The characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

This is in response to an improv challenge at the Unbound forums; the first and last lines were given, and the word limit is 1,000.

Spoilers: general fourth season


"Kiss me...."

The enviable voice of Harry Connick, Jr., rolls through the discreet speakers, and Catherine reflects absently that such a rollicking song isn't usual for background music. She shifts to the other foot, glancing at the bar, and decides again not to take a seat there. There are advantages to waiting for one's date in a provocative pose on a bar stool, or--at this restaurant at least--in the depths of an armchair, but she simply isn't in the mood.

It isn't like Chris to be late. In fact, it's usually she who is late, thanks to her job or her daughter or just life in general, and she blesses the fact that Chris' calm usually encompasses an easy humor at her tardiness. His life is just as hectic as hers, she would point out, and he would counter that he simply planned better. Which was true, and yet, somehow he managed to avoid annoying her with the comment.

Maybe it was his smile.

She isn't used to someone like him. It isn't the age thing--hadn't she and Warrick been nosing delicately around each other for a couple of years now? but a girl couldn't wait forever--it's his courtesy. She's used to men who were only polite when they wanted something. Chris wants her--he'd made that clear from the outset--but his manners hadn't abated when she'd given him his desire. He courts her. And she loves it.

He's Vegas born and bred, and understands her history with the knowledge of someone in the business of entertainment. It doesn't matter to him. He loves to wine and dine her, he brings her flowers, he's gentle unless she wants otherwise. He's very close to perfect.

Sometimes it scares her, but she doesn't let it get to her.

Catherine knows her own strengths. She knows she could manage on her own; she'd survived much. She's quite capable of being single, of raising her daughter alone and having nothing more than the occasional date or fling to take the edge off. She knows her own needs as well.

But life had presented her with an opportunity, and she's not one to let an opportunity go by.

The attraction had been immediate, she muses, leaning against the wall and watching a group of twentysomethings go by, all short skirts and bright eyes. Attraction had never been an issue. Trust was the issue, and she didn't give it lightly. She'd been betrayed too often.

Chris had won her trust, with his words, with his actions. What she'd thought might be a fling had turned into an actual relationship, one that was extending itself as she watched. Something in her warns it won't last. Something else wonders what if it does?

One thing about her job, it does teach that lives are precious and fragile, and chances are not to be refused, because far too many people never get another one, or never get a chance at all. Life is a brutal thing, a predator, and it gets everyone in the end. What matters is making the most of the time you had, even when you felt its breath on your neck, and not regretting what couldn't be helped.

Catherine sighs. Never doubt. Never look back. Something might be gaining on you.

And then a hand is on her shoulder, and she turns to see his grin, and in a mood of unusual exuberance he pulls her into his arms and kisses her with enthusiasm. He tastes so good, he's warm and real and alive, and even if it doesn't last she has it now, and it's more than she had before. She breaks off the kiss and looks up at him, at the need and the power of him, and enjoys it with all that is in her. This is a moment, one of the best moments, and it's all hers. For a little while it's right, even though she knows it might go wrong, and she's laughing in the jaws of life.