DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of these characters. Sorry for treading on any toes I do it only for my sanity.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have a very small story arc in my head relating in some way to the episode arc C-C-Changes through Nesting Dolls and beyond.
SERIES: This is part three of the 'Three Little Words' series, following All I Need and You're Mine Tonight.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

I'm So Sorry
By Debbie

Catherine Willows was sitting in her office deep in thought. She had been supervisor of swing-shift for over 6 months now and still the position wasn't as comfortable as she wanted it to be. Things had improved dramatically of late but they were still by no means perfect.

Looking around her office she saw traces of herself beginning to appear: photographs, certificates, memorabilia (she smiled at Gil's welcome present), cold-cases, just things like everybody had, things that made an office feel like home. Herself, Nick and Warrick had settled into a more acceptable working arrangement. They appreciated she was in charge and she appreciated their independence. They had even settled into a satisfying social arrangement, not living in each other's pockets but spending downtime with each other on a regular basis.

The swing-shift had even come to a much more comfortable arrangement with the graveyard shift. After some early problems and subsequent setting of boundary discussions, the two supervisors, Gil and Catherine, were once again back to supportive colleagues rather than rival supervisors. Being honest with herself Catherine knew that that little problem had been much due to her own insecurities coming into play. She'd thought that Gil was trying to countermand her abilities when really she'd known that Gil just couldn't be like that. He had always supported her abilities and in his own way he had continued to do so. Even letting her make wrong judgmental decisions that had back-fired, like her handling of the whole Sara melt-down spat of 3 months previous, and then being on hand to support rather that to gloat. She hadn't thought Gil had that level of people management, she was wrong, and she now hoped that if nothing else her management style, although different, was as effective as his had proven to be.

Thinking of Graveyard shift and her intense spat with Sara Sidle brought the tall brunette to the forefront of her mind. She chuckled now at the words Sara had thrown in her face, how she let her sexuality cloud her judgment about men. Sara was right of course, the problem had been its delivery and the resulting consequences. The unfortunate aspect of the whole sad episode was that Ecklie had heard their explosive argument, had suspended Sara, and then expected Gil to fire his golden girl. Gil, as was to be expected, was having none of that. He too had been right. Catherine had been in the wrong.

The blonde CSI cringed when she remembered how she had appeared, in Gil's eyes at least, to side with Ecklie. Nothing could have been further from the truth; her only concern at the time had been the damage that was being done to her then recent decision to get closer to Sara. Unfortunately, Ecklie's interception in the argument had caused an escalation beyond ever before in the perceived split between the two headstrong women and friendship had looked nigh on an impossibility.

Catherine had known deep down that if Ecklie hadn't been privy to the heated discussion that everything would have run a different course. She and Sara would have shouted and screamed at each other, then calmed down, and then got on with the business of solving the case at hand. But no, Ecklie had become involved, and the three people in the episode, Sara, Gil and Catherine, had had to walk a distressing tight-rope together.

Things had come to a head with a confrontation between Ecklie, Catherine and Gil. After Gil's summary dismissal at the hands of Ecklie, 'she's a loose canon with a gun and she's all yours', Catherine and Gil had shared a hard look that Gil had called her on. For once, she and Gil exchanged bitter words. She'd wanted to know what action he was taking against Sara and Gil had refused to tell. Catherine had climbed on her high horse demanding that Sara needed some sort of discipline, ranting and raving for long minutes while Gil calmly stared her down. Eventually, subdued, Catherine had stopped. Her ex-superior and long-time friend had then put his hand gently on her arm and said, "I was there for you, Cath, and I'll be there for Sara."

With those gentle words he had broken through Catherine's rage and directed her mind back towards Sara, the woman she was afraid to admit that she admired and even liked. Instantly, she knew that the way Sara had reacted was because of something in the case, after all she'd called her on it before this had blown out of all proportion: the younger woman's hatred of anything domestic abuse related. Catherine had begged Gil to tell her Sara's problem but Gil had been true to his friendship with Sara and just said that Catherine would have to trust Sara to tell her the truth when she was ready and able. And so Catherine had waited for Sara's explanation. In her own mind she'd already forgiven Sara, and all she needed to do was to find a way of giving her apologies for her part in the escapade with Ecklie and the suspension.

Catherine smiled, of course, if none of that had happened Sara and Catherine wouldn't be where they were now. The blonde CSI remembered the slow steady path they were now tiptoeing down, trying to build up a simple friendship, through their joint love for her young daughter, Lindsey.

Taking one last glance around her office before attending her next case, Catherine's last thought was that it appeared Sara's melt-down had brought something good after all.

Meanwhile, Sara Sidle was out on a case. It appeared to be a simple matter of analyzing a death scene, first glances suggesting a tramp dying of natural causes while rolling drunk toppling down into one of the many storm drains that abound in Nevada cities. Sara and Sophia had been given this case together, the first they had shared since Sophia's introduction into Graveyard.

Working quietly together, Sara was amazed to hear Sophia giving a running commentary of the scene, it didn't bother her per se as she was more than capable of switching off her surroundings and carrying on with the job at hand. Glancing up at her companion, she indicated an object in the distance, protruding from some standing water. As Sophia nodded her head, understanding immediately that the cautious investigator wanted to cover all her bases, the heavens opened. Sara groaned and pulled her jacket around her; hopefully it would only be a flash storm and over as fast as it had started. Turning on her heels, she left Sophia with David the coroner and headed across the drain.

As she walked across her thoughts drifted to Catherine and Lindsey Willows. As she had promised herself, Sara had swallowed her pride and approached Catherine within days of their blow-up. She had apologized for her outburst, saying that she had no right to cast aspersions about Catherine's lifestyle and been pleasantly surprised when Catherine had actually agreed with her. Catherine had explained that, although she had loved Eddie unconditionally at first, the relationship had deteriorated rapidly with his continued drug and alcohol abuse, resulting in a small degree of domestic abuse. She added gently that, because of the demeaning attitude of her husband, she did have a tendency to use the power she had been given, her sexuality, to achieve things other might not achieve, and that she knew occasionally she might let this cloud her judgment against men, but that she'd hoped that Sara might understand that she would do whatever it took to solve a case.

Sara had admitted that she did understand, that Catherine and her were just different. She went on to add that on that day she'd let her personal problems do exactly the same as she'd accused Catherine of, cloud her judgments, and that she hoped Catherine would accept her apologies and their differences and that they could work together as well as they had always done in the past. With that simple form of apology Catherine took things a step further forward by admitting that in the past, it had actually been Sara's different approach that had held her back from making a fool of herself, and that, more than anything; their differences were beneficial rather than detrimental. The younger CSI had nodded her understanding, that she too knew, that in the past it had also been Catherine's attitude that had actually helped her stay in control.

The blonde tried to say that she understood Sara's abhorrence of any abuse against women and children but that sometimes they had to take a step away from the intensity. Sara had nodded her understanding but stayed Catherine's words with a gentle hand on her arm. Looking into Catherine's calm and supportive eyes she had related the story of her abuse at the hand of her own father, and his death at the hand of her mother. She admitted that cases of abuse were probably more than her soul should bear, but that it was the only way she had managed to keep any sort of lid on her escalating emotions; the clinical reasoning behind crime scene investigation had been and would always be her salvation.

With the tentative steps towards more understanding between the two adversaries, Sara had dared to approach the subject of Lindsey. Explaining that, although the circumstances were somewhat different, she did have a degree of understanding of what Lindsey was going through on the loss of her father at such a young age, and that she, Sara, might be a useful confidante for the young girl. Seeing a shocked look on Catherine's face she'd jumped in with both feet and offered to take Lindsey on a number of educational/social outings, to give Catherine and break, and to give Lindsey a neutral outlet for her feelings. Catherine and Sara had both been surprised at Catherine's immediate acceptance of the idea.

Grinning to herself, the brunette thought back on hers and Lindsey's most recent outing to the local astronomical society lecture and associated night star-watch. The look on Catherine's face when they had returned and Lindsey had tried indicating all the different constellations through light cloud covering had been comical, thinking about it now the normally 'staid to the point of serious when on an investigation' Sara allowed a chuckle to rumble its way to the surface.

Happy and for once preoccupied, Sara missed the protruding rock that blocked her pathway, falling flat on her face, she blushed and looked up to make sure Sophia had not witnessed her accident. At that instant she saw a pale, obviously worried Sophia running towards her, waving her arms and yelling, "SARA!

The End

Sequel Don't You Dare

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