by Camilla Sandman
Disclaimer: Not my characters, only my words.
Author's Note: For Falena, as asked for. Minor reference to Grave Danger.
'It wasn't supposed to end like this,' she thinks, and kisses him.
The morning is dawning, flames reaching for the sky, colouring the clouds as they go. The air is clear, a faint hint of the night's cold still lingering. She breathes it in as she breathes in him, feeling his arms go around her, pressing her against his tall form.
It wasn't supposed to end like this, the friendship of Warrick and Catherine. If she had envisioned an end, it was by the death of one of them, killed at work, the other left to mourn what was and had never been.
It wasn't supposed to end in a kiss.
His lips are soft, yielding to pressure to let her taste him and she realises it is her who has initiated this, she who is changing another constant of her life. She doesn't want to, yet desire betrays her and she doesn't pull away.
Perhaps it is almost losing Nick to a madman. Perhaps it is her age creeping up on her again. Perhaps it is Lindsey getting mysterious phone calls from a boy and smiling at nothing when she thinks no one is looking.
Perhaps it is Warrick, always so near and tempting.
"Now what?" he asks softly as she breaks the kiss.
"I don't know."
He breathes and she breathes, the earth breathes a wind that catches her hair and throws it loose. He stills it with his hands and looks at her.
"Would you like to meet my grandmother?" he asks and she nods slowly, not sure what he is really asking, but trusting him to tell her soon enough.
He leans his forehead against hers, end and morning and change all around them as they stand still in the earth's breath.
In the end, he takes not only her, but Lindsey too. Lindsey's idea, strangely, and Catherine doesn't quite dare to consider what it means as they drive through the unyielding heat.
The neighbourhood is not rich, and she can sense weariness and struggle in the flecked paint of the houses they pass. No easy ways here. The grass is dying before the heat, here and there patches of green lives on, defiantly. Even poor soil will breed survivors, she knows.
Warrick's childhood home is tired and have seen better days, but the grass is well looked after and the paint is new. She knows without asking that this is Warrick's work, and she wonders if it is given out of gratitude or guilt.
"You must be Catherine," the older woman says as the door opens, Warrick's eyes framed in a face with lines of age and fatigue.
"Yes. This is Lindsey, my daughter."
Youth and age meet and the two smile at each other, Warrick's grandmother and Catherine's child and it is almost like a family meeting and Catherine has to look away, the image too alluring for her to dare dwell on.
She watches the sun breathe its heat on the earth from the darkness of space, burning through atmosphere and clouds and skin all the way to her heart. That is why she feels warm. No other reason.
"Cath?" Warrick asks, and she meets his gaze, feeling it burn away even the sun. "Don't you wanna join us inside?"
"Yes," she manages and takes his offered hand, stepping into shade and his cradle, feeling the act more intimate than any kiss.
Grandma Brown is a well of stories about Warrick growing up, stories that Lindsey find endlessly amusing and Catherine strangely reaffirming. It is almost as if she has heard them before, perhaps as faint echoes in Warrick's voice.
When he shyly shows her some pictures of himself as young, she wonders if she finds him beautiful in them knowing what he is to become or if he simply will always be beautiful to her, whatever the shape. He brushes away any sentiments of beauty, but Grandma Brown smiles knowingly at her from across the room.
Lindsey insists on playing some basketball and Warrick takes her, the two trading good-natured insults about who will beat who. Catherine already knows Lindsey will win, though perhaps not as much due to skill.
She is served cold lemonade and offered a deck chair in the garden, and she takes it, listening to Warrick's grandmother humming a song in the kitchen, reminding her of her mother and a different song, a different grass. She feels almost young again, remembering how she supposed her life would be, the day drifting onwards with the wind.
The sun is falling as Warrick comes to join her, the fading light brushing the shadows off his face. The faint sounds of Lindsey's voice drifts out the kitchen window, a tantalizing reminder of youth now long gone. Sometimes, Catherine thinks she may envy her daughter. Sometimes, she thinks she may not, knowing all the lessons of life waiting.
"Hey," Warrick says, kneeling down by her chair. She watches him watch her, gentleness fused into his skin, hesitation in his eyes.
"Now you know me," he says quietly, indicating the area around them.
"I've always known you," she replies, resting a hand on his, feeling his skin under her palm. Rougher than hers and different colour too and yet it feels almost as her own.
"And I'm still here."
"So you are," he says and he kisses her softly, the shape of his life all around for her to trace, all the shapes of him laid bare for her already.
'It wasn't supposed to begin like this,' she thinks, 'the relationship of Catherine Willows and Warrick Brown and yet it is and that is all life ever offers.'
"What are you thinking?" he whispers against her lips, his breath hot with the dying summer day.
"About what you and I are," she replies honestly, and lets herself lean against him, feeling friendship metamorphose into relationship, youth into age, day into night, Catherine and Warrick into Catherine and Warrick, her hand into his.