DISCLAIMER: I do not own CSI. I am borrowing the characters and promise not to damage any outfits with blood. Sweat and tears may occur, but can be washed out with any good cleaning powder.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

No Warning
By Corbeau's Alcove



Gil was the one who broke the news. There was no warning, no indication at all. Just a simple, "Sara doesn't work here anymore," then he went back to handing out assignments.

Warrick, Greg and Nick all tried to talk over each other yet the question was the same. "Why?"

Right after he left, the conspiracy theories hit the air. Sara had been rejected by Grissom too many times. Sara was working undercover for the FBI. She was fired for being involved in a drink driving incident or was attending some private detox clinic. My personal favourite was she had run off with her secret lover.

Considering the last one had been me I knew that wasn't the reason.

Considering I was her lover I should have known the reason.

But I didn't.

I think that was the moment my heart broke.

I had asked Gil for desk work after that announcement. He had frowned but granted it. To me it was an excuse to hide in my office and call every number I knew Sara had. For Gil, as I found out a few hours later, it was a chance to talk to me about how worried he was for the team.

"I know you resented her coming in so soon after Holly," he said to me. Boy that phrase was over-used in this place. For a place where we pride ourselves on noticing things, no one ever noticed Sara and I.

The subtle touches, just to be near each other. The smile that would hit her face when I came into the room or vice versa. How many times did Gil call my house and ask Sara to pass the phone to me? I love the man but when it came to observing human behaviour he was sorely lacking. I almost wish he had said something so I could end this painful isolation.

But I knew I'd never tell him. Or anyone at work. It would be my silent burden, I would become as stoic and reserved as Sara often seemed. I had known it would be hard to break through Sara's walls and it certainly took time but in the end it was time well spent.

But God I hated her now. No phone call, no text message. Not even a note left for me.

"Greg and Nick are taking it especially hard," Gil informed me.

Do you not see my sunken eyes Gil? The slumped shoulders?

"We'll get by," I said hollowly. After all, it was what he wanted to hear.

He just nodded and left me.

Like Sara left me.

Two weeks passed but it was felt like I aged ten years. I had to explain to Lindsay why Sara wasn't coming over. Imagine the look on my little girls face when I said Sara had left.

"When will she be back?" Lindsay asked me, her eyes crying the tears I refused to shed.

"I don't think she will be baby," I told her honestly.

I was processing yet another scene when my cell began to vibrate in my jacket. I flicked it open annoyed, my train of thought now broken.

"Willows," I snapped.

There was silence on the line and I hung up. Today was not the day for prank calls. I had five dead bodies and blood everywhere. I had no idea where to begin, blood was cross contaminated by the obvious positioning of the bodies after death. Warrick was running late and Gil was even more withdrawn than usual.

We were all hurting from Sara's hasty departure. I saw it when Greg would begin his usual banter. His eyes wouldn't shine like the did when Sara was there. He was struggling to hold on.

Nick often sat in the break room holding Sara's mug. I know he didn't think I was watching and I would never intrude on that. After all, Sara touched all our hearts even if she didn't know it.

Warrick often started to ask Sara a question in the meetings only to catch himself. He'd look down for a few seconds and I'd cut in so he didn't have to respond to the slip of the tongue. His look of gratitude would make me feel uncomfortable.

Me? I'm glad everyone is wrapped up in their own pain and anger to notice that I am messing things up, often sitting at the desk Sara preferred or wearing her jacket. It still has her smell on it. Yes I know, it's destructive to hang on, to put myself in a position where Sara controls all my thoughts but I can't break free.

My cell rings again and this time I'm glad it's interrupted my thoughts.


"Hello," a voice so tiny I have trouble hearing it, replies. But, I know, it has a familiarity to it that I will never be able to erase it from my mind.

Oh no, it can't be.


I have to leave the room so I don't contaminate the scene with my tears. Sara would be proud, still thinking about the scene even when I'm in this state.

"Sara?" I ask almost in disbelief.

"I'm sorry," she tells me.

"Two weeks," I say angrily. All the things I had planned on saying left me. This was the only thing I wanted an answer to right now. The rest could wait.

"I know."

"I hate you," I tell her. Anger, it feeds my survival.

I hear her gasp and that makes me happy. I hang up after that.

My body feels like jelly but I manage to call Warrick and tell him I'm heading back in. Collapsing in a fit of tears at a crime scene is not terribly professional.

My phone starts ringing again as I carelessly dump my kit into the back. I just hit 'end call' knowing it was Sara. After it rings for a third time I switch my phone off.

Why now? What could she possible say to me that would make me feel better about myself? I'd been doubting my ability to love her ever since Gil told us about her. Was I, in the end, too old? Was Lindsay too much for her? Did I not measure up to what she needed to make herself feel happy?

When I finally switch my phone back on I have seven voice messages. I decide to listen to them just in case some are not from Sara. As I hit the button to listen, those tears that I hadn't wanted to shed fall again.

"Please forgive me. Catherine??"

I hit delete and listen to the second one, also from Sara.

"I can't ever forgive myself for how I left but I hope you can."

Those tears come on stronger after I hear her voice in the third message. I delete it without listening. I also delete messages four, five and six. She sounded more and more desperate as the messages went on.

Message seven was from Vega.

The despair that had consumed me over the past two weeks had now mutated into a strange collection of relief and pure rage. At least I knew she hadn't died. Sure, we were all mopping about the place like she had but at least she was safe.

Then I would hit the anger portion of my feelings. It was red hot with no sign of tapering out. It was almost like I hadn't wanted her to contact me. Yet, on the other side that was all I wanted.

She was such a strength for me, I don't think she ever knew that. She saved me from becoming a woman who didn't spend enough quality time with her daughter and never found a fulfilling relationship.

I didn't even know why it happened. It was very gradual; a few drinks after cases, Lindsay invited her over for dinner sometimes. Then one day after we both worked a case I could see was getting to her. I asked if she was okay and she collapsed into my arms.

It was a shock and something I'll always treasure. She had finally released some of that tension we could all see consumed her. Her battle with the bottle made her unpredictable but she was in AA and doing well. I was there for her as a friend but it just turned into so much more when she kissed me.

Oh her lips were so soft. She had pulled away ready to flee but I took her in my arms and hugged her so hard I was afraid I'd hurt her. Had I thought about it before? Sure, but I never thought it was anything else but healthy sexual tension that we would grow out of.

We took it very slowly. I respected her. I came to care for her so much before we made love for the first time that I found it hard to leave her warm walls after she climaxed. I wanted to be inside her, to comfort her. To protect her like she did with me.

What a waste.



When I finally got home I saw my answering machine light flashing. I hit it and jumped on it just as fast when I heard Sara's strained voice. Lindsay shouldn't have to hear her. I couldn't explain why she was calling anyway. Best to pretend Sara was out of our lives forever.

If only I could convince myself of that.

Sara had left a number where I could contact her but I try to refuse the will to write it down. For some reason my hand betrayed the messages my brain was screaming down to it.

I'll call her to tell her to leave me alone.

Thinking doing this right away was the equivalent to ripping off a band-aid I punched the numbers in and listened to the dial tone.

"Hello?" A sleepy Sara answers.

"Don't call me anymore," I say angrily.

"I need to. I need you." Sara pleads.

"You had me. Then you run away without so much as an explanation? The only person you told was Gil? The man you admitted you could have been with if things had been different? It would have been less painful to shoot me in my kneecaps Sara," I say, my tone getting harder as the words poured out.

"Please let me explain." Sara begged.

She sounded so desperate my heart almost allowed her back in for a minute, but I remembered the feeling of pure desolation when I found out she'd gone so I simply said no and hung up.

She didn't try to call back that entire day.

I thought I would feel a sense of closure but I only had a constant dull ache consuming my entire body. I had stopped eating well. Lindsay had noticed that I was sleeping on the couch but I just couldn't lay in our bed anymore. I had even considered moving. I could remember the time Sara bit my shoulder when I entered her hard and fast after we couldn't control our passion long enough to get to the bed. Or the time Sara bathed Lindsay when she was layed up with a stomach bug. My little angel had vomited in her bed and was very embarrassed. Sara just picked her up, not caring she was getting dirty and ran her a bath.

I had to stop thinking about her but saying it was the easy part. Actually doing it was harder than I ever imagined it would be. It wasn't until she had gone that I realised she was such a huge part of my soul. I knew I loved her and told her once a few weeks before she ran away. She had cried so long I was concerned she'd choke. When I got nervous, thinking it was too much she carried me to our bed and made love to me with such reverence I was worried I'd never recover.

Could that be it? I scared her off with my declaration? After all she hadn't replied in kind. Not that I expected it of her. She was still guarded when it came to releasing her emotions at times but I knew she cared deeply for me.

Perhaps not enough though.

"Hey, Greg managed to help us out a little," Warrick says, waving me over as I drop my stuff off in my locker.

"That's great." I tell him. At last, a break. I'd been working hard on this for a week with no real progress. I was getting short tempered with everyone and questioning my ability to do this job. Whenever I felt frustrated I went to Sara. I couldn't do that now so I just sat in my office and ran an internal dialogue that wasn't nearly as effective as a hug and reassurance.

Maybe that's what I needed to take a little bit of this hard edge off. A night of reckless sex with a stranger. Something to wipe Sara off the map. To be rid of the feeling I sometimes get of her touch, her lips on mine. The smell of her, the feel of her.

I hit speed dial in my phone hoping Nancy was home. I'll need a babysitter first.



Tight dress? Yep.

Hair curled? Yep.

Sexy lingerie? Yep.

I was ready. Ready for a night of shameless selling. My body was my vehicle like it had been those many many years ago. I knew how to trap and I wasn't ashamed to say I loved the game.

Sara left, not me. I have nothing to feel guilty about. I don't intend to let her back in my bed, back in my heart so what I do from this night on is of no consequence to her.

Nancy had been the stoic sister when I told her I was going out. She knew what I meant, she'd seen it before Eddie and that space between him and Sara. The glint in my eyes is what made her comment on it apparently.

She had told me to wait, that I should call Sara.

Sounded funny coming from her. After all she was against Sara and I and wasn't afraid to tell me either. I allowed her that opinion because after all, we had always been honest with each other. I asked her to meet with Sara in a setting Sara would feel comfortable in. Nancy agreed and slowly saw how happy we were. I'd love to lie and say she decided it was so wonderful to see us like that and changed her mind. She accepted us but I knew that it was always there, she was displeased with the decision I made asking Sara to live with me.

I accepted that. After all I have never liked any of her partners.

Now I was asking her to care for Lindsay while I tried to get Sara out of my system and while I half expected her to agree, she ended up taking Sara's side.

Sisters are weird.

Loud bass pumps so loudly I can feel it inside my veins. I'm too old for a place like this but I need some young bit of flesh for some fun. After all as my mother once said to me, "it's all the same in the dark."

One boy catches my eye and I sit up a little straighter, show a little leg and a fair bit of cleavage. He smiles, whispers to his friend and comes over to me.

"Hi, my name is Luca."

He's handsome, probably Croatian. I extend my hand and smile widely.


"Can I buy you a drink Catherine?" He asks smoothly. Obviously done this before.

"Please. Gin and tonic."

I scan my eyes up and down his body. He's in great shape. He catches me looking and smiles, his eyes resting on my cleavage.

"I'd love a dance later," he whispers, his hand coming to rest on my ass.

"Come get me anytime," I reply, leaning into him a little.

"I'll be back," he says, kissing my lips lightly.

I watch him head back to his table, my heart beat racing a little faster. I know where this will end up tonight.

Images of Sara dancing with me flash into my mind. Her pants clinging to her body, her hips swaying in time to the beat. Her eyes locked with mine. Ever so slowly her hands would come to rest on my body. No matter how many times she did that I would always feel a shiver run down my spine.

She knew I was a dancer, it wasn't a secret yet she never asked me to perform for her while we were out. She respected me. I'd often do a little dance for her at home but it was her private show. She'd never have to ask, I'd do it for her because I wanted too.

At first I was worried she'd think about those men who had seen me do it and we'd talked about it in length. I told her I never did private shows. I never danced with those men locking eyes with them. It was a game. A theatrical event. It took sometime before she'd allow me to do a strip tease, often she'd let me start but then take control.

I suddenly didn't want to be here. I wanted to be in bed with Sara wrapped around me. I needed her. Downing my drink I escaped the club. This wasn't the way to get over Sara. Time would have to do that for me.



I had sunk into the couch hoping for a peaceful sleep but I wasn't that lucky. Images of Sara whirled around my mind. I don't know if it was because I was an investigator or if it was some natural urge to know but I was tempted to call Sara. I wanted an explanation. I think I deserve one, and last time I was too angry to listen.

Yet, if I talk to her in this state I know my heart will rule and I'd be begging her to return.

Swallowing my pride I dialed the number I jotted down.

"Hello?" Sara's scratchy voice answers.

"It's me," I say as neutral as possible. Inside I was melting.


"I want to know why you left me."

"I didn't, I mean I wanted to..." her voice trials off and I know she's struggling with the answer.

"I deserve to know."

"It's complicated."

"Are you in love with someone else?" I ask. It's the only thing I can think of. She no longer needed me or Lindsay.

"God no. You are my only one," she whispers. That soft voice takes me back to our lovemaking, her angelic declarations of joy and contentment. I move the phone away from my ear, as if I'm trying to distance us.

"I told you I loved you and a week later you flee with no word." That was hard to say. To admit I may be the reason she fled. That my emotions consumed her, suffocated her.

"It wasn't because of that Catherine."

"Then why?" I ask angrily.

"I want to tell you."

"Tell me then."

"Catherine I can't. Not right now."

Sara was always a very private person but I thought I had penetrated those boundaries.

"Now or never." I threaten.

"Please understand," she pleads.

"Understand? Sorry Sara, that's the one thing I can't do. Not after what you did to me. My heart shattered when I heard Gil tell us you were no longer working with us. Imagine the shock of hearing that at the beginning of our meeting. I had no time to prepare for that, I had no idea!"

"It's hard to talk about."

"I trusted you with everything Sara. All my past discretions, my fears and hopes. This is a betrayal of all that."

I can hear her sniffing and I know she's crying but I don't stop.

"You treated me like shit Sara. I'd seen those dark clouds over you at times but I'd always be allowed to come and comfort you. I don't think I can explain to you the magnitude of this hurt within me."

"I didn't mean to hurt you." She says softly.

"Tell me Sara, why did you then?"

"I had to deal with something. From my past."


"There are things I haven't told you Catherine. It was why I couldn't tell you I loved you. I wasn't giving my entire self to you and felt if I told you it would be hollow. I wanted to unload all of my burden first but something happened."

"You've been hiding things?" I ask amazed. She was a private person, but I knew they were there. Secrets that I didn't even have a tiny piece of? This can't be happening.

"I'm sorry. Yes."

"I meant nothing to you?" I ask, my anger rising.

"You mean everything, I told you that. I'm just so ashamed of it all."

"Sara what is going on?" I ask. Even though I'm angry, I sense she's in some kind of trouble and it worries me.

"I've got to stay here and meet with someone," she tells me cryptically.

"Stay where? Meet who?"

There is silence on the other line and I wonder if she's hung up.



"Sara?" I ask, my ears straining to hear if she is still on the other line.

"Catherine. Please I have to tell you something but I can't do it over the phone."

I laugh sarcastically.

"So you can't do it over the phone. Obviously you couldn't do it face to face. Will I be expecting your letter in the mail soon?"

"Please Catherine, understand that I can't just tell you without ..."

"Without what? Permission? Some kind of thirty day waiting period? I was in love with you!" I yell, tears falling onto my lap making small wet patches into my pants.

"Was?" Sara asks, her voice breaking.

"I don't know what to say about my emotions right now Sara," I tell her honestly. I know I love her, it wouldn't hurt this hard if I didn't but I want her hurting too. It's cruel I suppose, but I'm not feeling rational right now.

"Was?" She asks again. This time her voice scares me. She sounds so sad and I've only heard that kind of tone when a rape case knocks her down.

"Tell me where you are," I say, hoping to get her off that for now.

"I can't. Not over the phone."

"Fine. You come back to Vegas. You sit in front of me and tell me the entire story." I demand.

"I can't come back yet," she tells me. Her voice is pleading with me to understand.

Okay, so she intends to return. Then why did she quit? Does Grissom know why she left and that she planned to return?

"Fine. When you think I should be let in on this you call me. Don't expect me to be very receptive." I threaten and hang up.

No sooner do I put the phone down do those tears drop like the cascading falls at the Grand Canyon. All of this makes no sense. If Sara was coming back then why didn't she just take a leave of absence? If she couldn't tell me over the phone just how did she intend to tell me? Would I even want to know what made her flee without a word?

"Damn you Sara," I hiss as I bury my head into the pillow and allow more tears to flow.

I knew I had to get to work. Business as usual and all that crap. I spent a while in the shower, the warm water doing nothing to wash away my sadness. I reached up blind for my shampoo and when I flicked the lid on the top of the container I was hit with the scent of Sara.

The bottle fell to the floor, the cap breaking into a few pieces. For a moment, Sara was in the shower with me. We would often shower together before work, talking about anything from the latest on the news to Lindsay. It was such a lovely ritual, something I often missed out on when one of us did a double.

Guess I'll have to get use to showering on my own.

Lindsay had left some pancakes she made at Nancy's on the kitchen bench with a little note tucked under the plate. 'Smile mommy. Love Lindsay.' Although well meaning, that little note made me cry. Damn Sara. She had my daughter, who'd had her share of pain, trying to comfort me.

I knew I had to spend more time with her, let her know that while other people left her I would always be there. I often took it for granted that I had someone to go home to. My little angel, who helped me get through the dark days. I knew that if only I put this latest criminal away she'd grow up in a world a little better. With Sara at my side I thought I was invincible. I was my angel's protector.

That won't stop because Sara left us.

I opened my email account after grabbing a coffee. Lindsay had urged me to get one so she could use messenger with her friends. She once told me she talked online with children who had lost a parent. It broke my heart that she needed to talk outside of our home to get that comfort but, in the end, she assured me it was good for her. I had talked to Warrick about it one day, and he told me not to take it personally, sometimes children needed people their own age to relate to.

I had a few work related emails and plenty of junk mail. One I didn't recognise the name but it was titled 'Red.' Curiosity got the better of me so I hit on it. I guess I did it because it was Sara's nickname for me.

"I'm in North Carolina." Read the entire message. I looked at the email address and my mouth flew open, "sidle_s_c@hotmail.com."

Was that all I was entitled too? One line which told me nothing. Why was she there?

I decided that I wanted answers so I replied just as curt with, "why?" and hit send. I must have stared at the inbox screen for an age, always hitting refresh on the home page hoping I got more from Sara.

It's hard when you're mad but still in love.



I sat for what seemed the whole shift, waiting for a reply. My wrist began to hurt from leaning on the mouse and my eyes seemed to be burning from staring at the screen.

I was so exhausted but I wasn't sure if it was emotional or just that I hadn't slept well of late. Perhaps it was both, after all the lack of sleep had been brought on by Sara's disappearance.

I needed to get up and at least stretch my legs. I knew I'd become too obsessed with this. I had a job to do and considering we were a staff member done I shouldn't be locked away in here trying to find out why my life had turned to shit.

After all, it would still be that way after shift.

Nick greeted me with a smile when I entered the locker room. I tried my best to return it but I didn't have it in me. I made some excuse like a bad night thanks to noisy neighbours and Nick smiled sympathetically. He mentioned Gil wanting to talk to us about something important and asked me if I knew what it was. Considering I wasn't even privy to the fact Gil needed to talk to us I was at a loss. I simply followed Nick to Grissom's office, wondering when walking these halls wouldn't seem so lonely now I didn't have Sara.

"Gris? You wanted to talk to us?" Nick asks, leaning against the wall and almost knocking over a few glass jars.

Warrick was already there and he looked as lost as we did.

"With the departure of Sara we are backed up. I've asked for a replacement ..."

That was all I heard. I looked up sharply to see a woman standing next to Gil. My eyes bore into her and she shifted uncomfortably.

"...Jesse Cox has been working in with Day for three years and before that was a police officer in New York." Was the next thing I heard from Gil. I realised I'd missed a few thing in-between there but I didn't care. All I knew was this woman had come to replace my Sara.

"Hi, Warrick Brown."

I wanted to yell at Warrick. I wanted to tell him he was betraying Sara by even talking to this new woman. But I couldn't. I had to pretend to be nonchalant. I didn't have the freedom to be angry with this because no one knew about Sara and I.

"Nick Stokes, and this is Catherine Willows."

I realised I was being introduced so I stuck my hand out and shook her hand firmly. If she was taken aback by the firmness she didn't show it.

"A pleasure to put the faces to the names I often hear about," she said smoothly.

In three years working Days and she never saw us? I find that hard to believe. Guess it was a way of sucking up. As if hearing my doubt she continues, "well I know Grissom and I know Warrick but I've not had the pleasure of actually meeting both you and Nick," Cox says to me.

I don't know why she was addressing me but I felt like I needed to assert my authority over her.

"Yeah well I've never heard of you," I say as calmly as possible without raising any flags.

Nick and Warrick were too busy talking to notice but I saw the look she gave me and I knew I'd been understood. I wasn't going to play nice, not in my own backyard.

"I hope to change that," she replied smiling.

I didn't like the look she gave me.

Word had spread about the new woman on our shift. Greg had already started to drool when I came to see him. Apparently the new girl had personally introduced herself to everyone. Greg was impressed. He hadn't stopped talking about her great legs, or her wonderful green eyes. I stopped him before he started talking about her wonderful smile. Did no one remember Sara? Was she so replaceable that no one was outraged?

"Greg, can we concentrate on work?" I ask him sighing.

"Sorry. Man, she's hot though." He comments as he turns around.

"Sara would be jealous hearing you say that," Nick retorts from behind me. Thank God he mentioned her, I didn't think I could without crying.

"Sara will always be special but she's gone." Greg says sadly. "Left without saying anything."

I need to get out of here. Now.

"Why would she do that?" Greg asks, looking at us.

I tried to move but I couldn't.

"I don't know Greg, I honestly don't know. I mean yeah she was a private person but we were family." Nick slipped an arm around Greg's shoulders.

No, I can't cry.

"It hurts," Greg replies, trying not to cry.

I look up at him, my eyes dangerously close to spilling those private tears. I don't know how to comfort him. I can't even come to terms with it myself. All the excuses I thought of for her meant nothing because they didn't bring her back or lessen the hurt caused by her leaving.

I wanted so desperately to hate her but I also wanted to wrap my arms around her and never let her go. I wasn't sure how to pull those two warring pictures apart.

Nick looked to me, his face seemed to be pleading with me to rescue him from Greg. I did what was expected. I pushed aside my own feelings and went to Greg.

"One day she may return Greg," I tell him. Am I trying to convince him or myself?

Greg shakes his head, his shoulders begin to shake and suddenly I feel the weight of his body fall into mine. My arms are still at my side until I realise Nick's watching. I wrap my arms around Greg and sooth him the way Mother Catherine always does.

I feel his tears seep through my silk top and I want to push him off me. I can't handle this.

"Sorry," he sniffs as I hand him a tissue.

"It's okay," I lie. No need to hurt his feelings.

"You must think I'm stupid, crying over Sara." He says to me.

"No," I say softly.

"She was my friend," he says blowing his nose. "She was the one who really made it look possible that I could be out there with you guys, on the scene. She was helping me."

"She'll be missed," I say as if she's died.

In a way she has. I can't be feeling this bad if she's only in North Carolina. I shouldn't be feeling like my whole life has come to an abrupt stop.

"I loved her," he whispers. "Not in a romantic kind of way, I loved her dearly as a friend." He says smiling slightly.

I love her too. I just can't tell anyone.

"I've got to go," I say quickly. I need the coldness of my own solitude.



Mamma Catherine is falling apart.

Tears. This is what my life has been reduced too. Oh and tissues. For once I wish someone could wrap their arms around me, embrace me and allow me the same courtesy I've been extending to everyone else.

I almost want to announce that Sara and I were lovers during one of Grissom's meetings. Stand up, clear my throat and say, "you know what? I love her you stupid little people. Me! Catherine Willows!"

Yet I know it will only be for my benefit. I can't fathom betraying Sara in that way.

Yes, even though she has betrayed me.

Love hey? Who needs it.

"Oh, I'm sorry," a startled female voice stumbles over.

I look up, my face betraying me.

Great, it's Sara's replacement.

"No, it's okay," I say, hoping my voice isn't cracking.

"Grissom asked me to come work with you."

Of course he did. Cause I'm the matriarch, the woman who can take the new ones under her wing.

She looks nervous. It reminds me of the first time I met Sara. God I was a bitch. She cracked me though, she knew what to say. Her words were still swirling around months after. She never wanted to usurp my case, she just wanted to help.

I don't like this memory rushing back. I'm standing in the same spot four years later with this new woman. Replacing someone I liked. Holly? She was a sweet girl. Sara? She was the love of my life. Is. She is the love of my life. Was. Oh shit, I don't know which one to pick.

"Catherine?" Cox asks after what feels like a never-ending silence.

"Fine. Here, take a look at these files." I say not even looking into her eyes.

She takes them with not a word uttered. Hopefully she's realised that I'm not going to be very communicative.

"I'm sorry," she says after a while.

I look up and see her eyes soften.

"For what?" I ask innocently.

"I know I'm not very welcome here."

Well the boys have welcomed you Cox.

"It's just an adjustment," I lie.

"I know it's hard, I'm like the new step-mom coming into a much beloved family. A tight group of people. I'm just hoping to gel with you all one day. I know not to push it."

Damn she says the right things.

Just like Sara.

"Yeah well we loved Sara," I say firmly.

"I'm not her," she says nodding.

I take a look at her and picture Sara sitting there instead.

"No, you're not."

Conversation over.

No emails from Sara. I know because I must have checked a hundred times during the shift. I wasn't too sure what I wanted her reply to say, I just wanted her to reply. While I was driving home I decided to call her number. I was really starting to considering driving to North Carolina and knock on every door.

The call goes to voicemail. It's not her voice, it's some robotic woman telling me to leave a message. I don't know if I want to tell her to drop dead or come home.

Instead I hang up.

About an hour later my cell rings. It's Sara's number.

"Cath? Is everything okay?"

I had to laugh at that.

"What's so funny?" She asks a little upset.

"Is everything okay? Are you seriously opening with that?"

"Please Catherine."

Begging. I liked it when we were in bed together. Here I just think it's the least she could do after leaving me.

"North Carolina? Is that all I get?"

"I told you, I don't want to do this over the phone." She says sadly.

"Give me your address."

The only sound I hear is her breathing. I know she's considering it. I can imagine her sitting on her bed, legs crossed. A frown starting to set in as she debates it.

"No. Sorry Red, I need to do this my own way," Sara says softly.

Red. I loved that nickname. Now it just hurts.

"Don't call me that." I say harshly.

"There is no way back for us is there?" Sara asks. It's more like a rhetorical question from her tone. I'm struggling between the memories of us together and the dullness I feel inside because of her departure.

I don't answer her.

I don't even know the answer.



I have to give her credit. Even after a very lengthy silence she stayed on the line. I'm not sure if she was waiting for me to answer her.

"I want to come home," she says in a voice a little higher than a whisper.

"Where's that?" I ask her. Yes it was callous but I couldn't even describe in full the way she managed to hurt me. I only wanted to do it back.

And kiss her.

She doesn't hide her emotions this time. After I ask her pointedly she bursts into tears. A little bit of me is happy at that small victory but there is still that overpowering urge to love her.

"I know I should have done this differently," she tells me.

Yeah, state the obvious.

"But it's been done now. No matter how much I try to make up for it you don't want me back," she sobs.

"Self pity?" I ask her. "Do you think that will work?"

That snaps her out of her crying.

"I'm not playing games here Catherine," she says firmly. Good, I got a rise out of her.

"Neither am I. Playing with my feelings isn't a very fun game. Unless you're a fan of Russian Roulette." I add.

"Catherine, I have to go." Sara says suddenly.

I hear a voice in the background and I automatically think what any woman would think. She's cheating on me.

"Your new girlfriend?" I ask, my voice dripping with sarcasm.

"What? No!"

"She must be without baggage, you know without a daughter. Is she younger than I am? Her body so tight you can just stare at it for hours?"

"Cath, stop." She pleads.

"Good idea. Let's stop."

"I'll call you tomorrow," she tells me.

"No. I'm stopping. With you. Don't bother calling me again Sara. This is over."

There's that silence again. Usually when we were together I'd say we'd had enjoyed the silence, content to just be with each other. This silence was aching painful.

She sighs, like I've forced to do something she doesn't want.

"Check your email tomorrow. I'll try to explain everything."

"I thought you didn't want to tell me like that." I say bemused.

"If it makes a difference in how you see us then I'll do whatever it takes." She says in all seriousness.

That's the Sara I know. Determined. Focused.

"Tell me. Now." I say.

"I can't now."

"Oh yeah, your younger girlfriend is there," I say sadly.

"If you never believe anything I say from now believe that I am not having an affair. I could never find anyone who fills me with such purpose and love as you do."

"How am I meant to believe that?" I'm amazed she'd ask given the current circumstances.

"Please," and she hangs up.

Sleep. I used to know what that was. Now it consists of waking up before Lindsay so she thinks I've been laying in the bed I once shared with Sara. The waking isn't too hard. I hardly sleep now.

I've become so pathetic that I've taken to washing the sheets on the un-slept bed. Keeping up appearances.

Jesse Cox is following me around like my shadow. Well she's a damn sight more cheery than my shadow. Nick has been taken in by her so badly I'm almost thinking he's our new Greg. His smile gets wider, he's been changing his look a little and if I hear him say 'Jesse' in that sickly sweet tone one more time I may just shoot him with his own gun.

Greg is still sad. I see it in his eyes. To be honest, I thought he would have been okay by now. I misjudged him. I often see him as a two dimensional character but now I'm seeing him really as part of our family. I've been taking more time to talk with him just because I really can understand his sorrow. It's been good for me in a way.

I have been waiting for that email Sara promised. It didn't arrive the next day as she said. Two days since our last conversation I still wait for it. It's quite sad really, that she could still have this pull over me.

Lindsay. Poor sweet girl. She's really trying to put on a brave face. She loved Sara to bits because Sara treated her as a human being not just some small child. Sara never talked down to her, not once did she tell her to stop her constant chattering at the dinner table. They were equals in so many ways because Sara wouldn't have it any other way. She knew that as Lindsay's mom I had to be a little more reserved, a little more private. She took up that slack, she'd be mad in front of her and even explain why if Linds asked. Of course it was a condensed version but the way Lindsay's eyes would light up was priceless.

In a way Sara was the other parent and her older sister all rolled into one.

Which makes me even angrier that Sara would leave that without saying a thing. It certainly wasn't an act, she didn't need to go that far to impress me.

I sit at my desk and sign in again. Nothing from Sara.

What is true? I feel as if I really don't know anymore.

I'm churning through the days like I'm carrying around the weight of the world which, I might add, feels like a broken heart shattered into tiny sharp pieces. I'm not eating well and sleep has escaped my grasp. I just want to get home, have a bath and wait for Linds to get home so I can smother her with attention and love.

I wonder if I'm doing it for Lindsay or for myself.

My routine is so tedious I don't even remember getting from work to my door. All I know is I'm here and I am alone.

Shifting through my mail I see a large padded manila envelope addressed to me. I don't even register why the handwriting is familiar until I read the small red piece of paper folded inside.

'I hope this will help - S.'

Enclosed is a video cassette tape with 'Sidle, S. North Carolina Department of Correction, June 26' written on the white strip of sticky paper. I'm at a loss as to why Sara's in a prison so I stick the tape in and hit play.

The tape isn't the best quality but I wasn't expecting Spielberg to be directing it. A few black and white lines obstruct my view at first but when it goes away I see Sara dressed in a finely tailored blue suit sitting in a wooden chair.

"Do you understand that you are giving a video taped Victim Services statement in regards to the case against Mister Timothy Morgan?"

"I do," Sara's voice comes out nice and clear. I've seen that posture from her. She's uncomfortable but trying to hide behind confidence. I've seen it many times when a case was getting her down. She found a little self belief inside her and managed to act like she was supremely confident. It was an act I fell for a lot before we got together.

"Please continue," the voice off camera said.

"I do not think Mr. Morgan is worthy of parole. His original conviction of 25 years was not enough, but I found a little peace in the fact that he would more than likely die within the walls of a prison. As I was contacted three weeks ago with regards to this possible parole chance I knew I had to speak out."

I sat closer to the television hoping the truth of it all would come to me faster. I wondered why Sara would go to such lengths on a case and why she would hold this information back.

I wanted to fast forward, to find out right now but Sara's sad eyes pulled me in. I was hypnotized.

"I understand that Mr. Morgan has completed the mandatory 100% of his minimum sentence, that being ten years but how can the pain and suffering of his victims be squashed up into such a short time period? He is a danger to society. In my line of work I see people like this commit crime after crime until they are caught. Rehabilitation doesn't work. I plead with you, keep him locked away. Save those women out there who could be his next victims."

Next victims? What? I want to yell at the tape, I want the answers to come before I can think of the questions. What is going on?



I turn the television up and Sara's pained voice surrounds me. I touch the screen, running my hand down her cheek.

"I can still recall the sheer terror I faced when I was attacked by Mr. Morgan. It has seeped into my life like a toxin, slowly poisoning me, the memories made worse by my line of work. I see Veronica's face in every rape case. I see her in the victims that didn't survive. I often feel she was the luckier of the two of us. She got to end her life there but I still struggle with the images everyday."

I was too stunned to even cry at the anguish in Sara's voice. I knew she was trying to keep herself from crying and all I wanted to do was embrace her, whisper to her that she was safe. But I couldn't. All I could do was sit on the floor and listen.

"Do you think your line of work has blinded you to the possibility that Mr. Morgan could be reinstated into society without him committing another crime?" The voice off camera asked Sara.

Oh, I saw a flash of anger in her eyes at that question.

"I think my line of work shows me the consequences of a man like Morgan being released. I think it shows me the destruction left behind. The voices of those victims who are too scared to report their attacks." Sara said with a trace of anger rising in every sentence.

"We heard from Veronica Bortello's mother, she thinks that either way it won't make a difference because her daughter is still deceased. Do you agree with that?"

Sara took a deep breath before looking straight at the man asking the question.

"Yes, but does that mean he should be paroled? No."

Good answer Sara.

"Do you think Mr. Morgan would have killed you if he didn't hear those sirens?"

Oh dear. I see Sara's shoulders tremble at that question. I want to reach through the television and hit that unseen man for causing my baby to be so vulnerable in front of him.

"I do yes."

My God. I've been with her all this time and she never talked about this? All the opportunities to say something and she chose to keep it inside her? No wonder she'd often crawl into our bed reeking of cigarette and, before AA, of cheap booze. She'd not let me comfort her, I'd have to wait until she was asleep before I could take her in my arms.

I'm not sure if I should be mad or understand.

"I had been celebrating with Veronica at a bar near her place. She had just closed a sale on her latest painting after a few problems with the client and was taking the money to see her nephew for the first time over in Australia. She was being chatted up by Mr. Morgan. She politely told him she wasn't interested and he seemed to accept that."

"How did he manage to get into her home?"

Sara faltered for a moment, a few tears starting to fall. She brushed them away angrily and I knew she was irritated that she let her guard down.

"The police said he took her keys. I had opened the door because she was a little intoxicated. I had a set of keys. We didn't even know he took hers. I was too busy trying to help her to notice he had followed us home."

"Miss Sidle, do you need to take a break?"

"No. I'm fine," Sara said. I knew she was lying though. She looked very small up there on the screen. So vulnerable.

"He came in while I was in the bathroom. I could hear her confusion but it soon turned into fear when he hit her across the face. I fumbled for the door but I froze. I could hear her calling for me, begging me to help her. He flung the door open and yanked me on the floor of her bedroom. I shot up and stabbed him with the keys I still had in my hand. He yelled and kicked me. I couldn't get up, my ribs hurt. I just sat there as he raped her. I did nothing. He then got off her and ripped my shirt open. I wet my pants and he spat on me, telling me I was useless. Veronica had managed to get hold of something and hit him but it wasn't enough. He turned and began to choke her. I got up and kept hitting him with my fists but she died. I thought he was going to kill me too but he heard the sirens and punched me in the mouth. I fell to the floor and he ran away."

"Why do you think he didn't just kill you too? Avoid him being picked out of a line up?" The man asked Sara.

"How the hell should I know?" Sara yelled.

I knew it was a hard question to answer but I knew it was a relevant one. We'd all asked a question like that in one way or another while working a case.

"Do you have anything else to say Miss Sidle?"

Sara took a sip from the water next to her. She wasn't looking up but I saw her tears falling into her lap. I wanted to turn the tape off so I didn't have to see her anguish. I knew she was taking a big step towards making up for the fact she never once spoke about this by sending this tape so I kept watching.

Even though it was making me feel like I wanted to cry for her and for Veronica.

Even though it was making me feel like I didn't really know Sara.

"Just that he had planned to rape us after seeing us at the bar. This wasn't a crime of passion or location. This was pre-meditated. This was a vicious crime and not once has he apologized to me or to the family of Veronica Bortello. How can we believe he has changed when he won't even admit to his crimes? How can we justify putting him back on the streets? Can you look into the eyes of Veronica's mother and explain that?"

"Thank you Miss Sidle."

Sara nodded and pulled her top down as she stood. With a quick look to the camera she simply walked out of the screen. In that small second I saw it all. Her pain and her sadness but what really worried me was the look of dejection. I knew her well enough to know she blamed herself but I didn't know how to help her.

After turning the television off I sat on the couch and processed it all as best as I could. I tried looking at it like a criminalist. Detached and clinical. Okay so Sara froze. That was natural. She was suffering from survivors guilt it was plain to see. I would recommend the victim to a therapist and close the case. My work had been done and another case would roll in.

That didn't help here. I knew Sara. She was my lover. She was my life. As she was talking I wanted to be there. I wanted to touch her, let her know she had someone in her corner. Let her know I didn't see her as less because she was frightened. Hell, no one can know how they'd react unless they were in that circumstance. We can all say we'd be the heroes but truthfully? What a terrifying situation. I think she was brave enough to just collect herself and start distracting him.

Seeing images of my baby crying broke my heart. I hated that she was going through it by herself. I was mad. I was fuming.

I didn't want to be angry but here it was. Pure red steaming anger. She shut me out. Her darkest memory was closed off to me. How was I to love her if she wasn't showing herself to me? Did I really love her or did I love the person she wanted me to see?

I don't know what to do.

I trusted in her. In what we shared. We took our relationship slowly because we both had fears. I told her about mine. I told her about my coke addiction, about the sex clubs I went to with Eddie. I was worried she'd think I was dirty but she would always listen to me and take the time to show me it didn't matter to her. She'd always call me beautiful and special. She was slow to open up but I never pushed her.

After time she opened up but I always knew there was more, just not to this extent. I just stayed with her, allowed her time to feel safe. I'd take her in my arms when she was close to tears. I loved her with all my heart.

Where does that leave me now?

Where does that leave us?



I must have watched her on that tape about four more times before Lindsay was dropped off by Nancy. My eyes were red from the constant crying but as Lindsay asked me what it was I just said it was allergies. Nancy had frowned but said nothing.

That was until Lindsay went to her room.

"It's her isn't it?" She asks me as I put the dishes away.

I knew better than to play dumb here. Instead I turn to face my sister nodding.

"She's in North Carolina."

"She's what?"

"I don't want to say too much," I say to her hoping she'll drop it

"Unbelievable!" Nancy exclaims.

I'm slightly stunned by her outburst.

"She had to take care of something," I say in Sara's defense.

"Something you didn't know about. I'm guessing she's told you now?"

"Yes and I won't betray her confidence by telling you what it is. All I can say is she's been hurting for so long, I think she only thought it natural to do this on her own."

"Wake up Cathy, she left you without saying a word. She doesn't deserve you."

"Perhaps, and even though it has me wondering if I really knew Sara I can tell you this with absolute certainty; she is hurting."

"She hurt you," Nancy comments.

"Yes she did." I agree.

"So, what happens now?"

I sit on my couch and Nancy follows me awaiting my answer. I was so angry at the beginning but as I continued to watch the tape I felt it gradually fall away. In its place was the need to be there for her. Whatever would happen after that wasn't worth considering right now. All I knew is that Sara had finally reached out with her darkest secret and I wasn't going to turn my back on it, on her.

"I'm going to North Carolina," I say nodding.

Nancy smiles slightly.

"She's one lucky girl to have you. She doesn't deserve it but I can't tell you who to fall in love with." Nancy knows I'll do whatever I want anyway. It's the same way I knew she'd do it too.

I embrace Nancy glad to know she is still with me even thought she disagrees.

"Thank you." I whisper.

"Don't worry about things here. Just do what you need to do." Nancy says breaking from the embrace.

"I love you sis," I say solemnly.

"Love you too."

Jesse Cox was leaning against my desk when I came into work. Her smile was wide when she saw me enter.

"Hi there," she says as I drop my bag onto my desk.

"Need something?" I ask, wondering why she was in my office.

"Brass has a suspect."

"Good." I say.

"I was wondering if I could go in with Brass," Jesse asks nervously.

I needed to talk with Gil anyway so I let her do it. After all I can't ignore the fact that she was a police officer. She's not new to this.

"Sure," I say grinning when her face lights up. I think she was expecting me to say no.

"Really? Well wow thanks."

Okay so I started off badly with her just like I had with Sara. It was really time to push that aside. After all, it was Sara's own resignation that brought Jesse here. I had been thinking a lot about Sara and things here and I needed to separate my love for my colleague with the obvious need we had for another staff member. I was getting too old for fighting, holding grudges.

"Hey Cox?" I yell as she's walking up the hall.


I take a deep breath before asking, knowing this will speak the loudest to everyone else that she was welcome.

"We have a get together after shift, you're welcome to come," I say.

"I'll be there," she says in all seriousness. I think she too knew this was a positive step towards being accepted.

Good deed done I walked away. I needed to see Gil.

I was feeling positively mature when I entered Gil's office. I wasn't sure what brought on my conversation with Jesse. I wanted to hate her for working with us but there was no, as Gil would say, evidence to prove that she was bad for us. It was merely a by-product of my anger for Sara.

It did make me wonder what would happen when Sara returned. Sorry, if Sara returned.

"Hey Gil, we need to talk."

"She's good Catherine, give her time."

I frown and he sees it.

"Jesse Cox. She's good." He elaborates.

"Oh yeah. I'm not here about her."

"I miss Sara too," he mumbles.

"Gil? Hey, I'm not here about Cox," I repeat.

"Oh okay."

Poor man, I could see the pain in his eyes when he mentioned Sara. I had always been a little jealous of them but when I saw it was never going to happen I knew I had to make my claim on Sara if I could.

She had told me that he was an object of her affection but it was never a matter of feeling romantic. The same with Hank. She simply wished for companionship and took it where she felt she could. I thought that was a sad and lonely way to live life but knowing what I do about her I can see where she'd see it would make her feel like she was living. Someone to be with but neither man would be terribly accessible with regards to emotional range. I loved Gil but he was closed off. I had a great rapport with him because I didn't try to ask for more than he was willing to give.

Sara needed someone to stretch her. She denied it but I saw it. She needed someone to fight with and have them know how to act after it.

She needed love. I was mad with her but I knew I could push it aside to be her strength.

It had taken me a while to come to this realization.

"I'm taking my leave." I say quickly.


"As soon as possible." I reply firmly.

He looks at me and smiles.

"Cox isn't a problem?" He asks dubiously.

"I'm not running away. I just need to take care of a personal matter," I say grinning at him.

"Lucky we got Cox then," he mutters.

"We'd be better with Sara here," I say softly.

"We would," he agrees.

We look at each other silently. I'm not sure if he can read my emotions but I can read his. He cared for Sara. She had told me as much when he apparently admitted to caring for her during the case with Debbie Marlin, the woman holding a striking resemblance to Sara. I, of course got a little upset at first but she just smiled and told me there was no need to be jealous because I was the one she wanted, the one who she felt in her heart.

Plus, I can't get mad with Gil for loving Sara. He was entitled to his own emotions and his choice was a damn good one.

"How long?" He asks, snapping me out of my little daydream.

"Honestly? I'm not sure," I tell him.

"I can give you two weeks," he says flipping through a folder.

"That'll be fine," I say agreeing.

"You'll be back right?" He asks worried.

"Promise. I want your job," I joke.

"Take it. Take the politics and the unrelenting pestering from the Sheriff," Gil says smiling slightly.

"Nah, changed my mind. Thanks Gil, I really appreciate this."

I want to ask him about Sara, what she said to him but I'm not sure I want to know. Turning my back to Gil I start to leave but my curiosity gets the better of me.

"Gil? What did Sara say when she left?"

"That she was leaving and she needed to go immediately."

"Is that all?" I ask amazed that he let her go.

"No. She asked me to keep her job open for a month. If she didn't return by then it was mine to give to someone else."

I sat down shocked at the information.

"But you brought in Cox mere moments after Sara was gone." I say almost letting my anger get the better of me.

"We needed her." He says matter-of-factly.

"We need Sara more!" I say my voice raised.

"She's not here. I don't even know where she is and why she left. I couldn't afford to have us a staff member down in that kind of uncertainty."

"What if she returns?" I ask, worried about his answer.

"We'd talk."

We'd talk? What kind of answer is that? I stand before I get angry with him.

Part 11

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