blue flamingos

Life Changing Events

Fandom: CSI

Category/Rated: Slash, PG

Year/Length: 2006/ ~2697 words

Pairing: Catherine/Sara

Spoilers: post 6.01

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Big things, little things and breakfast for two

Author's Notes: Written for the femslash_today Guns and Microscopes ficathon, For [info]lysachan who asked for... CSI, pairing: Sara/Catherine or Sara/Sofia, NC17: why not?, squicks: BDSM., prompt: Something romantic would do just fine; I've read way too many angst CSI fics lately.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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Catherine stands on the opposite side-walk to the café and runs a hand through her hair. She's not quite ready to go in yet, not sure what she's doing here either, if she's honest. She could still ring Nick, tell him she's changed her mind. They probably haven't even left the lab yet, and if they have, they'll have picked up half a dozen other people on the way out. It won't be just her, Nick and the Browns.

The Browns. It's not exactly up there with being buried alive for life changing events – though given how well Nick seems to have adjusted to being back in the lab, maybe it's going to have more of an effect – but still. Married.

Of course, she always figured they'd all get married and settle down, but she just wasn't quite ready for Warrick to be the first one who did, or at least not quite so abruptly. Still, she understands the urge to fall into rash, impetuous actions, to do all the things you've always said you'll do, later. Though, oddly enough, Nick seems to be the only one in the lab not struck with their weird brand of impetuosity – or craziness, depending on how you look at it. Perhaps surviving is enough for him.

Whatever she calls it, though, Catherine acknowledges that she's fallen victim to it, right here. There's no other explanation for why, when Sara caught her outside the locker room at the end of shift and asked her to go for breakfast, she said yes. She and Sara are friends, most of the time, they've been out for breakfast, or drinks, together before, though not so much lately, since Ecklie split them up. This is different, something in the way Sara leaned towards her, the way she glanced round before she asked and the pleased smile when Catherine ummed and aahed and finally said yes.

Catherine looks at her watch again. She's not sure why Sara didn't want to leave from the lab together, some muttered excuse about having to stop off somewhere first and she'd meet Catherine there, looking shifty and nervous and nothing like the confident CSI Catherine's used to. She knows Sara's nowhere near as good with people as she is with evidence, with things that don't talk back to her, just like Grissom in that respect, which maybe explains Sara's bizarre attempt to date him a couple of years ago.

Even excusing the fact that she's, well, Sara, that was unusually twitchy, screaming of nerves.

Catherine sighs. She's been standing on this corner for a good fifteen minutes. It's becoming increasingly obvious that she's not going to ring Nick and ask to join them on their boys' night, or whatever it is, and Lindsey's already at her mom's, so she has no need to dash home – her mom's forever telling her how disruptive it is for Lindsey when she turns up unexpectedly. She could go anyway, she could go home and do the pile of laundry that's been waiting for her all week, but if she was going to do either of those things, she would have done them by now.

Plus, she's starting to feel a little silly – it's only Sara, after all, the woman she's worked, fairly closely, with for the last five years. Stupid to be nervous about going to breakfast with her.

Catherine strides resolutely across the street and into the café. It's not one of their regular haunts, back when they used to go out together enough to have regular haunts, but it's a nice enough place, clean and bright, half empty at this time in the morning. Catherine glances round, spots Sara sitting in a booth at the back, nursing a mug of coffee, her head down over the paper.

Catherine's used to wonder, before Sara's ill-fated relationship with the paramedic whose name Catherine has now forgotten, before they got drunk together and both spilled a few secrets, why Sara didn't have more boyfriends, didn't at least get asked out on more dates even if, like the rest of them, she didn't have time to go on many. Sara's a very pretty girl, once you get past the prickly attitude, and when she smiles, Catherine's surprised that everyone in the room isn't drawn to her. Maybe it's her clothes, for all it pains Catherine to think like that, as though clothes are the only important part of a person, the tough boots and jeans she wears, even when she's not at work, but Catherine's first few gentle offers to make her over were firmly rebuffed.

Now, though, Catherine's beginning to think she might be just a little bit glad that everyone else doesn't see Sara the way she does, as an attractive woman and not just a stiff, evidence-focussed CSI. It's bad enough for one of her friends to go off and get unexpectedly married, she'd not too sure she wants that for any of the others.

No ulterior motive at all, there, Willows, her conscience mocks and she tells it firmly to shut up, making her way across the café to Sara's table.

The other woman looks up as she gets nearer, pushing her hair from her eyes and smiling, pleased and, Catherine sees for a moment, a little surprised. She was right then – this is more than just the girls going out for breakfast after shift, or some attempt of Sara's to take her mind off Warrick getting married. She's just not sure exactly what 'more' it is, or how much she wants to go along with it.

Still, breakfast never hurt anyone, and she's starving.

She takes the seat opposite Sara, and the mug of coffee the waitress brings. 'Get your errands done?' she asks.

Sara looks confused for a moment, then her eyes clear. 'Yeah. Nothing exciting, but now I've got the day free.'

'No other plans?' Catherine asks, a little surprised. For as long as they've worked together, Sara's always had some kind of, usually educational, plans for her days, once she's done with the three hours of sleep she seems to need. Sara's not a girl who likes to be at a loose end, or to wait and see what comes along. Not unlike most of the other people they work with.

'Maybe, I'm not sure yet,' Sara says, looking down at her menu as she says it. 'You, er, you want to order?'

'Sure,' Catherine says slowly. It takes her a moment to recognise this new emotion in Sara, one she doesn't think she's ever seen in her before – it's nervousness. Sara Sidle, one of the most confident people she's ever met, is actually nervous.

By the time they've placed their orders though, Sara's shaken it off and is talking animatedly – and disparagingly – about some politician who's been quoted saying that an animal rights rally at one of the colleges near Las Vegas shouldn't be allowed to go ahead. Catherine misses most of the details of what and why, or even who, more interested in watching Sara in full flow than in actually picking up what she's saying. She knows anyway, it's all part of Sara's reaction to her and Grissom's experiment with the dead pig, even though it was years ago.

If Sara's pretty when she's just doing her job, getting on with her daily life, she's incredibly sexy when she's fired up about something that doesn't have to do with victims and lame-ass suspects trying to wriggle out of their crimes. Her eyes flash with irritation and conviction, her hands gesture forcefully to illustrate her point, and Catherine imagines people being swayed to her point of view just by the sheer force of her conviction.

Catherine's been married, has a child, dates unsuitable men who have an unpleasant habit of bleeding into her cases – all this is true, just as it's true that Sara was in a relationship with a sleazy paramedic and had a crush on Grissom that kept the lab buzzing with speculation for weeks after people found out. It doesn't change the fact that Sara's gorgeous, or the unexpected stab of something a lot like jealousy that Catherine felt when Sara went off to work some case, she no longer remembers what, with Sofia.

Everyone speculates about Sara, anyway, even with the crush on Grissom – there's something about her that makes people wonder, or maybe it's that there's something about her that makes people think about her.

Catherine thinks she's probably the only one in the whole lab who knows for certain, her and possibly Nick, kindred spirits those two in more than just their drive to be promoted, to be noticed and praised by Grissom.

Sara's probably the only one who's ever wondered about Catherine, let alone found anything out. Catherine's better at keeping some parts of her personal life out of her job, or better at disguising those parts with others, anyway. Not that she seems to need much help with that these days.

'Catherine?' Sara asks, frowning a little. 'You OK?'

Catherine's brain catches up with her. 'Yeah, fine. Sorry, just drifted away for a minute.'

'That was more than a minute,' Sara says accusingly. Her impassioned defence of the rights of animals and protestors might as well never have happened, bled away with Catherine's lack of attention. This, Catherine knows, is the problem with being around investigators all day – they're trained to notice things, and they don't tend to switch it off when they take off their badges.

'Sorry, I was thinking of –' You, she almost says for one crazy moment, stopping abruptly just in time. Sara continues to frown at her, waiting for the end of the sentence, and she finishes lamely with, 'Lindsey.'

Sara's frown eases a little. 'Is she OK?'

'No, she's fine,' Catherine says, cursing herself for getting into this web. The one time she was too distracted by her thoughts to have a good reason for why she wasn't listening, and she does it at just the wrong moment. Naturally. 'She, er, she's staying at my Mom's for a few days, till I get childcare rearranged.'

'OK,' Sara says, the way she says it in interviews, when the suspect's just said something even more staggeringly unbelievable than usual.

Fortunately, Catherine's saved from saying anything else stupid by the arrival of the waitress with their food, and the associated fussing with sauces and cutlery, then tasting. It's actually far better than she expected it to be – not that she doesn't trust Sara's judgement when it comes to food, but they've been to some dodgy places out at crime scenes and it's made her cautious. Just one more weird side effect of her job, she supposes.

Sara lets them both eat in silence for a few moments, then asks, 'who were you really thinking of?' casually as she reaches for her mug of coffee. Who, not what, and Catherine thinks for a second that Sara knows, but when she looks at her companion, Sara's still frowning, and there's no way she's misread the signals that badly.

'Did he know how you felt about him?' Sara asks, her voice a strange mix of concern and annoyance. She doesn't want to be asking this question.

Catherine looks at her blankly. 'Who?'

'Warrick.' Sara rolls her eyes. 'Did he know you were interested in him, before he went and got married to...'

'Tina,' Catherine fills in, when it becomes clear Sara's forgotten the other woman's name already. She takes a bite of her pancakes and chews them slowly, thinking. Sara sips her coffee, watching over the rim of the mug, eyes unreadable. Finally, Catherine sighs and puts down her fork. 'I was surprised. I never thought he was that serious about her.'

Sara shrugs. 'He's not,' she says carelessly.

'No?' Catherine asks. She's not surprised to hear that, she's just surprised that Sara's the one who picked up on it.

'No,' Sara says confidently, her eyes bright. Catherine looks at her for a moment, not sure what she's seeing. Something like... like glee. Sara knows something, or thinks she does.

'What?' Catherine asks, half-laughing. Sara just shakes her head, smiling, and sips at her coffee, her momentary dark mood gone. 'Now Sara, it's not nice to keep secrets,' she teases.

Sara's smile shines. 'No?' she says.

'We're a team,' Catherine tells her, even though this is only maybe half true right now, after they've been split up and put back together, and she's sharing an office with a woman obsessed with ducks.

'Hmm,' Sara says, considering. 'So I should tell Nick and Warrick and Greg?' She tilts her head, the tone of the conversation switching, till they're talking about something other than whatever Sara thinks she knows about Warrick.

'No,' Catherine says, just as considering. 'No, maybe not. But you should tell me, I think.'

'Why's that?' Sara asks. She's still holding the handle of her mug, but she seems to have forgotten all about it, watching Catherine intently.

'I'm your friend,' Catherine suggests. At least, she should be – she spends more time with Sara than she does with any other women in her life, including her daughter, these days.

'True.' Sara nods a couple of times, glancing down at the table.

'So...?' Catherine says, drawing it out, like she does with Lindsey when Lindsey doesn't want to share.

Sara leans forward and after a moment, Catherine does the same, till their heads are almost touching. Sara smiles slightly and says quietly, 'I heard about what you said to Warrick.'

It's not the last thing she was expecting Sara to say, but Catherine frowns. 'What?'

'That you lost your fantasy,' Sara explains, then, from Catherine's continued confusion, 'even the lab has ears,' and she smiles.

Catherine smiles back. 'OK. That's your big secret?'

Sara shakes her head. She finally releases her coffee cup, resting her hand on the table, close to Catherine's, but not close enough to touch. 'No, it's not.'

'So what is it?' Catherine asks. Though she pretty much suspects she knows.

Sara grins, leans forward – and kisses her. Lightly, barely more than the brush of her lips against Catherine's, but when she pulls away again, Catherine leans forward after her.

Sara's face, very close to hers, is a little flushed, a little uncertain. 'So?' she asks. 'A good secret?' She doesn't sound like the Sara Catherine knows, but then the Sara Catherine knows would never have kissed her in the middle of a café. The uncertainty is pure Sara though.

Catherine always thought she'd get married again, was always looking for that guy, even when she went home with women she met in bars, on nights when Lindsey was staying at her mom's. She looked at Warrick and thought what a great dad he'd make some day, what a good husband he'd be for some girl, and she always thought that if he was going to make some girl a good husband, it could be her.

But Warrick just made some girl a good husband, and she had to give up on a fantasy.

It felt, today, like they'd gone backwards, like she had, being back under Grissom's command, because, for all the fancy ways they've danced around it in her contract, she's just been demoted in the name of the team. Maybe it's time they started going forward again.

After all they've been through, Nick's back, trying to make out like it never happened, and forcing everyone around him to pretend along with him, and if he can go forward after that, Catherine thinks she ought to be able to go forward from Warrick getting married.

Sara's still looking at her, uncertainty edging out the flush to her face as she waits for Catherine to answer the question Catherine's already half-forgotten.

'Better than most today,' Catherine says, and smiles when Sara does.

She's the one to move this time, and when as she kisses Sara, she curls her fingers lightly round the other woman's hand.

It's not what she expected when she started her shift, but she's learning, lately, that things rarely are. For a life changing event, this is a pretty good one.


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