time.

"Just 16 more hours to go," Sara taunted, and Catherine could visual the twinkle in her eyes perfectly.

"And I'll make you pay for every single minute of them," she promised as she snapped her phone shut, cutting Sara off, mid-chuckle.

That's when the countdown started; her phone chirped when the first text message arrived, simply bearing the number '15.' Catherine had ignored the first, then the second, but when '13' flashed on her phone, her fingers flew over the keypad, "will get u for this." Three seconds later, a reply, "u started it." Deciding to leave her lover a little off-balance, she tapped out a reply before turning off her phone and heading to the kitchen to start dinner.

Sara's smile was huge as she stared down at her phone and that final message: "love u."


Work distracted Sara for most of the night. The countdown continued relentlessly, but beyond a few lecherous looks in the break room, so blatant Catherine began to doubt the observational prowess of their colleagues, Catherine managed to avoid Sara's torturous teasing. So when her phone rang, she didn't think to look at the caller-id.


"I didn't have a chance to tell you I love the shirt you are wearing."

"I like it too."

"That's too bad. I don't think it will survive the morning."

"SARA!" Catherine growled over the phone as arousal rushed through her body.

"Catherine?" A surprised voice came from behind her.


His tone was sad as he asked, "Are you and Sara fighting? Again?" Catherine drew a deep breath as she racked her brain for a plausible explanation and from the phone, she could hear Sara choking in laughter.

"I, um, no, no we aren't. Sara is teasing me about something and I was just trying to get her to stop."

"Oh. Ok." Gil gave her an odd look, as if he were trying to recall what teasing was like. "What's she teasing you about?" He asked, and over the pickup, Catherine could hear Sara's laughter, which had died down, renewed with even louder guffaws.

Catherine's eyes shot wide at Grissom's innocent question. "Ah, um, nothing, important, just, you know, girl stuff."

Thankfully, he didn't question. "Ok." He gave her one last strange look and he left.

Catherine turned back to the phone. "Are you still there?"

"Still… here." Catherine could hear Sara sucking in huge gasps of breath, trying to recover, but her throaty chuckle reverberated in Catherine's ear.

"You are so dead."

"But what a way to go…" There was a short pause as she recovered, whispering, "Bye hon." And then Catherine was stuck with a dead phone.

Sara straightened from where she had been leaning against her SUV, almost doubled over with laughter, the ache in her sides and the tears in her eyes a small price to pay. Brass and Nick were staring at her as she joined them, still chuckling. "What's so funny?" Jim asked while Nick chimed in with, "Was that your boyfriend on the phone?"

"No, a girlfriend, actually," she said, letting them deliberately miscomprehend. "She just said something on the phone that could be misconstrued and a passerby heard her. It was funny."

"What did she say?"

"Oh, you know… just girl stuff." Walking away from Nick and Brass, Sara fired off a quick text message, "meet u in locker rm /shift." Catherine stared down at her phone for a long second and then headed off to a lab, determined to find something to occupy her time for the next three hours.

Dutifully waiting for Sara in the locker room at the end of shift, Catherine nearly jumped when Nick walked in, looking behind him for a glimpse of the tall brunette. Seeing nothing, she tried to hide her disappointment and said, "Hey Nick. How's your case going?"

"Got some solid evidence. I should wrap it up early next shift?"

"You? I mean, wasn't Sara working that with you?"

"Yeah, she was, but Grissom pulled her off to help him with a db over on Industrial. Poor girl, it looks like she's going to be working a double." The rest of his words continued on past Catherine as her mind was stuck on the word 'double."

"Sara's working a double?" Catherine asked, interrupting Nick mid-sentence.

"Yeah, I was just saying that… She must have had plans with that guy of hers because she looked really disappointed. You know, I think this thing is getting serious…" Catherine tuned out his words again as she leaned back against the locker, her head knocking back into the sheet metal with a thump. Damn

To Be Continued

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