DISCLAIMER: CSI and all characters are the property of CBS and Bruckheimer.
SPOILERS: Through season 5 of CSI (Bloodlines, Viva Las Vegas).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Replacements
By zennie


The Replacements (Who's gonna come and find you?)

I heard what you said
And I recognize those feelings
I know how hard it is to watch it go
And all the effort that it took to get here in the first place
And all the effort not to let the effort show

I could almost like you
Now you're falling over
Now you're feeling hopeless
Now you're looking over your shoulder
Who's gonna come and find you?

    -Everything but the Girl, "Downhill Racer"



Warm hands slide up her sides, her mouth teased and captured by a roving tongue, stifling her moan as her thighs part. Soft, smooth, sweat-damp skin teases her body as a slow friction builds until her body bursts into heat and she gasps out, "Catherine."

Sara slowly recovered to sunlit blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes, held down by the body snuggled into her body like she belonged there. As she raised her head, the blonde smiled a bright beautiful smile and asked, "Who's Catherine?"

Sara could still feel the aftershocks of her orgasm in her stomach and her mouth went dry as she realized she was still at the blonde's, what was her name, it started with a letter early in the alphabet, A, Amy, Abbie, Alex, Angie, that was it, Angie's bed. Sara had actually fallen asleep instead of lying quietly until the woman in her arms relaxed into sleep and she could slip out, unobserved. But this time she had stayed the night, and even though the wakeup had been pleasurable, now the inevitable questions started. And the first was the most awkward.

"Um, Catherine? She's a co-worker of mine." Sara shook her head, pretending to be shaking off the cobwebs. "I was dreaming about work when you, ah, interrupted me." Sara plastered her wide fake smile on her face and prayed the woman bought it. "Those last few minutes of the dream were odd, to say the least."

"Really?" The blonde in her arms smiled, either not bright enough to catch on to Sara's discomfort or smart enough to pretend along with Sara. Sara didn't know her well enough to tell. "What do you do?" she asked, making small talk.

"I'm a cop," Sara told her, feeling like it was close enough to the truth that she didn't have to feel too guilty.

"Really?" the blonde said again, and Sara started to lean toward the 'not too bright' category. "You carry a gun and handcuffs and a nightstick?" she asked, her voice lowering as she went through the list. Luckily, she didn't wait for Sara to reply, so Sara was spared the need to lie again, "That's really exciting." She squirmed, her body writhing on Sara's to leave no doubt as exact what she meant by exciting.

Sara managed a quick look at the bedside clock and decided that one more lie wasn't going to damn her any more than the previous ones had, and said, "I, I'm on soon. I need to go." The blonde pouted up at her in a show of disappointment, but stopped her movements and slid off of Sara, standing to pull a robe off the back of the door. "Do you want a take a shower? I can make some coffee."

Sara already had her jeans on and was tugging on her shirt, running over her mental inventory as she did so: watch, wallet, keys, pager, cell phone, underwear. Keeping her back turned so the other woman couldn't see her wince at the offer to spend more time in her company, Sara mumbled, "No, I really have to go or I'll be late to work." She finally turned and met the woman's eyes, "I'm sorry."

The blonde shook it off, "It's ok," she said as she walked out of the bedroom, leaving Sara to follow. She had paused by the phone on the kitchen counter, scribbling a note, before turning back to Sara to hand her the number and give her a quick peck on the cheek. "Call me?"

This last lie damned her more than all the others, as Sara smiled and said, "Sure." She made it out the door and down to her car then, crumbling the paper into a ball before letting it slip through her fingers.


Part 1

Catherine strode across the pavement, making her way toward the yellow tape where the witness Jim had indicated stood, pale and fidgeting. Sara followed a step behind, annoyed that the scene hadn't been released to them yet and not interested in what the witness had to say. "Um, hi, Miss Spencer, I'm Catherine Willows and this is Sara Sidle. We're from the crime lab and we'd like to ask you a few questions."

Pale blue eyes lifted to shocked brown ones, and the blonde woman stuttered out, "Sure, sure. Um, call me Angie."

"Ok, Angie," Catherine began, but then Brass called to her and Catherine made a quick apology and left, leaving Sara to finish the interview.

"I thought you were a cop," Angie said with only a trace of bitterness in her voice.

"A criminalist."

Angie stared over to where Catherine and Brass stood talking. "I can see what you see in her."

Sara's mouth tightened but all she said was, "Can you tell me what you saw?" She kept her head down, focused on her notebook and the scribbled notes covering the page, and avoided looking up at the woman across the tape from her.

Sara finished taking her statement, muttering a quick "Thank you for your help," as she tried to make a quick getaway, but Angie reached out and snagged her notebook, jotting down her phone number on the top of the page. "I've been looking for you at the clubs the last couple of weeks."

"I work nights." Sara extended her hand for her notebook, trying to avoid glaring at the shorter woman since it would be bad form to be rude to a witness, regardless of their history.

Angie leaned as far over the tape as possible as she handed the notebook back so she could whisper, "I wrote my number here so you won't lose it like you did the last time. Call me. I'd like a return engagement."

Pulling her notebook free, Sara reached down and grabbed her case, saying "Thank you for your time."

Catherine had turned to call to Sara when she saw the witness grab Sara's notebook out of her hand and write a quick note. Sara's back was ramrod straight as she held out her hand for the notebook, but the woman didn't seem to notice the tension in Sara's frame as she leaned over the tape and spoke near Sara's ear. A teasing smirk was plastered on the woman's face as she pulled back and she watched as Sara grabbed her case and walked away, her eyes lingering on Sara's body as if she was memorizing the curves.

Catherine chanced a look at Sara and wasn't surprised to see anger rolling around in those dark eyes; everything seemed to make the tall CSI angry, and Catherine was surprised to find that she was relieved that a woman hitting on her at a crime scene was no different. Seeing Sara's mouth stretch into a hard line, Catherine immediately schooled her expression into one of studied nonchalance and launched into what she had learned from Jim.

"So, are you going to call her?"

Sara's head whipped around so fast Catherine was afraid she would get whiplash. "Who?" she asked, even though the reddening of her cheeks told Catherine Sara knew exactly who she was talking about.

"The witness. She gave you her phone number." Catherine shrugged. "The case is over, I thought maybe…"

Sara's locker door slammed shut, the noise reverberating in the confined space. "Don't think," she growled as she tried to slide past Catherine to the door.

Catherine's laughter brought her up short, and she turned to confront the blonde. Catherine laughed even harder when she saw the pissed off expression on Sara's face. "Oh, come on, Sara, you have to admit it's funny. I mean, I've seen guys at scenes trying to ask you out, but she was slicker than most." Her laughter subsiding, Catherine said, "And she was very attractive. You should try it."

Sara hadn't joined in the laughter, nor seen the humor, but that hadn't stopped Catherine, so she tried a different tack. "I don't have to."

That at least quieted Catherine, and she frowned and shook her head, "What, what do you mean?"

Sara knew it wasn't wise to continue, but maybe the shock would get Catherine off her back enough so that she could leave. "I don't have to. I've already tried it."

If she had been in a better mood, the sight of Catherine's eyebrows shooting up to her hairline and her mouth dropping open might have been amusing, but Sara felt too annoyed and cornered to laugh. "You, you…"

"Yes," Sara stated simply, tightening her hold on her bag as she started to turn toward the door. Catherine's hand clamped on her forearm stopped her.

"Were… you in a relationship with her?"

Sara sighed. "No."

"What happened?"

"What do you mean, what happened?" Sara pulled her arm out of Catherine's grip and glared at the smaller woman. "I met her at a bar, we had a couple of drinks and we went back to her place." Catherine was surprised to feel a little sliver of jealousy run through her at the thought of Sara with the other woman, and she filed the emotion away to process at a later time.

"You don't have one-night stands," Catherine stated simply, as Sara had never hidden her feelings on issues like sleeping around and affairs in the cases they had worked.

Sara sniffed scornfully at that and rolled her eyes, and this time the feeling of shock ran all the way through Catherine's body in a rush. "Really?" She read the confirmation in Sara's eyes, and saw another emotion as well. Guilt. The breath left her body as Catherine realized this wasn't the first time, "Since when?"

Sara's tone was deliberately blasé. "A year, year and a half. Maybe." She shrugged, like it was no big deal.

Catherine's mind was reeling. "So you are not going to call her?"

"I already threw her number away."


Sara's eyes were fixed on the wall behind Catherine's head as she shrugged her shoulders again, her face emotionless except for those dark expressive eyes, but Catherine found it impossible to read the emotions rolling there. "I always do."

"How many?" The words slipped out before she could stop herself, and Catherine hurried to rephrase, "How many… phone numbers have you thrown away?"

"In the last month or the last year?" Sara threw back at her.

Catherine's eyes widened at the sneer in Sara's voice, but she didn't back down. "Month."

"Four." Sara's tone was callous and her mouth was stretched into a tight line. She didn't look like she was enjoying the conversation, exactly, but a hint of amusement danced in those dark eyes at Catherine's amazement. "I had to throw hers out twice," Sara explained.

"Why? You don't like her?"

"I don't know her." The shocked expression on Catherine's face was threatening to become permanent at Sara's cold tone and even colder explanations. Sara had always seemed such an empathic and caring woman, and the behavior she was describing did not fit the woman Catherine had thought she knew. "She was just a substitute," the dark-haired CSI said nonchalantly.

"A substitute? For what? Drinking?"

Sara's nostrils flared in reaction to Catherine's pointed question. "For the one I really want," Sara shot back.

"The one you really want?" Catherine's mind flew through the possibilities until an image of the woman flashed through her head: blue eyes, blonde hair, slight build. She stared at Sara as she put the pieces together, but she still needed confirmation. "Who?"

Sara read Catherine's expression correctly and her eyes narrowed dangerously. "It's not who you are thinking."

"How do you know who I'm thinking?"

"Get over yourself, Catherine." Sara's voice boomed in the locker room. "That woman might bear a passing resemblance to people you might know, but it's not about the looks. She was a body to fill a need, nothing more."

"Nothing more?" Catherine's tone was openly skeptical as her eyes scanned Sara's face, trying to read the truth in her eyes.

"Nothing more," Sara repeated, her voice flat, indicating the end of the conversation. As she strode out the door, Catherine sank down onto the bench, trying to put all the revelations that had come out into some kind of order.


Part 2

When her legs finally lifted her from the bench, Catherine was surprised to find the locker room crowded, and she was unsure how long she had been sitting there, lost in thought. Looking up into Warrick's concerned eyes, she muttered a lame excuse about being tired and hurried out of the room, glad of the solitude of her SUV.

Clicking off the radio, Catherine tried to bring some order to her chaotic thoughts; in the beginning of the whirlwind conversation with the brunette, she had been astonished to learn that Sara had slept with a woman, but looking back, that was the least of the shocking revelations that had left her reeling. Sara, sleeping around, with as many as three women in the last month, was as distressing as it was unprecedented. The tall CSI's distaste for sexual promiscuity was legendary in the lab hallways; when Sara caught a case with any hint of an affair, the guys made bets behind her back as to how long before she would sneer her trademarked insult, "Freaks." This, Catherine knew, was always accompanied by a disapproving shake of the dark head and an almost disappointed look in her eyes.

So Sara, women, and promiscuity, three things Catherine would have never put together, now looked like an all-too-grim reality, and Catherine racked her brain for some kind of an explanation. Admittedly, Sara had changed in the last few years; she had gone from an energetic, good-natured coworker with the occasional bad case to a dark, withdrawn shadow flitting through the hallways of the lab like the ghost of her former self.

Everyone had noticed, and most everyone had commented on it, but nobody had been able to find out, beyond a string of bad cases and professional disappointments, what had caused the change. And Catherine winced internally as she realized that a few of those disappointments could be laid directly at her feet. How she had taken a few high-profile cases away from the other CSI, how she had encouraged Grissom to be tougher on Sara… Lab scuttlebutt had filled Catherine in on the near-DUI, and she remembered how, during that case, Sara's voice had almost broken as she asked if Catherine would mind taking the victim's statement. That whispered conversation had stayed with Catherine ever since.

The timelines fit, Catherine realized, as a year and a half ago had been that home-invasion case. As she mused over the changes in Sara, Catherine wondered why, with her reputation as being the nightshift motherhen, she hadn't tried to help Sara, but a nagging voice in the back of her head told her she knew exactly why. She had encouraged Grissom to be hard on Sara because it meant that there was one more obstacle to their inevitable romance, she had ignored the obvious pain in the younger woman's eyes because to care would have meant caring too much; Catherine knew that, had she fallen into the murky depths of those dark, soulful eyes, she never would have been able to find her way out again intact and unscathed.

From the moment she had met the spirited brunette, Catherine had known she had no defenses against her, so she had created one: hostility. It was like armor, a barrier that walled off her feelings from ever finding any expression because she had known, had known with every fiber of her being, that nothing could ever happen between them. At first it had been her marriage to Eddie, concerns about Lindsey, her fear for her reputation, and then it had been Sara's obvious infatuation with Grissom, her ill-fated affair with Hank, and, the most painful part of all, the way Sara teased and relaxed with the guys but had never loosened up or relaxed around Catherine. Even during that early-morning drink after the disastrous end of Hank, Sara had never let down her guard, not even a little. She had confirmed what Catherine had already suspected, expressed her anger at herself, and then took a cab home, leaving Catherine a few dollars for the tab.

All of these well-reasoned and rehearsed rationalizations tossed out in the span of one angry conversation. Sighing, Catherine turned off the engine and headed for her liquor cabinet, knowing that she needed to quiet the voices in her head before she could sleep.

Five nights later, Catherine was leaned up against the bar, sipping a club soda and scanning the women milling about the room. It was Sara's night off and, since work had been slow, Catherine had feigned a headache and took off, promising to keep her beeper with her. And so she had as she had made her way through three bars before ending up here, half an hour before last call. Tall, leggy brunettes with a boyish build were not the norm, but she had seen three, a small thrill running through her each time, and each time feeling hope die as the woman in question turned and it wasn't Sara, not once. The last had seen Catherine's eyes upon her and had turned, a raised eyebrow and a lazy smile indicating she liked what she saw, and Catherine tried to hide her disappointment as the woman slid into the barstool beside her.

"Can I buy you a drink?" Her voice was higher than Sara's, her build heavier and fuller around the hips, but her eyes were warm and brown and Catherine was tired, so she smiled and flirted until the lights came on and the illusion was broken.

Another night, another bar; Sara had taken a personal day on Catherine's night off, and Catherine had seen the coincidence as a sign, but her hopes dwindled with every second that ticked off the clock, and she leaned over her glass, swirling the last swallow of Scotch around the bottom on her glass. When a low voice whispered "Hey," she had turned so suddenly she had almost fallen into the arms of the not-Sara from the week before.

"Hey, easy," the woman laughed, catching Catherine as she stumbled, "how many of those have you had?"

Catherine stared into those eyes as she whispered, "Enough," her arms circling up under the waves of brown hair to pull her in for a kiss.


Part 3

The sounds of peaceful slumber followed Catherine out the bedroom door as she stumbled through the unfamiliar floorplan, thankful for the streetlights illuminating the living room. She finally found her other shoe, and she perched on the edge of the couch to slip them on and glance in her purse to make sure she wasn't missing anything. Glad to hear a firm click as she closed the door behind her, so she at least didn't have to feel guilty about leaving the woman behind an unsafe, unlocked door, Catherine stared at herself in the polished silver of the elevator doors. Her hair and lipstick were mussed and her eyes were bloodshot from the smoke of the bars. She wondered, as the elevator dropped down to the city streets, if Sara had ridden this same elevator another night at 4 AM, staring into guilt-filled eyes and feeling like the sense of emptiness in the pit of her stomach was going to swallow her whole.

Catherine ran a hand through her hair and smoothed the curls, trying to restore at least a semblance of normalcy.

The smoke stung her eyes even before she made it through the door; it was late and hours of smoking had built up in the small, confined space, just waiting to billow out when Catherine opened the door. She thought she would be used to it by now, as often as she was making the rounds of the bars lately, but it didn't seem to get any easier. Nothing, in fact, had been easy in the last three weeks, since the bombshell conversation with Sara in the locker room. To Catherine, it seemed like the shock waves were still rolling under feet, making everything slightly off-kilter as she tried to recover her equilibrium, a task not helped by too many nights in too many bars to count, constantly searching for…

Sara. There, sitting at the bar, with her back to the door, Sara. Leaning into the personal space of a pert blonde who seemed to be bubbling on and on about something or other. Catherine felt an irrational anger rise as she got close enough to hear something about office politics at some chain clothing store, thinking that Sara must be stretching to consider this insipid airhead a suitable replacement for her. Sliding in behind Sara, Catherine shot the woman a look and snarled, "Get lost" as she rested her hand possessively on Sara's hip. Just that light touch sent a cascade of sparks down Catherine's spine and she shivered under Sara's gaze as the taller woman turned, puzzlement giving way to shock as the person standing there registered.

"Sara, I…"

The flash of anger in Sara's eyes stopped Catherine's words in her throat. "Catherine? What the hell…?"

"Can… Can we talk?" Sara was staring at her, wide-eyed, as if she were an apparition, and Catherine noted three shot glasses along the bar beside the brunette, and she wondered if alcohol was meant to bolster her courage or to dull the roar of the voices that whispered, "not her, not her." Perversely, Catherine hoped it was the latter, hoped that Sara suffered the qualms of conscience and the dull ache of guilt that ate at her daily since she had started this insane dance.

Sara finally nodded and Catherine caught her hand, leading her out the door of the club with relief. She could almost feel Sara's eyes on her as she lead the way in her club clothes, the skin-tight jeans that hugged her ass and the bare-backed blue halter; after all, she had worn clothes like this every night she had been out specifically for Sara, and Catherine wondered if Sara was the type of lover to rip her clothes off in haste or undress her slowly, carefully, reverently, with trembling fingers. Catherine had a sudden hope that she might find out soon.

Her hopes were dashed when Sara wrenched her hand from Catherine's, stopping them a few steps from the door. Catherine turned, surprised, and then suddenly breathless as Sara's eyes, darkened from a combination of red-hot anger and white-hot desire, transfixed hers. "What are you doing here, Catherine?" she growled.

"I…" Catherine cast an eye around the deserted sidewalk in front of the club, deciding that it was not the place to have this conversation, "can we… um, I want us to go somewhere quiet and talk. Please?"

"No, we're not going to go somewhere and talk. I'm going back in there as soon as we're done here." Even with her eyes painting every curve of Catherine's body, Sara didn't look particularly pleased to see the blonde, and Catherine worried that perhaps her assumptions all along had been wrong, but then she remember the petite blonde inside the club.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Sara demanded after a few seconds of silence.

"I… Looking for you."

"Looking for me?"

Catherine gathered all her courage and stepped closer to the brunette, invading her personal space and breathing in a citrus-and-desert-flower scent that must be the perfume Sara didn't wear at work. "I know who you are replacing," she whispered as she nuzzled Sara's neck, "and I wanted to tell you don't have to anymore."

Sara's hands found Catherine's shoulders, but instead of pulling her in, Sara pulled the shorter woman back to meet her eyes. "You're kidding me. Right? This… this is a joke."

"No, Sara. I, I never knew. about you. I always thought you and Grissom…" Catherine shook her head, not even wanting to get into that right now. "Anyway, that's not important. What's important is that I'm here, I'm right here."


Catherine stared at her, exasperated. "So you don't have to keep doing this, finding substitutes…"

Sara exploded at that. "I told you to get over yourself, Catherine. This," she said, stressing the word and gesturing back toward the door of the club, "has nothing to do with you."

"Nothing? You are telling me that that blonde in there has nothing to do with me?"

Sara's mouth snapped shut and her eyes blazed, but she didn't deny it, and Catherine wanted to yell her triumph. But before she could say anything, Sara asked, "So what if it does have something to do with you?"

"What? What do you mean, so what?"

"I mean, it doesn't matter, Catherine."

"Of course it matters. If I'm the one you want, then…"

"Nothing can happen between us," Sara stated.

The world seemed to lurch under her feet, and Catherine could only stammer out, "Wha, what do you mean?"

"I mean, we can't have a relationship, Catherine. There's no possibility of anything happening here." Seeing the astounded look on Catherine's face, Sara explained, "I don't have anything to offer you, and you sure as hell don't have anything to offer me."

"Why not? And what do you mean, nothing to offer? You want me, I…"

Sara's harsh laugh cut Catherine off. "You've got to be kidding me. You think all this has occurred, what, because I've been afraid to ask you out? That this is some fairytale where all we have to do is confess our feelings to each other and we'll live happily ever after?" Sara shook her head, still somewhat laughing to herself. "Go home, Catherine. Or go home with your friend." She nodded her head in the direction of the parking lot, where Catherine could see her date from the other night.

Catherine turned back to Sara, staring at her pleading eyes, but Sara wasn't looking at her. "Just… leave me alone, ok?" With that, Sara disappeared into the smoky interior once again.


Part 4

The next few weeks passed in a blur for Catherine. She continued to seek comfort in the body of a now-familiar stranger, using her to try to warm the dead places in her heart. Sometimes, when they cuddled after sex and she whispered Catherine's name, her voice was hoarse enough to approximate the low tones of Sara's, and in those moments, Catherine pretended that it was close enough so that the differences didn't matter. There, in the muted glow of candles or the moon, with no sharp edges, it was close enough. But then every night, the harsh fluorescent lights of the crimelab brutally exposed the truth; as she stared at Sara, walking through the halls seemingly oblivious to Catherine, Catherine knew the one she really wanted was not the one she had.

In the end, it had been easy to break it off; those not-quite-the-right-shade-of-brown eyes dropped from hers sadly, and a too-high voice asked, "It's that woman I saw you with outside the club with, isn't it?" Catherine simply nodded in confirmation and left.

That night, Sara roared into the locker room just seconds before shift began, looking like she had just woken up in the wrinkled jeans and super-tight babydoll t she was wearing. She caught Catherine looking as she pulled off her t-shirt and grabbed another shirt out of her locker, but instead of the angry glare Catherine expected, Sara looked away with a grimace and a guilty expression on her face. And when Catherine passed behind Sara on her way out the door, a light citrus scent filled her nostrils.

Grissom, of course, oblivious to the obvious tension between the two women, paired them to work together that night, and they spent the time in an awkward silence, speaking only when absolutely necessary. This uncomfortable silence was new in this game they had been playing since that night outside the club, as Sara had been treating her the same as always and acting like nothing had happened between them. But tonight something had her rattled, and it showed in the way she kept her eyes fixed on whatever piece of evidence she was collecting.

Back at the lab, Catherine was actually relieved to get some distance from the tension rolling off of Sara in waves and to find a nice quiet lab to work in. It had been near impossible to focus on the case, because simply working with Sara was distracting enough, much less than when she seemed distressed and out-of-sorts.

Straightening from the microscope, Catherine came face-to-face with Sara, who was propped up in the doorway gazing at her sadly. If they hadn't been at work, in the middle of a case, and in the middle of a glass-walled lab beside a busy corridor, Catherine would have wrapped the younger woman in a tight bear hug, but she couldn't, so she had to settle for calling Sara's name softly. "You ok?" Catherine asked, letting her concern seep into her words.

"Oh, yeah, yeah," Sara replied, her pained tone at odds with her reassuring words. "I got the DNA results back from trace," she said, waving a sheet of paper and effectively diverting the conversation back to the case.

But Catherine wasn't to be diverted forever; she caught up with Sara at the end of shift in the locker room, packing up her bag.

"We need to talk."

"No, Catherine, we don't." Sara's tone made it clear that there was no conversation forthcoming as she clanged her locker door shut and pushed past the shorter woman on her way to the door.

"Ok, fine," Catherine spit out. "Just answer me one question," she said, throwing the words at Sara's back where she stood, one foot already out the door. "When you leave the bed of one of those surrogate bodies, do you feel as empty as I do?"

"Catherine," Sara began like she was going to launch into an explanation, and then she sighed, shaking her head. "I always feel empty."

"What did you mean?" Catherine asked as she pushed past Sara into her apartment.


Catherine spun to confront the tall woman, standing, open-mouthed, in the doorway. "What did you mean, you always feel empty? And while you are at it, why don't you explain why you think we have nothing to offer each other?" Catherine had spent the drive over preparing her questions and working herself into a full-on rage. After Sara had left her standing in the locker room, Catherine had finally realized that she was tired of Sara's riddles and nonsense explanations. She got enough of those from Grissom, and she wasn't going to tolerate them from yet another source, especially not with something so important.

Sara recovered from her initial shock and gripped the door handle, holding the door wide open. "Catherine, leave."

"No. Not until you answer me."

Sara slammed the door shut and advanced on the smaller woman. "I don't owe you any explanations. We're not, nor will we ever be, in a relationship, and that's all you need to know."

Catherine stood her ground, shaking her head stubbornly. "No, I refuse to accept that. You keep saying we can't be in a relationship and I want to know WHY. Right now." Catherine took a breath and lowered her voice. "I'm not leaving until…"

Something in Catherine's reasonable tone set Sara off and her voice rose as she yelled, "No, Catherine, no. We are not having this conversation because I have already explained it to you. I have nothing to offer you except a good fuck and you sure as hell don't have anything to offer me. So get the fuck out. Now!"

"I refuse to believe that."

"I don't care what you believe. There's the door."

For a long second they stood and stared, measuring each other's resolve, and then Catherine sighed. "Ok," she said, still standing in the middle of the hallway.


"Ok, fine. I'll take it."

Sara shook her head, obviously confused. "What?"

"If all you have to offer is a good fuck, I'll take it."

Sara's eyebrow shot up as Catherine's words registered, and then her eyes narrowed in anger. "No, you are leaving now," Sara growled as she caught Catherine's arm and pulled her toward the door. "Right fucking now."

Catherine allowed Sara to pull her a couple of steps before she swung her body around and reversed their positions, sending Sara crashing into the door. "Not until I get my fuck," she whispered as she trapped Sara with her body. Tilting her chin, Catherine licked her lips slowly, careful to moisten every inch, and watched Sara's eyes widen. "Kiss me," she commanded, letting her desire show in the breathy way she said the words.

Mesmerized, Sara lowered her head and brushed her lips over Catherine's, the light touch unleashing a feral need in Catherine. Wrapping her arms around the back of Sara's neck, Catherine pulled her in for a blazing kiss that left them both breathless. When she relented and let the brunette up for air, Sara's eyes were glazed. "Catherine, we, we shouldn't…"

Catherine silenced her with her mouth, her hands, and her thigh, causing Sara to gasp and squirm in her grasp. But Sara's stubbornness was legendary for a reason; as soon as she moved to tease Sara's ear with her tongue, she tried again. "Catherine, you need to leave."

Catherine pulled back to look Sara in the eye, so she could see the seductive smirk and wicked twinkle in Catherine's eyes. "I'm not leaving." To emphasize her point, Catherine whipped her shirt off and threw it over her shoulder, somewhere into the interior of the apartment before crashing into Sara's body again and capturing her mouth. Finally, she felt Sara's touch as her fingers caressed the now-bare skin of Catherine's back, and Catherine arched into Sara and moaned her approval.

The impact of her body thudding into the wall behind her drove most of the breath from Catherine's body, and the wild look in Sara's eyes as she pinned Catherine's hands to the wall took the rest of her breath. A dangerous light gleamed as Sara stared, gasping for breath, her mouth a bare sliver from Catherine's. Catherine stayed perfectly still as Sara searched her face before lowering her mouth to Catherine's. Sara teased her with slow, deep kisses that only lasted seconds, pulling her head back just out of Catherine's reach again and again, until Catherine hooked a leg around Sara's waist, closing the distance between their bodies and grinding her body against Sara's.

Catherine braced herself against the wall to wrap a second leg around Sara's hips, locking her ankles in the small of Sara's back to get leverage to arch up and out, presenting her breasts to Sara's mouth, and moaning an incoherent plea. Catherine felt Sara release her wrists, but she kept them tight against the wall as Sara released her bra and ran her tongue over the nipple in one smooth, slow lick. She found her voice again as Sara teased first one nipple and then the other while her hands grabbed Catherine's ass to hold her up. "Oh god, baby, yes, oooh Sara oooooh yes," Catherine moaned as she bucked her hips and rode out the sensations Sara's breath, tongue, and fingers were causing.

Collapsing against the wall, Catherine locked eyes with Sara and demanded, "Bed. Now." Sara smirked but did as she was told, wrapping her arms tightly around the smaller woman before dumping her unceremoniously on the comforter, her teasing smile wide. Not in any mood for teasing and wild with need, Catherine grabbed the taller woman and yanked her down onto the bed. "Now, baby, please" she pleaded, and Sara complied, stripping off her pants and underwear and diving into Catherine's wetness. The speed with which first one, then two, and then three, orgasms ripped through her body as Sara filled her over and over would have astounded her had she time to think or breathe.

When Sara finally let her come down from the heights and recover her wits, Catherine found Sara laying beside her on the king bed and staring at the ceiling.


Those unfathomable eyes turned toward her and stared at her as if she was indistinguishable from the ceiling. "So are you satisfied?"

"Maybe," Catherine answered cautiously.

"Did you enjoy your fuck?"


One elegant eyebrow quirked upwards in a questioning gesture. "So what's wrong?" Sara asked, her words innocent on the surface but a harsh satisfaction lurked beneath.

"Was that all it was?" Catherine asked quietly.

Sara chuckled and shook her head, and Catherine closed her eyes so that Sara wouldn't see the pain. "What were you expecting, Catherine?" She sniffed scornfully. "You thought that once you got me into bed and we had sex, I would fall in love with you? That I would melt in your arms like the heroine in some kind of dime-store romance novel and tell you I loved you?"


"Sorry to disappoint you."

For a long second, Catherine laid there and let the hurt wash over her in waves before she made a decision and rolled over on top of Sara. She pressed a light kiss on Sara's lips, trying to pour all her feelings into that single, simple act. Sara's eyebrows knitted and she stared up at the blonde, puzzled. "If this is all I get, I want my turn," Catherine explained simply before lowering her head again.

When she rose to look at Sara again, she found the brunette gazing up at her with surprise, confusion, and even a little bit of fear in those murky brown eyes, and Catherine smirked in sudden understanding. "You don't let them touch you, do you?"

"Not… not always," Sara answered truthfully.

"I bet half the time you don't even get undressed," Catherine said as she tugged Sara's t-shirt off, the tension in the thin frame showing her reluctance to lose her armor. The hard line of Sara's mouth gave Catherine her answer as her fingers nimbly unfastened Sara's jeans and slid them off to join hers in a heap at the foot of the bed. Leaning in to nibble on Sara's ear, Catherine whispered, "You didn't want those others to touch you… you've been waiting for me… for my touch." Sara didn't answer, and Catherine spared a glance at her, seeing her parted lips and tightly-closed eyes. With a single finger, Catherine traced Sara's bottom lip, watching as Sara caught her breath at the feather-light touch.

"All this time, you've been making love to me through those stand-in bodies, but you couldn't stand the counterfeit touch," Catherine continued, still memorized by Sara's reactions as she stroked a smooth cheek, the line of her jaw, "you've been waiting for me," over the pulse point thundering in Sara's neck, "all this time," down the valley between her breasts, "waiting for me…"

And so it began, the slow, almost torturous, seduction as Catherine explored Sara's body with the lightest of touches, the whisper of breath, and the softest of kisses. Sara's eyes never opened as Catherine stroked her breasts and thighs, and she never urged Catherine to hurry as the slow build-up continued. Catherine kissed her way down Sara's body reverently, caressed her skin like it was the most fragile of porcelain, until Sara writhed and quivered under her. Finally, as her fingers poised in Sara's heat, she whispered, "Sara, open your eyes, baby. Look at me."

Sara could barely lift her eyelids; she whimpered in mindless want as Catherine locked baby-blue eyes with onyx-black ones. "I love you," Catherine breathed as she plunged her fingers in, watching as the words and actions both registered before Sara's eyes squeezed shut, her head thrown back and lip caught between her teeth to hold back her screams. Catherine drove her to the edge before telling her, "Let it out, baby, let it all out."

But when Sara finally found release, the only sound was her name, exhaled on a long stream of breath, "Catherine."

Snuggling into the exhausted woman, Catherine closed her eyes and dropped immediately into a deep, dreamless sleep. And when she woke, she woke alone.



Catherine woke alone, thinking perhaps she had dreamt the night, but no, this wasn't her bed or her apartment. She touched the space beside her and couldn't tell if she was imagining a lingering warmth beneath her fingers or not. A deep, unbroken silence stretched as Catherine listened for some movement or signs of life to indicate she wasn't completely, totally alone. Hearing nothing, she crept out of the bed and found a robe by touch alone and went to search the apartment.

Catherine allowed herself a few minutes to snoop through the bookshelves and kitchen cupboards while she told herself Sara had just stepped out for a moment, maybe went to pick up cream for coffee or eggs for breakfast, but that lie got harder and harder to sustain during the twenty minutes she sat on the couch and simply stared at the door, willing it to open. Finally, she admitted the truth to herself, that Sara had run and wasn't coming back, and roused herself to collect her clothes and get dressed, pretending all the while she wasn't straining to hear the door open.

The smell of cigarette smoke drifted up to her as she stepped out of the apartment into the chill desert air. That's where she found her, at the bottom of the steps, her white tank glowing eerily in the dull light from the streetlight. Cigarettes butts were piled around her bare feet as another glowing tip lit her face.

Catherine snagged the cigarette out of Sara's hand and took a long drag, inhaling deeply while watching the brunette beside her out of the corner of her eye. Dropping the butt, she ground it out under her shoe and waited for Sara to react, but Sara just sat there, her fingers loosely interlocked in front of her face, almost in a position of prayer.

Unable to take the silence any longer, Catherine called her name softly, and then louder. Getting no response, she laid a hand on Sara's joined hands, the ice-cold skin a shock. "Sara, baby, you are freezing," she told the brunette quietly, still waiting for some sort of acknowledgement. At this point, she would almost welcome anger, if only because it was a reaction to her presence. Brushing the hair back from Sara's face, she found the blank stare and lifelessness in those dark eyes unsettling. When the first tear slid down her cheek, Catherine could only watch in fascination as Sara, slowly, painfully slowly, broke down in front of her. As Sara crumbled, Catherine caught her, holding the brunette with all her strength while deep sobs racked Sara's body.

When she quieted, and finally fell silent, Catherine pressed a light kiss to Sara's temple, feeling her face artificially warmed by the emotional outburst, a warmth she knew wouldn't last long. "Sara, Sara, honey, come on, let's go upstairs. I'll make you some tea."

Sara didn't resist as Catherine took her hand and guided her up the steps. She settled the surprisingly pliant brunette on the couch, her arms coming up compulsively to wrap around her body for warmth, and Catherine covered the shivering woman with a blanket, making sure to tuck the edges in around Sara's feet. "I'll make us some tea. You want honey?" she asked quietly, still slightly unnerved by Sara's continued silence.

Sara finally responded with a nod, and Catherine reached out to caress the soft skin of her cheek briefly before heading into the kitchen.

As she leaned against the counter waiting for the kettle, Catherine watched the huddled form on the couch and came to a realization: Sara had been right, that night in front of the club; this had never been about Catherine or their possibilities for a relationship. It had always been about Sara, her fears, her demons. But Catherine also knew that something in the night had shattered the wall Sara hid her feelings behind, and Catherine realized that she had no idea what lie beneath.

The kettle whistled and Catherine busied herself with making the tea, adding a healthy dose of the whiskey she found in the cupboard to both drinks before she carried a tray out to the living room.

Catherine watched as Sara cradled the cup with those delicate yet strong and all too skilled hands that Catherine was beginning to love and breathed in the steam before finally meeting Catherine's eyes for the first time in what seemed like hours. Red-rimmed and still awash in a sea of emotions, Catherine saw a glimmer of warmth lurking there. Smiling in response, Catherine decided that it didn't matter that she couldn't read the emotions swirling in those ebony depths; she had a lifetime to figure it out.


If you can ride the backlash
There's still time for a comeback
You don't have to lie down and die
But Lazarus he only did it just the one time
He couldn't face another try

I could almost like you
Now it's really over
Now you've shown some weakness
Now you're looking over your shoulder
Who's gonna come and find you?

    -EbtG, "Downhill Racer"

The End

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