DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Though I wouldn't mind.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Late season four onwards.
Winds of Change
"Anyone care to tell me what's going on?" Sara huffed out when she sat down at the table.
"First of all, this is confidential so we would appreciate it if you kept this under wraps," the man in the black suit said matter-of-factly.
"That depends, what's all this about?"
"Let me introduce myself. I'm Agent Derek Stinson and these are my team," he indicated toward the small group of people milling around the table.
"Feds? What is it this time?"
The man was about to speak but Susan beat him to it.
"Lately I've been getting some...interesting fan mail. Usually the interns or my assistant will go through them but somehow they're still coming in," Susan started.
"Our experts in Quantico tells us that recent activity indicates that he's escalating," the agent said calmly. "In short, we need you to do baby-sitting duty."
"Why me? Can't one of you do it?" In the back of Sara's mind she knew there was something the federal agents weren't telling her.
"Our objective is to neutralize the threat and if he sees an unfamiliar face, he might retreat and we won't be able to apprehend him," another agent offered.
"How sure are you that it's a he?" Sara finally asked the question that has been in her mind.
"All signs indicate to our experts that it's a male," agent Stinson said.
"So where do I come in? And what exactly am I suppose to do?" Sara was already in her business mode, much to the amusement of Susan.
"I have a promo I have to attend the day after tomorrow and the agents think that there's a good chance he'll show up then," Susan explained.
"Oh," was all Sara's reaction. "Can we have a minute? I'll let you know my answer then."
At the sturdy agent's nod, everyone filed out of the makeshift conference room, leaving the two friends alone.
"Are you sure about this? Being seen in public with me?" Sara asked earnestly.
"Sara, a few years ago I might have said otherwise but I've changed. It doesn't matter now," the blonde turned away. It pained her to hear those words from Sara.
"Ok." With that, Sara motioned for the agents to take their seats again. When everyone settled down, she spoke up. "So what's the cover story?"
Two hours later, Sara exited the building with a black duffel bag in hand, already dialing a familiar number as she started the engine of her car.
"Grissom, I need to take some personal time," Sara said simply.
"May I ask why?"
"I have some things I need to take care of."
"I'm sorry, I can't let you go. The best I can do is put you on call," he reasoned with her.
"Fine, but don't expect me to come running through the doors." With that, she ended the call. She went over the things that she had to do in her mind, calculating the amount of time it would take for her to get ready.
It never crossed her mind to tell Grissom or anyone else about her involvement in this case. Her focus was on her friend's safety, ignoring the nagging little voice in her head that wanted her to call Catherine. As soon as she arrived home, she went through the contents in the duffel bag, her mind replaying the instructions that was given to her.
Time flew by too fast, Sara told herself. She had spent the past 24 hours going through all the likely scenarios in her head, picturing the scene as best she could. Never one to walk into a situation unprepared, Sara tried her best to take control of the situation. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she pulled up into Susan's driveway and walked up to the front door.
"Hey," Sara softened her voice when she took in the appearance of her friend. She held up the duffel bag and said, "I come bearing gifts."
"Oh goodie. Now the party can start," Susan replied dryly.
Biting back her retort, Sara focused on the task at hand instead. "Come on, let's strap you up then we're good to go."
"God Sara how I've missed hearing you say that..." Susan's voice trailed off in a low chuckle.
"I know, I know. You're no fun, you know that?" The blonde led the CSI into her bedroom, stripping down to her underwear only. "What? It's nothing you haven't seen before."
"You know, you're rather chirpy for someone whose life is supposedly in danger." Sara knew her ex was using the facade to hide her fear, just like how she uses sarcasm to fend off others. Unzipping the duffel bag, she held up the vest and handed to the other woman. "Let's get this on you. Wouldn't want to be late now, would we?"
For the first time that day, Susan took a good look at the brunette. Even with the Kevlar vest underneath the layer of clothing, Sara still looked uncanningly gorgeous. Slacks that seem to mold her long legs and a deep purple button down shirt with French cuffs, Susan noted the CSI's choice of apparel. Knowing Sara, the blonde wasn't surprise to see a leather jacket resting next to the duffel bag.
"You, uh, can take it from here?" Sara swallowed the lump in her throat when she saw the desire in Susan's eyes. She didn't wait for the nod before dashing out of the bedroom.
Susan dressed as quickly as she could. She desperately wanted to talk to the other woman before they headed out. Giving herself a once over glance in front of the mirror, she grabbed the leather jacket on her bed and went to look for Sara.
"Hey," Susan said to announce her presence. "You forgot your jacket."
"Thanks," the brunette said absentmindedly as she adjusted her sidearm.
"You're not carrying that, are you?" Susan eyed the weapon cautiously.
"I am. Don't wanna be caught off guard," Sara said simply. "The safety lock's on and nobody will know I'm carrying one."
"Gee, I feel better."
"Just for precaution," Sara offered. She switched on the portable radio transmitter tucked in her jacket's inner pocket, connecting her with the FBI's surveillance team. "Stinson, this is Sidle. We're good to go."
Moments later the radio crackled into life. "Roger that. The team is in place and the driver's ETA is 12 minutes."
"Guess we've got 12 minutes to spare then," Sara mumbled.
"So how are things with that co-worker of yours? Catherine, was it not?"
"We're...good. Things are...progressing," Sara said as much she could without lying. "Look, Sue..."
"I get it, Sara. You're taken," the blonde cut her off. "I'm sorry I had to drag you into this when you made it clear the last time how eager you were to see me."
"Can we not fight and focus on tonight?" Sara calmed her boiling anger down. The radio crackled into life again, announcing their ride's arrival. "Let's go."
Instinctually, Sara opened the front door and took a quick glance of their surroundings before turning to face Susan. The woman understood her ex's unsaid words, following Sara's lead as they walked toward the car. The car ride was a silent one, sans the array of instructions agent Stinson kept spouting off to Sara.
"I've done undercover before, Stinson. You don't have to school me like a rookie," Sara spat out.
"Look, you just focus on your part and we'll focus on ours," the agent replied before the car came to a stop in front of a hotel. "Good luck, ladies."
"Here goes nothing," Sara murmured under her breath as she opened the door. Satisfied after doing a quick survey of the lobby, she held out a hand for her friend, their fingers fitting together nicely.
The moment the two women stepped into the room, all eyes were on them. More importantly, all eyes were on Sara's arm around the blonde news anchor's waist. Susan moved closer to her, returning a wave as an unknown man offered his greetings.
Sara could feel the other woman drawing closer to her, and her body went rigid. She was uncomfortable with having the blonde in her arms, for her proximity brought on a wave of forgotten pain. Mentally reminding herself that there's a psycho on the loose, she put on her best game face and soldiered on.
"Having fun?" she asked the blonde.
"Oh yes. Plenty. You?" Susan teased. She could sense the other woman's discomfort but Sara's touch was addictive and she didn't want to let go so soon.
Before Sara could sprout a comeback, a small group of Susan's co-workers surrounded them, making small talk and exchanging pleasantries. Nobody dared to breach the subject of the two women but nobody could take their eyes off them. Excusing herself to get their drinks, Sara checked in with the agents.
"Any movements yet?" Sara asked as she waited for their drinks.
"So far so good. Most in here are from the tv station and the corporate office," one of the agents answered.
"Roger that. I'll check in later," Sara quickly ended the chat as the bartender returned with the drinks. A body appeared next to her, meeting her gaze with a smile.
"Hi, Sara, right? You're Susan's date," the man said.
"Yeah, yes I am."
"Kevin," the man held out his hand. "I'm the cameraman."
"Nice to meet you, Kevin," Sara said calmly.
"So how did you two meet?" Kevin moved closer, his curiosity prompting Sara to take a step back.
"We met back in San Francisco," Susan answered as she reached her friend. She shuddered when she felt Sara's arm went around her waist, grabbing her drink and downing it in a gulp.
"Thirsty, babe?" It was Sara's turn to tease.
"You have no idea," Susan muttered. "Sorry Kevin, looks like slave driver boss beckons."
With that, Susan dragged the brunette away from the man. She didn't need to turn back to know he was watching them.
"That guy gives me the creeps," she told Sara when they were in a secluded corner.
"He's always standing too close," Susan offered.
"That's not against the law," the CSI said coolly.
"If you've spent more time with him you'll know why." Susan chose that moment to lean in, her breath hot on Sara's ear. "Besides, I'm not going to waste a second without you."
A cold shiver ran down Sara's spine, her body reacting to familiar touch. Susan wrapped her arms around Sara's neck, drawing the other woman into a full-body embrace. In their awkward hug, Sara noticed the nosy cameraman watching them intently.
"Appearances, Sara," Susan reminded the brunette.
Sara relented, snaking her arms around her ex-lover's waist. Mentally she went over the instructions the FBI agent had given her during their meeting. From the corner of her eye, she saw Kevin hurrying away from the party. She released her hold on Susan, shattering all fantasy the other woman was having of her.
"Stay here with the agents. I'll be right back," Sara whispered to the blonde. Before Susan could answer, Sara already was tracing the cameraman's footsteps, keeping in contact with the agents at the same time.
As one of the agents posed as a guest approached her, Susan stepped up impatiently and asked, "What's going on?"
"Nothing to worry about, Miss Carlton," the young agent said calmly, her eyes trained on a lone figure walking toward them.
"Is everything ok, Miss Carlton?" It was Susan's assistant, Diane.
"Oh yeah, Sara had to take a call outside. Too loud here," Susan lied. "Say, I noticed you and Kevin barely talked to each other tonight. Something wrong?"
Chocolate brown eyes looked up to Susan, casting a familiar rhythm to her heart. Susan liked her assistant, but her choice in men was not the best decisions the woman had made.
"We uh broke up last month," the meek assistant answered.
"Oh," Susan tried to sound surprised. "You know, if you need to talk to anyone..."
"I'm fine," the young woman replied. "It was a...mutual understanding."
"You're better off without him anyway," Susan smiled as she patted her assistant on the shoulder. The conversation continued between the two women but the blonde's attention was drawn elsewhere.
"Susan? Did you hear what I just said?" Diane's light touch on Susan's arm reminded her of the present and at that moment, a very attractive young lady was standing in front of her.
"Huh? Sorry. Was just looking around to see if Sara's back," Susan said offhandedly.
"Oh." Diane's smile faltered a little, her expression a contradiction to the pulsing nerves in her body. "Maybe it's a call from work. I never did get what she did for a living."
"She's...in research. Physics," Susan answered calmly. "Harvard graduate and all."
If Susan was surprised at her assistant's reaction, she didn't show. She chose instead to force herself to concentrate on the present while her eyes sought out for Sara. Just as soon as she began to panic, Sara strode in hurriedly.
"I'll uh let you two catch up," Diane offered as she headed toward the direction her ex-boyfriend had taken earlier.
"Where's she off to?" Sara asked the blonde as they both watch the timid woman leave the party.
"Probably to get some fresh air. Where have you been? I was beginning to get worried." Susan took a step closer to Sara, invading her personal space.
"Oh. Nothing to worry about. Stinson thinks we should go, since nothing's happening here."
As the two women made their way toward the exit, a sweaty palm held Susan back. Sara's hand immediately reached for her gun, only to be stopped by the blonde.
"Harry." It was the producer.
"Where ya going, my dear? There are lots of people waiting for you." Potential clients, he added in his head.
"Private celebration," Susan winked at him then half-dragged Sara away. There was no doubt in her mind that her friend and colleague would be making lewd comments about the two of them from now on but it was a step above the hateful words she has heard so many times before.
A photographer chose at that moment to approach the two, requesting to take a photo of the two of them. Unwillingly, Sara obliged, after Susan's urging no less.
"Appearances, Sara," the blonde snuggled closer to her, wrapping her body around Sara's.
Sara relented. The only concern she had was to explain herself before Catherine could see the photo. A gay news anchorwoman would definitely make front page for the tabloids and she had to be prepared It was easily explained away, with the pretense of an undercover stint for the feds but there was something else. Her body remembered how good it felt to be held by the blonde, how a simple touch from her had made her feel alive.
The photographer gone, but still Susan held onto Sara as they made their way to the car waiting at the curb. It was so natural to both women that neither moved away. A pair of eyes tracked their movement, undetected by the feds or the women. The shadow in the dark chose to reveal itself then.
"Leaving so early?"
Turning around quickly, the two women came face to face with the nosy cameraman.
"Kevin! You scared me there," Susan tried to stop the cold chill running down her spine. Or maybe that was Sara's doing. "And yes, we're leaving. Sara's got an early morning tomorrow."
"All right. See you tomorrow then. And I'm sorry I scared you back there." As the two women began to walk away, he added, "You know what? I'm not sorry I scared you."
Something about the man's tone picked at Sara's investigator sense. Before she could reach for her gun or radio the agents for help, she was staring down a gun barrel. She pulled Susan behind her, shielding her ex-lover with her own body.
"Let's put the gun down and we can talk about this," Sara said as calmly as she could. "Don't do something you'll regret later."
"I already did. From the moment I met her, we met her, it was a mistake," the man stood his ground, his hand gripping the gun a little tighter.
"We?" Susan was puzzled.
"Yes, WE. Or have you forgotten that me and Diane are together?" Ignoring the confused looks from the two women, he continued. "Why did you think she took the job here?"
Before either woman could answer, a shot rang out. Without thinking, Sara moved in on the man, tackling him to the ground and knocking the gun away from his grasp. She threw in a few punches for good measure, knowing the agents wouldn't be that far away. Her last punch seems to have knocked him out, and she quickly got up to her feet and sought out the figure not too far away.
"Sue?" Her heart rate went off the roof when she saw crimson dripping down a slender arm.
In the midst of Sara's shouts for the paramedics, the agents had swarmed in and subdued the man. Not that there was much to do, especially after Sara had landed that last punch on Kevin. Her hand compressed the wound on Susan, her voice trying to pull the blonde away from oblivion.
"Come on, you've had your fun. Wake up, Sue." Sara's voice was calm even to her ears. Faintly she could hear the buzz around her but she wasn't paying any attention. Only when a firm hand rested on her shoulder did she look up to the owner.
"Excuse us, ma'am," the paramedic politely pushed her away as his counterpart began to work on Susan.
"Sara?" A voice broke through her dazed state. It was Grissom. A flurry of activity was happening all at once and Sara was torn. Fortunately, agent Stinson showed up in time to remedy that.
"Miss Sidle, why don't you ride along with Miss Carlton? We'll take care of the rest here," the stoic agent suggested.
Under normal circumstances, Sara would have stayed back with her friend and boss but the roller coaster ride she had been going through the last 24 hours has taken its toll on her. She nodded, following behind the gurney as it neared the ambulance.
The next few hours went by quickly for Sara, her mind barely functioning on enough brain cells to listen to what the doctor had to tell her. She hurried back to the room they had set up for Susan, pulling the chair closer to the bed. Her gaze fell on the face that she knew so well. Many nights she lay awake, memorizing every small feature that she had come to love. Her hand reached out for Susan's, her fingers caressing the limp hand in soothing circles.
Just as Sara reached out to smooth the stray strands of hair on Susan's face, a movement underneath the covers caught her attention. She moved quickly to alert the nurses, her voice coaxing the woman back to consciousness. When the doctor arrived, Sara was asked to leave the room, which she did. Standing in the hallway, she was at a lost.
"Catherine?" The brunette turned around so fast her neck voiced out its protest. "What...what are you doing here?"
"What do you mean what am I doing here? My girlfriend is in the hospital. Of course I'm going to be by her side," Catherine all but yelled out.
"I...I'm sorry," Sara relented.
The simple admission broke Catherine's heart. In all the years she had worked with Sara, she had never seen the other woman admit defeat. She walked up to Sara and pulled her in for a hug, ignoring the glances those around were throwing at them.
"Don't be, it's not your fault." The words were uttered with love, yet Sara clammed up when they registered in her mind.
"Did Grissom tell you I was here?" Sara kept her tone low.
"Yeah, he did. Said something about a crime scene and a shooting," Catherine answered. "What's going on? Who's in there?"
Bracing herself for the fall that is sure to come, Sara answered, "Susan."
"Wait a minute. Did you just say Susan?" Catherine frowned at the answer. She took a deep breath and willed the bubble of jealousy to fade away.
"Yeah." From the corner of her eye Sara could see the doctor approaching the door so she hurriedly added, "I'll tell you more when things get quiet, ok?"
Before Catherine had a chance to answer, Sara already was deep in conversation with the doctor that just had left Susan's room. She could see some of the tension leaving Sara's shoulders as the minutes stretched on. Perhaps the doctor did deliver some good news, Catherine told herself.
"Catherine?" Sara's voice drew the blonde back to the present. "Let's go. The doctor all but threw me out and told me to come back tomorrow."
"OK," Catherine told her co-worker as they left the hospital. While they waited for the elevator, she turned to Sara and smiled a little for assurance. "I'll call Grissom and tell him I'm taking the rest of the night off."
The two women walked toward the parking lot side by side, their proximity delaying the inevitable crash that they both knew Sara was going to go through any minute now. As Catherine navigated the car through the late Vegas traffic, Sara busied herself with the view outside the window.
"Sara?" Catherine's hand rested on Sara's shoulder. "We're here."
Nodding, Sara unbuckled the seat belt and got out of the car. She waited by the door for Catherine to lock up the car, letting the blonde past before she followed suit. Within minutes they were in Sara's apartment.
"Drink?" Catherine shook her head no and watched while Sara busied herself in the kitchen. She sat down on the couch and waited for her girlfriend to gather herself, readying for the impending conversation.
As Sara sat the glass down on the coffee table, a gentle tremble made its way to her arm, spilling some of the glass' contents on the table. Knowing that the adrenaline in Sara's body has exhausted itself, Catherine quickly took control of the situation.
"Come on, let's get you in bed." Catherine was surprised that the brunette had given in to her handling without resistance. She knew the talk would have to wait. Stripping the other woman of her clothes, Catherine was surprised to see the Kevlar vest, the gun and the radio. Pushing the items aside, the blonde dressed Sara in her pajamas before guiding her to bed.
She pulled back the covers and Sara climbed in without a word. Catherine took off her shoes and her belt, climbing into bed after Sara. The brunette attached herself to Catherine, her shoulder a makeshift pillow for the younger woman.
"Thank you," Sara whispered before falling into slumber.
Catherine's fingers smoothed the silky black hair, each stroke calming her nerves. The bubble of jealousy that had surfaced at the hospital had vaporized, its appearance a distant memory now. You're the one in her bed, not Susan, Catherine reminded herself, and continued to hold on to that thought as she drifted off to sleep.
A shuffling noise awoke Catherine, and when her arms went in search of the warm body next to her, it came up empty. Instantly Catherine bolted up right, her sleepy eyes seeking the warm body known as Sara. She pulled back the covers, hissing when her feet was met with cold flooring.
Her eyes surveyed the rest of the studio apartment, heaving a sigh of relief when she saw a tall shadow looming in the kitchen. Catherine padded quietly toward her girlfriend, the soothing sound of music reaching her ears as she got nearer.
"Slept well?" The question gave Catherine a jolt of surprise.
"How did you know I was behind you?" Leaving all pretense of being quiet, she moved in and hugged Sara from behind, her head resting lightly on the brunette's shoulder.
Sara stopped what she was doing and turned around in Catherine's arms. Long fingers caressed smooth skin, mapping out a territory that was familiar only in her dreams. She smiled at the woman in front of her, pulling her in for a kiss. Tongues and lips fought an ancient war, dueling for dominance of the other.
"Good morning," Sara managed to get out as she pulled away from the kiss.
"I'll say." Catherine tightened her hold on Sara, her whole body still reeling in from Sara's choice of greeting. "You look...good."
"Amazing what sleep can do." As an afterthought, Sara added, "And maybe the gorgeous blonde next to me helped too."
"Oh you think you're funny," Catherine moved closer to the other woman, pinning her against the kitchen counter top.
"I know I am. Besides, that's not the only talent I have," Sara said as she carried Catherine up to the counter top. Slowly, she began to strip the blonde of her clothes, showering small kisses on every inch of skin that came into view. "Let me show you what other talent I have."
Hours of pleasure later, both women rested on the couch, with Catherine half on top of Sara. Matching sighs of content were traded, but no words were spoken until the blonde decided to break the silence.
"So, you want to tell me what happened last night or do I have to twist your arm?" Catherine asked gently.
Sara looked at her girlfriend intently, searching for a hint of the unknown but didn't find any. She took a deep breath, straightened up and told Catherine the whole story. By the time she got to the hospital part, Sara felt a weight has been lifted off her shoulders.
"What's going to happen now?" Catherine asked the million-dollar question.
"I get back to work, the feds put away Kevin and Susan goes back to her own life," Sara answered.
"That's it," Sara nodded. "Oh wait. There's one more thing, though. I've got some romancing my girlfriend to do."
Catherine smiled. She's yours, the blonde kept repeating that thought in her head.
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