DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of CBS and Jerry Bruckheimer.
NOTE: Originally written for the FemSlash 2006: Dog Days of Summer calendar.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
DEDICATED: To Debbie for writing me Sassy fics.
THANKS: to flying_peanuts for the beta.
Rumour Has It
The rumour started in the break room. A lady's name, a soft chuckle and suddenly Hodges was convinced there was gossip to be had. Three hours later the rumour had spread throughout the building. An hour after that it had spread through the police department and auxiliary staff. The details were vague; lipstick, not her own, on Wendy's collar. The speculation rife; a tryst with Sara in the break room, unfettered sex with Jackie in the washroom, an aborted seduction attempt by Sofia in the garage and even the odd question or two about Greg's choice of lip balm.
By the time Grissom registered the news, the mystery woman pool was up to four hundred and seventy-two dollars. Despite her usual disinterest in makeup, Sara was easily the front runner; Sofia headed up the police component and a few techs and blood splatter experts were between them on the list.
When Catherine was stopped, halfway towards the break room and impatient for a strong coffee to wash away the stale taste of crime scene sludge, she failed to ask why she wasn't on the list. As she scribbled a cross against Sofia's name, she didn't even notice that hers was the only female name amongst the list of gamblers.
Three mouthfuls into her cup of coffee Catherine noticed and Catherine got mad.
Hodges was easy to find, preening himself in front of a blank computer screen and craning his neck in an effort to spot someone worthy of his superior charms.
"Good morning Catherine; do you have something for my expert handling?" His attempt to mix innuendo and bravado was met with a wicked stare.
"Why isn't my name in the pool?"
"Your name?" He cocked his head in a smug gesture that Catherine found increasingly annoying. "Why would your name be in the pool?"
Catherine counted out the points on her fingers, "I'm a woman, I work here and I wear lipstick. Unlike your number one suspect."
He chuckled and Catherine fought back the urge to strangle him. "I hardly think you were responsible for the smear on Wendy's collar."
Condescension was something David Hodges had practised from an early age but, on this occasion, it came naturally. "Because you're Catherine."
Catherine stormed out of the lab and went in search of an unlikely ally.
"Have you heard the rumour about Wendy and some woman?"
Sara looked up from her examination of a crime scene photo and squinted at her seething colleague. She didn't think she'd done anything lately to incur Catherine's wrath but she prepared herself for battle nevertheless. "And a good morning to you, too."
"I'm sorry." The apology caught them both off-guard and left Sara feeling nervous. "Good morning, Sara, have you heard the rumour about Wendy -"
"And the lipstick? Yes, I think everyone's heard it by now."
"Did you know someone's running a pool?"
Sara looked longingly at her crime scene photos. "No, but it doesn't surprise me."
"Then I guess it wouldn't surprise you to know you're ranked number one."
"Me?" Sara placed her magnifying glass on the table's surface and gave Catherine her full attention. "Why would I be number one?"
"That's not important. What I want to know is why I'm not included in the pool."
"They probably aren't letting the women bet," Sara replied absentmindedly. "I hardly even know Wendy and even if I did, I'm straight."
"You are?" The thought of Sara Sidle as one hundred percent straight had never even occurred to Catherine. She didn't know why, she'd never seen Sara flirt with other women - unless one counted her on again, off again antagonism with Sofia - but she'd just always assumed Sara batted for both teams. "Are you sure?"
The urge to argue was almost unbearable but Catherine forced herself to concentrate on more important matters. "They let me make a bet."
"In the pool. They let me bet in their stupid pool."
Sara nodded. "Makes sense."
"How? How does that make sense?"
"Well, you're hardly going to be responsible for the lipstick mark and you do like to be included in the boys' games." Sara couldn't understand why Catherine wasn't crowing at the idea of being special. "It doesn't mean they don't think you're capable of attracting a woman, just that it's preposterous to think you'd want to." Sara was about to congratulate herself on her tact when Catherine exploded.
"Why is it so hard to believe that I might like women? Just because I'm a mother and a supervisor that doesn't mean I'm some straight-laced virgin who is too afraid to venture past the vanilla stand."
"I don't think you can be a mother and a virgin unless your name's Mary." Sara smirked. "Besides, it has nothing to do with Lindsey or your promotion. Let's face it, Cath: you're just too damn straight."
"I am not."
Sara's smile faded and her look of confusion prompted Catherine to continue.
"I was a dancer, for Heaven's sake, I was surrounded by beautiful and half-naked women for most of my twenties. Do you really think that in all that time I never indulged?"
Sara's nod was uncertain. "You had Eddie."
"Not in the beginning and even afterwards he was hardly around enough to keep me from looking elsewhere." For a moment Catherine allowed herself the rare pleasure of thinking about Eddie without focusing on the bad times. There were sweet memories mixed in with the bad but none of them included a promise of fidelity. "It changed after we were married. Then the only times I got to be with other women were when Eddie got to join in. It wasn't the same but, after he'd pass out, I did usually get to have a little fun."
Sara looked at her as if she'd just disproved the existence of gravity.
"You've never thought about another woman?" Catherine questioned, her tone a mixture of incredulity and disbelief.
Sara's denial was immediate. "I've never slept with a woman."
"That's not what I asked."
"Everybody has the odd thought about someone else, it doesn't mean they'll act on it or even want to."
Catherine couldn't decide if she was more interested in getting to the bottom of the lipstick pool or Sara's desires. The first concerned her, which would usually make it a top priority, but the second had the allure of unsettling Sara and possibly even helping the woman.
"How often do you think about her?"
"I never said I thought about her." Sara would have turned back to her photos but a strong hand on her arm kept her in place. "She's infuriating."
Sara shrugged. "Occasionally."
"And how vivid do these thoughts get?"
A vibrant shade of red infused Sara's cheeks. "I'm not talking to you about this, Catherine, so either leave or change the subject."
"That vivid!" Backing off quickly, Catherine returned to her original topic. "I'm just as likely to have smeared the lipstick on Wendy's collar as anyone else."
"That's not the point."
"No." And that was the rub. If there was lipstick on Wendy's collar, and Catherine only had the gossip mill's assurance that there was, she wanted it to have been her lipstick, not some tech or passing patrol officer. "I didn't know Wendy was seeing anyone."
"I think that's the point. No one knows if Wendy's seeing anybody or not, so some idiot like Hodges spreads the rumour in the hopes of forcing her to confess." She flicked one of the crime scene photos to the back of the pile. "That's how the rumours about Sofia and Ecklie started."
"And people who should have known better, believed them," Catherine admitted.
"I'd rather be accused of a quickie in the DNA lab with Wendy than an affair with Ecklie any day," said a new voice from the doorway.
"Sofia?" Sara's initial smile quickly disappeared as she turned back to her photos and attempted to ignore the detective. Her talk with Catherine had posed too many questions about her feelings for Sofia and she would rather avoid the woman until she was sure those feelings had been properly suppressed.
Catherine smiled at the other blonde and silently debated whether leaving the two alone together would accomplish more than a little friendly push. "I gather you're not opposed to the odd quickie with brunettes in interesting places?" The smile in her voice let Sofia know she was joking but Sara still shot her the dirties look she'd seen since she had grounded Lindsey for playing truant.
"With the right brunette, sure." Sofia smiled, her eyes lingering on Sara for a second past propriety. "Speaking of brunettes, I delivered some evidence to the DNA labs an hour ago and as a result I've moved up to second place in the pool."
"Was it you?" Sara asked, her eyes hard and tone accusing.
Sofia shook her head, her smile fading. "No. I'm still tilting at windmills."
The atmosphere had taken on that peculiar stormy feel that indicated simmering passions and impending action. Catherine couldn't tell if that action would take the form of a fight or something far more enjoyable, but she did know that her presence would only confuse the matter. "I've got work to do." Slipping from the room, she turned at the threshold to address the warring couple. "Take the chance. If you don't, you'll regret it."
Without waiting for a response, Catherine left and made her way to the DNA lab and the woman at the centre of the gossip. Wendy was busy looking through a microscope and Catherine took the opportunity to study her. The drab lines of her lab coat couldn't quite hide the lithe body beneath and the gentle sway of Wendy's hips as she worked had Catherine mesmerised.
Even though she'd been caught staring, Catherine knew that no one would guess the thoughts running through her head: the absence of her name in the pool was proof enough of that.
"Were you staring at my butt?"
So much for assumptions. "Did you know you're the subject of wild rumours and a betting pool?"
"Yes." As Wendy turned, the lipstick smear that had caused the uproar came into view, the dusky pink the only remnant of a much stronger colour. "So you were staring at my butt."
"Doesn't it bother you?"
Wendy shrugged. "I wouldn't go to the gym three times a week if I didn't want people to notice my butt."
Catherine refused to blush. "I meant the rumours."
"No. Why, do they bother you?"
"No," Catherine said too sharply.
"They're not true, you know. The rumours I mean." Stepping forward, Wendy moved into Catherine's personal space, their bodies in intimate proximity. She tugged at the collar of her shirt. "The lipstick is mine. I was carrying one of the large evidence trays when I got this irritating itch on the side of my nose, so I rubbed it against my shoulder and somehow managed to smear my lipstick in the process."
Catherine took a closer look at the smear. It was in the right place and the original colour could definitely have been a match for Wendy's shade. "You didn't need to explain."
"I wanted to." A smile lit Wendy's face and she leant in a little further to whisper in Catherine's ear, "So, where did you come in the pool?"
"I didn't." At Wendy's disbelieving look she elaborated, "Sara and Sofia were fighting for top spot but I wasn't even on the score card."
Catherine tried not to pout and Wendy tried not to think it was adorable.
"They're idiots. If I'd been running that book you'd have been the top runner." Her hands on Catherine's waist, Wendy once again leant forward to whisper in her ear, "And you still could be."
Before Catherine could ask what she meant, Wendy closed the final distance between them and pressed her lips against Catherine's in a kiss that was neither brief nor chaste. Unfortunately, as far as Catherine's attempts to reach the top spot of the pool went, no one witnessed the kiss and therefore they were forced to do it again and again and again until, her patience long gone, Catherine paged Hodges and had him witness the event so she could leave and take Wendy home with her.
By the time Catherine slipped into her silk sheets, the entire CSI crew knew about her kiss with Wendy. Thirty minutes later, as Wendy lay sprawled on top of her, chest heaving and a smile on her face, the news had spread throughout the police department. An hour after that, as Catherine sucked a rosy nipple into her mouth, they had become old news and a new rumour, one about a CSI and a police detective caught necking in the back seat of a Denali, had taken centre stage.
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