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 46

Brass is waiting for us when we get to the police department to interview Mrs. Lambert's grandson.

"Ladies," Brass greets us with a smile. "I thought we were done with this one."

"I thought so too Jim, but Sara has found something she wants to talk to Corey about."

"It doesn't have anything to do with a life insurance policy, does it?" Brass asks Sara.

Sara's brow wrinkles as she tilts her head and answers Jim, "No. Why?"

"Mrs. Lambert had a hefty life insurance policy. Young Corey was the sole beneficiary of that policy."

"Oh," Sara responds.

It wouldn't matter now that Mrs. Lambert had life insurance, Corey won't be receiving any money since her death was ruled a suicide. But it may have made a difference when she, or possibly both of them, were planning her suicide drive. If we had found anything wrong with the car, or otherwise been unable to determine that what happened was anything but an accident, Corey would benefit greatly from her life insurance. Diane Lambert was fueled by her anger at Sillmont. Is it possible that Corey helped her out of greed?

Brass interrupts my thinking when I hear him ask, "So what did you find that you needed to speak to Corey about?"

"Just a little something about the GPS unit in her car. I found his prints all over it." A few minutes ago Sara was excited about finding his prints on the GPS unit, thinking she may have found another piece of the puzzle. But with the information Brass has given her, she seems distracted again.

"You think he helped her?" Brass asks Sara.

Seeing that Sara is still going over the new information, I answer for her. "Well I think at first we were just looking for some answers, but now it seems even more likely that he might have helped her."

I can't imagine feeling so little disregard for someone in my family that money would be a powerful enough motivator to get me to help them commit suicide. But in my years at CSI I have learned that people are capable of anything. And in this town, money is a very powerful motivator.

"Do you really think he might have had something to do with this?" Brass asks me.

"I don't want to, but ." I don't even have to finish the sentence before Brass is nodding his head in agreement.

"You don't need me in there, do you?" Brass asks, nodding his head toward the door to the interrogation room.

"I don't think that's necessary, do you Sara?" I only ask Sara because she looks like she needs pulled back into the conversation from her thoughts.

"Huh?" Sara shakes her head a little as she clears her head. "Oh. No, go ahead and get going Brass. But, just in case, have a deputy watch from the other room."

I look at Sara and with a nod she agrees with my silent suggestion that we go in and speak with Corey now. I sit at the table and Sara shows a position of authority by remaining standing. Maybe she doesn't know where to start or maybe she's just trying to make him nervous, whatever it is the silence in the room is almost unbearable before Sara begins explaining why we wanted to talk to Corey.

"Corey, when I was reviewing your grandmother's insurance policy I noticed she didn't specify an email address and that got me thinking. Some people her age aren't technologically savvy, maybe a GPS device would be intimidating to her. I wondered if she actually even knew how to use it. So I printed the unit and I found your fingerprints on it."

Sara pauses, waiting for an explanation from Corey. Corey looks at her across the table before his eyes briefly flicker my way. Looking back at Sara, unsure of what Sara is wanting to hear, he simply tells her, "I installed it."

Sara's hands are on the table and she's leaning slightly forward; her stance intimidating when she tells him, "The prints weren't just on the base of the unit, they were on the face. You punched in addresses."

Corey shakes his head as he looks between Sara and I, confused at what Sara is almost implying.

While Sara's stance is intimidating, her eye contact with Corey never wavering, and her tone firm but not accusing, I play the opposite; my voice is soft and my eyes only making haphazard contact with Corey's, as if I'm not sure that I really want to say what I'm about to suggest he did. "If you were aware of your grandmother's intentions and you programmed the GPS, you're guilty of aiding and abetting in the murder of three people."

The contradiction between Sara's actions and the gentle, prodding statements works quickly. Corey looks torn between being sick and crying as the implications sink in.

"Oh god. Uh ." He shakes his head as if to clear his head before continuing, "Last week she came by my place 'cause she said she didn't know how to work the GPS. I explained it to her, told her it was really simple and that all she had to do was type in the address of where she wanted to go. Look, I swear, if I had known what she was planning, I would have stopped her."

The devastation in his eyes is mixed with pleading, begging us to believe him. There's one more thing we need to gauge his response to before we can determine if he really did know nothing at all about his grandmother's plans.

"Uh . well .," I start, not entirely sure how to say this if he really didn't know of his grandmother's intentions. Going for the straightforward approach, I lay it out for him, "Corey, homicide has informed us that your grandmother had a life insurance policy in which you're the sole beneficiary."

Again, he looks torn between crying and being sick when he says, "I had no idea."

Sara, keeping firm and sounding disbelieving, quickly inquires, "She never mentioned it to you?"

"No!" Corey responds immediately and with conviction. He sits for a second, thinking back before he rushes to say, "No, no, wait. She didn't say anything specific but she . when I showed her how to use the GPS unit, she made me promise that when I could afford to, that I would go back to college. She thinks I should have a degree. I thought it seemed a strange time to bring it up, but I just thought . she told me she loved me and that I'm a good kid and I just thought she was being . well, a grandma. Making sure I got my education and could get a good job and everything."

Sara barely lets the information register before she goes on, "Your grandmother's death has been ruled a suicide, which nullifies the policy. There's not going to be any money."

"Any money?" Corey huffs and I can see hurt and anger in his eyes when he looks right and Sara and continues, "No, look. I don't think you understand. I loved my grandmother and she's dead. She killed herself and she killed these three other people." His voice cracks and his eyes fill with tears, "What are you telling me? She killed these people for me? And I'm supposed to live with this?"

His reaction makes it clear to me that he really didn't know what his grandmother was planning to do. A glance at Sara confirms that she believes him too and there's an awkward silence before I tell Corey that we're sorry for his loss and Sara and I leave the room with as much professionalism as it is possible to have as the tears fall from Corey's eyes.

Stepping out into the hallway I try to shake off the heavy-hearted feeling this case has left me with when I spot Hank leaning up against the wall about halfway down the corridor. Immediately the melancholy feeling I had is replaced with anger when I see the worried, puppy-dog look of concern on Hank's face. I know it's not Sara he is concerned about, but himself. And that makes me even more certain that he's a first-rate jackass.

As he steps closer I try, and fail, to keep my contempt for Hank out of my voice when I tell Sara that I'll meet her out at the car.

Part 47

The urge to walk back in the police station and smack Hank for hurting Sara like he did is almost overwhelming. Sara doesn't need someone to interfere in her life like that, and I think she would really take offense if I were the one to try to stand up for her like that. Not to mention that it would be just a little hypocritical of me to chastise Hank for hurting Sara when I have done the same thing.

Well, not exactly the same thing. Hank used her and played with her emotions. I don't know, and I don't want to know, if their relationship was just something casual or if it was, or had the potential of being, something real and solid. But I could tell from the hard edge of anger and hurt in Sara's eyes after she met with Elaine that she obviously thought there was more to her relationship with Hank.

Sara and I, well I don't know exactly what we had, but it was real. Caught up in my own problems and confusion, I hurt her more than Hank ever could have. Not only did I insult her as a person by shutting her out of my life, but I insulted her intelligence and her work too. Hank might be an asshole for hurting her feelings, but I'm the jerk that added insult to injury and managed to belittle her both as a person and as a CSI when I know how much her work means to her.

Even before we ventured into a relationship outside of work, as colleagues we were becoming attuned to the needs and wants of each other. It had been getting to the point where very little communication was needed before one of us was doing exactly what the other was thinking and I miss that kind of symmetry. In the years I have been working with Nick and Warrick, and even with Gil, I just couldn't find that kind of harmony with the guys.

Admittedly this isn't the opportunity I was hoping for to attempt to mend our relationship but if I chicken out now I might not have another chance. Sara closes herself off even more than usual when she's hurting and if that happens she will slip farther and farther away from me and I may never have the nerve to try to get close to her again.

I'm thinking too much and it's making me anxious. I know that only a few minutes has passed since I left Sara in the hallway but it feels like hours. If it were me in that hallway right now, I would have shredded Hank into pieces so small even Doc Robbins wouldn't be able to find enough of him to identify the body. I would let my anger take control, but Sara is not like that. Sara will absorb the pain and keep it all inside, never letting it become too obvious how hurt and angry she really is.

When the doors to the police department substation open and I see Sara step out, I breathe a small sigh of relief. I can tell that she's upset from the way she shoves her hands in the pockets of her jacket but I don't see tears or any other glaring evidence of emotional upheaval. My moment of relief fades as she nears the truck and I can tell from the distant look in her eyes that she is not just angry, but deeply hurting. I knew she would be, but seeing it is ripping my heart to pieces.

If she were just angry it would be easier for me to figure out what to do. But that look of detached hurt in her eyes makes my heart sink and I immediately want to pull her into my arms and comfort her. I also know that I can't do that; I lost the chance to be her crying shoulder when I lashed out at her, giving her the brunt of my anger at the world when what she really deserved was a thank you.

I watch Sara as she climbs in the Tahoe and see the frown, the determined set of her jaw, the far away look in her eyes and I can't just take her home. I don't want her to be alone. But I won't take her back to the labs; we've just come off an extra-long shift with plenty of overtime and no work left on this case. She can't lose herself in work right now, not with no case to keep her attention.

Taking a chance I look over at her and quietly ask, "You got plans?"

"No," she answers after pausing and taking a breath.

I can tell she struggled to say even just that one word without letting her emotions become obvious. She still hasn't looked at me and I'm not sure what all she's feeling right now other than an obvious need to be anywhere but where we are.

I say the first thing that comes to my mind, "You want to get a beer?"

I know there's a slightly hopeful look in my eyes, but I don't know what to say or do right now. All I really want is for her to know that I am here for her if she will let me. It seems ridiculous to get a beer at this time of day, but we are just finishing work and this is Las Vegas. Anything goes in this town and at any time.

Another deep breath and she looks over at me. This is it; I can feel it. If she tells me to take her home, I have to resign myself to knowing that I forever lost my chance. Hoping for an answer from her before I lose my nerve, I can feel my heart beating faster and faster as she just sits and looks at me. My lips curl in an awkward, nervous smile as she scrutinizes me with her gaze.

Relief floods through me when she offers a small smile and turns away from me, saying only, "Drive."

Grinning nervously but feeling like I just conquered the universe, I look over at her every couple of seconds as I turn the key and start the engine. Despite what she must be feeling, I can see her smiling and it gives me hope that everything is going to turn out okay.

Part 48

I had started driving toward my place, but then decided that might seem much too personal of an environment for Sara right now. With our friendship and working relationship in limbo, she might not be comfortable in my home with just the two of us. Quickly changing plans, I start driving toward the nearest off-strip bar that I can find.

The lights in the bar are dimmed, giving the illusion that it is much, much later in the day than it really is. Apparently people are more likely to keep on drinking if they can't tell the difference between the inside of a bar at 10:00 a.m. or 10:00 p.m. The only noticeable difference is that, even in Las Vegas where anything and everything can happen, even the bars and clubs are relatively empty this early in the day. Late shift workers like Sara and I, some hardcore drinkers, and a few obvious vacationers still flying high from last night are the only people other than staff in the bar.

There is no neon, chrome, or mirrored surfaces to give the bar a trendy look. The bar itself is made of wood and the only places to sit are barstools and a few booths covered with worn and cracked leather. Drinks are served in real glass, not crystal or some imitation. There's a soundstage, but with real music equipment, not a DJ turntable. A sober tourist would never set foot in a place this far off the strip and "bland".

The smell of spilled liquor and stale cigarette smoke lingers heavy in the air despite the near heroic efforts of an old air purification system that can be heard making a chunky rattling sound somewhere near the soundstage. It's hot, but no one cares because this is the kind of place that people come to drink away the stresses of their lives, not to grind into each other until they find someone to hook up with for the night. Not likely to be found on a tourist's map of Vegas, I like the atmosphere of the place immediately.

Sara heads off to a dark booth somewhere in the back and I step toward the bar to pick up our drinks. It isn't until I reach the bar that I realize I don't know what Sara drinks, which I guess isn't all that important since I don't know what the bar has available anyway. She agreed to come out for a beer, so for the first round I'll stick with that. I'm sure she'll tell me if she hates it.

The kid behind the bar doesn't look much over the age of eighteen, but he's kind enough to ask for my ID when I order two bottles of beer and so I smile and tip him a little extra. I turn back around to face the interior of the bar and try to find where Sara has chosen to disappear. I'm not surprised to see her sitting in the most dimly lit area of the entire bar. When she's bothered by something, or sometimes just when she doesn't want to talk, Sara will do her best to blend into the background, no matter where she is.

I'm glad we're out having drinks; I can hide my nervousness in the relative darkness of the bar and behind a bottle of beer. I set one of the bottles in front of Sara and slide into the opposite side of the booth. Neither of us has said a word since we left the PD, and I sip nervously at the cold, bitter brew in my hands before finally deciding that the silence needs to be broken.

"So what was that back there?" I try to ask casually.

A bitter look crosses Sara's face and I'm not sure if it's from the long swallow of beer that she just took or because of my question. By outward appearances she doesn't look angry or upset; but when you get close and see her tense posture and the glare in her eyes, it becomes really obvious that she's hurt and putting up her guard.

"Hmm?" Sara questions, the bottle still pressed to her lips.

"At the PD, with that junior Boy Scout," I prompt her.

The corner of her lip curls up in just the slightest of smirks. "Junior Boy Scout?"

"Yeah, whatshisname," I say even though I know full well what his name is. And I happen to know his address and what kind of car he drives and many other things. It's amazing, the amount of information readily available if you happen to have access to say, someone's driver's license and DMV records. "The tall, tan, blond, All-American good looking guy waiting for you in the hallway; the one who looked like someone had kicked his puppy."

I try to smile as I describe Hank, going with the somewhat joking atmosphere I seem to have found myself in, but I'm not sure if I succeed. Sara looks like she wants to say something, but instead takes another long pull from the beer bottle in her hand. If she keeps drinking like that I'm going to be buying round two before I've even taken three drinks of my own beer.

Sara laughs bitterly, "He might have the look, but Hank would not make a good Boy Scout."

"You're right; Boy Scouts have morals." And now it's my turn to drink nervously. Sara studies me, her eyes intensely questioning. The look is incredibly unnerving and I fidget uncomfortably under her gaze.

After a long pause Sara picks up her beer and says, "Hank's morals don't conform to a sense of what is good and right and wrong for society, they conform to a sense of what is good for Hank."

That was a lot more philosophical than I expected and I am momentarily silenced. I knew that Sara wouldn't necessarily use this opportunity to take a cheap shot or two at Hank's character, but a semi-philosophical discussion of Hank's morals isn't exactly what I expected. That conversation is way too serious to have over drinks after a long shift.

"So in other words, Hank is a typical male," I say with a knowing smirk.

Sara smiles and tips back her beer, taking a big swig. "Bitter much, Cath?"

"Perhaps," I say with a smile. I don't want the conversation to get too serious; I'm curious about what happened and what she's feeling, but I think my best approach is to keep things light and maybe make a few jokes. In-depth serious personal talk is not Sara's style. "So really, what happened back there?"

I think she knows that I'm not giving up on this, because she looks me right in the eyes again before sighing heavily and saying, "Hank wanted to know if I told his girlfriend about us."

I'm positive that Sara would not have mentioned anything to Elaine but I ask anyway, "And did you?"

"There was nothing to tell her," Sara says before taking the last swallow from her beer.

I'm both relieved and confused. If there was nothing to tell Elaine that means that Sara's relationship with Hank had not reached a point that she considered to be a "relationship". But if there was nothing to tell then why did she look so upset after meeting Elaine? And when we interviewed Elaine and her supervisor, Sara was staring at Elaine as if looks really could kill.

My confusion is clear when I ask, "There wasn't?"

"Hank was nothing more than a friend really," Sara says.

I go to take another drink of my beer only to realize that the bottle is empty. I'm afraid I'll never find out what Hank really was if I leave the table now to get more drinks. I look toward the bar, hoping the bartender happens to throw a glance our way sometime soon and am rewarded with a slight nod of his head when the kid looks my way and I raise the empty beer bottles to indicate that Sara and I need another round.

Part 49

Turning my attention to Sara, I tell her, "For 'just a friend', Hank sure looked worried standing there in that hallway."

"He probably thought I told his girlfriend that he wanted to be something more than friends."

"And you didn't?" I ask, not sure if I really want to know the answer.

"Hank is a nice enough guy and he does have those All-American good looks," Sara starts to answer just as two more beer bottles appear at the edge of our table and the empty ones disappear. "But I realized not long after the first time we went out together that he really wasn't my type. And so there wasn't anything to tell Elaine."

I don't know what to make of the contradiction between Sara's words and her actions. In the restaurant after the accident she was wrapping Hank's wrist and it was obvious to anyone in the room that she cared for Hank. But here she is telling me that he wasn't her type and that they had no relationship. And I still haven't figured out why she was so angry after meeting Elaine.

Taking a long drink of my liquid courage I ask her, "If there was nothing to tell Elaine, then why did you look like you wanted to rip her apart when we interviewed her and that manager?"

Sara sips her beer and says, "If I was really looking at her like I wanted to rip her apart, she would have been shredded to pieces by the time we left that building."

I can see just a glint of humor in Sara's eyes and I almost want to laugh, but her tone was so serious that I'm not entirely positive that she's kidding. Not sure what to say, I laugh nervously and take a healthy swig of my beer. This beer seems to be disappearing fast and I realize that I need to drink slower.

"I was angry at myself," Sara says when I remain silent. "Elaine was really just an unfortunate bystander. It wasn't her fault that I was angry with myself; it wasn't even her fault that Hank was trying his best to cheat on her."

"Angry at yourself? But why?" I set my beer on the table in front of me and wrap both hands around it; if I don't start drinking slower, it won't be long before I'm calling a cab to take me home. And I don't want to leave the Tahoe in the parking lot of a bar, least of all a bar that I don't even know the name of.

"Because I realized that I was using him," Sara says as more of her drink disappears down her throat.

I'm confused about what she means. It's obvious to me that he was using her, or at least trying to, but I don't know how she could have used him. "It looks to me like he was trying to use you, and we both know what for. But if you knew that he wasn't your type and you weren't going to pursue that kind of relationship with him, how could you have used him?"

"He cared, or was at least good at pretending that he did. And I let him think that caring was enough. I used him for his friendship. I let him believe that there might have been something when I knew there wasn't simply because I'm tired of all the people I care about shutting me out."

Ouch. One big swig drains the last of my beer. I'm one of those people who shut her out. And I may never know how much she cared for me, but I know that during the month our relationship was personal instead of just professional, I came to care for her deeply. Hearing the hurt in her voice is wrenching my heart out.

"Sara I .." I want to reach out to her, grab her hand, do something to show her that I am not shutting her out, at least not anymore. The gesture is too little, too late and I know it. But I don't know what to do and that is tearing me apart. I want, I need to fix this, and I don't know how.

"No," Sara says firmly. "You've already explained and you've already apologized."

"Apologies and explanations are not enough," I say; it's finally dawning on me just how badly I ruined our relationship. I don't even know what she's doing with me here now. Shutting her out of my personal life destroyed what little trust she had in me and insulting her professionalism and skills as a CSI caused a giant rift in our working relationship. \

"Maybe not, but sometimes that is all a person has," Sara says thoughtfully as she drinks the last of her second beer.

I don't know what to say that won't sound like another apology or feeble attempt at an explanation. I want to make things right between us and having her here right now is a big step in that direction. I just don't know where we go from here or what I need to do to earn her friendship and trust again.

"So what was Hank's explanation?" I turn the conversation back to Hank because I realize that talking about him is safe. If I try to talk to her about us right now, I am pretty sure I'll only make things worse. I thought talking to her would be easy, that I could draw her out and be the comforting shoulder to cry on that I thought she needed. She doesn't need that and the distance between us is beginning to feel overwhelming.

"He didn't even have an explanation; he did have an apology though,' Sara says with a bit of a smirk. "I can't believe I didn't catch on that he had a regular girlfriend. He always made himself seem so available."

"They always do. Hell, I was married to a cheater and it took me catching him to find out about it." This is not a conversation that I'm entirely comfortable with, but one at least this is a conversation that won't confuse me or leave me feeling like I am out of my depth.

Sara signals the bartender for another beer. When the bartender drops two cold bottles on our table, Sara turns to me and says, "Last one. I think we both need to get some rest and sober up before work."

This is the first time since before Eddie's case that we've sat down and talked like civil coworkers, or even friends. I've missed this. I think that there are still many things that Sara and I need to discuss and many things I would like to ask her. But for now it almost feels like we're two friends going out to wind down after a long day of work. In a moment like this, with Sara tipping her beer bottle and smiling in my direction, the distance between us seems to be getting shorter.

Part 50

Sara and I sat in that dark corner of that deserted bar until the liquor turned into glasses of ice water and sobriety. Neither of us had enough drinks to be considered drunk, but you can't pass a breath test after drinking even one beer and we've both seen too many cases in which a driver believed themselves to be sober when they really weren't.

We didn't talk about Hank or Elaine again and I'm still not sure I understand what Sara meant when she said she had used Hank. Sara seems to be blaming herself for Hank's indiscretion and I can't figure out why. Going out for drinks with Sara left me with more questions than answers.

But after I've dropped her off at her apartment, with a promise to pick her up again before shift, I realize that I feel really good about the tentative step forward our friendship has just taken. We actually talked without arguing. I think she even came close to laughing once or twice. It's been almost a month since we've managed to have a conversation that wasn't completely about work and it feels good.

I turn the corner onto Nancy's street when I feel my cell phone vibrating on my hip. Taking a guess that it's her calling I don't even bother to check the caller ID display and head straight to her house. As I'm pulling into her driveway my phone vibrates again to let me know I've got a new voice mail, which I again ignore, and by the time I get to her door, she's waiting for me.

" 'Bout time you showed up sis. I was beginning to worry about you," Nancy says with a grin as she holds the door open for me.

"Oh yeah right," I reply sarcastically, barely suppressing the urge to roll my eyes. "You weren't worried, you just wanted to stick your nose in my life."

"Hey now," Nancy pretend to be hurt, holding her hands to her chest; but the grin on her face hasn't gone away, clearly telling me she isn't hurt and she knows I'm not buying it. She moves to shut the door before telling me, "Well if I didn't stick my nose in your life who would? That's what sisters are for, you know."

I move toward her kitchen and she follows. "I thought that was what older sisters were for. And the last time I checked, you were younger."

"Younger in age maybe, but sometimes you act so immature it's hard for me to remember that I'm the younger sister."

Turning to face her I can tell from the devilish slant of her smile that she's teasing, but a small part of me feels like I've been insulted. Probably because she's right. Immature might not be the best word, but I've made my share of bad decisions. "If you weren't my little sister, I'd kick your ass for that."

"Good thing I'm little then, huh?" Nancy puts the same emphasis on 'little' that I did. "And thank you for proving my point. Kicking my ass. Yeah right."

It's getting harder and harder not to roll my eyes or stick out my tongue at her, but that would only egg her on. Smiling I tell her, "Don't tempt me."

Nancy fills the coffee pot with water as I grab the coffee grounds from the refrigerator. I don't know why she keeps them in here, she tells me they stay fresher in the fridge; but I know she drinks as much of this stuff as I do so there's really no point in trying to keep it fresh, it will be gone in a week anyway.

"Interesting night?" Nancy asks conversationally, though I can tell she's digging for information on what may or may not have happened when Sara and I talked.

"You could say that," I say with a sigh. "I don't know why I do this to myself."

That seems to have really caught her interest. "Do what?"

"Come over here after work for these little chats with you." She looks hurt and this time she's not faking it, so I rush to explain myself, "It's just that . well you always poke and prod until you get more details out of me than I really wanted to share. And then you tell me what an idiot I am. And damn it, you're usually right."

She looks relieved when she says, "I'm usually right because I know you better than anyone else. And you're not always an idiot, just when it comes to your life away from work." Her smug grin makes me laugh and she joins me, chuckling briefly before continuing, "Seriously, sometimes you just need someone else's perspective. Like how you always tell me that when you get stuck on a case at work you need a pair of 'fresh eyes' to look at the evidence. I'm just a pair of fresh eyes, the only difference is that the 'case' is your personal life and I'm your sister, so I'm probably the only person you'll talk to about these things."

"Not the only one," I say moping, even though she's right again. Between Lindsey and work, I don't have much personal time to go out with friends. Hell, I don't even really have time to go out and make friends.

"Oh come on. Who else are you going to talk to? Grissom?" Nancy laughs as she reaches for two mugs to pour our coffee in. "From what you've told me of him, he'd have a stroke if you ever mentioned having a personal life."

"Well there's ."

"Warrick?" Nancy interrupts me. "Nah. You know for a few years there, I thought you two would stop dancing around each other and we'd be having these little personal chats about him, not Sara."

I'm surprised to hear that. Warrick and I always did have a strange relationship. Sometimes we're like best friends, sometimes we have a strange brother/sister relationship, and sometimes there's a chemistry there that couldn't be denied. But I never knew that Nancy had picked up on that. "You thought Warrick and I would ."

"Well, duh. You've basically described him as Adonis and I always figured you'd end up with someone from work. He seemed like the logical choice. Grissom's too withdrawn, Nick is too much like a younger brother and that Greg kid is just too much of a kid."

It seems Nancy has learned a lot about the guys at work even though she's never met them. I take that as a clue that I've spent too much time doling out details about work when we talk. When did my life get so complicated, or so boring, that conversations about my personal life automatically included conversations about work? I'll try to fix that later.

"So if you thought Warrick and I would be dating, why do you think I couldn't have these talks with him?"

"Because you can't seem to talk about the person you want to date to the person you want to date. That's always confused me, and that's why I kept telling you to talk to Sara. If you want to be with her you need to tell her that, not me. But since you won't, I guess I have no choice but to listen and tell you what an idiot you are," Nancy's grin returns and I can tell she's having way too much fun with this.

This time I can't resist sticking my tongue out at her. She turns to pour the coffee and I can hear her muttering, "And I'm the little sister. Yeah right."

"I heard that, you know," I tell her when she hands me a mug of coffee.

"Good, you were supposed to." She takes a step back before her grins turns into a smirk and she says, "At least your hearing isn't going in your old age."

"Why do I do this to myself again?" I ask my coffee, as if it held the answers to all the meaningful questions of life.

"Because I'm your sister and you love me," Nancy says as she walks out of the kitchen. "Come into the living room and I'll explain it all again."

Nancy settles in on the couch, ready to listen, and I sit on the edge of a chair; ready to get up and refill my coffee mug or pace around the living room, whatever I might need to do as she badgers me with questions I don't want to admit or just don't have the answers to. Hot cocoa means we sit at the table or outside, coffee means I need to be able to move around easily and the living room is the best place for that.

It's a practiced ritual and Nancy has known exactly what I needed since I pulled the coffee grounds out of the refrigerator. When I reach in the cabinet for hot cocoa, I'm having an introspective day. Hot cocoa is for when I need to figure things out in my mind before talking about them and I'm usually silent for a long time. Coffee is for the days when my mind is scattered and no amount of thinking will sort things out. Coffee means I need Nancy to poke and prod and get answers out of me so that everything that is jumbled can start to makes sense again.

"So," Nancy says, drawing out that single word to try to get me talking. When it doesn't work she repeats her question from earlier, "Interesting night?"

"You could say that," I echo my earlier answer.

"So what happened?" She asks, sensing my hesitation.

"Well, it started when I got to the crime scene," I might as well start at the beginning.

Part 51

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