DISCLAIMER: not mine, never were, not ever going to be.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: thanks to Anna and Cobra Angel for beta help.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: Companion piece to Stray Conversations.

Stray Friends
By The Last Good Name Left


Greg bounced into the layout room where Sara was assembling clothing from a stabbing. He watched her unpack the clothes from the evidence bags, and then begin to lay out the shirt.

"Did you hear about Jane and Simon?" he asked, breaking the silence.

Sara glanced up absently. "What?"

"Jane and Simon," Greg repeated, leaning on the table.

Sara blinked at Greg, and then went back to her evidence. "What about Jane and Simon?"

Greg smirked at her. "Hodges caught them in the break room a few days ago."

Sara finished arranging the clothing, and set up to examine it for blood. She began with the left cuff. "Caught them doing what?"


Sara looked at him and blushed. "Oh."

"Yes, oh," Greg said, and then leaned toward Sara. "Simon's pants were down, and Jane was...helping him."

Sara winced. "Hodges caught them?"

"Well, he saw them."

"And told you."

Greg shrugged. "It's my job to know these things."

"It's your job to know who's sleeping with whom?" Sara asked. "I thought your job was to investigate crime."

"That, too," agreed Greg.

Sara didn't answer.

"So, I didn't see that one coming."

"What?" Sara murmured.

Greg sighed, and shifted against the table. "Simon and Jane. I thought Simon had a thing for Warrick."

"What!?" Sara jerked up and stared at Greg.

Greg grinned. "Simon's always watching him, whenever Simon has to stay over shift or Warrick comes in early."


"Yeah," Greg confirmed. "Warrick's hot."

Sara stared at Greg, then shook her head.

"He is," Greg protested.


Greg glared at Sara. Sara ignored him.

Without looking up, she said "Besides, Warrick's not into guys."

"More's the pity," Greg said. "Well, he's got chemistry with David."

"David's got a girlfriend."

"That's not my final answer."

"Please," Sara said, and waved a hand at Greg. "Keep going."

"There's Detective Cavaliere."

Sara snorted. "You're kidding."

"Nope. He's hot, too," Greg said, and gave an exaggerated shiver.

"You've got a dirty mind, Greg."


Sara flipped over the clothing, and asked, "Who else? Any women, for instance?"

Greg shrugged. "Catherine. But everyone's got a thing for Catherine."

"Not everyone," said Sara.


Sara shook her head. "Is that it?"

"There's Malory. And Kellie, at the PD," Greg said.


"Detective Holzlander." Greg heaved a melodramatic sigh, and stared into the distance.

Sara shrugged.

"She's really hot," said Greg.

"Greg," Sara warned.

"Hey, I saw you checking her out last week," Greg protested. "That skirt and jacket?"

Sara didn't answer.

"Fine, if that's how you're going to be." Greg said, and crossed his arms.

Sara progressed her examination up the right edge of the shirt, and Greg watched in silence. As Sara tagged some blood she had found on the right shoulder, she asked, "So, not Jane?"


"For Simon," Sara said, and glanced at him. "You didn't have Jane as a prospect."

Greg shook his head, still watching Sara work. "Not really. But I can see how it happened."

"Why? Is she hot too?"

Greg shrugged. "Not as hot as Catherine. Or Holzlander."

Sara grinned at Greg as she found more blood on the lower part of the sleeve. "Is this what you do all day?"

"Sometimes," Greg said. "Want to join me?"

"In idle gossip?" Sara handed Greg her tools to double check the shirt for himself.

"No," he said. "In figuring out who would make the best couple." Greg followed Sara's line exactly, beginning with the left cuff.

"Among who?"

Greg took a moment to answer. "The CSIs and labrats." He paused at a spot on the collar, and looked at Sara, who shook her head. "And detectives, I guess," he said.

"Are the secretaries included?" Sara asked, smirking.

"Sure," Greg said. "That new girl—Sheryl, I think—would be great for Nick."

Sara watched Greg progress down the bulk of the shirt. "Why?"

Greg grinned, but didn't pause in his examination. "She used to be a dancer."

"A dancer?"

"Yeah, and then some," Greg said knowingly.


"That's what I heard."

Sara pursed her lips. "You don't think Nick and Warrick?"

"No." Greg shook his head. "Warrick's straight. Besides, if Warrick was going to date anyone at work, it'd be Catherine."

"You think?"

"I know." Greg stopped on the blood stain Sara had found, and peered at it. He placed his own tag on the stain, and glanced at Sara for confirmation.

She nodded, and said, "That can't be the only person Nick has chemistry with."

"Nope." Greg shook his head. "Grissom."


"Yeah," Greg said, and focused closer on the large stain on the sleeve of the shirt.

When Sara didn't answer, Greg looked up. Sara was staring at the far wall, her face expressionless.

"Oh God, Sara, I totally forgot," he said, wincing. "I'm sorry."

"Forget it," said Sara, and looked down at the shirt again.

"No. I'm really sorry."

"I said forget it," repeated Sara, not looking at Greg.

Greg stared at Sara. Sara stared at the shirt. When Greg didn't continue his examination, Sara sighed, and gave him a small smile.

"So," she said, "you think Nick and Grissom?"

Greg relaxed, and refocused on the shirt. "A little bit. It's one way, though. Grissom'd never notice."

"Grissom doesn't notice much," agreed Sara.

Greg winced again. "I'm really sorry, Sara."

"Greg, it's ok," Sara said. "So, who does Grissom notice, if it's not Nick or me?"

Greg glanced at Sara. "Well, Catherine, of course. Everyone has a thing for Catherine."

Sara shook her head. "You already said that, and you're wrong. Not everyone has a thing for Catherine."

"Yes," he said, "everyone has a thing for Catherine. Nick, Grissom, even Brass. Ecklie has a thing for Catherine."

"No," Sara said, appalled.

"Yeah, it's kind of icky," said Greg. He continued, "David, Doc Robbins, Detective Vartann. Me. You. Everyone."

"I don't have a thing for Catherine."

"Sara, it's okay," Greg said, smiling at her. "We all do. Especially when she's showing a little cleavage." Greg's smile grew.

"I don't have a thing for Catherine," said Sara, and handed Greg a pair of scissors.


Sara cut him off. "I don't."

"You do," Greg said. "You watch her whenever you think you can get away with it."

Sara grabbed the scissors from him. She snipped at the smallest blood stain. "Like you watch me?"

"Ouch," Greg said, watching her slice around the larger stain in the cuff. "That's harsh."

Sara ignored him.

After Sara had tagged and placed aside the two stained pieces of cloth for sampling, Greg spoke again. "At least I don't try to hide it."

"I'm not hiding it," Sara said. "I don't have a thing for Catherine."

"Fine. It's not a thing. You don't have a crush on Catherine."

Sara ignored Greg, and examined the jeans from cuff to waist and down again. She tagged as she went, and when she was finished, she grabbed the scissors, without giving Greg a chance to do his own examination.

"Sara, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything."

"No. You shouldn't have."

Sara began to process the jeans for DNA collection, and continued to ignore Greg.

"Sara," Greg tried again.


"If it helps, it's not one-sided. Catherine looks, too."

"At who?" Sara said, and scrawled information on the side of an evidence tube.

Greg sighed. "At you."

"She does?"


"But," Sara trailed off.

Greg offered a small smile. "She loves those gray jeans you just got. I think Catherine's an ass woman."


"She is!" Greg protested. "She looks at Warrick's butt, and Grissom's, and even Doc Robbins'. But mostly yours."

Sara glanced down at her trousers and blushed. "You cannot be serious."

"I am. She does."

"Oh God," Sara said, and handed Greg the scissors.

Sara dumped a bags of detritus on the table, and placed two other bags on the floor. Greg put down his four bags, and stared at the pile on the table. Sara slapped a pair of gloves at him, and grinned. He hesitated, then slid the gloves on.

"Three piles. Organic, man-made, and other," Sara said, and began to sort. Greg watched her sort most of the first bag before joining her.

As Sara poured out the second bag, Greg asked, "So, I hear Catherine invited you to a wine tasting?"


"Are you going to go?"

"I don't know."

"C'mon, Sara, you know you want to," Greg pushed.

"Yeah, but," she said.

"Sara, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Greg said. "Catherine doesn't ask just anyone to spend time with her outside of work. And drinks after a tough case don't count."

Sara shrugged again. Greg held up something unidentifiable, and Sara pointed at the appropriate pile. Greg nodded, and they continued to sort in silence.

As they finished the second bag, Sara asked, "Do you think she'd let Lindsey come, too?"

Greg stopped sorting. "Why do you want Lindsey to go with you?"

Sara didn't answer.

He grabbed a third bag, and under Sara's direction, poured it onto the table. When he was finished, he said, "Catherine's probably thinking this is a date, you know."

Sara stared at the trash. "I know," she said. Greg began sorting, and Sara watched him. "That's why I want Lindsey to come with us; this can't be a date. If things don't work out, I'm out on my ass."

Greg frowned over a piece of debris that matched his earlier unidentifiable piece. "What are you talking about?"

Sara took the two matching items and held them up to the light. "Ecklie might be an asshole, but he's a perceptive asshole," she said. Greg peered over her shoulder. "How do you think it'll look for me to have rumors about failed relationships with not just one but two supervisors?"

"Good point."

Sara put the two pieces aside in a special pile of their own. "Yeah."

"So, Lindsey."

"Yeah," Sara repeated.

Greg scowled at some moldy sweet and sour chicken stuck to his glove, and shook his hand over the organic pile. Sara grinned at him. "I think she'll say yes," he said, as he took off his gloves and put on a new pair.


Greg avoided the rest of the sweet and sour mold, and replied, "She adores Lindsey, and the kid'll provide a chaperone."

"It's just an outing between friends," said Sara.

Greg snorted. "Are you scared of Catherine, Sara?"

Sara didn't say anything. She used a wipe from the garbage to pick up the small bit of sweet and sour chicken left on the table, checked the wipe for non-organic material, and placed it near the organics pile.

"You are!" Greg said. "You're scared of Catherine."

"So are you," Sara retorted.

Greg nodded. "She hasn't ever asked me out."

"She's never asked me out, either. This is just something between friends."

"And you want to bring her daughter along. I don't think that's a very good idea."

"Well, she's a mom," Sara said. She poked at a pile of paperclips, wood shavings, and an unidentifiable object, held together with a dark viscous material. "She probably doesn't get to see Lindsey that much."

"Sara, do you really think you're going to get a goodnight kiss with Lindsey there?"

Sara glared at Greg.

"You do know what a date is, don't you?" he teased.

"It's not a date. Besides, she's not like anyone I've ever been interested in, and this is not like any other circumstance I've ever been in."

Greg frowned. "You've dated women."

"Not like this. And it's not a date."

"Not single moms?" Greg asked. He pulled at a few rubberbands. They stretched as he tugged them. They were caught on something, and Sara watched him fiddle with them.

Sara grimaced. "Single mother co-workers, with dead ex-husbands, and close family ties to prominent business people, and a long personal history in a small town."

"History?" asked Greg. His rubber bands were stuck.

"I'm not telling you anything, Greg," Sara said, and shoved his shoulder.

The rubber bands slipped out of his hands into the pile. "Aw," he complained, and dug to find them again. "That's not what I was asking," he said. "I want to know whose history you're worried about, hers? Or yours?"

"Do your collection," Sara snapped.

"Yes, your majesty," said Greg. One rubber band finally snapped free and flicked moldy sweet and sour chicken on to Greg's labcoat. Greg flinched; Sara smiled viciously.

Greg exited the building into the sharp February sunlight. He blinked several times to clear his concentration and looked around for Sara. He spotted her sitting on the curb about 20 feet from the front entrance. He ambled over to her, and plopped down on the curb.

"Hey," he said.

Sara didn't look up. She was fiddling with a pen, flipping it in her fingers. "Hey."

Greg stared at the parking lot for a few minutes, watching the busy street beyond. "Nick told me about the case."


Greg turned to Sara. "Sounds rough."

"Do you have a question?" Sara asked, still not meeting Greg's eyes.

He shrugged. "I thought you might like someone to talk to."

Sara snorted. "And you think it should to be you?"

Greg winced and shifted. "I'm here," he said, "and I'm offering."

Sara didn't answer.

"It might help," he said.

Sara glanced at him. "How do you know?"

"Sometimes Warrick lets me talk to him about stuff."


"Cases," said Greg. He watched her flip the pen, over and over and over again. "It's different out there," he said. "In the lab, we never really know the victims. Out there, that's the stuff that gives you nightmares."



"She's twelve years old, Greg," said Sara. "What do you want me to say?"

Greg flinched. "Hey. Don't get mad at me."

Sara's shoulders slumped, and she the pen stilled. "I know," she said. They watched a detective pull up and enter the building. "But where the hell were her teachers? Where was her mother?" Sara turned to Greg. "A stranger on the street noticed something and told someone. No one who cares about this kid ever did anything," Sara said, and let the pen drop on the asphalt.

Greg leaned over, picked up the pen, and began to twirl it himself. Twice he caught the pen just before it hit the ground. "But someone did notice," he said.

Sara leaned back and stared at the sky. Greg dropped the pen and swore.

Sara said, "She said it started when she was nine."

Greg dropped the pen again and stared at Sara.

Sara didn't meet his eyes. "Three years, Greg. And no one did anything."

Greg hunched over, wrapping his arms around his knees. He picked up the pen again, and used it to poke at the asphalt.

"How can someone do that to a little girl?" Sara asked.

Greg didn't answer.

Sara turned to Greg. "It's a lot safer in the lab."

Greg nodded.

Sara waited for him to say something.

The same detective who had just arrived exited the building, this time carrying a file. They watched him climb into his car and drive away.

"But that's why we're not in the lab," Greg said slowly. "So we can do something for her."

"Too little, too late."

Greg's eyes flicked across Sara's face. "It's never too late, Sara."

"Sometimes it is." Sara grabbed her pen from him and went back inside.

When Sara passed the break room, Greg was microwaving leftovers, bopping his head to music only he could hear and banging on imaginary drums with his fork. She hesitated for a moment before straightening her shoulders and entering the room.

"Hey Greg," she said, "can I talk to you?"

Greg spun around and smiled at Sara. "Sure. What's up?"

Sara edged into the room and watched Greg's dinner. "This thing, with Catherine," she said, gave a half-shrug.

"You went to the winery?"

She nodded, and Greg hopped in excitement. Sara grinned.

"So, did you tell her why you canceled before?"



Sara shook her head. "Look, this thing with Catherine," she repeated.


"I don't want to—" she started.

"What?" Greg asked when Sara didn't finish.

"I don't want to hurt you," she said. "I don't have that many friends, and you said that you—"

"That I like you?" he interrupted.

"Yeah," said Sara with another half-shrug.

Greg rolled his shoulders. "I do," he said. "I have for a long time." He glanced at the microwave and then back at Sara. "But it's okay."

Sara blanched. "It is?"

"Yeah," he said. He grinned at her. "But you have to share the details."

"I'm not going to give you details, Greg," Sara said.

"C'mon, Sara. Please?"


He raised an eyebrow. "I'll do all your labwork."

She smiled and shook her head. "You have your own cases now."



Rather than answer, Greg made pleading faces at Sara. She laughed at him.

When the microwave beeped, Greg turned his attention to his food.

"So it's okay?" Sara asked.

"Yeah, it's fine," Greg said, waving his fork at her. "Anyone in the world would pick Catherine over me. Especially a lesbian."

"I'm sorry. If I could," offered Sara.

"Nah," Greg said. "But I will get you to share." He shook the fork at her. She smiled and shook her head. "Why not?" he asked.

"Just no. Besides, there's nothing to share, yet."

Greg frowned. "Why not?"

"There isn't."

Greg shook his head. "You shouldn't have brought Lindsey along."

"That's not it," Sara said. "I just want to go slow."

"Sara, there's slow, and then there's stalled on the side of the road burning out your engine."

Sara stared at Greg.

"Fine. Slow," he agreed. "Where are you going next?"

Sara grinned. "I'm taking Lindsey to Lake Mead. I'm teaching her some photography."

"And Catherine?" Greg asked. "The woman you're dating?"

"She's coming, and we're not dating."

Greg nodded and smirked at Sara briefly before asking, "Is she learning photography, too?"

"No. She's driving."

"You're making your girlfriend drive?" Greg mumbled around a mouthful of food. "That's harsh."

"She's not my girlfriend," Sara protested.

"She isn't?"

"It was one friendly outing."

"But you're going out again."

"No," said Sara. "Maybe. I don't know."

"Sara, you're insane," Greg said. "This is Catherine."

"Yeah, and if I fuck this up," Sara began.

Greg shrugged and interrupted her. "If you don't do anything, you'll have fucked it up royally anyway."

Sara stepped out of her truck and grabbed her kit. She walked up to main entrance of the apartment complex where Greg was standing holding his kit, his gloves already on.

"Why're you so exited?" she teased.

Greg scowled at her. Sara laughed, and followed an officer up to the third floor of the building. The door to one of the apartments was kicked in. The locks were broken, the frame was knocked in, and the door itself had a large hole in the middle. Sara indicated that Greg should take the first pass at the door.

"You know the best thing about living in Las Vegas?" Greg asked.

"The gambling?" said Sara.

"No," replied Greg. "The desert. There's a meteor shower in a couple of weeks, and it's always better in the desert."

Sara frowned. "Isn't there a lot of light pollution around here?"

"Nah," said Greg. "Just go over the mountains a little, and it's all blocked out. The visibility is great."

"I didn't know you were into astronomy," Sara said.

"Yeah, it's sort of a hobby," said Greg. "It's great for dates."


Greg grinned. "You take a girl out to the desert, bring some hot drinks and couple of blankets or a sleeping bag, and you lay down and look at the stars."

Sara watched Greg peer at a mark on the entry floor. She handed him a number tag to mark the spot, and then said, "I bet Lindsey would like that."

Greg frowned at Sara. "She's a little young for me."

Sara rolled her eyes. "I mean for something we can do together," she said.

Greg shook his head. "I think you missed the point," he explained. "I have never not scored watching the stars."

"I don't think Catherine is the type to lay in the dirt all night," Sara said.

She pointed at one of a dozen small white feathers floating around the living room. Greg glanced at her to ascertain how he was supposed to recover the evidence. Sara's shrug was exaggerated, and Greg made a face.

"How do you know?" Greg asked petulantly, and grabbed at a feather. It floated away. He spent the next 20 minutes trying to capture feathers while Sara and the officers on scene attempted to suppress their giggles.

Once he had snagged the last of the visible feathers, Greg turned to Sara. "I think you're just scared she's going to say no. Actually, I think you're scared she's going to say yes."

Sara stared at him. Greg returned her stare calmly.

"I'm going to ask Lindsey if she wants to see something astronomically interesting," Sara said. She photographed a clean carving knife laying out of place on the kitchen counter. "When did you say it is?" she asked.

"On the 22nd. But Sara," Greg began.


"You are going to bring Catherine along, too, right?" he asked as he bagged the knife.

"I don't know," Sara said, opening cabinets and drawers.

Greg followed her, photographing everything. "Sara, you can't do this. I get that you need to go slow."

Sara pointed at a blood stain on the refrigerator door, and Greg nodded.

"It's been two months," he continued, "and you're going as slow as possible without moving backwards."

When Sara opened the cabinet under the sink and pulled out the garbage, Greg frowned. Sara smirked at him. Greg sighed before reaching into the garbage and pulling out three bloody paper towels.

"I get that you want to get to know them both better," he said, waving the bloody towels at Sara. "But you can't do this to the woman you're dating."

"I told you, we're not dating," Sara said. She was peering into the pantry, her back to Greg.

Greg bagged his paper towels, and then bagged the rest of the garbage. "What are you talking about"

From deep inside the pantry, Sara said, "She's just a friend."

"Friends don't want to tear each other's clothes off." Greg asked, still searching the cabinetry.

"We're co-workers who enjoy each others company. That's all," she said, her voice muffled.

Greg came to the pantry entry. "Sara," he said.

"I know," she said, turning to face him. "But Lindsay seems to like hanging out with me, and I don't feel as intimidated by her, and," she trailed off.

Greg shook his head. "Just be careful."

"What do you mean?"

"Once Catherine realizes that you're blowing hot and cold," he said, and handed Sara the camera again. She took a photograph of the large puddle of blood at the back of the pantry.

"Is that what I'm doing?"

"I have no idea," Greg said. "Either you're trying to get into Lindsey's pants—"

Sara glared at Greg, and set the flash off in his face.

Greg winced and rubbed his eyes with his wrist. "—or you're trying to run away from Catherine." He finshed and blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision. "She isn't going to like either option."

"That's not what I'm doing."

"Yes, it is," replied Greg. They exited the pantry. "Just be careful you don't mess things up with Catherine."

"Hey," said Greg, and sat down on the low wall next to Sara. "You okay?"

Sara shrugged. "Sometimes I hate my job."

Greg nodded. "I'm getting that too." He nodded toward the swarm of people, cars, and equipment scattered around the main entrance to the middle school. "Hell of a case."

"And it's not over."

"No," he agreed.

A deputy approached them with two cups of coffee. Greg thanked him, and handed one of the cups to Sara.

He watched her stare into the cup. "When was the last time you took a day off?"

"I don't know," Sara said, not looking up. "June? 4th of July?"

"It's August."

"I know."

Greg sighed and took a sip of his coffee. "You have to take some time off, Sara. Get out a little."

Sara tipped her cup and watched the coffee approach the edge of the cup. She stopped tilting when the coffee was staying in the cup only through surface tension. "Lindsey and I went to a minor league game last night," she said.

Greg up his cup down on the wall. "You worked 16 hours yesterday, and this shift isn't going to end anytime soon."

"Is there something you wanted?"

Greg watched as the sheriff approached a knot of people and lights to give a press conference. Dozens of cameras and reporters surrounded him, and he looked haggard. "I want my friend not to burn out," Greg said.

"I'm not burning out," Sara replied.

Greg didn't say anything more until the Sheriff was finished with his press briefing. The reporters had broken away and returned to their trucks, and the Sheriff wandered over to a mobile lab.

"Catherine's been on a rampage all week," Greg said.

"That's not my fault," said Sara, and poured her cold coffee onto the cement in front of them. It splashed against their boots. Greg watched it collect and run down the path away from them.

"It isn't?" he asked. "You had this great thing, and you just fucked it up."

"Like you warned me I would?"

"If you're not going to give her what she needs, then you need to back off so someone else can," said Greg.

"Who, you? You're a little boy, Greg. You couldn't possibly give Catherine what she needs." Sara stared at the spilled coffee.

"Neither can you, obviously," Greg said.

"Greg, don't fuck with me right now."

Greg shrugged. "You work too hard. I know this is a tough case, but you're going to lose it."

Sara didn't reply.

"You can't solve everything all by yourself," he said into the silence.

Sara looked at him. "Someone has to, when it's not sexy or popular, and it's just someone's life."

"It's not your job," Greg said.

"Greg, my job isn't fieldwork or being in the lab. That's not what this is about."

"Then explain it to me," he said. "Because it sounds like you'd rather sit over a microscope than spend time with Catherine, and I'll bet that's what she thinks, too."

Sara stared at Greg, and then at the television trucks, and then back at Greg. When the silence had stretched uncomfortably long, she spoke.

"Brenda Miller's foster mother says that she sometimes goes three or four nights without a nightmare now."

"Who's Brenda Miller?"

"Quadruple homicide, five years ago?" Sara said. She watched the cadets assembling to leave. "The daughter had been sexually molested by her father, and then when the father started in on his granddaughter, the daughter got her boyfriend to kill the entire family."

"Holy shit," breathed Greg.

"Yeah," agreed Sara.

Sara watched Catherine and Grissom cross the patio, and Greg followed her gaze. "Brenda is about Lindsey's age, and she can't sleep through the night because she's still waiting for her father to come visit her."

"Oh God."

Sara met Greg's horrified eyes. "It's not just the lab."

Greg swallowed. "How come you know all this stuff?"

Sara shrugged. "Brenda and I spend time together, sometimes. Her foster mother says that Brenda freaks out when I miss a visit."

Greg opened and closed his mouth several times, searching for something to say. "It's been five years."

Sara glanced back at the media trucks and reporters. "Why do you think I don't take time off?" she said. "It's not just a job, Greg."

Sara watched the roaming CSIs, police, and detectives wander the site. Greg watched Sara.

"Who else do you do this for?" Greg eventually asked.

"Does it matter?" Sara replied. "Everyone keeps telling me I'm too close to the victims, that I'm going to burn out. Even you. But someone has to do something."

"It matters, Sara," he said.

"If I don't do it, who will?"

Greg grabbed Sara's sleeve. "You can't save everyone."

Sara pulled her arm away from Greg. "I don't have time to give to Catherine right now. Brenda needs me. Darrin needs me."

"What about what you need?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Yes it does," he said, and rested his hand on her back. "Sara, don't do this."

"What am I supposed to do?" she asked.

Greg didn't answer.

Sara had finished explaining the steps they needed to take apart the Explorer engine. They had already found blood under the hood, but didn't know where it had come from.

Sara hooked up the winch to the engine block, and slowly raised it off of the chassis. "Greg," Sara said.

Greg caught the engine and swung it around to the site they had arranged. "Yeah?" he grunted.

"I'm sorry." She finished lowering the engine on to the bench, and unhooked the winch.

Greg frowned at Sara and wiped the sweat off his forehead. "For what?"

She sighed and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Getting on your case for caring about me."

Greg searched her face. "Did something happen?"

"Not really," Sara shrugged. "I just spent an entire shift avoiding Catherine."


Sara looked away and fiddled with the engine. "She invited me to come with her and Lindsey to the beginning of the year barbecue at Lindsey's school."

"And you said?" Greg prompted, peering over her shoulder.

"I haven't said anything yet."

"Sara," Greg chastised.

"I know," she said. Sara gave him a brief smile. "You know, sometimes I really wish it was you. This would be so much easier."

Greg raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, sometimes I wish that, too."

Sara stopped working. "But you're not Catherine."

"Too bad," said Greg. "She's got great hair."

Sara stared at Greg.

"She does," he protested.

Sara didn't respond.

"So you're going to say no, huh?" Greg asked.

"Probably," replied Sara.


"I'm scared, okay?" Sara spurted. "You're right, I've probably fucked this up beyond repair, and a woman like Catherine isn't going to sit around waiting forever. I have no idea how to fix this."

"Say yes," said Greg with a shrug.


"Just go to the barbecue," Greg said. "Say yes to this one thing. It doesn't have to be a date. Show up separately, hang out with Lindsey, say hi to Catherine. Just don't keep ignoring her."

"You think that'll help?"

"It can't hurt," said Greg.

Sara nodded.

Greg paused, then said, "And take some time off."

Sara smiled wanly.

Sara was standing in the locker room, staring at her locker.

"Hey Sara," Greg said.

Sara didn't respond

"You okay?"

Sara turned to him, but her eyes were unfocused. "I think I just scarred a small child for life."

"What are you talking about?" he asked.

Sara gaze went back to her locker. "I think Lindsey and I just had the talk."

"The what?" He frowned at her.

"The sex talk," Sara said slowly. "We talked about sex."


Sara nodded.

"Catherine's Lindsey?" he repeated.

Sara nodded again.

"You are so dead," Greg said.

Sara stared at Greg, and then nodded a third time. She slumped down onto the bench, and rested her forehead in her hands.

"Why'd you have the talk with Lindsey?" he asked. "Doesn't Catherine know more about sex than the rest of the lab combined?"

Sara glared up at Greg.

"I didn't mean it like that," he protested.

"Yes, you did," Sara said, leaning over again.

"Why'd Lindsey ask you?"

"I have no idea."

Greg stared down at Sara and frowned. He opened his mouth several times, but didn't speak. He sat down next to Sara, still staring at her.

"What'd you say?"

"I have no idea," Sara repeated.

Greg nodded. They sat in silence listening to Jane and Simon make arrangements for dinner after shift. Once they had left, Greg asked, "What did you talk about?"

"Sex. Attraction."

"Attraction?" he asked.

Sara straightened and looked at Greg. "How do you know if you like someone that way," she said, making air quotes.

"What'd you tell her?"

"You just do," Sara said and shrugged. "It isn't something that you can force, or make happen, or stop."

"Did you mention the whole," he said, and ended his sentence with a vague hand gesture.

"That's why she asked." She took a deep breath, and said, "She thinks her English teacher is the most beautiful woman in the world, and she was devastated when she found out there is a Mr. Scherferton."

"There is?"

Sara stared at Greg.

"Lindsey's gay?" Greg said doubtfully.

Sara frowned at him. "Lindsey is barely old enough to go on the big kid rides at the amusement park."

"Yeah, but," he started.

"Greg, I have no idea," she said, cutting him off. "I don't know what I was supposed to tell her."

"What did you tell her?"

Sara blew out out a breath and stared at her locker. "That sometimes you like people for lots of reasons, and it doesn't matter who you like, as long as you treat them right."

"Ah, so you don't actually like Catherine," Greg teased.

"Fuck off, Greg."

"What did she say?"

"She asked me if I thought women were attractive," Sara said, glancing at Greg.

"She doesn't know about you and Catherine?"

Sara sighed. "She asked me if I found women other than Catherine attractive."


"Greg, I already told you. I'm a bisexual lesbian."

"And you told Lindsey that?" Greg said, frowning.

"Without the rant about lesbian politics, yes," Sara said.

"What'd she think?"

Sara released a choked laugh. "She said if I'm a bisexual lesbian, her mom is a bisexual straight woman."


"God, Greg," Sara said, her head back in her hands. "I think she knows more about this stuff than I do."

"With a mother like Catherine," Greg said.


Greg smirked. "Did you have to tell her where babies come from?"

Sara gave him a terrified glance over her shoulder.

"You did?" Greg asked, aghast.

"No. But she asked what an orgasm was."

They exchanged mortified glances. Greg scooted away from Sara, and Sara groaned into her hands.

"What did you say?" Greg asked, his gaze fixed on the locker in front of him. "You didn't give her the scientific answer, did you?"

Sara didn't answer.


"I know," she said. She tilted her head back and stared at the ceiling. "I scarred her for life. She's never going to have sex, and it's all my fault."

Greg said, "Did you at least tell her that it feels good?"

"If you do it right," she replied. "Of course I did. And I emphasized the whole, 'within a loving and monogamous relationship,' thing."

"That's good."

"Catherine's going to strangle me," Sara moaned.

"I can't believe she asked you about this," Greg said.

"Neither can I. What do I know about sex?"

Greg looked at Sara speculatively. Sara shoved him.

"You're right," Sara said and stood up. "One of the Willows women is going to kill me. If not the mother, then the daughter."

"You've survived so far," Greg said.

"So far. I haven't seen Catherine yet."

"It sounds like you," Greg began, then trailed off.


"I don't know," he said. "I'm really squicked by this conversation."

"Yeah, well, the next time an almost-teenager wants to talk to you about sex, I'm going to laugh at you," Sara said and stood up.

"I'm not laughing," protested Greg.

"Yes, you are. Catherine's going to kill me."

"You'll be fine," Greg said. "After that, nothing could faze you."

Sara blinked at this. "You're probably right," she said.

"So go ask Catherine out," Greg said.

Sara glared at Greg.

"You enjoyed the school barbecue," he said. "You've survived the sex talk. What else is there?" Greg slung an arm around Sara's shoulders. "Besides, what's the worst that could happen? You've already gotten suspended for your romantic interludes."

"Fuck. Does everyone know about that?"

"Yes, but unlike Grissom, we know that this one likes you back, and you like her, and it's all fine if you just get off your ass and do something about it."

"Yeah, but," Sara protested.

"Yeah, but nothing. Go. Now," Greg said, and made shooing motions at Sara.

"You think?"

"Sara," Greg said, and put his hands on Sara's shoulders. "It's been six months, and she's still chasing you. Go get caught." He turned Sara around, and pushed her toward the locker room door.

"When you put it like that," Sara said, not moving.

"So you'll actually try and make this work?" Greg asked. "You have to promise."

"I promise I'll try," said Sara.

"Really try, Sara," said Greg. "None of this half-assed shit."

"Yes, Greg I'll really try." Sara opened the door.

"Great," Greg said, and followed Sara out.

"Okay, Linds. I'll see you then," Sara said and closed her cell phone with a snap. She turned to Greg.

"You're bailing on me for Thanksgiving?" he asked.

"No, I'm not," Sara said. "I told her I was eating with you."

"Sara, of course you're going over to Catherine's. Don't be silly," Greg objected.

Sara watched Greg dust the handle of a baseball bat. "Why am I going to Catherine's?"

"Because you're in love with her, and it's been months since you decided to tell her how you feel and fix this whole mess, and you still haven't done anything yet," Greg said, not looking up.

"It hasn't been months," said Sara.

"Sara. Focus."

"I don't want to go to Lindsey's," she whined.

"Why not?"

"Because her mother's going to be there," Sara said.

"Lindsey's mother?" Greg asked. "I thought that was the point."

"Catherine's mother," Sara explained. "And Catherine's sister. And Catherine's nephew."

"Ooh, you get to meet the family," Greg said.


"It'll be fine. You can be charming when you want to be," he said.

"No, I can't," complained Sara. "I don't do charming, and Catherine's family is probably as outgoing as she is. I'll stick out like a sore thumb."

"You'll be fine," Greg soothed. "You'll have fun, and I'll be stuck at home waiting to get called in."

"I'll just come over to your house," said Sara.

"I'm uninviting you."

Sara frowned. "But you'll be all alone."

"I'll be in the lab," Greg said.

"What if there are no crimes?"

"It's Las Vegas," said Greg. "There's always crime."

Sara wandered into the lab and peered over Greg's shoulder. "Hey," she said. "So you did get called in."

"It happens," said Greg. "Crime doesn't quit." He finished organizing his photos of a nondescript living room covered in broken glass, ceramic shards, and wood splinters.

"You want some help?" she asked.

Greg smirked over his shoulder at her. "Are you offering?"

"Yes," replied Sara, and moved to the nearby pile of evidence bags. "What is this?"

"Home invasion. The family is at the hospital," Greg said.

Sara sorted the bags. "Are they okay?"

Greg said, "Minor injuries. The son managed to hide in his closet and call the cops."

"That's good," said Sara. "So we're following up?"

Greg shook his head. "They got away."


"Yeah." He gave Sara a hopeful grin. "Help me catch the bad guys?"

Sara smiled at him, and opened the first evidence bag. They had assembled part of two lamps covered in fingerprints and blood and what might have once been a chair back that had more blood and some torn skin when Greg broke the silence.

"How was dinner?"

Sara grimaced. "Painful. I made a fool of myself."

"What'd you do?"

"Talked. Incessantly," she said, and winced again. "About Harvard, about physics, about Lindsey's math class. It was awful."

"I'm sure it wasn't that bad," Greg soothed.

"Yes, it was," said Sara.

They had finished reassembling the first lamp, and Greg was lifting fingerprints when Sara continued.

"And the worst part is, I still haven't talked to Catherine."

"You haven't?"

"No," she said. "But we're all going to the Natural History Museum on Saturday."

Greg stared. "Why?"

"Because it's fun," said Sara. "Do you want to come?"

"No. It's not fun, Sara," said Greg.

"Lindsey likes it."

"Lindsey likes hanging out with you," Greg corrected.

Sara stared at him. "You don't think she likes the museum?"

Greg sighed. "No kid likes to spend their Saturday at a museum. They like to go to the mall, or the arcade."

"She sounded interested," protested Sara.

"She'd go with you to a lecture on Grissom's bugs," said Greg.

"Those are interesting."

"No, they're not."

Sara glowered at remains of the second lamp. "You really think she doesn't like the museum?" she asked. "They've got dinosaurs."

"You are such a geek," said Greg.

"And you're not?"

"I don't make 12-year-olds come with me."

"Everyone likes dinosaurs," said Sara petulantly.

"Lindsey's not a little kid anymore," Greg said. "She's growing up, Sara. She might want to branch out to, you know, interesting things."

"She's never said anything."

Greg smiled. "I'll bet Catherine is going to enjoy it."

"She seemed pretty interested."

"She probably just wants to spend time with you," said Greg.

"Not after I was a complete ass in front of her family," Sara said.

Greg wrapped an arm around Sara. "They both love to spend time with you, Sara."

"You just said neither of them like to go to museums."

"They'd hang out with you at a sewage treatment plant," teased Greg.

"Hey. Those are interesting."

Greg stared at her in amazement.

"They are," Sara protested.

Sara peered into her empty beer bottle. "You want another?" she asked.

Greg blinked several times. "Sure." He looked up at Sara, and said seriously, "We're going to have to get a cab home."

Sara nodded. "We didn't drive here."

"Oh, yeah," said Greg.

Sara pushed her way through the New Year's Eve crowd, and Greg watched the crowd, cheering and singing loudly. When Sara returned, Greg grinned at her and they toasted the new year.

A few hours later, once she was ensconced on her couch next to Greg, Sara mumbled, "Thanks for bringing me home, Greg."

Greg said, "I'm not leaving."

"What?" Sara looked at him and squinted.

"I can't stand up."

"Oh." Sara frowned but didn't move.

Greg leaned back, wrapped his arms around Sara, and pulled her back against him. She resisted, but he kept tugging at her until she slumped against him, exhausted and off-balance.

Greg left his arms loosely around Sara, and they sat in silence. Once Sara relaxed, he said, "I had a good time tonight, Sara."

Sara leaned her head back to meet his eyes. "Me, too. Did it get your mind off Kellie?"

"Carrie," Greg corrected. "Yes."

"Right, Carrie. Good," Sara said, nodding.

"What about you?" he asked.

Sara frowned.

"Did it get your mind off Catherine?" he elaborated.

Sara shook her head.


"I'm going to do it," Sara announced.

"Do what?"

"I'm going to make my move."

Greg didn't respond immediately. "When?"

"Soon. Valentine's Day," said Sara.

"That's next month."

"February 14th, just like every year," Sara confirmed.

Greg peered at her. "Soon is in six weeks?"

"I have to plan."

Greg took a moment to contemplate that as well. "Plan what?"

"What I'm going to do."

Greg shook his head. "Just say, 'Catherine, I love you, and I want to jump your bones'."

"I can't do that," Sara objected.

"Why not?"

Sara twisted around to face him. "Has that line ever worked for you?"

"Not yet, but it might," he said.

"I have to do this right, Greg."

Greg shrugged. "You have to do this. You can't keep putting it off."

"I'm not. I'm just," Sara said.


"I don't know how to do relationships." She rubbed her arms, shivering. Finally, she said, "I'm scared," and sat up.

"Of what?"

Sara drew her knees up against her chest and didn't answer. Greg continue to lounge back and remained quiet.

Sara plucked at a nonexistent spot on her couch. "That I'm just like my parents," she whispered finally. She tightened her grip on her knees. "That I'm going to fuck up Catherine like I fucked up my family. That I'm not going to be able to stop myself, or stop anyone else. "

Greg stared at Sara. "Stop anyone from what?"

"Hurting someone."

Greg shifted on the couch and Sara flinched. Greg froze.

"I'm not my dad," Sara whispered.


"I'm not my mother, either," Sara said louder. "I'm stronger than both of them."

Greg nodded frantically. "You are."

"I can do this," Sara said.

"You can," said Greg. He reached out a hand, and when Sara didn't flinch again, touched her shoulder. "You're the strongest person I know."

"I can do this," she repeated, softer. "I can learn how to do this."

"Yes," Greg agreed, and wrapped his arms around Sara again. Sara let him, and they sat in silence for a long time.

When Sara stumbled into the kitchen the next morning, squinting at the sunshine, Greg was sitting at the table with coffee waiting. She made an indistinct sound at him, and sat down. He waited until Sara had finished her first cup and gotten a refill before he spoke.

"What were you talking about last night?"


Greg shifted in his seat. "Did your parents hurt you, Sara?"

Sara's face paled and her eyes widened. "What did I say?"

"Nothing, much," said Greg with a half shrug. "Just that you were scared, and you didn't want to hurt Catherine. Or Catherine to hurt you. It won't happen, Sara."

"Oh, fuck," said Sara and covered her face with her hands.

Greg played with his mug, waiting for Sara to speak again. "Did you parents hurt you?" he repeated.

Sara didn't answer, but her shoulders were shaking.

"Sara?" he tried again, and pushed his chair back. Sara shrank back at the sound, and Greg stopped moving. "It's okay. No one is going do that to you again."

Sara still didn't move.

"I'm sorry," he said.

Sara's head jerked. Greg stared at the top of her head.

"It's okay, Sara," he whispered. "You're not your parents. You're nothing like them."

"What if I am?" she whispered.

Greg shook his head. "You're not. I trust you. Catherine trusts you."

"I trusted my parents."

"You are not them."

Sara finally looked up. Her face was streaked with tears. She whispered, "There are so many ways to fuck up someone's life."

"You've never done anything to fuck up anyone's life."

Sara snorted. "How do you know?"

"Because I talk to Catherine. I talk to Lindsey. They love hanging out with you."

Sara shook her head. "What if they don't know? Nobody knew about me before."

"I know, Sara," Greg said. He took a deep breath. "You won't hurt Catherine. Catherine won't hurt you."

Sara scrubbed at her face absently, and stared at the cabinets behind Greg. "Promise?"

"Yeah. I do."

Sara didn't say anything more. After 10 minutes of silence, Greg got up and showered. When he returned to the kitchen, Sara hadn't moved. He inched toward the door, but before he got there, Sara spoke.

"Listen, Greg, I want to apologize for freaking out on you," she said, and glanced briefly at his eyes. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have dumped all that on you."

Greg approached her, stopping at the edge of the kitchen. "Sara, I'm your friend. If you can't spill on me, who can you?" He hesitated, and then put a hand on her arm. "I'm just sorry that all that happened to you."

Sara shrugged under his hand. "Nothing you could have done."

Greg shook his head. "Someone should have done something."

"It was a long time ago."

"If you ever need to talk?"

"Thanks, Greg," Sara said, and smiled at him. "You're a good man."

Greg grinned back. "So, what are you going to do for Valentine's Day?" he asked. "Candles, girls love candles. And music, you can leave that up to me, I'll fix you up."

Sara laughed. "You have horrible taste in music, Greg."

"Says you," he protested.

"Yes, says me," replied Sara. She stood up and wiped her face again.

As they exited her apartment Greg said excitedly, "Oh, and Catherine loves lotions and stuff. You'll have to get her some scented oils or something."

"Maybe just lotion," Sara said. "I don't want to be too—"


"Skanky," said Sara.

Greg grinned.

Greg finished detaching the driver's seat of a Mercedes found abandoned and covered in blood at a mine outside of Laughlin, and he and Sara yanked it out of the car.

"So Catherine looks very happy today," said Greg.

"Greg," warned Sara.

Greg grinned at her and began taking apart the other seat. "In fact, I'd go so far as to say that she looks positively radiant."

"Greg," Sara repeated, more forcefully.

Greg said, "You, on the other hand, are glowing."


He just grinned at her. "It went well, then?"

Sara sighed, but couldn't repress her own smile. "Yes, it went well."

Greg nodded. "Did she like the lotions?"

"Yes, she did."

"And the candles?"

"Yes," Sara repeated.

"And the music?"

"Yes, Greg, she liked the music," Sara said as her cell phone beeped. She read the text message and then clipped it back to her belt. Greg glanced at the phone, but Sara had already gone back to the first seat. Greg crouched down next to her.

"Thank you," he said.

"For what?"

Greg shook his head. "No, you're supposed to say thank you to me."

"Like I said, for what?" she repeated.

Greg pouted. "I had a hand in this too."

"Thank you, Greg."

Greg gave a theatric and flourishing bow. "So where is she?"

Sara glanced toward the labs. "She went to find Grissom."

"Is that so?" Greg teased.

Sara shoved Greg on the shoulder. He fell back and grinned at her. She smiled and finished unscrewing his bolts.

"Seriously, Sara," he said, "you look a lot happier. More relaxed."

Sara blushed and didn't respond.

"Good sex will do that to you," said Greg. They pulled out the passenger seat, and dumped it by the car. Greg clicked on his flashlight. "It was good sex, right?" he asked, peering at the blood spatter on the carpet under the seats.

"Greg!" Sara protested.

"Very good," said Greg nodding. "I knew it."

"I'm not going to share."

Greg pouted again. "Sara, I have been here with you through all of this. I deserve details."

"No," she said.


"No. Get back to work," said Sara. She wiped her hands on a cloth, and then pushed open the garage doors.

Greg scrambled after her. "Hey, where are you going?"

Sara grinned at him over her shoulder. Greg jogged to catch up, but before he could, Sara turned around and shooed him back to the garage.

Greg stopped walking until Sara had turned the corner, and then he followed again. When she spotted him the second time, she waved him back again. This time he shook his head, and continued to follow several paces behind her.

Sara stopped abruptly down the hall from the A/V lab. She heaved a sigh, and bit her lip. She glanced back at Greg, who smiled at her and leaned against the wall to watch. A few moments later, Catherine exited the lab, smiling. They walked together toward Catherine's office, their heads bent close together. Catherine's hand was on Sara's back. Catherine said something in Sara's ear, and Sara laughed and wrapped her arm around Catherine.

Greg smiled, and went back to the garage.

Sara pushed open the door to the cafe and spotted Greg sitting on a sofa with a surfing magazine and an iced coffee. They exchanged smiles, and she went to the counter to order.

After Sara paid, she wandered over to him, slumped down on the sofa next to him, and closed her eyes. The barrista had to call out her order three times before Sara opened her eyes. When she got back to Greg, he smirked at her.

"You want another couple of shots in your triple espresso?" he asked.

"Shut up," said Sara. "I'm a little tired."

"You've been off for three days, Sara. What in the world could have you so tired," Greg mused. He tossed the magazine down on the table and shifted to face her.

"Shut up," she repeated.

"Let me guess."

Sara blew on her coffee. "Greg."

He smiled at her. "Exhausted is a good look on you." He waited until she had taken a sip of her coffee before he continued. "It's an even better look on Catherine."

Sara barely caught herself from spurting her drink over them both. She glared at him. "Greg. Do us both a favor, and shut your mouth."

Greg shrugged. "I'm just happy for you."

Sara smiled at him over the rim of her mug.

"And perhaps a very little bit jealous," he allowed.

"Jealous?" Sara frowned.

"Envious," Greg corrected himself. "You guys are good together, and it's only been a few weeks."

Sara shrugged. "It's been a year since our first date."

"So you're finally admitting that was the first date of your relationship. Well done," Greg said.

Sara leaned back and stared at the ceiling. "I didn't expect it to be like this."

"Like what?"

"Get your mind out of the gutter," Sara said. She took another sip of her coffee. "So easy."

"It's easy?" Greg asked. "Well, Catherine probably knows all the tricks."

"Not that," Sara said, and poked him in the stomach. "The relationship. I thought there would be fights, about work, or about how much time we spent together. Lindsey. Whatever."

"And you don't fight?"

"No," Sara said, and gave Greg a confused look. "We disagree, but it's not like," she paused for a moment before continuing. "I'm not worried that if we fight, the whole thing is going to blow up. This is—" she stopped.

"Forever?" said Greg.


Greg smiled at Sara and gave her a loose hug. "Yeah, it is. You guys are good together," he repeated.

Sara considered Greg's expression.

"You are," he protested.

"Yeah, we are," Sara agreed with a wide grin.

Greg returned her grin and wiggled his eyebrows. Sara laughed and shook her head.

"Sara," Greg whined.

"No. No details. Catherine would kill me."

"She would never have to know."

"Catherine knows everything," Sara said. "She's like a prettier Grissom."

Greg sighed. "With great hair."

Sara nodded. "And great hair."

"And a—" Greg began.


"Right. Girlfriend. No salacious comments."

Sara nodded again.

Greg frowned. "How come you get to say things like that, if I can't?"

"My girlfriend," Sara said.

"I need a girlfriend," he complained.

"You do."

Greg cocked his head. "Do you think Nick is over his straight Texan phase?"

The End

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