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 6

I'm smiling again. I have been for most of the evening. And no matter what I do, I can't stop.

Sara carried Lindsey into the hotel and when we reached the Sherwood Forest Café, I swear I heard Lindsey squeal in delight. It's a wonderful gift to see my daughter so happy.

Sara set Lindsey down just outside the Café and loudly proclaimed that we need a table fit for royalty. The hostess managed to actually look amused as she weaved her way through the tables.

And now here I sit, watching intently as Sara regales my daughter with tales of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest. Lindsey is enraptured in the story Sara is telling, even though I know for certain that the tale of Robin Hood and his merry men is something that Lindsey knows practically by heart.

I was worried that Sara would be unsure how to act with Lindsey. She's always the first to admit that she's not good with kids. I'm beginning to think that she needs to revise that statement. In the context of our work she might not be good with children, but she's wonderful with Lindsey.

Our waiter arrives at the table, looking just like one of the merry men, which of course makes Sara and Lindsey erupt in giggles. I wasn't too surprised when Lindsey started chuckling, but to watch the same almost child-reaction from Sara was so amusing I almost joined them.

I order drinks for the three of us while Lindsey and Sara continue chuckling. That poor waiter has no idea what was so funny, but he took our drink orders and promised to return in a few minutes to see if we had made a choice for dinner.

Sara gets a playful slap on the shoulder when the waiter walks away. "Don't encourage her. I think you guys embarrassed the waiter."

Sara grins widely, "Sorry."

It's very clear that she isn't sorry for any embarrassment she may have caused the waiter. I call her on it, "Oh you are not."

Sara smirks at me, "You're right. I'm not."

I try my best to scowl at her, but it doesn't seem to work.

"Oh come on, Cat. That was perfect timing by the waiter. I just got to the funny parts about the merry men and then one of them shows up at our table." Sara starts laughing again, and this time I do join in.

"Okay okay. But we need to figure out what we're having for dinner. That merry man will be back soon."

"Yes mom," Sara says, still smirking.

And I was worried Sara would have problems relating to Lindsey. It seems that they are both in the same mindset tonight. Apparently I had nothing to worry about.

The merry man comes back and we order dinner. Shortly after he leaves, Sara goes back to her story with Lindsey and I sit back and smile. Lindsey seems to be having a great time listening to Sara's animated recitation of the tale, and it's adorable to see the two of them so easy with each other.

Dinner passes quickly, most of the talk drowned out by the need for sustenance. Sara chose a Portobello sandwich that Lindsey wrinkled her nose at, not believing that vegetables can be filling. Sara, in turn, laughed at Lindsey's choice of pancakes for dinner. I'm mostly on the outside of their conversation, and I enjoy every minute of it.

Sara seems so unguarded, so much more personable around Lindsey. I always see a more serious side of Sara, even during the times when we're alone together. Being with my daughter really brings out the youth in Sara. It's a fascinating sight.

The remnants of our dinner are taken away and I have to convince Lindsey that no, she cannot have the chocolate chip cookie sundae for desert. She whines for a minute but acquiesces when I point out that she didn't even finish her pancakes. Sara manages to bolster my argument by telling Lindsey that we can come back sometime just for the sundae.

Lindsey wants to go see the knights and the tournament but it is getting close to time for us to leave and go to her play. When she gets Sara on her side of the argument, I agree to a few minutes of watching the knights joust and whatever else it is that they do.

Technically speaking we're supposed to pay for tickets to see the show, which include dinner. Since we've already ate I have no idea how we're going to get in. Sara improvises and takes the 'tournament master', as his nametag says, aside and shows him her CSI identification. He agrees to let us in for just a few minutes when he sees her ID and my daughter dressed up as a princess.

Sara thanks him and slips a bill in his hand as he holds open the door to the tournament area for us. Lindsey is so excited she's practically bouncing. The crowd inside is hard to see through and once again, Sara picks up my little girl in her arms. Not being to successful at getting Lindsey a better view Sara sets her back on the ground.

She says something to Lindsey that I don't hear and then turns her back and squats on the ground, letting Lindsey climb on her shoulders. I'm amazed that Sara can hold her up like that. She might be my little girl, but she's not that little anymore. The look of joy on Lindsey's face makes it worth the effort, even if Sara can't see it.

There are two knights in the middle of the tournament area, settled comfortably on their horses. The colors and banners of each knight wave on poles held by the aides to the knights. We missed the introductions, but we are just in time to see them lower their heads in respect to each other and to the man and woman playing king and queen tonight.

Abruptly the horses turn and gallop to separate ends of the area. When the time is right, the horses bolt forward, each knight with his lance pointed forward and prepared to knock his opponent off his horse. I know that the point in this joust isn't to actually knock the opponent over but to only tap the end of the joust into the other knights armor, but I find myself watching with as much fascination as Lindsey when the knights gallop toward each other.

The knights ride toward each other, one on each side of the tilt barrier. When one knight effectively hits his opponent, the horses slow down and stop at opposite ends of the area. Lindsey claps loudly for the victor, her excitement almost knocking Sara over.

I can't suppress my laughter at the way Sara is trying to keep Lindsey in the air. I move behind Sara, adding my support to Sara's effort. I can feel her body accept the support of my arms around her. The position is awkward, and slightly uncomfortable for me, but Lindsey's having such a great time and I don't want her to knock Sara over in her excitement.

The knights take two more turns at each other, one galloping around the area at full speed with his colors flying high in the air, victorious. I'm prepared to leave with another tournament master announces the next set of games, the quintain. I move to step back, but Sara follows, her silent indication that it's not quite time to go yet.

There are at least four knights that I can see, all preparing for the next game. Some aides have set up a dummy at the opposite end of the arena from the knights. The dummy appears to have a target in one hand, and something that looks similar to a bowling ball hanging from the other. In all my years in Vegas, this tournament is something I haven't seem, and I'm sufficiently intrigued enough to stay.

The first knight gallops toward the dummy, lance set and aimed at the target. He hits the target and ducks low on his horse, avoiding the ball that is now swinging directly at him. He gallops back to the other end of the arena, pumping his hand in the air to elicit cheers from the crowd.

The second knight wasn't as successful and manages to hit the target but almost gets knocked off his horse when the swinging ball smacks against the armor of his back. Even though I logically know that he isn't hurt, the sound alone is enough to make me wince. Of the next four knights only one manages to hit the target and avoid getting smacked by the ball.

Lindsey is whooping and cheering and completely unwilling to leave when Sara finally steps forward and sets her down.

"That was sooo cool! Can we watch some more?" Lindsey asks, turning from Sara to me, waiting for one of us to answer.

"Not tonight Linds. We've got to get to your play." Lindsey looks so disappointed. "We're supposed to be there early, and we're already almost running late."

To emphasize my point I start walking out of the tournament area.

"Don't worry kiddo, we'll come back sometime and watch the whole thing." I hear Sara telling Lindsey.

"Really?" Lindsey is both excited and doubtful.

"I promise."

I know that tone. That's Sara's 'all business' tone. The one that tells me that what she's saying is the absolute truth and she has every intention of backing up her words.

"That is so cool." There's that word again. "Can we come back tomorrow?"

"You'll have to ask your mom," Sara says as she steps up and walks next to me.

I can't resist the pleading look in Lindsey's eyes. And even if I tried, it wouldn't do me any good, because that same pleading look is in Sara's eyes.

I reach out and squeeze Sara's hand. "Sure honey, we can come back tomorrow."

Part 7

Outside the hotel Sara walks us to the car; one hand holding mine, the other holding Lindsey's. I'm still smiling, and Sara notices. My eyes drop to the hand I'm holding and over to the one Lindsey is holding. A slight blush appears on Sara's face but she's grinning widely.

I unlock the car and Lindsey settles in the passenger seat as I try to figure out how to best say good night to Sara. I want to take her in my arms and kiss her but I'm not sure how she'd react to that with my daughter less than three feet away.

"Tonight was …"

"Great," Sara interrupts.

"I was going to say perfect, but great works." I tell her, still smiling.

"Perfect?" Sara gets that inquisitive look.

"Perfect," I repeat. "I had no idea you and Lindsey would get along so well. I think it's great. And she was so excited to see the knights."

She smiles widely at me, happiness dancing in her eyes, "Great. I really wanted her to have a good time."

"Sara, she was thrilled. She probably still is. And you promised to bring her back to see the whole show and have a sundae. I think you just made her entire night." I still haven't figured out exactly how to tell her how much this night meant to both Lindsey and I. It doesn't seem like anything I've said so far has sunk in.

"You think so?" She asks, still unbelieving.

"Oh, baby. I know so." I reach out and cup her cheek in my hand. The endearing look in her eyes tugs at my heart and I lean in to kiss her.

It starts a fairly chaste kiss; a brief touch of lips. It doesn't stay that way for long when I can't resist the taste of her. My hand slides across her cheek and my fingers slip into the silky softness of her hair. I hold her close to me, teeth taking gentle nips at her lips until she opens them to me. My other hand rests comfortably on her jeans, thumb hooking inside to brush across her hip.

Sara's hips jerk into me as my thumb continues its light teasing strokes of her skin. I can hear a moan deep in her throat as I pull back from our kiss. Sara leans forward, lips chasing mine, not quite ready to let go.

I feel the fire of arousal as it spreads through my body when she follows my retreating lips. Hearing her, tasting her, knowing that she isn't resisting anymore; all of this combines into one sensation and I find myself burning with a need for her so intense it leaves me shaking.

Sara puts her hands on my hips to steady me as our kiss deepens. I'm breathing hard and heavy by the time her tongue retreats from my mouth. I get one last taste, one last suck on her tongue before she steps back.

"Lindsey. Play. Parking lot."

The disjointed words wouldn't make a lot of sense to anyone else, but I know exactly what she's trying to tell me. We shouldn't be kissing like this in front of Lindsey. I need to take Lindsey to her play. We're still standing in the hotel parking lot.

"Right. Play," I mumble.

I want so bad to ask Sara to come with us. Even though she told me that she was going to use this time to go in to work early I know if I asked, or had Lindsey ask, that she wouldn't hesitate to say yes. But I'm not sure I want to answer whatever questions Eddie might have about Sara being at our daughter's play. And since it's Eddie, I know for certain that I don't want to listen to any of his snide comments.

I risk a look back at Lindsey, who is still waiting in the car. My face turns red with embarrassment when I look right into her eyes. I've just been busted by my daughter making out with a coworker. A female coworker. Funny how none of that seemed to matter when my lips were pressed against Sara's.

I knew the day would come when I would have to explain to Lindsey that there was someone special in my life. I was just hoping it would happen before she caught the two of us making out. I suppose that's the punishment I deserve for not having talked with Lindsey earlier and for not being able to resist the lure of Sara's mouth.

Embarrassed, I look at Sara only to see her grinning widely. "Busted," she says with a smirk.

She doesn't seem at all embarrassed, and I take that as a good sign; maybe it will help me be a little less flustered when I have to answer Lindsey's questions.

Sara pulls my hands, forcing me to move. She drags me over the driver's side of the car, and with a pat on my rear end that makes me jump she tells me to get going.

"I'll see you tonight at the lab sometime," she says as starts walking away. "And tell Lindsey she looks beautiful. She makes a fantastic princess."

Her parting words continue to make me smile. This smile is beginning to be a permanent thing and I've got to admit, I kind of like it.

"Mom?" Lindsey waits until we've pulled out of the hotel parking lot and are headed toward her school before she starts talking.

"Yes, baby?" I try not to let my nervousness show. I know what's coming but I have no idea how Lindsey will react. Adults can be so much easier to read when it comes to this kind of thing.

"Is Sara your girlfriend?"

"Uh …" I shouldn't have trouble answering this question. Yes, Sara is my girlfriend. The thought makes me smile, but for reason I can't seem to say the words.

"'Cause if she is, that's pretty cool."

That wasn't exactly what I thought she would say even though I'm not at surprised by her use of the word 'cool' again. Absently I think maybe I'll pick her up a children's version of the 'word-a-day' calendar so that she knows a few more words than just 'cool'.

"That's cool?" I question.

"Well yeah. Tommy Groben has two moms." Lindsey tells me as if this is something I should already know.

"Does Tommy get picked on a lot?" It worries me that the choices I make in my life have an effect on Lindsey. I don't think I could give up on what Sara and I have, but I want to protect Lindsey from the harsh treatment she might receive from the other kids if they find out.

"Sometimes." Lindsey says quietly.

"And how does Tommy react to that?"

"Sometimes he cries, sometimes he gets angry."

"Honey, what if the kids at school found out your mom had a girlfriend?" I'm worried about what she would say or do if the other kids started picking on her.

"I think they would probably be mean to me like they are to Tommy," Lindsey says with the knowledge of someone much holder than her. "But you always tell me that kids don't always understand the things that adults do, or why they do them. And sometimes other adults don't understand either."

"That's right. But what does that have to do with the other kids in you class started making fun of you for having two mommies?" Sara's presence in my life isn't solid enough for her to be considered a second mommy to Lindsey, but I can't think of a better way to word my question.

"Well sometimes I don't understand why other kids do the things they do. I don't understand why they make fun of Tommy. I mean, two moms would be so cool."

Lindsey proves herself to be more mature than her age with her first two sentences, but then reverts back with her persistent use of the word 'cool'.

"So you think it's okay if Sara starts spending more time with the two of us? If we were to do things like go to dinner or the movies, or go back to the castle with her?"

"I want to go back to the castle. Sara promised we could go back," Lindsey says happily.

"That's right, she did."

I pull into a parking space in the lot outside the school. I can't believe I just had this conversation with my daughter, and despite her young age she is handling things very adult-like.

"I like Sara. She's fun. And she makes you smile."

"Yeah. She does." Even now I can't contain the smile.

"And now Sara's going to be my mommy too." Maybe we should have that talk about the difference between mommy's new girlfriend and Lindsey having another mommy when this play is over. "You did kiss her, so that means you're like married or something."

Part 8

I find myself laughing so hard I can barely get out of the car. She might be too young to sit down and have the 'birds and bees' talk with, but if she thinks kissing means that Sara and I are going to be 'like married or something' I think I'd better explain a few things to her.

I realize that now isn't the time and definitely not the place. Lindsey's teacher is waving frantically for us to hurry up and get inside. I'm not exactly sure why they wanted us here early; maybe it's some sort of pep talk or something. I leave Lindsey with her teacher and head out with the other parents to find a place to sit.

Proud parent that I am, I brought my camcorder with me to videotape this. I find a place to sit roughly in the middle of the auditorium. Before the play actually starts I check the settings on my camcorder, making sure that I can see the entire stage in the little display screen.

The seats around me fill up quickly as the other parents find places to sit and then the other children from the school and their parents file in to watch. This isn't a big production or anything, the auditorium is really only about one quarter full, but everyone here seems to have the same idea about sitting near the middle and videotaping their kids. The lights drop and the play starts with Lindsey's teacher narrating the tale.

Eddie is nowhere to be found, and I'm honestly not surprised. He agreed to be here for Lindsey, but I knew he didn't really want to be here. Somehow this is interfering with his more important plans of making the next big deal, or chasing the shortest skirt he can find. Lindsey hasn't appeared onstage yet, and I hope he gets here before she does.

Eddie hasn't showed up when Lindsey first comes on stage. By the middle of the play he still isn't here and I'm starting to get pissed. Even from where I'm sitting I can see the disappointment in Lindsey's eyes. Damn it, he promised.

The play is actually almost over by the time Eddie makes an appearance. And a grand entrance it is. Acting for all the world like nothing is wrong, he sits next to me.

I try to hold back, but his disregard for Lindsey's feelings really burns. "You're late Eddie."

"Don't start." He brushes me off.

The play continues onstage as I try to keep my anger at him in check. Showing up was a good effort, but a failed effort if he only manages to catch the last ten minutes of the play. I know he's not very good at doing the right thing, but his daughter should be more important to him than anything else.

"You know how much this meant to Lindsey?" It sounds more like a question than I really intended. To tell the truth I wanted the words to cut through him, to make him at least feel sorry for not being here on time.

"Can we argue about this later?"

Okay, so the school auditorium isn't the best place for this. He's right. We can argue about it later, in a place less likely to cause a scene. Preferably in a time and place when Lindsey isn't around. She's seen us fight enough and doesn't need to deal with this tonight. Tonight is supposed to be special.

"She's so beautiful. Give me that," Eddie says reaching for the camcorder in my hands.

When he reaches over and gets close to me, I can smell the lingering scent of perfume on his clothes. Bastard was late for his daughter's play because he was out banging some girl. If I know Eddie's tastes that's just what she was too, a girl. Probably just barely old enough to buy a drink.

And that's the straw that broke the camel's back, as they say. "Nice perfume."

"Okay," Eddie says loud enough for the entire auditorium to hear. He stands up and moves a little bit in front of me as Lindsey and the narrator try to keep the play going. "Fine. Is this okay?"

Lindsey is struggling onstage even when Eddie sits and continues to record. Damn it. I can see the hurt in her eyes. She's really upset about this. I should have controlled myself better. I shouldn't have said anything. Eddie inspires a rage in me that I didn't think existed. And his not being here for Lindsey but instead being off with some young tramp just pushed my last button.

I focus on Lindsey as she struggles with her lines. The narrator is trying to whisper the words to Lindsey, her voice increasing the more it seems that Lindsey isn't paying attention. I try to reassure Lindsey from I where I'm sitting, smiling broadly and nodding my head, encouraging her to continue.

Lindsey slides off the makeshift bed she was sitting on and runs off the stage, tears in her eyes. God damn it.

At this moment I don't know if I'm more pissed at Eddie or at myself. He should have been here for her. He knew damn well that this was important to Lindsey. She was going to be the star of the play. She was a beautiful little princess in her dress and she's been trying so hard at home and at Nancy's to remember her lines. She even conned Jeremy into playing Prince Charming to help her.

And Eddie fucked it up. We fucked it up. I should have had more control. I shouldn't have said anything. The man grates on my last frayed nerve, but I should have let it go. This wasn't the time or place, and yet I still let him get to me. Damn it.

Most of the parents have left, a majority with disapproving looks thrown at Eddie and I. He sits quietly with my camcorder in his hands and I can tell he's thinking about where things went wrong. I want to tell him, to shout it at him, but I've already done enough damage tonight.

With a heavy sigh I stand up and take the camcorder from his hands. At least he has the grace to look bothered by what happened. I leave the auditorium and walk out to the hallway, waiting for Lindsey right where I told her I would be when she finished changing clothes.

The kids all got to take their costumes home with them from school today, but tonight they are supposed to give them back so they can be used in the next play. I guess it's easier to let the kids take the costumes home than trying to get everyone changed here at the school.

I'm pacing back and forth in the hallway, biting my tongue to keep from saying anything to Eddie. Eddie sits on a bench as both of us quietly wait for Lindsey to come out. Most of the families have gone, a few lingering parents like Eddie and I, waiting for their kids to change from costume to street clothes. Thankfully, none of them bother to look in our direction as they wait.

Lindsey finally walks down the hallway and sits down next to her father. She knows we need to go home after this and then off to Nancy's, I think she's just looking to spend a little more time with Eddie since he hasn't been around much lately.

"I'm sorry baby. You did good though." I tell her. She doesn't look reassured.

"Yeah. You were fine Linds. Good." Oh like he would know.

"And you know what? It's just a play." But even I know it wasn't just a play. It was her night to shine. She was Sleeping Beauty, the princess. Everything a little girl wants to be.

"No. It's not just a play. I was Sleeping Beauty and you guys ruined it." Lindsey tells us.

And she's right. We did. "I'm sorry honey."

I'm not all that surprised when Eddie doesn't say he's sorry. He tries to cheer her up a little though, "Hey, I'll bet if you ask Ms. Parker, she'd let you keep that blue dress."

Lindsey isn't buying it. I don't think she wants to play the princess anymore, I think she just wants to be happy for a little while. I think she wants Eddie and I to be happy. All this fighting and anger between us is starting to take its toll on Lindsey. I can't make promises when it comes to Eddie, but I really need to try to not let him get to me so much.

"I want to go home."

"Okay. Let's go home." I tell her.

"No, mom. I want to go with dad."

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised about that. I mean, she doesn't get to spend much time with Eddie, and he is her father. But it still stings that she doesn't want to go with me.

"You sure about that?" I ask her, glancing at Eddie.

Eddie looks shocked that Lindsey wants to go with him, but I know he'll take her if that what Lindsey wants. Even he knows when it's best to play doting father, and turning her down now would break her heart. When Lindsey simply nods her head I tell her it's okay. He almost looks like he wanted me to be the bad guy, to tell Lindsey that she couldn't go with him. For once I wish he would just do the right thing and take of his daughter when she needs him.

Eddie and Lindsey take off to go do whatever it is they do together and I call Nancy to let her know that Lindsey won't be staying over tonight. I don't go into detail about why; I just explain that she's going to be with Eddie. With nothing else to do, I head in to work, hoping to take my mind off how such a good day went so wrong in a matter of minutes.

Part 9

The labs look quiet and empty when I pull up. I notice a few of the trucks are already out, meaning either the swing shift was busy, or our shift is already off to an early start. I take a look around the parking lot, hoping to notice Sara's car. I see her car in its usual spot, hidden in the back corner of the lot. I hope she's still around the lab somewhere. I really feel the need to talk to her.

When I walk through the labs I can smell fresh brewed coffee and I almost expect to see Sara in the break room grabbing a cup before all the coffee is gone. Instead, the only person I find in the break room is Nick. He looks slightly bored, flipping through the channels on the television with a blank stare.

"Hey Nicky," I greet him.

"Catherine. Thank god."

"That bored, huh Nicky?" I laugh, letting him know I'm joking. "Maybe you shouldn't come in early if you're going to be so bored that you're happy to see me."

Nick smiles shyly at me, "That's not what I meant. It's just that we've already got a case. I was supposed to wait for you and then head out. Grissom, Warrick, and Sara are already out at some club with a db."

"Why didn't you just page me?" I ask him. It's common practice around here that if we're needed on a case we get paged and come in. That's the point in us having pagers, after all.

"Well someone kind of told me not to. So I thought I'd just wait. Figured you'd show up eventually."

I feel my eyebrows knit close together in confusion. Tonight hasn't been the night I thought it would be. It really irritates me that someone told him not to page me and considering that I haven't totally calmed down from my blow up with Eddie, that someone is about to be in a lot of trouble if they don't have a good excuse.

"Someone told you not to page me? Who?"

Nick senses my anger, "Uh …"

"Who Nick?"

"Don't be mad at her." Nick puts his hands up in mock surrender.

Her? So then it was Sara.

"She just thought that since tonight was Lindsey's play, that maybe you would want to spend some time after the play with her. Get ice cream, or whatever parents to do to celebrate when their kid is the star of play."

"Oh," I say, startled that Sara mentioned the play to anyone else.

Apparently the look on my face doesn't quite convince Nick that Sara isn't in any trouble. "Look, I know you two have been spending some time together lately."

I'm beginning to wonder just what he means when he said that. True, we haven't been completely discreet in the labs, occasionally taking time out of our workday to steal a few kisses. But that has always been behind the locked door of my office.

And I don't want to sound patronizing to Nick, but he's not always brightest crayon in the box and sometimes it takes him a while to pick up on things. And if he knows, then there's a good chance that Warrick and Greg know too. And if Greg knows, then the whole lab must know, right down to the guy that cleans the toilets.

"Well Jennifer told me you guys were actually starting to become good friends. And then Sara said you might want to spend some more time with Lindsey tonight, and to not bother you until you came in."

"Jennifer?" Do we work with a Jennifer now and I simply forgot? Or maybe I just didn't notice.

"Oh. Um. Detective Secula." Nick blushes a little and grins widely.

I did manage to forget. I haven't worked a case with Secula since that thing with the Nesbits. And I somehow managed to completely forget about the blind date that Sara made him go on. The thought makes me smile as I realize I might now have something to tease him about.

"Right. Jennifer. So how are things with the Detective?"

"Good." The increasing blush on Nick's face makes me think that things are better than good. "So you're not mad at Sara?"

"No, Nicky. I'm not mad at Sara. It's just been a shit night." And I'm not mad at her. It's sweet that she wanted for me to be able to spend more time with Lindsey. Though I think it had more to do with Lindsey than with me. Still a sweet gesture. "Well let's get rolling then, and you can tell me all about that blind date you had with Detective Secula."

Nick looks excited when I tell him we should leave, but he almost looks terrified of explaining the date. Whatever Sara made him due couldn't have been that bad if he's still dating the detective.

"Well c'mon already. I'm driving and you're going to tell me all about it," I tell him, giving him a look that tells him he's not getting out of this.

Nick follows me out of the building and I swear I think he's pouting, trying to get out of telling me about that forgotten date. It really makes me wonder what Sara would have put through to get this kind of reaction.

Once we're on the road I break the silence between us asking, "So what was it about that date that was so bad?"

"Celine Dion," is all he says.

"Celine Dion?" I ask, knowing what he said but still not sure I heard him right.

"Yeah. Sara made me take Jennifer to a Celine Dion concert at Caesar's."

I start laughing, the look on his face and the note of irritation in his voice just too funny. Man I knew Sara was planning on being a little mean to him, maybe even a touch vindictive, but Celine Dion? That's pretty harsh.

"I couldn't have been that bad. I mean, you are calling her Jennifer. And you said things were good. So …"

"Oh the concert was awful. Trust me. I like to think there's a lot of music I like, but I've never really been a fan of girly music." He tries to say it with a smile, but he's not fooling me. He must really have a low opinion of her music.

"Oh come on Nicky. You're the ladies man. Wine 'em and dine 'em and treat 'em right. I'm sure even you have a few 'girly' cds tucked aware somewhere for a special girl."

"Not really."

"So you don't try to set the mood with candlelight and soft music or any of that other stuff men are so convinced women enjoy?"

"Women do enjoy that stuff," Nick says with a smirk that tells me that, yes, he does indeed own a few of those albums. "But thankfully Jennifer doesn't. At least she doesn't enjoy Celine."

Now that would probably be why Sara had the two of them go to that concert. She had some good banter going with Detective Secula, but there was obviously some resentment at the ease with which Jennifer seemed to be able to get to know the real Sara. Sara took the kidding from Secula in stride, but apparently used this date that Secula was so hot for as a chance to get back at both Secula and Nick.

The apartment complex we pull up to is dark and looks virtually empty. I hope the uniforms managed to get FI's before everyone went out or to bed, or wherever everyone seems to be.

"You know I'm going to bug you about this some more later, right? I want details Nicky. You're still dating her, so that has to mean something went right that night."

"It was more of a mutual dislike for the date Sara set up," Nick says laughing.

When we get to the apartment we're looking for there are a few uniforms outside and the stench that hangs in the air is enough to make both Nick and I gag. Nick says something about sewage, but I get distracted when my phone rings.

I check the number and it's Eddie. Probably ready to have me take Lindsey off his hands, but already forgetting that I'm working tonight and he'll need to take her to Nancy's. It's literally pouring down rain outside and the lighting is causing quite a bit of disturbance with my phone's signal.

I can't hear anything on the other end of the phone, but hoping that he can hear me I tell him the connection is bad and that I'll call him back. I focus back on the scene and the offensive smelling dead guy on the floor.

Man, the decomp on this one is just icky. Purge fluid, parchment changes to the skin, and one very ripe odor. Eastern exposure on the window, letting the sun heat our dead body and help speed up the decomp.

I'm trying to breathe through my mouth, hoping the stench won't linger so badly that it's all I smell for days. The trick doesn't work as well as people tell you it does. Instead of the scent lingering, when you breathe through your mouth like this the scent turns into taste. Ugh.

Nick is ready to toss out a theory already when my phone rings again. I still can't hear anything and it's Eddie again. I really wish he'd just get the hint. Unable to hear anything again, I hang up.

"Now what's his deal?" Nick asks, sounding just as irritated as I feel.

"Lindsey's with him. Maybe she's ready to come home."

"I bet." Nick mutters, ready to get back to business. He wanders off toward the vic's laptop and I check the closet. Nothing incredibly incriminating, but a thick wad of cash and a very used passport. Could mean a lot of things, but with his good coke fingernail right now I'm going to guess drug dealer.

For the third time in as many minutes my phone rings. Again, Eddie. This is getting tiresome. I doubt he can hear me, but I try telling him to get a landline. I'm going to have a real hard time hearing him if he keeps calling me from his cell phone.

The small voice that filters through the phone is not Eddie's. My chest tightens when I hear Lindsey calling out to me.

"Lindsey?" No response. "Honey?" Still nothing. "I… I can't hear you."

Lindsey doesn't call me when I'm working unless something is wrong. She knows that she's supposed to get either Nancy or Eddie first. And she's with Eddie. My heart feels like it's lodged in my throat when she tells me she's alone and scared.

Nick hears the panic in my voice when I ask her where her father is and I barely acknowledge anything else he says before I'm out the door and rushing to my truck.

Part 10

"Mommy, please! I'm scared … all alone …"

My heart clenches in fear. Somewhere out there in this city my daughter is frightened and Eddie has left her alone. If I find him …

No. I need to find her. Fuck Eddie. I've got find my little girl and figure out what the hell is going on.

I can't hear everything she's saying and I'm having trouble focusing, but what I do hear is enough to tighten the fear in my chest and it feels like my heart has taken permanent residence as a big giant lump in my throat. I feel nauseous.

"We were in the car. Going fast. We hit something."

Oh god. She was in an accident of some kind and Eddie just left her there. I swear I'm going to kill him for this.

I try to stay calm. I don't want Lindsey to know that I'm probably more frightened than she is. I'm her mother, I'm supposed to protect her; and I feel so useless.

"It's going to be okay honey. I'm on my way." I have to pause and focus on my driving for a second or Lindsey won't be the only one in an accident. "Do you know where you are?"

I've got the police light on in the truck and thankfully a few drivers notice, pulling over and getting out of my way while I race around town. On instinct I'm driving toward Eddie's apartment, hoping maybe they were just about home when something happened.

"I don't know. There's lots of water. Mommy!"

She's frightened and screaming. I hear her crying and I've never been so scared in my life. I may have been in some dangerous situations in the past, but none of it compares to the fear of losing my little girl.

"Are you near a lake? Are you near grandma's house?" Maybe Eddie was going to take her to her grandma's for the night. Maybe they went to a lake and were heading home when the storm hit. There are so many goddamn possibilities.

"No. The water's in the car."

Oh god. There's water in the car and she's still in it. I have to remind myself to even breathe at this point or I'm likely to pass out. My heart is pounding and the fear is spiking my adrenaline levels. My hands are shaking bad enough that I'm not sure I can hold the phone and continue to drive. But there's no one else to save Lindsey.

"In the car? Lindsey can you get out?" A moment too late I realize how ridiculous that question is. If she could get out of the car she wouldn't be calling me for help and telling me there was water in the car.

There's a pause on the other end of the phone. It seems like forever. I begin to wonder if I lost the connection again when Lindsey says no.

"It's going to be okay honey. Just listen to me," I think I say that more for myself than for her. If she can hear me, and I can hear her, I still have a chance of finding her. "Before the car crashed, where were you going?"

"Daddy said the hospital."

Shit. There are five hospitals in the city. How am I going to find her? And why the hell were they going to the hospital? What the fuck happened tonight?

"On the way there did you see any hotels?" For once I'm thankful of all the cheesy, touristy designed hotels in this town. If she can describe one or two of them, I might be able to find her.

"I saw the castle."

I give a little sigh of relief. But the doubting part of me wonders if she doesn't just remember the castle from earlier tonight and if maybe she's focusing on that memory through the fear of what's happening to her.

"Excalibur. Did you see …" I almost say the Luxor, but I'm certain Lindsey wouldn't know what I was talking about if I called it by name, "Did you see the pyramid?"


I can hear the tears in her voice and my chest tightens again, threatening to take away my ability to breathe. I can almost feel myself hyperventilating, the only thing stopping the panic attack is knowing that right now, I'm Lindsey's only chance.

Okay. That helps. I think I know where she is. "Industrial Road? Is that it? Lindsey, is it Industrial Road?"

Lindsey doesn't know. I shouldn't have thought she'd know the name of the road. I just want to find her.

"There was a bridge. We went through a fence …" I lose her in the static.

Bridge. Fence. I really think she's on Industrial Road. The aqueduct. I know I shouldn't, not in this weather, but my speed increases when I can't hear Lindsey on the other end of the phone anymore.

"Lindsey? Lindsey!"

She doesn't respond and I realize the connection is completely gone. God I hope I'm right about this. I keep driving down Industrial Road, my worry increasing every second.

There's a slight break in the fence ahead. That looks like it. Lindsey said she saw the pyramid and the castle and they went through a fence. This has to be it. I'm surprised to find myself slowing down calmly, not letting my tires hydroplane in the water covering the roadway. It wouldn't do Lindsey any good if I got into an accident as well.

I leave the truck running and hop out as soon as I shove the gear into park. I run to the edge of the bridge so fast I almost fall over. With the rain coming down hard and fast, I've got no traction.

At the break in the fence I look over the edge and see Eddie's car. That damn red Camaro that probably handles like shit in weather like this. I see Lindsey in the back window of the car. She's pounding on the window and screaming, probably for me though with the sounds of the storm I can't really hear her.

She's trapped down there. I can see now why she wouldn't be able to get out. The car is on leaning against the walls of the water canal, the passenger side is completely submerged. The driver side door is above water, but debris from the road and the fence they crashed through is going to make it hard to open.

I don't know if she can hear me, but I tell her to hang on before I run back to the truck. I reach in the emergency kit for the first tool I can find. I need something, anything, to get her out of there.

Back at the edge of the canal I slide down to the car. I hear her inside calling for me. Trying to reassure her, I keep telling her that I'm here and that I'm going to get her out.

And I know that I will do whatever I can to make that true. I was actually damn lucky just to be able to find her, I'm not giving up until she is out of that car and safe in my arms.

The debris on the driver's side of the car is too heavy. With the rain and the odd angle, there's no way I'm going to be able to lift everything off the door. I turn to Lindsey, who is banging against the back window calling out to me.

I try to keep the panic out of my voice, it's something that's getting harder and harder to do now that I can see her but still not hold her and make everything okay.

"Okay. Listen. I'm going to have to break the window, okay? You've got to move to the front."

I'm planning on breaking this back window and having her climb out. From there I'm still not sure how we're going to get out of the water, but we'll figure that out once I get her out of that car.

Lindsey yells frantically, "Mommy, I can't. I can't. I'm scared!"

If she's too scared, I'm going to have to find another way to get her out of there. I tell her that I'm moving around the side of the car, and she seems to frightened to even lose sight of me for that long. Inside the car she moves around to follow me.

"I'm here Lindsey. I'm going to go down." I point to under the water, trying to let her know that I'm going underwater to help get her out. "I'm going to go down."

In the car Lindsey protests, but I need to get her out of there and this is looking like the only option. I take a deep breath and sink under the water. Trying to see through the murk stings my eyes. I've got a screwdriver in my hand and with as much strength as I can muster against the rush of water I thrust the screwdriver through the window, shattering it into pieces.

My eyes sting and my lungs burn. I drop the screwdriver into the water and reach in to pull Lindsey out through the broken window. Out from underneath the water I hold her tight in my arms; I don't think I'm ever going to let her go.

"You all right? You okay?" She could be seriously injured and I don't know it. At the moment I'm just glad to have her in my arms, safe again.

"Mommy." Lindsey cries, tears streaking down her face.

"I got you, hold on." For a moment I struggle to keep my balance, the rushing water attempting to take me, and Lindsey, with it.

The adrenaline slowly fades as I work my way around the car. I try to think of the best way to get her up the steep slope of the side of the canal, and eventually settle for having her climb up the remnants of the fence as I follow. If something happens, I want to be right here behind her, ready to catch her.

Back on the road, I pick Lindsey up again and hold her close. I check her over for injuries and am thankful that while she seems to be a little bruised, there doesn't look to by any serious harm done.

In the back of the truck I find some blankets to wrap her in, not even caring that if I wrap her in both there won't be any for me. Wrapped safely in the blankets I have her lay down in the back seat of the truck, knowing that she's going to be tired from her long day and everything she just went through. I sit up front and reach for the dispatch radio to get some help out here.

Part 11

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