DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of these characters. I do this only for my sanity.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: (1) This was written for June 25th of the Dog Days of Summer 2006 Calendar. (2) As always I offer my thanks to my wonderful triad of beta/comment readers.
SPOILERS: None, though this is a follow-up to Catherine's miniscule scene in Spellbound and Sara's conspicuous absence from the same episode.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Road Trip From Hell
"Mom, Sam, I'm just going out for a few, you're sure you're ok with Lindsey?"
"Yeah, yeah, now go. We'll be fine, thought we'd all go down to the mall."
The minute Catherine leaves the room, Sam turns to Lily.
"So, where's she going? Surely, she hasn't got friends in California."
"Um, I'm sure I've no idea where Catherine's friends live. She's always been the type of girl to have friends here, there, and everywhere. Your guess is as good as mine. It's just nice she decided to come with us."
It had taken Lily and Lindsey quite some time to convince Catherine that a family vacation was the best way to spend her break.
"Has she got any romance on the cards? Haven't heard of anyone in her life since that asshole, what did they call him? Chris something?"
"Yeah, Chris Bezich, the nightclub man, thought you'd have liked him."
"Nah, Catherine needs someone stronger than that. Someone who'll tell her where to go when she's being Catherine."
"Yeah, she does have her moments, kinda like her father, I guess."
"And you don't mean me, do you?"
"No, no, I don't, I mean the man that raised her, Sam. Don't get me wrong, you've been good to us these past few years but, before, he was always there for my girls. Catherine and Nancy both were his girls."
"He did a good job, Lily, you both did."
He touched her cheek gently before continuing.
"So Catherine? Got any ideas on suitable guys?"
"Oh no, I'm not going there, Sam. She can make her own choices." Lily's eyes twinkled, "But I think maybe there is someone on the horizon, she's certainly a lot more settled these past few months. I know work is better than it was, but there's something more. After that blow-up with Sara Sidle, you know her female colleague, then that ridiculous spat with that lawyer guy, and to top it all off that awful case with young Nick Stokes; I thought she'd collapse under the strain."
Suddenly Lily remembered Sam's involvement in that case.
"Did she ever thank you properly for that?"
"Yeah, yeah, she did. In her way. Still didn't stop her thinking " Sam's voice trailed off.
"Oh nothing, I think we've finally turned that corner. So, you think she's got her sights set on someone? Warrick Brown?"
"No, he's married."
"Hell, when has something like that stopped Mugs?"
"She doesn't break up marriages, Sam, you know that; relationships, maybe, but marriages, no."
"I don't know but I think it may be someone she works with; it's definitely someone on the same time schedule."
"What makes you say that?"
"Oh, telephone calls at all hours, late coming in after shift, early going on shift, you know."
"Not Gil Grissom after all this time?"
"No! He's her best friend, and a damn good one. She'd not spoil that by turning to romance."
"Well the other two she works with, they're sure not strong enough to take on Mugs."
"What makes you think it's a guy, what about that new lab tech she introduced to us the other day?"
"That brunette, the one with the come-to-bed eyes?"
"Yeah, Wendy, I think?"
"Mugs and a woman?"
"Yeah, she has been there before, you know."
"Yeah, I know everything there is to know about Catherine. Same rules though, the woman has to be able to stand up for herself, Catherine won't take no weaklings. So Wendy, no! She's not quite Catherine's type, not even close."
"Hmm, maybe you're right, whoever wins her will have to be prepared for regular fights, I should know. Regular fights and regular make-up sessions, that's Catherine."
"The detective that works closely with that okay guy, Jim Brass."
"Mmmm, maybe, she'd fit the picture. Strong, feisty, similar shift work, but she's blonde."
"Blonde, that's shallow, Lil'. Surely our Mugs don't just go on looks."
"Well no but tell me how many blondes have you seen her with?"
"Ok, point taken. In that case, how about Sidle? She's a brunette and she's more than feisty."
"Ah, the woman who antagonizes her at every turn of the road. Six years working together and only Lindsey draws them together. Different outlooks, different lifestyles, different pasts "
A thoughtful look appeared on Lil's face.
" Ah well, there really is no point in me and you worrying about it, she'll choose who she wants and when she wants."
As her parents discussed her love-life, Catherine Willows drove towards the coast of California. She smiled at the changes going on in her life, not least the fact she once again had two parents trying to interfere. She was pretty sure they were discussing her right about now but she really didn't care; better things were beginning to happen and Sam Braun was not going to interfere.
The guy who had brought her up as his own had already seen to that; her stubborn, independent streak may have originated from Sam's genes but it had been perfectly honed by Arthur Flynn. It was his stubborn belief in his daughter that had given Catherine the confidence in life to just take what was hers to take.
A sign up ahead caught her eye; Laguna Beach.
Following directions meticulously written down, she pulled up beside a small beach cabin and honked the horn, grinning inanely at the pleasure she felt to be here; waiting for the appearance of someone she'd never expected to chase across town and country.
A few weeks earlier, after a couple of illuminating late-night chats over case notes, the two women had embarked on the first of what Catherine hoped was many dates to come, only to find their growing friendship was going to take a back seat to enforced vacation time.
Catherine chuckled to herself as she remembered how she'd told Lindsey there was no chance in hell she would consider going to Disneyland with her mum and Sam and then the look on the young girl's face when she had promptly changed her mind after this rendezvous was hastily arranged.
As her lunch-date emerged from the cabin, looking stunning in frayed denim shorts and a tight white t-shirt she knew the road trip from hell with her parents and an excited teenager had been more than worthwhile.
After spending three afternoons in each other's company, two with Lindsey as a chaperone, Catherine decided they might as well travel back to Vegas together, but first she had a small bridge to cross.
"Hey Sam, is there an extra place in that limo for the drive back?"
"Yeah, I think so, why?"
"Um, well, a friend of mine is going back to Vegas on the same day, kinda hoped we could all travel together."
Suddenly a voice rang out from over her shoulder.
"What's this? Did I hear right, we have a guest traveling home with us?"
Catherine sighed; only a mother could be so damn inquisitive.
"Yeah, I've been meaning to tell you, Sara's over here visiting friends. That's who I've had lunch with a couple of times."
"Sara Sidle, your colleague? I thought you didn't like her?"
"Um, no, I mean yes, I mean no. Hell, what do I mean?"
Sam and Lily both laughed, it was unusual to see Catherine flustered.
"I mean, no, I like Sara I like Sara a lot."
With that, Catherine turned, grinning as her parents looked at each other in shock, and left to tell Lindsey the good news.
On the last night of the holiday Catherine and Lindsey stayed over at Sara's cabin; Sam and Lily deserved a night to themselves being Catherine's convenient reasoning.
The two women spent the night talking; finally admitting that their friendship was developing into something much more intense. A kiss and a hug sealed the deal.
Now, walking hand-in-hand, watching Lindsey at the water's edge, they waited for Sam's limo to arrive.
"Jeez, Cath, I am so not looking forward to this journey."
"What's not to like? Think about it, where else can we sit close together without having to give a reason?"
Catherine squeezed Sara's hand.
"Lighten up, Sidle, Sam likes a gorgeous woman."
"Yeah, but does he know I only have eyes for his daughter?"
"Oh hush, it'll be fine. Just act your normal self no wait, don't, be nice."
Sara looked at Catherine, "Nice, huh? I'm always nice."
Catherine kissed Sara gently and murmured indistinctly against her lips, "Yeah."
" and Gramps got soaked. You should have seen Nan laughing at him. Oh, and Indy was just out of this world. But Mickey Mickey was Mickey, wasn't he Nan?"
"Yes, Linds, he was Mickey."
Lily's dry tone made the unusual group chuckle. Half an hour into the journey and Lindsey continued to talk non-stop relating the story of the two week 'back to her childhood' vacation to Sara.
Catherine smiled; the holiday had done both her and her daughter the world of good.
She hated admitting it but Sam Braun was turning out to be a much better grandfather to Lindsey than she had expected. Since her relationship with Sam had settled back into a routine, Lily too was much more understanding of Catherine's life, and the unusual family dynamic finally seemed to be settling into a comfortable pattern.
She glanced over Lindsey's head to lock eyes with Sara, the other part of the equation as to why the holiday had turned out so well. She laid her arm across the seat and surreptitiously caressed Sara's neck as Lindsey continued to babble her excitement.
Sara's pleasure at the gesture was evident in her grin.
Sam Braun watching the interaction in his rear view mirror bristled a little; was Sara Sidle good enough for his Mugs?
"So Sara what brought you to Los Angeles this time?"
Sara looked up and saw the challenge in Sam's eyes, immediately wondering how much Sam knew about her previous Californian life. Meeting his eyes with a confidence she didn't feel, she answered as truthfully as she dare.
"Well, Sir," a little respect might help her case, "I grew up by the ocean, near 'Frisco actually. Sometimes, I just need to hear the sea. A friend owns the cabin and let's me use it whenever I need a break."
"Um, I'm maxed out on overtime and really needed the break "
Sara stammered as Sam interrupted again.
"Not next week?"
Sara had had enough. Glancing to Catherine, she hoped her next words weren't going to be a problem.
"Actually, I wanted to be here at the same time as Catherine." Her voice dropped a notch, "I wanted to spend time with her, I needed to spend time with her."
Catherine squeezed Sara's neck in silent encouragement, fascinated by the way Sara was trying to stand up to her father. She was about to step in when Lindsey came to her rescue.
"Gramps, leave Sara alone. She's mom's girlfriend now and I like her."
The young girl snuggled into Sara's side.
"She is, is she?" Lily joined in the conversation.
"Oh for f goodness sake. Mom, Sam, meet Sara Sidle the woman I'm dating. Oh, and I like her too."
Sam smiled inwardly at both his daughter's and Sara's discomfort. In truth, he'd had Sara's past investigated even before this revelation, in fact he'd had all of Catherine's colleagues checked out, and had no doubt that this young brunette was more than capable of giving Catherine a run for her money. It didn't, however, hurt for him to tease the two women.
"Ah, but my Mugs deserves only the very best. Are you good enough to take that on, Sara?"
A tear immediately came to both Sam and Lily's eyes; they both knew the significance of that one word. Sam met Catherine's eyes in the mirror and winked.
"Yeah, I am." Two voices said simultaneously.
Sam looked over his shoulder and glared at Sara, though she could also see a noticeable twinkle in the depths of his gaze.
"Welcome to my family, Sara. I think you can cope with us. But if you hurt my Mugs, I will hurt you."
Sara grinned at the easy acceptance; things were going to be okay.
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