DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer, CBS and Alliance Atlantis. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Anthony Zuiker created it, CBS fueled the fire and I just play in the sandbox. Part of the Dead of Winter 2008 Advent Calendar. Special thanks to sillyme for the beta'ing.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"You didn't have to come." It was two days until Christmas, Catherine didn't need this right now. It was bad enough trying to put on a happy face for Lindsey, but could she do it for Sara, too?
"Yes, I did."
The two women stood staring at one another. Lindsey had run back into the house after answering the door and finding Sara Sidle behind it. Now, her mother stood at odds with the former CSI, wanting her to leave but desperately hoping she'd stay. Catherine didn't want to be strong anymore; she didn't want to have put up this front.
Catherine always played mother to the night shift. She was always the heart to Grissom's head. But now that Grissom was otherwise dealing with his grief alone, as were Nick and Greg, who did Catherine have to turn to? She'd tried to make the call to Sara several times, she'd tried and failed. But now Sara Sidle stood on her front steps and she felt her resolve dwindling. Her strength, it was fading.
"Are you going to invite me in or do I have to stand out here all night?" Sara asked curtly, her hands stuffed in her pockets. She was clearly out of place in Vegas now, her hair was shorter, but she looked almost happy. That wasn't lost on Catherine, and she would've smiled if she wasn't so distraught over what to do next. "Nobody else knows I'm here; I have nowhere else to stay."
"Fine," Catherine replied with a roll of her eyes. She had to keep her resolve; she had to stay strong. If not for herself, for Lindsey. She had to give Christmas to Lindsey. Sara couldn't see her weak. Not now. "Come in."
"Thanks," Sara said as she lifted her backpack off the ground and made her way into the familiar household. It'd been awhile, she mused, but it still looked the same. Catherine still looked the same. She looked beautiful, even in her grief.
"Do you want some coffee or something?" Catherine suddenly asked, jarring Sara's attention by putting a hand on her upper arm. It was instinct; Catherine didn't mean to do it. She just did. Sara's eyes followed the hand as it trailed down her waist before wrapping itself around the small of her back and pulling her into a hug. She dropped her backpack, wrapping her arms tightly around the shorter woman's shoulders and holding her securely.
"It's okay," Sara whispered. "I'm here, I'm not going anywhere." Sara just held Catherine, keeping her close and rocking gently. She didn't need to say anything, she didn't need to do anything more; Catherine just needed to know she had someone who understood, someone who was going to be there. Sara smiled when she saw the Christmas tree out of the corner of her eye. It almost felt as if she was home.
A few hours later, after a quickly made dinner and a glass of wine for Catherine, she found herself lying in bed with Sara. Sara was pressed against her back, holding her close. Catherine's breathing was smooth, it was calming and Sara just relished the chance to hold the older woman again. It'd been a long time, long before Warrick's death, the Miniature Killer and the masquerade that was her relationship with Grissom.
Grissom. Sara's thoughts betrayed her. The last thing she wanted to think about in that moment was Gil Grissom. He wasn't the sole reason she left Las Vegas, but he was a part of it. If it wasn't for him, she never would've been trapped beneath a car by a malicious serial killer. If it wasn't for him, she never would've wandered through the desert to save herself. If it wasn't for him, she would've never lost Catherine in the first place.
"What are you thinking about?" Catherine suddenly asked, startling the brunette. 'How does she always do that?' Sara wondered, smirking.
"Nothing important," Sara responded evenly, shifting her hand to run her thumb along Catherine's stomach. She missed the feel of the blonde's skin beneath her fingers. "What about you? I thought you were sleeping "
"I wasn't," Catherine admitted, stilling Sara's hand by placing her own over it. There was no way she could sleep tonight. She wanted to remember this night in case it was all she'd have. As soon as she asked the question, Catherine felt Sara stiffen slightly. "I've missed you."
"I've missed you, too-"
"-You don't have to " Catherine trailed off, closing her eyes tightly and holding back tears.
"Yes, I do," Sara paused for a moment, trying to figure out how to say what she desperately needed to say. The things she should've said long before Warrick was murdered. "I didn't mean to leave town like I did. Without really explaining."
"You didn't have to explain," Catherine interrupted. "I understood." But she really didn't. With the loss of Warrick, she'd lost the two people besides Lindsey that mattered the most to her. And she never really knew why she'd lost Sara; she was just gone one day and Grissom only had a half-assed excuse as to why.
"No, you didn't," Sara sighed. Catherine quickly pulled away and turned to face the younger woman. She stroked Sara's cheek, coaxing her to continue, because she could feel the brunette tensing up and wanting to walk away. And that was the last thing Catherine wanted to happen at this point.
"I don't need to know now," Catherine reassured her. Sara's face, even in the half-light, was confused. "Honestly, it's not important, Sara. All that matters is that you're here, right now with me."
"Okay," Sara nodded, not quite sure what to make of Catherine's sudden turn around. "All right. Turn back around."
"Why?" Catherine asked curiously.
"I just want to hold you tonight," Sara smiled. "We can worry about the rest tomorrow."
Catherine didn't say another word; instead she shifted her weight, turned and rested herself against Sara's body. Sara wrapped her arm around Catherine's waist and smiled. 'This is exactly where I want to be,' Sara thought.
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