DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Missing Person
By Ann


Part 19

I find Greg, Catherine, and Dr. Johnson around the corner in the main hallway. It seems they are waiting for me to proceed on the tour. Catherine gives me a little wink to try to reassure me, but it's going to take a little more than that for me to overcome my insecurities.

Dr. Johnson leads Catherine down the corridor as Greg and I follow. I tune out the endless speech on the merits of the institution and instead concentrate on Catherine's body movements.

She laughs at his mindless jokes and occasionally leans into him. I once accused her of using her feminine wiles to extract information from both suspects and witnesses. She told me she would use any method available to get what she needs. I just wish I wasn't privy to this particular display of flirting.

I move my attention back to our tour guide. Dr. Johnson has been the perfect gentleman thus far, but I am going to keep my eye on the other 'Johnson' to make sure it behaves as well. If it so much as makes an appearance or sticks its head out, I'm going to cut if off.

We make our way to the top floor and enter through a complex security system. Dr. Johnson stops just past the first door and enters a code into a wall unit. As he completes the sequence, a small partition lifts revealing an interior room and a patient on a bed.

He explains each room is fitted with a mirror on one side and a viewing glass on the other. The glass is protected by a panel that can be lifted when the correct code is entered. This allows for observation of the patient by only designated personnel. Catherine whispers something in his ear and we immediately move down the far end of the hall.

Dr. Johnson punches in a code outside the corner room and the panel lifts to reveal a heavily sedated Ecklie. The three of us manage to maintain a passive expression to keep from revealing our shock. As Catherine starts to ask a question, she is interrupted by a booming voice rapidly approaching us.

"Dr. Johnson, what is the meaning of this? I have given explicit instructions for this patient to be monitored only by myself and my nurses." We turn to meet the source of the accusation and more than likely the esteemed Dr. Moreau.

This is Hodges' cousin? This guy is handsome, very well built, and easily six foot four. He must have gotten his height and good looks from the Moreau side of the family. He and Hodges must look like Mutt and Jeff when they're together.

Dr. Johnson begins to explain "Dr. Moreau, I apologize for any improprieties. These people are here from . . ." Catherine is able to quickly cut him off and says "Tucson. The three of us are looking for a place to care for our mother. We've heard wonderful things about your institution and wanted to check things out first hand. Dr. Johnson has been good enough to give us an exclusive tour. I apologize if we have done anything to offend you."

Dr. Moreau smiles at Catherine and replies "No. You are not a problem. I was just unaware of your visit and this particular patient is very special to me. In fact, a colleague of mine is flying out the day after tomorrow to assist me in his treatment and I didn't want the patient upset in any way. I should be the one to apologize for my rudeness."

Greg and I look back and forth from the two doctors to Catherine and back again. I had no idea she was a master puppeteer. If I look close enough, I can see the imaginary strings attached to these two seemingly intelligent men. Hell, even Dr. Johnson who specifically knows the purpose of our visit, is not objecting to the deception.

Catherine turns her charm to the spellbound Dr. Moreau. "Your work sounds fascinating. Are you and your colleague using this patient in some sort of experimental trial?" The mesmerized doctor replies "Yes, we are. I have tried all the conventional treatments with no positive results. It's time for a bit of the unconventional. I can't reveal any part of the experiment, but suffice it to say, it will be groundbreaking."

Great, now we need to move our timetable up a bit. There is no way we can let Ecklie become part of some radical experiment. Grissom will have to work around the clock to amass as much evidence as he possibly can against Hodges. Maybe we can do a little more work on our end as well to implicate both granny and Dr. Moreau.

I'm pulled from my thoughts as I hear both doctors ask Catherine to join them for a drink. They even offer to go to our hotel bar if it is more convenient. Convenient for whom? Two horny men who want to be closer to a hotel room when they ply Catherine with drinks. I don't think so. There will be no ménage à trois with my girl, uh uh, no way, no how.

I immediately step forward and say "Catherine, don't forget we have another meeting very early tomorrow morning." She turns to me and replies "Oh, I had forgotten." Returning her attention back to the lovesick doctors, Catherine says "Maybe some other time. I really need to be at my best in the morning."

We finally are able to convince the two that we need to be on our way. They both walk us to the elevator and continue to drool all over Catherine, and damn it, she is letting them. I cross my arms and turn toward the elevator willing the doors to open.

As I am about ready to head for the stairs, the door finally opens. Greg and I step inside and have to wait for Catherine to say her goodbyes. I try to control myself as I am officially past the point of being fed up. I have now moved into irrational jealousy.

After what seems like hours, Catherine steps into the elevator. Greg hits the button for the ground floor and we are on our way. Clinching my jaw shut, I keep my attention on the floor numbers above the door. I'll probably have TMJ by the time we reach the lobby.

Catherine and Greg discuss the need to get Ecklie out of the hospital before the voodoo doctors have a chance to experiment with him. Catherine keeps looking my way, but doesn't say anything about my childish behavior.

As we hit the third floor, she turns to me with her hands on her hips and says "Okay, Sara. You haven't said a word since we left Ecklie's floor. What's going on?" I look at her as if she's grown another head and answer "You're kidding, right? You know damn good and well what's wrong. You came on to those guys with me standing right beside you. I don't even think you knew I was there."

Catherine moves directly in front of me and well into my space. I retreat as she walks me into the corner. Placing her hands on my hips, she looks directly into my eyes and says "Sara, I only flirted with them to get information. It was the fastest and easiest way to get them to talk. As far as not knowing you were there, you are very wrong. I always know when you are near."

Reaching up with one hand, she pulls me down to her lips and lets me know exactly how much she was thinking of me. I place my hands on her waist and give her everything I've got.

We are brought back to reality when the elevator dings announcing our floor. Smiling, Catherine and I both step from the elevator and begin to walk toward the doors. Realizing we are alone, we turn to see Greg's shocked expression as the doors to the elevator close with him still inside.


Part 20

The elevator finally returns to the ground floor carrying a shell-shocked Greg. I don't think he has moved an inch since the doors first closed on him. Catherine and I share a laugh as I quickly race forward and yank him out before the doors shut once again.

He looks at me wide-eyed and babbles "Sar . . . Cath . . . kiss . . . ding . . ." Catherine and I each take an arm and escort our incoherent friend from the lobby before someone tries to have him committed.

We help him to the car and fasten his seatbelt. He looks back and forth between us, but doesn't say a word. Catherine moves to the driver side as I climb into the passenger seat. She reaches for my hand as we exit the hospital grounds. I look over my shoulder at Greg to find him blankly staring at our joined hands.

Greg finally regains some semblance of normalcy about a block from the hotel. He clears his throat several times before asking "How long have the two of you been together and am I the last to know?" I turn to him and reply "We haven't even been on a date yet, Greg. This is very new and we are still in the exploration stage of our relationship. As for your second question, Warrick and Nick are the only ones who know."

Greg grins and says "I'd say you were exploring a lot more than just your feelings. Those tongues looked like a couple of drilling rigs. I'm surprised you didn't strike oil." I reach over and slap him as Catherine pulls into our hotel. He's definitely back to normal and seems okay with Catherine and me. I have to admit I was a bit worried. It is one thing knowing your friend is gay and quite another seeing her passionately kiss a supposedly straight colleague.

We split up to go back to our respective hotel rooms. Greg is going to try to contact Nick to get a fax of the latest phone LUDS while Catherine is organizing our findings to report back to Grissom. I find myself with little to do since Catherine has ordered me to rest until Greg comes by with his fax so I lie on the bed and watch her work. I have to admit I never realized reading glasses were so damn sexy.

An hour later, Greg and I are sitting at the little table in our room looking over Nick's fax. We have separated the Hodges/Sander's records from his grandmother's. When we look through the list by date, things just don't add up. Hodges has not called his grandmother from either of his phones since the day before Ecklie disappeared.

It seems grandmamma has not called Hodges since then either. Usually co-conspirators will keep in contact right up until the kidnapping and sometimes after. The only common connection is Dr. Moreau. Hodges called him a couple of days before the abduction and granny has called him everyday since.

Catherine has talked to Grissom several times tonight to try to come up with a new plan. We have to figure out a way to connect the trio to the abduction and subsequent endangerment of Ecklie before Dr. Moreau begins his experiment.

Grissom wants us to stay in Flagstaff to keep close tabs on Dr. Moreau and Brass has contacted the local PD for assistance. We may have to use Catherine's charms to trap him in some way. I'm hoping it doesn't come to that.

Catherine calls it quits and tells Greg to get a good night's sleep because we're going to have to be in top form for tomorrow. Greg smiles and winks at me on his way out. I turn my attention back to the phone records. There has to be something I'm just not seeing.

Catherine walks behind me and drapes her arms over my shoulders hugging me close. "Sara, put those away. You're tired and need rest. You can start on them again tomorrow when you're fresh." I put my hand on her arm and turn my head towards hers. I lean forward and leisurely kiss her.

She releases my lips and walks toward the bed as I get up and follow. We both completely disrobe and climb into the bed. Catherine motions for me to turn on my side as she spoons behind me. She pulls me close and wraps her arm around my middle.

We both quietly enjoy the closeness until my guilty feelings begin to take center stage. After several minutes, I say "Catherine, I need to talk to you about my jealousy earlier today." She nods her head against mine giving me permission to speak freely so I continue. "I took it personally when you flirted with the two doctors. At first, I was pissed at you and then I begin to feel insecure about your feelings toward me. I hated having those feelings, but I couldn't help it when I saw you with those two. I felt left out."

Catherine squeezes my middle and responds "Sara, it is just a game. I have always been able to flirt with men and get my way. It's just natural for me to use my sexuality to find out information. I've been doing it since I was in high school. I don't mean to belittle my feelings toward you. I care for you and no amount of flirting is going to change that."

I smile at the acknowledgement of her feelings. I can't wait until I hear those three little words from her, but I can be very patient especially if Catherine is my reward. I wonder if Hodges felt the same kind of jealousy when Ecklie would ignore him for someone else. I imagine it was worse for him since Ecklie pretty much threw him to the side to have sex with other men.

I know I would be broken hearted if Catherine was to do the same to me, but I would never wish for her to be harmed in anyway. I certainly wouldn't have her committed to some institution or undergo radical experiments to try to change her. I love her too much.

Thinking back to the first video found at the home of Ecklie's mother, I recall the impassioned speech Hodges gave to Ecklie about how much he loved him and wanted their relationship to be monogamous. I felt sorry for the guy. I think he loves Ecklie as much as I love Catherine. If that's the case, then . . .

I quickly sit up in bed startling Catherine. "Sara, what's wrong? Don't tell me you're going to be sick." I excitedly pull her up beside me. "Catherine, Hodges loves Ecklie." She replies "So?"

I roll my eyes and say "I don't think he would harm Ecklie." I wait a few beats before declaring "I don't think Hodges had anything to do with the abduction."


Part 21

Catherine immediately asks "And what information do you base your feelings of Hodges' innocence on?" I stop myself from blurting out 'love' because then I would have to explain exactly how I came to my conclusion. Instead I reply "I don't have anything concrete to support my feelings, but I think we need to look at the possibility."

I know she probably thinks I'm nuts, but it would explain the lack of phone calls. He also has been showing up to work regularly and according to Nick, he is not acting any more unusual than he normally does. Wendy has even noticed how genuinely upset he seems to be about Ecklie.

Catherine begins to laugh at my somewhat loony theory, but stops herself when she looks into my eyes. "Sara, you're serious aren't you?" I nod my head yes; however, I see the need to question my poor timing in starting this conversation as I glance at our reflection in the mirror.

Yep, it's definitely official; I have truly lost my mind. Here I am sitting against the headboard with a naked Catherine Willows beside me having a conversation about Hodges and Ecklie. The only thing worse would be discussing Grissom and the sheriff while we're in the midst of mind blowing sex.

I shudder as that last image floats through my mine which unfortunately raises goose bumps on my skin and awakens a couple of mammalian bumps as well. I cross my arms over my chest in an attempt to hide the misbehaving protrusions. It's at this point I am regretting not turning off the bedside lamp before beginning this ill-timed conversation.

Catherine gives me a huge grin and says "Why Sara is there a flag in the room or are you just happy to see me?" I drop my head embarrassed by my saluting nipples as she reaches over and pulls into a hug.

Naked hugging should really be considered as a new Olympic event and Catherine and I should practice frequently just in case it is approved by the IOC.

After several minutes, Catherine lightly kisses me and says "Sara, we really do need to get some sleep. Let's table this discussion about Hodges' possible innocence until morning." Agreeing, I reach over and turn out the light. Catherine resumes her spooning position as our breathing evens out into sleep.

I awaken before Catherine and watch her sleep awhile before sliding out of bed to take a shower. I can't wait for this damn case to be over so we can concentrate on just us. I look forward to the days when we can wake together and enjoy each other's company without worrying about work or the fact that Greg will probably be knocking on the door in another hour. Hell, if we don't have some quality time together soon I am going to spontaneously combust.

I quickly shower and order us a light breakfast from room service. We may as well take advantage of the sheriff's hospitality while we can. I'm sure we will be back on his shit list the minute we solve this case. I glance at the clock and decide to wake Catherine before Greg gets here. There's no way I'm going to allow him to sneak a peek at any of Catherine's assets.

I crawl back onto the bed and softly call her name. She immediately smiles and begins to stretch like a cat. The sheet slides down revealing more of her tantalizing body. My mouth goes dry as her nipples harden with the cool air of the room. Swallowing, I move my attention to the other side of the room. A horny Sara can't think straight and after watching Catherine, I want to be as far away from straight as possible.

Catherine rises from the bed and walks around the room naked. After she has chosen her wardrobe, she glances over her shoulder and winks at me before entering the bathroom. I sit on the bed gawking at the closed door. I think she now has imaginary strings attached to my body as well. A knock on the room door brings me back to the present and I move to open it.

Greg walks in and heads for our little work area. He looks around for Catherine and after noticing the closed door, he sits in the chair facing the bathroom. I walk over and knock on the bathroom door and inform Catherine that Greg is here. Smiling, I head back over to a dejected Greg who was hoping to see a little more of Catherine than I am willing to allow.

Pulling out the phone LUDS, I show Greg the lack of calls from Hodges to granny. Greg listens intently and seems to agree with my assessment. By the time Catherine emerges from the bathroom, Greg and I have decided that we should interview Grandmother Sanders. Now, all we have to do is talk Grissom and Catherine into it.

An hour later, we have Catherine agreeing with us, but she insists we thoroughly plan out our meeting so as to not arouse suspicion. After a conference call to Grissom, we decide to tell granny that we are looking into the disappearance of Ecklie and that we are aware of his relationship to Hodges. We need to convince her that we feel there is someone who has a grudge against either Ecklie or Hodges and we fear for Hodges' safety. We are counting on the element of surprise to cause her to confess or make a mistake of some kind.

After consuming our breakfast, the three of us leave the hotel for the home of Grandmother Sanders. We decide not to call to alert her. I just hope she's at home and we're able to catch her unaware.

We drive for about 20 minutes before turning onto a private drive. We travel for another mile before the house or rather mansion comes into view. Man, oh man, I bet a whole lot of chickens had to die to afford this place.

Catherine rings the doorbell and we wait for the servant to answer. The door opens revealing a short, attractive elderly woman. She smiles and asks "Hello. How may I help you?" Catherine returns her smile and answers "Hello. I'm Catherine Willows and this is Greg Sanders and Sara Sidle. We're from the . . ."

Catherine is interrupted by the other woman who claps her hands together and says "Las Vegas Crime Lab. Oh, please come in. John speaks highly of all of you. It's so nice to meet some of his friends. What brings you here?" Catherine steps across the threshold as Greg and I pick our jaws up off the ground.

Mrs. Sanders motions for us to follow as we enter a very spacious great room. She asks if we would like any refreshments and we decline. This woman is either a most gracious hostess or a very cunning lady. Catherine and I sit on the sofa while Greg and granny move to the wingchairs.

Catherine explains why we are here while Greg and I watch granny for any sign of nervousness or guilt. Her emotions are all over the place while Catherine continues her speech. Her expressions move from surprised to anger to shock and finally to sadness. Not one look of guilt crosses her face.

As Catherine finishes her explanation, granny is almost in tears. Shit, I feel like a first class heel and I'm not even the one talking. After a few moments of silence, Granny wrings her hands and says "Mrs. Willows, I'm so sorry to hear about Conrad. John really loves him and when he gets better, he is going to be so upset when he finds out about the abduction."

What? Hodges' already knows what has happened. I look over at Catherine and then to Greg. All three of us are in a state of confusion. I turn my attention back to granny and reply "Mrs. Sanders, there is nothing wrong with Hodges, I mean, John. He was perfectly fine when we left Las Vegas yesterday."

Now, it's granny's turn to be confused. She answers "I don't understand. John is very sick. Roger said I needed to sign the papers immediately to have him committed. It's been so difficult and I'm not even allowed to visit until Roger says it's okay, but I call everyday to check his progress."

Catherine asks the question that's on all of our minds. "Roger?" Granny looks over toward Catherine and says "Yes, he is my other grandson. He's a doctor you know. Dr. Roger Moreau."

Holy shit! Granny is not in on this either. It looks like Dr. Moreau may be acting on his own accord. Question is: is he getting back at Ecklie for hurting his cousin or is Ecklie just a convenient guinea pig for his experiments?


Part 22

I lean forward on the sofa and ask "What exactly did Dr. Moreau tell you about Hodg….John's illness?" She pauses for a few minutes before answering. "Well, let me think. Roger said John was very depressed and may even be suicidal. He told me he was going to have John admitted to Shady Oaks Hospital so that he could treat him personally. Roger said I needed to wait at least two weeks before visiting, but he promised to keep me updated on a daily basis. Now, what is this about John being in Vegas?"

Catherine, Greg, and I exchange glances. I sure wish Catherine and I had some sort of telepathic powers so we could communicate. Of course, that would mean she would be cognizant of my every thought so on second thought, strike that idea. Maybe we can come up with some way to be alone to discuss our strategy.

Just as the thought enters my mind, Catherine asks "Mrs. Sanders, I think I will take you up on your offer of lemonade, if you don't mind. It is quite warm today." Smiling, granny stands and says "Of course, Mrs. Willows. If you three will excuse me I'll be right back." I guess her need to be hospitable outweighs her curiosity. Great thinking on Catherine's part and quite timely with my thoughts as well. I'm sure it's merely a coincidence.

The minute granny leaves the room Greg asks "What are we going to do? She already knows too much as it is." Catherine looks back at the door before answering. "I think maybe we should let her in on what's going on. She will be relieved to find out Hodges isn't sick and maybe we can spin this so she'll believe we're going to do everything to help Dr. Moreau from being prosecuted."

Putting in my own two cents, I say "I don't know, Catherine. What if she's as protective about Dr. Moreau as she is Hodges? She could tip him off before we can get any solid evidence." I check my watch and pause before adding "There's not enough time to consult Grissom. You're the lead on this one, Cath. I'll stand behind your decision one hundred percent."

Greg pipes in "Me too." Temporarily shocked, Catherine just nods her head. This is probably the first time I have ever offered her my full support. In the past, I would disagree with her just for the sake of arguing, but not anymore. From now on, I will offer her my support unless I truly disagree with her decision.

Granny returns with a tray and four glasses of lemonade. She serves us each a glass with a napkin before returning to her seat. I take a sip while I wait for Catherine to continue the conversation. Damn, this is real lemonade, squeezed from real lemons. Savoring my drink, I almost miss Catherine's raised eyebrow. I guess she wants me to continue my chat with granny.

I clear my throat and say "Mrs. Sanders, we flew out of Vegas yesterday. John was in the lab and was very much his old self. He didn't seem one bit depressed." I left out the bit where Nick described him as moping around the lab.

Granny finally seems to understand the magnitude of my statement as she asks "If John's okay, then why did Roger want me to believe those horrible things?" Catherine takes the lead and explains everything we know up to this point including our suspicions of Hodges and even about her possible involvement.

Catherine finishes with "Mrs. Sanders, we apologize for keeping things from you, but we had to be sure you were not involved. We are not sure why Dr. Moreau abducted Ecklie, but we have to work quickly to end this situation peacefully and before your grandson and his colleague begin their experiments on Ecklie."

Granny's face turns white and she places her hand over her heart. I mentally review the steps involved in CPR and hope I won't need to use them. She takes a sip of her drink and replies "Oh, Roger. Please tell me you aren't going to try those dangerous tests on Conrad."

Greg moves over and kneels next to her chair. He softly asks "What do you mean, Mrs. Sanders? What does Roger plan to do?" She smiles at Greg and says "You're a good man. I can tell by the way you carry yourself and the kindness in your eyes. Promise me you will stop Roger from whatever he plans to do."

Greg agrees and granny begins to fill us in. "Several years ago, Roger applied for a government grant, but he was turned down. He then went to several family members for help and they all refused. Roger finally came to me and I had him explain exactly what the money would be used for. At first, he talked about some research he and a colleague were interested in."

She takes another sip of her lemonade and continues. "The more he talked, the more excited he became. He began to talk of the use of experimental, hallucinogenic drugs and electroshock treatments. Roger said with the right combination, deviant human behavior could be controlled and even altered. I told him I didn't agree with such methods and refused to invest in his radical ideas. He didn't speak to me for about a month, but he finally admitted that he understood."

Catherine says "I would like to get Ecklie out of there with minimal force. I think Dr. Johnson will work with us, but I am concerned about how Dr. Moreau will react if we go in and simply take Ecklie out of there."

Granny replies "I can understand your concern and to be honest, I'm a little concerned myself. Roger is very headstrong and I don't imagine he will allow you to walk out with Conrad without some sort of fight. I am willing to help in any way possible."

I don't think I like the way this is turning out. I was hoping for the police to come in and surround the place with Catherine, Greg, and I tucked safely behind police cruisers. Judging from the look in Catherine's eyes, I think we are about to embark on some type of spy mission. I am definitely going to involve Grissom in this decision. Catherine will probably be furious with me, but her safety comes first.

We leave the Sanders mansion after promising to keep granny updated. She promises to maintain the charade if Dr. Moreau contacts her. She also agreed to wait to talk to Hodges until this is all over.

The drive back to the hotel is relatively silent. We are going to phone Grissom from the hotel room to discuss strategies for tomorrow. It is no longer safe for Ecklie to stay in the institution. Come hell or high water, we are getting him out tomorrow morning.

As we pull into the parking lot, Greg offers to go to the pizzeria down the street to get lunch. He will meet us in our room for lunch and to go over Grissom's plan. Catherine and I walk toward the entrance as Greg drives off.

We enter the room and I immediately head for the phone. Catherine reaches out and grabs me by the hand. I turn around to face her as she says "Sara, Grissom's not here. He doesn't have a feel for what is going on and he has no idea how Dr. Moreau is going to react. We have Mrs. Sanders on our side. She said herself that she's a bit worried Dr. Moreau might become violent. I think we should come up with a plan between the three of us. I'd like to go in, retrieve Ecklie, and get the hell out of there."

I know I said earlier I was going to support Catherine whenever I could, but this is not the time. She is proposing something extremely dangerous. In fact, this sounds more like something I would have come up with.

I squeeze Catherine's hand and reply "Catherine, I really think Grissom should be the one to decide." She angrily pulls her hand from mine and stomps over to the windows. With her back to me she says "Fine. You can call Grissom. What happened to I'm behind you one hundred percent? I knew you wouldn't stand behind me."

I walk over and put my hand on her shoulder. She shrugs it off and turns toward me with fire in her eyes. "Don't touch me." She looks directly in my eyes and says "Sara, I want you to give me one good reason why you don't agree with me."

I return her gaze and see much I have upset her. I don't want her to look at me with such an expression of hurt ever again.

Deciding now is the time, I respond "Catherine, I'm afraid something will go wrong and you will get hurt. I couldn't live with myself if I let that happen."

I take a deep breath and say "I love you, Catherine."


Part 23

I watch as a myriad of emotions wash over Catherine. They pass by so quickly I am not able to pinpoint any one in particular. I have no clue what she is thinking or feeling which promptly leads to an increase in my current anxiety level although I am somewhat relieved she has not given me the deer in the headlights look. The only thing I am certain of is that she is no longer angry. Yes, the wind has definitely gone out of her sails.

I shift from foot to foot nervously awaiting her response to my declaration of love. I am not expecting her to return the sentiment, but I hope for some sort of positive response. I do know that if she doesn't say something soon, I'm going to have to downplay my profession until we have time to discuss it at length.

Several minutes pass with nary a word from either of us. I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed in Catherine's lack of response. I know I should not have blindsided her with my news, but I truly felt the situation called for it. It was the only way I could explain my reasons for wanting to call Grissom. Maybe I should have held my tongue and let her stay mad at me for awhile.

My thoughts are interrupted by Catherine as she finally utters the six most dreaded words in response to a profession of love, "Sara, I don't know what to say."

Well, actually I guess it's really eight words if you count the contraction as two words and my name as one. I try to maintain a positive facade and not show any signs of disappointment. I didn't expect her to say 'I love you too' as we rode off into the sunset, but I was hoping for some reinforcement of my feelings.

Looking down at my feet, I reply "That's okay, Catherine. You don't have to say anything. I just wanted you to know why I questioned your decision to keep Grissom out of the loop." She reaches over and gently raises my chin with her hand until our eyes meet. "Sara, you misunderstood. I don't know what to say because I am confused about my feelings." She pauses before continuing. "I do care for you. It's just that I am unsure of the depth of my affection."

Okay, not exactly what I was looking for, but it will have to do. She did say she cared and I'm going to hold onto hope until she's sure what she feels. Deciding to move back to the subject that started all this tension, I ask "What about Grissom? Don't you think we should at least let him know what we discovered?"

Catherine walks toward the phone and replies "Yes, we need to fill him in on our findings and now that I've had a few minutes to think about it, I also think you're right about having Grissom decide our next move. I don't want to place our lives or our jobs in jeopardy because I made a decision based on my stubbornness."

Holy cow! Someone phone the press, Catherine Willows just admitted she has a stubborn streak. She must really care for me if she willing confessed to something that none of the team members has ever had the guts to call her on. We pretty much tiptoe around her when she's in this particular mood and wait for it to eventually wear off.

Greg arrives with the pizza and sodas just as Catherine ends her discussion with Grissom. We sit around the table and consume our food as Catherine fills us in.

Grissom wants to move the timetable up. He feels tonight would be the best time to 'break' Ecklie out of Shady Oaks. He and Brass are working out the details and will call back in a couple of hours to outline the plan.

Catherine has called down to the front desk to change Greg's room from a single to a double. Ecklie will need to be looked after until the sedatives wear off. Greg is not at all happy with his assignment and has even suggested rooming with me while Catherine plays nursemaid. I am able to save him from Catherine's wrath by ushering him out the door to get his things ready for the move.

By the time he returns, Catherine has calmed down considerably. I had to take drastic measures and resort to making out on the couch to assuage her anger. I am more than willing to sacrifice my lips at anytime to placate Catherine. After all, I have to do everything in my power to help out a team member, don't I?

Greg makes a comment about my swollen lips, but immediately slams his mouth shut when he receives one of Catherine's patented 'you're on my shit list' glares. The phone rings giving Greg a temporary reprieve. If I know Catherine, she will find some way to get back at him in a not so subtle way.

Watching the two of them to make sure they behave, I reach over and attempt to pick up the phone. Damn it, wrong hand. The pain has been so minimal I had forgotten all about my injury. I make a mental note to not try to grasp anything as I retrieve the dropped receiver with my left hand. Grissom's concerned voice comes over the line as I finally answer the phone.

"Hey, Gris. Hold on a minute while Catherine picks up the other phone." Greg moves over to listen in with me, smart boy keeping his distance from Catherine. The three of us listen in as both Grissom and Brass outline the plan. Catherine and I occasionally ask questions, but Greg stays silent. Catherine says her goodbyes as we simultaneously hang up.

Catherine instructs Greg to take his things and go pick up his new room key. She managed to get a room on our same floor just down the hall. She tells him to get some rest and return to the room at 7:00 sharp. He nods his head as he slips from the room.

I sit on the edge of the bed and mentally review the plan. Brass has a friend, Detective Tom Collins, who is going to meet us at the entrance of the institution at 8:00 p.m. Grissom has spoken to Dr. Johnson and the two decided it would be best if there were a minimal number of people involved in Ecklie's 'extraction.' Most of the patients would be in bed at this time and the reduced staff should not be a problem.

Dr. Johnson will speak to the nurse in charge of medication and have placebos replace Ecklie's current meds. Maybe he will be partially coherent by the time we get to him. Dr. Moreau is scheduled to pick up his colleague at the airport around 8:00. We should be able to get in and out without a confrontation. Once we've exited the building, Detective Collins will call for backup and wait for Dr. Moreau's return to take him into custody. I just hope everything goes according to plan.

Sighing, I reach down to remove my shoes. I think a nice nap is in order so I will be sharp for tonight. Damn these laces, I knew I should have put on some loafers. I'll never get these boots untied with one hand. If I hadn't hit my bum hand on the phone earlier, I could use it to help out.

Catherine evidently notices my dilemma as she kneels down and unlaces my boots. Very gently, she guides my boots from my feet. I wiggle my toes in relief.

The next thing I know, she has reached up to unbutton my shirt. I place my hand on hers and look up into eyes which are filled with . . . desire?

I shake my head to ward off my hallucination when I am stopped by Catherine's hand on my face. She brings the other hand up as well to cup my face. We lose ourselves in each other's eyes as she rubs her thumbs against my cheeks.

She leans forward and softly kisses my lips. Pulling away, she continues to hold my face in her hands as she says "Sara, I want you. Right here, right now."


Part 24

I look into her eyes and say "Catherine, I'm not sure about having sex. I really . . ." She interrupts me by placing a finger on my lips. "Sh, Sara. I don't want to have sex. I want to make love. I know I said I wanted to wait and make love in my bed, but I really want to make love with you now. Please, Sara."

Holy shit! I must be dreaming because I could swear I heard Catherine say please in reference to making love to me. I very slowly make an inconspicuous attempt to reach down to pinch myself on the leg. Ow, thank you God, I'm awake!

Catherine looks down at my hand pinching my leg and smiles. "No, Sara, you aren't dreaming. I'm really here. Now stand up so I can get these pants off of you. I hate those encounters where undressing gets in the way. I want my full concentration on you and not on trying to get you out of your clothes."

I quickly stand and try to undo my jeans with one hand. Damn this splint. It's really causing more harm than good in this particular instance. I continue to fumble with my button when Catherine places her hand on mine. "Here. Let me help you." I remove my hand and allow Catherine access. How embarrassing. I can't even get out of my own pants without help.

Catherine works both my pants and underwear down my legs as I assist by stepping out of them. Finally, mission accomplished and probably the most unromantic disrobing scene ever. I fold my arms over my chest and look down at the floor. I have never been so nervous in my entire life.

I feel hands on my arms as I look up into Catherine's smiling face. "Hey, you need to relax. I'm not going to hurt you." I return her gaze and whisper "Promise?" She caresses my face and responds "Sara, I promise to never intentionally hurt you." I smile and uncross my arms.

Catherine unbuttons and removes my shirt. She lightly strokes my sides and says "No bra? Were you trying to give Greg a heart attack?" I reach for Catherine's buttons as I explain the problem with the bra hooks and my splint. She lightly slaps my hand away from her blouse and instructs me to lie on the bed. Like a good little girl, I obey.

Slowly walking toward the bed, Catherine removes her shirt and bra while never losing eye contact with me. She steps out of her shoes and begins to slowly unzip her pants.

I feel like I'm in one of those Wild Kingdom episodes where the lioness is stalking her prey. Catherine is definitely the lioness and I play the part of the unsuspecting prey. Well, I guess unsuspecting is not actually true in my case since I am more than willing to sacrifice myself to Catherine.

Catherine finally removes the rest of her clothing and lies down on the bed next to me. I reach out for her but stop when she shakes her head no. She slowly extends her arm and gently caresses my face. I close my eyes and lean into her touch.

I open my eyes just as she is leaning toward me. She smiles as she softly and reverently kisses me. I once again close my eyes and savor the taste of her lips. I allow Catherine full control of the kiss as she takes her sweet time gently mapping out my contours of my mouth with her tongue. Her hand begins to model her tongue as she softly strokes up and down my side.

Catherine gently rolls me on my back as she continues to leisurely kiss me while moving her hand to my breast. She lightly rubs her thumb back and forth over my nipple in perfect rhythm with the slow thrust of her tongue.

My hips begin to take on a life of their own as I rock against the leg Catherine has thrown over my pelvic region. I'm not sure if someone can die from anticipation, but I have a feeling I am about to find out as Catherine continues to take her time worshipping my body.

Catherine moves her hand farther south as she begins to kiss and suck her way down to the area vacated by her hand. She slowly licks around my nipple while her hand strokes back and forth through my abundant wetness.

I hear moaning in the background and am finally able to pinpoint the noise. It's coming from me; me who never makes any sound; me who has become a perpetual moaning machine; me who just squeaked as Catherine takes my nipple in her mouth.

My motions become frantic as Catherine starts to kiss her way down my body toward her teasing hand. I accommodate her by pulling my legs up, bending my knees, and spreading my legs farther apart than I thought was possible. The fear of a pulled muscle leaves my flustered brain the minute her tongue makes its way to my opening.

Relentless is the only description I can come up with to describe the motion of her tongue. I am very close to proving the theory of spontaneous combustion and I shudder when I think about how Catherine will describe my death to the rest of the team.

I shudder for a completely different reason as Catherine pushes her tongue into me. Her rhythm is much too slow for me to achieve any kind of release, but I'm pretty sure that is her intention. I'm almost to the point of being as incoherent as Ecklie. At least my lack of awareness is not caused from medication; however, Catherine has officially become my drug of choice.

"Catherine, please." Did that come from me? Sara Sidle does not beg. Oh my God, her tongue should be registered as a lethal weapon. Screw not begging – "Please, Catherine."

She finally enters me with her fingers as her she draws my clit into her mouth. She picks up the momentum as I scream my release. Determined, Catherine continues until I lose count of the number of times I come as everything fades to black.

I awaken sometime later to the soft sound of Catherine's voice. "Sara, wake up. C'mon sweetie, you need to take a shower before Greg gets here. We only have thirty minutes until it's time to meet Detective Collins."

Opening my eyes, I see Catherine fully clothed sitting on the edge of the bed. Dear Lord, what a dream; it felt so real. She smiles and says "Hey, welcome back to the land of the living. You kind of scared me for a minute there when you blacked out, but your breathing finally evened out into sleep. I can't believe I was the cause of the invincible Sara Sidle passing out. Ros would be so proud of me."

Holy shit, it was real!


Part 25

I stare at Catherine with my mouth agape still trying to come to terms with reality. We made love, or rather, Catherine made love to me. Quite adeptly, I might add. I actually came, several times in fact to the point of passing out. I've never had an orgasm with another living soul; by myself on occasion, but never with a lover.

Catherine leans over and kisses me on the forehead. "Sara, we can talk about this later, but right now, you need to get in the shower." She helps me take off my splint and reaches her hand out for support. Dazed, I pull myself up from the bed and walk to the bathroom. The memories of our lovemaking filter their way into my thoughts as I stand under the water. Damn, she's good. I can't wait to return the favor.

I put on a t-shirt and jeans as I'm not in the mood to fuss with the buttons on my shirt. I am just able to button my jeans by myself let alone all those shirt buttons. Besides, I don't think I would survive Catherine helping me dress this soon after our lovemaking session. Memories of her helping me undress are still too fresh. I slip on my loafers and walk into the main room.

Greg has arrived and is sitting at the table going over some notes with Catherine. I am so very thankful I didn't walk out with my pants undone. I don't think I could ever live that down. No telling what Greg would have told the others.

Catherine notices my appearance first as she makes her way over with my splint. She lightly kisses me before putting the splint back on. I glance over at Greg who is grinning like a hyena until Catherine shoots him a withering look.

We arrive at Shady Oaks at precisely 8:00 p.m. Catherine pulls in next to a Crown Victoria, the most popular choice for an unmarked car. The occupant gets out and leans against his vehicle. I look over to note a rumpled suit and shoes in need of a good polishing. I think we have found our detective.

Catherine and Greg get out and make their way to the passenger side of our rental. I am delayed by my inability to undo my seatbelt with one hand. I am finally able to extract myself from the vehicle as introductions are being made.

Detective Collins seems like the real deal. Of course, I wouldn't expect anything less from Brass. I knew he would make sure we had backup we could count on. As the four of us make our way to the front entrance, I notice Detective Collins scanning left and right for any possible threat.

The security guard gives us each a pass to use on the elevator. I believe Dr. Johnson has taken a few precautionary measures as well. I have to admit I was a little worried about getting in and out of the institution without a problem. I find myself relaxing more and more with the additional safety provisions.

We are met on the top floor by a very nervous Dr. Johnson. He greets each of us and spends a little extra time talking to Catherine. Good guy or not, he better steer clear of my girl if he wants his manhood to stay intact.

Catherine's demeanor is quite different this time. She is all business and no play which has Dr. Johnson a bit confused, but I, on the other hand, am quite happy. He walks us down to the end of the corridor and punches in a few numbers into the code box.

The door buzzes and we all walk into the room. Ecklie is lying on the bed staring up at the ceiling. He turns his head in our direction and his eyes widen in recognition. Catherine walks over and tries to communicate with him.

"Conrad, we're going to get you out of here. Do you think you can walk?" Ecklie very slowly shakes his head no. It appears he has not quite regained his ability to speak. I feel a bit guilty as I imagine him never recovering his voice. He would never be able to yell at me again. Ah, it would be grand.

Dr. Johnson moves toward the two and asks if it would be all right to check Ecklie out before releasing him. I'm thinking that would probably be a good idea. I sure don't want to be on the road or in the hotel if he were to have some sort of seizure or something. I look over toward Greg to see him strongly agreeing with the idea. He would probably freak out if something happened to Ecklie on his watch.

Catherine sends Greg out to find a wheelchair while the three of us stay behind to wait for Dr. Johnson to finish up with Ecklie. Detective Collins tells us to wait behind while he makes a quick sweep of the floor and stairwell.

Catherine and I take a seat at the table by the door while Dr. Johnson pulls some equipment over to monitor Ecklie. I look at my watch and note it's only been fifteen minutes since we first entered the building. We will be long gone before the two demented doctors return from the airport.

Dr. Johnson calls Catherine over to try to get Ecklie to respond to an outside stimulus. Outside stimulus, my ass, he just wants to get a closer look at Catherine in her tight t-shirt and jeans. I stand up and move closer to the two. One false move and he's toast.

The door opens behind me, but I don't take my eyes off Dr. Johnson, sleaze extraordinaire. He's been ogling Catherine's breasts ever since she walked over to the bed.

I suddenly notice two things at one time, Catherine's eyes widening and movement to my right. Too late, I see a very sharp scalpel as I am pulled against a hard body. The scalpel is placed at my neck as visions of Adam Trent fill my thoughts. If I get out of this alive, I am never stepping foot inside a mental institution again.

I try to get my bearings by taking note of all the players. Catherine and Dr. Johnson are frozen in place beside Ecklie. I am being held by 'scalpelpoint' by someone in a white coat and there is a sixth person in the room to my left. Using my peripheral vision, I recognize the figure of Dr. Moreau. That must mean I am being held by the esteemed colleague.

Dr. Moreau moves in front of us with his hands held up in defense. "Frank, let her go. It's over. You don't need to hurt anyone." Yeah, Frank, listen to the very smart doctor.

Instead the man tightens his grip and moves the scalpel closer managing to nick my skin in the process. I hope everyone realizes how very sharp this instrument is. One false move and it's goodbye Sara.

My attacker finally finds his voice as he says "We've worked too long and too hard to let this go. You have finally found us the perfect specimen and I'm not giving up. Grow some balls, Moreau. We can keep these people sedated until we have completed our experiment. No one will be the wiser."

The door slams open to reveal Greg pushing a wheelchair. He immediately freezes in place as 'Frank' pulls me even closer and backs up toward the far wall. The party is complete when Detective Collins enters the room and draws his gun. Oh yippee, the gang's all here. I glance toward Catherine to see tears running down her face.

Detective Collins points his weapon at the two of us and says "Drop the scalpel, Dr. Moreau. There's no way you're getting out of here." Frank becomes incensed as he cuts me a little more. Son of a bitch, I'm going to die a slow death here nick by nick.

Frank shouts "I'm not Dr. Moreau. He could never hold a candle to me. Don't you know who I am?" Catherine notices the blood on my neck and starts to take a step forward. I stop her with my eyes as I try to convey all my love in case this madman decides to slit my throat.

Detective Collins maintains his bead on the two of us and responds "No, I'm sorry I don't know who you are. Why don't you fill me in?" Doctor Moreau quickly adds "Please, Frank. Let her go." I'm beginning to take a shine to Hodges' cousin.

Frank begins to pull me toward the door as the detective follows with his gun. Catherine's eyes widen as she realizes he is making an attempt to escape. I wrack my brain to try to find some way to escape his clutches.

As we get to the door, Frank boldly proclaims "I am the greatest doctor in the land. Everyone knows who I am. I am the world renowned Dr. Frank N. Stein."

Oh God, I am so screwed!


Part 26

A tray clatters to the floor behind us as Frank turns toward the sound. The scalpel is momentarily pulled from my neck so I take the opportunity to stomp on his instep. He releases me to grab his foot as I dive to the side. I am only temporarily able to enjoy my freedom as I land on my injured hand. Fuck that hurts. I roll onto my back and look towards the doorway.

Furious, Frank comes after me with his scalpel raised high. I attempt to scoot backwards, but he gains ground quickly. I shut my eyes and await my fate when the sound of gunfire fills the air. I peek through my closed lids to find Frank slumped against the wall with a bullet wound to the head. I don't think he'll be experimenting on anyone ever again.

Catherine immediately rushes to my side and calls for Dr. Johnson, but Dr. Moreau is the first doctor to reach me. Catherine snaps her head up and protectively pulls me onto her lap. She glares at him and says "Don't you dare touch her. Get the hell away from us." He slowly backs away as Dr. Johnson moves into view.

I'd have to say I was extremely lucky this time. The cuts to my neck were superficial and were able to be treated with surgi-strips; however, my arm is now sporting a nifty lightweight cast. Dr. Johnson wanted me to stay overnight for observation, but I told him in no uncertain terms that I wasn't spending the night in a nut house especially with my track record.

Catherine has not left my side for a single second. Detective Collins wanted her to run the crime scene, but she flat out refused saying this wasn't her jurisdiction. She and I both know that has never stopped her before, but neither of us make mention of it.

Greg is pretty shook up by the events and has hardly said a word except to give his statement to the detectives. Ecklie has been moved to another room and is being monitored by one of Dr. Johnson's nurses until we can take him back to the hotel.

Catherine has called Grissom and filled him in on the details. He is going to call Hodges in and bring him up to speed. He will inform the sheriff of the latest development only after he talks to Hodges. Catherine has also called Mrs. Sanders to let her know where her grandson has been taken.

It turns out Dr. Moreau was a victim of Dr. Stein as well. Ol' Frank N. found out Dr. Moreau moonlighted as an exotic dancer in college and threatened to go to the media. Roger didn't want his family to suffer any bad press so he agreed to become Dr. Stein's assistant. He was forced to write grants and to ask his family for money to finance Dr. Stein's 'research.'

It wouldn't have been so bad if Roger had been a male exotic dancer, but it turns out he worked as a female impersonator. To add fuel to the fire, Dr. Moreau danced because he enjoyed it not because he needed the money. I guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the Sanders' family tree. I bet the Colonel is rolling in his grave.

After several hours, Detective Collins has finally given us the green light to head back to the hotel. Ecklie is able to crawl into the wheelchair and we head to the car as Greg pushes Ecklie. I lean on Catherine as we make our way out of the institution. I am using the excuse that I feel weak, but in reality, I need Catherine's touch to ground me.

We arrive at the hotel exhausted. Greg helps Ecklie into the chair as Catherine assists me from the car. The four of us make our trek to the elevators and silence prevails as we exit onto our floor. Greg tells us he can handle Ecklie and for us to go on to our room. He promises to call if he needs assistance.

Neither Catherine nor I attempt to argue as we turn in the opposite direction toward our room. Catherine opens the door as I head straight for the bed and lie down. The adrenaline rush left me about thirty minutes ago and I have moved directly to full exhaustion.

I glance at the bedside table to note the time, 1:00 a.m. Closing my eyes, I silently thank Grissom for moving our flight back to 8:30 p.m. Now we can sleep in as long as we want. In fact, I don't think I'm leaving this bed until it's time to head to the airport.

Dr. Johnson said Ecklie should be okay to fly in about 8 hours. I'm just glad Grissom allowed even more time. I think we're all going to need it, Catherine included. She was my rock during the entire ordeal. Speaking of Catherine, where is she?

I glance around the room and find her sitting in the chair facing the bed. She is watching me intently and she occasionally reaches up to wipe a tear from her eye. I start to rise, but she holds up her hand and shakes her head. I ease back down never taking my eyes from her.

We continue looking at each other without saying a word before Catherine finally gets up and moves toward the bed. She reaches down and takes off my shoes before climbing into bed beside me. She puts her head on my shoulder and her arm around my waist. Within minutes we are both asleep.

I am pulled from a very erotic dream involving a naked Catherine and whipped cream by the ringing of the phone. Catherine utters some very choice words before reaching over to answer. I take the time to sneak a peak at the clock. I sure hope we've gotten at least 4 hours sleep. I almost jump from the bed with I see 11:00 a.m. I've never slept for ten straight hours in my entire life. Maybe there's something wrong with the clock.

I cringe as Catherine slams down the phone and bolts from the bed. She moves over to the chair and sits down while putting on her shoes. It appears she is talking to herself. "Ungrateful son of a bitch. Sara almost died trying to get him out of there and now he's back to his old self, the asshole. Just wait until I get a hold of him. He'll be whistling a different tune when he finds out how much we know about his secret life."

Catherine gets up from the chair and says "Stay there, I'll be right back. I have some business to attend to. It won't take long. We can order some room service when I get back." She turns and stomps from the room leaving me totally bewildered.

I lie back down and contemplate the phone call and her ramblings. Ah, Ecklie. I smile as I picture his face when Catherine tells him about our discovery of his secret room and videos. Hell, I don't have to picture it. If I hurry, I can experience it. I gingerly get up and slip on my shoes. I grab my key as I make my way out the door and down the hall.

The door is ajar as I reach their room. I peek in to see Ecklie meekly sitting in the chair and Catherine standing directly in front of him with her back to me. Greg is perched on the bed enjoying the show.

I begin to pick up the conversation as I slowly move into the room. "You stupid idiot. You are lucky enough to have someone who loves you unconditionally and you throw it away to be with a bunch of studs who proceed to use you as a fuck toy and then cast you aside for the next patsy. I used to think you were smart, Conrad, but evidently I was wrong."

Catherine stops for a second to catch her breath before continuing. "I'll tell you one thing. I am not going to make the same mistake you made. I have found love and I'm going to hold onto it with both hands and never let go. I came dangerously close to losing it last night and I'm not wasting another second being afraid. I'm going for the brass ring this time, Conrad. You should consider doing the same yourself."

I slip from the room without being seen by any of the occupants. It takes me a few minutes to catch my breath before I can return to our room. I quickly put the key in the door and head back to the bed. Inhale . . . exhale . . . inhale . . . exhale . . .

Catherine returns to the room as I try to act as normal as possible considering the circumstances. Was her impassioned speech solely for the benefit of Ecklie or was she serious? Does she really have feelings for me or is she simply content with my love for her?

My jumbled thoughts are interrupted by the sound of Catherine's voice. "Sara, hey. Where did you go? I've been calling you for several minutes. Have you decided what you want to order from room service?" Yeah, I'd like an order of truth served between two slices of honesty and sincerity, hold the little white lies.

Instead I answer "No. I was waiting for you to get back." By the way, it's okay for me to tell a little white lie until I can figure out what Catherine meant back in Ecklie's room.

Catherine walks over to the table and returns with the room menu. She sits down next to me as she tries to decide what to order. How can she think about food at a time like this? My life is once again on the line and she's looking at a menu.

I glance at the list of offered foods and frown as I notice drops falling on the page. Is the roof leaking? I glance up to the ceiling, but don't find anything sign of water. The drops continue as I look up at Catherine. Crap, she's crying. Did I do something to upset her?

She takes one look at me and bursts into tears. I awkwardly pull her into an embrace with my one good hand as she sobs into my shoulder. I gently rub her back and hold her as close as I can.

As Catherine regains her composure, she pulls back and touches my face. Through an occasional hiccup she says "Sara, I thought I was going to lose you last night. I was so scared. I don't want us to waste another minute apart. I want you to move in with me and Lindsey."

Whoa, that's certainly not what I was expecting. Now I just have to figure out what this all means. She is seemingly willing to make a commitment, but she hasn't said the three magic words. What if she's just settling? What if somewhere down the road she changes her mind or finds someone she really loves? Should I take a chance that she will eventually fall in love with me?

In the midst of my inner turmoil, Catherine takes my face in her hands and adds "And just for the record, I love you Sara Sidle."


Part 27

Say what? I mentally rewind my internal recorder to play back the words I am fairly certain I heard. The minute I hit play, the words come rushing back. Yep, that's what I thought. I think I'll just take a little nap now. As my eyes begin to roll back into my head, I force my body to supply my brain with much needed oxygen.

Whoops, is it possible to overdose on oxygen? What a head rush, but I forgot to tell my lungs to hang on to enough air to continue breathing as I now move into a hyperventilation state. Catherine quickly has me pull up my knees and lean my head forward and down. She rubs my back and instructs me to relax and take deep breaths.

My breathing pattern finally returns to normal as I sit up sporting a perpetual grin. I am definitely functioning on all cylinders now as I realize I am the luckiest person on the face of the earth. Catherine Willows confessed her love for me. Me, Sara Sidle. I can't wait to tell Greg.

I eventually come down from cloud nine long enough for us to discuss some immediate plans for our relationship. Catherine admits that my close call with the grim reaper made her realize how important I was to her and how precious time really is. We both decide to see each other as often as possible, but I think we should wait awhile before I move in.

I explain the importance of Lindsey's role in all of this and how I want to give her time to adjust to our relationship before any radical changes take place. We will try to split our time between her house and my apartment. I'm not crazy enough to suggest we stop sleeping together entirely.

We cuddle until it's time to leave for the airport. Greg stops by and offers to take the bags down to the rental car. I think he just wants a break from Ecklie. Catherine and I get the pleasure of babysitting him until Greg returns. Ecklie just sits and looks out the window without saying a word. I'm sure he's worried about what everyone at the lab will think about him.

Little does he know only our team and Archie is aware of his 'extracurricular activities.' Even the sheriff is in the dark, thanks to Grissom. He managed to protect Ecklie's image through the entire ordeal. I bet the bastard doesn't even thank Grissom for his discretion in handling the case.

I'm going to make certain neither Catherine nor Greg slips up and says anything to alleviate his fears. He deserves to be scared shitless even if it's only for a short time.

We get Ecklie settled on the plane in the row across from Greg. He's still a bit groggy and needs assistance with his balance. Catherine and I are seated in the back of first class, but there are people to the left of us so no hanky panky going home.

I tried to initiate a little lovemaking back at the hotel, but Catherine insisted we should wait until my wounds have healed. I'm hoping she's referring to the ones on my neck and not my hand. If so, I'm going to cut this cast off the minute we land.

Hodges is going to meet us at the airport and take over custody of Ecklie. As much as the thought of the two of them together gives me the 'heebie geebies,' I hope things work out for them.

Greg, Catherine, and I are going to head straight to CSI headquarters to fill out our reports. Grissom has approved three days leave for Catherine and I effective the minute we hand in the completed reports. He'll get no argument from me that's for sure.

Catherine has arranged for her sister to keep Lindsey while I recuperate at her house. I hope these surgi-strips do the trick because tomorrow night I plan to repay Catherine for her exquisite lovemaking skills. I just hope I'm up to the challenge she set forth in our earlier encounter. I plan to work on my breathing technique on the flight home. Surely it will increase my lung capacity for tomorrow night's activities.

The takeoff and landing go very smoothly especially since Catherine has re-enacted her famous 'get Sara's mind off flying' French kisses. If she ever realizes the power she has over me when she lays one on me, I'm toast.

Hodges happily takes charge of Ecklie and we gladly hand him over. Once more, Ecklie plays the part of the mute patient, but Hodges is extremely grateful to us for rescuing Ecklie. It was very weird having Hodges hug each of us. Greg looked like he was afraid he was going to catch cooties or something.

We retrieve our bags and head to the lab where Grissom and the team greet us with open arms. After finishing our reports around midnight, Catherine and I say our goodbyes and head for the SUV. I hate to admit I'm glad Catherine has insisted that we wait until I heal. I'm afraid I would fall asleep right in the middle of making love. Now, that's tired.

Catherine shows me to the master bedroom and helps me with my clothing and boots. I crawl under the covers while Catherine checks her phone messages and freshens up in the bathroom. I give it my all to try to stay awake until she comes to bed, but once my eyes close, I fall asleep immediately.

I awake the next morning to the wonderful smell of coffee. Opening my eyes, I find Catherine standing beside the bed with a mug. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I sit up and reach for the cup. Ummm, this tastes like Greg's special blend. Catherine confirms my suspicions when she tells me Greg slipped a pound of it into her bag and told her to make sure I enjoy every drop. I'll have to find some way to repay him later.

We lounge around the rest of the day watching TV and sitting out by the pool. Catherine has supplied me with snacks the entire day. I do have a very sweet tooth, but I always make sure I limit myself when I indulge. I'm afraid if I hang around Catherine too long, I won't be able to get through the door. I guess I'll have to find some sort of physical exercise to keep me in shape. I think I know the perfect indoor 'sport' I can engage in with a little help from Catherine.

The two of us begin to go stir crazy around 8:00 p.m. I suggest we go to bed, but Catherine wants to go dancing first and says it always puts her in the mood. I rush to the bedroom to put on my boots.

Catherine says she'd like to see Ros again, so we head to the Dew Drop In bar. We walk in to find Ros behind the bar and no sign of Max. I had forgotten about Catherine's vendetta and am hoping Max is off tonight.

We order a drink and visit with Ros before hitting the dance floor. When Catherine begins to sway in perfect sync with the music, I pretty much just move my hips and try not to drool as I watch her.

By the time the third song ends, Catherine is perspiring and I am the horniest woman in the place. I walk very stiffly behind Catherine as we make our way back to the bar. We both order another drink and once again listen to Ros' stories. This queen has dirt on everyone so Catherine and I better be sure to watch our step. I excuse myself to go to the ladies room and Ros promises to look after Catherine.

After standing in line for several minutes, I am finally able to get in a stall. From the sounds coming from the adjacent stall, I think I have found the reason for the long line since there are only two stalls in the ladies room. I quickly take care of my business and get the hell out of there before someone reaches an orgasm. I don't think my libido could take it.

I arrive back at the bar just as Max is walking toward Catherine from the other direction. I quickly increase my speed to try to intercept her; however, we both get to Catherine at the same time. Max looks over at me and asks "Hey, stud. What happened to your arm?"

Catherine immediately turns around, clenches her fist, and hits Max directly in the jaw. I cringe as I push my way between the two. I guess I'll get to sacrifice my face for Catherine once again, only this time I'm afraid kissing Catherine won't stop Max.

Max turns towards us with an extremely pissed off look. I just hope I don't have to have plastic surgery. Resigning myself to my fate, I lift my chin and look directly in her eyes. She takes a step toward me as I tighten up and get ready for the blow.

I quickly jump back when Max falls forward and lands directly on her face. Yow, that had to hurt, but what the hell just happened?

Confused, I look back to a smirking Catherine and say "What were you thinking? She could have killed me and then come after you." Catherine smiles and says "There was no way she was going to come after either one of us."

She pauses and then adds "Max had it coming after hurting you, besides Ros told me exactly where to hit her. It seems Max has a glass jaw."

Seeing Catherine go all 'Mike Tyson' has moved me to the final stage of horniness. I quickly throw her over my shoulder and head toward the door. She's about to find out what I can do with the equivalent of one hand tied behind my back.

The End

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