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
Cath was right about the pills knocking her out, Sara thought as she stumbled through the living room. She had woken to an incessant buzzing, and then knocking, from her front door, and she had struggled up out of bed to rip whoever was out there to shreds. One-handed at that. She yanked open the door to face her co-workers, three of them, standing in her door with huge grins and their hands laden with boxes and packages. "What the " she got out before Greg pressed a bouquet of flowers into her free hand. "Here! Get-well flowers," he announced, taking her arm and leading her back into her apartment as Nick and Warrick followed them in. "We also have a get-well card, get-well pizza, and, um, get-well soda.
"And movies," Nick called from where he was already turning on her TV and VCR. Sara sank into a chair at the kitchen island, and tried to take stock of the chaos that had erupted in her apartment in the last thirty seconds. Warrick was laying out three huge pizzas on the counter, Greg was fixing glasses of ice, and Nick had crept up on her, sliding an arm around her waist to give her hug. "We are so glad you are ok," he said quietly, sincerely. His drawl deepened, as it always did when he was feeling emotional. "I don't ever want to show up at a crime scene like that again, you hear me Sara Sidle?" He pressed a brotherly kiss against her cheek before heading around the bar to start serving pizza.
Although a few seconds before, Sara had been ready to throw them out, on their ears regardless of the pain it would cause her shoulder, a feeling of warmth bubbled through her as the care and concern of her co-workers was evident in their actions. She understood the reasons why they had suddenly descended on her apartment like a swarm of locusts, and she found she didn't want to toss them out just because she was too controlling about her personal space.
Warrick stepped up to give her a hug, enveloping her so her cheek rested against his broad chest. He was surprised she let him, and even more surprised when her good arm tentatively slid around his waist and she rested there. "Hey girl, how are you feeling?" Warrick asked quietly, feeling tender and protective of the slight figure in his arms.
"I'm good, for someone with a bunch of holes in her arm," she muttered, still soaking in the warmth of his body.
His mouth quirked into a smile. "We wanted to check in on you, but we'll leave if this is too much, ok?"
"Now if you'll stop manhandling my girl," Greg interjected, stepping between the two of them bodily, "she needs to eat before the food is cold. Your veggie supreme, my lady," he said with a bow. "Now what would you like to drink?"
They caught her up on the gossip and events of the lab, but running underneath their words was the constant reminder of how concerned they were for her and how much she was missed. At one point, Nick admitted that they had planned on a hospital visit but she had been let out too quickly, to which Greg chimed in, "Yeah, and we were going to stop by yesterday but Catherine wouldn't let us."
Often, while working at the lab, Sara had felt, or been made to feel, like an outsider in the close-knit group that had already been an effective team before she had arrived, so the attention and concern being lavished on her an unexpected, but very welcome, surprise. All the time she had been there, she had looked to Grissom to make the place feel like home, but now she realized that her other relationships were becoming much more meaningful and sustaining then the odd, and often empty, relationship she had with Grissom.
Nick and Warrick flanked her on either side as they watched movies, starting with a 'certified chick flick' that she was genetically programmed to like, according to Nick whose sisters had raved about Bend It Like Beckham to him. They made popcorn, teased Greg about his favorite movie, and generally enjoyed the morning. So much so that when Catherine let herself in hours later, she was greeted by the sight of Greg, leaned back in a recliner, head thrown to the side, snoring lightly, as the blank TV screen lit his face. Nick, she noticed, was curled in a throw on the couch, the remote inches from his cupped hand.
The faint hallway light illuminated Warrick's sleeping body propped up on Sara's bed, one arm thrown protectively around the slumbering form beside him. Laughing a little to herself as she realized that she hadn't needed to cut short her nap to keep Sara company, Catherine carefully made her way around the bed to slide in on Sara's other side, her fatigue overtaking her as soon as she closed her eyes.
Warrick woke slowly, his hand automatically turning off the alarm in his wristwatch before he had his eyes open. It took him a moment to make out the slight form of Catherine curled up on the other side of Sara, or to see that Sara's eyes were open and she was grinning up at him. When he raised his eyebrows questioningly, Sara smirked and whispered, "You know, Mr. Brown, this is how rumors get started."
He chuckled quietly, and replied, "As if anyone would believe that I was in bed with both Sara Sidle and Catherine Willows." He twisted his face into a comical thoughtful expression. "Of course, if they did, I would officially be the lab stud."
"Catherine?" He indicated her other side with a nod of his head and saw her eyes dart over to the body beside her before widening in understanding. "Oh." Her sudden tension puzzled him, since she had been fine waking up next to him, but he figured that she was just surprised since Catherine hadn't been there when they fell asleep.
"I'm going to wake Nick and Greg and send them home to get ready for work, ok? Coffee?" At her nod, he carefully extricated himself from the bed before her voice stopped him in the doorway. "Hey, Rick? If anyone needs to shower here or something, that's ok." He nodded and was gone.
A chuckle from behind her indicated Catherine was awake. "What?"
"For a person who's very protective of her personal space, you seem to be making great strides."
"Yeah, I guess." Sara struggled into a sitting position before sliding to the edge of the king-sized bed. "The guys were great today," she reflected before heading out to the living room to say goodbye to Nick and Greg. Warrick finished the coffee and headed down to his SUV to fetch the bag he kept in there, deciding to take Sara up on her offer of a shower while Catherine heated leftover soup for the three of them.
"So did you call Sta?" Catherine asked, keeping her voice deliberately casual and conversational, although the sudden tension in Sara's shoulders, accompanied by a wince of pain, told her the attempt was in vain.
"No. I'm thinking of calling her tonight."
"That would probably be a good idea," Catherine agreed. She set a bowl in front of Sara where she sat at the kitchen island, her shoulders slumped and her teeth working her lower lip relentlessly. "You know I'm here for you to talk to, anytime, right?" Her reassurance didn't have the desired effect; if anything Sara's nervous gnawing increased as she searched Catherine's face. A quiet 'yeah, thanks,' before turning to her soup did nothing to ease Catherine's worry.
No matter how long she had worked morgues, the antiseptic smell of hospitals always bothered her; she was sure she would never get used to the thin veneer of scent that masked the real smell of the dead, dying, and sick. The sterility was a deceit, she knew, and it made her very uncomfortable to breath the air that she imagined recycled all the germs and ills from the other patients; it was an irrational fear, and the scientist knew that the air was carefully filtered, but the child in her made her want to flee to the exits. And never had Sara been more glad to burst into the fresh air and sunshine than today. Managing to restrain herself from resting her hand on her knees and taking huge gulps of air, she dropped her overnight bag at the foot of a bench and stretched out in the cooler Northern California sun, closing her eyes behind her sunglasses for an impromptu nap.
When a shadow broke into her sun, she pried an eye open, and then shielded her eyes to get a better look. The silhouette seemed somewhat familiar, "Sta? That you?"
"Were you napping?" Her incredulous voice woke Sara up fully, and she struggled to her feet, pushing up with her good arm.
"Hey, this is my sleep time. I do work nights, remember?" Sara grinned as Sta grabbed her bag and headed toward a car parked a few feet away. "And besides, I'm just out of the hospital. Cut a girl some slack." She followed to the practical red Honda, even more relieved to be leaving the vicinity of the hospital for two days of hanging around her old home with an old friend.
Sta deposited her bag in the trunk and caught Sara in a surprise hug, her eyes taking in the sling, the sunken cheeks, and thin body of her friend. "Yeah, you look like shit, Sidle." She held the door open and helped Sara slide into the car. "You should have Catherine take better care of you," she teased gently, opening up a topic she had been dying to ask about since she had heard an unfamiliar voice answer her friend's phone a week ago.
Sara sniffed. "You think you know anything about Catherine?"
Sta settled into her seat, watching Sara out of the corner of her eye. Sara's face was always so expressive; she was a terrible card player because every emotion and thought was signaled by the twist of her mouth or the liquid depths of her eyes if you knew how to read. "You let her into your house. She took care of you while you were injured. You told her about Terry. You like her." Surprisingly, Sara's face gave away little of what she was thinking, especially about the goad at the end, and Sta couldn't hide her frown of concern.
"She's a co-worker."
"That never stopped you before."
"Also never stopped you before."
"She has a kid."
"Interesting new complication."
Finally, her expression broke from the cold, immovable mask only to show vexation. "And I don't like her, not the way you are insinuating. Now is there a reason we're sitting here in the car, not moving?"
With a sigh, Sta started the car and drove through the busy streets of San Francisco toward her apartment. A tactical change was required, she thought. "So how did it go?" There was no need to define 'it'; Sara had gotten a cab straight from the airport to the hospital to see Terry wanting to get that part of the trip out of way as quickly as possible so she could enjoy the rest of her weekend.
"Pretty much like I expected."
"I thought she wanted closure."
"Apparently that means having me fly all the way here so she can tell me how badly I treated her. Again." Sara's sigh carried over the sound of the air-conditioning. "It amazes me that, she wakes up and the first thing she wants to do is rehash the past. I just don't understand it."
"I never did. I always thought you could do so much better. Like Catherine."
"We are NOT discussing Catherine." Sara always could close down a conversation with that look and that tone, her soft tones doing nothing to disguise the force of her words. "If you are going to keep bringing her up, I'll change my ticket and head home tonight. Clear?"
There really was only one answer to that. "Clear. So " Sta breathed, looking over at her friend again and thinking about how many meals she could get in her in the two days that had together, "what old haunts did you want to visit while you are here?"
Vegas seemed so much hotter after only two and a half days in San Francisco, the sun too direct, and Sara found that she missed the clouds moving hurriedly through the sky, from the ocean inland. The funny things that we learn to miss, she thought, as she surveyed the harsh glare of the sun on the desert. And while she was healing quickly, just carrying a bag of groceries up the two flights of stairs seemed to exhaust her and she breathed in the cool air of her apartment with a sigh of relief as she set the bag down and poured a glass of water. Holding the glass to her head to cool down her parched skin, she surveyed the newly straightened room and tried to remember if she had forgotten anything. Catherine had said she would stop by that afternoon with Lindsey to go for ice cream, and Sara planned on asking if they wanted to stay for dinner. Tonight was her first day back at work, and she felt like celebrating a little.
Admittedly, she wasn't looking forward to it as much as she expected, but that was because she had already fought and lost the argument about fieldworknone for the next two weeksso she knew she would be bored and roaming the halls like a vengeful spirit after an hour of arriving at the lab.
Lindsey burst into the apartment then, to drag her down to the car where Catherine was waiting. Sara hadn't seen her in the three days since she had gotten back from her trip, and she was surprised at how apprehensive she was to see her blonde co-worker again. But the obvious warmth of the beaming smile Catherine sent her as she settled into the seat helped to settle her nerves.
"Hey. You look good. How's the arm?"
"Healing. I have full range of motion now, but the stiffness and strength will take a while." Her sigh of frustration was quiet, but heartfelt. Her physical therapy would continue for another four weeks, and the doctors were already arguing with her about overdoing it.
"I hope you don't mind, but Lindsey wants to get ice cream at the Ben and Jerry's at the Rio and maybe stop in at the arcade."
"Mmmm, Ben and Jerry's." Sara twisted to grin at Lindsey in the back seat. "What's your favorite?" The two of them debated the merits of old-fashioned single-flavor ice creamsSara preferred a classic chocolateagainst what Sara teasingly called 'new fangled flavors' like Lindsey's favorite Half Baked. Their spirited discussion segued into a discussion of classic versus new video games and carried on for most of the drive. Lindsey spent a long time explaining the appeal of Dance Dance Revolution to Sara, until Catherine cut off the increasingly bizarre conversation with, "We're here."
After ice cream, they watched from a distance as Lindsey joined the group of pre-teens surrounding the popular game and chatted about the events of the last few days. Sara told the highlights of her trip to San Francisco, but avoided questions about the scene between her and Terry other than to say that it had gone badly. The ringing of Sara's cell phone startled them both, and Sara wandered out into the concourse to hear better as Catherine watched her curiously. The blood seemed to have drained from her face, and her eyes gave Catherine a sideways glance as she spoke. Catherine had the sudden suspicion that she was somehow involved in the conversation, a suspicion that was proved right when she got closer and heard, "No, I should tell her." There was a pause, and then Sara concluded, "I'll be there soon."
"Tell me what?" Sara jumped and spun around, her eyes huge, then narrowed as she asked, "How long have you been there?" The tone wasn't accusing, exactly, but Sara didn't look too happy.
"I just walked up and heard you say you should tell her. I assume I'm the her."
Sara sighed, scanning up and down the concourse, frowning. "Yeah," she said absentmindedly.
"So tell me what?"
Gesturing toward a bench, Sara sat down, clearly uncomfortable as Catherine checked in on Lindsey before sitting beside her. "Cath, this really isn't the time or place " she began as Catherine's scowl deepened, "but I know you won't let it go so ." Then she seemed to lose her motivation and sat staring at a black smear marring the polished floor.
"Sara," Catherine prompted, with just a hint of iron in her voice.
"They may have found the gun that killed Eddie." Sara's voice is so quiet in the din of the people passing that Catherine almost missed the words. And then it took a long time for the words to penetrate, and then the emotions swept in. Her anger, her pain, the harsh words she had exchanged with the woman sitting across from her, looking so concerned, and the guilt every time Lindsey looked sadly at a little girl with her father. Catherine forced herself to breathe, and then asked the questions foremost on her mind.
"When? Where?" Then, after a pause, "Who?"
"I don't know. The gun isn't processed yet, so we don't know if it indicates either of the suspects. I'm going in to do that." Sara couldn't meet Catherine's eyes, unable to face the swirl of emotions she knew would be there. "I'm going to catch a cab to the lab, ok? I want " her voice failed her for a second, her throat tightening on the words as the memory of her failure played out in her mind's eye again. "I want to get this solved, ok?"
At Catherine's nod, she tried to grin and said, "Tell Lindsey 'bye' for me, will you?" Catherine nodded again as Sara's long legs carried her quickly through the concourse.
Five hours later, Sara stepped out of the fingerprint lab, her shoulders slumped in defeat and exhaustion. The energy that had carried her through the hours as she had printed the gun and ran the ballistics tests, as she had paced the floor as Bobby confirmed the match, as she had paced the break room waiting for a call from Jacqui, left her in a sudden whoosh the moment she had seen Jacqui's report, and now she stood, trembling just outside the door, her feet unable to move. She didn't look up from the readout clutched in her hand, not even when she heard the click of Catherine's heels heading down the hallway, straight toward her.
"So, what's up?" Catherine asked brightly, too brightly for her seemingly casual words. Catherine was lousy at pretense for a self-designated politic people-person, Sara thought bitterly. Not that she minded this time, since it got everything out in the open quickly.
Bracing herself against the onslaught, she said, "No match."
The veneer of friendliness fell from Catherine's face and tone immediately. "No match. Ballistics or fingerprint?"
"Match for ballisticsit's definitely the gun that was used in Eddie's murderbut no fingerprint match."
Catherine was shaking her head, rejecting the words. "How can that be? Both the suspects are in jail. We have their fingerprints on file."
"No match, Cath." Sara took a deep breath, steadying herself. "There may be a third suspect."
"A third suspect? Who you missed the first time?" Her voice went up a couple of octaves on the last few words, louder and more shrill, attracting the attention of a couple of lab techs, who stuck their heads out for a moment before ducking back in. "I don't believe this," Catherine hissed. She tried to calm herself, thinking through the evidence for a moment. "Wait, where was the gun found?"
"Dayshift caught a B&E in the studio outside of which Eddie was shot. It was found in a vent."
There was a dead silence in the hallway for a moment, as if all the machines in the lab had suddenly paused and the fluorescents stopped their incessant hum. This has to be the calm before the storm, Sara thought. And then it was broken. "You. Missed. It? It was right there this whole time? What, you didn't think to look there?"
In a monotone, Sara related the facts: "There was no evidence either of the suspects went inside, so there was no reason to search inside the premises. A thorough search was conducted outside. There was no evidence to suggest a third person was there."
"So you just didn't look?" With a loud thunk, Catherine's hand connected with the glass beside Sara. Sara flinched at the impact beside her, but said nothing. "I can't believe this. I can't believe YOU." With that parting shot, Catherine stalked back down the hallway, the sound of her heels receding from Sara's ears.
Jacqui brought her out of it, finally, standing in the door to her lab to ask, "You ok?"
Sara sniffed at that, thinking how far away from ok she really was. But 'fine' was all she said, until she noticed Jacqui was still standing in the doorway, watching her with concern. "Thanks," she managed, to which Jacqui nodded, slowly, in disbelief. As she turned, Sara called, "Jacqui?" When the fingerprint tech turned back to her, she managed a faint smile. "I'm, uh, stuck in the lab. You got anything I can help you with?"
Jacqui tried a smile to bring the slumped figure around. "Of course. Unlike those lazy CSIs who only work a case a night, I've got about a zillion cases going." She ushered the tall CSI into her lab, setting her at a computer to get her started.
It didn't take long for the story of Catherine's dressing-down of Sara to circulate, so that half an hour later, at the assignments meeting, Gil had already heard the story. From at least three separate people. Catherine was sitting at the table, her angry expression keeping both Nick and Warrick away from her, and the quiet of the room was an unwelcome change to the usual camaraderie that was typical at the start of shift. Gil didn't ask where Sara was, vowing to hunt her down himself, but instead met Catherine's angry eyes with his own. Hadn't she just been lecturing him about he treated Sara? Catherine, surprisingly, dropped her gaze first, and he wondered if she was actually feeling guilty for her treatment of Sara. That would be a first, he thought, as he gave her a trick roll and B&E and assigned Nick and Warrick a murder, seeing her eyes narrow at the assignment choices. For once, she didn't protest, but left the break room quietly.
Gil found Sara a few minutes later, in Jacqui's lab, setting up a fume hood to print what looked like a glove. Jacqui was giving Sara some pointers, tricks of the fingerprint trade that even he didn't know, and Sara seemed ok, so he decided not to take up the issue of Catherine with her just yet.
Later, he went looking for her again, finding Jacqui alone in her lab; when he asked her, she explained that Sara had helped her get completely caught up on the overflow from Days and so had left to see who else needed help. Greg had a similar story, his normally effervescent behavior somber and worried as he spoke about Sara, his expression distrustful and protective as he questioned Gil about why he wanted to talk to Sara.
When he finally tracked her down, she was in ballistics with Bobby, leaning over a microscope and taking copious notes while Bobby told her a story about matching a sniper rifle through an exhaustive dealer search. Even Gil could tell Bobby was trying to cheer her up, joking about the dealers he had had to talk to and imitating their various accents. He left again without speaking to Sara, leaving her to the tender ministrations of Bobby's various charms.
At the end of shift, Gil was camped out in the locker room, waiting for her to appear. She stuck her head in and glanced around apprehensively, and only his voice calling to her kept her from leaving as she saw him sitting there. She studiously avoided looking at him as she worked her locker combination.
He sighed. "Sara, I'm going to close the Eddie Willow's case. I never should have let you "
She cut him off. "No. Please?"
"Just give me 48 hours. Please Griss? I I have to do this." Her voice was quietly pleading, a tone he had never really heard from her before. She demanded, she dictated, but she didn't plead.
"Ok,' he relented. "On one condition: you go home now and I don't see you here until the start of next shift. You are still healing and you need to rest."
"I really didn't do anything."
He chuckled at that, drawing her puzzled gaze to his face finally. "I've spoken to most of the lab techs this shift. Jacqui wants you to be her assistant. Greg is leaving on time tonight for the first time in three weeks and he actually sounded hopeful that he might get his night off this week Even Hodges said something nice. So don't tell me you didn't do anything. Although if you keep this up, I may have a riot on my hands when I return you to the field."
He was relieved to see Sara actually smiled a real smile at that. "Go home, rest, and pick up the Willow's case tonight."
She nodded. "Ok. Oh, hey, Griss? I might need to leave the lab a little, go to lockup and re-interview the two witnesses, go back to the scene "
He nodded in understanding. "Ok, so long as you keep keeping my lab techs happy. But nothing strenuous," he cautioned seriously. "If I hear you picked up anything heavier than a piece of paper, I'll have you lab-bound for another week. Ok?"
Greg glanced through the glass to see Sara staring intently at all the evidence spread out on the table, her face her customary scowl when the evidence wasn't coming fast enough. He sighed. He hated to give her bad news, and the paper in his hands was just that.
"Hey Sara," he began, smiling faintly as she glanced up at him hopefully. He handed her the paper and watched as her face fell. "I'm sorry, there wasn't any DNA on the grip. Maybe no sweat, or it had too long to dry."
Sara's mouth twisted into a frown for a moment, before she gave him a half-hearted smile to show she wasn't angry. "That's ok. It was a long shot." She looked around the table again, her lower lip absentmindedly caught between her teeth as Greg could see her try to make something out of the evidence.
He leaned in beside her, looking over the evidence for himself. Now that he was getting out into the field more, he was trying to learn as much as he could from his co-workers. "So what have you got?"
"The gun was the only new thing, prints unknown. I went and re-interviewed the two witnesses, and they are still pointing the finger at each other." She sighed, exasperated. "I have two liars and no murderer."
Greg looked over the photos on the table, including the mug shots of the two supposed witnesses. "Or maybe you have one liar and one person telling the truth," he speculated, tapping the images with his index finger thoughtfully. Sara's head shot up and she swung to face Greg, her eyes alight.
"That's it, Greg." Her smile wasn't her brightest, but it was better than he had seen in weeks. "I could kiss you!" she exclaimed, before sweeping a pile of papers off the table and turning to the door.
"You always say that," he replied, his words catching her at the door. She spun on her heel and gave him a puzzled look, her slightly distant expression signaling that her thoughts were plotting out her next steps. "You always say you could kiss me and you never do," he challenged, trying to tease her into her normal self, if even for a moment. He thought he had succeeded when she crossed her arms across her chest, her mouth tightening into the smirk.
"Yeah." He straightened, defiant, as he faced her, his smile teasing. He expected some sharp retort, so when she leaned in and gave him a quick peck on the cheek, he was unprepared. The small smirk on her face blossomed into a huge smile at the blush that flamed from his ears all the way down, past the collar of his shirt and his sudden bashful manner, all defiance and challenge completely gone.
Sara shook her head, grinning broadly, as she turned to go, coming face to face with Catherine, standing out in the hall, her glare cutting through the few moments of levity like a laser. Sara's smile evaporated as if it had never existed, but she met Catherine's glare with one of her own, almost willing the blonde to say anything. Instead, Catherine flipped her hair and continued on her way, vanishing around a corner.
Greg watched as Sara's shoulders slumped, as if something in her body cracked and crumbled after her moment of defiance, and her head fell forward so her hair obscured her face. He had never seen anyone go from happy to angry to defeated in such a short time before, and he hoped he never saw anything like that again, especially with Sara. Wishing he could take away all her pain away, he rested hand on her shoulder and uttered, "You'll solve this, I know you will."
Sara straightened a little at his words, and her head bobbed in agreement. "Thanks, Greg." And then she was gone.
Catherine stood in the deserted break room, pouring herself a cup of coffee from a pot she could tell had been on the burner hours too long. Her first taste confirmed it, but she barely tasted the bitter, burnt coffee. What was wrong with her, she berated herself. She had just been trying to figure out a way to apologize to Sara for the confrontation yesterday when she came across that scene in the lab between Sara and Greg Sara, kissing Greg right there in the lab, how unprofessional, she fumed, pacing back and forth.
Turning in another of her laps, she came face to face with Greg, who was in the doorway of the break room. She knew she could reduce him to a puddle with her worst glare, but he surprised her by looking her up and down coldly, before pointedly ignoring her to cross to the coffee machine and put on a fresh pot. With one last ineffectual glare at his turned back, Catherine stomped out of the break room, leaving her half-finished cup of coffee on the counter.
"So according to the police report on the robbery, access to this building is restricted at all time?" The sound tech and manager nodded in unison; they had obviously gotten bored with the cookie-cutter questions the cops and CSIs were asking them. "The same was true when Eddie Willows was shot?" They nodded again, and Sara stifled her sigh of frustration. Time to get them talking. "So walk me through the entrance procedures."
The manager looked like he was stifling a sigh of his own, and Sara could almost see the thoughts running through his head about police inefficiency. "We don't waste the money to hire a receptionist, but we have to control access since we have hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment in here. So when people need in, they buzz and we screen them before they come in."
"Do your system generate a log of entrances and times?" He shook his head. "Do you remember anyone buzzing to get in the night Eddie Willows was shot?"
"No." He caught her narrowed eyes. "We were on our last recording that night; everyone who was in was already in; nobody came in."
"Could the door have been propped open?"
"No. If it's open for more than 30 seconds, an alarm sounds here and at the security company."
"So who has access without buzzing in?"
The manager looked at her suspiciously. "What are you getting at?"
She held her hands up in a placating gesture. "I'm just trying to see how the gun might have ended up in here."
He still looked suspicious, but relented. "Me. Four sound techs. Two other managers. And the owners."
Sara nodded thoughtfully. Short list if-and it was a big if- the gun had been left the night Eddie was shot. "Was anyone else on that list here that night?"
"One last question: do any of the people who have access know or have any dealing with Candeece?"
He thinks a minute, and then shakes his head. "No, not really. A couple of people were looking to sign her away from Eddie, but nothing real serious." He shrugged. "At least not that I know of."
The manager frowned, and looked around the room, as if the walls could talk. Finally, he sighed, and said, "Blake, Blake Wilson. He's one of the founders of the studio. Used to be a musician, now he works with the talent."
Sara groaned as she tried to straighten her back, the ache spreading from her shoulder down and across her spine. She blinked blurrily at the clock, and tried to focus on the time. Another hour and then everyone else from Graveyard would be back at work. Time for a shower, she thought wearily, as she staggered up from the chair, so it won't be too obvious that I was here all day. She reviewed the case while she took a long, hot shower, trying to ease her sore, tight muscles, and headed for a fresh cup of coffee. In the interview with Blake, her inner sense that something wasn't quite right had been all but ringing an alarm above her head. He had denied having anything to do with the singer, or even meeting her. Her exhaustive database search hadn't yielded any connections, however. If she was going to link them, she needed a warrant for his records first. But to get a warrant to get his records, she had to get something on him first.
Greg broke off her train of thought as she passed his lab. When he beckoned her inside, he quickly looked left and right before pulling out two large travel mugs from some hidden spot under a countertop. The smell of coffee filled the small space, and Sara deduced it was from his private stash of primo coffee. Slipping into a chair opposite Greg, she flashed him a broad smile and began to update him on the case. He was, she decided, a good sounding board, as he wasn't afraid to ask the obvious questions, and being forced to explain the case to him made her examine every piece of evidence thoroughly in her mind as she related it. And his shy, but beaming, smile at being taken seriously eased her into a good mood.
"So what do you need?" he asked as her talk petered out.
"Fingerprints. I just have to figure out how," she mused, drumming her fingers absently against the cup. She realized what she was doing, and her grin took Greg by surprise. "Thanks, Greg," she said, hopping off the stool and heading out the door before he could say another word.
Blake Wilson was indignant to be pulled into the police station, and it showed as he thundered at Brass, and then Sara, as he was shown into the interrogation room. "I'm sorry, Mr. Wilson," Sara began, "I just needed to go over a couple things from your statement earlier." Her tone was surprisingly light and sweet. "Now you said you never had any contact with Candeece?"
Catherine slipped into the observation room as Sara asked her question, watching the man's face with interest. She had no idea why Sara had had him brought in, since she didn't feel up to asking for a case update, but she had heard via the grapevine that Sara was questioning someone.
"Right, no contact."
"And you were not negotiating to get her contract from Eddie Willows?"
"I told you this afternoon, no."
"Ok, then, thank you for coming down."
"What? That's it?" His voice rose, and even Brass looked at Sara questioningly. What the hell, Catherine thought as the guy stood, looking around in confusion. It was so unlike the usually antagonistic interview manner Sara took with suspects.
"Yup, that's all I have. Thank you for your cooperation."
Wilson grabbed his coat off of the seat and stormed out, brushing by Brass when he didn't get out of his way quickly enough. Sara's smile was tight as she met Brass' eyes. "Hey Brass, could you task an officer or a plainclothes to keep an eye on him? He might be a flight risk." Jim motioned to the officer in the room, who hurried out after the suspect, leaving him to prod her for details. "So what was that, Sidle?"
Sara had grabbed her kit and was already popping the locks as he spoke. "Huh? What was what? I just had a few questions is all." The innocent tone of her voice was belied by the triumphant grin pulling at the corners of her mouth. Snapping on her gloves, she pulled out fingerprint dust and a brush, moving over to where Wilson was sitting.
Brass chuckled as her intention became clear. "Ahhh, I think I understand your earlier interest in cleanliness."
"I sterilized the table and chairs so I could get clean prints. Could you hand me a tape please?" She pressed the tape to the area of the table she had dusted, pulling it up to look at it approvingly. "A 10-card couldn't be clearer."
She pulled another set of prints off the table. "Yeah, well, ex-musician. When I interviewed him in his office, I noticed he drums his fingers on his desk. I thought maybe he'd do the same here." She rapidly packed up her kit. "I'm gonna run these prints right now. Keep that guy on Wilson I'm hoping for good news."
"Will-do. And uh, Sara?" She paused at the doorway and looked back. "Nice work."
Catherine leaned her head against the glass as Sara and Brass left, awash in a sea of emotions, guilt first and foremost. While Sara seemed upbeat when talking to Jim, Catherine could see the dark circles under her eyes and her too-pale skin, and Catherine knew what these signs meant; Sara was working round-the clock when she was barely out of recovery. And it didn't take an investigator to figure out why she was pushing so hard. But then there was that surge of anger when she saw Sara with Greg, teasing, laughing, sharing coffee kissing. Catherine pushed herself off the glass and straightened her clothes and hair, resolutely deciding she would talk to Sara.
Catherine finally caught up with Sara in the locker room at the end of shift; Sara had gotten adept at hiding in various labs with the lab techs in the last few days and Catherine had found herself one step behind the entire shift, chasing Sara while trying to ignore the pointedly hostile looks some of the techs had given her the entire shift, including Jacqui. She stepped inside the door, letting it swing shut behind her, hoping for some measure of privacy. "Hey."
"Hey." If anything, Sara looked even more antagonistic than she had the night before, her dark eyes boring holes through Catherine's insides and resolve, so much so that she almost turned and ran from the locker room rather than face the very angry woman glaring at her. "I heard you closed Eddie's case, got the third guy," she began, conversationally. In medieval times, this would be called bear-baiting, she reflected.
"Sara that was good work."
Sara sniffed at that. "You didn't seem to think so yesterday."
"I I'm sorry. I had no right to talk to you like that," she admitted, hoping the unusual event of her admitting she was wrong would ease the tension.
The door to Sara's locker slammed shut, rattling the locks on the entire row of lockers. "Yeah, whatever," she replied as she pushed past Catherine on her way to the door.
Catherine grabbed her arm, spinning them both around so they were face-to-face, releasing her hold immediately as Sara winced in pain. "Whatever? So that's it? You can be so dismissive when I'm trying to apologize?" Sara's eyes narrowed, whether in pain or anger, Catherine couldn't tell, and she lowered her voice, almost pleading. "I thought we were getting to be good friends. I "
"Yeah, well, I didn't see you so concerned about our friendship the other night, when you were telling me what an incompetent CSI I am," Sara shot back.
"I want to apologize "
Sara flung her hands out, cutting Catherine off. "That's just words." Her hands clenched into fists as she struggled with her temper, and Catherine suddenly noticed how close she was to an enraged Sara Sidle. Not a good place to be. "I'm not a fucking yo-yo, Catherine, although everyone in this place seems to think I am. You push me, pull me, back and forth." She backed away, shaking her head. "No more. I'm not doing this again." And then she was gone, and Catherine sank down onto the bench, trying to control the shaking in her stomach and hands.
Catherine straightened from her bent position to set yet another evidence bag beside her kit. They had collected a ton of trace from the college dorm room already and that didn't include going through the sheets and clothing collected from the scene. She glanced over at Grissom, who was looking around the room with a grimace. A rape and murder on a college campus was never good, but this one had been particularly brutal, and while they had collected massive amounts of trace evidence from the room, nothing stood out as probative, or even especially helpful. It was going to be a long rest of the shift, chasing clues that would mostly turn out to be dead ends, Catherine could tell.
"Catherine, why don't you take all of this back to the lab and start collecting the rest of the trace?" To her half-hearted sigh as she eyed the mound of linens, he replied, "Have Sara help."
She suppressed another sigh at the thought, but said, "Sara? How about Greg?" In response to Grissom's pointed look, she tried to backtrack, "I mean, you know how these kinds of cases get to Sara."
"She's a professional, she can handle it." Gil watched Catherine absorb his words for a moment, and then added, "And just because your relationship is strained is not a good reason to keep her off the case." He indicated the mound of evidence with his hand. "We don't have the time to train Greg on every case, and we could use her skills on this."
Catherine did sigh then, but then nodded to acknowledge his point. "Ok, I'll see you back at the lab."
She found Sara, not surprisingly, in the DNA lab with Greg, prepping swabs and samples. Sara was hunched over a table, handing Greg tubes at a furious pace as he filled the machine, and when he was slow, she would glance over her shoulder and smirk at him until he laughed. Catherine cleared her throat as she stood in the door to announce her presence and found herself facing a frigidly cold glare from Greg as Sara's smile vanished in a heartbeat.
"Hey," she began, nervously edging into the room, extending a handful of evidence bags toward Greg almost like a peace offering. "I think we'll have more, but Grissom wants you to get started on these." Greg took them from her wordlessly and turned his back to her as he started to lay out the bags. "Um, Sara " Catherine faltered when the murky depths of Sara's dark eyes gazed up at her; the expression was nowhere near as cold or angry as Catherine expected, but hurt lurking in her eyes was far worse. Fighting a sudden urge to enfold the younger woman in her arms, Catherine took refuge in her work. "I need you to help me go through a ton of linens to collect trace." In another wordless response, Sara nodded to her, waved to Greg, and headed out the door toward the layout room, so quickly Catherine had to hurry to catch up with her.
They worked in silence for the next few hours, tirelessly collecting evidence, but with none of the usual talk and speculation that helped pass the time and advance the case. Sara, Catherine noted, was professional as they worked, but she might as well have been alone as much as she interacted with, or even looked at, Catherine. Knowing she deserved the cold shoulder didn't make it any easier for Catherine.
Straightening at long last, Catherine noticed shift had already ended and she was going to be late picking up Lindsey if she didn't leave soon. There were another stack of evidence bags she needed to drop off to trace, the evidence to secure, and her jacket in her locker damn. "I'll finish up here." After the long silence, Sara's quiet voice startled Catherine. "You go pick up Lindsey."
Catherine shook her head. "You should go, I can ."
The first direct look from Sara in hours was her trademarked angry glare and stubborn narrowed eyes, not a good sign. "I just have a little more to finish up with this," she said, hoisting the pillowcase in her hands, "and then I'll clear out, ok?"
"Sara, you are recovering, you need to go."
Sara's expression grew more stormy. "Go pick up Lindsey," she said, the clipped tone closing off any thought Catherine had of arguing further, so she just said 'thanks' and headed out to get her jacket.
Catherine went to the layout room where she and Sara had been working first thing that night, finding it cleared and sterile with no brunette hunched over the table. The locker room and break room did not yield her either, and Catherine was about to go make the rounds of the labs in what was becoming a habitual search when Gil caught her elbow. "Come on," he said without preliminaries, "Brass finally located the boyfriend."
"Well, good evening to you too," she quipped, and he managed to look a little abashed as he steered her toward the parking lot. "What else do we have?" she asked, shifting into work mode quickly.
"A foreign object was found deep in the vic's wound tract and the wound itself has an unusual tool pattern." He passed her a folder. "Sara took pictures."
Catherine tried to slow their headlong pace as she shuffled through the pictures. "Sara took these? When?"
"I don't know," Gil answered, holding the door open for her, frowning in irritation when she made no move to go through it.
"You don't know? Did Sara clock out at all today?"
"Oh, I'm sure she did. She's still recovering from her injury."
"Yes, because Sara always puts herself and her health before her work," Catherine replied, doing nothing to disguise the sarcasm in her voice. "Gil, I should go check on her."
"Catherine, I'm sure she's fine. We'll check on her, after we get done with this interview." Grissom's voice was forceful as he swept his hand forward, indicating the still-open door which Catherine reluctantly walked through.
The interview ended up being a bust since the boyfriend had been visiting his parents in Oregon over the weekend and Grissom had insisted on running back to the crime scene to look for any unusual objects that might have caused the jagged marks on the woman's throat, so shift was halfway over before she could search for Sara again. She wasn't in any of the usual labs, and Catherine was almost convinced she had gone home when she caught the sound of power tools as she passed near the tool room. Sara's hunched form was perched on the edge of a high stool as she worked the tool, her black pants and green short-sleeve shirt the same as she had been wearing this morning when Catherine had left her. She tossed the tool down on the table with a snarl and reached for another, only to gasp in pain and pull her left arm back quickly, cradling in against her body and rubbing the muscles in her upper arm and shoulder for a moment before reaching for another toolwith her right hand.
"You need to go and send Sara home," Catherine announced as she walked into Grissom's office. "She's been here all day and she's overdoing it." Gil's half-cocked head indicated his puzzlement, so she explained, "Her shoulder is bothering her."
"So send her home," he replied, his tone indicating his puzzlement as to why he should interrupt his work when she was the one who was concerned.
"Me? Gil, you're the supervisor, remember?"
"Yes. So tell her I told you to send her home." Her exasperated sigh filled the room, to which Grissom only smiled his famous zen-master smile. "Catherine, just because Sara is upset with you doesn't mean that I should be the intermediary between the two of you. And you should probably drive her home if her shoulder is really bothering her," he called to her retreating back.
The tool room was quiet when Catherine came back; Sara was examining the results of a cut through a magnifying glass. "Sara?" Catherine spoke quietly, not wanting to startle her. When Sara swung the stool around to face her, her eyes rimmed with exhaustion were the first thing Catherine noticed.
"Gil told me to send you home." The exhaustion on her face retreated a little as anger flared in her eyes, but she couldn't sustain the emotion for long. "Ok."
Catherine stepped up to the table where the remains of many slaughtered pig necks were littered across the surface. "What are you working on?"
"I'm trying to find the tool that was used."
"Where were you? I can finish up."
The weariness in Sara's voice intensified. "I'm done. I tried every tool I could think of and a few that were just laying around here. Nothing matches the marks on our vic." She shook her head in disgust as she surveyed the remains of the experiment. "Nothing."
"Yeah, we hit a dead end with the boyfriend too." Sara took in the rows of tools hanging on the wall and Catherine knew she was about to pick up something else and try again. Sara was nothing if not determined. "Come on, let's get you home," she said, catching Sara's right arm to try to lead her away from the table.
"Just let me clean up," Sara started, trying to pull away. Catherine tightened her grip. "No, I'll clean up. After I've driven you home." They were almost out the door, but Sara jerked her arm out of Catherine's grasp, not even bothering to hide the wince of pain that crossed her face. "I can drive myself home."
"Sara, your shoulder I saw you try to pick up a tool with your left hand and you couldn't."
"What, you you're spying on me?"
Catherine ignored the outlandish accusation, and focused on the argument that she hoped would sway Sara. "You have a standard and your shoulder is bothering you. If you re-injure it, it'll be even longer before you are back in the field." Catherine let her worry color her words. "And I want to make sure you get home ok. Please?"
Catherine wasn't sure, but she thought that that last appeal was the one that worked as the tension seemed to drain from Sara's tall frame. "Ok," she relented, letting Catherine draw her away.
The short drive to Sara's apartment was mostly done in silence, the muted jazz on the radio competing with the traffic noise to provide a soundtrack. Catherine noticed that Sara's eyes closed within a few seconds of them getting into the Tahoe, and Catherine knew it was a sign of just how tired the younger woman was to let her guard so far down. Circling around well-worn thoughts, Catherine wished there was something she could say or do to ease the strain between them. Sara was strictly professional and even courteous at work, which Catherine appreciated, but she found she missed the personal interactions with Sara she had gotten used to in the past few weeks. She pulled up to apartment building and cut the engine, startling Sara out of a half-doze. "Thanks," she mumbled as she started to open the door.
"Do you still have some of those pain meds?" Catherine asked out of the blue, suddenly wanting to keep Sara with her. "You should take one, it'll help you sleep."
Sara half-turned, outlined clearly by the streetlight outside the window, but her face in shadow. "Yeah, I was planning on doing that. My shoulder is killing me."
"I'll um, have Nick swing by before shift and pick you up." Resisting the urge to volunteer herself, even though she wanted to, Catherine volunteered the colleague who lived closest.
"Oh, yeah, I forgot about my car. Thanks," she repeated, once again reaching for the door handle.
"Sara?" Catherine stopped her once again, laying her hand lightly on Sara's. "I just wanted to tell you I'm not going to stop trying to fix the damage I've done." The back lighting cast Sara's expression in deep shadow, and Catherine had no idea how her words were registering. She forged ahead anyway. "Your friendship is important to me, and I'm not going to go away. My actions were inexcusable, but I just hope I can prove to you how much I regret them. But I'm not going away."
Sara nodded her head slowly before climbing out of the SUV and heading up the stairs, feeling Catherine's eyes on her the whole time.
The chill was just beginning to settle in with nightfall over the desert when Catherine headed back into the crime lab, her cup of coffee warming her hand as she tried to swing the door open awkwardly. A sun-tanned hand caught the door from behind and held it open for her as Nick's tall frame appeared behind her. "Here, little lady, let me help you," he offered, his accent exaggerated and amused. He pulled open every door for her as they made their way into the inner areas of the lab.
Catherine suddenly realized what was wrong with the picture that presented itself. "Nick, where's Sara? Wasn't she supposed to come in with you?"
He managed to look abashed. "Sara, um, called me earlier, said she had some errands to run, so she took a cab here and got her car." Withering under Catherine's stare, Nick looked down at the floor, like a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "There was nothing I could do. She was already in her car when she called. She did, um, sound rested when she called."
"She's too stubborn for her own good."
"Ya think?" Nick quipped, following her down the hall to the break room. He had to see this. Sara was sitting there in her customary spot, sipping coffee and reading a journal. "Hey," Catherine greeted as she strode into the room, her movements precise and calculated as she moved to the counter to grab an apple. Sara glanced up, and for a moment, Nick thought he saw apprehension in her eyes before her face snapped into an emotionless mask. "Hey, Cath."
"I see you got here ok." Catherine smirked at the younger woman's discomfort as she noticed Nick standing in the doorway, but she raised her chin defiantly, rising to the challenge in Catherine's words. This, Catherine thought, is much better than the cool façade Sara had been presenting to her lately. At least she's angry, her eyes alight and passionate, Catherine noted, her mind immediately adding an unbidden thought: it looks good on her. She hoped Sara missed the slight widening of her eyes as that thought registered, and she took a quick sip of coffee to regain her composure.
"I slept eight straight hours. And I don't need a babysitter." Sara's eyes shifted away from Catherine's then as guilt overtook her. She knew the next part was not going to go over well, but there was no way to hide it. What upset Sara most was that she was already warming to Catherine again, going back to an almost teasing back-and-forth and she mentally cursed herself for being too forgiving and setting herself for disappointment and worse again.
"So what were your errands?" Catherine asked.
"Well, um, I may have, ah, figured out a lead on the murder weapon. So I decided to drive by the university to check it out."
Her single-minded drive might have been amusing if it wasn't so frustrating, Catherine thought; it made her such a good CSI, but it also made it hard on her friends who worry about her health and well-being. She sighed and slid into a chair at the table. "So what's your theory?" she asked, knowing a lecture to Sara on taking care of herself wouldn't do much good at this point.
Sara smiled as she enthusiastically launched into an explanation of her idea: the college student was an archeology major and many departments keep ancient implements and weapons in minimally-secured areas on campus. Plus, the unidentified substance from the wound track had been identified: obsidian, which supported her theory. So her trip to campus had included a walk-through of the department and she had found several display cases in the hallways of the department. "Brass is getting a warrant now," she finished. "We're heading over there first thing in the morning."
"Wait, wait, obsidian?"
"Yeah, it's a black rock which can be split to create an extremely sharp edge. It was used in central and south America in pre-Columbian times."
Catherine shook her head approvingly. "Ok, so we just wait for a warrant."
"Yup. Til then, I'll be in with Hodges, working on all that trace we collected." She tossed her paper cup into the trashcan halfway across the room, flashing Nick a cocky smile before she headed out of the break room.
Nick, who had watched the entire conversation with amusement, laughed as Sara left, shaking his head. "She's in a pretty good mood. Did you all kiss and make up?" he teased Catherine, not missing the blush of embarrassment that flashed on her cheeks at his comment. At least she's ashamed at how she treated Sara over that whole Eddie thing, he thought.
"We're getting there, I think," Catherine mused absently, as she tried to figure out where that flush of heat had come from in response to Nick's comment. She caught Nick watching her speculatively, and she realized she had been staring into space for the last minute. Smiling to distract him, she stood and said something about getting caught up on paperwork as she made her escape.
Sara surveyed the glass cases liberally arrayed around the hallway, all loaded with artifacts and weaponry, and sighed. In her rush earlier, she hadn't realized there were so many obsidian artifacts in the collection. Worse, all of them would test positive for bloodmost of it ancientand it was take extensive testing to date or work up DNA profiles on them. Catherine, she noticed, was cheerfully logging the weapons while the curator, a tall, thin, nervous-looking man in his late 30s, debated the merits of the warrant with Brass. "These artifacts are priceless and should not be subjected to this treatment." He noticed Catherine packing another knife. "Hey, be careful with that."
Sara tried to ignore the debate that now included Catherine, and walked slowly around the hallway, playing her maglight over the dusty cases as she looked for anything that would narrow the search. "Hey, Cath, come here," she called quietly, pulling her camera to her eye to snap a quick picture. "You see that?" she asked, playing her light over the spot that had caught her attention. "That void?" At just the right angle, her flashlight picked up the faint outlines of a missing, pointed form in the collected dust of the bare spot. "Mr., uh Bennett "
"Dr. Bennett," he corrected.
"Dr. Bennett, when was the last time you moved anything in this case?"
"Over the summer, about 5 months ago. Why?"
"I think something's missing."
He walked up behind them, his eyes widening as he looked at the spot. "Yes, there should be something there." He gave them a confused look. "Do you think it was stolen?"
Sara had walked around the back of the case, examining the lock and the surrounding glass carefully. "It hasn't been broken into," she stated. Sitting back on her heels, she looked over the top of the case thoughtfully. "Do you think we could see where you keep your keys for these cases? We might be able to find some evidence of whoever removed the artifact."
"Um, yes, yes, of course," he said as he led them through the halls "I keep them in a drawer in my office." When he reached the door, he turned the knob and immediately opened the door. "I don't always keep my door locked when I step out," he explained apologetically. "I never really thought it was necessary."
Catherine followed him to his desk and started dusting for prints, but she noticed Sara was looking around the room intently. She obviously had another reason for getting invited to his office besides the keys, Catherine thought as she watched the younger woman stare out the window, seemingly lost in thought.
Catherine watched as a huge grin spread over her face and she turned abruptly from the window. "Hey, um, I think I'm going to go for a walk." Catherine shrugged her shoulders, but sent her a puzzled look.
"Sure, but take a uniform with you." Sara tilted her head to the side, rebellion already brewing in her dark eyes. Catherine stood firm. "The last time you wandered away from me at a crime scene, I ended up processing your blood," she reminded her firmly. "Humor me?"
Sara didn't look any less resolute, but she shrugged her shoulder as if it didn't matter to her. "Come on, Jim, I'll buy you a cup of coffee."
"You going to throw in a donut with that?" he asked as he followed her out the door. Catherine returned to her dusting, knowing that Sara had something up her sleeve, but content to let her run with it.
Brass smiled in amusement as Sara first crouched down by the thick bushes under the office window, and then started to wiggle her way under the woven branches, until he heard her swear and realized that trying to crawl in such a tight space could not be good for her shoulder. He was about to suggest she get a uniform to search, or even a chain saw since she liked power tools so much, when he heard her grunt in triumph. He watched appreciatively as she slowly worked her way back out, the loose jeans pulled taut and her shirt and jacket riding up her back, giving him a nice view. I wish all the women on the force looked that good, he thought idly.
"Bag me," Sara called as she held up an obsidian knife clenched carefully between her thumb and forefinger, completely missing Brass's smirk as he held out an evidence bag.
"Ok, so you found a knife. But where's that coffee you promised me, Sidle?" Watching as she ducked her head to hide the grin pulling at her mouth, something he hadn't seen in way too long, Brass crossed his arms across his chest. "You didn't get me out here on false pretenses, did you?" he asked in mock-horror, happy to hear the strangled laugh coming from the young CSI splayed out on the grass.
"I'm afraid I did, Jim," she confessed. "Rain check?"
"Sure. But coffee just got upgraded to dinner. Your treat," he warned as he pulled her to her feet. "I'm thinking sea bass."
Sara appeared in the door of the office just as Catherine was finishing up, pulling her out the door to show her the knife. "Brass is on the phone, getting the warrant extended to cover his office and to get him fingerprinted. I need to print the window where the dust is disturbed," she explained. "Until then, I'm going to go print the case and finish logging in all those other artifacts."
"Why don't you run that back to the lab now and I'll wait around to finish the printing?" Catherine suggested. "You found it, you run with it. I'll do the clean up."
Sara's smile lit up the entire musty hallway. "You sure? Thanks!" Catherine watched her hurry down the hallway, her eyes unknowingly following the same path as Brass's before turning back to the work at hand.
A few hours later, Catherine slid into the chair across from Sara in the conference room with a happy sigh. "Last fingerprint comparisons just finished. His prints are on the display case, the window, and the knife. It's all circumstantial since those are all places he would touch, but with his statements contradicting the evidence timeline and with the vic's blood on the knife found outside of his window, I think we can bury him."
Sara slumped in the chair in a happy state of exhaustion. She had been in the lab for over 24 hours straight, but the relief in finding the killer made her feel like she might even be able to sleep without aid when she could finally laid down.
Grissom poked his head into the room. "I heard you broke the case," he complimented. "Nice work."
Catherine held her hands up to deflect his attention. "I didn't do anything but follow Sara's lead."
"I heard. I guess sneaking out into the field before you were allowed came in handy," he teased as she sat up in her chair with her mouth hanging open.
"What? You authorized ." she protested, until she caught the grin slowly spreading across his face, and she sank back into the chair, rolling his eyes.
"In fact, you are so invaluable out in the field that I'm going to let you back on field duty starting tomorrow's shift. But, you can only work with Catherine and I and we're going to keep a close eye on you. And only if you leave now and go get some sleep. Ok?"
Her nod of acceptance was cut off by a huge yawn, and she muttered a 'goodnight' to them both before heading out.
Sara pulled her robe tighter around her body, her wet hair dripping all over the wood floor as she grabbed her cell phone at the last possible moment. "Sidle," she said, not checking the number display as she answered.
"Sara?" The voice on the other end was hesitant, shy, and it took Sara a long moment to place the voice.
"Lindsey, hey. Sorry, you surprised me. I expected someone from work, calling on a case or something." A sudden thought struck Sara and she felt a cold sliver of fear work its way up her back. "Is anything wrong? Are you ok? Is your mom ok?"
Lindsey's voice brightened considerably as she answered. "Oh, we're fine. I called because I wanted to know if you can go for a bike ride with me and mom on Saturday."
"Lindsey, does your mom know you are calling me?"
"Well we talked about going for a bike ride last week when we got ice cream. And you promised," she finished, putting the slightest whine in her voice. Her non-answer to Sara's question was all the confirmation Sara needed, but she had promised. And the one thing she knew about kids was that they remembered every broken promise and bad thing, and Sara tried hard not to disappoint them.
"Ok. But only if your mom says it's ok. So you have to tell her you called," Sara warned, "and tell her it's ok with me if it's ok with her. Tell her we can make plans at work tonight."
Sara's warnings didn't seem to have any affect on her enthusiasm as Lindsey replied, "Great. See you Saturday" before hanging up.
"Are you sure?"
Sara spun around to find Catherine standing just inside the door to the locker room, and Sara found it somewhat gratifying that the blonde looked nervous and unsure of herself. "I was in the shower. She must have looked you up on my cell phone. I'm sorry if she put you into an awkward position, I really didn't know she was going to call."
"Cath, it's fine." Catherine shifted her weight onto her other foot, still reluctant to meet Sara's eyes. This was a side of Sara never sawCatherine didn't do vulnerable well, or at alland it was endearing and rather cute. "Really, it's fine. So long as it's ok with you."
"Of course it is. Lindsey adores you." Like mother, like daughter, she added mentally as she tried to figure out exactly when she became so awkward and nervous around Sara. She tried to attribute it to how awfully she had acted about Eddie's case, but she knew there was something more to it than that. Especially when she found herself noticing every little thing about Sara lately, or caught herself watching Sara at a crime scene.
Sara swung her locker shut with a loud clang, bringing Catherine's attention back to the present. "Ok, so we're set for Saturday then."
"Yeah," Catherine replied as Sara breezed past her out the door.
It wasn't the heat of Nevada in August, or the physical activity. It wasn't the fact that she started sweating as soon as she stepped out of the air-conditioned car or that she couldn't drink enough water to keep herself hydrated. No, Catherine was sure that her elevated heart rate and sudden cotton mouth were entirely the result of watching Sara reach up to pull her bike off her car rack, the tight, green t-shirt riding up even further and exposing an ever-widening swath of skin at her midsection. That, and the long expanse of well-muscled leg showing underneath her black tech cargo shorts. Catherine sighed. It's going to be a long afternoon, she thought, as she walked over to join Lindsey and Sara, a long long afternoon.
She had actually figured that out earlier, when she had awoken from her morning nap in the middle of a pleasant dream, lying there for a moment to try to keep hold of the images that were already fading from her mind. A few remnants flashed through her mind: walking, looking down to find fingers loosely interlaced with her own, a familiar heat in her hand that spread through her body, an unfamiliar face but a familiar presence behind it She had bolt up in her bed, then, as she put a name to the familiarity: Sara. Heart pounding, Catherine tried to convince herself she was wrong, that it was Warrick or even, god forbid, Nick, but deep down, she knew. And as she watched Sara show her bike to Lindsey, licking her dry lips when Sara bent over, the fabric of her shorts tightening as she pointed out something on the bike, Catherine realized these lustful thoughts weren't just an after-effect of the dream, but something else entirely. And then Sara turned, her bright smile fading into a look of confusion as she caught Catherine's eyes.
Sara silently pedaled along the path, listening to Lindsey talk, occasionally smiling over at the young blonde who seemed to be pedaling hard to keep up with her. Smothering her curse, Sara eased off her pace, glancing back over her shoulder at Catherine, half a bike length behind them and also breathing hard. Catherine didn't react at all to her apologetic smile, and Sara again wished she could figure out the older woman. For the last week and a half, she had bent over backward to be friendly and follow up on trying to repair their friendship, and Sara had appreciated that, but then she had straightened after showing Lindsey the derailleur on her bike to Catherine's intense scowl. Even though Catherine had smoothed her face into a faint smile in an effort to cover, Sara had been off-balance since. She felt that maybe she was intruding and that Catherine didn't want her there, and now she was exhausting Lindsey in this heat because she was trying to get this uncomfortable ride over as quickly as possible.
Slowing, Sara noticed they were entering a park along the route, so she pulled off near the playground, not missing the grateful looks from both mother and daughter at the break. "I'm going to go get us some water," Catherine said as she hopped off her bike, pointing to a concession stand. She was gone before Sara could offer to go with her, but she covered her frustration as she sat down with Lindsey. Lindsey, she noticed, watched her mother walk away with a sad, concerned frown on her face.
"Hey, Linds, did you want to go swing or something?"
Lindsey's expression didn't change. "Mom's sad." Nodding seriously, Sara stayed silent. She might have a reputation for being bad with kids, but she knew when to listen, if nothing else. "She's been sad since you caught the guy who killed daddy." If possible, she looked sadder as she mentioned her father, and Sara repressed a sigh. "I thought that would help." Her light blue eyes searched Sara's face. "I don't know how to help. I thought having you come with us would help "
"How would I help?" Sara asked, surprised into interrupting Lindsey.
"Well, she's happy when you are around lately. Except now that nothing makes her happy."
"You know what would make your mom happy?" Lindsey shook her head solemnly. "Seeing her little girl having fun," Sara prodded gently. Lindsey tried a faint smile that broke Sara's heart.
"You want to swing with me?" she asked.
"Um, with my shoulder, I maybe shouldn't yet. But ' she said hurriedly, "I think you should get your mom to join you."
"She never swings."
"She will. I promise." Sara ducked her a head a little so she could meet Lindsey's eyes. "If you try to have a good time today, I'll try to help your mom. Deal?"
"Deal, what?" Catherine forced a light-hearted tone into her voice, watching as Sara and Lindsey seemed to be conspiring about something.
"Oh, I just bet Lindsey that she can go higher than you can on the swings."
"I don't swing," Catherine said, setting the bottles of water on the table, completely missing the tears that suddenly brightened Lindsey's eyes.
"It's an experiment. I was explaining the physics of mass, speed, and acceleration and I told her someone whose more massive, like you, can't go as high. Now we need proof, so come on."
"You're more massive. Why don't you swing?"
"Bum arm. It wouldn't be a valid experiment. Come on Cath, where's your scientific curiosity?" Seeing her about to protest again, Sara grinned at her provocatively. "And your sense of fun?" she challenged.
"I'm fun!" Catherine shot back, wondering how they got to a point where she was trying to convince Sara she could have fun. And wondering why Sara's challenging smile was causing her to lose all ability to form a coherent, rational argument.
"Prove it," Sara smirked, sweeping her hand toward the swings. Catherine glared at Sara for a second before grabbing Lindsey's hand and running with her toward the playground. The overjoyed look on Lindsey's face immediately quelled any misgivings she had as they each grabbed a swing and Catherine threw herself into pumping her arms and legs, laughing as Lindsey urged her higher.
Sara wandered over to watch the competition, leaning against the swing support as she judged the relative heights of Catherine and Lindsey. Lindsey was winning, but Catherine was putting in a game effort, and Sara knew she had a huge, silly smile on her face.
The absolute silliness of the swinging competition and Lindsey's uncontrolled laughter was irresistible, and Catherine found herself relaxing and having fun for the first time in weeks. Seeking out Sara, she was surprised to find her there watching them with a huge, sparkling smile. She looked smug, Catherine realized, and she had good reason to, seeing how successful her goading had been. Catherine fake-pouted and was rewarded with the famous Sidle smirk, which turned to full-out laughter when Catherine stuck her tongue out like a bratty kid.
For at least an hour, Lindsey led the two adults through the playground, sweet-talking her mom into getting on the Merry-Go-Round with her, missing the mischievous light in Sara's eyes until too late, as she caught a handhold and ran them around as fast as she could, ignoring their amused screams. Catherine staggered off, her hair completely windswept, and she took a half-hearted swing at Sara that missed by a mile as she lost her balance. She tumbled right into Sara's arms, her hands catching Sara's shoulders and hanging there as Sara caught her around the waist. The bright Vegas sun lit Sara's already sunny expression and warmed the tones of her hair, and her eyes danced as she swung Catherine around in a circle again, causing her to shriek in surprise. Her swing did connect that time as she pushed herself away, her mock-glare causing both Lindsey and Sara to erupt in peals of laughter.
Finally quitting the playground, they biked back to the cars at a much more leisurely pace, leaving Catherine plenty of time to replay the look of laughter in Sara's dark eyes and the feel of her body, over and over again. The anxious feeling which had been eating away at her in the pit of her stomach resurfaced, but it couldn't drive the giddy smile from her face.
Catherine lingered by her car as Sara put her bike away. "Um thanks for coming. Lindsey really appreciated it,' she stammered, suddenly unsure of what to say but not wanting to say goodbye. "I, uh, guess I'll see you at work."
Sara straightened, her sunglasses hiding her eyes but a smile still pulling at the corners of her mouth. "Yeah," she said simply, swinging the hatchback of her SUV shut.
"Yeah," Catherine muttered, edging away from the vehicle before Sara's voice caught her. "Cath? I had fun today."
"Um, yeah, maybe, ah, we could do it again sometime."
"I'd like that,' Sara replied quietly, trying to put more into her words, and silently cursing her weakness with children. But when Catherine gave her a dazzling smile, Sara had to admit it was more than a promise to Lindsey that made her want to reassure the blonde woman standing in front of her.
The shift that night was a killer; overwhelmed with new and outstanding cases, the entire shift was working solo. Catherine's routine B&E turned into a 419 during the walkthrough, and she spent almost the entire shift processing the scene, letting the routine of work keep her mind focused. She knew it wasn't any better for anyone else; her pager had beeped twice with requests for CSIs. When she finally staggered into the lab, her knees aching after hours of kneeling on top of the bike ride that day, she just wanted a long, hot shower and a whole day's sleep, both of which she knew was hours off. She dropped her evidence bags at the appropriate labs before heading to the break room, hoping that as crazy as the night had been, someone remembered to keep the coffee pot refreshed.
Sara was leaning over Nick's shoulder as he sat at the break room table, looking at crime scene photographs. Catherine stopped dead in the doorway, seeing how close Sara stood behind Nick, her chest pressed up against his back so she could reach over his shoulder to point to something in the photos and talk quietly near his ear. It didn't help that Sara was wearing a worn pair of jeans and a tight black long-sleeve shirt that fit her body like a glove, clearly outlining the muscles along her back and shoulders as she moved.
"Hey, Cath," Warrick said as he walked up behind her, his low voice startling her, "you ok? You're standing here, zoning pretty hard."
Catherine braced herself against the doorframe as she caught her breath, eyes wide as she stared up at Warrick. "Rick, you scared me." She sighed, feeling some of the tension drain from her shoulders as she did so. "Yeah, I'm ok. Just tired."
A cup materialized in front of her, emblazed with the logo of a nearby coffee shop, and Catherine looked up to find Sara standing beside her, so close she could feel the body heat coming off of the taller woman. "I've got just what you need," she said, and Catherine's thoughts flitted through images of Sara joining her in the shower and sleep she had been contemplating, and she almost lost her grip on the cup Sara was putting into her hands. She couldn't look at Sara with the afterimages of her naked in the shower flashing behind her eyes, so she tried to concentrate on the cup in her hands. "Vanilla chai latte," Sara supplied. "Nick and I heard you call in while we were on a coffee run and we thought you could use it."
Catherine took a small sip; the drink was still steaming hot and it revived her enough to attempt to meet Sara's eyes. "Thanks," she said, losing herself in the dark, soulful depths until Warrick cleared his throat, and she realized how long she had been standing there. She didn't need Sara's amused smirk or Warrick's chuckle to know that a blush was creeping up her cheeks. "Damn, you were zoning again, Cath," Warrick pointed out, unnecessarily.
She rubbed a tired hand over her face. "Yeah, I guess so." She saluted Nick and Sara with her cup, "Thanks guys. I'm going to go check on my evidence." Catherine hurried away from her co-workers, thankful that work provided her such a convenient excuse.
"Hey." Sara caught her in the locker room, running water over her face to try to restore some semblance of order to her unruly thoughts. "You ok? You were acting kinda weird earlier."
Catherine grabbed her towel, patting her face dry as she tried to think of an explanation while she thought through what had just happened. Weird? I was just imagining taking a shower with my female co-worker and then I got caught staring into her eyes. Yeah, that would qualify as weird.
"Yeah, I'm ok," she replied, still bent over the sink, "just exhausted this shift for some reason." Catherine managed to turn to face Sara, finally, propping herself up on the edge of the sink, and was almost undone by the concern in her eyes. "I'm ok, really. But thanks." Sara didn't look like she was going to let it go, but luckily Catherine was saved by Sara's cell. As she stepped into the hallway to take her call, Catherine escaped past her and found a quiet, isolated lab to work in.
Unfortunately, her mind and body proved uncontrollable the next few days at work. Catherine would find herself staring at Sara at odd, inappropriate moments, like when she bent over to pick up a piece of trace or crouched down to snap a picture at a crime scene, and the increasingly surreal images of Sara that juxtaposed themselves on the what she was seeing evoked a familiar flush in her cheeks and a warmer, more liquid flush elsewhere. Catherine took to avoiding Sara as much as possible and berating herself for inability to stop thinking of her younger co-worker. The worst thing was that what she was feeling was so out of the ordinary for her; Catherine couldn't recall being quite so giddy, so unable to control her thoughts and the catch in her breath, than whenever she caught the slightest glimpse of Sara.
What also didn't help was Sara's frown whenever she caught Catherine staring at her, or her narrowed eyes when Catherine responded with her now-standard excuse of tired. So when Sara crouched down beside her as they processed the DB at their crime scene, Catherine wasn't surprised by her directness. "Catherine, what's going on? And don't tell me you are tired," she said, cutting off Catherine's instinctual response. "I bought that the first couple of days, but it's more than that. And it's me."
"What?" Catherine's head snapped up as she struggled with Sara's words. "Wha what do you mean?"
"It's me. You've been acting strange and distant all week, but only around me. So what's going on?" There was a pause, and then in a quieter voice, "What did I do?"
Catherine sighed, and dropped her head. "Yeah, we should talk. But," she glanced around the crime scene, noting all the uniforms standing around and Brass walking toward them with his notebook out. "Not here, ok? Later, after shift?" Sara nodded, her face serious. "My apartment?" she suggested, and Catherine just nodded in return, before turning back to work.
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