DISCLAIMER: They're not mine, I promise to put them back where I found them. No money made, no infringement intended.
NOTE: In my little world that team split thing never happened. Special credits go to Sasha, for allowing me to play with her idea and incorporate it into this story. A big thank you to my beta Krys for all her help. Quoted lyrics in chapter 28 written by William Blake, the ones in chapter 33 written by Hermann Hesse.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Strong Enough
By Karen


Chapter 21

Several hours before having to go back to work Sara appeared on Catherine's doorstep again. She couldn't remember the last time she felt so nervous. She kept straightening her clothes and trying to smooth down her hair, feeling like a schoolgirl all over again. 'This is ridiculous. She was the one who kissed me. Several times actually. Ok, I can do this.' Just as she was getting ready to knock, the door opened leaving Sara to stand frozen in motion.

"Hey Sara. I heard a car pull in the driveway. Are you coming inside?"

"Lindsey, hey." Sara smiled awkwardly, not moving from her spot.

"Are you ok? You look a little flushed." The girl noticed.


Cocking her head to the side Lindsey looked at Sara in wonder, "Is that a rose behind your back?" Sara just grinned feeling like a complete idiot. "Is it for mom?" The girl asked and Sara nodded her head. Lindsey sighed and folding her arms across her chest asked in a serious voice, "Ok. What did you do?"

Her eyebrows rising in surprise Sara managed to ask, "What do you mean?"

"Well, it's not her birthday…" Lindsey shrugged, "Mom would usually get flowers if one of her boyfriends messed something up." She informed Sara.

Narrowing her eyes Sara thought about it for a moment, "Really?" Fumbling with the rose, she decided, "Well it's time to change that." Lindsey watched her with interest and Sara smiled leaning down. "Just thought I'd cheer her up a bit. That's all, I promise." She explained softly.

"Oh, ok." Lindsey nodded, "But she's been quite cheerful all afternoon actually." Moving to the side so Sara could step inside, Lindsey mumbled, "I swear I heard her singing."

Chuckling quietly, Sara walked in. Wrapping her free arm around Lindsey's shoulders, she kissed the top of the girl's head. "Well that's good. Is she home?"

"Sure. She's in the kitchen." Lindsey told her before settling back in front of the TV.

"Thanks." Feeling the damn butterflies in her stomach going nuts again, Sara sighed deeply and carefully headed towards the sound of running water. Leaning against the door frame she smiled when she spotted Catherine leaning over the sink. Dressed in a tank top and jeans, her hair tied carelessly, she was cleaning the dishes oblivious to Sara's presence. Sara waited for a few moments not wanting to startle the other woman and then gently cleared her throat. When Catherine spun around in surprise Sara grinned, "Need help?"

"Hey…" A big grin spreading across her face, Catherine turned the water off. Drying her hands she walked across the small kitchen over to Sara. Smiling happily and cupping Sara's face, Catherine pulled her down for a small kiss. Moving away a bit she noticed Sara still had her eyes closed so she gently brushed a stray lock out of Sara's face and waited for her to open them again. "Hi." Catherine whispered feeling Sara's arm wrap around her waist pulling her closer. She gently rested her arms on Sara's shoulders.

"Hi." Blushing a little, Sara offered a single red rose to the blonde woman. Catherine leaned down to smell the delicate petals before accepting the gift, "Thank you, it's beautiful." She looked up into Sara's eyes mischievously, "Might even get you another kiss."

"That was my plan…" Sara mumbled before kissing Catherine's lips gently, claiming her prize. It was a slow kiss, meant to express all of Sara's emotions but once she felt Catherine's tongue brushing her lower lip, Sara couldn't stop a low moan from escaping which only added fuel to the fire. She felt Catherine's arms wrap around her neck, her lips claiming Sara's. Somewhere at the back of Sara's mind a vague thought still lingered, the one about coming to Catherine's to talk but it simply felt too good to stop. She could feel Catherine's body pressing firmly against her, her fingers burying themselves in Sara's hair and nothing seemed to matter except the gorgeous blonde in her arms. Whimpering a little when Catherine pulled away, Sara opened her eyes trying to catch her breath.

"Sneaky, Sidle…" Catherine whispered burying her face in Sara's neck, hearing a small chuckle escape the brunette. Sara still held her close wondering when her voice would return. Catherine softly kissed her chin before meeting Sara's gaze, "Coffee?"

"Please." Sara nodded, releasing her hold remorsefully. She took a seat and watched Catherine move gracefully around the kitchen, her head still spinning from all the changes going on.

Catherine grabbed two mugs and made her way to the counter. Taking a seat next to Sara she poured the coffee and placed one mug in front of the brunette. Reaching out to brush another stray lock of hair from Sara's eyes, she tucked it behind Sara's ear and gently cupped her face, "You okay?" Sara nodded looking up, a small smile gracing her lips. "How's your brother doing?" Catherine asked.

"He's a little shaken up as well." Sara admitted. Catherine just nodded, waiting on Sara to go on. "The last time he saw mom was a little after her conviction. Steven was living in New York at the time, it took a while till the news reached him." Pausing a little to gather her thoughts, Sara continued, "When he finally managed to come back I was already taken to a foster home. He wanted to take care of me but they wouldn't let him take me to New York, so he left his job and came back home so he could be close to me. About a year later he finally managed to arrange everything in order to become my legal guardian." The softness in her eyes told Catherine how much Sara cared about her brother. "That one time he went to see her they've had a terrible fight. He would never talk to me about it…" She shrugged and Catherine gently took Sara's hand and laced their fingers together. "It must have been really bad if Steven stayed away from her all these years." Sara said squeezing Catherine's fingers and looking up into worried blue eyes. "He didn't tell me everything that happened when he came to see her in the hospital, but I'd say his visit has been about as pleasant as mine."

Shaking her head, not really knowing what to say, Catherine felt Sara bring their joined hands up to her lips. Kissing Catherine's knuckles she apologized, "I'm sorry I've been laying so much of my family crap on you."

"Hey…" Catherine protested, "Don't apologize. I want to know things about you." She leaned closer and kissed Sara's lips briefly, "Anything you ever wish to share with me. Okay? I may not be able to help but I do care, Sara."

Catherine's closeness, the way she held Sara's hand and those brilliant eyes filled with so much emotion almost made Sara cry. She wanted to hear those words for so long. Her other hand cupping Catherine's cheek, she softly said, "Whatever's happening between us Catherine… I need you to know how much it means to me. How much you mean to me." Sara's voice wavered slightly but her gaze was filled with certainty, "I've wanted a chance with you for so long."

Her heart beating madly in her chest, Catherine leaned in and answered with a searing kiss. "I want a chance with you too. This goes way beyond attraction for me Sara…" She murmured against Sara's lips before she was being kissed again. Sara wrapped her arms around the slender waist pulling the blonde woman closer, her tongue gently parting Catherine's lips, pushing its way inside the warm mouth.

Losing herself in the sweet taste she heard Catherine's low moan and a tiny fraction of her mind started yelling at her they needed to stop. She gently cupped Catherine's face breaking their kiss and mumbled, "Lindsey…" Catherine nodded and rested her forehead against Sara's, her thumb trailing Sara's lips. Breathing heavily, smiling to each other, they soon heard footsteps approaching and reluctantly pulled apart.

Lindsey actually had the grace to knock on the doorframe before entering the kitchen. She peeked inside, not quite able to hide the amusement in her voice, "Just checking… You've both been so quiet I was starting to worry."

"Yeah, yeah…" Narrowing her eyes Catherine waited till a huge grin appeared on her daughter's face. "Come here." Catherine gently told her and got up from her stool, trying not to notice a faint blush spreading over Sara's face, "You want some cocoa?"

"Yes, please." Lindsey took a seat opposite Sara, wondering why Sara's hair looked so mussed but deciding it wouldn't be polite to ask. At least both her mom and Sara were smiling so everything was probably okay.

The awkwardness slowly getting to her, Sara tried thinking of something to talk about. "Have you tried reading that book I gave you?" She asked between two sips of her coffee. That seemed to have been a good idea judging by how Lindsey immediately jumped at the opportunity to ask all kinds of questions concerning the parts she couldn't understand.

Catherine soon found herself quietly enjoying listening to Sara quoting her favorite parts and Lindsey trying to guess the meaning behind the words. She watched their faces as they continued to playfully argue about the characters she herself only vaguely remembered reading about and realized Sara had found a way to bond with her daughter through something they've had in common. Books. Knowing Lindsey had been grounded Sara tried to come up with a way to make it easier for the girl without overstepping the boundaries Catherine had set. So once she learned Lindsey loved to read she made her a deal. They would both read the same book and have their little discussions later. Finally Catherine understood what it was that seemed to have been keeping Lindsey too busy to actually mind being grounded. She couldn't help but smile to herself a little, thinking these two had outwitted her.

When Lindsey looked up at her mother she found her smiling amusedly. "What?" The girl asked.

"Nothing… So, you liked Steinbeck then?" Catherine asked, a part of her still wondering if he was even suitable for teens.

"Well, I've only read one of his books." The girl admitted, "Sara read them all and then decided 'Of mice and men' was the one I could read. It was good."

Hiding behind her mug Sara could feel a blush creeping up her face when Catherine gently squeezed her hand under the table, touched by Sara's thoughtfulness. With everything going on in her life Sara still found the time for her daughter. Letting go of Sara's fingers Catherine smiled at her daughter again, "So… Which book are the two of you reading next?"

"Our English teacher said we have to read a couple of Blake's poems by next week, so Sara offered to help me go through the whole bunch of them I've found on the internet." Lindsey happily informed her mother.

"Taking a break from your textbooks, Sidle?" Catherine joked.

Chancing a glance in Catherine's direction, a small smile curling her lips, Sara asked, "Want to join our reading sessions?" She wiggled her eyebrows at Catherine making her smile.

Pretending to be thinking about it Catherine decided after a few moments, "Not yet. But I will provide you both with enough ice-cream to make it worth your while." She offered.

"Yay." Lindsey and Sara said in unison.

A phone rang and Lindsey offered to go pick it up, disappearing from the kitchen before either woman could react. "I wonder whose call she might be expecting…" Mumbled Sara. She was just about to start teasing Catherine how the boys would probably start lining up any day now when she found herself being pulled in for another kiss.

"I'll fend them off." Catherine mumbled against Sara's lips, "I have a baseball bat." Allowing herself to steal another kiss from Sara, those lips simply being too soft to resist, Catherine heard Sara's chuckle.

"Good God. You should at least put a warning sign on your front door." Sara suggested while brushing Catherine's hair out of her face.

"No… There's no element of surprise then." The blonde winked then added in a more serious tone, "Thank you for doing this for Linds. It means a lot to me."

"It's not a problem." Sara assured her by lacing their fingers together, "I'm having fun as well."

They both looked up when Lindsey appeared with a cordless in her hand, "It's uncle Gil. He says you're both needed a little early today."

Catherine took the offered phone, "What's wrong, Gil?"

"Catherine. Brass just called. They've managed to find Candeece Black and will bring her in for questioning. I think Sara should be there." He sighed before finishing, "And something tells me you might want to be there too."


Chapter 22

After Sara made her promise she wouldn't interfere with the interview, Catherine found herself standing behind the two-way mirror. Grunting unhappily under her breath, she kept staring at the woman who endangered the life of her daughter. It was hard to look at her and not remember that night, old anger starting to boil just underneath the surface. She had to at least pretend to be cool since Grissom decided to stay behind the mirror as well, no doubt so he could stop her from doing anything inappropriate.

The fact that he kept throwing nervous glances her way wasn't helping either of them and Catherine was becoming impatient. Wishing the interview would just finish already she tried focusing on Sara's form to calm her nerves. She noticed the silent communication going on between Jim Brass and the brunette as they listened to the woman's explanations. Candeece claimed not to have known about their search of her former dealer, apparently being too busy trying to find him herself.

"Are you using again?" Brass asked almost casually.

"No." She sounded offended, "I've been clean for a month." Looking sharply from Sara to Brass, she mumbled, "Not that it's any of your business."

The brunette stayed quiet for the most part and Catherine shivered trying to fight the urge to step inside and speed things up. She doubted her presence would help though and knew Sara had a point asking her to stay out of it. Not that she had the right to be there at all, but they both knew how little that mattered in the past.

"Why were you looking for him then?" Sara asked coldly.

"That bastard killed Bobby!" Candeece barked, then added hanging her head, "I know it was him."

"How?" Brass asked leaning back in his chair.

Looking up, Candeece seemed confused, "What do you mean?"

"How do you know?" Sara clarified.

"I just do." The woman defiantly refused to clarify her statement.

"How should we know it wasn't you?" Sara decided to upset her a bit more.

"Are you kidding me??" Candeece nearly jumped out of her chair, "He was my family! Now I have no one…" Her voice cracked a little but then she composed herself quickly, her eyes boring into Sara's, "Am I a suspect? Is that why I'm here?"

"You're here because we believe you know where we could find Mr. Kiner." Brass jumped in to inform her.

"And we would definitely like to know more about your theory." Sara chimed in. Candeece looked up at her confused again and Sara sighed before adding, "You've just made a serious accusation here."

"You better make sure we believe you." Jim told her, thinking a little empty threat was in order, "Wouldn't want to go back to the joint for something you didn't do, right?"

"You wouldn't do that." The woman said shifting nervously, looking from one to the other. Neither even blinked as she kept staring at them incredulously, "You'd actually pin a murder on me?"

Sara leaned closer over the small table and looked deeply into the woman's eyes till she was sure she was making her uncomfortable. She hated the fact she was resorting to threatening but they were running out of options. The memory of Lindsey's eyes filled with tears crushing her each time she would look at this woman, Sara fought the urge to reach out and throttle her. Her fingers gripping the edge of the table so hard that her knuckles turned white, Sara finally growled through clenched teeth, "Where is he?"

The anger radiated from Sara's slender body and Catherine couldn't tear her eyes away from her, wishing she was closer, hating the glass between them and the woman who kept returning into their lives only to cause them pain over and over again.

When Sara's fist hit the table even Brass jumped in surprise. "You've lied to me once before, Candeece. A little girl lost her father and no one ever answered for it." Sara told her quietly. "Don't lie to me again."

Her breath caught in her throat, eyes fixed on Sara's back, Catherine was barely aware of Grissom sitting on the edge of the chair looking ready to rush out of the small room any moment. Sara however kept trading on thin ice, "Do the right thing once in your life, Candeece."

Regaining his composure Brass decided to push things a little further, "You do realize that by withholding this information you also risk being considered an accessory to the crime?"

"I did nothing to help him!" She yelled at them, "Like it wasn't enough he killed…" Stopping short, her eyes wide, Candeece realized what she had nearly let slip. Judging by that grin spreading over detective's face she had probably said too much anyway.

"Oh, please... Do finish that thought." Jim asked sweetly.

Holding her breath in anticipation Catherine felt Gil's hand gently squeezing her shoulder. Their eyes met and she realized he did understand a thing or two. This was the moment he too kept hoping for. Nodding to let him know she was okay, Catherine turned her attention back to the people in the interrogation room.

Emotions getting the better of her, Candeece covered her face with her hands and Sara took the opportunity to slowly lean back in her chair. Exchanging a look with Jim, she waited for Candeece to continue talking.

Long moments stretched and Brass impatiently cleared his throat, "Is that why you went back to using?" The pale looking woman looked up again facing Jim and he continued, "Or was it that because of your annoying little habit Eddie got into all those debts and ended up dead?" No answer came so he went on, thinking they had nothing to lose any more, "Maybe Kiner threatened to kill you too so you've kept quiet."

"And now he killed your brother." Sara reminded her once she'd snapped out of her own haze, "I can't believe you'd let him get away with it too."

"I wasn't planning on it." Candeece murmured lowering her eyes to the floor.

"Excuse me?" Brass leaned closer again, earning himself an angry glare from the woman in front of him.

"What do you want from me?!" She finally snapped at him.

"A little cooperation would be nice." Jim informed her, dropping a piece of paper and a pen in front of her. "How about writing down your version of the past events for us. Don't forget to add a current location of our mutual acquaintance."

"I don't know where he is. We were supposed to meet tomorrow." Candeece told them.

"Where?" Sara asked, her heart hammering against her chest. They were so close, she could almost feel renewed hope of ending this nightmare once and for all.

"In a bar on 4th street, downtown."

"When?" Brass asked, slightly annoyed.

"10pm." Candeece told him, "He said I have to come alone."

"You will come alone." Brass nodded, "You'll just be wired." A small smirk briefly curled his lips, "And we'll be right behind you."

The moment Sara stepped outside of the interrogation room she was enveloped in a hug. Wrapping her arms around Catherine's waist she took her first deep breath and released it slowly. Feeling the smaller woman's grip tighten, Sara closed her eyes and buried her face in Catherine's hair, whispering to her softly, "He won't get away now." Catherine just nodded her head, not moving an inch from where she was, not caring where they were. She was desperately trying to stop the tears from spilling and letting go of Sara never even crossed her mind.

Grissom smiled awkwardly once Sara looked up and saw him standing a few feet away. "Good job." He told her softly, "Take a break, both of you. I'll page you if new cases come along." Not waiting for a response he turned around and left.

Turning her attention back to the woman in her arms, Sara kissed the top of Catherine's head hoping to somehow get her to come out of her hiding place. "Hey..." She whispered close to Catherine's ear and heard a small sniffle. "Catherine, look at me." Sara pleaded, stroking Catherine's hair before trying to gently lift her chin. Tearful blue eyes finally looked up at her making Sara's heart miss a beat. Cradling the blonde's face in her hands Sara softly whispered, "As much as I want to kiss you right now we really should find a more private place…" Earning herself a small smile, she winked at Catherine and allowed herself to be dragged to Catherine's office.

As soon as the door to the office closed behind them, Sara found herself being pushed against the nearest wall as hot lips crushed hers. Slender fingers tangled in Sara's hair pulling her closer. Her arms wrapped around the smaller woman's form hoping to steady them both as she felt Catherine's body starting to shake slightly. New tears began to form and there was no way Catherine could force them back this time. Tearing her lips away from Sara's she buried her face in Sara's neck, her arms gripping her tightly. Anger and relief mixed together inside of her, Sara could only hold on, Catherine being her only anchor even if she was falling apart in Sara's arms.

"It's okay sweetie." Sara whispered softly, stroking Catherine's hair before kissing the top of her head. "One more day and we can put all this behind us." When Catherine looked up Sara leaned down a little and kissed the tip of her nose. "Let's sit down." She offered pulling Catherine with her towards the small couch.

Taking a seat the blonde woman wiped her face with her hands and snuggled close to Sara. Leaning her head on Sara's shoulder she closed her eyes and admitted quietly, "I was afraid it would all backfire."

"Me too." Sara nodded pulling Catherine closer, "And it very well could have." Meeting Catherine's eyes Sara told her, "I'm sorry I had to risk so much, Catherine."

Catherine gently covered Sara's lips with her fingers and shook her head, "There's no evidence, Sara. There was nothing to lose." She brushed her hand along Sara's jaw, her fingers still shaking slightly. "You did great." She whispered before softly kissing Sara's lips. Sara hugged her more tightly and buried her face in Catherine's hair, letting the blonde's words wash over her. Her worst fear of letting Catherine down again finally loosened its grip around Sara's heart and she was able to relax slightly. There was no way of knowing what would happen tomorrow but for now she would hope for the best.

Tilting Catherine's head upwards so she could meet her eyes, Sara smiled a little. Tucking a strand of blonde hair behind the small ear she offered quietly, "When this is all over I'd really like to take you out on a date."

A huge grin spreading across her face, Catherine nudged her playfully, "Yeah?" Sara nodded shyly and Catherine's grin quickly turned into a very sexy smirk. In a swift and unexpected motion she straddled Sara's thighs, making the brunette gasp at the sudden feeling of Catherine's body pressed against hers. "About time you asked." Catherine murmured before leaning in to kiss her, moaning when Sara's arms wrapped around her back to pull her even closer.

"Is that a 'yes'?" Sara mumbled between kisses, enjoying the sweet taste of Catherine's lips and the little whimpering sounds the blonde kept making each time Sara would run her fingers along the curve of her spine.

"What does it look like?" Catherine asked before lowering her lips onto Sara's neck, noticing happily Sara's hands came to tangle in her hair trying to keep her head in place.

"Looks like a damn shame you've never locked that door." Sara managed to gasp out while Catherine's lips traveled upwards to close around her earlobe.

Chuckling softly, Catherine sat back in Sara's lap. "I'd love to go out on a date with you." She said cupping Sara's face, earning herself a smile.

A shrilling sound pierced the silence making them both flinch. Groaning in displeasure Catherine collapsed against Sara again. "Damn his timing…" She mumbled in Sara's neck. A moment later another pager went off and Sara closed her eyes and sighed.

"We are on the clock." Sara reminded her, getting another groan from the blonde in her lap.

"Yeah, well I was hoping for a slow night." Catherine admitted, hating the fact she had to move away from Sara.

"Oh… I don't know." Sara smirked, "If we were to stay here with nothing to do… things would probably get a little out of hand."

"Why is that?" Catherine asked trying to keep a straight face.

"Uhm." Sara shrugged and leaned to whisper into Catherine's ear, "I'd hate to break that golden dating rule of yours."

Smiling brightly Catherine wiggled her eyebrows at her, "Feeling a little cocky, huh?" She finally got up and pulled Sara along. Wondering if it was possible for that cute blush on Sara's face to get any worse, Catherine purred, "You're welcome to keep trying though."

'Yep. Definitely possible.' She thought while dragging a smirking brunette out of her office.

Part 23

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