DISCLAIMER: not mine, never were, not ever going to be.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: Companion piece to Stray Friends.

Stray Conversations
By The Last Good Name Left


Catherine walked into the movie theater for her monthly date with Grissom. She was late, as usual, and could hear the movie reel already running. She sat down next to Grissom, plopped a tub of popcorn in his lap, and leaned over to whisper in his ear.

"What'd I miss?"

"Nothing yet," Grissom said, not looking at her.

"Oh, good," she said, and grabbed a handful of popcorn.

They settled down to watch the movie. Midway through the opening scene, Catherine spoke again.

"So, what's this one about?"

"Love. Romance. Murder."

"Gil, we do murder for a living," Catherine protested. "I wasn't planning on doing murder on my nights off, too."

"It's a classic, Catherine."

William Powell and Myrna Loy smart talked their way through an upscale restaurant, glibly teasing each other and everyone else in the scene. Catherine burst out laughing several times, and during an on-screen lull, turned to Grissom.

"It's a comedy," Catherine accused.

"Well, yes," Grissom said, "January is comedy month here".

A few moments later Grissom said a line from the movie along with William Powell – "Lanky brunettes with wicked jaws" – and it took Catherine a moment to process the words. She turned to him, astonished.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Catherine asked.

Grissom ignored her and watched the movie. Catherine glared at him for several minutes, but he didn't notice.

When the movie was over, Grissom tossed the popcorn bucket away, and wiped his hands on a handkerchief. He and Catherine strolled out of the theater on the way to a cafe they frequented after their movies. When they hit the sidewalk, Catherine spoke.

"So, what was that about, Gil?"

"The lawyer did it." Grissom grinned. "I think Dashiel Hammett is the reason why I'm in criminalistics."

"That, and the bugs. I got that it was the lawyer. I meant, what did you mean with that line you quoted?"

Grissom shrugged. "Nick loved his wife."

"I've been to enough movies with you to know that you never say lines along with the actor."

Grissom opened the door to the cafe. "Catherine, if you're so convinced that I meant something, tell me what you think I meant."

"Oh, no," said Catherine, and shook her head. "I'm not getting into this."

"You asked. You must have some idea." Grissom sat down

"Gil, you did something completely out of character. It must have meant something."

"You should talk to her," Grissom said as he flipped through the menu.

"I'm not going to talk to her. You know that."

"Catherine," Grissom admonished as the waiter arrived. She asked if they wanted anything to drink; Grissom ordered the same thing he always did. Catherine chose a flavored coffee and a dessert.

"No," she said once the waiter had left. "I can't. Besides, if anyone should talk to her, it's you. She's in love with you." Catherine did not meet Grissom's eyes when she said this, but he was watching her.

"Yes, but I'm not in love with her," he said.


"You are," he finished gently.

Catherine frowned and looked away. They sat in silence. As the waitress began to wend her way through the cafe with their food, Catherine spoke again.

"We barely get along at work, and we have no social relationship to speak of. The last time we saw each other outside of work was just after she found out about Hank," Catherine outlined.

"So develop a social relationship," Grissom encouraged.

"She doesn't like me," Catherine said, with a hint of anger and frustration. "And she doesn't respect me, personally or professionally. How exactly do you suggest we develop a relationship?"

Grissom shrugged, and changed the subject.

Grissom wandered into the locker room at the end of a draining shift and was surprised to see Catherine leaning against her locker, face pressed to the cold metal.

"Catherine?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said, straightening up and blinking at him. "Sorry. It's been a long couple of shifts." Catherine rubbed her eyes, and opened her locker.

"Yes, it has." Grissom hovered next to Catherine's locker, watching her get ready to leave.

Catherine shut her locker and turned around to face him. He waited for her to speak.

"Why aren't you and Sara," she trailed off.

"I'm her boss."

"That's not the reason," Catherine said, and sat down next on the bench. She patted a space next to her. Grissom pursed his lips, thinking. After a long silence, he turned to face her.

"Do you remember Terri Miller?" he asked as he sat down next to Catherine.

"The bone specialist?" Catherine asked, and Grissom nodded.

"I asked her out to dinner. Twice." As he said this, Grissom was watching Catherine's expression. Catherine frowned.


"And she said yes the first time, and no the second time." Grissom shrugged. Catherine continued to look confused.

"Why'd she say no the second time?"

Grissom sighed. "I don't think I was what she expected."

Catherine spent several moment trying to work out the puzzle. She opened her mouth several times, but didn't say anything.

Eventually she said, "Sara knows what to expect, Gil."

Grissom shook his head. "That's not it."

"I don't get it, then. Spell it out for me," Catherine snapped.

"Tell me what Sara looks like."

Catherine glanced back at Sara's locker, and launched into a description. "Tall, intense eyes, a little gap between her front teeth, thick dark hair, incredibly long legs, wide shoulders, a strong jaw, lips to die for," Catherine trailed off, blushing. Grissom grinned at her.

He stopped smiling to ask a follow up question. "What did Terri Miller look like?"

Catherine frowned, trying to remember. "She was blonde, around my height I guess, well-dressed," Catherine stopped again and stared at Grissom.

Grissom returned the look, his face expressionless. As she worked through what Grissom was implying, Catherine's thoughts played out across her face. Grissom continued to sit in silence.

"Are you telling me you don't want to go out with Sara because she's not short and blonde?" Catherine accused, her voice becoming louder and more shrill as she spoke.

Grissom stood. "I am who I am, Catherine."

"Gil, that's," Catherine started, face red and hands shaking. She surged up and faced Grissom, her fists clenched. "You can't just...."

Catherine didn't finish, and Grissom didn't reply.

Catherine struggled for several moments to contain her emotions, and then asked, "What about Lady Heather?"

Grissom turned away from Catherine and stared out the window. "I was attracted to Lady Heather in spite of her appearance, not because of it," he finally said. "And as you know, nothing came of it."

Catherine shook her head in disbelief. "I can't believe–"

"Catherine, you asked." Grissom interrupted her, and then turned and left. Catherine stared after him, appalled.

Catherine was in one of the layout rooms with some pieces of glass from a home invasion and murder when Grissom knocked on the open door.

"So, I hear that you and Sara have been talking," he said with a grin.

"How'd you–" Catherine said, glancing up, but quickly corrected herself. "I don't want to know. Yes, we talked." She went back to her shards.

"About what?" Grissom asked, entering the room and shutting the door behind him.

"Things. Nothing. Lindsey." Catherine stopped what she was doing, and leaned against the table facing Grissom. "Did you know that she still sees Brenda Collins twice a month? They spend a few hours together, and they color. Sara has a picture of Brenda up in her locker."

"I did not know that."

"Did you know that Sara talks to the Malton boys, too? Their mother moved them to Seattle, and Sara calls every week and they talk about basketball. For that matter, did you know that Sara plays basketball?"

"You talked a lot." Grissom said, and stepped closer to the table, looking over Catherine's shards.

"Not really. She's just so..." Catherine trailed off.

Grissom smirked. "Frustrating?"

"Yes," Catherine agreed. "It's like I can see a little glimpse of her every so often, but most of the time she just holds it all inside."

"She's a private person." Grissom said, and matched a few pieces of glass. Catherine looked back the table, and arranged a few more pieces. They worked together for several minutes before Catherine spoke again.

"We've been coworkers for years, Gil. I'd like to think that I know more about her than that she doesn't like domestic abuse."

Grissom didn't respond immediately, and he and Catherine continued to arrange the glass in silence.

"I'd also like to think that you respect women for more than what they look like," Catherine said.

"Catherine," Grissom protested. Catherine glared at him, and he flinched away, then focused on the glass again. After a few more minutes, Grissom offered, "I do know that she likes to visit wineries."

"Really?" Catherine looked at Grissom in surprise.

"Yes," he said. "In fact, a vineyard might make a nice first date."

"Gil," Catherine said, and bumped him lightly with her shoulder. Grissom smiled at her in return.

"I also happen to know that you and Sara both have Valentine's Day off this year."

"Gil," Catherine repeated.

"Just ask her."

Catherine finished matching the last few shards of glass, and contemplated the evidence. Grissom moved to the door.

Just before he opened it, she said without looking up, "And if she says no?"

"Then you know," Grissom shrugged. "She asked me."

Catherine scowled at him. "And you said no, and she got suspended. Did you forget that part?"

"So take a few vacation days after you ask her," said Grissom. "If she says no, you don't have to see her, and if she says yes–"

"She's not going to say yes," Catherine interrupted.

Grissom ignored her. "Just ask."

"Is there something that you know that I don't?" Catherine contemplated.

Grissom raised an eyebrow, smiled, and left.

Catherine exhaled in exasperation.

"Catherine?" Grissom asked.

Catherine did not look up.

Grissom came closer. "Catherine?"

Catherine continued to stare at nothing.

"Catherine?" Grissom asked, for the third time.

"Yeah, what?" Catherine said, annoyed.

"The analysis of the dirt, do you have any further information?" he clarified.

Catherine frowned and shook her head. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Catherine, what's wrong?" Grissom asked. "You aren't paying any attention to the case."

"Sorry, Gil," Catherine said, and shrugged. "It's personal business. Now, tell me what you found."

Grissom put his set of results down on the lab table, and examined Catherine. "Sam Braun personal? Lindsey personal?"

"Just personal," she said curtly. "The dirt?"

"Sara personal?" Grissom probed.

"Don't try to do this, Gil," Catherine warned. "Tell me about the damn dirt."

He stared at her in silence until he exclaimed, "You asked her!"

"Yes," replied Catherine. "Now, the dirt?"

"I'm more interested in your news." Grissom said.

"It has no bearing on the case, Gil."

"Catherine, despite appearances, I do have feelings," Grissom said. "And I care about my coworkers, you and Sara included."

Catherine rubbed her forehead. "Gil, let it go. Tell me about the dirt."

Grissom crossed the room to stand closer to her. "Catherine, this is bothering you, and you aren't performing well. You like to talk about things, maybe you should talk about this."

"You have no interest in my feelings, Gil," she said, exasperated.

He frowned at her and looked hurt. She sighed.

"You already know what you've got to share," she said. "That's the only reason you want to know what's going on with me and Sara."

He shrugged, and gave her a half smile.

"Fine," she said. "I invited Sara to accompany me to a wine tasting at Pahrump."

"And she said yes," he clarified.

"Sort of," Catherine amended. She fidgeted with her watch. "I think she said yes."

Grissom inclined his eyebrows at Catherine and gestured for her to explain.

"She said that she had already been there. They have a nice Shiraz."


"We're going wine tasting together," Catherine explained. "But she thinks it's because I want to find wine for my sister's birthday."

"And why would she think that?" Grissom asked.

"Because that's what I told her."

"What happened here, Catherine?"

Catherine turned away, and leafed through Grissom's first dirt analysis. "I may have asked her opinion of a good place to go tasting to find my sister a wine of the month birthday gift."

Grissom gave Catherine's back an exasperated look, and a snort of impatience escaped.

"What was I supposed to say?" Catherine asked. "'Grissom told me that you like to go wine tasting, and I thought that we could go to a vineyard for our first date?'"

"That would have worked for a start," he said.

"Gil, can we talk about the dirt now?" Catherine said.

"So she doesn't think that this is a date?" Grissom pushed.

"I have no idea what she thinks," said Catherine. She reached for another analysis result, and compared the two. "She's already canceled on me once," she said, softly.

Grissom moved to stand next to her again. "She has?"

"Yes," she said. She turned back to him, and said, "The dirt?"

"Did she say why she had to cancel?" Grissom asked, instead.


"What did she say?"

"That tomorrow wasn't good for her, and could we reschedule for sometime next week," Catherine said, and handed him the analyses she had been examining. "Now can we talk about the damn dirt before I go run the comparisons myself?"

Grissom didn't reply. Catherine walked to the door, but before she could open it, he spoke.

"Did she tell you about the case we caught yesterday?"

Catherine turned back to him, puzzled, and he continued.

"It was a child abuse case. A 12-year-old girl was brought into the hospital with evidence of long-term sexual assault."


"You know that Sara doesn't respond well to abuse cases," he said.

"No, but," Catherine trailed off. "Is she all right?"

"The girl, or Sara?"

"Sara. The girl. Either." Catherine's hand was on the door. She was twisting the handle but didn't open the door.

"I don't know," Grissom said. "The girl is in the hospital with a case worker, and Sara is working the case now."

"Oh God, Gil. Does she need any help?"

"We have other cases," he reminded her.

"Yes, but–"

"We are supposed to be analyzing this dirt," Grissom interrupted Catherine.

Catherine took of deep breath, nodded, and came back to Grissom's side. When she reached him, she said, "You're the one who wouldn't tell me anything when I was asking."

"Well, now you know why Sara can't go out with you tomorrow," he replied. "Wait until next week; the case will be under control, and you can go have a nice time."

Catherine began to re-examine the results, and Grissom read them over her shoulder. After several moments, she said, "You're saying she's not blowing me off for the sake of blowing me off."

"No," he confirmed.

They stood in silence for a while longer before Grissom asked, "Does that help with your personal problems?"

"Yes," she said.

"Will you be able to pay attention now?"

"Yes," said Catherine, and smiled at Grissom. "Let's talk about this dirt."

Catherine was walking down the hallway to her office, arms filled with paperwork, when Grissom caught up with her.

"Do you have those files I need with you?" he asked.

"There somewhere in this pile, I think," she said. "Why?"

"Because I need them?" he said. "Welcome to case review season."

She snorted. "I hate being a supervisor."

"Everyone does," Grissom agreed.

"I think I want to be demoted," Catherine continued to complain. "I thought the paperwork was bad for caseloads before, but this is just outrageous."

Grissom shrugged. Catherine smiled at him. They reached her office, and Catherine raised an eyebrow, and indicated that Grissom should open her office door. He did, and they entered and she dumped her piles on her desk.

"So, how'd your trip to Pahrump go?" he asked.

"I think Sara and Lindsey had a lot of fun," she answered.

"You brought Lindsey?" Grissom asked, surprised.

"It was Sara's idea," Catherine explained. "They talked about photography. Did you know that Sara's a photographer?"

"Yes," Grissom said.

"Well, she offered to let Lindsey use one of her cameras to learn how to take pictures." Catherine finished shuffling her papers, and sat down. "They have a date on Thursday at the community center to use one of the darkrooms."

Grissom leaned against her desk, and asked, "Are you also learning photography?"

"No," Catherine snapped. "I am making myself act like a calm and rational adult."

Grissom nodded, and examined a photo of Catherine and Lindsey. "It's nice that Sara and Lindsey get along," he offered.

"I'm jealous of my own daughter, Gil," Catherine objected. "It's not nice."

Grissom didn't reply.

Catherine continued, "Do you remember that case, the little girl whose mother killed her with a shovel because the she thought her daughter was coming on to her boyfriend? It's not nice," she repeated, more heated than the first time.

"Catherine, Lindsey is not coming on to Sara, and Sara is certainly not coming on to Lindsey. And you are not going to kill either of them with a shovel," Grissom said.

"She said twenty words to me," Catherine complained. "We spent an entire afternoon together, and she barely talked to me at all."

"But she did talk to Lindsey," said Grissom. Catherine scowled at him and he winced.

"Yes," she conceded. "They talked about math, and clothes, and music, and photography. They even talked about wine."

"Lindsey?" asked Grissom.

"That was seven whole words, when Sara asked if it was okay for Linds to taste one of the dessert wines."

Grissom looked approving.

"But you had fun," he noted.


"Outside work."


"And you're doing it again?" he asked.

"Sara wants to take Lindsey to Lake Mead to take photographs of the sunrise. I volunteered to drive."

Grissom smiled. "That sounds like fun."

Catherine gave him an exasperated look. "Getting up at four in the morning on my day off to be ignored by both Sara and Lindsey? Fun for you, maybe."

Grissom grinned and stood up. He rifled through the files piled on her desk, and picked up a handful of them. He opened her office door, and before he left, he said, "To each his own."

Catherine could hear him smirking all the way down the hall.

Catherine had finished telling Grissom about an active case the shifts were sharing when she launched, without preamble, into a discussion of her weekend. "So, Lake Mead was cold, and dark, and they both fell asleep on the drive back." She said, but she was smiling as she said it.

"But was it fun?" Grissom pressed.

"She has a gorgeous smile," Catherine said, and shook her head. "You're an idiot for not taking what she was offering."

Grissom smiled and nodded. "She was wearing the purple shirt, wasn't she?"

"Yeah, and the gray jeans."

They both paused to reflect. Catherine pulled herself out of it first, and pushed one of Grissom's toys across his desk to him.

"We've never done this before," she said.

Grissom picked up the mummified tarantula. "Talked about Sara?"

Catherine shook her head. "Talked about how attractive Sara is. Talked about how attracted to Sara we both are." She paused. "Talked about the fact that we both like women."

Grissom met her eyes. "It's never come up."

"I'm bringing it up," Catherine said, and shifted in her chair.


"Because I think it's important. If this thing with Sara ever goes anywhere, and even if it doesn't–"

"Which it will," Grissom interrupted her.

"Which it probably won't," she corrected him. "We have known each other for more than ten years. You're one of my closest friends. You know things about me that I don't tell my sister."

Grissom put down the tarantula, and leaned back.

"Catherine, it's not a big deal."

"It is for me," Catherine said, and leaned forward.

"It doesn't matter," Grissom argued.

Catherine stood up and began to pace. "Gil, I'm bisexual, and I'm falling in love with a female coworker. You are no longer my boss, but I respect your professional opinion." She stopped moving and looked over at him. "Nevada is not exactly tolerant of these things. The Crime Lab is not exactly tolerant of these things."

Grissom glanced past her to the hallways, and then back at Catherine. "This is Las Vegas."

"This is my life," Catherine said. "We're not just here for a weekend. We have to stay on Monday morning. We have to come to work on Monday morning."

"Are you asking," Grissom began, and stopped. "What are you asking?"

"I could get sued for sexual harassment," Catherine said, and sank down in the chair again. She pressed her head into her hands.

"That's not why I never pursued anything with Sara," Grissom said. "It shouldn't be a reason for you not to pursue something."

Catherine stared at him. "It's bad enough if it's a straight couple, but two women?" she asked, incredulous. "And Ecklie doesn't much like either one of us. Or you, for that matter, and we're both still very closely tied with you." She sighed, and slumped.

"What do you want me to do?" asked Grissom.

"Tell me it's going to be all right?" Catherine looked at him, faint hope on her face.

"I can't do that," Grissom said. Catherine slumped back again. Grissom continued. "The best I can do is remind you of the regulations, and suggest that you talk to Sara about this as soon as possible."

"She doesn't even know that I want something more than friendship," Catherine objected.

"Perhaps you should tell her," Grissom said.

Catherine shook her head. They sat in silence for a long time.

Catherine entered Grissom's office. He was filling out forms, and didn't look up until she asked, "Do you know anything about meteors?"

"No." He put down his pencil and looked up at her. "Do I need to find out?"

"Maybe," she said. "Sara took Lindsey out last night."

"To see meteors?"

Catherine perched on Grissom's desk. "Yes," she said. "They stayed out all night."

"Well, I do know that the best viewing times are usually after midnight," Grissom said.

"She's a little girl," Catherine objected. "She shouldn't have been staying out all night."

"Did they see anything?" he asked.

"I'm not sure. Lindsey was incoherent when they got back this morning."

"What were they looking for?"

"It's called the Lyrid meteor shower," Catherine explained. "It happens every year in April, Sara said."

"I didn't realize Sara was an astronomer," mused Grissom.

"I got the feeling she was looking for something fun and subversive to do with Linds."

"Subversive?" Grissom asked.

"Better staying out all night looking for meteors than getting tattoos," Catherine said with a shrug.

"You don't seem pleased," Grissom said.

"Lindsey was out all night," said Catherine.

Grissom shrugged in confusion.

"Today is a school day," Catherine continued.

Grissom nodded, but didn't look any less confused.

"Lindsey is not at at school," Catherine finished.

Grissom raised his eyebrows.

"Sara asked a few weeks ago about letting Linds stay out all night and miss school today," Catherine said. "The best viewing was last night, which was inconvenient timing."

"And you said yes," Grissom pointed out.

"Yes, and now Lindsey is not at school, on a school day, because she stayed up all night with Sara out in the desert. I pay a lot of money for that school, and then Lindsey doesn't even go," Catherine said.

"Catherine, you said yes when Sara and Lindsey asked," Grissom reminded her.

"I said yes to Sara," Catherine clarified. "She asked Lindsey." Catherine examined Grissom at length before saying, "I can't figure out how you ever said no to Sara."

"I'm not you," Grissom replied.

"No," Catherine agreed. "Anyway, this is just more subversive not-Mom stuff. Fun friend Sara takes Lindsey out all night in the desert, while mean mom Catherine makes her eat her vegetables and do her homework."

"Yes, but I'm sure fun friend Sara also talked about radiant viewing angles and the gas composition of galaxies, while mean mom Catherine takes Lindsey shopping for bikinis."

"You do your best to make me feel better, Gil."

"Is it working?" he asked.

"Not really."

He shrugged, and then asked, "Is this still about the meteors?"

Catherine stood up from Grissom's desk and wandered over to the fish on the wall. She examined the cold cases for a few minutes, and then turned back to Grissom.

"This is about the fact that in the two months since Sara, Lindsey, and I went to Pahrump, the three of us have gone to one show together, and to the Natural History Museum once," she said. "Sara and I have been to breakfast three times and dinner twice without Lindsey. Sara and Lindsey have gone out at least twice a week for the last month."

"Without you?" Grissom asked.

"I get to see Sara at work, passing in the hallway," said Catherine. "Lindsey sees Sara in the daytime, at the park, at the mall, in restaurants and arcades and a dozen other places."

"Including last night in the desert?"

"Lindsey wants to go out looking at the stars with Sara again. She wants the two of them to join the Las Vegas Astronomy Society. She probably wants Sara to take her shopping for bikinis for this summer."

"And you wanted to see the Lyrids?" he asked.

"I thought that spending the night wrapped in a sleeping bag watching meteors might make a romantic date."

"And Sara didn't," Grissom said.

"I have no idea what Sara thought," said Catherine. "She never invited me."

"Just Lindsey?"

"Just Lindsey," Catherine confirmed. "She invites just Lindsey to go to minor league baseball game, just Lindsey to go to the Bellagio Conservatory, just Lindsey to go to Goldwell to look at sculptures."

"Goldwell? That's two hours away. I thought you offered to drive?" asked Grissom.

"I used to," Catherine said. "Sara declined. Repeatedly."


"Yes. Oh," Catherine said. "What was that you were saying about not needing a shovel?"

Grissom gave Catherine an inscrutable look.

"Never mind," she said. "This is good. Sara likes Lindsey, and Lindsey adores Sara, and better meteors than piercings." Catherine said.

"You don't sound so sure about that," said Grissom.

Catherine glared at him.

"Well, I suppose we could join the Las Vegas Astronomical Society, too," he offered.

"Shut up, Gil," Catherine said.

Grissom shrugged, and they looked at each other in silence.

"Are you going to see her again?" Grissom asked.

"I was planning on inviting her out to breakfast after her shift," Catherine said.

"Are you still going to be here?"

"No, but Lindsey is staying at a friend's, so I can get up early."

"Are you going to ask her now?" he asked.

"As soon as she gets in," she said. "Why?"

Grissom shook his head and didn't answer.

"Is she going to say no?" Catherine pressed.

Grissom just looked at Catherine.

"You know something," she said.

"I know nothing," he protested.

"Maybe we should join the Las Vegas Astronomical Society," she said, resigned.

"What happened to acting like a calm and rational adult?" he asked.

"It's not working."

Grissom had tracked Catherine down in the break room. He was holding several files, and began speaking before he had fully entered the room.

"Hey Catherine, I need those results from you about the Smithson case ASAP," he began. "Greg said you collected the trace," Grissom trailed off when he realized that Catherine wasn't paying attention. Catherine was standing at the sink, methodically washing out a mug. Grissom approached her, and gently put his hand on her shoulder.

"Is there something wrong?"

Catherine jerked, startled. "Gil. I didn't realize you were there."

Grissom asked again, "Is there something wrong?"

Catherine turned her attention back to her mug. "Lindsey brought home a wonderful picture she took of a black and white bird from Lake Mead." Catherine looked up to Grissom. "She said Sara said it was a Clark's grebe. I have no idea what a Clark's grebe is."

"Ask Nick," Grissom suggested. He examined Catherine. "This is a bad thing?"

Catherine went back to washing her mug. "Sara took her out photographing last weekend; they developed the pictures a couple of days ago, and Lindsey was so proud of hers. She said Sara took some nice ones too, landscapes mostly."

Grissom took Catherine's now very clean mug from her, and poured her a cup of coffee. Catherine added milk and sweetener, and leaned against the counter, playing with the empty sweetener packet. Grissom helped himself to a glass of water.

"I'm still a little confused," he said.

"Sara used to let me drive when they went out to do things," Catherine explained. "Then, she didn't want me to drive, but at least she came in and said hi. Now, she just comes over and picks Lindsey up, and drops her off, and doesn't even come inside." She had completely mangled the sweetener packet, and she and Grissom looked down at it.


"Sara and I used to do things together, too, just the two of us. We haven't done anything in weeks."


"She doesn't even go out with Lindsey and I any more. Either I take Lindsey somewhere, or she does. But never the three of us together."


Grissom drank his water, and refilled the glass. Catherine crossed the room to throw away the destroyed sweetener packet, and turned back to Grissom.

"The worst part is, I can't even be mad. Lindsey loves spending time with Sara, and she isn't spending her summer moping around the house, and I don't had to pay for any camps or programs." She picked up her mug, and stared into it. She said, "She's so much less angry when she comes home. Sara is giving my daughter something that I can't, and...." She looked up to Grissom, a helpless look on her face.

"It's hard," Grissom finished for her.

Catherine snorted. "Hard is not the word for it. Excruciating, maybe."

"Give it time," Grissom said. "She must like you if she's willing to spend so much time with Lindsey."

"Obviously she likes Lindsey. I have no idea what she thinks about me, but it can't be much if she doesn't even want to go out for a beer after shift," said Catherine.

Grissom patted her shoulder, and then held out the files he needed help with. Catherine sighed.

Catherine stared at the arbor above her, and took another sip of her beer. Grissom returned from the kitchen with a platter of crudités and dip. She selected a carrot, and munched on it.

"Now that school has started again, I might see a little bit more of my daughter since at least I have to drive her to school."

Grissom gestured with his celery, and said, "She could ask Sara to do that."

Catherine gave Grissom a withering look, and he flinched.

"Bad idea," he said. "Sorry."

Catherine shrugged, and took another carrot. "She might ask Sara anyway."

"You don't seem as upset anymore about Lindsey spending time with Sara," Grissom observed.

"I was never upset about that, not really," Catherine said. "I'm still a little upset about Sara spending time with Lindsey, but I guess if she doesn't want to be my girlfriend, I'm happy she wants to be my daughter's friend."

"Does Lindsey still think Sara hung the moon?" Grissom asked.

"And then some," Catherine replied, and poked at the dip with a cucumber. "Lindsey's already planning a viewing party for the next lunar eclipse."

"And when is that?"

"Next spring," said Catherine.

"So Sara's planning on sticking around for a while,"Grissom said.

Catherine stared at him before responding. "I guess."

"Lindsey will be happy about that."

"Yeah, and maybe by then I'll be over this..." Catherine trailed off.

Grissom quirked his eyebrows at her. "This what?"

"Ridiculous infatuation," Catherine said, and viciously dipped another carrot.

"I'm sorry," Grissom offered after a few moments.

Catherine glanced at him in confusion. "It's not your fault."

Grissom shrugged. "I pushed you to ask her out."

"I tried," Catherine said. "She turned me down. At least I didn't get suspended for it."

Grissom nodded, and they watched the clouds drift overhead.

"I imagine that has less to do with your reaction, and more to do with your boss," Grissom mused.

"Ecklie?" Catherine frowned at Grissom.

"Not-Sara," he explained.


"Catherine," Grissom said.

"Leave it, Gil," Catherine cut him off. "I'll be fine."

Grissom nodded, and ate some more celery.

During the first part of their drive, Grissom was silent as usual. Catherine spoke instead, not anticipating answers. Once they left the city limits and began their trek across the desert, though, he broke his silence.

"How was Lindsey's birthday?"

"It was good," Catherine said. "Lunch and shopping with me, and then a slumber party with several dozen screaming girls." They shared a wry smile.

"Did she get anything nice?" he asked.

"Are you fishing for compliments?" Catherine asked, grinning. "She loved your anthill; she set it up immediately, and has already started naming them."

Grissom nodded and looked approving. "Good."

Catherine smiled at him, and continued. "Greg got her some cds. The only thing worse than screaming girls is screaming girls listening to whining boys." She shook her head, and Grissom reached over and turned off the radio. Catherine gave him a amused look, which Grissom ignored.

"Warrick gave Linds a very nice chess set."

Grissom frowned in confusion. "Lindsey plays?"

"Warrick and Sara are teaching her." Catherine answered.

"That's right; Sara plays." Grissom nodded.

"Not really," Catherine corrected. "I think it's mostly for Lindsey's self-esteem. Warrick crushes her, and she turns around and crushes Sara."

Grissom's brows knit. "I would have thought Sara would be good at chess."

Catherine shrugged and said, "Well, she's not."

Grissom looked worried.

"Nick got her a bird book," Catherine continued. "He said that Sara suggested it. Evidently, the Clark's grebe is the extent of Sara's knowledge of Nevada ornithology."

As Catherine pulled off the paved road onto a gravel road, Grissom asked, "Do you know what one is now?"

Catherine nodded, and they continued the drive in silence. Catherine was concentrating on the unpaved road, and Grissom watched the scenery.

After a few miles, Grissom spoke again. "What did Sara get Lindsey?"

Catherine blew out a exasperated breath. "A camera. An expensive camera. A camera that cost more than all the rest of the electronic equipment in the rest of the house combined."

Grissom said, "Catherine, your stereo is at least as old as Lindsey."

Catherine waved her hand at him, dismissing his complaint. "It's an expensive camera, Gil. I priced it online, and it's really expensive." She sounded concerned.

"Is this a problem?" Grissom asked.

"I don't know," Catherine said, and pulled over to park at the crime scene. There were three cars there already, including Brass and the coroner. As she got out of the truck, Catherine said, "She shouldn't be buying my daughter $800 gifts."

"Eight hundred dollars?" Grissom exclaimed, staring at Catherine across the hood of the truck.

"A very, very expensive camera, plus accessories," she explained as they made their way to the victim's car.

"Isn't she worried? Aren't you worried?" Grissom asked.

"That Lindsey's going to drop it? I don't know," Catherine said, and knelt down to examine the tire tracks leading up to the abandoned car. "You should see Linds with those cameras, though. She's so careful."

"Cameras, plural?" Grissom looked up from his investigation of an unexpected oil spot nearby.

"She kept the first one Sara gave her," Catherine explained. Grissom continued to stare at Catherine for a few moments, and then they both turned their attention to the scene.

Catherine and Grissom worked in silence as they boxed up evidence to be returned to storage. When they were almost finished, Catherine asked him, "Do you have any plans for Thanksgiving?"

"I'm going to fly to Minneapolis," Grissom said. "You?"

"My sister is coming over," she replied.

They boxed the remaining evidence, and as she closed the last box Catherine said, "Lindsey invited Sara."

Grissom raised an eyebrow. "Is that okay?"

Catherine shrugged. "It's fine with me. At least I know that she won't be alone."

"Is she still not eating meat?"

"According to Lindsey. She's pestering me to try a meatless Thanksgiving." Catherine's expression gave away what she thought about that idea.

"Are you going to?" Grissom asked.

"No," Catherine said, shaking her head. "Nancy would skin me alive and cook me if there were no turkey. But we're branching out with a variety of beans, squash, and lots of vegetables."


Catherine nodded in agreement. "And Lindsey wants Sara to come over to help cook."

"That sounds like fun," Grissom said.

Catherine glared at him. "Sara, in my house, on a major holiday, for several hours, not paying any attention to me. Sounds like fun all right." She signed the paperwork to restore the evidence, and said, "I've already bought the dress that she's not going to notice."

"You don't know that," Grissom said.

"You're right," Catherine allowed. "She's an expert criminalist. She will notice the dress. She just won't say anything to me about it."

They left evidence storage and strolled to their respective offices in silence

When they reached Grissom's office, he asked, "Do you want me to come?"

"No, you have plans," Catherine said. "I'll be fine."

"You can't think Sara still," Grissom trailed off. His expression indicated even he didn't know what the end of the sentence might have been.

"I have no idea what to think," Catherine said, and leaned against his doorway. "According to Lindsey, she's not dating anyone, she's interested in women, she obviously likes my daughter. She just doesn't like me."

"That's news," Grissom said, surprised.

"That she doesn't like me?" Catherine asked.

"That Lindsey knows Sara's interested in women," Grissom explained.

Catherine shrugged. "They talked about Lindsey's sex ed class. Private schools in Las Vegas are evidently allowed to discuss homosexuality as a valid lifestyle choice, along with safer sex and pleasure and healthy relationships. They even mention abstinence as an option."

"And?" Grissom probed.

"And since I, as Lindsey's mother, know nothing about sex or sexuality," Catherine said, "Lindsey went to Sara with her questions."

"And you know this how?" Grissom asked, frowning.

"Because once she had already talked everything over with Sara, she felt comfortable enough to talk about it with me," Catherine explained. "She told me that she's pretty sure she's straight, although her English teacher is very attractive." Catherine paused as several people walked past Grissom's office. When they were gone, she said, "Sara said that is was okay to like both men and women, or to like one more than the other, or to only like one, and if Sara thinks it's fine, then it must be fine."

Grissom continued to look confused. "Does Lindsey know that you're bisexual?"

"I have no idea," Catherine replied. "If she thinks about it, she knows that I've dated both men and women. But I don't think she's thought about it. Like I said, her mother knows absolutely nothing about sex."

"And Lindsey told you what Sara said?"

"Yeah. It came up when Lindsey was trying to describe why she thought that Ms. Scherferton was cute, but not any other women." Catherine gave Grissom a searching look, then shut his office door. "Evidently," she said, "Sara has only been attracted to three men in her life: her high school boyfriend, a TA in college, and you."

"Me?" Grissom was shocked.

"Yes, Gil," Catherine said. "She was attracted to you. That's why she asked you out."

"I didn't realize I was one of only three," Grissom said.

"Well, you are. I, on the other hand, am one of about six billion people in the world that Sara doesn't find attractive, despite having the right plumbing." Catherine pursed her lips.

Grissom snorted. "No wonder your daughter thinks that you don't know anything about sex, if talk about it like that."

Catherine met Grissom on the way to the parking lot.

"How was Minneapolis?" she asked.

"It was nice," he said. "Cold. How was your weekend?"


"Catherine?" he asked.

Catherine did not reply.

"How did Thanksgiving go?" Grissom asked again.

"It was fine," she repeated.

Grissom paused at looked at Catherine. "Did Sara come?" he asked.



"And... it was fine," Catherine repeated for a third time.

"Did she talk to you?" Grissom pressed.

"Yes," Catherine said, and opened the passenger door to the truck. Once they were both in the car, she continued. "She was perfectly pleasant. She brought three kinds of pie for dessert. She brought flowers. She entertained my sister, and my mother, and the kids. She told funny stories and made intelligent conversation. She helped cooked and clean up. When Lindsey invited her to watch the traditional Thanksgiving movie, Sara stayed with Nancy and I in the kitchen chatting."

"The traditional Thanksgiving movie?" Grissom asked.

"The Wizard of Oz?" Catherine replied, with an incredulous look.

"Right," Grissom confirmed. "Had Sara met Nancy or your mom before?"

"No. Why?"

"Just wondering," Grissom said, and started the truck.

"No, they hadn't met. Nancy was curious about the woman I've been pining over for more than a year," Catherine said. She took a deep breath, and corrected herself. "Actually, Nancy was curious about the woman who somehow isn't interested in me. She's been teasing me that I'm a little full of myself for a long time, but ever since Thanksgiving," she trailed off.


"She's stopped," Catherine finished. "Something about my hangdog expression."

Catherine stared out the window. Grissom drove.

"I used to wish I had siblings," he said.

"Well, you don't want them," Catherine stated. "They're a pain."

"Did she like Sara?"

"Yes. She understands why I'm so infatuated now. She thought Sara was smart, and funny." Catherine paused. "And cute."

"Cute?" Grissom smiled.

"That's what she said, cute," Catherine said.

"So your daughter likes Sara, and your sister likes Sara," he began.

"My nephew likes Sara," Catherine continued. "My mother agrees with my daughter that Sara hung the moon."

"Everyone likes Sara," said Grissom.

"And Sara likes almost everyone," Catherine agreed. "She offered to let Jeremy go with her and Lindsey to the Natural History Museum next week."

Grissom nodded. He asked, "Has she invited Nancy anywhere?"

"That's not funny, Gil," Catherine objected.

"I'm sorry," Grissom said.

"Don't worry about it. What's a workplace without a little unrequited love?" Catherine asked.

"All we need now is for me to start holding a torch for you," Grissom said.

Catherine gave him a withering look. "Gil, that's really not funny."

Grissom stood in front of a nondescript suburban home that was already taped off. David nodded at Grissom once, and entered the house. Catherine slammed the door on her truck and glared at the world.

"I hate working Christmas," she said.

"Everyone does," Grissom agreed. They approached the house cautiously. On the doorstep, Catherine stopped and examined a stain on the doorjamb. Grissom observed the lawn and street.

"Who's taking care of Lindsey?" asked Grissom.

"My sister and mom were over," Catherine explained, "but since Mom's staying with Nancy, Sara decided to spend the night."


"Sidle? CSI 3?" Catherine teased, and collected some of the stained substance. She tagged the door for further review, and looked up at Grissom.

Grissom was frowning at her. "Has Lindsey ever stayed with Sara overnight?"

"Other than the trips out to stargaze? No." Catherine replied.

Grissom nodded. They entered the house, and Catherine went upstairs, following David. Grissom turned left, to the kitchen.

Several exhausting hours later, Grissom found Catherine sitting on the curb. He sat down next to her.

"She brought presents," Catherine began.

"What?" Grissom asked.

"Sara," Catherine clarified. "Lindsey called her this afternoon – yesterday afternoon – to come over for a while, and she brought presents for everyone."


Catherine leaned back and contemplated the predawn sky. "A build-it-yourself remote control car for Jeremy. She promised to help him build it. A piece of art glass for my Mom; I remember they talked about it at Thanksgiving. My mom collects that stuff. She and Lindsey gave Nancy wonderful photograph of Mom and Jeremy."

Grissom stared at Catherine. Birds chirped, and the deep purple sky turned gray. Grissom asked, "What'd she get you?"

"A photo of Lindsey and another of Mom and Lindsey. Actually, Lindsey helped take and develop them, so they're from Lindsey, too. She also gave me a wine of the month selection."

"Oh?" Grissom grinned at her. Catherine groaned and bumped shoulders with him.

"I kept waiting for her to compare notes with Nancy about her wine of the month club," she admitted.

Grissom quirked his eyebrows at her. "Did you ever get it for Nancy?"


Grissom smirked.

"Of course, in the impersonal gifts sweepstakes, I got Sara a sweater," Catherine said.

"A sweater?" Grissom winced, and Catherine shrugged in embarrassment.

"It's a nice sweater." She sighed. "Lindsey got her some camera equipment that cost a fortune, and they sat down and played with it for hours. They were still going at it when the Sheriff called."

"Well, Merry Christmas," Grissom said, and wound an arm around Catherine. She leaned into him.

"Merry Christmas to you, too, Gil."

Catherine stood in Grissom's doorway. "Sara asked me to help her sort some old clothes for donation next week."

Grissom looked up from the fish. "That's bad?"

"I don't know why she asked me," she said.

Grissom turned back to the board. "You know clothes. I'm sure you know what would be best sent to a second hand shop or Goodwill and what would best be thrown away."

Catherine came to stand next to him. "She asked me to come over on Wednesday," she said.

"And?" he asked.

"Wednesday is the 14th," Catherine said.

"Valentine's Day," said Grissom.

"Yes," Catherine confirmed.

Grissom turned to Catherine. "Did she realize what day it was when she asked?"

"I have no idea," Catherine said. She reached out to touch the notes of a particularly difficult cold case. "I wasn't about to ask. She might have changed her mind"

"Are you going to go?"

Catherine said, "Yes, of course."

"Are you going to mention what day it is?" he asked.


Grissom stepped back and met Catherine's eyes. "What are you going to do if she realizes what day it is and cancels?"

"Crawl into bed with a gallon of rocky road and cry."

"Catherine," Grissom began.

"No, Gil," Catherine interrupted him. "I need to get over this. Christmas just made me see what I'm sacrificing, for myself and my daughter, by mooning over her, and I need to stop. If she's not interested, then I need to move on and find someone who is."

Grissom did not reply. Catherine continued to examine the board.

"So next week is her last chance?" Grissom asked.

"Yes," she said. "Or really, my last chance."

A sound in the doorway made Grissom look up from the A/V computer he was working on to see Catherine standing in the doorway. She was framed by leftover Valentine's hearts and pink and red decorations from the previous day.

"You're smiling," he said.

She nodded, and came into the room to sit next to him. She was twirling a paper rose, and she watched Grissom manipulate the sound levels on a recording of a three-car pile-up for a while.

"You know how they say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach?" she asked, eventually.

Grissom nodded, and continued to adjust the sound levels.

"Evidently, the way to a single mother's heart is through her daughter."

Grissom stopped working and turned to Catherine. "What are you talking about?"

"Sara wanted to prove to me that she could be a good mother for Lindsey." Catherine said. She continued to grin, wider than Grissom had ever seen.

"So that's why," Grissom began.

"Yes," Catherine answered before he could finish. "For months, Sara has been ignoring me for my daughter, so she could develop a relationship with Lindsey outside of anything that she and I might have with each other." Catherine spun around in her chair.

"Am I to conclude that you and Sara have something with each other?"

Catherine grinned at him, blushed, and spun around again.

Grissom stared at her in amusement. "So your Valentine's Day went well?"

Catherine stopped spinning and sat up straight.

"She talked to Ecklie last week."

Grissom stared at Catherine, mouth agape.

Catherine laughed lightly, and almost squirmed in pleasure. "She asked him about the department's stance on same-sex relationships, and domestic partnerships, and health coverage, and leaves of absence, and pensions." Catherine's already wide smile only grew wider.

"Did she happen to ask about fraternization?" Grissom asked with a smile of his own.

"She asked about that, too." Catherine said, very smug.

"And what did Ecklie say?" Grissom asked obligingly.

"He said that as long as there were no chain of command issues, and as long as everyone stayed impartial, there was nothing he could do." Catherine gave her chair another spin. "And he said that the department has complete domestic partnerships guidelines, and all we would have to do is register as partners if we want those benefits."

"Wow," Grissom said. He looked at the computer and then back at Catherine.

"Yeah, wow," she agreed. "Sara said he didn't sound pleased, but she asked, and now he knows, and the department regulations will protect us from him, if he ever tries anything."

Grissom fiddled with the keyboard and then asked, "So she was planning this?"

Catherine nodded. "Everything, from the first trip to the winery. She said that once I had asked her out the first time, she started a campaign to win me over." Catherine had wound her arms around herself, but was still vibrating with pleasure.

"And the culmination was Valentine's Day?"

"She's a great planner," Catherine said.

Did you tell her you were already won over from the beginning and the whole ignoring you thing didn't work so well in her favor?" Grissom asked with a teasing grin.

Catherine returned his grin. "Yes."

"What did she say to that?"

"That she probably wouldn't have tried anything if she wasn't certain it would work out, and she was sorry for making me wait, but she thought it was more important for Lindsey to do it this way." Catherine glanced out of the lab into the hallway. Grissom followed her glance, but there wasn't anything there. Catherine turned her attention back to Grissom. He was frowning.

"Is that my fault?" he asked.

Catherine's smiled faltered a bit. "She didn't say, but I think it might have had something to do with you, or rather her relationship with you. Her lack of a relationship with you. Maybe you and Lindsey deserve equal blame." Catherine's smile became more knowing and less ecstatic.

Grissom gave her a genuine smile. "I'm happy for you, Catherine." He stood up to hug her.

She returned his hug. "I'm pretty happy for myself, Gil."

"So, is she even more beautiful without clothes?"

Catherine slapped him on the shoulder and blushed.

"I see," he said and raised an eyebrow.

She burst into laughter, and left the room. He watched her make her way down the hall, the grin never leaving her face, and then Catherine met Sara coming down the hallway.

Sara was grinning, too.

The End

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