A/N: Well, this fic has been quite literally missing for over 18 months. But here it is. The last chapter, especially for Marg Helgenberger's birthday and the 49 fic challenge over at graveshiftcsi :-)
A/N2: Thanks to Alza for reading this through for me, and to all who have reminded me that this fic exists :-)
Grissom rang the doorbell and then stepped back from the door; waiting patiently, and yet anxiously, for a response. The one that he received was not what he had been expecting.
"Lily," he greeted Catherine's mother with surprise when she opened the door.
Lily gave him a stern, but sympathetic, look and said, "She doesn't want to see you."
Grissom nodded. "I know." He offered her a sad smile, in gratitude to her for at least opening the door to him. He had barely turned to leave when she spoke again though.
He turned back to her, frowning at the invitation.
"She doesn't want to see you," she repeated, "But I know she needs to," she concluded with a small smile.
"Thank you," he said quietly as he walked past her and into Catherine's home.
"She's outside Lindsey's room… If you can persuade her to move from there, Lindsey might sleep better."
Grissom felt his heart breaking at the image of Catherine terrified to leave her daughter's side. Thinking of what she was going through, and then of the pain that had been in her eyes last time they spoke, Grissom paused on his path to her side.
"Maybe it's not a good idea," he said, "My being here'll just – "
"Gil," Lily interrupted him, "She needs to let it all out. Or else she's going to drive Lindsey insane, and she'll make herself ill… She won't cry in front of me – it's a pride thing. Ever since she left home she's been determined to prove that she's strong enough to look after herself… She needs someone to lean on. And for the last twenty years, hasn't that been you?"
"Lily, I – "
"Don't let her push you away… She understands why you did what you did. She just needs to be angry right now. And it's always easier to direct the anger at the people we love the most. Because we know they'll take it, and be there when the anger leaves only pain… Am I wrong?" she asked him with a knowing smile.
Grissom shook his head. "No."
Her smile widened. "Go on… And if you can persuade her to sleep, she really needs that."
Grissom nodded and proceeded through the house in the direction of Lindsey's bedroom. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Catherine leaning against the doorframe, her back to him.
"This had better be good!"
Her voice was quiet but laden with hostility and ice.
"I wanted to see how you are… How's Lindsey?"
"Could we talk somewhere where we won't disturb her?"
She turned to face him now, folding her arms across her chest. "I have nothing to say. And no desire to listen to you make excuses for your girlfriend. So we won't be disturbing her."
"Catherine, please," he implored quietly, "We need – "
"Don't presume to know what I need!" She kept her voice low, but there was no mistaking the venom it carried.
"Well, judging by the way your eyes are drooping, I'd say you need sleep," he pointed out, deliberately provoking her anger.
He watched her face tighten and she glared at him for several seconds before growling, "Go to hell," and she returned to leaning in the doorway to Lindsey's room.
"No," he stated firmly, approaching to stand beside her.
She whipped round to face him, eyes burning with hatred, and brimming with tears. "No?" she ground out through clenched teeth.
He nodded. "No… I'm not going anywhere."
She glared at him seconds longer; her breathing deepening, her eyes narrowing, and he could see her mind searching for something to say to him. Her hands fisted by her sides, her features tightened, a tear crept down her cheek, and he just waited: knowing what was coming.
A few seconds more, and she folded her arms across her chest protectively, then she swallowed hard, and opened her mouth as if to speak, but nothing but a squeak came out. She clamped her lips shut as if reprimanding them for letting her down, but then, as tears streamed down her cheeks, her hold on herself tightened and she crumbled forwards into his embrace.
He rubbed one hand soothingly up and down her back, and the other threaded into her hair, gently massaging her neck as she wept into his shirt.
"It's okay," he soothed, softly, holding her close to him, rocking her gently.
"I'm sorry," she muttered from against his chest.
"Shh," he responded, pressing his lips to her temple. "You don't need to be sorry… But you do need to rest."
She shook her head forcefully, pulling away from him, as if fearful that he could force her to move. "I can't leave her."
"Catherine," he said, quietly, tenderly cupping her face with both of his hands so that she would focus on him. "Lindsey needs to rest too. Your Mom's here, I'm here, you're here. Lindsey will be fine… We're just gonna go to your room so you can lie down. You're exhausted."
"I can't, Gil – "
"You can," he interrupted her. "And I'm here to help you."
Her bloodshot eyes stared at him for a moment, as if she was deciding whether or not to trust him, and then she nodded slowly, whispering, "Okay."
Grissom smiled reassuringly, and took her hand to lead her along the corridor to her room. He could see in the corner of his eye that she kept glancing back towards Lindsey's room, but as long as she was walking, he kept going.
She hesitated in the doorway, about to lose sight of her daughter's room completely. He gave a gentle squeeze on the hand he held and she turned her head to face him.
"It's okay," he assured her. "Just lie down for an hour, then I'll wake you and you can check on her again."
She nodded once more and preceded him into the room, walking slowly towards the bed, as if in a daze. She perched on the edge, and her fingers gripped the blanket either side of her, and she looked up at him with heartbroken eyes.
"Why did she do it?" she asked, in a quiet voice cracked with devastation.
He sat down next to her on the bed, but she kept her eyes trained forward as he explained.
"She didn't say a lot. She kept saying she was sorry; that she hadn't realised the pain it would cause – "
A disbelieving scoff met his ears at this, but as she didn't speak, he continued.
"She said she just wanted to make you see how lucky you are. To make you realise that Lindsey should be the most important thing in your – "
"Lindsey is the most important thing in my life!" she exclaimed, glaring at him from beneath moist eyelashes.
"I know," he said, leaning forwards to take her hand in his. "I know… But Sara's sick, Cath, she – "
She was glaring at him again.
"… I'm not defending her. I have never wanted to defend her. I wanted to understand how she could do this. Why she would do this…"
"And do you understand now?... Because I don't think I ever will."
"I understand that she needs help…"
"She's never liked me."
"That's not true."
Catherine let out another disbelieving laugh. "She's been jealous of me from day one. Because of my friendship with you… I take it you didn't know of her mental instability when you – "
"Sorry… Of course you didn't know. None of us knew." She pressed a fist against her forehead. "God, Gil why did none of us see this coming? Why didn't we know she was capable of – " Her voice broke on a sob, and Gil wrapped her in his arms, pulling her to rest on him.
"Things have happened in her past that she's never spoken to us about…" he told her as he held her. "She told Brass that a daughter deserves a mother who's there for her; who puts her first. It wasn't to do with you. And as soon as she saw how distraught you were, she broke down."
"Lindsey doesn't understand," she stated, pulling back from him slightly, but still maintaining a hold round his waist. "How can I explain it to her when I don't - … When it - … When I can't believe that it really happened?... Sara, Gil. Sara took my daughter to make me suffer. How is Lindsey supposed to trust my friends again? How am I – "
"Hey," he stopped her, cupping her face again, wiping at her tears with the tips of his thumbs. "Lindsey is a strong little girl. She's just like her Mom. You will both get past this. It will take time; but you've got each other, and you will work through this."
She nodded, his hands moving with her head, before she leaned into his right hand and closed her eyes. "Tell me I'll wake up to find it was all just a nightmare," she whispered.
He gently stroked her cheek and wished that he could tell her that and it be the truth. It broke his heart to know he couldn't.
Before he had managed to think of something to say that wouldn't increase her pain, Catherine released a heavy sigh, and her eyes fluttered open, finding his immediately and conveying the seriousness of what she was about to say.
"What's happening with Sara?" she asked him, solemnly.
"She'll be charged. But I don't think she'll be fit to stand trial," he told her, honestly.
She nodded again. "At least Lindsey won't have to go through that then…" she muttered softly.
She sighed again and moved her head back from his hands as she rose from her seat, pacing a couple of steps across the room. "I feel sick, Gil…" she told him, stopping and turning to face him. "I want to hate her. I do hate her… But I also feel appalled that she must have been suffering and none of us noticed. We were supposed to be her friends, Gil. We should have known something was wrong. We should have stopped this before it happened. One of us should have noticed something! I should have noticed something! I should be able to protect my daughter, Gil…"
As her speech became faster and more frantic, and the tears started down her cheeks again, Gil swept to her side and enveloped her in his arms.
"Lindsey's safe, Cath," he assured her. "It's over."
He held for a few more seconds, feeling her calm down against him, then he pulled her back so he could see her face.
"You need to be strong for Lindsey," he reminded her. "She's going to be even more confused before she can even begin to comprehend what really happened. You have to show her that it's in the past, and she has nothing to fear."
She nodded. "I know. It's just… knocked me of balance, I – "
"I know," he said reassuringly. "And that's what I'm here for… You be strong for Lindsey. And when she's sleeping, I'll be strong for you."
A small smile crept across her trembling lips and she nodded once more. "Thank you," she whispered.
He returned the smile. "There's no need… Now, sleep!"
He was relieved to hear her manage a short burst of laughter at his instruction.
"Yes, sir," she responded.
"Good," he smiled, watching her walk back to the bed and lie down. "I'll be back in an hour to wake you. And I will be able to tell if you haven't slept."
Catherine rolled her eyes and settled her head into her pillow, and Gil offered her a comforting smile as he stepped out of the room and began pulling the door closed behind him.
"Gil - "
He paused in his actions and stuck his head round the part-open door. "I will check on Lindsey on my way past," he promised.
A shy smile caressed Catherine's lips and she softly whispered, "Thank you."
Grissom nodded, and closed the door.
Keeping his promise, he stopped outside the open door of Lindsey's bedroom, and looked at the sleeping child. She looked peaceful and content and mixed feelings rushed his system. Relief that she was safe and unharmed came first; and then a deep churning in his stomach as he thought about how they would explain it all to her.
He knew he shared all of Catherine's fears, but he also knew that what both Willows women needed from him was strength, so he would be there whenever they needed him. It was a complicated situation, and it would take time for Catherine and Lindsey to work through it. But they would get there, because they were back together. And that was all that mattered.