DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters; please forgive my treading on any toes. I do it only for my sanity.
AUTHOR'S NOTE 1: Written as part of the Dog Days of Summer Advent Calendar - an idea I had in my head since being challenged to write a piece of fluff around Lindsey's birthday party using my daughter's 5th birthday party as the catalyst!
AUTHOR'S NOTE 2:A very special thank-you this time to Sarah who made the fic better than it ever could have been and as always to Geonn for pointing out my English-isms.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Minor for Blood Lust.
Gil Grissom's voice echoed down the corridor as Sara Sidle tried to escape; for once, she was leaving on time. It had been a long shift, two cases irrevocably intertwined, an Asian cab driver murdered in the name of justice by a mob of bigots, and a young life snuffed out before its prime because a mother believed that keeping secrets from her children was the best course of action.
The young CSI sighed and turned to face her superior.
"Just got a call from Vega, he's on his way to what sounds like a mugging gone wrong. Apparently, a female bystander intervened, saving the elderly victim from injury, but hurt herself in the process. According to the patrol cops, she's quite loud and emotional, demanding a female CSI, very insistent. Can you...?" His words trailed off as he saw the look on Sara's face.
Handing the slip over, he smiled sheepishly, and then shrugged in the typically Grissom way that said 'you've no home life, so what's the worry.'
Sara grabbed the slip and turned on her heel, inwardly seething that Gil still had this hold over her: dependent on his praise, she'd bend over backwards to achieve it, whether she was exhausted or not.
Already deep in thought, putting on her professional persona, she only just caught the words, 'Circus, Circus' as she rounded the corner to the locker rooms. She glanced at the slip to see that the mugging had been attempted at Circus, Circus and that Detective Vega would meet her there.
As she drove towards the heart of Las Vegas her mind wandered back to her brief encounter with her colleague Catherine Willows earlier that shift. Glancing up from her task she had been surprised to see Catherine walking towards her, believing that the older CSI had a few days of leave owed her. Calling out a greeting, she had been even more surprised when a cheerful Catherine had spent a few minutes just chatting with her.
The two women were far from being enemies and yet could not really call themselves friends. Gentle chatting like they had shared earlier was unusual, their usual interaction being confined to working cases together. Working cases together extremely well, the brunette, reminded herself.
Remembering now she heard Catherine's words clearly, 'I'm on my way to Circus Circus with five nine-year-olds. It's Lindsey's birthday.' Once again chuckling at the thought of Bridal Barbie she wondered if the party was going well and hoped that the youngsters hadn't been involved in the crime she was heading towards.
As she hit the Strip her mind came abruptly back to the crime scene. It was unusual to get calls to mugging incidents, the police department normally dealing with those crimes alone, interviewing the victim and any bystanders, then solving as best they could. Ahead, she saw a couple of police cars and pulled in behind them. Alighting her Tahoe she saw the small figure of Sam Vega getting out of the rear vehicle and beckoned him over.
Ahead they could see a couple of young patrol cops pointing their way. Sara turned to the detective and muttered, "Rookies, huh?" His grin was answer enough.
Walking towards the cops they could hear the indignant tone of a muscle-bound blond Adonis recounting the tale to his colleague, "She insists that we get CSI down here won't take no for an answer just sitting there with blood streaming adamant that she won't "
Vega interrupted the tale and introduced himself and Sara before indicating for the officer to recount his tale once more.
The young officer pointed towards a small group of people and said, "That woman grabbed a hold of a young thug as he tried to snatch the wallet of an old lady. He swung around and caught her good and strong with his elbow but the stupid bitch held on."
Sara winced at his choice of words, glancing towards the hero of the hour, thinking that she sometimes wished there were more such people in the world. Concentrating once again on the police officer she nodded for him to continue, "He then slashed at her with what we think was a hypodermic needle and she reluctantly let go. He scampered on foot towards the Adventure Dome and we arrived within 15 minutes. That was an hour ago and here we are now."
Finally looking at Sara he added, "I'm sorry Ma'am but she insisted."
Thanking the officer quickly, Sara spoke with the detective, saying that she'd go and see what the problem was while he took statements from a few of the bystanders and then they could meet back together again soon to close up.
She picked up her evidence case and started towards the small group. As she approached she could see that a slender woman was being comforted by an older lady while a small gaggle of young girls milled around excitedly. Sara's heart dropped as she recognised one of the young girls and caught sight of strawberry blonde hair. At least she now knew the reason CSI had been called: Catherine Willows.
"Sara!" The shrill voice of Lindsey called out as she spotted Sara approaching.
The dark haired CSI smiled at the girl and then caught the eye of her colleague. She was shocked to see blood seeping down Catherine's face from a cut over her right eye and an ugly rent in the fabric of Cath's blue sweater.
Surprising herself with her reaction, Sara dropped to her knees in front of her colleague and found she couldn't quite put on her unconcerned professional mask just yet - she had to know how Catherine was first.
"Cath? Are you ok? What happened?" Flustered, Sara pulled a tissue out of her pocket and started to dab at the wound, "Let me "
Suddenly, the blonde CSI reacted, "No Sara, leave me alone!"
Shocked to the core, Sara pulled back reluctantly holding her hands up in the universal sign of surrender. She hadn't realized Cath couldn't even bear to be touched by the young women; it hurt.
Catherine saw the look on Sara's face and smiled apologetically, "Hey Sara, I'm sorry, it's just, I'm evidence."
Hearing the genuine apology and surprised at its use Sara looked into Catherine's eyes and was warmed by the trust she saw in the blue eyes. Nodding gently she acknowledged that Catherine was right, Sara needed to collect any trace evidence before getting the wound cleaned.
Feeling the presence of a small body behind her she turned to see Lindsey watching the interaction carefully. Her young face looked a little scared and Sara knew that she needed something to distract her from her mom's discomfort.
"Linds? Can you and your friends pass my kit over and then maybe have a look around, see if you can find anything that looks out of place. Something that might help me catch this jerk um perp." Hearing a chuckle from Catherine at her word slip, she smiled and added, "Don't touch anything, put one of these markers next to it, and show me later, ok?"
The girls ran off and Sara turned back to Catherine. Once again kneeling in front of her colleague she gently took a swab from both wound sites and then carefully scanned Catherine's clothes for any sign of fibres.
As Sara collected what she could Catherine explained how she'd seen a young male reach out to grab an old lady's wallet and had reacted instinctively, grabbing a hold of his hooded top and pulling it down to see the face. He had swung round and connected with her face, knocking her off balance so that she fell to the floor. Refusing to let go, they'd both tumbled down, whence the thug had lashed out with a hypodermic needle, cutting into her right arm. The pain had finally caused her to let go.
Hearing a gasp from Sara, Catherine looked up with a question in her eyes.
Sara carefully extracted something from the arm wound, holding it so that both women could look at it. Simultaneously, they looked up, locking eyes as they both realised the significance of the broken needle tip. Their locked gazes became challenging, daring the other to break the tense silence. As always, it was Sara that gave in first, "Jeez Cath, you know what this means?"
""No, tell me Sidle, what does it mean?" Catherine's tone was harsh, challenging Sara to be the one to verbalise perhaps one of the greatest fears that anyone who worked with unknown blood had.
Sara ignored the challenge in Catherine's voice, she had to say this, it was important.
"HIV Cath, you must have the test. It's important..." Even though she knew she was right, she couldn't force her voice above a whisper.
Catherine shook her head. "It'll be fine, Sara. I don't need "
"Yes, you do. NOW."
Sara was angry. She wasn't sure why and she certainly wasn't going to analyse her feelings right now. All she knew was that Catherine needed to have an HIV test and she needed to have it soon. As far as Sara was concerned if that meant packing up her kit right now and taking Catherine herself, she would.
Catherine touched Sara's shoulder. "Sara, I'm not going to the hospital now and that's that. I promise I'll have the test but not now. My daughter is 9 years old and I promised her a party and a party she shall have. I'm not letting something I've done stop that. Please."
Sara slammed the lid of her kit closed angrily. "Don't be so stupid Catherine. Look around you. This is Lindsey's birthday party, yes, but she will have others, can have it on another day, but how many others might you see? This isn't a cold, Cat, this is HIV. You read the same papers I do, know the same risks. The sooner you have the tests, the sooner this isn't an issue."
"What would Lindsey and you regret more? A postponed birthday party or a greater risk of catching this virus? What's really important to you both Catherine?"
Sara finished her speech in a near whisper again, crouched low in front of the suddenly deflated Catherine.
Still Catherine tried once last time, her eyes blazing navy, "I am not letting her down again. No."
Looking into the earnest brown eyes and knowing that Sara was right, her shoulders slumped and the tears of shock began to fall. Almost inaudibly she whispered, "Godamn it, Sidle, have you got all that evidence yet, because I sure as hell need a hug about now."
Stunned at the words, Sara dropped the bindle she was holding and pulled the smaller woman into her arms, soothing gently, "Oh Cath, I'm sorry. Come on, don't cry, we'll catch the bastard. How can we not with me and the two Willows' women on the case?"
The two women looked up at Lindsey and her friends carefully marking everything within sight and both managed a tight little chuckle. Lindsey saw that her mom was upset and came over to join in the hug.
Older than her years, Lindsey soothed, "Mom? You need to go to the hospital. We can all come back another day." Looking at Sara she tagged on hopefully, "Maybe Sara could come too?"
Before she could stop the words leaving her mouth Sara surprised the two CSI's present, "I tell you what, Cath. I'll stay and take the girls in the Adventure Dome. Sam can take the evidence back to headquarters and Greg can start to process it. You can go to the hospital and get things looked at, and we can stay here till you return. Yes?"
Lindsey jumped up with a squeal, her mind made up. Sara looked to Catherine, afraid that their past differences would scare Catherine off, and saw a look of pleased acceptance in the blue eyes. Catherine smiled and shrugged, "You certainly know how to surprise me, young lady. Are you sure you can cope with five 9-year-olds?"
"Oh yeah, Cath, I think I can manage... don't even need a cracked window, plenty of air. You just get yourself treated and then come back and relieve me. Please."
The two women shared a laugh at the long-standing in-joke between the two, before Catherine rose to her feet. Pulling Sara up too, the blonde pulled her younger colleague into another hug. "Thank-you, I'm glad I asked for you. I knew you'd be ok."
There was that warm tone again, and a word of praise too, Sara smiled inwardly, things were finally looking up in her relationship with the blonde.
The two CSI's walked across to Vega and the police officers to put their plan into action.
3 hours later
Catherine Willows stood on the promenade of the Circus Circus Casino watching for the return of her daughter's birthday party. It had been a long three hours since she had entrusted Lindsey and four of her friends into the care of her colleague, Sara Sidle.
Three long hours waiting around in the Emergency Room of Desert Palms Hospital while a doctor tended to her wounds and arranged an HIV test; three long hours too many. She was eager to see her daughter and eager to get home.
As she waited she pondered the thought that she must have been mad entrusting her child into the care of an acquaintance. Yet, Sara wasn't only an acquaintance she was a work colleague and what? The two women had been colleagues for nearly three years but had never really hit it off as friends. Shrugging her shoulders, the blonde CSI knew that some of the reason was her own petty jealousies and the younger woman's penchant to favor Grissom, although in light of this evening's events, Catherine was beginning to wonder if that fault wasn't of her own making, in not allowing Sara any opportunity to develop.
Yet, despite their differences, Sara had offered seemingly without thinking to take over the supervision of Lindsey's party, and had been as gentle and supportive of the "victim" as she herself would've been, with the surprising addition of her steely insistence that Catherine put herself first as a person in her own right, and not just as a single mother or a CSI, an indication of something more than automatic professional concern for a co-worker.
Catherine had always known that whenever they worked together they worked in perfect tandem, able to finish each other's sentences and thoughts, prodding each other to greater things, and usually solving the case in the process. It was one of the reasons she had insisted the young police officer request a female CSI: knowing that Graveyard would collect the call, she'd known that Sara would attend. Deep down, professionally at least, Catherine trusted Sara completely, would even entrust the brunette with her life, but her daughter's care, she wasn't so sure.
Hearing a group of very happy young girls, she lifted her head from her thoughts and caught sight of Lindsey in the distance. It was obvious she'd had no need to worry as the girls were all smiling, safe and, if her eyes didn't deceive her, still in one piece. Surprisingly, Sara too was smiling, properly smiling, even grinning, probably at the inane banter that Lindsey's friends seemed to have an endless supply of. Whatever the cause, it was a wonderful sight, and one seen all too rarely by Catherine.
She set off to meet the happy group halfway, waving her hand to catch their attention.
She grinned happily when, as soon as she was spotted, her daughter charged across the concourse and jumped into her arms.
"Oh Mom, we had a great time. Sara took us on the Drifters and on the Sand Pirates, and then she bought us all a burger "
Lindsey's excited voice warmed her heart and took some of the guilt away. As her daughter rambled on Catherine dared to chuckle quietly.
" But then she made us have a rest, said there was no need for any of us to get poorly, we would have enough with you to look after when you got back."
Catherine looked up and smiled at the approaching brunette, before groaning inwardly when she heard the child's enthusiastic recounting of the best ride of all, " after the double-loop we only just got our breath back before the corkscrew and do you know it's a double-corkscrew, Mom"
Catherine started to speak before thinking, "What the hell, Sara, they're nine, you took them on the Canyon Blaster " Suddenly she stopped and laughed out loud, noticing for the first time that Sara was pretty much wet from head-to-toe, and her heavy work boots appeared to be squelching. In a happier, gentler voice she continued, " and I guess you took them on the Rim Runner too. Well, all I can say is it damn well serves you right."
The excited chattering of all the young girls drowned Sara's reply out. Receiving a wink from Sara, the older CSI was grateful for the suggestion of a final visit to the ice-cream parlour, as she realised her injured head was beginning to throb with the noise.
While Sara fetched the ices and Catherine listened to the tales of the brunette's 'daring-do' she allowed her thoughts to wander a little to the enigma that was Sara Sidle. Quiet and withdrawn so much of the time, it was easy to assume the Grissom similarities extended beyond being an incredible scientist and her version of the 'Grissom look', but it appeared there was a whole other side to the young woman, one these young girls had seen today, a side that Catherine had never seen but it was a side she liked, and one she wanted to see some more.
Even after three years, Sara had the ability to completely floor Catherine. Catherine smiled, maybe she had always underestimated the younger woman, maybe she hadn't given her a chance, and maybe she should give Sara the chance while giving herself a chance to redeem herself. Catherine's smile widened when a plan began to form in her head.
Sara returned to the table and handed out the ices; a blissful silence fell as the girls enjoyed their final treat. Catherine sipped her coffee, not daring to have ice herself in fear of furthering the pounding headache that was steadily escalating, and watched Sara out of the corner of her eye.
The younger CSI was devouring a chocolate sundae with obvious relish. Catherine sniggered and Sara glanced sharply at her, obviously confused at the cause of the snigger. Deciding to have some much needed comic relief following what had become a rather stressful few hours, Catherine adopted what she hoped was a light tone, conscious she had a gallery to play to, "You're enjoying this, Sidle. You're glad I got hurt, aren't you? You were just itching for an excuse to go on all those rides and I helped you out. Don't deny it. I bet you even had a veggie burger, you cheat."
"I tell you what, Cath. I'll stay and take the girls in the Adventure Dome," the blonde CSI mimicked, "I bet, you had it planned all along"
Catherine's big grin and her very child-like tongue poke made sure that her words were taken as the tease they were meant to be. For once Sara understood the banter and teased straight back.
"Hey Willows! I did this all for you. I've hated every minute of the last 3 hours, haven't I girls?"
The wink she threw around the table and the laughter that followed it confirmed Catherine's earlier thought; she could trust Sara Sidle with everything. Her plan needed action.
"Whatever, Sara, whatever. We couldn't have done this without you. The girls couldn't have had such fun, I couldn't have gone to the hospital, and more than anything, Lindsey couldn't have had a great birthday. So, we thank you, really."
Sara blushed and Catherine took her hand across the table.
"I thank you."
Catherine rubbed the knuckles gently and Sara blushed some more.
"May I take you out to dinner as a thank-you?"
Sara stammered out a 'yes' and Lindsey whooped.
Three months later
Gil Grissom's voice echoed down the corridor as Sara Sidle tried to escape; as always just recently, she was leaving on time. The last three months had changed Sara's outlook on life tremendously; where once she would stay at work continuously, she now had better things to do. Her growing relationship with Catherine and Lindsey Willows meant that she usually left on time, either to drive Lindsey to school while Catherine had a sleep-in, or to meet the older CSI for breakfast after she had dropped Lindsey at school.
The young CSI sighed and turned to face her superior.
"Don't worry I won't stop your social life "
Sara started at Gil's comment but held her tongue, he had been a good friend over the years and she still needed his respect.
" that was Catherine, can you go straight home, she needs to talk to you in private."
Gil Grissom watched the worry lines furrow his friend's brow. He'd seen the friendship developing between his two female colleagues and had been pleased. He'd always hated how the two women seemed to bring out the worst in each other and was more than pleased they were now bringing out the best.
Yet somewhere inside he was jealous of the closeness they now seemed to share. He'd never intended making a go of it with Sara and had never allowed himself to contemplate anything other than friendship with Catherine, but to suddenly have no chance at all with either woman was hurting more than he'd ever thought possible.
"Is everything ok? Is Catherine ok? You seem to be getting on better together?" The questions tumbled from his mouth and before he could think better of it, he added in a jealous tone, "Are you happy?"
Sara answered, distractedly, "Yes, I don't know, yes we are, and yes Very."
Stunned at the simplicity of the answers and at the emphatic afterthought he mumbled, "Oh, you'd better go then."
Sara had already gone.
It was three months since the incident with the mugger and Catherine's needle stick injury, and three months since the blonde started an anti-HIV drug course; today was the day of the results of the most recent blood test.
Three months during which the two women had grown much closer, sharing dinner dates and family outings, sharing sweet and unhurried kisses, and finally giving each other the chance to realize just what the other was really about.
Driving towards Catherine's house, Sara allowed her mind to wander to the previous night and Catherine's whispered words as she'd left headquarters, 'Don't be late tomorrow, if all goes well, I'll be ready to eat something.'
After her initial blood test Catherine had been advised to take post-exposure prophylaxis for at least 28 days in case the needle had been infected. The relatively short course of anti-retroviral drugs however had been highly toxic and Catherine had suffered. At times the nausea had been so bad that she had threatened to stop the drug cocktail, it had only been Sara's quiet support and TLC, and the blonde's deep love for Lindsey that had kept her taking the course.
Many of their shared dinner dates had involved Sara eating while Catherine adjourned to the bathroom and, more often than not, Sara giving up on her own food, to soothe and care for her friend. Remembering the 'bathroom dates' now, it made Sara chuckle to think it was this interdependency that had hurried the growing love for each other along.
"Sara, you don't have to stay with me while I christen this bathroom, go eat your dinner."
"No way, Catherine. I came out with you, I'm stopping with you."
"Get away from me, go eat."
"Damn you! Why?"
"Because I care, you fool. Now come here."
Cath's anger spats and Sara's calming nature had lead to some interesting kissing experiences and eventually to their first declaration of love.
Sara smiled to herself as she pulled up outside of Cath's house, before allowing the worry to descend once more. She'd expected Catherine to be eager for a large breakfast without the worry of sickness and illness and wondered why she'd been summonsed home. Surely, it couldn't be the news they were dreading, Catherine had to be clear, she just had to be, especially now they had found each other.
With a heavy dread Sara walked in to the house.
"Hey Cat, I'm home? You here?"
"In the kitchen, Hon?" Catherine's voice was strong and cheerful and Sara's worry receded a little.
Sure enough, Catherine was smiling contentedly as she stood cooking what appeared to be waffles on the stovetop. The two women shared a welcome home kiss and Sara asked after the test results.
"All clear. He said there were no worries as far as he was concerned. I'll need another check in six months, but "
Catherine's voice trailed off and a predatory glint appeared in her eyes as she deliberately turned the gas off and stalked over towards Sara. She pushed her girlfriend down onto the nearest chair and immediately straddled her hips. Sara gasped at the close contact, so far their trysts had been gentle kisses and caresses; this felt much more wanton.
Catherine purred in her ear, " he said I was now clear if I wanted to resume " her voice dropped another octave, " sexual activity."
The only word Sara could mange was the expressive, "Huh?" Her mouth dry as she suddenly realised the exact nature of her call home, their gentle teasing of the past few months was about to reach its culmination, and Catherine Willows had Sara Sidle as her prey. Sara gulped as Catherine blew across her lips and then swept her tongue lazily across the lower lip, sucking gently to finish.
Snuggling into Sara's ear, she whispered hoarsely, "Told you I'd be ready to eat something." Sara's heart raced faster as Catherine stroked her tongue deep into her ear shell and then bit sharply on the lobe as she purred, "You."
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