DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, I never will. Proper rights go to Bruckheimer and gang. Sue me you will not, nothing I have.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Amy Jo

Part 11

I tell myself to breathe, that whatever I'm feeling has to stop. Sara is standing right in front of me, yet in my mind's eye I can still see her hand on Secula's arm and the way she had laughed at whatever the detective had said. There's a bitter taste in my mouth now, I assume from the jealousy running through my veins.

What really gets to me is that I have no right to be jealous. It hasn't even been a full twenty-four hours since I realized my attraction to her. That is not enough time to become attached in any kind of way. But I have. I've known jealousy before, and much as I try not to let it show, it's very clear that Sara can tell something is wrong with me.

"Hey guys. What's up?"

Sara's question is directed at both of us, but Gil still hasn't looked up from the DNA results and I wonder if maybe he's trying to memorize them or something. While the results were interesting and seem to have taken both our cases in a new direction, they weren't that interesting.

When it doesn't look like Gil is going to say anything, I answer for him, "Gil found our missing lady."

Sara's brow arches and I watch for a moment as she waits for Gil to say something, anything. When he doesn't she turns her head to look at me and silently waits for me to explain.

"His db in the desert is our missing lady. A few other interesting developments as well." I elbow Gil in the arm, hoping to snap his attention back to us, and the conversion that he wanted to have with Sara.

"Huh?" Gil asks, finally looking up from the DNA results.

Sara looks at me and rolls her eyes, noting Gil's disinterest in what's going on around him until someone nudges him hard enough to get him to pay attention. Of course, the gesture goes unnoticed by Gil and the smile playing at Sara's lips evaporates the tension I felt thickening the air between us. I like that smile of hers way too much, especially when it's directed at me.

"Gil, you wanted to discuss developments with Sara right?" I try not to be patronizing, but he's the one who wanted to talk to Sara right away. I would have been talking to Sara soon after we got the results from Greg, but since he wanted to talk to her too, I figure it's only fair that he actually do some of the talking.

"Oh. Yeah." Gil shakes his head a little, as if clearing his thoughts.

Sara is getting rather impatient, I can tell by the way she shifts her feet on the ground and crosses her arms in front of her. If she had a kit in her hand, she would look exactly as she did earlier this shift when I spoke with the officer at the scene.

"So?" She says and somehow Gil doesn't hear the disgruntled tone in her voice.

It occurs to me that something is really bothering her tonight. She's been acting kind of different and this is one of the very rare times I've seen her become irritated with Gil's behavior. Normally she just goes with it and listens whenever Gil is ready to talk. But tonight is different, she's definitely irritated and it only gets worse the less Gil pays attention.

"Oh. My db is your missing person," Gil says, completely unaware that I've already mentioned that fact to Sara. I swear sometimes the man is just plain ignorant of everything that goes on around him. For a moment I wonder what Sara sees in him.

"Uh-huh." Sara nods in agreement and Gil just looks at her confused. "Catherine just said that a minute ago. I assume there was something else that you wanted to explain?"

Sara covers her irritation by changing the tone of her voice to questioning and giving Gil a little smirk. I never really thought about it before, but I've noticed she does this a lot with him. It's as if she's miles ahead of him in the race and turns back to find him so that he doesn't have to run the race alone.

Now that I'm paying closer attention to her I'm beginning to notice that maybe this thing between Gil and Sara really isn't what everyone seems to think it is. Most of the lab holds onto the belief there is a romance of sorts between Gil and Sara. The kind of faltering, one step forward two steps back romance that will most likely never become a reality. Honestly, this is what I've always thought of the awkward relationship between Gil and Sara.

The minority of people we work with believe that Sara's behavior is just conciliatory and that she too indulgent of his incredibly rare signs of affection. Of course, this minority opinion is held by the lab techs who have been fascinated with Sara since she arrived from California. I think their opinion is based more on their own denial than anything concrete.

Watching the interaction between the two now I think I'm beginning to agree with the minority. Sara's stance as she looks at Gil is guarded, almost defensive, and her voice is laced with irritation. Gil is, as usual, oblivious. He is too wrapped up in the science to notice the people around him, including Sara.

Part of me wants to thank him for not noticing, it would be much more awkward to face my attraction to Sara if Gil showed any real interest in her. Of course, the other part of me wants to smack some sense into him for being so completely unaware. How could someone not notice her? Intelligent, charming, and beautiful too.

"So it would seem that everyone involved is family. We just have to figure out who is who and who did what."

I return to the conversation barely even noticing that I had become so immersed in my thoughts and observations that I missed a good portion what they were talking about. Great, now I'm turning into Gil; barely paying attention to my surroundings and living in my head instead.

Oh shit.

It doesn't seem that Sara or Gil noticed my little detour from the conversation, and I'm thankful for that. But the second I had the thought about turning into Gil another thought immediately follows, and it scares the shit out of me. I stand stock still, almost as if I've gone into shock. Maybe I have.

When Sara gets within two feet of me I can't seem to think about anything other than her. Is this the same reason Gil seems to be off in la-la-land every time she is near? If it is I can't blame him. I mean now that I've recognized my own attraction to her, she consumes my thoughts and having her close enough to touch but not being allowed to is certainly distracting.

I haven't even really put any serious thought to seeing if there could be something between Sara and I. Yes, it did seem like she was flirting with me earlier, and there was a moment when I wanted nothing more than to kiss her. But I haven't put more thought into it than that. I don't even know if Sara would be open to the possibility of dating a woman, let alone me. All night I've been trying to focus on something other than her, and all night I've been unable to do so. Maybe it gets easier with time.

I look at Gil and realize that it does not get easier with time. We've never really talked about his personal life; he's too emotionally guarded to let even our friendship reach that level. But there's definitely at least a little part of him that has fallen for Sara. I can see it in his eyes when he looks at her.

I don't stand a chance with her if he really feels what I think he does. There's a tension between the two that makes me think maybe there isn't anything romantic between them, but a further look at both of them only shows that the tension only exists because neither of them will make a move. If one of them ever does gather the courage to make the move, it's amazingly easy to see how good they would be together.

I shake my head to clear the thoughts. I don't want to think about the two of them together. I want them both to be happy, but the jealousy I felt clearly means one thing; I want Sara to be happy with me, not with anyone else, even Gil.

Part 12

Is there some kind of support group for people who think too much? In less than a day I've been leaping from one thought to another, most of them revolving around Sara. I'm attracted to her. Was she flirting with me? I want to be with her. Does she want to be with Gil? Does he want to be with her? I'm jealous of a blonde-haired detective I barely know simply because Sara touched her arm and laughed. I need help.

"Catherine?" A voice filters through the fog in my brain.


"You okay?" Sara sounds concerned.

Gil has apparently already left us, as I can now see his figure retreating down the hallway. Sara reaches out and places her hand on my arm. I feel a slight sense of déjà vu as I look down at her hand. At the beginning of shift tonight she had done the same thing. The gesture is meant to be calming, but the effect it has on me is anything but.

"Uh, yeah. I'm fine. Just thinking, and I'm tired. I shouldn't try thinking so much when I haven't slept," I tell her with a smile, hoping she will let it go and not ask what I was thinking about or why I didn't sleep. Somehow I don't think she'd like to hear that the answer to both questions was her.

"You sure you're okay? I've never seen you this out of touch before," Sara's hand squeezes my arm just a little and her voice grows more concerned with every word she says.

"Honestly, I'm not sure that I'm okay," I want to smack myself upside the head for admitting that to her so I hastily add, "But I will be. I really think I just need some sleep."

I can't figure out why she's so concerned. Sure I'm a little off my game tonight, but we've never had the kind of friendship where she would reach out to me like this. We've had a flaky friendship at best; I reach out, she turns down my efforts. Like some kind of masochist I always reach out again. But her concern for me is turning the tables. If it were anything else that was bothering me, I'd go ahead and take her up on the offer I see in her eyes to talk about it.

But how do I talk about this with her? 'Oh by the way the reason I can't concentrate tonight is because I keep thinking about you. About the your smile, the way you touch my hand, that all-to-pleasurable mini-massage you gave me earlier.' Yeah I can see that going over real well.

"I'll be fine. Really," I tell her when she doesn't seem to believe me. "Just need a little sleep."

Sara steps back and she looks at me quizzically, "I thought that's what you were doing in your office?"

That smile returns and I can tell that she is playing with me. "That was an unplanned nap. I was going to do some paperwork and then I wake up with you standing right behind me."

I wake up to the touch of your hand, your fingers playing in my hair. The best way to wake up that I can think of. Even the memory makes me smile and I can feel that same blush start to creep it's way across my face. But I can't exactly tell Sara all this. I can't tell her how she makes me feel, I don't have the courage. What if she were to say 'Gee, thanks. That's flattering but I don't feel the same.' Would it change the way we work together, would it make her uncomfortable to be around me?

"Well I paged you a few times, but didn't get a response. Thought you might need a little help waking up when I caught you napping at your desk." That damn smile just gets wider and wider as she watches my face turn red in embarrassment.

This is why I can't tell what's going on. She's concerned and playful. But if I say, or do, the wrong thing, I know the coolness will return. I've had years to deal with the more reserved Sara, and by now I know how to cope with the usual brush-off. But I really really like this playful Sara. The one that is concerned, the one that is smiling at me right now. I don't know how to react, and that uncertainty is frustrating, but it's worth it if she keeps smiling.

"I'm sorry. I didn't get any sleep today and I just crashed I guess. I'm sorry," I don't really know why I'm apologizing to her. If it was Gil I'd be apologizing for sleeping on the job because he's my boss. But there really isn't a need to apologize to Sara. "But thank you for waking me up."

Something in her eyes changes before she says, "Anytime. So you think you're ready to get back to work?"

No. I want to know what Sara was thinking right then. What thought she had right before the look in her eyes changed and what that look means. I want to know why I get the feeling that she's flirting with me one second, but then is back to business the next. What made her open up a little and seem so concerned and caring only to have her retreat back to the Sara I know so well.

"Yeah," I sigh heavily. "So what's going on in there," I say nodding toward the interview room the Nesbits are sitting in.

"They're filling out missing persons paperwork. Which I guess is pretty redundant now that we've found Anna."

"Probably. But it looks as if they're almost finished anyway. Where'd Gil go off to?"

Sara laughs at my question. "You didn't hear a word of that conversation did you?"

I feel my face turn bright red, "No. I kind of got caught up in my own little world and stopped listening sometime after I stopped talking."

The smile on her face only gets bigger. "Grissom went to see Doc Robbins. He wants to know the cause of death before the Nesbits leave."

"Did Gil say anything about having the Nesbits identify the body? We've got the DNA, but they should really identify her since they're already here."

"Yeah. He said to give Doc another hour and he should be ready. Grissom will stop by when everything's set. Until then we get to keep asking questions and try to figure out who everyone in this mess is."

Sara heads back into the interview room and I am secretly glad that I'm not the only one who is just a little confused about who everyone involved in this case is. Too many names for me to try to remember on no sleep.

Sara sits in the chair next to Detective Secula and I hang back behind them both, leaning against the wall. If I can, I'm going to let Sara do most of the talking on this one. Back in the hotel room she looked like she had a few more questions for the pair, and I'm more than willing to let her run this one. I'm too distracted.

"You all finished there?" Secula asks, pointing at the paperwork.

"Yeah, I think so. Is there anything else you guys needed? It's really late, or early I guess, and I think I'd like to get back to the hotel and get some rest," James says. And he does look extremely tired. He's had a long day, if I could I'd let them go get some rest, but we need them here for at least another hour.

"Actually," Sara says, immediately getting the attention of both the Nesbits and Detective Secula. "We need you to stick around for a while. I'm sorry to have to say this, but it looks like we found your mother."

Part 13

Detective Secula looks shocked and I see a note of happy surprise on James' face. Then the words "I'm sorry" sink in and he realizes what Sara really means. James buries his head in his hands and doubles over in his chair, crying. Angie sits stoically next to James. Her hand returns to his back, repeating the comforting rubbing that she was doing earlier in the hotel room.

I move over to the table and pick up the missing persons report they filled out. On it I find contact information for them here in Vegas and back at their home. Also included is information on how to reach their son. This is what I really wanted, suspecting the unknown familial DNA belongs to the kid.

I stand next to Sara, hoping she doesn't notice the slight shaking of my hands, or the slightly increased breathing that I seem to suffer just from being so near to her. This is definitely not going to be as easy as I had originally thought. Control. Breathe and get control.

I lean down and speak quietly in Sara's ear, "I think we should leave them alone for a little while. Let them grieve in peace."

I'm out the door before Sara gets a chance to respond. I take the missing persons report with me to copy a few of the more important pages. I'll leave the full report for Gil and Sara, but I need to know the contact numbers for the son to see if I can reach him.

I head downstairs to the morgue, hoping to catch Gil. Doc and Gil are standing over an autopsy table, discussing various findings. When I walk up to the table, it is instantly clear to me that this is the body of Anna Nenadov. I know that I can't be the one to make a positive identification, but I wish I could spare the Nesbits from having to see her like this.

The desert heat has dried her skin, but thankfully whatever happened to her wasn't violent. A slight discoloration around her neck leads me to believe strangulation. I look up from the body, focusing finally on the other two people in the room. Well, the other two living people.

"Catherine. Always a pleasure to have you stop by," Doc says.

I used to think it was weird that he would be happy to see me. I mean, we are in the morgue, and when he sees me it's only because someone has died. Pretty rotten circumstances if you ask me. But after a while I guess you become so desensitized to coming down here, and him to working here, and you just enjoy the company of the people you begin to see on a regular basis. Sometimes though, I still pause when he says that.

"Good to see you too, Doc. Prelims?" I realize that he's probably already discussed preliminary results with Gil, but I would rather hear the results from him in person than read it on a piece of paper.

"Prelims aren't binding, but at this point I'd say manual strangulation. Pretty rough way to go for a lady of her age. There's nothing to indicate violence or any previous abuse."

"You think it would be possible for her son to do the viewing before you start working on the autopsy?"

There's something so gruesome about the jagged lines of the y-incision. Simply covering up the body with a crisp white sheet doesn't hide the fact that you know what lies underneath. And if the prelim is manual strangulation, Doc is going to cut open her throat at some point to see if the hyoid bone was broken. And you can't hide that with a sheet no matter how hard you try.

"He close by?" Doc looks up from the body and asks.

"Upstairs," I say as I nod.

"If you think you can get him down here quick, I don't see a problem with that."

I walk away from the table before his sentence is even half-finished. There's a phone on the wall next to the door and I page Sara, waiting patiently for her return call. Sara has always been quick about responding, and I'm not disappointed this time either.

"Morgue. Willows."

"You paged," Sara's voice comes over the phone line.

"Yeah. Look I don't know if you can get Mr. Nesbit to calm down in time, but if you can get him in the viewing room sometime in the next, say twenty minutes, Doc will let him identify the body before the autopsy."

"Catherine I don't know if I can do that. The man is still in tears now."

"You think you could try for me? Prelim is manual strangulation."

Sara knows as well as I do, maybe even better from her experience in the San Francisco Coroner's Office, that Doc is going to have to cut Mrs. Nenadov up, and that it won't be a pretty sight for James.

"Shit. Well I'll see what I can do. Get the body in the viewing room, and I'll be down with the Nesbits as soon as I can. Tell Doc thanks for me"

And with those words I hear the click of Sara hanging up on me. She knows what I was thinking. If Mr. Nesbit is this upset now, seeing his mother after the autopsy will only make him break down again. And that is something that I don't think he can handle. There's only so much you can put a person through in one day before they totally, completely lose it, and Mr. Nesbit is damn close to the breaking point already.

I walk back to where Doc and Gil are standing over the table. Doc has turned Mrs. Nenadov's neck to examine bruises. I'm not the expert he is, but I swear the bruises resemble someone's hand. Personal and brutal.

"Sara's going to try to get the son down here. I gave her twenty minutes, that okay?" I ask Doc, because really this twenty minutes is his time. He could start right now and finish just in time for the end of shift. By giving this twenty minutes, he'll probably end up working at least that long after shift.

"Yeah, that should be fine. There's a few things I can take care on other cases in the meantime."

"Thanks a bunch Doc. Oh, and Sara says 'thanks' as well."

Doc looks up from the table and gives me a small smile. "Anything for my two favorite ladies."

"Such a sweet talker," I reply with a smile. "Gil, you got a minute?"

"Uh, yeah. Doc you can get me something by the end of shift, right?"

"Can't guarantee it'll be the final report, but you'll have something." Doc goes back to a visual examination of the body and as Gil and I leave the morgue I see David heading in to help Doc move the body onto a gurney so they can put her in the viewing room.

"I've got the missing persons report the son was filling out earlier." I take the copies I had made out of the file folder and hand it to Gil. He glances over it, apparently not nearly as impressed with this as he was with the DNA results. He really is more about science than people.


"You might want to share that with Sara, I didn't really give her a chance to look at it before I swiped it to make copies. I was thinking I could call the local authorities in the Nesbit's home town and see if they could find the son for an alibi check when we get a time of death estimate from Doc."

"Sounds good."

"You find anything interesting out in the desert that might help us figure out what happened?" I really hope that he didn't talk about this earlier with Sara when I standing there spacing out. If he did, I'm going to look incredibly stupid asking about it now.

"Not much. It was a body dump, tire tracks and foot prints are about all I've got. Well that and the saliva sample I sent to Greg. I don't think it'll be anything spectacular. We're going to just have to piece this one together one tiny piece at a time."

Part 14

Back upstairs Gil disappears into his office with the missing persons report. Occasionally I wonder just what it is that he does in that office. There's his collection of bugs and mountains of paperwork, but hardly any equipment for his varied experiments. Everyone in the lab knows how horrible Gil is at the paperwork part of his job, so it's safe to say that he isn't in there working on any of that. That just leaves the bugs. And whatever he's in there doing with the bugs, I just don't want to know.

There's a few, hopefully short, hours left on shift tonight. I'm surprised that it seems to have gone so fast yet so slow. I suppose taking a nap mid-shift probably helped speed things up. The downright tedium of this case is threatening to stretch the rest of this shift into long, intolerable hours.

I head into the break room, knowing that any calls I need to make to the authorities in Missouri will have to wait a few hours at best. The time difference is only an hour, but I doubt there is anyone at the local Sheriff's office will be around to help me out. I don't want to leave a message since those can often be misunderstood.

I grab a fresh cup of coffee and sit at the table to read the latest edition of the Sun. The sports page is missing, so I assume either Warrick or Nick is back around the lab somewhere. The news is filled with depressing bits of crime and violence, most of which I already knew about through the office grapevine. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother to sit down with the paper when I already know most of what they print.

By the time I finish the paper Sara has walked in. I try not to watch as she steps over to the refrigerator and grabs a pop. I always thought she was a coffee junkie, but lately she's taken to drinking pop in the early morning hours. I try to focus on the paper in front of me, but my brain switches over to thoughts of Sara again.

When did I notice all these little things about her? Apparently I've been keeping track of little details in her life without even realizing I was doing it.

I know how she takes her coffee, I know that there is a spare change of clothes in her locker for those days when she stays at the lab and doesn't want any of us to know that she never left. I know about her early morning switch from caffeinated coffee to soda pop, and that sometimes when things get bad on a case she sneaks out behind the building for a forbidden cigarette. I know she uses the shower in the basement when we've been working on a particularly odorous case and that she likes to spend down time in either the morgue with Doc or ballistics with Bobby.

These are things that someone who was her friend should know, but I don't think I've ever actually considered her a friend. Our relationship has always been hedging back and forth over the line of friendship. I want to change that. I want to change that a lot.

"Cath?" Sara uses the nickname I don't particularly like. But coming from her I don't seem to mind all that much.

"Huh?" Again, I find myself realizing that I had slipped into my own little world. I really need to stop doing that.

"Are you okay? I know you said you were tired, but I can't help but think there is something more to it than that."

I look across the table and into the depth of her eyes. I can see her concern for me reflected in the depths of those beautiful brown eyes. God, I am in way too deep. This has gone beyond attraction and I don't know how to deal with it.

"What makes you think it's more than a simple lack of sleep?" I don't know why I ask. I should just plead sleep deprivation and find a way to convince her that it is nothing more than that.

"Because your coffee is cold and you've been reading the same page of," Sara reaches over and bends the newspaper down, "the obituaries for the past ten minutes."

Ten minutes? She's been in here for ten minutes? How the hell did that happen?

She's got a smirk on her face; one that makes me believe she knows something that I don't. It's sexy, but it makes me nervous at the same time.

"Really. I'm just tired. It's been a long day," I check my watch, noting that there are only two more hours left for this shift. Thank god. "Actually make that a long two days."

I look at her and I can tell right away that she doesn't believe me. For a minute I think she's going to call me on it, luckily for me we are interrupted by someone walking in the break room. I can't even look away from Sara for long enough to figure out who just saved me. Sara breaks the gaze between us as she looks at the person who has chosen to sit next to her.

Secula. Sara's smile widens at the sight of the detective and I can't help but feel the stirrings of jealousy again. Damn it. I get up to fill my coffee mug with fresh, hot coffee. It's also an excuse to try to gain better control of the pangs of jealousy. I don't want to see Sara smile at her like that. I don't want Sara to smile at anyone but me like that.

"I sent the Nesbits back to the hotel. It didn't really seem like there was much more they could help you with right now." Secula speaks loud enough to be heard by both Sara and I, but when I turn to sit back down her gaze is firmly planted on Sara.

Control. It's all about breathing and keeping control. And constantly reminding myself that there is no reason for me to be jealous of her. None. Except that I am and nothing seems to be able to stop me from being jealous. I sit at the table, and am tempted to pick the newspaper back up just so that I can hide behind it.

"That's fine. We can get a hold of them if we need anything else. From the DNA results it looks like we should find the boy, James Junior." My voice is laced with irritation and I try to hide it. Secula doesn't seem to notice, but it's obvious that Sara does.

"Yeah, I was going to head back to the PD offices and give the local boys back in Missouri a call. I want to see if we can set up something to talk to him."

Well at least she's on the same page. And if she's going to call the locals that means I don't have to. I'm beginning to like her.

"Great. And here I was thinking I was going to have to do that. Too many years of working with Brass I guess." I smile at both Sara and Detective Secula.

Secula grins back at me, "Yeah working with Jim will get you used to doing all the legwork. Not to worry, I'll take care of it."

"Sounds fantastic."

Even though she's sitting next to Sara, the conversation so far has been between Secula and me. Sara has been sitting quietly, eyes darting between us. I can tell Sara seems a little confused at what seems to be going on, and I'll admit I am a little confused too. I still feel little bits of jealousy every time Sara looks over at the detective, but I'm beginning to like Secula at the same time. She really does seem nice enough, and the fact that she will be doing work I was planning on getting done only makes me like her that much more.

"Well on that note, it's about time I head back to the station. Get some of my own work done before making calls." Secula pushes back from the table and stands up. "Sara, you've got my numbers right?"


"Yeah. I'll see what I can do." Sara turns in her chair to speak to Secula.


"Good. I imagine I'll see you two tomorrow. Or tonight, whatever you call it." And with those words Secula leaves us alone in the break room.

I know that my eyes are wide in shock, and I can't help it. Sara has her numbers? I have the strange urge to run after Secula and tell her that Sara is mine. But she's not. And my legs don't work. All I can do is sit here completely dumbfounded.

Sara turns back to me and I try to hide behind my coffee mug. I know it's not working, but I can't exactly pick up the newspaper to hide, because Sara knows that I've already read the paper. I still can't seem to get my legs to move and all I want is to be as far away from Sara as I can get right now. This whole thing I seem to have developed for her is about to become less than secret if I don't get out of here now.

I can hear the blood pounding in my ears and I know that my face is red yet again. I wonder if she can tell. I look up from my coffee and it's plainly clear that she can. Shit. Double Shit. And Fuck.

I see the question in her eyes but before she speaks I set my coffee on the table as quickly as I can without spilling any. It takes every ounce of control I have left not to run out of the break room. Apparently I don't have that much control because I make it from the break room to my office in less than a minute. I don't start breathing again until I collapse in the chair behind my desk.

Part 15

Shit. I can't believe I really just did that. I walked out on Sara. We may have just been sitting in the break room, but I know she was about to ask me, again, what was up with my odd behavior today. And then I go and do something even more bizarre. I wait for the knock on my door that signals she followed me.

Secula gave Sara her numbers. And I'm guessing those weren't her lucky picks for the roulette tables.

This bothers me way more than it should. I've had plenty of time to think about things over this shift. I'm attracted to Sara. I like her a lot. I can't say love. Can't. But I do like her more than I should. We're barely even friends. And I get a strong feeling that now we never will be.

My office is almost deadly silent. I can't even hear the usual sounds of people passing by in the hallway, or the hum of lab equipment. Nothing but silence. I check my watch again, thirty minutes until the end of shift. How has the end of this shift gone so fast and yet so slow? I wonder if anyone would notice if I left just a little early.

I sit for a few more minutes in the silence. I don't know why I expected Sara to follow me here. She has no idea what's going on and I don't have the courage to tell her. With her concern for me this past shift, I guess I just assumed that my practically running out of the break room would make her worry more.

Part of me is happy she is not here. I don't want to try to explain my behavior. I know that I can't blame this on being tired; Sara won't believe that for a second. But I'm not ready to admit to her that I'm attracted to her. I've barely had time to get used to the idea myself. Telling her makes it real; telling her changes everything.

If I don't tell her, I can pretend that she doesn't know. And if I can pretend that she doesn't know that means that nothing about our current relationship has to change. We can still do this thing where we pretend to be friends one day and not talk to each other the next. I think my life will be safer if she doesn't know.

I check my watch yet again and only ten minutes has passed. If I sit in this silence too much longer, with only thoughts of Sara keeping me company I can't help but think that something bad might happen. Like I might decide to admit my feelings to her. If I give myself enough time I can control this. If I tell her and she rejects me it will take me a long time to recover. I'm safer not telling her.

Deciding I can no longer sit in my office I gather a few things and head for the door. One last check to make sure everything is ready before I leave for the night and I open the door. Standing on the other side is Sara.

Well, she's not exactly standing on the other side of the door. She's actually pacing back and forth in the hallway in front of my door. She looks up at the sound of my door opening, and I can see the look of shock on her face right before I shut the door again.

Damn it.

I can't help but laugh a little, realizing that I've never cursed so much in one shift as I have tonight. It's not really funny, but I find myself chuckling anyway.

I haven't even let go of the doorknob when there is a soft knock.

Damn it. Might as well keep up with the cursing since it seems to make me feel better, even if it is only for a brief moment.

Don't open the door. She'll go away if you don't open the door. Against my own thinking, I find myself opening the door.

And damn she looks cute standing just outside my office, staring at her feet with the most adorable shy look on her face. I have to strain to hear her when she finally speaks, "Uh, hi."

The battle between my brain and my actions is lost as I find myself smiling at her. She looks so damned nervous and cute. I guess given time, I really wouldn't be able to control this attraction. Looking at her now, I don't know why I ever thought I could.

"Can we talk?"

My brain shouts 'No', but my legs take a step back and I find myself opening the door wider to let her in my office. This is such a bad idea, and I know it. But that doesn't seem to stop me from letting her in. This could be a very destructive habit, not listening to my own brain.

To my surprise, Sara sits in one of the chairs facing my desk. I can practically feel the nervousness radiating off her body. Usually when she's nervous you can find her pacing down a hallway or basically walking laps around a lab. The movement usually seems to calm her a little. Despite this pattern of hers she chooses to sit. Odd.

I'm still standing by the now closed door, debating whether or not I should make a run for it. Sara is definitely not the only one who is nervous. I think I know why she is here, and that makes me want to run. But I also want to know what makes her so nervous. Is it my behavior, or is it just me?

"Cath, this is going to be a lot easier if you sit down. Or at least move away from the door." Her voice is soft and weak. It makes me want to wrap her up in my arms and crush her in a hug.

Without a thought I find myself standing at the edge of my desk. Sitting in the chair behind the desk would make this seem much too formal, but sitting in the chair next to her makes it difficult to watch her. And since I'm not sure where this conversation is going, I want to watch her as she speaks to me. I prop myself up against the corner of the desk, giving me both the chance to watch her and the chance for a quick exit if my legs ever decide to obey that order I sent them what seems like forever ago.

I stand quietly, not sure what to say or where to begin. She wants to talk, and though I'm not quite sure I want to, I know that I will if she gets things going. But if she's going to leave this up to me, we'll be sitting here in silence until the next shift.

Sara looks troubled and I can tell that she doesn't know what she wants to say or how to say it. After a few long minutes of silence Sara seems to find her voice. "So, uh, what's really going on with you today?"

I can't think of a good way to answer that question. Honesty is the best policy, people say. But how many of them ever faced admitting an attraction to a coworker? A coworker of the same sex?

"I appreciate your concern Sara. Really. But I'm just tired. I didn't sleep at all today and it wore me down more than I thought it would."

I want to reach out to her, to show her I really do appreciate her concern. And yet I'm afraid of my own response if I touch her. I remember the pleasure I felt when her fingers touched my skin and I worry that I'll feel the same thing if I reach out to her. And while I know I would enjoy the sensation I'm not sure that Sara would feel the same way.

"See, I really don't think that's it," Sara sees me about to protest and immediately holds up a hand and continues, "I believe you about being tired and not getting any sleep. But there is something else. I've seen you tired before, but you're never this jumpy."

"I ."

"You look like you're ready to bolt out of this office at any second. And you've already done that once tonight. Something in the break room made you run, and I think I know what it was."

Oh shit. That look. I know that look. It's the one she always has when she's gone over evidence time and time again and has finally come up with the answer.

"I don't know ..."

"Yeah you do. You know exactly what I'm thinking," Sara gently cuts me off again. "We may not exactly be the best of friends, but that doesn't mean I don't notice things about you."

The many implications of that one sentence startles me. Suddenly I hear my heartbeat in my ears and I know my face is bright red. I wonder if I'll ever be able to simply be near her again without blushing like a love-struck teenager. The blush and the heat of my skin only increases when Sara stands up and moves closer.

"What's different is that you're jealous. I don't know exactly what happened, maybe you'll tell me someday, but you're completely jealous of that detective. You nearly freaked when she mentioned she had given me her phone numbers. And I know why."

I can't breathe. Oh god, I can't breathe. She is inches from me and all but flat out telling me she knows I'm attracted to her. My heart is beating so fast I think it might just explode from working so hard. A smirk spreads slowly across her face and I really, really want to kiss her.

"I know why," Sara whispers in my ear.

Shivers run rapidly down my spine. When did she get so close? Why can't I move? My brain is screaming at me to run but I can't hear it over the sound of my own heartbeat.

And suddenly I'm glad I didn't run because I can feel her lips brush against my cheek.

Part 16

Soft, cool lips brushing across my overheated skin. A fleeting touch. Gentle yet powerful enough to make my knees weak. My ability to breathe has disappeared and my hands are gripping the edge of the desk with enough force that I'm afraid the cheap piece of furniture is going to break.

Sara moves from my side and she is suddenly in front of me. I'm still leaning against my desk and the position I'm in forces Sara to straddle my legs in order to stand in front of me. Oh god.

She's so close to me I can feel her body heat. Or maybe it's just that mine has risen to thermo-nuclear. I want to touch her, to reach out and trace the line of her jaw with my fingers. I'm afraid to move even one hand; the only thing keeping me upright is my grip on the desk behind me.

Her breath in my ear. Hot, but it causes shivers and goose bumps to race across my skin. Whispered words that make my heart stop.

"Now I don't hardly know her." Followed by the feel of her lips on my neck.

"But I think I could love her." Is that her tongue? Dear god, I think I'm shaking.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I recognize the words; I don't seem to have enough functioning brain cells to figure out from where.

Her hands cover mine on the desk. I know I'm close to overheating but her hands feel hot pressed against mine.

Her lips move across my neck. Quick movements; by the time I can recognize the feel of her lips they have already moved on to a new destination. Lips on my pulse point, gently sucking in time with the thunderous beat of my heart. Renewed fire flows freely in my veins when I realize that there will most definitely be a mark left on that spot.

Sara doesn't stop until a groan ripples through my neck and threatens to take away the last remaining vestige of my control. Did I have any control to begin with?

"I like that sound." God so do I.

Breath across my lips. Moist, soft lips gently pressing against mine. My grip on the desk behind me threatens to shred the piece of furniture into firewood; the heat of our joined bodies will turn it to ash.

Sara takes my lower lip between her teeth and nips at the swollen flesh. A moan of pure delight escapes my parted lips and Sara takes the opportunity I've willingly given her.

A slick wet tongue enters my mouth and I taste her. Breath mints and just a hint of coffee. An addictive flavor that should come with a warning label: do not sample unless prepared to devote your remaining days to another taste.

Hands sliding up my arms teasing flesh and immediately rewarding with a downward movement. The shudder that courses through my body is forceful enough nearly cause my collapse; my vice grip on the desk weakens and the only thing holding me up is her.

Her hands move into my hair, playing with the curls and pulling me impossibly closer to her. Bodies meshed so close to each other there is not even room for air.

Sara's tongues duels and dances with mine. She relents control long enough for me to slip past her teeth. A slice of heaven; warm, wet and everything that is Sara. She teases me with this taste and all too soon I can feel her pulling away from me.

A sound dangerously close to a growl resonates in the space between us as I search out her lips once more. There's no going back from a kiss like that and I never want to. Her hands are still in my hair and she keeps me just far enough away that I can feel her breath but am unable to taste her again.

When did I close my eyes? They open slowly and I can barely see through the dizzying, bleary haze of my own arousal.

That knowing smirk is on her face and I'd be slightly offended if weren't for the fire I can see in her eyes. I feel secure in the knowledge that I am not the only one close to combusting from the heat we generated.

"I told you that I knew why," Sara says with a tremor in her voice.

I have so much I want to say, to ask, but I find that my voice is not working. Sara watches smiling as I try to find my missing verbal abilities.

A few deep, calming breaths and I try again. "How?"

Throaty laughter fills the room, "The jealousy Cat, the jealousy. It was either me or her, and you just met her tonight."

That's pretty simple logic. That can't be all there is to her reasoning, but for now I will accept it. After all, with the way she just kissed me she could tell me that a genie popped out of a bottle and told her all my secrets and I'd believe her.

"That obvious, huh?" I try to make it sound like a joke, but there's a small amount of uncertainty in my voice that Sara immediately catches.

"Catherine it was almost obvious enough that given another day even Grissom would have noticed," Sara sounds serious, but as the heat between us settles to a simmer I can see the laughter in her eyes.

Her fingers slide out of my hair and she takes a step back. I want to pull her back so that I can have her close to me again, but I find my hands are still threatening to grind my desk into pulp. I release my poor desk and flex my fingers, feeling pain in my knuckles from the shear force of my grip.

Sara sees me wince just slightly and softly takes my hands in hers. "You okay? That was quite a grip you had on that desk."

Her soft lips press lightly against my knuckles. I watch in fascination as she brushes her lips across every one of my fingers. The gesture, and the feel of her lips, steals my breath again.

Sara looks up at me, my hands still under her lips. "Cat?"

It takes me a minute to realize she said anything. "Huh?"

"Your hands, are they going to be okay?"

As long as you don't let them go. "Yeah. Good as new."

Sara lowers my hands, "Flex?"

"What?" I ask her confused.

"I said flex."

She stares straight into my eyes and I do as she says. I curl my fingers into a fist and release again hoping she doesn't notice the slight wince of pain. She does.

"Good as new, huh?" Sara frowns at me.

"Well they will be. It's hardly noticeable. And worth every twinge of pain."

Sara honestly looks embarrassed when I tell her it was worth it.

Sara's eyes suddenly go wide and I worry what I might have said or done.

"Shit. What time is it?"

She looks around my office for a clock, when she doesn't find one she looks down at my hands again, reading the time on my watch upside down. "Fuck."

"Sara? What's wrong?"

"Nothing. It's nothing. I just have something I need to do and I'm late." She drops my hands and leans forward, quickly brushing her lips across mine.

I can't help myself even though from the look on her face I'm certain I don't want the answer. "What do you need to do?"

"It's nothing," Sara can obviously tell that I don't believe her. "Really. Nothing. It's just a date."

Part 17

Shocked, I remain standing completely still as Sara quietly, shyly, leaves my office. It's amazing the range of emotions one can go through in less than a minute. My body was practically aflame with desire for her, but now the heat is from a completely different source. Anger.

How the hell can she come in here and kiss me like that when she has a date?

The memory of her is still crystal clear. The feel of her hands, the softness of her lips, the lingering taste of chapstick on my lips. I had no idea a single kiss could so effectively fracture my senses.

A date. A. God. Damn. Date.

Sorrow and anger combine and I feel the sting of tears in the corner of my eyes along with the nearly overwhelming urge to hit something. To hit something really really hard.

Why did I have to ask her? Why the hell did she tell me the truth?

Tightness constricts my chest and my office is suddenly too small. The need to flee is overwhelming and it takes all my control not run out of the labs. Gossip spreads like wildfire in this place and in less than ten minutes everyone would know that I literally ran out of here.

The routine of my day is sufficiently disrupted and with barely a pause in the locker room I'm outside and heading home. I turn the radio obnoxiously loud, hoping to drown out my own thoughts. The drive home is shorter than I ever remember it being. Apparently the trick with the radio worked good enough because I barely remember any of the drive; just leaving the parking lot at the lab and then suddenly I'm pulling in the driveway at home.

For the first time in what must be months I abandon my regular routine at home and head straight for the shower. The steaming heat of the water manages to keep my thoughts distracted. I spend longer than usual under the pounding spray, letting the heat and pressure melt away the tension in every muscle of my body. Only when the water starts to turn cold do I step out.

I toss on an oversized t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts and slip into bed. Alarm set and radio on I drift into the land of dreams.

Sara is in my dreams, haunting me with that smile. Memories from what seem to be every single time I've seen her dance around my subconscious. Sleep is difficult; I toss and turn most of the day, waking often. I had hoped that sleep would offer me a reprieve, but even in my dreams I cannot escape her.

I'm already awake when the alarm goes off and I know that I have twenty minutes before I need to leave the house to get Lindsey. I can't seem to make myself move, and I'm not really surprised by that. I'll get to spend a few hours with my daughter before shipping her back off to my sister's and then I have to go to work.

I wonder if Gil would have a problem with me not coming in tonight. It's a terribly childish thing to do, but I'm not sure I can face Sara. I still feel conflicted. That kiss was one of the most erotic moments of my life. Never has someone managed to touch me so little and yet leave me throbbing with desire.

I'm also still really pissed at Sara. She was being honest when she told me she had a date, and on a small level I do appreciate that honesty. But god, what a time to tell me. Or, really, what a time to kiss me. It seems so unfair to kiss me like that and then run off to some date. Some date that wasn't me. Childish and selfish, that's me.

I now have less than ten minutes before I need to be in my car and on my way to Lindsey's school. With a heavy sigh I push myself out of bed. I trade the boxers for a pair of jeans and push the t-shirt off my arms and around my neck so I can slip a bra on. I grab my purse and keys and in less than four minutes I'm out the door.

As soon as I turn the key in the car the radio blares. Sounds like I forgot to turn it down before I went inside earlier. The radio DJ yammers some nonsense about new classics as I drive toward Lindsey's school. I'm a few minutes early and sit in the car with the radio turned down to a nice comfortable level.

Listening quietly I suddenly remember something that Sara said. More accurately, I remember something she whispered. The words she spoke softly as her lips played against my neck.

"Now I don't hardly know her, but I think I could love her."

Those are the words she was singing in the lab, the lyrics to the song that lingered in my thoughts throughout the day.

Luckily for me I don't have much time to think about it. The back door to the car opens and Lindsey practically jumps in.

"Hi mommy!" Ah, youthful exuberance.

"Hey Linds," I say, turning in my seat to get a good look at her. "You want to go get some ice cream?"

Her little face lights up. Ice cream before dinner is usually something we only do to celebrate something special. We don't have anything special to celebrate today, but even I think a little ice cream sounds like a good idea.

"Oh can we?" If she wasn't buckled in, she'd be bouncing around the backseat. That look on her face, the utter excitement, that's why people have kids. The enthusiasm that only comes with youth, the energy only child has. And that simple look of pure love.

"We sure can. You all buckled in?"

Lindsey yanks on the seatbelt like I taught her, but it remains locked in the clasp. "Yes mommy."

"Good let's go get some ice cream."

I focus on driving while Lindsey tells me all about her day in school. Her new best friend this week, Jaime, has a crush on Tommy Cheger. Lindsey doesn't understand because 'boys have cooties'. I have to suppress laughter when she tells me this. I had no idea kids still 'had cooties'.

Lindsey did good on her math test even though multiplication is hard. I don't even remember when I learned multiplication tables, but I'm almost certain I wasn't as young as she is now. She passed her spelling quiz but didn't do as good as she did on her math test because she didn't know how to spell 'anxious'.

When did school get so much harder? Lindsey is a bright girl, but everyday her homework seems to be much more difficult than it was for me when I was her age. And it's not that I was smarter than her in any way, she's beats my scores in grade school easily, but it seems so much more advanced now than it was when I was a kid. Pretty soon she's going to be smarter than half the people I work with.

I notice more signs of my age when I pull up to the ice cream shop. I remember when they used to be ice cream parlors. Times change I guess. Lindsey waits until I've shut off the engine before unbuckling her seatbelt, just like I taught her. My little safety-conscious genius. Soon I won't be able to help her with her homework anymore, but I feel good knowing I've taught her to be safe.

She waits by the side of the car for me to join her and reaches out to clasp onto my hand as soon I get close enough. She keeps babbling about school as we order ice cream cones. I've already forgotten half the stories she's told me, but she barely notices as she flies through the events of the day.

With Lindsey I forget everything but her. There are no worries about Sara, no worries about work, not even the world in general. It's just me and my little girl and I couldn't be happier.

Part 18

Have I mentioned just how smart my girl is? She was excited to have the ice cream before dinner, but when I suggested we order a pizza she knew something was up. Of course, she nodded enthusiastically and made sure I knew what to order for her.

When we came home from getting ice cream we sat in the living room and watched a movie. I sat on one end of the couch and Lindsey sat about three feet from the television. I had to ask her three times to move before she finally agreed to sit next to me on the couch.

I suggested pizza for dinner and Lindsey agreed, looking at me concerned. Having an eight year old look at you like that is heartbreaking. It's nothing for her to worry about, but I know she'll ask anyway. I'll just have to come up with something to tell her. Lindsey's a smart girl, but I can't exactly talk to an eight year old about problems in my love life. She just wants to make sure I'm okay.

The pizza arrives just as the credits roll for the movie. I grab my money and head for the door telling Lindsey to get some paper plates and sit in the dining room. I try not to let Lindsey eat in front of the television like she wants. Dinnertime has never been formal, but it isn't television time either.

She told me once that Eddie let her eat and watch television. We had to have a discussion about why things are different at daddy's house than here at home. I told her that daddy just wants to have fun and spend time with her, but I know that Eddie does things like that to be the good guy; he thinks it makes him a better father. Of course, Eddie doesn't mind that when Lindsey comes home and I don't let her do the same things it makes me look like the bad guy. I'm the one with all the rules Lindsey doesn't like and I make her do all the things she doesn't like to do. Homework and cleaning are at the top of that list.

Lindsey is waiting at the table when I return with the food. She set out some paper plates and even got us both something to drink; water for me and milk for her. I don't know how she can drink milk with pizza, especially since her favorite pizza at the moment is pepperoni. She digs right in, taking the biggest piece she can find.

I miss spending time with her like this. Simple things like watching movies and eating dinner. I really only see my little angel for a few hours a night and then I send her off to my sister's so that I can go to work. Lindsey tells me she understands; that she knows I catch bad guys and that is really important.

I asked her once not too long ago if she felt I needed to be home for her more often. There had been a bad case and for a while I had seriously considered quitting so that I could spend more time with Lindsey. But she looked up at me, all youthful and innocent, and told me that she needs me to do my job so that I can keep her safe. My little girl, wise way beyond her years.

Dinner is fairly quiet, Lindsey has already told me everything she could think of about her day. The quiet gives me time to reflect, though I haven't decided if that's a good thing or not. When she's done, Lindsey goes back to the living room and I clean up.

I find her sitting on the couch, attempting to do her homework.

"Linds, you want to do that at your desk? Or maybe at the table?" I don't tell her where to do her homework, sometimes it's hard enough just to get her to do it in the first place.

"No mom, I want to do it here. Next to you." She doesn't look at me as she talks, she just keeps on working.

How does a girl so young know so much? Simply being with Lindsey tonight has calmed me considerably and I've only thought about Sara two or three times. And even then it was only because I realized that I hadn't thought about her.

Lindsey seems to recognize that I need her company tonight; and even though she looks uncomfortable trying to do her homework curled up on the couch, she has already made up her mind and I know getting her to move would require me to physically pick her up and move her.

I sit on the other end of the couch, mindlessly flipping through channels on the television. Lindsey asks me a question or two, but for the most part she sits quietly doing her homework. About an hour after we sit down Lindsey puts her books away and lies down next to me.

She's quiet for a few minutes before finally speaking up. "Mommy are you okay?"

Breaking my heart with her intuitive question. "Mommy's okay sweetheart. Just had a bad day at work. How'd you know?"

Lindsey puts her head in my lap and looks up at me with that 'duh' expression again. "Ice cream and pizza mom."

I admit, I knew that. But I couldn't help but wonder if she picked up on anything else. Sometimes Lindsey can be a very observant little girl. She manages to pick up on my moods when I think I've done a good job at covering up.

I play with her hair, it's something that she's getting a little too old for, but since she's lying with her head in my lap, I think I might be excused for it just this once. "But what if I had a really good day at work and wanted to celebrate?"

Lindsey sighs heavily as if the information she is about to impart on me is common knowledge, "Because when you have really good days at work and want to celebrate we always go out to dinner with Aunt Nancy and Jeremy."

Oh. She's right. When I feel particularly good about the way a case closed I do take Nancy and Jeremy out with us. Sometimes it's because I need another adult in my life to talk to, and sometimes it's because Nancy does so much for me and it feels like I do so little for her.

I glance up at the clock and it's time for me to push Lindsey into getting ready to go to Nancy's. I can't believe how much I want to simply stay here with her and not go to work.

"C'mon kiddo. Time to get ready to go to Aunt Nancy's."

She smiles at me and gets up almost immediately. This is different. She knows that we need to go to Nancy's on the nights that I work, but usually she's not this quick about getting ready. I always maker her pick out some clothes to wear the next day, I check her homework to make sure it's finished, and then we argue for a little bit about the clothes she picked out.

Tonight she's quiet and heads right to her room to grab some clothes. I slide down the couch to where her bag sits on the floor and check to make sure that she's done her homework. By the time I put her books back she is shouting from the top of the stairs for me to come up.

I walk into her room and she has clothes sitting on her bed, waiting for me to approve. It sounds outrageous to some, especially Eddie, that I make Lindsey check with me before I will let her wear some clothes to school. Maybe I'm a paranoid mother, or maybe I just don't like children's fashions, but I'm not about to let my eight year daughter go to school in an outfit that makes her look thirteen. Of course when she's thirteen we will have the same argument about clothes that make her look eighteen. I'm not looking forward to it.

She's just too young for some of the clothes she wants to wear. And we've already had the argument where she tells me that all of her friends wear clothes like that, so why can't she. In the end, Lindsey always grumbles, but we settle on something appropriate. Today there is only one set of clothes, and Lindsey has chosen something I can immediately agree with.

I'm stunned at how willing Lindsey is to agree with me today. She seems to know that I really don't want to argue with her. I knew she wouldn't put up much of an argument about the pizza, ice cream and movie. But I still expected an argument over homework and her clothes.

Lindsey packs up her clothes and we head over to Nancy's house. Without the usual arguments, we're a little earlier than usual. Lindsey runs off to play with Jeremy and his new video game system while Nancy and I sit around and chat in the kitchen.

We don't really talk about anything important, and if she notices anything odd about me today, she chooses not to say so. Maybe she doesn't notice, or maybe she can tell that I'm not really in the mood to talk about it. For whatever reason, I'm glad that our conversation is limited to such banal topics as weather and the things happening in the news.

I hunt down Lindsey for a goodbye hug and remind Nancy that Lindsey will be spending the next few days with Eddie. Nancy tells me to bring Lindsey by anytime if Eddie decides not spend time with her. A hug for Nancy and I head back home for a little bit before shift starts.

Part 19

I get about an hour at home before it's time to head into work. I tried once to get ready for work first and then drop Lindsey off at Nancy's, but the poor girl would always be asleep by the time we got there. It's easier to just drive over to Nancy's with Lindsey awake and then come back home before going to work. It's a little bit of extra driving, and really all I'm doing is backtracking, but it was too hard to get Lindsey back to sleep at Nancy's.

I think about changing clothes again before work, but then decide that it's really not worth the effort. Jeans and a t-shirt is good enough for most of the night shift, so it's good enough for me. And I feel the need to be comfortable. There is more to comfort than just clothes, but it's a small step in the right direction.

With an hour to waste, I find myself growing more and more restless and more and more nervous. I don't have any idea what to say to Sara when I see her tonight. 'Hey that was a great kiss this morning. How was your date?' Somehow that just doesn't feel right.

The first part is true. That was a great kiss. Better than great. The memory of it still turns my blood to lava.

And part of me does want to know how the date went. Maybe if it was horrible we could work something out for a date between the two of us. Recreate that kiss. But what if it was a good date? What if he was handsome and charming and intelligent? She would have no good reason to think of pursuing something with me. But I can't let go, not now.

Twenty minutes passes before I give up and head into work early. Gil would be shocked if he knew I was this early not just once, but two days in a row. My nervousness only increases the closer I get to work.

I'm barely in the door before the receptionist girl waves me over to her desk. I try my hardest to remember her name, but I come up empty. It's not like it matters anyway, in a month there will be someone else working this desk. This job rotates faster than any I've ever seen. Most of them last about two months before they figure out that they don't make enough money for the amount of work we force them to do.

"Yeah?" The irritation in my voice surprises me. Guess I'm getting an early start on that bad mood I'm anticipating.

"Sorry Ms. Willows. I just thought you might want to know that you got a delivery earlier. I had Mr. Sanders put it on your desk when he came in." The girl looks suddenly shy and hurt. Damn.

"Look, I'm sorry about that. Really. I didn't mean to snap at you," I apologize.

"It's okay Ms. Willows." The young girl starts to return to her work.

"No, it's not. I really am sorry," She smiles and I can tell that she knows I really am sorry for being so rude. "So Mr. Sanders is already in?"

Greg is almost never here early. His lab either got backed up or he's got some very important tests to run.

"Yes ma'am." She nods her head and keeps smiling.

I turn to walk away when her voice pulls me back.

"And Ms. Willows?" Now she looks just plain nervous. What exactly is going on?

"Yeah?" I make sure to keep any irritation or confusion out of my voice.

"Judging by the amount of flowers that Mr. Sanders took into your office someone really screwed things up today. So really, one woman to another, you don't need to apologize for being a little irritated."

She turns around and returns to work, ending our little conversation. This is what I mean about gossip flowing around the office like water. As if it weren't bad enough that the receptionist girl knew I got flowers, now Greg knows. And the receptionist is convinced that it is someone's way of making things up to me. I'm sure she told Greg that too. Which means that at least half the lab knows.

Wait a minute. I have a bit of a delayed reaction. The amount of flowers? What exactly does that mean?

The break room is on the way to my office and I see Greg sitting at the table, sipping a steaming cup of coffee. For some reason, my feet take me into the break room even though I'm sure I told them to keep walking until they reached my office.

"Evening Greg," I say to him as I enter the room. His back was to the door and he couldn't see me approach. I chuckle as he nearly jumps out of his chair at the sound of my voice. "Mind if I steal a cup of coffee?"

"Um. Yeah sure." Oh he is really nervous. That is very interesting.

"So what are you doing here so early?" I try to make casual conversation as I grab some coffee.

"Oh, uh, Grissom and that hot blonde detective," I shoot him a look that makes him shrink in his chair, "Um. The blonde detective and Grissom managed to get a DNA sample from some kid in Missouri and he wanted me to run it right away."

"Is it already here?" That's got to be the quickest cooperation I've ever heard of.

"No. But it should be here anytime now. Grissom told me it was on the next Fed-Ex flight out here. And that was about five hours ago, so I thought I'd get here a little early."

"Oh." I start to walk out of the break room. I'm slightly anxious to get to my office, but mostly I think I'm just trying to run away from Greg. He's definitely nervous and I can tell he's practically bursting at the seams to ask me what's going on.


Well I almost made it. I can't believe I walked in here anyway, I knew he would do this. "Yeah?"

"Have you been to your office yet?"

"No, Greg." He looks disappointed. "Why? Have you got something to tell me?" It's kind of fun to tease him like this.

"Uh, no. I was just thinking maybe I could walk that way with you. I need to get back to the lab." He's trying hard, but it is so obvious that he's lying. He just wants to see my reaction to the flowers. Maybe it's more gossip to spread.

"Uh, okay." I try to be nonchalant, like I don't know what's going on.

Greg gets up out his chair so fast he almost fell on his face. I sip at my coffee as we walk the short distance to my office. The door is open, allowing anyone who passes an opportunity to take a peek. I sneak a look at Greg. I think the expression 'he looks like the cat that ate the canary' is appropriate.

Sitting on my desk are four different bouquets of flowers. Actually, it's three bouquets and one single flower in its own vase. If someone asked I could count on one hand the number of times I've been given flowers. In one night I've managed to get more than ever before. I don't know what kind of flowers most of them are; I never really paid attention to botany. But I do notice that each vase has a card attached. If he read the cards, I swear I will kill him.

"Greg," my voice is laced with irritation and he backs away from me suddenly. "Tell me you didn't read the cards."

"I didn't. I swear." He's holding both his hands in the air, a gesture of surrender. "I swear. I was kind of hoping you'd tell me who it was."

I wouldn't. He knows I wouldn't. Of course it would be a big help if I knew.


"Yeah?" His face lights up in a smile and it's clear he thinks I'm going to tell him.

"Go away. Now."

And to his credit, he leaves me alone in my office, even shutting the door as he leaves.

Four vases of flowers. Four cards. On closer inspection all the cards are numbered on the outside and Greg thoughtfully put them in order. Most of the flowers I don't recognize. The last one, a small vase with one single rose, is the one that gets my attention right away.

Someone put some time and effort into this, so I tear my eyes away from the single rose and reach out to take the card off the first vase.

Part 20

I hold the card in my hand, turning over the envelope for any sign of who they might be from. The envelopes are plain white and there is nothing distinctive about the singular numbers written on the front. I'm tempted to leave the cards in the envelopes and just let myself think they are from whomever my imagination wants them to be from. Without question, I want them to be from Sara.

Suck it up and open the damn thing Catherine.

Printed words on a plain white card. Simple words that could be from anyone, there is no name signed on the card and I don't recognize the handwriting.

"I'm sorry."

Straight-forward just like Sara. I might be getting my hopes up about that, but I can't think of anyone who would send flowers. Eddie's never been the type for flowers, or apologizing for that matter. That man's idea of romance was lingerie. It was cute at first, but that got old real quick.

Three vases filled with all different kinds of flowers. Three opened cards that all express apologies. The same handwriting on each card, but no name.

The last card, the one that goes with the single rose, sits in the palm of my hand, and I find myself staring at it. I'm too nervous to actually open it.

I'm interrupted from my thoughts by a knock on the door. Warrick steps into my office, calling out my name. "Catherine you in here?"

I'm standing in front of my desk, still looking at all the flowers. When I turn around to face him I can see his eyes go wide as he looks up from a folder in his hand. "Uh yeah."

The folder in his hand snaps shut as he steps closer. "Whoa Catherine. Eddie fuck up big time or what?"

I know he's fishing for the 'or what'. Warrick knows that Eddie would never send me flowers.

"Warrick," I smack him playfully on his shoulder, "You know Eddie isn't really around anymore, and you know Eddie doesn't send flowers."

"Maybe he finally realized what a catch you are and decided to pull out all the stops?" The question would almost be serious if it weren't for the laughter filling Warrick's voice. "Seriously, you going to tell me who the secret admirer is?"

"Warrick did you come in here for a reason?" If he hadn't looked so shocked to see the flowers, I would have suspected that Greg sent him in to get some gossip. Since he seemed genuinely surprised I'm going to assume for a minute that he came in here for something else.

"Yeah. But now I'm more interested in finding out who sent the flowers." His eyes dance with playfulness and I give him a good smack on the shoulder again.

"Even if I knew, which I don't." Okay so that might not be completely true. I do, after all, have an idea, and as time goes by I become more and more convinced it is Sara. "What makes you think I'd tell you? 'Cause you'd tell Nick, and then Nick would tell Greg, and then the whole damn lab would know."

Warrick looks almost hurt for a second. "You'd tell me because we're friends. And because I'd promise not to tell Nick. Or Greg, or anyone."

"Warrick, I really don't know. I mean, I may have an idea. But I'm not telling until I know for sure. And even then it might be a while before anyone around here finds out. There are some things I like to keep to myself for a little while."

"Good enough I guess," Warrick says with a smile. "But you'll tell me someday right? I've got to make sure this guy is good enough for you."

Guy. Right. I realize I don't even have the slightest idea how he would react if I told him it was a woman. "Someday. Maybe."

I don't think I've ever seen Warrick smile so wide. "Someday. I can deal with that."

"So what did you really come in here for?" I want to change the subject because it makes me nervous to think about telling him that the flowers might be from a woman. And not just any woman, but Sara. I realize that the last card is still in my hand and I slip it into the back pocket of my jeans and start heading out the door, hoping Warrick gets the hint and follows.

"Oh. Right. Grissom wanted you to know that Greg should have the DNA results in a few hours. He's going with Nick to a fresh scene and wants you to play top dog on the case with Sara. I was headed down to the ballistics lab and figured since I would be passing by that I would go ahead and tell you."

Warrick and I head out of my office and start walking down the hall. If he was going to ballistics, that's pretty close to that lab Sara likes. I think I'll see if she's in yet.

Grissom seemed so involved in the DNA yesterday. It seems odd that he would drop the case today. "So are there bugs on this scene?"

Warrick smiles knowingly. "Yeah. Nick was disappointed too, he thought he was going to get another solo."

"Maybe next time. Thanks Warrick," I tell him as he rounds the corner to ballistics and I turn in the opposite direction to find Sara.

The lab she's usually in is empty, and so is the break room when I check there. I consider checking the locker room for her, but that seems almost to eager. I really want to see her, but I'm not sure where things stand between us.

I head into the DNA lab to speak to Greg real quick. I don't see him right away when I walk in. "Greg?"

I hear a muffled thud followed by a rather loud 'ow'. I walk around some of the lab equipment and find Greg doubled over in his chair one hand rubbing the back of his head. In the other hand is a magazine of some sort.


"Yeah?" He responds without moving.

"Didn't break anything did you?" I can't help but laugh.

Greg knows he's not supposed to read magazines in here, and he still does it. He also has a bad habit of spinning around in his chair and occasionally dropping the magazine. It looks like today he dropped it and banged his head on the table in front of him when he tried to sit back upright.

"I'm too thick-headed for that," Greg says, finally moving and showing me a quirky smile.

"You should stop reading those in here, you know. It seems to be dangerous for your health."

"Yeah yeah yeah." Greg sets the magazine down on the table in front of him. "So did you come here to tell me who the secret admirer is?"

'Secret admirer' seems to be the word of the day. And if I have anything to say about it, it will stay that way.

"Nope. Just wanted to let you know to page either Sara or me when you get those results. Gil went out to a scene with Nick."

"Not a problem." He does look disappointed that I'm not saying anything about the flowers, but he gets over it quick and returns to his magazine.

"Thanks Greg. And be careful, we don't need you cracking your skull the next time you drop that magazine," I tell him as I leave the lab.

With the case at a standstill, I head back to my office. I guess I can get some paperwork done while I wait for the results. By the time I step in my office I've lost the motivation to do paperwork. It's really no surprise that Gil is so bad at this part of the job, he's got like five times the amount of paperwork as any of the rest of us. It only took me three minutes to lose motivation for that part of the job. Gil's attention span for paperwork must be more like three seconds.

Motivation lost, I pull the last card from my back pocket and sit behind my desk. For a few minutes I simply stare at the envelope. If it's like the others, I'm going to open it and it's going to say, "I'm sorry."

But this one feels different. The envelope looks the same, and the card feels the same; there are three bouquets and three apologies. But the fourth is a single deep red rose. Different.

I shouldn't be nervous about this, but I am. I've already convinced myself that all of this is from Sara. And happy as I am about that, I still feel incredibly nervous about this last one. I take a deep breath and pull the card out of the envelope.

There is one word written on this card. I don't know if I should be happy or confused. Maybe I'll just be both.


Now what the hell does that mean?

Part 21

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