DISCLAIMER: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and other related entities are owned, trademarked, and copyrighted by Anthony E. Zuiker, Jerry Bruckheimer Television, CBS Worldwide Inc., Alliance Atlantis Corporation, CSI Productions and CBS Productions. This is fanfiction and is written purely for the enjoyment of fans, and the author acknowledges that no profit is made from the writing and/or distribution of said writing.
SPOILERS: 'Lady Heather's Box', 'Crash & Burn' and 'Playing with Fire'.
SERIES: The 'Un'-titled Series - sequel to Unmasked.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Amy Jo

Part 26

"So what's the next part of the story?" Nancy asks, instinctively knowing that she has given me enough to think about with Sara and moving on to the next topic before I really do reach out and thump her on the shoulder.

"She closed the case," I say quietly.

"Cath, didn't we already talk about that?" She questions, probably wondering why I seem reluctant to give up that particular topic of conversation.

"Yeah. We did. But this isn't all about how I screwed up with Sara. It's also about how I can't give any closure to my daughter."

"What kind of closure did you expect?" Nancy seems determined to take the opposite point of view in everything I say. I know why she does it, to make me realize and understand things that I might not otherwise. But that doesn't make me feel any better about it.

"I wanted to be able to tell Lindsey that we caught the bad guy. That he won't be able to hurt anyone anymore." She knows this my argument every time a case slips through the cracks.

"Did Sara figure out what happened?" Nancy asks.


"So what's the problem?" She asks me as if I should recognize that there really isn't a problem.

"The problem is that Eddie was murdered. It wasn't an accident or anything like that, and yet I can't tell Lindsey that the guy responsible is in prison for his death." I can hear my voice rising once again in anger, and I am powerless to stop it.

"Is the guy in jail?" Nancy continues to prod.

"He will be. But not for murder."

"But he is going to jail." Nancy repeats. "And isn't that the important thing?"

"But not for murder. What he did to Eddie was definitely murder." Nancy is missing the point and it's really starting to aggravate me.

"Yes. What he did to Eddie was murder. Was there enough evidence to prove that?"

Sometimes I think I've told Nancy too often just how important the evidence is. If she hadn't listened to so many of my lectures, maybe this one time she'd agree with me.

"No." I say flatly, refusing to follow her logic, even though I know damn well where this is going.

"But he is going to jail for something. If you don't have the evidence for murder now, maybe you can get it while he is in jail. Remember, there's no statute of limitations on murder."

She's right. I know she's right. "But how do I tell that to Lindsey? That even though he's in jail, he still managed to avoid punishment for Eddie's death?"

"You could try telling her the truth. She's a smart girl, Cath. She'll understand. And there's always the fact that we both know you won't give up on this case until it's solved to your satisfaction."

"It's not good enough," I say with more anger than I intended.

"Will it ever be?" Nancy questions calmly with a bemused expression. "If you find the evidence and he is charged, convicted and tossed away, will you feel better then? Or will you still be angry?"

Damn it. I don't know how she does it. She seems to always know just what to say to get me to really think. She lets me rant and rave all I want, but in the end she always makes me think about what's really going on.

"I'll still be angry," I tell her, my voice returning to the quiet tones we started this conversation with. "There's so much that Lindsey is going to miss out on now because Eddie won't be around."

"She won't miss out on that much, trust me. Sure her father won't be there when she graduates college, or gets married, or has her first child. But there never was a guarantee with Eddie that he would have been there for her at those times anyway. We both know Eddie was only around when he wanted to be."

Right again. "But now she doesn't even get the chance to share any of that with him. If he had lived …"

"If he had lived he would have hurt her more when he arbitrarily decided not to be a part of those events in her life. She would have been devastated to know that he could have been there for her and that he chose not to. Now she will always be able to believe that he would have been there for her in those moments."

I think about what she is saying for long minutes. Maybe I wanted more from Eddie than he would have given. Maybe he would have been late, or not showed up at all to the more important events in Lindsey's life. I know that Lindsey meant a great deal to him, but sometimes even her happiness wasn't enough to motivate him to do the right thing.

At some point the conversation changed. We were talking about closure and how to make things better for Lindsey. But now we're suddenly talking about how things might already be improving. Much as I hate to think it, Nancy may be right.

"You can't possibly think that she is better off growing up with no father at all. That this is somehow a positive thing?" I might be a step closer to agreeing with her but if I can get her to, I'd like her to elaborate her point.

One thing that never fails is that when I talk with Nancy I somehow end up seeing more than one point of view. Sometimes two or three. She always opens my mind to different possibilities and I know I only tolerate it because she is my sister. Anyone else and I would have lost my cool with this conversation a very long time ago.

"I'm not saying she's better off. I'm just saying that when the time comes I think she will be less hurt to realize that Eddie couldn't be there as opposed to Eddie didn't want to be there."

"You really think that's better for her? I mean, Eddie may not have been the greatest guy but he was still her father. And that can't be replaced."

"And I don't think he should be replaced. She will keep him in her heart, and remember him for the good things. That's the joy of being a child, you remember all the good things and forget the bad ones almost as soon as it happens. She'll always love him, but that doesn't mean that she'll love you even less, or anyone else in your life," Nancy says wisely.

"You have a definite bad habit of being insightful," I say with a smile playing at the corners of my mouth.

She grins widely, taking my cue that I've had enough talking for a while, "And right too. Don't forget that I'm right a lot too."

"As if you'd let me forget."

Her grin turns into more of a smug smirk, "Damn right I'm not going to let you forget. Someone has to keep you in line."

With remarkable timing the kids come running into the room, excitedly asking about watching a movie. Lindsey settles next to me on the couch and Jeremy sits on the floor next to Nancy. Looking around at the cozy setting I can't help but smile. I also can't help but think there is one thing missing.

Part 27

"A week," Nancy says stubbornly.

"Three days," I am just as adamant.

"A week." As is if to solidify her point, Nancy's arms fold across her chest and she looks at me sternly.

"Four days and that's it." My gaze is unyielding and it only takes a minute for Nancy to realize that this is one little battle that she just will not win.

"Fine. Four days." She tosses my portable phone to me and walks away muttering, "I still think you should take a week."

"I heard that," I call after her as I dial the phone.

Thankfully it's still early evening and Gil isn't around to answer his phone. I simply leave a message telling him I'm going to take four days of personal time to take care of everything with Eddie.

"What did he say?" Nancy asks as soon as I join her in the living room.

"He didn't say anything. It's too early for even Gil to be in the lab yet. I just left him a message. I'm sure he'll call if he has any problems with it."

"He'll probably call back and tell you to take a week," Nancy says with a smirk.

With an exasperated sigh I firmly tell her, "There's no reason for me to take a week off. I could get everything done in three days. You're lucky I relented and took four days."

"You should take some time for you. And for Lindsey," Nancy tells me.

"And I am. The funeral is the day after tomorrow and you've already made me make calls to his family, so that's taken care of. That leaves the rest of tonight and tomorrow for me and Lindsey. And the day after the funeral too."

"I just don't think that's enough time," Nancy tries a new tactic and pouts. "Lindsey is going to have a lot to adjust to…"

"Not as much as you think," I interrupt her. "We both know how very little Eddie was around for the past few months. Hell for the past year."

I know that my voice reflects a little bit of hurt at admitting that. I wanted so much for Eddie to be a good father even if he was a lousy husband. I'm surprised to see a flicker of hurt in Nancy's eyes as she acknowledges that I am right about this.

"I know you're concerned Nancy, but I really think this is the best way to handle things. The only way, really," I tell her in the most serious tone I can.

Nancy looks at me, reading into the expression on my face and the tone of voice. With a heavy sigh she finally relents, "Okay. You need to do this your way. I suppose I can understand that. But promise me that if it's too much you'll take more time and call me."

"I promise," I say softly. I don't bother to tell her that I really don't think I'll need more time off than I've already requested. I'm already looking forward to getting back to work, if for no other reason than it will be a good distraction.

Nancy and Jeremy stay long enough for dinner and leave shortly after that with a promise to pick up Lindsey in the morning. Jeremy managed to make Nancy promise that they would go to the pet store and pick up a puppy and he wanted to show it to Lindsey as soon as they got home. Lindsey, of course, begged to go to the store with them and Nancy agreed almost quicker than Lindsey could ask.

Lindsey and I curl up together on the couch and settle in for a night of movie watching. It's peaceful and calms me in way I didn't know I needed. Nancy provided some intriguing insights into my behavior lately, and even some ideas as to how I should go about fixing the things I screwed up, but I seem to have worn myself out talking things through with her all day.

Lindsey falls asleep halfway through the second movie, but I don't move her like I normally would. Instead I simply lay on the couch with her, watching my little angel sleep. In her sleep she seems undisturbed by everything that has happened in the past few days and I am thankful that she has this escape.

Throughout the day I noticed slight changes in her behavior; changes I know relate to the death of her father. Or, more accurately, changes that relate to the effect his death has had on me. She is more willing to ask before doing the smallest things. When she was playing with Jeremy I noticed the two of them were a great deal quieter than they would normally be. And she didn't once leave my sight without telling me exactly where she was going to be.

I open my eyes and realize that I must have fallen asleep on the couch with Lindsey. I remember the movie still playing in the background as I watched her sleep, but now when I glance at the TV, the movie is over. I don't want to move her, but I know that we can't spend the whole night on the couch; it's really not that comfortable.

I wake Lindsey gently and manage to get her into bed with little fuss. She must have been more tired than I thought to not complain at all that I'm making her move. She does put up a weak fight when I tuck her in her own bed, asking me stay with her. Part of me really wants to, but it's better to have her sleeping in her own bed; she's too old for me fall back into the routine of having her sleep in my bed, or me in hers. She seems content when I tell her that I will stay with her until she falls asleep.

By the time I slip between the sheets of my own bed I realize that I've left the television on downstairs but I'm too comfortable now to do anything about it. I fall back to sleep quickly, holding on the image of Lindsey's face as she slept to comfort me and hopefully keep any unsettling dreams at bay for the night.

Part 28

The two days before the service seemed to blur together. There were so many little things that needed to be done. I didn't realize that there was so much involved. I wouldn't admit it to her, but Nancy was right; I should have taken a week. It didn't matter that I refused to acknowledge that once again she was right, by the time she saw me at Eddie's funeral I know that my haggard appearance gave it away.

The funeral itself was rather short. A few of Eddie's family members were there and a couple of people he met in his attempt to be a talent manager; people I barely remembered and people I didn't know at all expressed sorrow. The CSI graveyard shift was there, but more as support for Lindsey and I than out of any kind of mourning for Eddie.

Gil was typically quiet, either unaware of what to say or how to say it. Nick and Greg traded jokes in subdued tones; it wasn't offensive, just their own way of dealing with the tense and subdued environment. Warrick was by my side from the minute he arrived, his arm around me in quiet support when I wanted nothing more than to crumble under the stress and cling to him.

It was the first time in days I had seen Sara. I wanted her to walk up to Warrick and take his place at my side. One look at the pain in her eyes and I knew it wouldn't happen; instead she moved immediately to Lindsey. I leaned further into Warrick's embrace every time I caught her eyes. Knowing that I was the one who put that pain there was more than I could handle. It did make me happy to see that whatever was going on between us didn't seem to have an effect on the blossoming friendship between Lindsey and Sara.

Despite the circumstances Lindsey's eyes lit up in delight when Sara crouched down to offer a hug. Lindsey held on tight to Sara, and didn't let go even when Sara started to stand. Giving in to Lindsey's apparent need for contact, Sara held onto her hand and didn't let go until the services were over. Watching the two of them was heartwarming. Lindsey seemed less pained in Sara's presence and Sara's eyes showed nothing but love for my little girl.

Warrick noticed the interaction between them and he looked down at me with a slight smile. He also seemed to notice the few times Sara's eyes caught mine and the emotion in those dark eyes changed. A slight confused look on his face was the only indication he gave that he questioned what was happening around him. Thankfully, he understood that it was not the time or place to ask and he simply held me tighter every time my eyes connected with Sara's and I shrank under her gaze.

Other than the presence of my coworkers, my friends, I barely noticed what was happening around me. A memorial at the funeral home, a graveside service at a fairly remote cemetery and somehow I made it through it all.

The only real hitch in the day, the only moment when I really wanted to breakdown as my breath caught in my throat threatening to choke me and I felt the sting real tears of loss, was when I had to pry my little girl from the warm and affectionate embrace from Sara. I know too well how comforting being in her arms was.

Lindsey held onto Sara tightly and asked her to come home with us. I wanted so badly for her to agree but instead she looked briefly into my eyes, letting only me see the hurt there, and told Lindsey that she couldn't, that she was needed at work. Lindsey was disappointed but told Sara that catching the bad guys was more important.

Sara knows just how many times I've heard Lindsey say those very same words. She also knows that while I'm proud of my daughter's maturity and understanding that what Lindsey really means is that she's not quite ready to let me go when shays that. And right now, she's not quite ready to let Sara go either. The mixed emotions in Sara's eyes as she looked at me right then tore at my heart.

I could tell from the brief flash of elation in Sara's eyes as she looked at Lindsey that she understood Lindsey had embraced her not just as a friend, but as a part of our family. For a moment Sara held Lindsey tighter to her, and the beginnings of a huge grin tugged at the corner of my lips. But when she looked at me the happiness is gone, replaced with the pained look that made my throat close and my eyes sting.

"I'm sorry Lindsey, but I can't. I really need to go somewhere else," Sara apologizes to Lindsey, but everything else was said to me.

I knew I hurt her when I argued with her, telling her I could do the job better than her. I knew it caused her pain that she couldn't close the case and yet I had to push that button too. But as she walks away it strikes me that I've managed to hurt her a third time.

I thought I should use this time to be with Lindsey; to comfort my little girl so that maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't hurt so bad at the loss of her father. But I didn't really think I would need the same kind of comfort. I thought I could be the strong one, but at the end of the stressful days all I wanted, all I needed, was for someone to wrap me in their arms and tell me it would be okay. Nancy was there for me when I needed her, but she wasn't the one I wanted. I wanted Sara.

After all the things I said, after the way I behaved, I simply couldn't think of a way to approach her and apologize. Part of me was scared, is still scared, that the way I treated her was enough to push her away for good. But seeing her on that day only firmed my resolve that I would have to find a way to make her realize just how stupid I was and how much I regret pushing her the way I did.

Part 29

Returning to work was a blessing and a curse.

Walking through the building, I realize that I find the walls of the lab, the sounds of the equipment and the people in the halls here comforting. Safe, secure, filled with familiarity; in an odd way it feels like home. It's good to be home again.

This job truly excites me. As odd as it sounds the crimes are always the same; murder, breaking and entering, robbery, assault. But the means and motive always change. No case is ever the same and putting the pieces together is a thrill unlike any other. We may see horrible things on this job every day, but the inner workings of the crime are fascinating. The way a perp thinks and the actions they take, everything comes from somewhere in the psyche and that is the greatest puzzle of all.

The small, satisfied grin on my face disappears when I walk into my office. There's a pile of paperwork to be done, and for a brief moment I realize I'm actually looking forward to something as mundane as paperwork. At least, I look forward to it until I realize there is a note resting on top of the pile of papers.

'Meet me in my office before shift. – Gil'

Well that's short and to the point. I suppose he probably wants to talk to me about everything I did before I took time off. And this is exactly why I wasn't looking forward to coming back. The only excuse I have for my actions is anger; I was angry at what was being said and what wasn't being done.

It didn't seem like anything was being done to move the case forward, to really find out what happened. Sara and Vega were treating that girl like she was a victim too when she was really the one who had the answers. I couldn't simply stand idly by watching and listening when I knew she could tell me what really happened. And then when she got insulting I lost control.

It was definitely not the highlight of that day and now I have to face up to what I did. I think the worst part is knowing that what I did was inexcusable and yet I felt, still feel, justified in my anger. It's not something I can explain easily and definitely not something that the emotionally repressed Gil Grissom is going to understand.

I knock on the open door to Gil's office as I step inside. He looks up from what he was working on and for a second there is a brief smile on his face.

"You wanted to see me?" I question as I sit in the only chair in the room not covered with files or strange experiments.

"Good to have you back Cath." His smile widens and I know that he's happy to have all of his team back at work. But he's also avoiding the conversation I know we're going to need to have.

"It's good to be back," I answer with a smile to match his. "But I know you didn't leave that little note on my desk and have me come all the way down here just to say hi. What gives?"

"You certainly didn't lose any of those observational skills while you were out."

I think that's his idea of a joke. Maybe I'll laugh later, but for now I just wait patiently for him to continue.

"We need to talk about what happened," he doesn't sound like he's enjoying this at all.

"With the suspect in Eddie's case?" I ask trying to get this conversation moving at a quicker pace.

"At the time she was a witness," Gil admonishes.

"Suspect. Witness. Somehow I think the distinction is purely semantics for this talk," I tell him. "What you're trying to get around to saying is that my behavior was inappropriate."

Gil looks shocked for a second but recovers quickly. "Yes."

"And I'm guessing the Sheriff is pressing you for some kind of formal reprimand or something?"

Again Gil manages to look shocked at what I've said. Does he really think I wouldn't see this coming?

But all he says is, "Yes."

"So what's the punishment?" I half expect him to tell me to turn around go home, that I've been placed on suspension for my actions.

That shocked look stays on his face this time. "I uh … Well I hadn't really thought about it. I expected more of a defense from you. I thought maybe you might want to tell me happened."

"You know what happened. I imagine Vega put it in his police report and Sara probably put it in her report as well. The only thing left is for you to tell me what I do next."

I've had an awful lot of time the past few days to think about this. If he had come to me right after what happened I would have been angry and this conversation would have been different. But I know what I did was completely inappropriate and the best way to deal with this is to just get it over with. Whether that means a suspension or desk duty, I'm ready for whatever he decides. Though I really, really don't want any more time off work.

"You don't want to tell me your version of events?" Gil asks quietly.

"I'm sure it's all there in those reports," I'm beginning to get really impatient with the way this is going. I can't resist the urge to toss some of his words back at him, "The evidence never lies, Gil. I did what I did. I'm not going to deny that."

The corner of his mouth turns up a little bit in an attempt to smile. I think he appreciates the use of his own philosophy in this situation, but he still doesn't seem to know what to say.

I grin before continuing, "How does a four day unpaid suspension sound? Would that appease the Sheriff and get him off your back?"

I laugh as that astonished look makes yet another appearance. He doesn't seem to find the humor in it that I do so I decide a little more explanation might be necessary.

"Look Gil," I start. "I've just returned from four days off. I'm not looking forward to spending more time away from here. I really feel the need to work, to get things back to normal in my life. But I'm not about to apologize to that … that woman for what I did."

I realize now that I don't even know the name of that 'pink haired lady' as Lindsey called her. And I don't think it would look good for me to sit here with Gil and call her the kind of names I would like to, so 'that woman' will have to do.

"You want to get back to work, but you're suggesting that you be placed on suspension for four days?" He sounds more confused than ever now.

Honestly, did Gil lose some of his brilliance while I was out? He might not be the best in social situations, or anything that requires interacting with another person, but he's always been pretty good at picking up clues.

"I am. You see I've just had the past four days off," I tell him and he finally starts to look like he understands. "And I'm guessing that you probably marked those as vacation days or personal time. All I'm suggesting is that you change that to unpaid suspension and write up the paperwork."

"Already thought of everything haven't you?" He says grinning.

"Well I've had a few days to reflect on the error of my ways," I say with a big smile. "Look at it this way: I've admitted that what I did was wrong, you get to tell the Sheriff that I've been officially reprimanded and you get your whole team back at work as of today. Seems like a good solution to everyone's problems."

"You're right," he says smiling. "But you already knew that didn't you?"

I shrug, "Like I said, I've had time to think about it."

He turns serious for a minute, "Is this going to happen again?"

"I don't think so," I answer honestly.

"You don't think so?" Gil doesn't seem to like my answer.

"Gil, I can't promise. I can do my best, but so help me if something happens to Lindsey again …" I think there's just enough anger behind my voice that Gil gets the message.

"Okay." He's clearly not satisfied with that. "As your boss I have to tell you not to let that happen again. Under any circumstances."

I start to rise out of the chair, fully ready to vent some anger in his direction.

Gil raises his hand to stop me, "But as your friend I understand. Just make sure there aren't witnesses next time, okay?"

I can't help but laugh. I expected this conversation to be a lot more tense. I suspected he would be angrier, but I should have known that whatever he felt about my actions he wouldn't show it.

"So no speech? No warnings? No diatribe about the inappropriateness of my actions?" I ask when I've finished laughing.

"It would seem you've already taken care of that for me," he says smiling. "It's good to have you back, Cath."

That sounds like a dismissal to me, so I stand up and turn toward the door. "Trust me, it's good to be back."

I leave Gil in his office to continue whatever paperwork he was doing when I showed up. I'm pleasantly surprised at the way that went. I expected more of a serious talk, with Gil being more my supervisor than my friend. But he seemed content to let me control most of the conversation and thus keep the situation light.

I head for the break room, thinking it might just be possible to steal a cup of Greg's coffee before the rest of the gang gets in. The coffee has just finished and I sit down at the table with the first cup thinking my first day back is going really good; much better than I expected in fact.

Part 30

It doesn't take long for the rest of the graveyard shift to start showing their faces.

Greg is the first one to stop by the break room, only here for his coffee I'm sure. He learned early on not to leave his coffee sitting in the pot for too long; compared to the sludge we normally drink at the lab, this stuff is heaven. He thinks we don't know that he makes a pot early and fills a thermos to take back to his lab.

To my surprise he tilts the coffee pot at me, "Refill?"

"You're offering up some of your coffee? Don't you always sneak off with a thermos in the hopes that none of us notice you made a good pot of coffee?" I taunt him with a smile as I walk up with my cup for the offered refill.

"Well it doesn't really work if you guys know about it and take a cup before I get back in here with my thermos," Greg tells me as he tops off my coffee. "Besides, who am I to deny a beautiful woman a good cup of coffee?"

"I thought you saved those little comments for a certain brunette, Greg-o." I lean over and drop a kiss on his cheek in thanks for the coffee.

"I usually do," he says as he blushes. "Doesn't mean I can't compliment the second most beautiful woman I've ever met."

I hold my hand to my heart in mock pain, "Only second Greg?" I watch as his blush deepens. He's so easy to tease. "You're laying on the charm pretty thick tonight, Greg."

"Haven't seen you in a few days, I've got some catching up to do," he shrugs as he explains. He fills his thermos with the remnants of coffee and then adds, "Besides, Sara's attentions have been elsewhere lately."

He leaves the break room before I get the chance to ask him what that means. There are a variety of explanations for his statement, none of which are explanations I care to think about for too long. I try not to think about it, but my mind is traitorous and continues to go over his parting words as I sit and stare blankly into my coffee cup.

He may have noticed that Sara and I were getting closer over the past month or so. I don't really think he's that observant, or that discrete. If he noticed that he would undoubtedly be making crass jokes about the two of us.

At the funeral, he could have seen the distance that now exists between Sara and I. This is more plausible, but I still think he'd say something. If even he didn't notice the more romantic aspects of our relationship, he certainly had time over the past few years to notice that Sara and I aren't the enemies we once seemed to be. I'm certain he would have said something about Sara and I reverting to our ways if this was what he was talking about.

The only other thing I can think of is that Sara's attentions are directed at someone else. I don't like that possibility; the hurt is almost physical. When I said those things, when I acted so childishly, did she turn to someone else to ease the pain? And how does Greg know? Sara has always been private, never letting us know more than she thought was necessary. Greg wouldn't know anything unless Sara wanted him, and everyone else, to know.

"Cath, you okay?"

I didn't even notice Warrick's arrival but when I finally look up from my coffee he's sitting next me, his hand resting on my shoulder with that intensely caring, soulful look in eyes.

"I'm fine, Warrick," I tell him, patting the hand on my shoulder in reassurance. "Just got a lot on my mind tonight."

He doesn't look like he believes me but chooses not to push too hard. He smiles as he says, "Thought you'd be happier to be back."

"Oh trust me, I'm happy to be back. The past few days have just been …"

I let the sentence linger, not sure of how to accurately describe the past few days. Busy. Tedious. Stressful. Relaxing. I'm confused by how things could have been so busy that I barely had time to breathe and yet so dull that I almost ached to return to work. The time with Lindsey was wonderful, I don't think I've spent this much time just being Lindsey's mom all year. And even though I cherish the moments where it is just my baby and I and we pretend to lead normal lives, I also missed the routine we have when I'm working.

With a slight nod of understanding Warrick simply says, "Yeah."

We sit in silence for a few minutes, the worried look in Warrick's eyes never really going away. Just when I'm beginning to feel awkward in the silence, something I've never felt with Warrick, Nick practically bursts into the room, fully energized and ready to take on the night.

With enthusiasm I've never seen Nick display, he rushes over to my chair and wraps his arms around me from behind in one of the most uncomfortable hugs I've ever received. My eyes open wide in shock and I hear Warrick chuckling at the awkward position Nick and I are in.

"It's good to see you too, Nicky," I say with a big grin, even though he can't see it from his position.

"Missed you Cath," Nick says with a goofy grin as he takes the empty seat on my other side.

"You know, it's not like I was gone for a long time or anything. It was four days." My coffee now sits in front of me, cold.

"Too long, Cath. It was too long," he says in explanation.

"C'mon Nicky, it's not like the place fell apart without me."

"Says who? Grissom's quiet as ever, Sara's been moody, Greg's been whining …"

"Probably because of Sara," Warrick notes.

I'm getting really curious about Sara's behavior lately. First Greg comments on Sara's attentions and now Nick mentions that Sara has been moody. I try not to let my concern show, not yet willing to explain things to Warrick. Or Nick for that matter.

"And Warrick's been moping without you around," Nick finishes.

"And how is that any different than when I'm here?" I tease Nick.

Surprised, Nick takes a minute to answer, "Uh. Well, Warrick doesn't usually brood this much, and there for a little while Sara wasn't as temperamental."

"You knew Sara's good mood wasn't going to last. It never does," Warrick points out.

"Alright, alright," Nick holds up his hands in surrender. "But we did miss you Cath."

"I know Nicky. I missed you guys too."

Grissom walks in with assignments before Nick really makes a big production of how horrible the past few days have been without. I've never been happier to be sent to a crime scene. I love the guys, but Nick exaggerations were starting to get out of hand.

"Nick join Sara at a 406 on Parkside. Warrick, Catherine, 415 on Eastern Avenue, vic is at Desert Springs."

Grissom hands Nick and Warrick the slips and leaves as quietly as he entered. Nick taps my shoulder lightly, a silent way of saying goodbye for the evening before leaving the break room.

"Looks like it's just you and me girl. Ready for some action?" Warrick says with a smile as he pushes away from the table.

"I'm always ready, Warrick. And after the past few days, I'm more than ready."

Part 31

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