DISCLAIMER: CSI is the property of CBS and Jerry Bruckheimer.
SPOILERS: Slight for 'A Bullet Runs Through It' and 'Spellbound'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: to flying_peanuts for the beta.
Greg finished his wild tale of dinner and dancing with the new DNA girl and her 'friend', Julie. His audience had sat, listening in rapt fascination, through the entire recitation and continued to stare blankly at him after the story had ended.
Catherine offered no response, her eyes slightly glazed and her mind a million miles away.
Greg waved a hand in her face, "Yo, Cat!"
With a start, Catherine snapped to attention and batted away Greg's hands. She hadn't meant to zone out on him, but the mental image of Wendy and her 'friend' dancing the night away, cheek to cheek, had left her in a state of shock.
"You okay?" Greg asked, his tone gentle, and slightly worried.
"I'm fine." A touch of steel creeping into her voice, Catherine dismissed Greg's concerns and turned to leave the break room, the need for fresh air almost overwhelming.
Once outside, the night air soothed her heated skin and allowed Catherine to explore her reactions. Greg's description of his night had strongly hinted at the possibility Wendy and her friend were a little more than merely friendly, but he'd never once come right out and said that they were dating. Friends did sometimes dance provocatively with one another, without the slightest hint of sexual attraction beyond the dance floor. Just because her own, youthful experiments with women had all occurred with fellow dancers, didn't mean anything.
All Catherine did know was that she hadn't felt this jealous when she caught Chris with another woman, and she and Wendy hadn't even been on a first date. It was confusing.
Her hand to her heart, Catherine turned to give the interloper a menacing stare, before her anger dissolved at the sight of Sara's smiling face. Her colleague, and sometime friend, had been doing that a lot lately. Smiling. And Catherine was pretty sure she knew the reason why.
Looking past Sara to the parking lot, Catherine saw an unmarked police cruiser idling near the entrance and a very familiar blonde looking their way. Catherine smiled.
"Hey, Sara. You and Sofia off to a scene?"
Hands shoved firmly in her jean's pockets, Sara gave a half-hearted shrug. "We thought we could talk about the case over breakfast."
Catherine let the obvious lie pass. "Can I ask you something?"
"You just did," Sara grinned.
"I'll take that as a 'yes'." Moving closer, Catherine almost whispered, "How do you know when a woman's coming on to you and not just being friendly?"
Sara just stared at her.
"I mean, I always thought I could tell, but lately I've been getting these mixed signals and I'm not sure if I've been imagining things."
"Why are you asking me?"
Catherine sighed; she didn't have time to surmount Sara's defensive walls and dig out an answer. She pointed to Sofia, who still sat, waiting. "She's why I'm asking you."
"You think Sofia's been coming on to you?" Sara's tone was both incredulous and threatening.
"No, not at all," Catherine placated, her hands unconsciously raised into a defensive pose. "I know the two of you are together."
"How?" Sara's brows drew together. "We haven't told anyone."
"Call it woman's intuition." It was obvious Sara didn't buy that answer. "There's just something about the way you've been acting around one another. I can't put my finger on it exactly but suddenly, last week, I realized that you must be a couple."
Swaying slightly on the balls of her feet, Sara looked across to where Sofia waited, before turning back to Catherine. "We'd appreciate it if you didn't say anything."
There was a certain formality to Sara's words that gave Catherine pause. "They're good people, you know, they wouldn't begrudge you your happiness."
"It's not that." Sara's eyes once again turned to Sofia's waiting car and the familiar figure that was slowly emerging. "Here at the lab, if someone has a problem with me, my samples go to the bottom of the pile. If a cop were to take a dislike to Sofia, then maybe he wouldn't watch her back as closely as he should."
"You're worried about her?"
"We both saw what was left of the car after Bell's shooting. If she's ever in that kind of situation again, I want to know that the people around her will keep her safe." Sara smiled at Sofia as the detective walked toward them. "I don't want to risk losing her."
Catherine's voice lowered to match Sara's. "I promise."
"Hey guys," Sofia called. "You ready for breakfast?" she directed at Sara.
"In a minute." Sara's grin returned. "I was just about to give Catherine the benefit of my vast dating experience."
Both blondes looked at her strangely.
"Okay, so my extremely narrow dating experience." The sombre mood of moments before had evaporated and Sara found that she was curious about Catherine's question. "It would help if I knew which woman you were referring to." At Sofia's confused look Sara explained, "Cat thinks some woman's been hitting on her, but she's not sure."
Catherine was about to rip Sara a new one for blurting out her private business, but she realized that she wouldn't mind if Sofia knew. In fact, of the two women before her, Sofia might even be the better one to ask.
"You mean Wendy?" Sofia asked, proving Catherine right.
Sofia paused, a smile on her face. "Just how long has it been since you've dated a woman?"
"What makes you think that I have?"
"Close to fifteen years." Catherine fudged, not quite willing to admit that she'd never officially dated a woman even though she'd slept with a few. "I thought she was flirting with me that first day, and since then there have been all these little smiles and comments. Then Greg told me about his date with Wendy and her friend Julie and, suddenly, I'm not so sure."
"She's hitting on you," Sofia stated in absolute confidence.
Sara nodded in agreement.
"But what about this Julie woman?"
"She's just a friend," Sara assured her. "Wendy told me that they get together every other week for dancing and a meal, when Julie's husband is away on business."
For the second time in less than an hour, Catherine zoned out, her mind a jumbled mess of possibilities and doubts. The realization that she was not only attracted to Wendy, but that the object of her affections was free to return them, left her feeling elated. However, the reality of embarking on her first proper relationship with another woman, at her age, and with a child to consider, left her feeling petrified.
"So, are you going to ask her out?"
Sara's question forced Catherine to acknowledge her companions and, in doing so, she once again noticed how happy both Sara and Sofia looked. She had worked with Sara for over five years and, in that time, she'd never seen her this relaxed and open. The brunette hadn't suddenly become an open book, but there was a warmth about her that had been mostly hidden before.
A smile broke out on Catherine's face: If someone like Sara could risk it all to find happiness, then she was damned sure she could, too.
"Yes, I am."
Without another word, Catherine turned and re-entered the lab, leaving Sara and Sofia in her wake.
"You're welcome," Sara muttered, amusement clear in her voice, before bumping shoulders with Sofia and heading toward the waiting car. She'd drop by the DNA lab later on during her shift to find out how things went but, in the meantime, there was a detective who needed to be fed.
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