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 7

The next shift brought another case for Sara, it seemed to be a pretty simple one to solve too. The perp was either unbelievably clumsy while breaking into a small tobacco shop or seriously stupid to leave so much evidence behind. Sara found it impossible to imagine she wouldn't be able to identify him. It was just a matter of time really, and a matter of forcing Greg to work faster.

The labs were still swamped with all kinds of potential evidence hopefully pointing to someone responsible for murdering all those boys and poor Greg was having a hard time. Unfortunately, Sara had little mercy, so this new case came as a relief for them both.

Sara had a chance to distance herself a little, both from Catherine and the case torturing them for weeks, so she welcomed the opportunity to focus on something else for a while.

Catherine however spent the entire shift catching up on paperwork and going through the database looking for any known sex offenders recently released from jail. She couldn't stop hoping the partial fingerprint they've found could give them some clue.

Coming up empty handed after hours of staring at the screen, Catherine sighed realizing it was time to go home. Day after day nothing changed. Kids kept disappearing and getting themselves killed, and they just didn't have the first clue how to go about catching that psycho.

Remembering that another 'task' she wasn't particularly looking forward to yet awaited her, Catherine rubbed her face nervously.

She had been standing in front of the mirror for what seemed like ages. What ever possessed her to let Nancy convince her to go on a date with a guy she only met once, she was now seriously doubting her own sanity. Once Catherine confided in her sister about having the strangest fantasies lately involving a certain brunette, Nancy merely smirked and advised her to either do something about it or move on. She even took a chance to point out not so subtly that after all those bad experiences with men it may not be a bad idea for Catherine to start seeing women again. Of course Nancy had actually said all that after having already arranged this little rendezvous for Catherine with the said gentlemen, and now here she was. Catherine actually had to cancel it twice already seeing as how Grissom made her pull all those double shifts, and now she kept wondering if she could cancel the whole thing altogether. Looking at the tired reflection and the lines showing slightly under her eyes, Catherine sighed, cursing quietly, "Well, to hell with this!" Turning around she noticed Sara sitting on the bench near by, concern written over her face.

"What's wrong?" Sara asked.

Taking her coat from her locker and slipping into it, Catherine answered unenthusiastically, "I have a date."

Another small crack in her already crushed heart making her pause, Sara gulped to push the pain down, or at least out of her voice, "And that's a bad thing?" She bent slightly, tying her boot, hoping she sounded conversational enough.

Sighing again, Catherine told her quietly, "It is when I look just as crapy as I feel." She studied Sara's face waiting for a reaction, half expecting some nasty comment falling out of Sara's mouth. But none came so Catherine turned and headed for the door, feeling self-concious under Sara's intent gaze.

Gentle voice stopped her in her tracks, "You look beautiful, Catherine." Slightly shocked that she had said it out loud and a little nervous to see Catherine stare at her in surprize, Sara quickly added, "Really, you do."

More touched than anything alse, Catherine whispered, "Thank you, Sara." It seemed that lately Sara was going out of her way to be nice to her and that was confusing Catherine to no end, but she had to admit to herself it actually felt good. Not to mention promising.

Sara smiled and got up from the bench. Passing by, she touched Catherine's shoulder, "Go, Cath. Don't keep him waiting. Have fun."

Sara left a bit hasty, wondering why she had spoken at all, but not wanting to hear any more about Catherine's date she fled. She knew she could never have Catherine. But she also cared enough to want to see her happy. Desperately wanting to be that person who makes Catherine happy and knowing she never could be, Sara only hoped she would survive the heartache of having to see Catherine with someone else.

Taking long strides down the hall Sara decided to pay Greg a visit and check whether he had managed to run the samples yet. Anything that would prevent her from going back to her empty apartment, where she'd have nothing to do but think about Catherine having a date would be great right about now. She got held up by Grissom wanting an update from her so she promised to come see him. She noticed Catherine passing by, walking towards the exit. When she was about to resume her walk to the lab, Greg appeared from around the corner with test results in his hands, smiling widely, "Hey Sara… I just saw Cath walking out of the locker room, looking confused as hell… What did you do to her?"

"Oh, it's nothing," Sara shrugged, "I just gave her a compliment. She probably thinks I'm terminally ill or something."

Chuckling and shaking his head he handed her the results, "Knew you'd want to have these as soon as possible… You'll like it, it's a match!"

"Great!" She smiled, "Thanks, Greg. Now I can go and watch the asshole squirm."

"Oh… Sara… That's wicked!" Greg wiggled his eyebrows.

Rolling her eyes and sighing, "You have a dirty mind." she smirked at his mock shocked face.

"Me? It was you who said…" Not paying any more attention to Greg, Sara turned around hurriedly and pulled out her cell phone to call Brass. She headed for Grissom's office to update him on the case, clocking out not an option anymore.

The next shift came all too soon for Sara. Waiting for the suspect to be brought in, spending an exhausting hour dragging a confession out of him and not leaving till she finished all her paperwork; Sara was left with only a couple of hours to go home, shower, grab a bite and come back to work again. She seriously considered not going home at all but there were no clean clothes left in her locker and besides, it felt good to get out of the lab for a while.

Since it was looking to be a slow night for a change, no new cases coming her way, Gil suggested she helped Catherine out with the new case that just came along. It was either that or more paperwork, although the idea of stepping on Catherine's territory again made her wince in displeasure, paperwork suddenly not sounding so bad. But much to Sara's surprise Catherine for once didn't seem to mind. She told Sara she could use a hand and actually looked relieved to have her there willing to help. A Jane Doe had been found in a dumpster earlier that night and Catherine was now trying to find out who the woman was while waiting for a call from the morgue.

So about two hours into the shift they were sitting together in comfortable silence, waiting to see if the computer was going to come up with some kind of match. There wasn't much else to do except wait now that all the available data was uploaded. Not knowing what to talk about but feeling she should at least try and make some kind of small talk now that they've seemingly reached a truce, Sara tried to think of something to say only to find herself blurting out, "So... how was your date?"

Regreting it immediately after seeing Catherine's blank expression Sara began to panic, but Catherine suddenly said, "Great. He stood me up."

A bit ashamed of the sudden feeling of relief washing over her, Sara muttered quietly, "I'm... I'm sorry." She truly was. Some asshole had hurt Catherine and there wasn't a damn thing she could do to make it better. But the weight crushing her chest did become just a little bit lighter again and Sara silently admonished herself.

"Nah. Don't worry about it."

Nervously fidgeting in her chair, wishing she could make that hurt look on Catherine's face disappear, Sara uttered softly, "He's a fool."

Catherine laughed, "Yes, well… at the moment I look like an even bigger one."

"We could ask the guys to find him and knock some sense into him." Sara jokingly suggested, hoping to ease the tension.

Catherine looked at her and seeing a smile quirking Sara's lips she leaned closer and softly kissed Sara's cheek. "He's not worth it but thank you." She added while touching Sara's shoulder for a brief moment, amused by the faint blush creeping up the gentle face. She really did look cute all flustered like that, Catherine mused.

Startled by her own suddenly speeding heartbeat Sara could only nod, staring at Catherine's retreating back, barely registering Catherine telling her she was going to go check if Doc had finished with the autopsy yet.

'What just happened? Did she just kiss me again?' Sara absentmindedly rubbed her cheek where Catherine's lips had been just moments ago, small smile appearing before she could stop it. 'Get a grip, Sidle. She was just being friendly…' Determined to clear her head of images of Catherine's lips so very near her own, Sara decided coffee was in order once the computer came up with no match. The vic apparently had no criminal record and no one reported her missing. Shaking her head Sara went into the break room and putting a fresh pot of coffee on, turned to see Greg staring at her expectantly.

"What?" She asked a bit annoyed.

"Oh, nothing… I was just wondering," He trailed off, shrugging.

"Wondering what, Greg?" Was he not capable of finishing a sentence now a days?

"…if my special Brazilian mixture wasn't good enough for you any more?"

"Huh?" Now she was totally confused. She loved that blend.

"Well, you waltzed in here, completely ignoring my freshly made pot of steaming, extra strong, heavenly smelling, 90 bucks worth coffee… and just started brewing a new one?"

Taking a look around and feeling silly, Sara shrugged and smiled sheepishly, "Sorry, Greggo… Guess I'm a little nutty today. I don't know what I was thinking." She winked at him and quickly poured herself a cup, happy to see the remains of her earlier sandwich still patiently waiting for her where she had left them.

Patting a spot on the couch, Greg smiled broadly, "Come. Tell Dr. Greg what seems to be the trouble."

Chuckling, Sara answered, "No troubles, Greg. Everything's okay, I'm just a little tired."

"Perhaps a massage would help?" He asked hopefully, already flexing his fingers.

Sara stopped him before he got the chance to move, "You never give up, do you?"

Shrugging in disappointment, Greg muttered, "Can't blame a guy for trying…"

"Trying to do what?" Grissom asked stepping inside and without waiting for an explanation he turned to Sara, "Can I see you in my office?"

"Are both of your questions rhetorical?" She slurred around the mouthful of a veggie sandwich, causing Gil to quirk an eyebrow while Greg actually giggled.

"Finish your lunch and come see me."

Finishing her coffee Sara threw the cup away and went after Grissom wondering what was going on. "See you later, Greggo. Don't slack around too long…"

"Well, a guy has to eat sometime!" Greg tried defending himself.

"Chew faster." Sara smirked, walking away.

"That could be dangerous. What if I choke and there's no one around?"

"Page me. I'll walk fast."


Chapter 8

"What's up, Griss?" Sara asked once she took a seat in his office.

"Perhaps you've heard about that bank robbery from five days ago? Dayshift took the case." He began, not lifting his eyes from the file in front of him.

"Yeah, I've heard. Two armed men, one of them shot a security guard in cold blood, right?"

"That's the one, yes." Grissom nodded, "The surveillance tape revealed two men wearing masks the whole time, but one of them left a partial print inside the safe. He was identified as Raymond Mills."

Sara frowned, the name didn't sound familiar. Grissom continued, "Once caught, he gave up the name of his partner in crime, Mr. James Ladder." He watched Sara's eyebrows rising slightly. Sara shifted in her seat, irritated with the narrative sound of his voice. She had work to do and Grissom was telling tales.

"So they were caught. And?" She asked impatiently.

"And… The most interesting thing about it being that the bullet removed from the victim seems to have been fired from the same weapon used to kill Eddie Willows." Grissom looked up at Sara, gauging her reaction. Sara just stared at him in shock.

"The bullets match." He added.

"My God…" Sara whispered, her eyes wide, mind busy running all the possibilities. "Who shot the guard?" She asked.

"James Ladder." Grissom informed her calmly, taking off his glasses. He rubbed the bridge of his nose then placed them back on, "Mr. Ladder apparently used to have a very interesting cellmate at one point in time. I'm sure you remember him well… Mark Kiner."

Sara blinked a few times mumbling to herself, "The drug dealer."

"Exactly. Ladder claims that Kiner told him where the gun was hidden, though he failed to mention it had once been a murder weapon in a crime no one was ever committed for."

"How do we know he's telling the truth?" She asked.

"We don't. As far as we are concerned, Mr. Ladder is in big trouble unless he can provide us with some kind of proof that he was telling the truth. The security guard survived the shooting, therefore Ladder managed to escape the capital punishment. Once he realized we might pin another murder on him he became quite chatty."

"Really?" Sara murmured, waiting for Grissom to continue.

"As Brass informed me, Kiner had a partner of his own." Checking the file Grissom came up with a name, "Robert Black. According to Ladder, Black should be able to confirm that Eddie owed some serious amount of money to Kiner at the time."

"There's the motive." Sara thought aloud, "But why would Black want to turn against his partner now? What's in it for him?"

"Remember that 'would be singer'?" Grissom asked with a small glint in his eye.

Frowning, Sara tried to search her memory, "Candeece… something."

"Candeece Black." Grissom filled in the blanks.


"Robert Black's sister." He explained, making a pause before adding, "It seems Black holds a serious grudge against Kiner for turning his sibling into a junkie. She's been in and out of rehab for years, her brother covering most of her bills. "

"Do you think Kiner was trying to set Ladder up? I mean, why tell him about the gun?"

Sara asked trying to get a firmer grasp on what was going on.

"It's possible." Grissom agreed, "But not necessarily. Had Mills not have left the print behind we never would have known any of this."

"Is Kiner still in jail?" Sara suddenly remembered to ask.

Grissom sighed before replying, "He became eligible for parole, there was a board hearing last month and they've granted his release."

"Jesus…" Sara covered her face with her hands, "What a mess." After a while she looked up at Grissom again, "We still can't prove anything. Unless we get a clean confession and I don't really see that happening any time soon… We've got nothing."

"True. We'll have to wait and see what happens. So far no one's been able to link James Ladder with Mark Kiner. Other than sharing a cell they don't seem to have a history together. It's a pretty safe bet Ladder never knew Eddie."

"So where did Kiner keep the gun?" Sara reluctantly asked.

"That's one of the things you get to ask Mr. Ladder. He was taken into custody along with Raymond Mills. Brass is already trying to locate Robert Black so we could bring him in for questioning." Grissom said, adding in a strong voice, "I want you on that case, Sara."

Sara looked at him in confusion, "Dayshift is on it."

"They're dealing with the robbery. I want you to reopen Eddie's case and try and dig out what you can. Find the connection, how Ladder managed to get a hold of that gun, get background checks on all these guys."

"Even if it is the same gun, it's been reused. There's no way I'll find anything now." Sara tried reasoning with him, "How will I prove anything without evidence? Even if someone decides to talk, there'll be nothing to back it up with."

"It's worth a shot." Grissom shrugged, "I want to know we've covered all the ground, looked from every angle." He sounded strangely determined.

"This is a detective's work." Sara told him. Shaking her head she asked in confusion, "I don't get it. What am I supposed to as a CSI with all this?"

Grissom stayed quiet for a moment then simply repeated, "Reopen the case, Sara."

Sara sighed, getting up to calm herself a little. Walking around helped her clear her head sometimes. She couldn't believe what he was asking her to do. She always secretly hoped something would come up but as time went on the chances grew smaller. Often telling herself she should just stop and put it to rest, something inside her kept refusing to let go.

Pacing nervously up and down, she stopped once Grissom asked, "What's there to lose?"

Shaking her head incredulously Sara just looked at him. She couldn't quite decide whether to laugh or yell at him.

"I mean…" He shrugged, "There's finally something. Granted it's flimsy, but still…"

"Fine. I'll reopen it." Sara interrupted looking at him seriously, "But I need to know Catherine won't object to that."

Grissom was confused, "I am your supervisor, not Catherine. This is none of her concern."

"Of course it is." Sara told him, "She just can't do anything about it because she's too close."

"Sara, what are you saying?" Grissom rubbed his forehead.

"That I won't lift a finger without her consent." Came the defiant answer. Sara plopped down on a chair, "She needs to know what's going on."

"I'm confused." He admitted, "Would it not have been easier for you the first time around if Catherine had not been there breathing down your neck, threatening the suspect…"

"I am not doing this behind her back." Sara interrupted again losing her patience, "If I'm going to reopen the case she should know about it. And I need to know that she's comfortable with me working it."

In all the years they've worked together never had Sara volunteered to step away from a case. "I don't believe this…" Gil muttered.

"Try harder." She snarled at him. "I've already failed her once. If she doesn't want me on this case than you'll have to give it to someone else." She could still remember Catherine's resentment clearly, and the devastating regret she was left with when it was all over.

Gil's voice brought her out of her musings, "Sara, you did what you could. There was no evidence."

"There's no real evidence now either!" All the sadness and frustration coming back to her, Sara roared, "You're not the one who had to look her in the eye and tell her that the murderer will walk!!"

Refusing to back down Grissom tried reasoning with her, "Two people were charged!"

"With child endangerment, fleeing the scene and possession on sale, Grissom! She had almost lost her daughter and there was no one to blame for that!" Glaring at Grissom, she challenged him to say anything else.

"That was not your fault, Sara! You cannot possibly still be hung up on that, you…"

Wondering why he stopped talking now that he was on the roll, Sara froze seeing sudden realization dawning on Grissom's face. "You feel responsible." He muttered.

"Does it matter?" She asked looking away, rubbing her face with her hands.

There was a brief pause before Grissom finally said, "It was your case, Sara. You now have enough grounds to reopen it, so work on it then."

"The sooner you talk to Catherine the sooner I can start." They would go about it her way or no way at all. Having had enough of that particular conversation, Sara got up determinedly and headed for the door.

"Where are you going?!" Grissom sounded shocked.

"Out." She threw over her shoulder.


"I need some air."

Wondering what was so important Grissom had her dragged up here all the way from the morgue, Catherine watched Gil fidget in his seat. They've been sitting in his office for almost five minutes and he hadn't said a word yet, seemingly lost in thought. He was never the one to beat around the bush so Catherine was a little confused seeing him so uncomfortable around her. He was actually refusing to look at her face, his fingers nervously rotating a pencil.

"Are we waiting for someone?" Catherine asked breaking the awkward silence.

Looking up for a moment, he nodded, "Actually, yes."

Raising an eyebrow but getting no further explanation since Grissom returned his focus on the pencil, Catherine finally lost her patience. She reached across the desk, grabbed the pencil and pulled it away from his hand. Looking straight into his startled eyes she asked, "What is this about, Gil?"

Taking a deep breath Grissom calmly stated, "We've reopened Eddie's case."

"You've what?!" Catherine was up from her chair in an instant.

"I don't want you getting your hopes up but I wanted to let you in on what's been going on." He tried to calmly reassure her. "There have been a few new leads we'd like to explore and…"

"What leads?" Catherine stared at him in shock, "It's been almost three years." This news came so unexpectedly she couldn't wrap her mind around it.

"Well, while time is usually are greatest enemy it can also prove to…"

"Oh don't! Just… don't. I can't handle your quotes right now. Just tell me what's going on." Trying to calm down she took a seat again.

Sighing, he explained, "We found a bullet that matches the one that was pulled out of Eddie's body. It was fired from the same weapon and removed out of the victim of that bank robbery from five days ago." Seeing Catherine's incredulous look he sighed again and proceeded to tell her everything he knew. By the time he had finished Catherine had at least a dozen new questions swirling around in her head.

Feeling a chill going up her spine she managed to squeeze out, "So the guy most likely responsible for murdering my daughter's father got out of jail?" All the color drained from her face, she wasn't sure her legs would keep her up if she tried standing, "And no one found it relevant enough to share that little information with me?"

"We didn't know, Catherine." Looking pleadingly into her eyes, Gil was trying to ignore the raging fire in them aimed straight at him.

"How…" At the loss for words, she took a deep breath and tried again, "On what grounds?"

Pretending to have found something interesting in the files in front of him, Grissom answered not being able to look at her, "The board granted him parole."

"Oh, you've got to be kidding me!!" She exploded.

He knew Catherine was trying hard not to lose it completely. He watched her close her eyes, shuddering once she opened them again, black with rage, "You keep saying "we". Who's "we"? Who's handling the case?" She asked in a strangled voice, struggling to calm herself.

Of course she would want to know that. "That's why I asked you to come." He said looking up from his papers in time to see her eyebrows hit her hairline.

"Well?" Catherine asked impatiently.

Sara stepped inside at that very moment and took a seat next to Catherine. Looking straight ahead she took a few deep breaths preparing herself for the worst. For years she had wished things turned out differently. She had wished for another chance. And now here she was, wishing she would soon wake up from this nightmare.

"What is this about?" Catherine asked looking at her.

Sara remained silent so Grissom offered, "Sara wanted to know if you would be ok with her working the case."

Feeling trapped, Catherine looked sharply from Gil to Sara. Her earlier resolve at making things between Sara and herself a little less strained quickly disappearing, Catherine barked at her, "Since when do you need my approval?!"

Here we go, Sara thought. "I'd rather step back from this if you're not comfortable with me handling…"

"What? Are you worried you might mess something up again?" Catherine asked.

Now, that hurt.

"Don't do this Catherine." Sara pleaded, "I'm giving you a chance to decide..."

"I don't need anything from you!" Catherine snapped suddenly.

"Catherine." Gil tried, suddenly realizing Sara knew exactly what would happen but insisted on this meeting just the same.

Feeling her blood boil underneath, Sara opted to remain quiet for she wasn't sure what would come out if she opened her mouth. The silence on her part only spurred Catherine on, "Just who are you kidding? Suddenly you're willing to step back if I ask you to? After flipping every time anyone tries to give you a hand on a case?"

Already shaking from her efforts to stay calm, Sara tried asking one more time, "Do you want someone else instead?"

They locked eyes for a brief moment before Catherine snarled, "Just do your fucking job, Sara." She got up from her chair and left without another word, angrily shutting the door behind, the glass rattling loudly.

Exhaling slowly Sara glanced at Gil. He was staring, mouth agape, at the now broken in half pencil Catherine left behind.

"That went well," She muttered bitterly, getting up from the chair, "All right then, I'm going back to the lab."

Snapping out of his trance Gil called after her, "Do you want me to uhm… talk to her?"

"No." And with that she was gone, leaving him to sit there stunned at the exchange he'd just witnessed.


Chapter 9

Hoping she might somehow avoid Catherine for at least a little while, Sara retreated to her favorite lab after gathering the old file from Eddie Willows case. Feeling nervous just by looking at it, she barely managed to lay everything out on the table before all the memories came rushing back. She tried reading her own report but couldn't concentrate long enough to push the image of Lindsey's face out of her mind.

Big tearful eyes filled with uncertainty kept staring at her. "Do you think he was scared?" Lindsey asked in such a small voice Sara had to strain to hear her. Taken slightly aback, she didn't know how to respond at first, "I don't know, sweetie… I'm guessing it all happened really fast." Stroking the child's soft hair, she tried to find something comforting to say, "Don't worry, Lindsey. We'll find the bad people who hurt your dad."

Only that turned out to be a lie. She found the bad people all right but she couldn't prove a thing. And now that little angel had to go on living knowing no one was to answer for her father's death, and Catherine… Oh God, Catherine. Sara could feel her heart breaking all over again, familiar regret at failing the one person she would have done anything for threatening to overwhelm her. She wanted the answers, she wanted resolution for Catherine but this just seemed wrong. The thought of making Catherine relive it all, knowing right from the start how hard it would be to prove anything was ripping her apart. Sara knew she'd been given the opportunity to do it right this time around. That alone should have given her hope to bring justice to the victim, closure to his family. But how was she supposed to cling to that hope if she couldn't even feel it?

Grissom was right, she did feel responsible. In the end, someone had to take the blame. So why not her. A small part of Sara never stopped wondering if the case would have been solved had someone else been working on it. Anyone else, as long as they were cool headed, not half blinded with feelings and worried about their coworker out of their mind. She wondered if Catherine ever wished it hadn't been Sara working it. Well today she had a chance to choose. She just didn't take it… or did she?

Sara dropped her head in her hands trying to calm her breathing. Thinking about all the things that could go wrong again was something she couldn't afford right now. She knew she had to find a way to detach herself somehow before her emotions got the better of her. Taking a few deep breaths Sara decided to reread everything while waiting for Brass to call with news. She hadn't even gotten through lining all the photos down when Catherine came bursting through the door.

Looking at Sara incredulously, Catherine yelled, "So basically… you've been doing things behind my back?! For how long?"

Sara sighed and rubbed her forehead. She could feel a nasty headache coming her way.


"How could you do that? How could you not tell me what you've been doing?" Catherine was pacing up and down the lab, making Sara all the more nervous.

"Catherine, calm down, please." She tried softly.

"Calm down?! You've lied to my face…"

"I've never lied to you!" It was Sara's turn to get upset now. Out of all the things Catherine could have accused her of, lying to her was not one of them.

"Oh, well… I suppose not telling me is better than that?" Catherine asked sarcastically, halting right in front of Sara daring her to disagree.

Closing her eyes to calm herself a little, Sara desperately tried to get through to Catherine, "Catherine, please."


Sara was quite sure by this point that nothing she could ever do would please Catherine. Still she tried with honesty, "Grissom had only just asked me to reopen the case. I had only just found out myself… Look, we don't know if this will work and I don't want you getting your hopes up, okay?"

"No, it's not okay! Why do you all keep saying that?" Catherine yelled, "Getting my hopes up? What's up with that??"

Sara looked away, hating the fact she couldn't say anything right. She heard Catherine take a deep breath before saying, "He's already dead, Lindsey already has nightmares and there is no closure for her no matter what you do now. Her father is gone, Sara."

"I understand that, Catherine." Sara's voice wavered slightly, "I'm just trying to get some justice for her and you both."

"What justice? There is no justice!" Catherine snorted and Sara looked up in surprise. "Why are you doing this, Sara? Making me go through it all again? Do you really hate me that much?!" Finally blurting out her fears Catherine averted her eyes, too afraid of what she might see in Sara's.

"Hate… Hate you?" Complete shock washing over her, Sara was too horrified to notice the depth of Catherine's anguish. Staring at Catherine who was refusing to look back at her, she asked brokenly, "How can you be so blind?"

This however got Catherine's attention back to the woman in front of her, "What does that mean?" Her heart was hammering against her chest, making her feel dizzy. She could see the tears forming in Sara's eyes.

"Jesus, Catherine!" Rubbing her face with her hands and blindly taking a few steps back, Sara turned away from Catherine, the need to run overpowering her suddenly.

"Oh, no you don't! You don't get to just walk away from me!" Grabbing Sara's hand Catherine forcefully swung her around.

"Let go of me." Sara's quiet whisper made Catherine's breath catch in her throat. The tears now falling freely down her cheeks, Sara didn't have the strength to shout anymore.

"Answer me, Sara." Catherine whispered back not wanting to upset Sara further but unwilling to let go of her hand. She needed the answers, she needed to understand.

"What's the point?" Pulling her hand away from Catherine's, Sara lowered her gaze to the floor.

"Sara, look at me." Hooking a gentle finger under Sara's chin Catherine forced her to look up. Unconsciously brushing her thumb over Sara's bottom lip, she gently asked again, "Look at me. What is it I'm supposed to be seeing?" She could feel Sara shaking slightly so she lowered her hand now that she had Sara's attention back.

"That I would never do anything to hurt you." Whispered Sara, knowing it was now or never. If she was ever going to make Catherine see the truth behind everything that had ever happened between them it had to be now, "That I can't stand to see you hurt."

"Why?" Looking desperately into Sara's eyes, Catherine demanded more. She could feel something was about to change between them forever and the anticipation made her breathing quicken, but she wouldn't back down. Not this time.

"Because I care about you, Catherine."

For long moments neither of them moved or tried to speak again. Shocked to silence Catherine kept staring at Sara, not being able to process what she had just heard. The silence stretched breaking Sara's heart, that blank expression in Catherine's eyes killing her inside.

"I care." Sara's voice cracked, "And to have you stand here like this, staring at me so incredulously, so utterly unaware of how much I'd hated myself for failing you and what I'm going through to fix this for you… is just too much for me right now, Catherine."

Maybe it was the sight of completely speechless Catherine or her own tears blurring her vision, choking her, Sara couldn't really tell. Her courage gone, she couldn't stop yet another wrenching sob so she suddenly turned away and bolted for the door before Catherine had a chance to pull herself together and stop her.

Peeking inside the locker room Grissom found Sara sitting on the floor, her back pressed against the wall. She never even looked up to acknowledge his presence, choosing to keep staring at her hands.

"Are you all right?" Grissom asked from the doorway.

Ignoring the question, she mumbled, "I'm on my break."

It hurt to see her like that, but he knew better than to push her when she wasn't ready, "There was a delivery for you at the front desk."

Looking up at Gil for the first time, Sara saw Catherine approaching the room in obvious search of her. Her stomach once again tied in knots, Sara grumbled and got to her feet, "Fine. I'll pick it up later."

"You need to do it now," Gil informed her just when Catherine reached them, "I've escorted the delivery boy up here; he needs you to sign the receipt."

Not having expected to have anything delivered to her Sara ignored Catherine's attempts to meet her eyes and quickly got over with the exchange, only to be stopped dead when she noticed the return address.

Realizing something was wrong Catherine came closer, "What is it, Sara?"

Growing very pale Sara opened the envelope with shaking fingers, tearing the seal, almost forgetting how to breathe once she started reading. She couldn't quite comprehend the words at first as letters kept dancing in front of her eyes; she did however feel Catherine's hand on her shoulder, warm fingers tracing unfamiliar patterns over her skin. It was oddly comforting, grounding her somehow.

"Sara?" Catherine tried again but there was no response.

Sara simply kept blinking rapidly willing it all to go away, wishing the last few minutes had never happened. She was better off not knowing anyway.

"Sara? You're scaring me." Came the almost whispered plea.

Snapping out of her haze, she looked into Catherine's eyes and murmured, "I'm sorry. I have to go."

"Go where? What's happening?"

But Sara was already on her way out. "I'm sorry…" She whispered not looking back and almost ran out with Grissom hot on her trail, leaving stunned Catherine behind.

Chasing after Gil and Sara, Catherine managed to avoid bumping into Warrick who was still unbelievably embarrassed each time he had to so much as look at her. Not answering his "What's the matter?" she kept speeding, halting only in front of Gil's office once she spotted Sara's figure beside his desk.

Not bothering to knock or pretend she wasn't interested in their conversation, she managed to catch the last few of Sara's words, "Apperently there was a riot of some kind… they're still investigating what…"

"Catherine? Could you please give us some privacy?" Gil asked suddenly.

Surprised at being interrupted, Sara turned around to see Catherine barging in defiantly.

"Oh, but please, go on… I do believe this concerns me too." She said.

"Catherine. This really doesn't concern you." Grissom once again tried getting through to her, "I would appreciate if you would…"

"Will someone tell me what the hell is going on??" It was just so much easier for Catherine to keep barking at them both than acknowledge how deeply Sara's earlier admission affected her and how scared she felt Sara would never let her close again after everything said between them.

"Catherine, this is a private matter…" Grissom vaguely said still looking at Sara intently, but Sara wouldn't look up.

"Really?" Catherine asked sarcastically, folding her arms over her chest.

Suddenly Sara spoke, "Actually… I think… I would like to take a few days off, Griss."

"That would be for the best, yes." He agreed, adding, "Take as many as you need."

Turning around she found herself face to face with a very pissed off Catherine.

"So now you're taking days off? You reopen a closed case of my ex husband along with all the wounds and than you go off taking a vacation?!"

By this point Gil got up from his chair, "Catherine, if I were you I'd stop right there."

Taking a deep breath to calm her shattered nerves, Sara quietly said, "Case is at the dead end at the moment. Till Brass finds Robert Black and brings him in, there's nothing I can do but keep waiting."

"What was in that letter? I saw the seal, Sara. Penitentiaries use that kind of seal."

Sara lowered her gaze back to her feet. It was like she had never opened up to Catherine, like none of the things she had said mattered to her at all.

"Catherine, this isn't about you or Eddie's case." Gil interrupted noticing Sara's discomfort.

"Then what is it about?" She watched Sara's face expectantly, "You've mentioned a riot?"

Feeling defeated and too tired to explain everything once again when she didn't even understand herself, Sara simply said, "My mother had a stroke, Catherine."

Shocked to silence, Catherine just stood there not comprehending the sudden change of topics. She opened her mouth but not being able to get anything intelligible out, she blinked a few times only to find Sara gone from Gil's office, door wide open and Warrick staring at them both from the hallway.


Chapter 10

Closing the door to Grissom's office, Catherine turned and said in her most serious voice, "You better explain this to me, Gil. I have some serious apologizing to do and I need to know exactly what is going on."

Grissom took a seat shaking his head, "I can't discuss this with you, Catherine."

"But you're going to. I need you to tell me what happened." Taking a seat she watched Grissom look anywhere but at her.

"You heard what happened. Her mother is sick." He reminded her softly.

"What is she doing in a penitentiary, Gil?" Catherine asked leaning closer.

"I'm sorry," He shook his head as if to clear it, "I can't do this. You need to leave now."

"Don't do this to me, Gil. Just explain it to me so I can…" Catherine started, her voice desperate, but Grissom cut her off, "Catherine, this is not happening. I can not and will not discuss Sara's private matters with you. What ever you are interested in finding out you'll have to talk to her about it."

"I don't believe this…" Running her fingers through her hair she stared at one of his bugs and tried to think of how she was going to clear the mess she helped creating.

"Just leave her be for a while, Catherine." He offered the only solution he managed to come up with.

"What?" She stared at him incredulously, "She just found out her mother had a stroke and you think it is best to leave her be?" At least she could let off some steam by yelling at Grissom.

"I think she would prefer to be alone right now." Grissom said calmly.

"Maybe you would, since solitude is apparently your answer to everything. Not everyone finds comfort in being alone when…You know, never mind." Getting up she headed for the door. What was done was done, Gil wasn't helping and she needed to go and find Sara.

"Where are you going?" He asked, surprised by her actions.

"The shift ends in an hour. Surely you guys can make it without me for one hour?"

"You're not going to go see her now, are you?" Grissom sounded horrified.

Reaching the door Catherine turned to look at him for a moment, "You're not going to tell me what happened to her mother, are you?"

"Don't answer my question with another question… Have we not been through this before?" He sounded irritated.

"We have." Catherine agreed, nodding her head, "And I've told you not to ask when you already know the answer." She turned around and opened the door.

"But you've done that too!" Grissom raised his voice to get her attention back.

"Oh, sorry. I thought we've been playing some kind of a game." Catherine threw over her shoulder.


"See you tonight, Gil."

After checking Sara's favorite lab and the locker room, Catherine tried paging her again while jogging to the parking lot. "Yeah, like she'd call you back now." She admonished herself and climbing in her car quickly drove off.

'What have I done?' She never wanted to hurt Sara like that. Let off some steam maybe, force Sara not to keep her in the dark or work behind her back again, but this… she never expected this to happen. 'She cares about me.' Feeling her heart jump a little at that thought, Catherine remembered Sara's tears and her stomach dropped again. 'God, what have I done?' If only she hadn't lashed out at Sara like that… How was she supposed to fix that now?

As if that wasn't bad enough, now this. What the hell was Sara's mother doing in jail?

The images of Sara's shocked, pain filled eyes kept coming back to Catherine making her heart ache. "She looked so lost and I kept pushing…" She mumbled under her breath. The guilt consuming her, Catherine kept speeding. By the time she reached Sara's neighborhood she was nervous as hell.

Breathing a sigh of relief once she spotted Sara's car in front of the apartment building, Catherine tried composing herself. The thought of Gil possibly being right just now entering her mind made her rethink her decision for a second. "What if she doesn't want to see me?" She asked herself aloud, her fingers nervously playing with the hem of her shirt. Would that really matter, she wondered. Sara was hurting, Catherine probably made it a whole lot worse and now was not the time to back down. She had to at least try to help her. 'She shouldn't be alone right now… I don't care what Gil says, I'm going to see her.' Her mind made up, Catherine jumped out of her car and headed determinedly towards Sara's apartment.

Sara couldn't remember how she managed to get to her apartment. She couldn't even tell how long she had been sitting on her couch, staring at her hands holding the now wrinkled envelope. Still fully clothed, she simply sat there trying to understand what it was she was feeling.

Her mother was sick. Her mother. The woman she hadn't seen in twenty years. It said in the letter she simply collapsed yesterday afternoon in the midst of an insurrection she had earlier refused to participate in. The general chaos that took place caused the late arrival of the paramedics. She nearly died just waiting for help, her inmates not bothering to check upon her. What was she supposed to do now, Sara wondered. She had spent half of her life trying to escape; her mother, their past, the pain Laura caused her, then the pain Laura's mere existence kept causing her. She had finally accepted she would never be free. It would never hurt any less, she would simply have to learn how to live with all that grief. To push it aside and pretend it wasn't there.

She should call the warden. Or Steven. Does he even know? She should book a flight. Would her mother even want to see her? Confusing thoughts kept swirling around Sara's head, each more so than the other. Somehow the true meaning of these recent events kept eluding her.

The only feeling she could name with certainty at this moment was complete despair because she managed to lose it in front of Catherine. 'I'm completely in love with someone who can hardly stand me. Way to go, Sara. How humiliating was that? Almost blurting out I loved her, only to get… what kind of a reaction was that anyway?' Sara mused bitterly, the sound of someone knocking at her door surprising her completely.


With shaking hands and a little out of breath, Catherine softly knocked on Sara's door once more. Not being able to hear any movement behind them she tried knocking more firmly, unnerving thoughts beginning to form in her mind.

"Sara, please open the door. Sara?"

Shocked to silence once the door opened revealing a pale looking object of her worries, Catherine just stared at her.


Forgetting everything she was planning on saying if she ever managed to get past Sara's front door, Catherine's instincts kicked in. She moved closer, reached out and wrapped the stunned woman in a hug.

She held on tightly, whispering to Sara, "I'm sorry… I'm so sorry." Feeling Sara respond to her touch by gently leaning into her, Catherine felt a huge weight being lifted off her chest. Maybe there was still a chance. She pulled Sara even closer and just held on. Pressing her cheek against Sara's, Catherine kept mumbling "I'm sorry" over and over again. Finally Sara relaxed enough to put her arms around the slim waist, feeling Catherine place soft kisses in her hair.

It felt so good being this close to Catherine, Sara never thought she'd get another chance. She felt safe and that alone was a small miracle. She never wanted to stop holding her. When Catherine tried moving back a little to look at Sara, she was surprised to feel Sara tighten her hold.

"Ssshhh… Hey. I'm not going anywhere." Whispered Catherine, rubbing Sara's back soothingly, "I'm here… it's okay." Kissing Sara's cheek she asked, "Can we go sit down?" Sara pulled away a little and Catherine closed the door to the apartment, leading Sara to the couch.

Distracted by the unpleasant loss of warmth Catherine's body provided just moments ago, Sara wasn't sure what was expected of her. She kept staring at the floor until she felt Catherine reaching for her hand. Looking up to meet her gaze she was amazed at the sight before her. Deep blue eyes filled with sadness and compassion smiled at her for a second and then she was being pulled into another warm embrace.

Long moments of silence passed before Sara shifted slightly, mumbling quietly in Catherine's neck, "You give good hugs."

Catherine smiled and whispered back, "Good to hear you say that, 'cause I don't feel like letting go yet."

Not wanting her to ever let go, Sara moved her head if possibly even closer to Catherine's. She finally voiced her fear, dreading the answer but needing to hear it, "Why are you here?"

Lost in the sensation of having Sara so close to her again, Catherine wasn't exactly expecting that question. Torn apart by the need to mother her and a very different desire to kiss all her troubles away, Catherine didn't really know what to say. Taking a deep breath she opted for the simplest answer, "I didn't think you should be alone right now."

But that hadn't worked all that well. "Is that the only reason?" Sara asked.

Giving up on pretending as she could see no point in doing that anyway, Catherine confessed, "No." Slightly worried if Sara would believe her, she added quietly, "I wanted to be here."


"You scared me…" Catherine said, "I needed to see you, to see if you were okay."

That wasn't the complete truth. Even if she didn't quite understand how or when all her carefully built walls started crumbling down, Catherine knew she couldn't stay away from Sara anymore. Not after what Sara had told her. She was confused and frightened at the same time, fearing she might lose something important before even managing to define it. Not that she minded being confused right now, the warmth of Sara's body distracting her far too much to care about the fog in her head. The world also seemed to be less scary with Sara this close to her so Catherine just held on for dear life.

"I'm not okay." Sara said brokenly.

Nodding her head against Sara's, Catherine whispered, "I know."

All the questions forming in her head and making her impatient, Catherine had to fight the urge to start asking them aloud. She was hoping Sara would open up at some point but she also knew she had to stay quiet and give Sara enough time.

As if reading her thoughts, Sara took a deep breath but then lost her courage quickly, "I don't want to talk about it right now. I don't think I can…" Her voice cracked.

Catherine's heart broke at the strangled admission. Closing her eyes she tenderly stroked Sara's hair, "Okay."

"But I don't want you to leave either." Sara admitted softly, hoping she wasn't asking for too much.

Oh thank God, Catherine thought. She really didn't want to leave. "I've told you Sara, I'm not going anywhere."

Feeling Sara's body relaxing against her, Catherine gently settled deeper into the cushions. She pulled Sara up with her so they could both get more comfortable. The back of the couch now supporting both of their weights, Catherine kicked off her shoes and let Sara resume her previous position. She wrapped her arms around the slender form and made a silent promise to stay as long as Sara needed her.

Sara awoke to the delicious smell of coffee spreading through the room, invading her grateful nostrils. Smiling a little she opened her eyes, not quite aware of her surroundings yet. Catherine watched closely for that moment of realization. Once Sara remembered what had happened and tried to sit up quickly, Catherine was there to gently push her back down to the couch. Breathing heavily, Sara stared into her eyes. The fear was quickly spreading through her veins until she heard Catherine whisper softly, "It's all right. I'm still here." Lost in the incredible blue gaze and the sensation of Catherine's fingers brushing her cheek to calm her, Sara relaxed a little and waited.

"I wish I could stay longer, Sara… But I have to go pick up Lindsey, and I did promise not to push you into talking before you were ready." Never stopping their soothing motion, Catherine's fingers were now softly touching Sara's forehead. "But I need you to know that I'll be here for you, Sara. Whenever you decide you want to talk, you can come to me. I'll listen."

Sara closed her eyes for a moment, willing the tears not to start falling. When she opened them again Catherine was still there. "Thank you." She whispered.

Leaning down, Catherine kissed Sara's forehead, her lips lingering a little longer on the soft skin. Inhaling the sweet sent of Catherine's hair, Sara's eyes fluttered shut for a brief moment, opening only when Catherine softly called her name.

Catherine's hand cupped her cheek, her eyes looking deeply into Sara's, "You have never failed me, Sara." Watching Sara's eyes widening in shock, she repeated in a strong voice, "Never."

Silent tears escaping Sara's eyes, she kept staring into Catherine's, not feeling strong enough to speak even if she could find the words. Barely controlling the sudden urge to kiss them away, Catherine smiled shakily and got up from the couch before her own feelings got the better of her.

"Are we okay?" She asked quietly. Sara merely nodded, too afraid to try and find her voice. Catherine nodded too, "Get some more rest… If you need anything, call me."

Quickly grabbing her coat Catherine headed for the door, closing it softly behind. She leaned against the wall next to them and covered her face with her hands. All she wanted was to get back inside and wrap Sara in her arms again. "Oh God…" She mumbled, "What have I gotten myself into?"

Part 11

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