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 41

I pull a blank piece of paper out of one of the file folders in front of me. "Mind if I run a little test, James?"

Seeing the blank piece of paper and looking confused, Junior simply nods. "You right handed or left handed?"

"Right." It's actually kind of fun to keep him confused like this. "Why?"

"Can I see your right hand?"

He sets his ball cap back on the table in front of him. I lift his hand and slide the piece of paper under it. With a pen I trace the outline of his hand onto the paper.

"What exactly are you doing?" He asks when I pull the piece of paper out from under his hand.

"Testing my art skills," I tell him. I turn to Secula and add, "I'll be right back."

I step into the hall and flip open my cell phone, dialing Doc Robbins in the morgue.

"Morgue. Robbins"

"Hi-ya Doc," I say cheerfully.

"Catherine, a pleasure to hear from you. What can I do for ya?" He asks.

"Need a favor Doc. You still got the old lady from the desert down there?"

"Um. Let me check real quick." He covers the mouthpiece of the phone, but I can hear him asking David to pull open a drawer and make sure Mrs. Nenadov is still there. "Looks like we do. She was supposed to go out tonight, but apparently she hasn't been picked up yet."

"Think you could measure that handprint on her neck?" I ask him.

"I could. Not going to do you any good though. Won't stand up in court."

He's right, of course. The measurement won't stand up in court. With the curvature of the neck the span of the fingers could easily be distorted. But it should be close enough to scare Junior a little bit.

"Don't need it to stand up in court. Just having a little fun with a suspect," I explain.

"Well in that case, I'll get right on that," Doc says laughing.

"Thanks doc. Think you could fax it down to the PD when you've got it done?"

"Sure thing. Should only take about twenty minutes."

Doc hangs up and I turn to head back into the interview room. I briefly wonder what would actually take twenty minutes, but for all I know I interrupted Doc in the middle of something more important.

Back in the interview room I grab the files from the table and motion for Secula to follow me out of the room. Once the door is shut I begin to explain what's going on.

"What I've got here," I hold up the files in my hand, "is enough to put him away. But in case he doesn't waiver on his story, I've got Doc taking a measurement of the bruising around the neck to compare with his hand."

"So that's what you were doing," Secula smiles.

"Thought it might be fun to play with him a little bit," I shrug. "The DNA should really be enough for the district attorney to file charges, but I'd like to see if we can't get him to fess up."

"Sounds like fun to me."

"Good. But we've got twenty minutes until Doc Robbins can fax me the measurements."

"Is this going to stand up in court?"

"The measurements? Not a chance. But if he confesses, that will."

"Tricky," she says with a smile.

"Sort of." I say returning her smile. "So where's the coffee around here?"

"Well there's a vending machine around the corner over there," Secula says, pointing down the hall.

"Anything better than that?"

"Too good for the vending machines, huh?" Secula smirks.

"Just hoping to avoid the sludge that passes for coffee in one of those things," I explain. No amount of sugar, sweetener, or cream could make the tar that comes out of one of those machines taste good.

"Well if that's the case, I suppose I could lead the way to the break room the detectives use," she says it like the break room is some big secret.

"Well gee, I wouldn't want you to get in trouble with the other detectives or anything," I tease her. "Oh, who am I kidding. Lead on."

Secula laughs as she starts to walk away. "Right this way."

The break room isn't really all that far away from the room we left Junior in. I like the break room here. The walls aren't made out of Plexiglas and there's more than one coffee maker to keep the coffee fresh. It seems that the detectives might drink as much, if not more, coffee than those of us at the labs.

"So how are things between you and Sara?" Secula asks casually as she sits at one of the tables in the room.

I wonder if she thinks I'm just going to open up to her. I might like her, she's a little bit more fun than the other detectives, but I've known her for three days. That's not exactly long enough to start getting into too much detail. Except that there's a lot of detail she either saw for herself, or knows from talking with Sara.

"Mind if I ask you something?" I change the direction of conversation slightly.

"Go ahead," she raises her hand and points a finger at me, "But don't you think for one second that I'm just going to forget how you avoided that question. I do want to know how things are going between the two of you."

"Damn. Figured it out," I chuckle before continuing, "Seriously. Sara said something to me the other day and it got me thinking. And of course, there's the easy friendship you two seemed to develop immediately had me thinking some more. Just how did you know that Sara was interested in me?"

"Oh that's simple. It was obvious in the way she looked at you." When I start to protest she sticks her hand out to stop me. "I know you couldn't tell. She wouldn't let you see. But the way she looked at you and the smile on her face when your back was turned. Well, to someone paying attention it was easy to figure out."

Part 42

"But I've worked with her for a little more than three years and I've never noticed. How is that possible?"

"You weren't looking at the right times. Not that you could, with your back turned and all."

"Well I guess that will have to do. For now," I say, letting her know that I don't fully believe her. "But what about the easy friendship between you two? I've never seen Sara that friendly with anyone, and definitely not someone she's only known for a few hours."

"You may have to ask her about that. But really, I think it's just because I noticed what was going on between the two of you. Or at least, I noticed her side of things. I kind of let it slip that it really seemed like you were interested too and that if she wasn't careful, she'd lose any chance she had at you.

"After she got over her shock I think she realized that she didn't have to hide that part of her from me. It made it easier for her to be the real Sara. I get the feeling she's not like that with everyone, and it's probably because hardly anyone, if anyone at all, knows that part of her life."

What she said makes a lot of sense. If Sara was hiding this part of her life from everyone, she wouldn't feel like she could open up. I can't help but feel a little bit of sadness that she felt she had to hide part of herself, any part, from us. I can't really see any of the guys at work being sexist or having any problem with sexual orientation.

Greg would be crushed to learn that he didn't have a chance. Or that, at least, he had even less of a chance knowing she dated both men and women; then he'd make some snide remark to cover his hurt. Warrick would just accept the information and move on, realizing that it isn't any of his business who Sara dates, man or woman. Nick would probably try to set her up with the sisters of all his friends if he couldn't get her to date any of the guys he knows.

Gil seems to be the wiser of the group and would probably realize that love isn't always defined by gender. But then again, his relationship with Sara is so complicated that I can't be sure how he'd react. And given the past they have together, whatever that is, I'm not entirely surprised that he wouldn't know something like this. I can see it being hard for her to share this with him, wanting both his professional and personal respect and being afraid of hurt.

"What are you thinking?" Secula asks as she sips at her coffee.

"That what you just said is probably right," I tell her. Her smile spreads and I tell her, "Don't let it go to your head."

"Feels good to have one of you guys tell me I'm right. Even if it isn't about a case."

"If anyone ever asks, I'm going to deny I said you were right," I try to remain serious, but laughter escapes in little bursts.

"But I will always know," Secula says between her own fits of giggles.

Our laughter is broken up by the sound of my pager. The call back number is for the morgue and I flip open my phone and call Doc.

"If you think Junior in there has had enough, Doc tells me he just faxed the front desk the measurements I asked for," I tell Secula after I finished thanking Doc.

"You really think he'll fall for this?" Secula asks, rising from her chair.

"Doesn't hurt to try."

Secula waits by the interview room as I head toward the front desk to retrieve my fax. The girl at the counter sees me coming and smiles.

"Hi. Me again. I hear you have a fax for me," I say with a smile.

"Sure do Ms. Willows. Just came down the line a minute ago," she says handing me a few pages.

"Thanks." I take a minute to look over the measurements and turn to the girl at the desk again. "You don't happen to have a small ruler up here, do you?"

If she doesn't that means I'll have to go out to the truck and pick one up from my kit. Thankfully the girl nods her head and seconds later I'm heading back down the hall toward the interview room.

"So how does it look?" Secula asks.

"Well the eyeball tests says it's close enough to be a match," I tell her smiling. This wouldn't exactly be the first time we pulled a bit of a trick on a suspect. I just hope he confesses since the DA won't use this in court anyway.

Secula opens the door and steps in the room. I follow, closing the door behind me as Secula takes her position leaning against the wall. I wonder if that move is something they teach you just after you make the grade for detective. I've seen Brass, O'Riley and a few others do the exact same thing. I wonder if they think it makes them look intimidating.

"Hiya Junior," I intentionally call him Junior, knowing that he won't like it.

"It's James."

Gee, I don't think he liked that Secula and I left him in here waiting. "You know your rights? That you should have an attorney here for this?"

"Yeah I know. And I don't want one. I didn't do anything and I don't need to pay some schmuck of an attorney a lot of money to sit here while we do this little song and dance."

Why do suspects always think if they profess their innocence enough we will believe them? He can tell me he's innocent all night long, and I won't believe him, mostly because I know he's not. But also because the kid is a horrible liar.

"Well if you're sure. I really think you might want an attorney here for this." He just sits there, waiting for me to get on with the show. "Well what about your parents, maybe you'd like them to be here?"

"Listen lady, I don't want a lawyer and I don't want my father here."

I notice that he avoids any mention of Angie. There's definitely something to that and it intrigues me, but since it's not really relevant, I skip right past that.

"Hey your loss. I'm just trying make sure you're aware of your rights so that when this goes to trial you won't be able to say that you were treated unfairly."

"There won't be a trial," Junior says.

When it looks like he's going to continue I hear Secula's voice, dripping with sarcasm, "Right. Because you're innocent."

Junior is none to happy with tone Secula used and I have to suppress a laugh at the look on his face. He wisely chooses to remain silent.

"So this is your first trip to Vegas, huh?" I ask, using a friendly tone.

"I thought we already talked about that," Junior says in frustration. "Yes. This is the first time I've been to Vegas."

"And you have no idea why Angie would say she saw you at the airport?"

He grabs the ball cap from the table and squeezes the bill again. It's either a nervous habit, or something he's doing in order to keep his frustration in check. "Other than the fact that the bitch doesn't like me, no. I have no idea why she'd believe she saw me here."

The curious side of me really, really wants to know why he seems to hate Angie, she seemed nice enough the few times we met with her. But since it doesn't appear to be related to the case there's no reason for me to get involved in the family feud.

"You've got a cell phone, right?" Secula ask as she moves closer to the table.

"Yeah," he says, looking confused.

"Let me tell you a little something about call records," Secula says with a smile.

Part 43

"Cell phones come with built-in caller ID. It's a handy feature, really. You can keep track of who has called you, and who you've called. You called your parent's hotel from your cell phone."

"The fact that I called my parent's hotel from my own cell phone doesn't mean anything." He looks smug.

"But why not call from your own house? You still live with your parents, right?" Junior nods silently. "So why not just call from their phone? You know, stick them with the bill instead of taking up some of those precious minutes on your cell phone?"

"I guess I was out of the house when I decided to call."

"Being in Las Vegas is probably the same as 'out of the house'."

Secula waits from some kind of response from him, but he doesn't jump at the bait. I guess maybe he decided it would be better to keep quiet.

"And we've got a report from your credit card company indicating you bought round trip tickets to our fair city," Secula slides a piece of paper across the table.

Junior remains silent, but his skin pales a little as he reads the statement in front of him and it finally starts to sink in that we've got solid evidence against him.

"I suppose now you're going to tell us that you bought the tickets but that you didn't use them."

Again Secula's remark is met with silence. It looks to me like he believes that if he doesn't say anything we won't be able to nail him for the murder of his grandmother. Knowing the evidence we have stacked against him, I don't blame him at all for not talking.

"Listen Junior, we've got an awful lot of evidence. You absolutely sure you don't want an attorney, or your parents, or something?"

Junior remains silent but it's obvious that he is uneasy with the slight stack of folders spread out between Secula and I. I turn my head to look at Secula and silently nod my head in the direction of the door.

"Look, I know we keep interrupting this, but I've got one last thing to check on," I say to James Junior, though I doubt he even heard me.

I gather the folders and slip out of the room. Secula quickly follows.

"What's up?" She asks as soon as the door clicks shut behind us.

"I really think this kid needs an attorney for this. He may not want to admit it, but he's in deep. I think it'd be a good idea to get an attorney in there."

"You know an attorney that'll come down here at this time of night?" Secula asks with a smile. "Oh, and since Junior doesn't want to pay a "schmuck" that attorney better be willing to work for free."

"Of course not," I smile back at her. "That's why you're going to call the public defender's office."

"Me? Why me?" She pouts.

"I'm guessing you've got more pull with their office than I do. I mean really, how many times does a CSI call the public defender's office requesting an attorney for a suspect?"

"Probably none."

"And how many times do they get calls from detectives?" I ask with a smirk.

"Fine. Fine. I get your point. Don't know why you care, but I'll make the call."

Secula wanders down the hall, hopefully in search of phone to call the defender's office. I step into the interview room again. "Sorry about this kid, but it's probably going to be at least another thirty minutes before we can continue this."

Surprisingly he doesn't look angry at being made to wait again. He's just sitting there staring blankly at the table. The only indication I have that he even heard me is a slight nod of his head.

Maybe the weight of what has happened has sunk in and he's starting to feel guilty. Or it could just be that he's beginning to realize the amount of evidence we have on him and he can see his future consisting of prison jumpsuits and steel bars.

I slip out of the room quietly and Secula is already heading back down the hall toward me.

"You find someone to come down here?" I ask her.

"I'm pretty sure. Gotta say, those boys sure weren't happy that we're calling them so damn early in the morning."

I check my watch and realize that it's just past 1:00 a.m. How did that happen? "Oh they're never happy anyway. And you wouldn't be either if you got the kind of pay they do."

"Hey, I make less than they do. Don't see me complaining about working late into the night." Secula laughs and starts walking back toward the break room we had occupied earlier.

"Yeah, but you chose to work nights. Those guys are attorneys. They went to law school thinking they'd make the big bucks and only have to work from 9 until 5."

"Guess they learned their lesson then," Secula says laughing just as she pushes through the door to the break room.

I'm surprised when I follow her into the room and see Brass sitting at one of the tables. I quickly look around the room for any sign of Sara. "Brass?"

"Hey Catherine," he says looking at me. He turns to Secula, who has wandered off toward the coffee, "Sharing our secrets now Secula? We'll never be able to get the CSI's to drink that crap from the vending machine again."

I sit across from Brass as Secula grabs fresh coffee. I'm tempted to have another cup but quickly realize that if I keep drinking coffee at the rate I have been over the past few days I'm going to end up on a week-long caffeine buzz. It's definitely time to cut back.

"Your secret is safe with me," I tell him. "So what are you doing hanging out in here? Gil said something about a suspect's teeth."

"Yeah," Brass shakes his head. "I don't know exactly how she figured it out, but Sara learned that the suspect we had in a kidnapping used his teeth or something on the tape."

Jim looks more than slightly confused and I choose not to tell him that I had helped Sara with that. I think it would only confuse him more, since he knows I wasn't involved in the case at all.

"So where is she then? Shouldn't she be around here with you somewhere?" I try to keep any personal interest in where Sara is out of my voice. Brass doesn't catch on, but from the smile on her face, it's obvious that Secula knows that my interest in Sara's whereabouts isn't completely professional.

Jim shrugs, "She's around here somewhere. She went in search of a landline to call the lab. Apparently she thinks the reception in this building "sucks", and after trying to use her cell like three times she gave up and headed toward the front desk."

"Must depend on your location then, because I used mine twice to call Doc Robbins and didn't have a problem."

"Well if you could get the city of Las Vegas to buy me something newer than four years old and with a better antenna, I might have been able to hear clearly," Sara's voice says from the doorway. She smiles widely before continuing, "You probably batted your eyes and smiled at the Communications Director and got something newer than this piece of crap."

"Actually, no. All I did was smile and ask Gil nicely," I tell her. "And I don't even want to know if he smiled and batted his eyes at the folks in communication."

Part 44

Jim scrunches up his face in disgust as Sara, Secula and I erupt in giggles.

"Catherine, that's a mental image I most certainly did not need," Jim says frowning.

"Sorry Jim," I say still laughing.

Jim shakes his head but he smiles as the three of us continue laughing.

Secula, having drained the last of the coffee, starts brewing a fresh pot. She moves over to the table and sits next to Brass, leaving the only available chair at the table the one next to me. I throw a look at her when the laughter has died down, but she just grins widely.

If Sara wants to join us at the table, she has no choice but to sit next to me. I'm not about to complain about that, I'm just going to have to make sure that Sara keeps both her hands above the table. I don't think I could handle it if Sara were to lay her hand on my leg with Jim Brass sitting just inches away.

"So Brass says the two of you are here about some guy's teeth?" Secula asks Sara.

"Yeah. Guy ripped the duct tape with his teeth. I wanted a mold for evidence," Sara explains.

"I've done that," Secula says. Sara looks at her with an eyebrow quirked and she explains, "Ripped duct tape, not tried to get a mold of some guy's teeth. That's your job, not mine."

"Am I the only one that hasn't done that?" Sara asks no one in particular.

"Probably. Haven't you ever used duct tape to fix anything?" Brass asks Sara with a slight smile.

"No. If something's broken I either fix it properly or take to it to someone who can." She answers seriously.

"Duct tape is the homeowner's secret weapon. It'll hold together nearly anything. And it's cheap too," I tell her.

"Sara's too practical for something like duct tape," Secula teases her, grinning.

I notice that Sara seems a little uncomfortable with all the teasing that she's getting, and change the topic safely back to work, "So why a mold of the guy's teeth?"

Jim apparently finds something funny with what I've asked, but Sara responds seriously, "Just thought I'd try to tie up a loose end. Make sure we've got everything we possibly can against this guy."

"And it's a good thing too," Jim says with a smile.

"Why's that?" Now I'm definitely curious.

"Because his teeth are false. Sara asked him about getting a mold and he popped them right of his mouth and plopped 'em on the table."

"Ewww. Really?" I ask.

"Yeah. And I'm guessing that since his teeth come out so easily he wasn't likely to be using them to tug at that roll of duct tape. I called Greg and made him get the roll out of evidence and try to run DNA from the dents on the side of the roll. Maybe the person slobbered all over it or something."

Sara wrinkles her nose when she says 'slobbered' and I can't help but think it's cute. I try to hold back the grin on my face by focusing on something else in the room, unfortunately the first thing I see is Secula grinning widely right back at me. Damn it.

It's a good thing Jim doesn't seem to be nearly as observant as her. Or, if he is, then he's much better at hiding it.

"So why not just head back to the lab?" I ask her, knowing that DNA tests can take a long time, and it seems to take longer when you want the results right away.

"Brass promised me coffee. And none of that crap from the vending machine, but real actual coffee," Sara stares at Brass as she speaks.

"Well how was I supposed to know Secula here would drain the last of the fresh coffee?"

"Hey now. I put fresh coffee on. Just give it a little bit of time and Sara can have her fix," Secula grins at Sara before turning back to Brass, "And it sound to me like you two have nothing but time this evening."

"I tried to get Greg to rush the sample, but he said something about being backed up and blah blah blah."

The 'blah blah blah' is the part where Greg inserts a not to carefully worded innuendo about what would get Sara's sample moved to the top of the list. Usually it's dinner, sometimes a movie, and I heard that once he suggested that they go clubbing together.

"What did he want this time?" I ask her.

With a knowing smile she responds, "Dinner and a movie."

"Both?" Sara nods. "He must be pretty backed up. Isn't it usually just dinner?"

Secula looks confused, but Brass knows exactly what we're talking about.

"Usually." Sara looks at Secula and explains, "Greg, the DNA tech, has this bad habit of flirting constantly and continually asking me out. If I need something rushed he usually tries to get me to agree to go out and do something with him in exchange."

"Sounds like a fun person to work with," Secula says, her voice thick with sarcasm.

"Oh he's harmless," Sara says. "We've come to an understanding. He knows I won't go out with him and I know he's half-kidding when he asks anyway."

"Half-kidding?" I ask. That's news to me.

"Yeah. He gave up his serious efforts at least a year ago. Now he pretty much just asks because it's become a habit between the two of us. He asks; I turn him down. It's almost like part of the job, it's become so routine."

"I don't remember seeing that in any job description I ever read." I can't help but laugh at the situation. Greg has a crush on her, no matter how serious Sara thinks it is or isn't, but to hear it described as 'part of the job' just makes it sound funny.

"I've been working on getting Grissom to add that, but he thinks we'll be less likely to find people willing to work with us if we include 'must endure repeated passes by cute, geeky lab tech' to the description. I thought it might boost Greg's ego, but Grissom didn't seem to like that idea."

Even Brass joins us in laughing this time.

Sara gets up to retrieve a cup of coffee and the sound of a pager fills the room, causing all of us to check our belts for the offending device. Secula comes up the winner.

"Looks like our public defender is here," she says looking at me before standing up.

"Public defender?" Sara asks as she pours her coffee.

"Yeah. We're going to bury this kid under evidence and even though he's refused a lawyer, Catherine over there seems to think he should have one."

"Hey in my defense, having an attorney will cover both our asses. If there's an attorney in the room that kid won't be able to see we weaseled a confession out of him by violating his civil rights." I explain.

"You think he'd do that?" Sara asks.

"Not really. But he's living in denial at the moment and I'd rather have someone in there to tell him to shut up once he starts talking. It's always the quiet ones that cause the most trouble."

Part 45

In the few minutes it takes us to get back to the interview room, our public defender is standing there waiting. At least, I assume he's the public defender. Dressed in faded jeans and a polo t-shirt the only thing that makes him look like an attorney is the briefcase dangling from his fingertips.

He watches our approach and smiles widely, "Secula. I should have known it was you."

"Jerry," Secula says with a smile. "Catherine Willows, CSI. Jerry Hoffman, public defender."

Jerry sticks his hand out and grips mine loosely, giving it a small shake. "Nice to meet you Ms. Willows. Now why am I here?"

If he didn't say it with a smile on his face, I would think he was a little pissed off to be here. From the easy banter between the two it seems that they have worked together before, and probably quite often.

"It's my fault, really," I admit. With a nod at the interview room I continue, "We've got this kid in there, and I think everyone would be better off if he had an attorney."

"You've done the Miranda thing, right?" Secula nods. "And what did he say?"

"Something about being innocent, and then something about not paying a schmuck to sit to next him," Secula tells him.

"And why am I here?"

"Because this kid is going down and he doesn't seem to realize it. I don't want him screaming civil rights violations when this goes to court," I explain.

"Thought you were a CSI, not a DA. What difference does it make to you?" Hoffman asks.

"Because it's me that's putting all the evidence in front of his face. It's me that he's going to remember. At the moment, I'm kind of fond of my job and could do without the hassle." There's a slight smile on my face, but my tone is serious.

It might not be normal procedure for a CSI to ask for an attorney present, but this kid is enough of a weasel that I can easily see him trying to take down anyone he can before he'll let himself end up in jail. He might be nervous and maybe a little angry, but there's something about him that bothers me, and I'm not about to play his game.

Hoffman sets his briefcase on the floor next to him and leans up against the wall. "Well that's different," he says, but doesn't bother to explain. "So what kind of evidence have you got?"

"Credit card records showing he bought a ticket to Vegas, cell phone bill showing he made a call to his parents hotel from here in town, his step-mom might be able to prove he was at McCarran, an eyeball test which seems to confirm that the span of his fingers matches the bruising on the victim's neck, and DNA."

"Doesn't exactly sound like this kid needs an attorney. Maybe a miracle worker, but not an attorney," Hoffman says with a smile. "So why is this kid even here if you've got all this evidence against him? You could have just left him in holding and the DA could have had charges pressed and probably an arraignment taken care of tomorrow. No need for any of this."

"You know that elusive little thing called motive, Mr. Hoffman?" He simply nods. "Well I can't find one of those and I was hoping maybe he'd tell me."

The smile slips from his face and his tone changes to one of complete seriousness, "Not all of the people we work with have a motive, Ms. Willows. Sometimes it's just something to do for fun, something to pass the time. I know that's not exactly the explanation that you're looking for, but sometimes, that's all it is."

"That's a grim outlook on life you have there, Mr. Hoffman."

"That's reality. I deal with murderers, drug pushers, hookers, addicts and psychologically demented clients every day. Public defenders don't exactly get the cream of crop for clientele. We get the ones no one else will deal with."

Secula smiles and jokes, trying to lighten the mood, "God you're depressing Jerry."

"Yeah, well ." he simply shrugs, not bothering to finish his sentence. "Give me ten minutes with my new client."

He picks up his briefcase and heads in to chat with Junior.

"Well he's a barrel of fun, isn't he?"

Secula chuckles lightly, "Seriously, if you dealt with the crap he does everyday you wouldn't be all that fun either. No offense, but at least most of your day is spent with science. He deals with the scum that willingly commit the atrocities you see everyday. That's bound to change your perception of things."

Recognizing her point I remain silent, contemplating the things that she and the public defender have said.

The quiet is broken by Secula again, "Come to think of it, with all the shit you deal with every day, why aren't you walking around all pessimistic like Jerry?"

I don't get a chance to respond as Jerry sticks he head out the door and tells us that he and his client are ready. I'm grateful for the diversion, because I honestly can't think of an answer to her question.

I'm barely three steps into the room when Junior starts talking, "Thought I told you I didn't want an attorney."

"You should have one," I tell him as I sit down.

"Remember how we talked about your credit card, and your cell phone?" Junior nods. "Well now is when we get to the geeky science stuff."

I slide the DNA report across the table and Junior picks it up, looking confused. "DNA report. I'm sure your attorney can explain all the technical details to you, but basically it proves that you were with your grandmother at the time of her death."

There is only silence from the other side of the table.

I pull out the piece of paper that I had traced Junior's hand on. I take the ruler and start measuring as Secula tries to get Junior to talk.

"So you want to tell us why you killed her?" Junior sits stoically, as if he had not heard her at all. "Oh come on. Hoffman here is going to try and convince you not to talk to us, but I think you want to. Kids don't go around killing their own grandparents for no reason."

"Look lady, this guy here tells me not to talk to you. And quite frankly I don't see a reason why I should. So I think I'll take his advice and just keep my mouth shut."

Secula glares over at Hoffman as I finish my measurements.

"We'll get you taken back down to holding in just a minute. First I want to show you something," I tell him.

It appears I have his interest as I lay some papers in front of him. One is the trace I made, one is the paper sent to me by Doc with a visual representation of the bruising that includes his measurements, and the final one is full color photograph of the bruising on Mrs. Nenadov's neck.

"This is your hand," I tell him, pointing to the trace. "This is the measurement of the hand that strangled your grandmother. See those measurements? They're the same. Talk or not, you're going down kid."

It's hard to tell if he's even listening; he's been staring at the color photograph since I placed it in front of him. I don't know if I expected him to react in anger or disgust when I showed him that photograph, but I did not expect the completely blank stare I see as I look in his eyes.

Part 46

A uniformed officer takes Junior back to his holding cell until he can get more permanent accommodations. Hoffman, Secula and I remain in the interview for a few minutes after he's gone.

"Told him not to talk, huh?" Secula asks Hoffman as I gather up the files.

"It's what any defense attorney would do. You know that," he replies.

"Yeah," Secula replies softly.

"Shouldn't have called me down here if you want to learn anything from him."

"Maybe not. Short as our conversation was, he knows what he's up against. Chances are good that he'll make a deal and talk."

You really like to think that when you do this work, the bad guys go away for a long time once you've caught him. Reality is that most perps make deals for about half the prison time they should do, and if they are good little prisoners they manage to only do a third of that time. Vegas is a gambling town, and the odds really suck.

"Sometimes they like to brag. Go against their legal advice. I wanted my bases covered. Much as I'd like to know why it's much more important to me that he doesn't walk on technicalities," I tell the both of them. "Sorry if you consider that a waste of your time, Mr. Hoffman."

"Not a waste of my time. I consider any chance to hang out with beautiful women a good way to spend my time," he says with a charming smile.

"Quit trying to charm the lady, Hoffman. I hear she's taken," Secula grins widely at Hoffman and watches me as I slowly blush.

"Doesn't hurt to try," he says as he grabs his briefcase from the floor and heads toward the door.

The door isn't even shut behind him before Secula gets a good solid smack on the arm.

"Ow. Damn Willows, that hurt."

"And you deserved it," I glare at her.

"I did not," Secula pouts, rubbing the spot on her arm where I hit her. "Truth is truth, Willows. And like it or not, you are definitely taken."

"A woman your age shouldn't pout," I tease her. "And I don't think that 'taken' is the appropriate word."

"So what is?" She asks.

"Uh ." I'm honestly not sure. "I don't know."

"Have you got any plans to start dating anyone sometime soon? Other than Sara, that is."


"Then you're taken. Because it's quite obvious that she isn't about to date anyone but you." Secula says seriously.

"How do you know that?"

How can she be so sure of something that I'm not sure about? Secula and Sara may have a friendship going, but they've only known each other for a few days. I've known Sara for years and can honestly say I have no idea if she's dated anyone the entire time I've known her. There's Hank, but Sara keeps insisting that he isn't her boyfriend. At first I thought it was because she didn't want any of us to know her personal life, now I'm not so sure.

"Because, like it or not, I can see the way you two act around each other. She's completely smitten, and I think you are too."

"Good to know our feelings are so obvious," I say quietly.

"Only to someone who knows what to look for."

"What does that mean?"

"Means I know what to look for. Others, Jim Brass for instance, would probably have to be hit in the head with a two-by-four before he noticed."

Maybe she picked up on my nervousness in the break room earlier. Hell, maybe she's just psychic; after all, she does know more about Sara after just a few days than I learned in years.

"Are you always like this?" She asks.

"Like what?" I'm confused.

"Do you doubt yourself all the time like this?"

"No. Not at all. It's kind of a new thing." And why am I even telling her this? I barely know her.

"Then see, that's just even more proof that you're taken."

I look at her, clearly still confused.

"I could be wrong, I guess. But that's a pretty rare occurrence, as you know," Secula slides her chair out of my reach before I can get the chance to smack her again. "I'm guessing that you're uncertain about yourself, and about your relationship with Sara because, whether you admit it or not, you've fallen for her. Hook, line, and sinker you are hers."

I can't think of anything to say to that, and Secula grins smugly when I don't respond.

"Don't even think I'm going to admit that you're right about that. It's not going to happen," I tell her smiling.

"Your smile tells me everything I need to know," she says smugly.

"You're a big pain in the ass, you know."

"I get that a lot."

"I'm not at all surprised to hear that," I tell her as I head out the door. Deciding that I've had enough of talking to her about my personal life, I quickly change the subject, "I'm done here. I'll get copies of all my reports over to the DA's office and we'll see where it goes from there."

"He's going to cop a deal," Secula says, walking with me toward the parking lot.

"I know. Deal's are the standard, not the exception."


"Sure does. But hopefully he'll give more detail before he deals. Call it morbid fascination, but I'm interested in motive."

I move past the front desk and drop the ruler on the desk with a smile.

"Don't need motive to prove murder," Secula says as we step outside.

"I know. But his own grandmother? There's something there that evidence can't tell us. Strangulation is a very personal act. And besides, if he goes to trial it's hard to convince a jury without a motive."

"So it is. But motive isn't really your area of the investigation," she says knowledgeably.

"Perhaps not. Doesn't stop the curious, though."

Part 47

Traffic is pretty light on the way back to the lab and I manage to make the drive in ten minutes. Nearly half of my shift is now over, and by the time I finish my report and get copies of everything ready for the DA hopefully this shift will be near it's end.

Attempting to avoid the constant hum of work in the lab, I head to my office to put the finishing touches on my paperwork. It takes less time than usual to wrap things up on this one and only a few hours have passed before I've finished and made the requisite number of copies.

I have barely seen Sara all shift and I find that it is much easier to control my emotions without her near. Sitting at my desk, staring at the flowers she sent, I miss her. My job is easier to do without her so near, but I find myself being slightly cranky to the lab staff with no valid reason. And I may have gotten a little more violent than was necessary with the copy machine when it tried to eat the autopsy report.

I've been doing a fairly good job so far at ignoring the more serious questions I have about the personal things Secula said. I think I'm better off in denial than admitting I may have fallen for Sara. It's just too soon for something like that.

Shrinks and psychologists would say that I've been living in denial for years already and that for me to feel things so serious about Sara so quickly obviously means that I've felt at least a little something for her during all the years that we've known each other. Romantics would simply say it was sweet that she's managed to get so easily into my heart.

Me? I say it's scary.

I like to think I know myself better than having an attraction to someone for so long and not even recognizing it. I mean, the one person I know everything about is me. And facing the fact that I might not even know myself all that well is a damn scary thought, especially at my age.

Admitting that I could possibly love someone I've been attracted to for a mere few days isn't exactly a happy thought either. I've never really believed in the concepts of love at first sight, soul mates, or any of that romantic crap. I'm just too jaded for that kind of thing.

But I can't think of any good reason for me to feel the way I do about her. We were barely friends last week and now I can't stop thinking about her for longer than an hour.

I know how soft her skin is. I know what her lips taste like. When I see her it makes me smile, when I hear her voice my heart beats just a little faster. I can't even explain the myriad of sensations that I feel when she touches me, even in a completely non-sexual way.

I sigh heavily. I'm too old for this. This is the stuff that teenagers go through when they have crushes, not what logical adults do when entering new relationships.

My paperwork is once again finished, all that I need is Sara's signature and it's ready to be tossed on Gil's desk. With the amazing rate at which I've finished paperwork lately it's going to be obvious to even Gil that something has changed. At least I don't have to worry about him asking me about it. We have known each other for a long time now, but even I am not immune to Gil's inability to deal with people. But I know that he will quirk his eyebrow up in that irritating Gil Grissom way and expect me to answer the unasked question.

With no more work to be done on this case I find myself staring at the flowers sitting on my desk. I should really take them home. I don't know how I'm going to get them back to my place without spilling water everywhere, but leaving them here only gives the boys something to tease me about.

As if on cue, there is a knock on my office door and Greg pops his head in.

"Catherine?" He asks quietly.

"Yeah Greg?" I try not to sound annoyed.

"I was just uh .." He stumbles over his tongue for a few seconds before finding the words he was looking for. "Well I was just wondering if you're okay?"

I sit behind my desk without answering for a long few minutes. Greg is clearly nervous, but I think I've gone into shock.

Greg has a quirky way of getting information from people, but he is never so straightforward. With Sara he usually makes references to some part of pop culture that he knows they will both understand, with Nick and Warrick he usually finds a way to talk about video games or sports, and he usually tries to impress Gil with science references. But he's never found that same kind of common ground with me, and usually that means he simply doesn't try.

When I recover from my shock I tell him, "Yeah. I'm fine Greg. Why?"

He settles into the chair across my desk and for a brief moment my brain flashes images of yesterday when Sara was sitting in that chair. Gee, I think it had been all of about ten minutes since the last time I thought of her.

"Well it's just that you've been hiding out in here a lot for the past few days."

"Just had some paperwork to get done."

Greg seems unsatisfied with my answer. "For what, the whole night shift?"

I can't help but chuckle at his sad little confused look. "No, just my paperwork. But there was a lot of it that needed to be done. And since I only had one current case to work on, it seemed like a good time."

"Oh. I just thought that ." Greg looks uncomfortable and his eyes are dancing across the room, never focusing on one thing for more than three seconds.

"Greg? Just spit it out. If you get any more nervous you're going to start twitching," I tell with a smile, hoping that he will calm down a little.

"Well I guess I just wanted to make sure everything was okay, you know? I mean, well, You've been hiding in your office and any man knows that when he screws up he needs to send flowers," Greg stumbles again over whatever he it is that he is trying to say. "And I just .."

Trying to help him be just a little less uncomfortable I grin widely and ask him, "You wanted all the gossip?"

Greg apparently doesn't notice my attempt at humor, "No no no."

"Greg, calm down before you have a seizure," I tell him as I get up and move around to the other side of my desk. "I get it. You're concerned."

He smiles awkwardly at me.

"But don't even think I'm about to tell you what's going on. If I tell you the rest of Las Vegas will know within an hour. And some things, Greg-o, some things are more fun when they're secrets," I tell him with a wink.

His eyes light up like a kid on Christmas morning. I basically just told him that what's been going on with me lately is a good thing. A very good thing. He'll spend the next few days trying to figure out what's going on and then he'll give up. Since the only people that know are Sara and I, his chances of finding out anything are pretty slim. I won't be telling him anytime soon, and I really don't think that Sara will be either.

"So now get back to the DNA lab, be a good boy and do some work," I tell him as I playfully scruff up his already messy hair. "Because you aren't going to get any information out of me."

Greg chuckles and smiles up at me before pushing out of his chair. "Just so you know, if you need someone to talk to, you know where to find me. We can bitch about men and how stupid they are. I bet I'd make a damn good girlfriend."

"Greg? Has anyone ever told you that you are completely insane?"

Before practically running out the door he turns around, "Maybe a time or two."

Part 48

After Greg leaves my office I check the time again. Two more hours. I really hate how time seems to be speeding up and slowing down tonight. I've been back at the lab for the past two hours, and done a fairly good job at keeping myself busy, and it really feels like shift should be over. I was at the jail for something close to three hours and yet it seemed that only an hour had passed from the time I walked in until the time I walked out.

With two more hours to waste I grab the completed reports from my desk and head down to Sara's lab. Sara, like Nick and Warrick, doesn't have her own office. In theory if you need to leave a file for someone who doesn't have an office you are supposed to leave everything with the girl at the front desk. But everyone in the lab knows that if you have something for Sara, she is more likely to get it if you leave it in her favorite lab. It's become such a habit with the different techs that Sara now has her own 'inbox' in that lab.

I leave the reports in her inbox and head up toward the front desk. I really need to get those flowers out of my office and the only thing I can think of is to ask the girl at the desk if there are any boxes or anything lying around that I can use. The last thing I want is to have the water spill out and all over my car when I leave.

As I approach the desk, the receptionist girl's head pops up real quick and she immediately says, "Yes Ms. Willows?"

"I was wondering, uh . Well you remember those flowers I got the other day, right?"

The girl nods her head quietly and smiles.

"Well I need to get them out of my office and I was wondering if maybe there was an empty shipping box or something I could use to carry them home in." I wouldn't feel like such an ass asking about this if I had been nicer to this poor girl the other day. And it would probably help if I could, for once, remember the girl's name.

"I haven't seen anything that would be helpful," she frowns. "But we don't get much for shipping boxes on the night shift."

I should have really known that. Our lab is open twenty-four hours a day, but FedEx and UPS are not. If I want a spare box I'm probably going to have to bring one in from home. Which means I'll have to leave the flowers here for another night.

"I'll leave a note for the girls that work days and see if they can't save you something. In the meantime if you don't want them on your desk you could always just put them elsewhere."

Now that gives me an idea.

"You know what, I think I'll do that," I say and turn to walk back down the hall. "Oh. Actually, I've got one other question."

She looks confused as I turn back around and walk up to her desk once more. "You got any aspirin up here?"

She opens a drawer and pulls out a bottle of Tylenol. "These do?"

I take the bottle and check it over. "Yeah. These will work. Thanks."

I shake four of the pills into my hand and give the bottle back.

She looks at the tablets in my hand and quickly says, "You know I've got something stronger around here somewhere if you need it."

"Oh. No thanks. I'm not going to take them, just going to feed them to my flowers."

She stares at me with her brow scrunched in confusion.

"They didn't come with any plant food. And I don't exactly have any of that sitting around my office. A tablet of aspirin will keep them fed and blooming until I can get them home."

She looks skeptical, "I've never heard that before."

"It's something my mother taught me. I'm sure someone around here knows enough about botany that you can ask them," I tell her as I start walking down the hall.

I head back to my office and grab one of the vases and a pair of scissors before heading off to the bathroom to change the flower water. I put some paper towels on the counter and set the flowers on them before refreshing the water. I drop a single tablet in the water and snip the ends of the flower stems. Once the flowers are arranged again I clean up after myself and head back to the front desk with the vase in hand.

I set the vase on the counter at the front desk and tell the girl, "If you can get the day shift girls to leave these here by tomorrow I guarantee the flowers will have bloomed a little more."

"If you say so, Ms. Willows."

She still doesn't look like she believes me so I tell her, "Just think of it as an experiment."

I take the second vase to the break room. There aren't many community areas to the lab and I've already used up the two that I know of. I drop the third off in Sara's lab, leaving it right next to the small stack of reports I need her to look over. The small vase with the single rose gets new water and a slice of aspirin tablet, I don't want to drug it too much, and stays on my desk. I don't particularly feel like sharing this one.

Now that I'm completely out of things to do and I've only burned another thirty minutes I give up and head into the break room. The room looks slightly odd with the flowers sitting on the table. This has always been a pretty sterile room, never decorated in any way. The flowers look distinctly out of place.

I sit on the couch in the break room and turn on the television just in time to catch Soledad O'Brien starting the day on American Morning. I'm disappointed that I actually watch CNN enough to know not only the name of the show, but the name of the host as well. I've got to find better ways to spend my mornings.

Soledad starts my morning with news of problems in the Middle East, problems in Africa, problems in Europe, and problems in South America. Finally I get depressed enough and start flipping through the channels.

Nick wanders in the room and grabs a bottle of water from the fridge. "Hey Catherine."

"Morning Nick."

He settles in a chair at the table, idly flipping a newspaper that I'd bet he has already read at least twice today. Even so his lack of concentration makes it obvious that he is not in here to grab a drink, which he hasn't even opened, or read yesterday's paper.

"Something wrong Nick?" I ask

"Uh, no. Well maybe," he replies with uncertainty.


"Well you were her yesterday right? When Sara was in here?"

What is it with my coworkers being nervous today? In my office earlier Greg was practically twitching with nervousness and now Nick seems to be nervous too.

"Yesterday? That thing with the date right?" I'm pretty sure this is what he is talking about, but it was kind of fun to watch him wince a little when I said 'date'.

"Yeah," Nick says quietly.

"And?" It's obvious that he wanted to ask me something about that morning.

"And well I was wondering." He pauses for a few short seconds. Apparently the lab has caught some sort of nervous, tongue-tying virus. Can anyone around here finish a single sentence? "Well, Sara says she knows this girl."


"But Sara's not exactly social." And for that he gets a glare; honestly none of us really know what she's like outside of this lab. He backpedals, "Well, maybe she is, but it doesn't really seem like it. Anyway, I was wondering if maybe you know this girl that she's talking about. Because I really think it might be someone we work with."

There's an odd look in his eyes and I'm not really sure I want to know what he's thinking right now.

"Yeah, Catherine knows her." Nick and I both look to the doorway to see Sara walking in. She's had some really good timing tonight, walking right in as I'm in the middle of a conversation about her with someone. She walks over to the couch and sits next to me. "But I've sworn Catherine to secrecy about the mystery lady's identity. She won't tell you, right Catherine?"

I have absolutely no memory of any such conversation with Sara, but the slightly evil looking smirk on Sara face and the look of pure dread on Nick's makes me instantly agree, "Sorry Nicky, but she did make me swear."

For some reason Nick doesn't like the look on our faces and he mumbles an excuse to leave before finding somewhere else to be in the lab. I don't really know why Sara is so keen on keeping Nick from knowing who his date is, but it is fun to watch him sulk like that. I'm sure after her blind date, Sara is getting a big kick out of Nick's reaction. And who am I to deny her a little fun at his expense?

Part 49

Now that Nick has gone, it is just Sara and I sitting in the break room. For some inexplicable reason, I'm completely nervous. Maybe there really is some sort of virus floating in the air around here. Or maybe it's just because there are empty chairs and plenty of space to sit on this couch and yet she's so close to me that her side is pressed into mine.

Unsure of what to do or say, I sit quietly with my hands in my lap idly fiddling with the television remote. I stopped changing the channels when Nick started talking and as I look at the television now there is some silly infomercial on about a food dehydrator. Even the depressing news is better than this crap.

"So ." Sara says quietly.

She is so close to me that if I turn my head to respond I will be able to feel her breath on my lips. If I do that there is nothing in this world that could stop me from kissing her. I keep reminding myself that this is the break room, not my office. Open door, glass walls.

"Yeah," I mumble.

I nearly jump out of my skin when she leans even closer and whisper in my ear, "I've wanted time alone with you all night."

Breathe. I have to remember to breathe. How can simple whispered words cause such a reaction in my body? I can't breathe, my veins are filled with fire, and there is a distinct throbbing sensation that I should definitely not be feeling at work.

I swallow hard manage to reply, "Me too."

"Really?" The words aren't spoken, they are more a rush of air on my neck that sends shivers of arousal down my entire body. How can she have this effect on me?


It's a good thing she isn't looking for intelligent conversation right now. I seem to have developed an inability for speech. A side effect of having her so close. Just as I'm thinking of moving, her hand settles comfortably on my knee.

"And where do you think you're going?" She senses my movement before I could put the plan into action.

Well at least she has pulled back far enough that I can't feel her breath anymore. It is very distracting to sit here, when I haven't seen her almost all night, and have her so close to my lips, my skin. The ache I have to devour her is almost physically painful.

"Uh ."

It would seem that I'm going to need more distance between the two of us if I'm going to talk to her. I gather up my courage and force myself to look at her. In an instant all the courage I thought I had dissipates. The heat from her hand burns into my leg, but that is nothing compared to the look of near animal desire in her eyes.

If we were anywhere but here .

"I .."

A knowing grin slowly spreads across her face as she watches me struggling to keep my distance from her.


One of these days I'm going to be able to say more than two words to her. Granted it won't happen if she keeps looking at me like that. And, oh god, her hand. I drop my eyes from hers and watch as her fingers move in lazy circles on my thigh, only stopping for brief moments as her hand inches a little higher.

I really, really need to find somewhere else to be right now. I have to remind myself that we are at work. Not just at work, but in plain view of anyone who happens to wander past. Really can't do this here. Not yet.

The movement of her hand quickly stops and I watch as it moves even faster away from my leg. I feel the movement of her body away from mine and before I have a chance to lift my head and ask her why she moved so quickly I notice the presence of someone else in the room.

"Hey Warrick," Sara says, her voice a little deeper than usual. It's good to know I'm not the only one affected by her actions.

Thankfully Warrick has jut stepped in the room; I doubt he had a chance to notice the rather intimate contact between Sara and I.

"Hey Sara, just the person I wanted to see," Warrick says with a big grin.

"What's up?" She asks casually as she moves her arm to the back of the couch.

If I were to lean my head back right now, I could trap her fingers against my neck. I can almost feel the pressure of her fingers against the back of my neck, playing with the fine hairs there. I really need to think about something else.

"I heard you're getting back at Nick for that blind date thing," he says.

"Oh absolutely," Sara laughs. I move off the couch and grab a bottle of water from the fridge as Sara continues, "Did he tell you about that guy he set me up with?"

"No," Warrick smiles, "But he did tell me what you thought of the poor guy."

I move back toward the couch. I don't sit on the couch next to her, that would just be too close. But I'm also not willing to be too far away from her, and so I lean against the arm, silently drinking my water.

"Oh come on Warrick," Sara implores. "Nick set me up with some sports freak. He kept blabbering about some sort of rivalry between Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. And don't even get me started on his chauvinistic view of Robinson."

"Robinson? Sounds like you could have held your own in a conversation with this guy."

"Well sure, now I could. But that's only because he spent the entire morning yapping about everything NASCAR related. It was more like a seminar on the politics of car racing than a date," Sara explains.

"That bad? Really?" Warrick even has the grace to wince a little.

"Really," Sara says with complete seriousness.

"So why'd you go?" Warrick asks.

"Because if I didn't I would never hear the end of Nick trying to tell me nicely to get a social life. And that was like the fifth guy he tried to get me to go out with in less than two weeks. I figured the only way to get him to quit would be to go."

"You were probably right about that. But you know, he just thinks you deserve a bit of happiness."

"I know Warrick," Sara sighs heavily. She glances at me quickly before continuing, "But I really am happy. Things have been kind of looking up for my social life lately, without Nick's help, and I actually had to interrupt something really important to go on that stupid blind date."

I watch as Warrick ponders whether it would be a good idea to ask just what that 'something important' was. Apparently thinking Sara was most likely talking about work, he shakes his head slightly deciding not to ask.

I however, am not as willing to let that one slide. I know what she doing right before she left the lab for that date, and for some reason I am unwilling to pass up the opportunity to tease her, albeit in a roundabout way. "Something important? And what might that be?"

Sara's blush is all the answer I need, and it gets Warrick's attention too.

"That looks like something I definitely want to know about," he says as we both watch the bright red color spread across Sara's face. He holds up his hand in mock surrender, "But something tells me I'm much safer if I leave the rest of this discussion to the two of you. One last question and I'm gone."

"Yeah," Sara says gruffly.

"You're not going to tell me what you have planned for Nick are you?"

"Not a chance. It's a big secret," I tell Warrick.

"But you know?" Warrick looks between Sara and I, obviously confused.

"Not all of it. But Nick doesn't get to find out what I do know, even if he thinks sending you to ask will get some answers." I can't help but smirk at Warrick. It was damn obvious what he came in here for. The boys need to get better at their espionage tactics.

Part 50

Once again I find myself alone in the break room with Sara. Despite the fact that we're still technically working and I know it's a bad idea, I slide down the arm of the couch and sit next to her.

"Anyone ever bother to tell you that you're cute when you blush?"

The blush returns to Sara's face almost immediately. She smiles weakly and shakes her head.

"Well they should. 'Cause it's damn sexy. Cool, confident Sara blushing at the slightest compliment. Or suggestion."

Her arm is still stretched out over the back of the couch. The sensation I had wanted to feel before is now very real. It is every bit as pleasurable, and as distracting, as I had thought it would be.

"You've done your fair share of turning red lately," Sara says with a wink.

"Yes, I have. I blame you for that."

"Oh really. Why is that?" Confident Sara returns.

"Many reasons. Not the least of which is the way you make me feel when you touch me." I say quietly. There is no one around to hear our conversation, yet I still speak in hushed tones. I feel as if I'm admitting some deep, dark secret and I can't figure out why.

"Like this?" She questions as her fingers slide up the back of my skull and start a slow, sensual massage.

"Uh ." For a minute I wonder why the feel of her fingers on my scalp feels as sexual as it does. The now familiar heat spreads across my face and neck. "Yeah."

"And what else?" Sara asks after a few minutes of silence have passed.

"Huh?" I lost myself in the feel of her fingers and can't remember what she could be asking about.

Sara smirks before continuing, "Well you said there are many reasons that you have been blushing lately, but then you only mentioned the one. I was wondering what the others were."

"Oh." I guess I did say that. "Hmm. I guess I'm just not used to how open you seem to be with me. And around here. You're so very personal; everything about you is like a secret. But after you kissed me, well, I just ."

"Ah. I get it. Not used to seeing the more human side of me," Sara says with a wry smile.

"No that's not it." At least, that's not how I would have said it. "I don't know if what I'm saying is going to make any sense. I'm just not used to seeing the affectionate side of you at all. With me, or anyone."

I feel like an idiot; unable to express something that makes so much sense in my mind. I don't want to cross a line with her, and this is beginning to feel like one those lines.

"Not many people get to see that part of me," she says with complete seriousness.

"Why not?" This is where the line is drawn, and I hope that she forgives me for asking.

"Much like you, I will say there are many reasons. First and foremost is that if people know me, if they see the real me, that gives them a chance to hurt me."

She speaks with serious sincerity and the hurt visible in her eyes breaks my heart. "Sara, I ."

"I know," She says quietly.

I wasn't even sure what I was going to say, but she seems to understand. Until I can figure out a way to let her know with certainty just how much I appreciate that she is willing to let me in I will let this rest.

I don't know what has hurt her so bad, and I can only hope that she will be comfortable enough with me to someday tell me. Admitting this little bit, showing me this side of her, is a grand gesture on her part. I will figure out a way to show her that her gesture was not made in vain.

I just need to figure out how.

In the meantime, I think I should find a safe topic. Something that may distract both of us.

"So how did that thing at the jail turn out?"

She seems surprised at the change in topic, but it doesn't seem an unwelcome change as she answers, "Turns out the tape was important evidence. Our suspect didn't have enough strength in his teeth to be able to rip the tape."

"So I did break the case?"

Sara laughs, "Yeah. I guess you could say that. Turns out the guy's wife was involved. Brass and I made the mistake of believing her act when she broke out in tears. And neither of us wanted to believe she was capable of the kind of violence committed on the victim, her sister."

"Sister? No wonder you both wanted to believe her." Some days this job makes me ill with the things we see and hear.

"Yeah," Sara says quietly. She chuckles lightly and continues, "Guess that means you really did earn your little reward."

I laugh with her for a minute. "Oh, I don't know. If it really was a case breaker, I think I might deserve something just a little more."

I'm kidding with her, mostly, but she sees past the joke as she looks me directly in the eyes. Her voice is low when she finally speaks, "And what might that be?"

"Well I was wondering," Why do I feel like a nervous teenager again? This nervous thing had better clear up soon, I'm not used to being this diffident. "I was thinking maybe breakfast?"

"You want me to buy you breakfast?" Sara smiles at my shyness.

"No. Not exactly." Her smile seems to put me at ease.

"Then what exactly?" She asks.

"Well, I was thinking more along the lines of you agreeing to go out for breakfast with me." Over the years I've been asking her this same question at least once a week, and not a single time did she say yes.

"Well now that depends."

The warmth in her eyes tells me she has already agreed, but I play along. "On what?"

"Is this going to be a friendly coworker breakfast, or will it be more like a date?"

"Good question," I say, watching Sara's eyes narrow a little in confusion. "I definitely wouldn't mind a date. But if you're more comfortable with a friends thing, I think I could handle that."

Sara pretends to pout, "I'm only going if it's a date."

Somewhere in my subconscious I'm whooping in victory. As I sit on the couch I tell her, "Well then a date it is."

Sara grins. I'm pretty sure she's blushing just a little bit again, but I'm to busy looking intently in her eyes to take full notice of any blush.

"Can I ask you something?"

A glint of worry appears in her eyes and she stiffens imperceptibly. "Yeah?"

"These past few years I've asked you to go to breakfast with me on countless occasions. Why say yes now?"

Her answer shocks me.

"Because all these years if I had gone, it would have meant more to me than it did to you. We're on even ground now and I don't have to worry that I might say or do something that you would interpret wrong. I always wanted you to ask as more than coworkers, more than friends. And now that you have, I can finally say yes."

The End

Sequel Unwanted

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