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 31

Once outside the lab Warrick suggests we split the work and one of us head to the scene and other to the victim at the hospital. Some evidence can be time sensitive and some assault victims have an annoying habit of providing false information and disappearing from the hospital before we can get a chance to speak with them.

I very nearly suggested, for my own peace of mind, that we stick together. At least with other people around, I can do a fairly decent job of concentrating on work. With only the radio and my thoughts to keep me company I head to the hospital as Warrick climbs into a truck to head to the scene.

I shouldn't have been surprised that Sara was already at a scene by the time shift started and yet I was. I guess I was just hoping she'd be there like Greg and Nick to tell me I was missed around the lab. What I really wanted was to hear her say she missed me. She could have looked carefully into my eyes with worry as Warrick did, or been ready to chastise me as Gil was ready to; I just wanted her to be there.

Pretty high hopes for me to have considering I treated her with so little respect the last time I saw her at work. I didn't even have the courage to speak with her at Eddie's funeral. Much as I wanted to, it seemed like the wrong place to get into such a discussion, but now I may have lost my chance.

As I step through the emergency room doors I try to redirect my concentration to the case at hand. The ER is quite busy, though that is normal in a city as large as Las Vegas. Not surprisingly, there is no one at the admit desk and I wait at least five minutes before anyone notices my arrival. A few quick words with one of the nurses and I'm directed behind a curtain where my assault victim is being patched up.

The victim wasn't entirely cooperative, which didn't come as much of a surprise. Usually it's the guy that loses the fight that ends up in the hospital, and they tend to still be argumentative when they get there. And the bruised ego of losing doesn't help matters either. After nearly an hour and a half I leave the hospital, taking with me the victim's clothes, several swabs, and nearly an entire roll of film from some rather impressive and colorful bruises.

Since we didn't have much information to go on and there wasn't a police officer or detective at the hospital with the vic to update me on what happened, I spend the drive back to the lab trying to think of various scenarios that would have resulted in the beating the victim took. None are pretty, and quite a few are downright frightening.

I'm hoping to run across Warrick when I get back to the lab, but he's nowhere in sight. Instead I drop the swabs off in Greg's lab, slightly relieved that he doesn't seem to be around; I don't think I'd be able to stop myself from asking what he meant earlier and I really should be focusing on work.

I take the victim's clothes with me to a layout room, ready to examine every inch of fabric for evidence of what happened. It's unusual that there wasn't a detective around to explain the particulars of the case, but I find that today I like the uncertainty. I've got the pieces of the puzzle with no picture to tell me how it will look. There's a certain amount of excitement in being able to figure out what happened with no outside information, and I jump into the work with renewed appreciation for my job.

Soon enough the sounds of the lab fade away as I concentrate on the clothing laid out before me. I can no longer hear the ever-present buzz of lab equipment, the idle chatter of the people milling about in the hallways, even the annoying click of heels as various techs rush around the labs abates as I work.

The clothes are in pretty good condition, only a few rips and what looks like a clean slash across the upper left arm. There is a lot of transfer on the shirt, but without any idea what the attacker was wearing it could easily be innocent transfer. Hopefully Warrick comes back with some good samples from the scene, and if he had time, from the attacker himself.

The jeans had a few bloodstains; mostly drops and from the trajectory it's probably from the victim, but I take swabs for Greg anyway. I make sure the swabs and bindles are properly marked and head back to Greg's lab. It's unrealistic to think he'd have even prelims ready for me, but I hope for it anyway; if Warrick doesn't return to the lab soon, I'll be forced to find paperwork or something equally mundane to do until the end of shift.

Greg is waiting anxiously for some results and as soon as he sees me he says, "Not yours, Cath."

"You wound me Greg," I tell him, putting a hurt look on my face.

"Don't give me that. I know you're looking for something on those swabs you dropped off earlier." Greg does his best to give me a stern look, but fails miserably as the corners of his mouth turn up slightly in a goofy grin.

"And what if I'm not? What if I'm here just to dump more work on you?" I try to charm him with a bigger smile, but he sees through it.

"You wanted prelims and you know it." His slight smile turns just a bit cocky. "Dumping more swabs on me is just an excuse to come in here and flirt with me."

"Greg, you've got an ego the size of the Hindenburg," I walk up next to him and set the swabs on the table, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Tame that bad boy and get back to work, okay?"

Greg does exactly what I expected him to do: in less than two seconds he manages to turn about thirteen shades of red. I give his shoulder a squeeze and laugh gently at his embarrassment.

"I'm not interrupting anything am I?"

Greg and I turn at the same time to see Sara leaning against the doorway and she doesn't look happy at all. Greg's smile disappears almost as quickly as his blush fades. Interesting, Greg's smile usually brightens whenever Sara is around.

"Just some good natured teasing to Greg-the-man here to get back to work," I keep the smile on my face, hoping it might ease some of the tension that seems to have flooded the room. It doesn't work at all.

Greg turns serious and says, "I've got your results Sara. Looks promising."

Sara is quiet as she walks further in the room and takes the report from Greg. That old animosity that we had seems to have returned full force. My smile fades under her glare.

"Thanks Greg," Sara says as she walks out the door with the report.

The tension walks out the door with Sara, but not the feeling of unease that has taken over my senses. Greg stands silently watching me, seeing the question in my eyes and momentarily unsure of what to say.

"You know, she's been like that since she closed Eddie's case," he says softly. "I mean, Sara's always been the real serious one, but it's different now."

"Different how?" I turn to ask him.

"Well she was starting to open up, you know? Heading out to breakfast with us sometimes and being more friendly even to us lowly techs." There's a small smile on his face as he says this, knowing full well none of us really think of him, or any of the other lab technicians, as 'lowly'. "But something hit her hard after Eddie's case. She got quiet again, kinda like how she was when she first got here."

What hit her hard was me. I wasn't exactly nice to her when she working that case, and it only got worse when she had to close it. I'm not ready to admit that to Greg just yet.

"Maybe you could talk to her," he suggests. "I know it's really only been a few days since she closed that case, but I was really beginning to like the new and improved Sara. Maybe if you talked with her and told her that it wasn't her fault that she couldn't get that sleaze for murder… Well, I just think it will help."

This is probably the most serious talk I've ever had with Greg, and he doesn't have the slightest idea just how right he is. I think it's going to take more than just a few nice words from me to bring that smile back to Sara's face. There's a lot of things I need to clear up with Sara and it will take longer to fix this than it did to break it, but I miss her and I've got to try.

Part 32

It didn't take me long to agree with Greg and try to find Sara. Of course, he didn't have to say much to get me to agree with him. I've known for a few days that I needed to talk with Sara.

At first it was a problem of finding the time to call her, there was a lot of tedious things that had to be taken care of and it seemed to swallow all of my time. Then the more time that passed, the more I found I simply lacked the courage to talk to her. Apologizing isn't exactly a strong suit of mine, and I know that I hurt her pretty bad when I insulted her competence.

The old animosity that used to define our relationship just won't work anymore. The way I feel about her, and hopefully the way she feels about me, has changed too much for that. We edged toward friendship and even became quite the duo when Gil would put us on cases, and I just don't want to lose that. And I know I don't want to lose just how close we became over the past month.

She's long gone by the time I step in the hallway, and after a quick check in the break room and in her favorite lab I still haven't found her. I could page her, but something tells me that she wouldn't respond since we're not working on a case together. The lab really isn't a big place, but I quickly run out of rooms with no sight of Sara.

For a moment I consider giving up the search and waiting until some other time to speak with her, but then I remember that things are so strained that even Greg noticed. And if he noticed, then it must be obvious to the rest of the night shift.

She came to Greg for results, and I assumed she would return to a lab or layout room to go over the results. Maybe she even would have gone to one of the conference rooms or the break room to look things over, but I can't find her in any of those places. I think it would be a lot simpler if there was enough space at the lab to give all the investigators an office.

I see Nick walking down the hall and remembering that he was sent out to a scene with Sara, I stop him for minute.

"Hey Nick?"

"Yeah?" He asks as he turns around.

"You seen Sara?" I ask as I walk up to him.

"Last I knew she was headed off to see Sanders about some DNA reports."

"Yeah, that's where I saw her." My search is starting to get really frustrating.

"So if you know where she is, why are you asking me?" He grins at his little joke.

"Well if she was still there, I wouldn't be asking," I return his grin, knowing full well that he's just teasing me.

I take a glance around the labs in the area, for once thankful of the glass walls.

"Something up, Catherine?" Nick asks, clearly concerned.

"Nah," I lie. "Just looking for a minute or two of her time if she has it to spare."

I doubt that the conversation I want to have with Sara will be as short as a minute or two, but I need to do this while I still have the courage. If I put it off any longer, things will only get worse.

Keeping things light, he jokes, "We could send out a search party."

"Funny Nick." But I'm laughing even as I say it. "I'm sure Gil would love that."

He slaps my arm gently with the file folder in his hand before starting to walk away, "If you find her tell her I have the trace reports from our 406."

"Right," I say to his back. I take another pass around the labs, poking my head into various rooms with still no sight of Sara.

When I finally do decide that I will just have to wait until later to speak with Sara, I catch a glimpse of her figure just outside a rarely used side entrance to the labs. I remember years ago when this is where I would come to sneak a cigarette if I felt stressed or just needed a break. This little spot was my hideaway; hardly anyone ever used this entrance to the lab, and the hallway on the inside is used even less frequently.

Sara's long form is leaning against a short brick retaining wall and even from inside I can tell that she's not really reading the report in her hand. I slip outside and it becomes even more obvious she's lost in thought when she doesn't notice my presence until I'm right next to her.

"You know, the light out here isn't really the greatest for reading." I lean comfortably against the wall next to her but my voice betrays me, easily giving away my nervousness.

"Good thing I'm not really trying to read this then, huh?"

She's tense now. Even more than she was earlier. I don't like that I'm the one causing her posture to stiffen and her voice to carry that undertone of anger.

"Hiding?" I ask quietly, hoping to inject a little bit of humor into the situation. I only hope she doesn't take it the wrong way.

"If I am, I'm not doing a very good job at it."

She smiled just a tiny bit when she said that and I have to force myself not to grin widely in victory. There's still a bit of an icy tone to her voice, but that slight smile can only be a good sign.

"Don't sell yourself short. This just happens to be one of my favorite hiding places." When Sara looks up, obviously confused, I continue, "Back when I was smoking this was my favorite place to sneak away to. And after that it sort of became a refuge for when I needed a moment away."

"It's not much of a refuge if someone comes to find you," Sara speaks quietly.

"When I would come out here, I never gave anyone a reason to try to look for me."

"Did I give you a reason?" The sadness in her eyes makes me want to both wrap her in a hug and turn away from her in shame for putting that look in her eyes.

"I have my own reasons." I need to fix this, and I don't think I can do that if I break down in front of her. "Can I fix this thing between us?"

"What is there to be fixed?" The ice-cold tone is reminiscent of when she first arrived in Vegas.

Part 33

I'm frozen into silence. What is there to be fixed? Only everything. Turbulent as our relationship as coworkers was, and sometimes still is, on a personal level things were good. Better than good. How can she not want to fix that?

"There's nothing to fix?" I ask, feeling overwhelmingly defeated.

"I don't know." She sounds so unsure.

"I …."

There are so many things I want to say, need to say. Words of apology and even groveling run through my mind so fast I can't seem to focus on anything. I want to say something so right that all it takes is a few words for her to understand what has been going on with me lately. But this isn't some cheesy romance novel, and the feeling I'm getting from her is that nothing but time will heal this.

"I think there is something to fix." My voice is barely a shadow of itself, "And I really want a chance to make things right."

"Catherine …"

"I know, I know. I fucked up big time," I interrupt her, not sure of where she was headed, but the use of my full name was a clue that I wasn't going to like what she was starting to say. "And I made it worse by not trying to talk things out before now."

She doesn't say anything and I take that as an agreement of what I've said.

"I know I lost control in that interview room," Sara starts to say something and I hold up my hand to get her to wait. "And outside the interview room too when I lashed out at you. I insulted your intelligence and basically called you incompetent. You didn't deserve that."

"Then why?" She asks.

"Rage," I tell her, watching as her eyes cloud over in confusion. "Listening to that little …" I'm surprised to feel the anger surge again as a memory of that day flashes before my eyes. I take a deep breath, trying not to let my temper get the best of me again, "Well listening to the way that girl talked about what happened and hearing what she said about Lindsey, it was more than I could handle. I lost it."

Sara does not seem at all satisfied with my answer and I don't blame her for that. I've had time to dissect my actions and figure out what fueled me that day, but I don't know if I can accurately explain it to anyone, much less the person who took the brunt of my anger that day.

"I lost a part of my life when Eddie died."

Anger flashes in her eyes and I know that I'm not saying the right things, not explaining myself accurately.

"Eddie was …"

"Your husband," Sara fills in for me when I find myself lacking the right words. Her words seem defensive somehow, as if acknowledging my relationship with Eddie is something that hurts her deeply.

"He was once; that was over a very long time ago. But he was important to me."

"Important how?" She asks. I can tell by the look of hurt in her eyes that a part of her thinks I might still love Eddie; that this is why he was important to me.

"Not in the way you're thinking. He was Lindsey's father. He was everything to her. And that made him important to me. I don't still love him. I haven't loved him in a long time," I try to keep eye contact with her as I talk, knowing that it's important that she understand what I'm trying to say. So many emotions are expressed in her eyes that it nearly breaks my resolve to do this.

She relaxes almost imperceptibly when I tell her I haven't loved Eddie in a long time. A glimmer of hope shines in her eyes and I force myself to keep going, even if the location isn't the greatest for dumping my baggage, and my heart, on her.

"Maybe I never loved him at all."

"What does that mean?"

The perplexed look on her face tells me that she doesn't understand at all and that I'm going to have to try harder to have this make any sense at all. The only problem is that not a lot of this makes sense to me yet, and I don't know how to explain something that I don't fully understand. The only place I can think to start is the beginning.

"I think I fell in love with the idea of Eddie. He was very charming when we first met. He treated me good, better than any other man in my life," I sound almost wistful as I talk about those early days. "He promised everything and it took me a long time to realize that he was full of shit most of the time.

"Of course, it really helped his case that we got high almost every time we were together. Being high seemed to make him more everything; more handsome, more charming, even a better lover. But like I said, I was high for most of the early days, so I didn't really know any better." It wasn't completely an attempt at humor, but it does get a snort of laughter from both of us.

"I married him too soon, I was young and thought I was in love. I wanted something better for myself and started to make changes, but I still thought I loved him. I mean, how could I possibly marry someone I didn't love, you know? But as I changed, Eddie did too. He didn't like me cleaning up my act and he got progressively meaner when I tried to convince him that there were better things in life than going clubbing and doing drugs.

"When Lindsey came along, he was thrilled. I don't think anything else could have made Eddie clean up at that point in his life. But at the time, he wanted to be a dad; loved the idea of lavishing his attention on his little girl and treating her like a princess, of being the most important person in her life. Like everything else, his interest in that faded too."

I think I just revealed more about my life to Sara in five minutes than I have in all the years she's been part of the team. Honestly, it feels good. I don't expect her sympathy, I just want her to know more about me, and where I'm coming from. Maybe then she can understand a little of what I've been through this week.

Sara knows I'm not finished, and she waits silently for me to continue. Maybe she doesn't know what to say, or maybe she knows that whatever she says can't change the way things were and so she doesn't say anything at all. Either way, I'm glad she stays silent as it gives me a chance to put things together in my head before I say them out loud.

"We grew apart. I took an interest in making my life, and Lindsey's, better and Eddie seemed stuck on the idea of a quick ride to the top; he didn't want to have to work, really work, for anything. Sure, he cleaned up and stopped taking drugs, but he had no interest in the kind of stable life that I wanted to be able to give Lindsey. It's ironic that I wanted a stable life for her, and yet what I've been able to provide for her is anything but."

"Lindsey has a lot of stability," Sara speaks up. At my incredulous look she continues, "She has a mother she knows she can rely on to be there for her, and Nancy loves Lindsey like she was her own daughter. I know that you and Lindsey have a routine for things at home; a set time for things like homework and dinner. And at least one weekend a month you make it a point to spend an entire day, if not two, with her. That is more than most parents can provide; more than it seems Eddie ever gave her."

I nod slightly, conceding her point. There is so much that I wanted to give Lindsey that I don't feel I've been able to. But maybe Sara is right; Lindsey has her aunt and cousin who love her as much as I do, and she is the adopted daughter of the entire graveyard shift. Maybe our version of a 'normal' life is different from others, but it works really well for us.

"I wanted so much more for her though. The real 'American' family; a mother and father who loved each other and stayed together, maybe even a little brother or sister."

Sara laughs for the first time tonight, "I think your definition of family needs an adjustment. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, it's not all that unusual to have a single mom, or dad, raising the family."

"Yeah. But I didn't want Eddie to be a 'weekend dad'. I wanted him to take more of an interest in her life." There's a sadness in my voice; I'm mourning the loss of something I never had, but wanted so badly. And I didn't even want it for me, I wanted for Lindsey.

"You couldn't change Eddie. His priorities were messed up and no matter what you said, or did, nothing was going to make him the man you wanted him to be."

"I know. That doesn't make it any easier to deal with though." Sara nods in understanding and I'm beginning to feel like maybe we're getting somewhere; maybe she's starting to understand what I lost when Eddie died. "When he died, Lindsey lost everything that he could have been for her. She didn't deserve to lose that, and I took it hard because I knew what she would be missing out on as she grew up."

"And what will she be missing?" I can't tell if she asking because she wants clarification or if she just knows that I need to get it all out before we can move past this.

"A father who loves her …"

"He did. No matter what his actions may have shown, you know he loved her."

"A father who will be there to congratulate her as she graduates high school and college," I continue, barely acknowledging Sara's interruption. "A father who will interrogate her first boyfriend, who will be there to give her away when she gets married, and beam with pride when she has her first child.

"That is what made him important to me. That is what I mourned the loss of. It wasn't so much Eddie the man that I lost and cried over as what he meant to Lindsey and who he could have been. Lindsey will never have any of that, and it made me inexplicably angry that she's going to miss out on so much."

"So I was nothing more than a convenient target for your anger?" There's a note of understanding in her voice, but mostly what I hear is hurt.

"Yes," I figure all out honesty might be best, even if it does make her look at me with that pained expression. "You don't deserve that, but that's what it was. You did nothing wrong, and I know you were doing everything you could. I just couldn't see past the anger."

"Okay," she says quietly.

Okay? After all this, what she says is okay? Does that mean 'okay now we can fix this rift between us'? Or does it simply mean 'okay thanks for telling me'?

Part 34

I'm disturbed by her answer. I realize that I didn't exactly bare my soul or declare all-encompassing love, but I did expect to hear something more than a simple 'okay'. If she notices that I'm uncomfortable at all she sure isn't showing it, and that is only making me feel worse.

"Okay?" I finally get the nerve to question her. "That's it? Just an okay?"

"What do you want me to say, Catherine?" Anger edges into her tone and I know I have to calm down a little or this will only get worse.

"I'm not really sure what I expected," I tell her honestly. "But I don't think it was 'okay'."

"That's a lot to think about," Sara turns and I can't see the expression on her face as she continues, "I think I knew, you know? That you didn't mean what you were saying. But it hurt, Catherine. I take pride in what I do, maybe too much, but I do take pride in it. And I am good at what I do."

"I know, Sara. I know." I could hear the pain in her voice and watched as her shoulders slumped when she admitted that I had hurt her. Knowing it took a lot for her to admit that, I walk up behind her and gently rest my hands on her shoulders. "I'm so sorry Sara, I don't even know how to apologize properly for my behavior."

She tenses a little at the feel of my hands, but relaxes as I talk quietly to her. My hands move lightly across her shoulders, soothing.

"I have no reason to expect you to forgive me. I insulted your pride and basically called you an incompetent CSI. I know how much this work means to you and I said it anyway. I hurt you because I was hurting. That's not an excuse, just an explanation. I'd like a chance to make up for what I did, to make this work."

What started as a soothing gesture for her soon becomes one of comfort for me as my hands slip down her arms to her waist. I wrap my arms around her waist, hugging from behind and taking solace in her warmth and strength.

"Let me fix this," I whisper to her.

"I … uh …" Sara pulls away nervously. "I need to get back to work."

Don't abandon me now. Tell me something, anything. Don't leave me feeling so uncertain when I finally managed to get the nerve to admit everything to you.

I don't give in to my internal thoughts, but it is a struggle not to. I can't show the anger that is starting to flare up or she will retreat even further into herself and we will be back in that place we were when Sara first moved to Vegas; more enemies than friends, coworkers who barely tolerated the presence of each other. I can't let that happen, not now when I'm just beginning to know what an extraordinary person she is.

I can't show the hurt because that is as unjustified as the anger. I have no reason to feel so hurt when I'm the one that caused her so much pain. It was my actions, my decisions, words I said, that brought us to this point. Just because she is hurting doesn't mean that she intends to hurt me; that was the mistake I made, hurting her just because I was in pain.

"Work? You've got to get back to work?" I wince at the harsh and incredulous tone I use; I didn't want it to sound like that, I don't want to push her farther away. I step back, needing physical distance to hear what she is going to say next.

"Cath," Sara says softly, "We've been out here for too long. Nick is going to start looking for me, and I'm sure Greg will have preliminary results for you soon."

I can't figure anything out from her tone, but the fact that she went back to using the short version of my name lifts my spirits a little.

"Nick is already looking for you." Sara tilts her head questioningly. "I ran into him while I was trying to find you, he wants you to know he has the trace reports."

Sara looks slightly surprised, and I have to admit the techs around here surprise me too. We have one of the busiest labs in the country and yet still the techs here can get us a finished report in just a few hours that would, in other labs, take at least a day. We get the best of the best to work here because we are one of the top-rated crime labs in the country. And yet the reason they want to work here is because we are the best.

Sara heads toward the door and I don't want to let her go. Not without something, anything, to soothe my suddenly frazzled nerves. I don't like not knowing where things stand with us. It's safe to say that the more romantic aspects of our relationship have definitely been put on hold. But for how long? And did I screw up even more than I thought and lose her friendship too?

"Can we talk later?" I ask when she starts to pass by me to get back inside. I know that I won't push her, whatever she decides will just have to be good enough; but that doesn't stop me from trying, "Breakfast after shift?"

Sara's step falters, she knows that I am reaching out now; that was the same question I asked her for months when I finally got past my own juvenile anger and started to see Sara as a person and not a threat, as a friend instead of just coworker, and then later as a girlfriend instead of just a friend.

Girlfriend? Well, I guess for lack of a better word, she was. We never really talked about our relationship, we just enjoyed the changes. She started to become a part of my life.

"I …"Sara dips her head as she opens the door. I have to strain to hear her as she walks through the door without looking back, "Not today. I need time."

The soft click of the door behind her sounds deafening as I watch her walk away.

Part 35

There isn't the same kind of tension between us that there used to be, but most of the night shift has noticed the subtle change away from the friendship we had begun showing at work. Nick thought maybe I was still trying to deal with Eddie's death, Warrick thought I pissed off Sara again, and Greg thought Sara was just taking the fact that she couldn't close Eddie's case too hard.

The only person in the lab that didn't say anything was Grissom, and I'm not sure if he just didn't pick up on it or he's choosing not to say anything. There were a few times when I thought he was going to say something, but he never did. Maybe he was just hoping we'd resolve things without needing to get him involved.

We talked little; even less than when Sara first began working with us, and when we did talk it was always about a case. I wanted to speak with her about more personal issues but couldn't find the courage to bring it up; I don't want to be the cause of that pained look in her eyes again.

Lindsey wants me to tell Sara that she misses her and wants to go see the knights again. I haven't figured out a way to tell Lindsey that it doesn't look like Sara will be going with us the next time we go to the show at the Excalibur.

"Cath?" Nancy asks, snapping me out of my reverie.


"Your hot cocoa went cold about twenty minutes ago," Nancy sits down in the chair across from me, her brow wrinkled in concern. "What's going on?"

"Nothing," I tell her, turning my gaze to the thick film that has covered the top of what used to be a steaming cup of hot cocoa.

"You know, I never understood how you could drink that stuff in the middle of the day. You do know it's 90 in the shade, right?" Nancy skips the rest of the small talk, "And don't lie to me. Something's bothering you and I think you need to talk about it."

"I don't want to talk about it." I hope she catches the tone in my voice and changes the subject.

"That's what you've been saying for the past three weeks," Nancy isn't going to let this drop, even after I lift my head and glare at her. "But obviously you need to talk to someone about what's bothering you."

"Okay then. How about I don't want to talk to you about it?" I question. Hopefully she will just take the hint and leave it be.

"That's not going to work," she says, shaking her head. "You wouldn't be here so early in the evening staring at a cold cup of cocoa if you didn't have some thinking, and some talking, to do. So spill."

I push the cocoa away from me, irritated with myself for being so obvious. I brought Lindsey over here early tonight because I thought she might like to have the extra time to play with Jeremy. She hasn't been too active lately, preferring to come home after school and do her homework instead of asking to go outside and play. She seems withdrawn and I thought time with Jeremy and just being a kid might help.

But I can't deny that a small part of me wanted to spend extra time with Nancy as well. I thought maybe I could talk to her about Sara, and now I'm not so sure. It seemed like a good idea in my head, but now that I'm trying to put the words together, I find I don't want to talk to her about it at all.

When I'm silent for too long Nancy decides to take the lead, "You're having problems with Sara, aren't you?"

"Hard to have problems when we're not really talking." The bitterness I feel is evident in my tone.

"I'd say that is the problem," Nancy gives me her 'you dumbass' look. "Hard to have a relationship with someone if you're not talking, isn't it?"

I never really expected Nancy to be so … positive about my dating a woman. I guess I thought there would be some fallout, or at least a period of time where Nancy was uncertain about me and how my life would affect Lindsey's. And yet here she is, prodding me about the problems Sara and I are having and seemingly willing to give me advice.

"Nancy I don't even know if we're having a relationship anymore," I tell her. "I think I pushed her away."

"Well all you've got to do then is pull her back," Nancy says as if it were obvious. "Have you tried talking to her?"

"It's not that simple. She doesn't want to talk to me."

"Well I wouldn't either if you were such an ass to me. Okay, well maybe I would, but only because you're my sister." I can't tell if she's trying to be funny, but she does make me smile just the tiniest bit. "But she hasn't known you nearly as long as I have. She doesn't know your tendency to make a big ass out yourself when you're hurting."

"Maybe she knows me too well now," I pause trying to find the right words. "She knows I can be rude and downright bitchy with her for basically no reason. And now she knows that if I'm hurting I will hurt those around me. It doesn't exactly make me prime dating material."

"But she wanted to be with you before," Nancy smirks, "and from what I've heard you were quite the bitch to her then. What's so different now?"

"Even when I was bitchy before, I never questioned her work; I never told her was a lousy CSI or that I could do her job much better than she ever could."

"And that makes a difference?" I know the game Nancy is playing, she already knows the answers to her questions but wants to hear me say them out loud. It's more for my benefit than hers.

"Hell yes it does Nancy." There's quite a bit of anger in my voice, but Nancy knows that none of it is directed at her. All that anger is for me and how stupid I've been. "Sara is so much more than her job, but her job is also everything to her."

I fall quiet and Nancy pushes a little harder, "And?"

"And I insulted her in the worst way possible by telling her she couldn't do her job," I admit. "In the past the things I've said were directed at her, not the way she does her job or the results she gets. She can brush off personal insults, but her job is a source of pride to her."

Nancy still doesn't seem satisfied with what I've said. I take a moment and think about what I can say to her that will make her understand what I'm trying to say.

"It's like if someone questioned the way I'm raising Lindsey."

Her eyes widen as she recognizes how insulting that would be to me; how beyond pissed I was when Eddie called Family Services a few years ago.

"No wonder she's really angry at you," Nancy says after she lets what I've said sink in. "Catherine you need to make this better."

Like I don't know that. But I am curious as to why Nancy thinks so. I have my own reasons, but I can't help but wonder about the ease with which Nancy accepted this latest change in my life and why she seems so gung-ho about helping me. "Why?"

"Isn't it obvious?" I give her a look that makes it clear that her reasoning is not obvious to me. She reaches across the table and covers my hand with hers. "You love her don't you?"

I think I do. I know I feel more for her than I have for anyone else, but I've become cynical and can't swear that love is what I feel. Whatever it is, it's intense and moves me like nothing else has. And the physical side of things, well we never really got very far with those, but memories of her touch and her kiss make me flush with heat.

"I …"

"Never mind." She gives my hand a gentle squeeze. "You've been burned before and you're not ready to answer that. I get it."

I smile weakly at her, thankful she isn't going to push on this like I expected her to.

"But," she says, "I can tell you had to put some thought into that. That's more than I've seen you willing to do in a long time."

"That doesn't explain why you think I should work to get her back."

I get the 'you dumbass' look from her again. "I've never seen you mope around for so long over anyone. Not that boy that you met when you moved to Seattle and were young enough that you thought heartbreak was the end of the world. Not that Engineer fellow you hooked up with a few years ago even though you thought it was great fun to tell me all the details about that one."

I can't help but laugh when she mentions Paul. I knew I never loved him, but he was a lot of fun.

"Even Eddie didn't make you act like this." When she sees I'm going to protest she holds up her hand, silently asking me to let her continue. "I know you had problems when he died, but that was about Lindsey, not him. Whatever love, if that's what it was, that you had for that man faded away when you found out who he really was."

"Are you saying I didn't know the man I married?" I'm a little stunned by her accusation.

"I think you didn't know everything about him when you married him." At my look of incredulity she hurriedly continues, "I don't think any of us really knew him. He laid on the charm pretty thick back then. But when you started making your life better and then Lindsey came along and you dropped all your bad habits without a second thought, that's when we all met the man Eddie really was."

Well I can't really deny any of that. It still hurts to think I could have married, and stayed married to someone, and yet been so oblivious to who he really was and what his priorities in life were, none of which included Lindsey and I.

"Okay, okay," I admit, "you're right about that. But I've had plenty of time to think about that lately."


"And what?" I ask, not sure where's she going.

"And does what you felt for Eddie compare with what you feel for Sara?"

"Not even close." I don't even have to think about that.

"So there's your answer."

"My answer to what?" I seem to have forgot the question.

"To why you need to make things better with Sara. You have worked with her for years, but you've only been trying this relationship thing with her for a month or two and you already feel so much more for her than the man you married."

I nod my head in acknowledgement but change the subject, "Actually what I wanted to know was why you thought I should I try to get her back. You seem to be taking this pretty well."

"Oh I'm a little freaked by it," Nancy says with a gentle laugh. "But no more so than I was the first time I saw you dancing in a strip club. Or when I had to take you to that rehab clinic to get you clean. Hell compared to all that and Eddie, you dating a woman is hardly anything to get in a huff over. It's different, but I want you to find the happiness you've been missing."

Grateful but unwilling to pass up the opportunity to lighten the mood and tease her a little bit, I smirk before asking her, "So then details about our sex life are out?"

I can barely hold back the laughter as her face turns bright red. I can't seem to help myself and I continue, "Like the one time when I was a little revved up and ready to go, but she wasn't there. She did call though, and I …"

Nancy nearly falls over trying to get out of her chair, "I think I hear Jeremy calling."

My laughter fills the empty room as Nancy rushes out.

Part 36

Return to C.S.I. Fiction

Return to Main Page