DISCLAIMER:I don't own them, I never will. Proper rights go to Bruckheimer, CBS and every one.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some things you should know about my CSI universe. First off, the main cast (excluding Greg, sorry) all have offices, because that just makes sense to me given the amount of work involved in being a CSI (it's not all just fieldwork folks). There will be more explanations of my CSI universe in future parts of this story.
SEQUEL: To On The Surface.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Premature Breakdown
By Amy Jo

Part 4

I leave the ballistics lab and head toward the break room. There's only an hour left on shift and I really really don't want to go back to pushing paper in my office. Surprisingly the break room is empty when I get there. Someone has left behind a copy of this morning's newspaper so I grab a soda from the fridge and sit on the sofa to catch up with what's going on in the world.

Before long the rest of the team starts filtering into the break room. I barely pay attention to the conversation as Nick and Warrick sit at the table. They're still arguing over the UNLV Rebels. When Greg joins them the conversation turns to video games or something like that.

My attention is sufficiently diverted from the newspaper when Catherine comes in. Warrick is the only one of the guys that notices and I am thankful. Nick would just look confused and Greg would immediately start cracking jokes if he knew. I'm glad that Warrick is the silent, supportive type of guy.

Catherine grabs a bottle of water and sits on the other end of the couch. I am tempted to move and sit next to her. Nick and Greg would definitely notice if I moved closer to Catherine, so I stay where I am.

Catherine doesn't seem interested in what the guys are talking about and she turns to me. "So where are you and Rayn going after shift?"

"I'm not sure. I was thinking someplace off-strip. She can do all the touristy things without me." I haven't really thought a whole lot about where I'm going to take Rayn. Mostly I've been trying to not think about it. Rayn and I still have a lot of things to talk about.

"What's going on?" Greg decides to join our conversation when Nick and Warrick start talking sports again.

"Nothing Greg," I tell him, hoping he will drop it.

And just like Greg, he doesn't. "Aw, come on now. I swear I heard something about Sara having a life outside work. Is it true?"

"Yeah Greg. I know it comes as a shock, but I do indeed have a life." I get up from the couch and put the newspaper on the table for the dayshift crew. Afraid that my words may have sounded too harsh as I pass Greg I pat him on the head and ruffle his hair. "In fact, I'm going to go have a life now."

I give Catherine a look that I hope she catches before I head down to my office. There's still about a half hour left on shift and I knew I couldn't just sit in the break room with the rest of the guys. And I really didn't want to involve Greg in a discussion about my life or my lack of one.

Catherine was apparently paying attention as she enters my office a few minutes after I sit at my desk. "I think you scared Greg."

"Shit. Did I really sound that bitchy?" I watch as Catherine gently closes the door behind and starts moving toward me.

"No, it wasn't that," She says as she walks to my side of the desk and leans against it. I look up at her confused. "You actually touched him. I thought he was going to have a heart attack."

Catherine chuckles at Greg's expense. I notice more about her as she laughs. The way her eyes shine and the way her smile broadens like I've never seen before. She is so beautiful it takes my breath away.

"Come with me." I don't even realize I've said anything until the words are already out.

"What? Come with you where?" Now Catherine looks confused.

"Now. This morning. Come with me for drinks with Rayn." I stand up and move so that I am standing in front of her. I don't know if I really want her to be there or if I just want to be near her.

"I can't. I need to get Lindsey from my sister's house." She reaches out and just barely traces her fingertips along my jaw line. Another one of those reassuring gestures that I'm beginning to love. "But when you guys are finished, why don't you come to my place? If you're not too drunk that is."

"For that I will stay sober." I say to her with a big smile. "You have no idea how much I don't want to do this."

"Then why are you going?" Catherine's hand drops to my shoulder and slides down my arm to grab my own. I feel my heart rate increase at the motion even though there is nothing sexual about it. I never realized how much I missed this closeness with another person; never realized how much I got used to being alone.

"Well, you know how you always want to know the why in our cases? This is kind of like that. Except I'm not sure that I want to know the answers. I mean I do, but I don't really. I haven't seen her in more than ten years and part of me wants to leave everything in the past. But it hurt so much when she left and now is my chance to know why. I guess it doesn't really make much sense."

It's hard to explain to her something that I don't understand. All that time ago I would have given anything to find out why she left. But as the years went on and I healed from that hurt it became less important to know. And now that she's in my life again, even if it is only a short period of time, that hurt feels real again and it makes me want to know. But I also don't want to live through the pain again and that's the reason I don't want to know. Even to me it's confusing.

"Sara it makes perfect sense. You can't just gloss over this if she's going to be a part of your life." Catherine put on her tough face to say that. I can see behind her eyes that some part of her is hurting that Rayn might be a part of my life. Even if she had said this to me before we became lovers it would have been easy to see the hurt.

"I don't know that either. If I want her to be a part of my life, that is." Even talking about this with Catherine, before talking with Rayn, is hard. "She was a big part of my life. But that was long ago. And I've moved on from that; I'm basically a different person than the Sara she knew. I just don't know."

Catherine tugs on the hand she's holding and pulls me into a hug. I lower my head to rest it on her shoulder and she rubs her hands up and down my back in a soothing gesture. Up close like this I can smell the scent of my laundry detergent on her borrowed shirt and the unique scent of Catherine. I really like that she is wearing my shirt. It's oddly comforting.

"Whatever you think is best," she whispers into my ear. There is an emotion behind the words that makes my stomach turn. She can't possibly think I was talking about getting back together with Rayn. I look up into her eyes and it's clear that she was thinking about me becoming involved with Rayn again.

"Cat, no. Not like that. I didn't mean like that." I had thought we cleared this. Obviously there is more to Catherine's broken heart than I ever knew. I can only hope she stays with me long enough to help her heal it.

I kiss her softly on the lips. I don't deepen the kiss, I just hold her lightly in my arms and continue to softly kiss her lips. This does not seem like the moment to hold her too tight or be too demanding. I just want her to understand. To know that I'm not with her just to be with someone. That I'm with her because of who she is and that I love her.

I hold her like this until we are interrupted by a knock on the door. Had it not been this moment that someone knocked, I would have stepped away before responding. But I don't care who is on the other side of the door, I'm not letting go of her.

I do, however, stop kissing her. "Yeah?" I say to the closed door. Catherine stiffens a little when she realizes that whoever is on the other side of the door is going to find us in exactly this position.

"Sara," Catherine relaxes when she hears Warrick's voice. "I ran into someone in the lobby and I brought her here so she wouldn't have to wait. And so Nick and Greg wouldn't gossip about who she was."

"Thanks Warrick," I look away from Catherine briefly to smile at Warrick and Rayn. I lower my voice so that only Catherine can hear me. "I'll see you in a couple hours okay? I love you."

It's the first time I've said these words to her. It's not the way I would have chosen to tell her; it should have been more romantic than this. But it feels right and I know in my heart that I do love her. I press another soft kiss against her lips, not caring that Warrick and Rayn are in the room, or that the door is wide open.

"Just a few hours," I say to her as I move away. I turn to Rayn and cock my head in the direction of the door, "Ready to go?"

Rayn and I leave Catherine and Warrick in my office as we head out into the morning.

To read Catherine's POV at this moment, go here

Part 5

I have no greater urge than to walk back into my office and take Catherine home. I want to make sure that Catherine is okay, that she isn't freaked out by my admission. I feel horrible for telling her I love her barely seconds before I walk out the door with another woman.

I left her with Warrick and I know they are close enough that he probably already knows what I have told her, even though I'm barely ten feet out of the CSI parking lot. But I also know that if she is at all worried about what I've said that Warrick is the one person she would go to talk about it. At least he was right there for her to turn to.

Talking with Rayn isn't exactly something that I'm looking forward to. I get the overwhelming feeling that by the end of this morning I'm going to be feeling miserable and maybe even crying. There is nothing I hate more than exposing myself to hurt and yet here I am walking right into it headfirst. At least I will be able to look Rayn in the eye when she hurts me this time.

Rayn sits in the passenger seat of my car, quiet as a mouse. I'm pretty sure she knows something significant happened between Catherine and I back in my office. But she chooses not to talk about it, which is fine by me. I don't know how comfortable she would be listening to me tell her how much I love someone else.

I drive to a bar off-strip called Runaways. It's a place I've been to a few times before and while business is steady in the mornings here, it's never been so busy that I couldn't find a place to sit. This morning the music is loud and the place is about half-full. I find us a table and flag a waitress to come over.

"So you told her, huh?" I hear Rayn ask over the music. Before I even ask what she's talking about Rayn speaks again. "That you love her."

"Yeah. I hadn't really planned on it, but I did." I can't help but smile; I try not to but I'm too happy to hold back. Maybe it will soften the blow of the discussion I'm about to have with Rayn. The waitress arrives and I order a Pepsi and Rayn gets a Southern Comfort on the rocks.

"How do you drink that crap?" I can't help but ask. I'm not too picky about alcohol really, but Southern is one thing I've never been able to drink. It just tastes wrong somehow.

"It was the drink of choice with the boys in my outfit. If they were going to buy you a drink, it was going to be Southern Comfort. After a while you get used to the taste. Not to mention if you're looking for a way to get wasted quick, it's a good choice." She laughs.

"You sound the same as in high school."

"Not much has changed for me since then." She looks sad all the sudden and I'm glad the waitress chooses that moment to return with drinks.

"What has changed?" I ask her, watching as she drinks and then swirls the ice in her glass.

"What?" Her brow wrinkles in confusion.

"What has changed since high school? Other than your haircut? C'mon it's been what like ten years? Something has to be different." I lean across the table to make it easier for her to hear me. "The only thing we've talked about since you came to Vegas has been me. I want to know about you."

"Sara, I'm pretty much the same as I was in high school. Was that really ten years ago? Physically I'm in better shape, and I cut my hair. Other than that, I'm the same girl you knew."

"The girl I knew was going to Boston with me. The girl sitting in front of me has been around the world, but I'd guess she's never been to Boston." There's a touch of sadness in my voice. As happy as I am with my life I can't help but wonder how different things would be if she had been in Boston with me.

"I went to Boston once," Rayn isn't talking to me, she's talking to her drink instead. "Must have been like ten years ago. And I have been around the world. I've been stationed in Italy, Korea and even for a short time in South Africa."

"Boston? You were there." If she was in Boston about ten years ago that would have been right around the time I graduated from Harvard. I can't believe that she would have been there and not talked to me.

"I was there. It was in-between my time in Italy and Korea. I got a short leave and while I was in the states I was in Boston. I saw the ceremony. I wanted to say something, but I was leaving again the next day. And I figured after so long you might not want to see me. It was more of a day for you and your family. They must have been so proud."

This is a lot tougher than I had thought it would be. I prepared myself to be hurt during this conversation. I knew we would talk about things that would not necessarily be happy. But I never knew she was there that day. It is completely irrational, but I'm angry at her for not trying to talk to me that day.

"They weren't there," I tell her. "You're right though, if you were leaving the very next day, I probably would have had a hard time dealing with you being there."

"They weren't there? Their only daughter pulls herself through Harvard and they weren't there?" I shake my head. "Not even your brother?"

"No." I feel the last traces of my earlier good mood disappear. Rayn must have noticed the angry tone of my voice because she just sits back in her chair and looks at me with her brows arched in question. But I am determined not to talk about my family.

We sit in silence for a long time. Maybe it just feels like a long time with people moving and talking all around us while we remain silent. Rayn's drink is empty and instead of waiting for the waitress to come by, I get up and head to the bar for refills. The time out from the conversation is what I need to clear my head. We aren't here to talk about me and my screwed up family. We're here to talk about me and my screwed up relationship with Rayn.

I set Rayn's drink in front of her and decide that there's no time better than now to get this over with. "So why did you come to Vegas?"

"I came here to see you. It's been so long." Rayn talks to her drink again. I reach across the table and lift her chin so that she's forced to look at me and not her glass. "I missed you."

"Rayn, I missed you to." And I did miss her. But after ten years I just can't think that the only reason she is here is because she missed me. "But why are you really here?"

"That was it, the whole reason I was here was to see you. Find out how you are doing." She tries to smile as she's talking, but it's a weak smile.

"You track me down after more than ten years just to say hello? You do realize that I don't believe you?" I try not to sound like I'm badgering her, but she's certainly not going to make this easy.

"Yeah I know." Whatever she wants to say to me must be hard for her to put into words. I watch as she plays with her drink and concentrates on what she is trying to say. "I'm sorry."

"Okay." This is too hard on her. All this time I worried that talking with her would hurt me, but it's obvious that it's hurting her more. I can't blame her, I assume that when she came here to find me it wasn't with the intention of helping me get together with another woman.

"No. That's why I'm here."

"Huh?" At first I wondered if I said those words out loud, but her words sink in just seconds after the word leaves my mouth. After all this time, she came here to say those words to me. To tell me she was sorry.

Part 6

"I wanted you to know that I'm sorry. For everything. For leaving the way I did, and for hurting you the way I did. I'm so sorry."

The look of true pain on her face tugs at my heart. There is something in her words that I cannot describe. Deep sorrow and regret. But something else, something she is hiding from me.

"Rayn, what happened?" I'm not completely sure if I'm asking her about what happened between us or simply what happened to her.

"With us? A lot of things. Most of which comes down to me being young and stupid," Rayn says as she lifts her glass to hail a waitress. Boy, the Army sure did teach her how to drink.

"Whoa, slow down there stud," I say to Rayn with a smile. I used to say the same thing to her in high school. Rayn smiles at the memory and her smile reminds me of how much I used to love her.

"You know this isn't easy, right?" Rayn is once again looking at her drink instead of at me while she speaks.

"Yeah, I know it isn't easy. I've done nothing but have these little heart-to-heart talks for the past three days. You, Warrick, Catherine. And trust me, you're talking to the queen of emotional distance. I don't think I've talked this much the entire time I've been in Vegas. But it gets easier. And I feel a whole lot better having talked through some things."

I also feel fantastic knowing that my attraction to Catherine wasn't one-sided. But I don't really think Rayn wants to hear about that or about the fact that Catherine and I did much more than just talk. And surprisingly I enjoyed talking with Warrick, and not just because that conversation gave me the courage to confront Catherine about our attraction to each other. I think it might be possible for Warrick and I to become close friends.

"And if it doesn't make me feel better?"

"Well, if it doesn't make you feel better, I can leave you with enough money for a cab to your hotel and you can drink the day away." My offer is only semi-serious. Part of me wants to stay with her if she's feeling bad, and the other part remembers that Catherine is at her place, waiting for me.

"I couldn't go with you. You would have held yourself back just to be with me. All those years ago you didn't see your own potential, your own intelligence and beauty. But I did; I saw so much more in you than ever did." Rayn stops and takes a drink. She sounds close to tears and it hurts me more than I expected to hear her voice so strained.

"Hey, listen you know if you don't want to do this, we don't have to," I try to sound reassuring and I even reach out a hand to hold hers in a gesture I hope she finds comforting.

Rayn looks down at my hand and I'm almost positive that she is about to cry. The look in her eyes when she lifts her head makes my heart break. I don't know what she is thinking but I can tell that there is a lot that she isn't telling me, and a lot that she never will. It hurts to know that there is something she feels she cannot tell me. I may not love her like I used to, but she is still special to me.

She squeezes my hand softly and lets go just as the waitress appears with another drink for Rayn. She is silent again for a few minutes before she decides to continue. "I had so many years to figure out what to say to you. I had a little speech kind of outlined; everything I thought you should know and exactly how I was going to say it. The minute I heard your voice I completely forgot all of it."

I know exactly how she feels. Seeing her again brought all the long-forgotten questions I had for her to the surface. But then when I held her again and when we kissed, the questions were forgotten again. And now that I have the chance to find out the answers, I'm not sure I want them anymore.

Part of me will always want the answers; to know exactly what happened all those years ago that made her run from me. She might say that she left because she wanted something better for me, and if that's what she wants me to believe then I will, for now. But I know deep down there was some other reason for her leaving. Something that had nothing to do with me.

Sitting here, in front of her and looking into her eyes, I realize the questions I want to ask are suddenly meaningless. There is something much more important going on in her life and I know that I will have to wait until she is ready to talk. I know that right now, she is not ready.

"Suddenly it doesn't seem as important as it used to be. What do you say we forget about it and just have a few laughs. You can tell me about your travels."

I can see that Rayn is suspicious of the change in conversation topics, but she barely pauses before she tells me what it was like to live in South Africa and Korea. We spend the next few hours making light conversation about her life for the past few years. I can see she is relieved at the change in topics. Her drinking has slowed considerably and about an hour before we leave the bar she switches to straight soda.

When we leave, I give her money for a cab to her hotel. Before she gets into the cab I pull her into my arms for a hug. "You know you can tell me anything right? Anything."

She pulls out of my hug and says, "Yeah, I know. It's just a lot harder than I thought it would be."

"I know, Rayn. I know. Whenever you're ready, find me. If it's tomorrow, next week, or another ten years, find me. I do care for you a lot and I'll be here if you need me."

"I know, and I will," Rayn says as she gets into the back seat of the cab. Before closing the door she says to me, "Thank you Sara. For being so understanding and not pushing."

As the cab pulls away and I head to my car, I think about what she told me tonight. It wasn't much; just that she was sorry for the way she left. And that she thought our being together would somehow hold me back.

When I was with her it felt like I could do anything and then when she was gone I was so depressed that it felt I wasn't doing anything right. Harvard was a difficult time for me. I knew I could do better, even though I was already in the top of my class. But I lost my motivation and only put half my heart into my work.

Before heading to Catherine's place I stop by my apartment to shower and change clothes. And I finally remembered to take my new phone inside. I glance at the answering machine and notice that there are no new messages, well at least none newer than the previous ten that I never bothered to check. It's not like me to leave messages on my machine, but I have much more important things to do today. Maybe I'll come back later and listen to them.

I am almost ready to leave my place and head over to Catherine's when my cell phone rings. I check the number before answering and see that it is Catherine.

"Hey baby," I answer.

"Hey yourself. Is that how you always answer you phone?" I can hear Catherine laughing lightly on the other end of the phone.

"Only for you."

"Good, I'd hate to think you answer that way when Grissom or Nick calls," Catherine finds this amusing enough to keep laughing. "So listen I was thinking about making some lunch for Lindsey and I was wondering if you were still planning on stopping by."

"Yeah. I should be able to be there in about twenty minutes. I just stopped at my place for a shower. I smelled like a bar. I'm on my way now. What's for lunch?"

"I haven't decided yet. But I just wanted to see if I should make enough for three. How did things go with Rayn?" I think this is probably the real reason she called.

"Good, I think. Can we talk about it when I get there?" I've made it out of my apartment and to the car while we've been talking.

"Yeah sure. I'll see you soon.

Part 7

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