Disclaimer: Not mine. CSI and it's characters are property of CBS and Jerry Bruckheimer. Just borrowing.

Author's Note: Stems off of Ecklie's comment about Sara to Gil in the episode "Nesting Dolls". No particular ship in this story, but if you want to stretch, then go with Catherine and Sara. I'm not really writing for romance here because there are plenty of other great writers who can fill that need. First CSI fic. Be kind. ;)

Summary: Catherine could've sworn she heard angelic music and the Good Lord calling her name. Then reality hit her.

A Loose Cannon

by e-dog

Catherine Willows was seated on a bench in the locker room. She had intended on changing into a fresh t-shirt. Her suit jacket and blouse were suddenly too uncomfortable, but something stopped her from completing her task. Her eyes had spied Sara Sidle's locker. At that point, she just froze.

She's a loose cannon with a gun.

The discouraging look in Gil Grissom's eyes were enough warning for Catherine. Most days, Ecklie was blowing smoke out of his ass when it came to insulting anyone in their team, but something told her to stay clear of Sara Sidle for at least a day. Despite the non-verbal and verbal warnings to avoid Sara, Catherine couldn't shake the feeling that she should confront Sara anyway. Something had to be done about this, right? Well, maybe something had to be done, but why did she have to make the first move? Sara should apologize to her first.

Greg Sanders had not only once, but twice, pleaded with her to help Sara. The young lab rat didn't seem to get it. He had boiled this situation down to a simple office quarrel. No. It ran much deeper than that. If he had witnessed the dispute between herself and Sara himself, he might stop begging her to "set things right". As far as she was concerned, this was good for Sara. She needed the time off. Both to cool down and to breathe. The girl worked herself to death nearly all of the time. It was a wonder she hadn't keeled over from sleep deprivation.

"You going to tell me what's going on now?"

Catherine could only smile at the deep timbre of his voice. Since the team had been split up, Warrick Brown had been very supportive of her. It wasn't like they weren't loyal to each other before, but something was different about his attentions. The flirtatious banter between them was fun and confusing. She could only imagine their behavior was a result of the ever rising tension around the lab. It was a way for them to cope with the changes, she supposed.

She faced her confidant and sighed, "You mean to tell me that the gossip wagon hasn't stopped by your door yet?"

"Gossip wagon?" Warrick squinted his eyes at her. His lips forming a small, amused grin.

"Hodges," Catherine clarified with a wink.

"Ohhh," Warrick chuckled, folding his arms across his chest. He leaned on the doorframe and answered, "No. He hasn't said anything to me."

"Sara was suspended," Catherine said blandly, rising to her feet for the first time in nearly 20 minutes. If Warrick hadn't stopped by, she might still be there staring at the lockers. Particularly, Sara's locker. She smoothed out nonexistent wrinkles on her blouse before finishing, "She was rude to a suspect, to me and to Ecklie."

"Ouch," Warrick winced, his forehead creasing slightly. "I take it she was more than a little out of line."

"I think it's a record, actually," Catherine tried to laugh it off, flipping hair out of her face. "She managed to piss off three people in less than ten minutes."

Warrick gave her a weak laugh in return, but both of them recognized that nothing about what happened was laughable. He managed to catch her eyes and locked on. Once he was sure he had her attention he forged on, "Maybe you should talk to her."

"She doesn't want to talk to me, Rick, and I don't want to talk to her," Catherine shook her head, mostly trying to convince herself that staying away was the best course of action. She fixated her eyes on the floor, breaking eye contact. His stare was powerful, whether he knew it or not. His words were even more persuasive. "Besides, I have things to do before shift is over. . ."

"Shift is over," Warrick reminded her gently. When she looked up again, she caught his retreating form exiting the locker room and strolling down the corridor.

---------------------------

A small diner on the strip was the meeting place. Catherine was sure she couldn't handle making a house call. There was, of course, the intimacy of being in someone's apartment. Small spaces enclosed by four constricting walls. It was like being trapped in a coffin. Plus, it would only be the two of them. If they were alone, she feared a cat fight would break out. There would be no witnesses if something serious happened. The diner was very busy tonight giving her a better sense of security. Maybe she was being too cautious, but Catherine didn't want to risk it.

As an added bonus, the milkshakes here were fantastic.

The bell at the door rang, signaling an entrance. She peeked over her shoulder and it was Sara. When Catherine had called Sara on the phone, she wondered if she had called too late. Of course, she had nothing to worry about. Sara was wide awake, only she sounded different. Her voice croaked and squeaked slightly giving off the impression she had been crying. It was highly uncharacteristic of the young woman to cry. Then again, she never cried in public. Who knew what Sara did when she was home.

Always the observant one, Sara didn't take long to spot her. Catherine turned back around and waited until Sara sat down. If she had been crying, there was no sign of it on her face. Her make-up was fresh and her eyes clear of any redness.

"Thanks for coming," Catherine greeted her in a small voice. She noticed how feeble that was and finished in a much more confident tone, "I appreciate it."

"I'm not apologizing," Sara told her bluntly and coldly. Her pencil line eyebrows only accentuated the fury still raging within her. They arched slightly when she pressed on, "That's why we're here right? Ecklie wanted me to apologize to you. I'm not going to."

"As much as I would like one, that's not why we're here," Catherine managed to speak without losing her temper. They had barely exchanged more than twenty words and she felt one of them were ready to explode at any moment. She had to get to the point and quickly. "I just want to call a truce, okay?"

Sara only arched one eyebrow this time as she repeated, "A truce?"

"Yes, a truce. Anything to end whatever is going on with you," Catherine said exasperated.

"With me?" Sara managed to smile at that remark. "You're joking. This is you being funny, right?"

"Well, you're not suggesting what happened today was my fault?" Catherine nearly spat back at her, her temper starting to take control of the situation.

The phrase 'un-freaking-believable' were the next words Sara uttered. She promptly rose from the table without saying anything else and tried to walk away. Without thinking about it, Catherine grabbed her arm to keep her from leaving because she wasn't ready for this to end. Sara's glare shot daggers at her, but Catherine was resilient. She had been on the receiving end of glowers worse than the one Sara was giving her. Even still, Catherine wasn't up for more arguing and she reluctantly let go. She stood up and offered, "Let me at least walk you to your car."

"I took a taxi," Sara told her quietly. Realizing what impression she must've given her co-worker, she quickly amended, "Not because I was drinking. I just didn't feel like driving."

"Let me take you home," Catherine almost ordered. It was early morning now. It was dark, the streets were less crowded with people and there was more a chance predators were on the loose.

"Now you're acting like my mother," Sara griped, heading for the exit again.

"At least one of us is acting like an adult," Catherine snapped back. Sara paused, the words having some effect, but she easily forgot them and left. Catherine could feel the stares of various patrons, trying to concentrate on their food, but finding this late night squabble entertaining. She quickly grabbed her purse, left a tip on the table and followed Sara out. She had come this far to try and fix things. She couldn't give up now. Catherine caught up to Sara and nearly pleaded, "Please, Sara. Let me take you home."

Sara came to an abrupt halt. Her face stared up at the sky as she gave a little stomp with her right foot in frustration. She finally relaxed, turned around and shrugged, "Fine. If it'll get you to leave me alone."

Catherine gave a very feeble smile of approval as she led Sara to the SUV. Once they were in, the ride to her apartment began. Sara spoke up occasionally to give Catherine directions, but for the most part, the drive was completely quiet. Before too long, they were sitting in the lot staring at her building. Catherine cut the engine and proceeded to get out, but Sara firmly told her to stay. "I don't need you to walk me to the door."

"Fine," Catherine put up her hands in defeat.

Sara fumbled with the seat belt, then opened the door. She hopped out and was about to shut the door, then paused. Catherine looked up, noticing her co-worker had yet to walk away. Finally, Sara muttered, "Thanks for the ride."

"You're welcome," Catherine said, almost smiling, but managing to remain stoic. She waited patiently until Sara was inside her building. Catherine then leaned on the steering wheel feeling very unsuccessful. She took Warrick's advice, but it seemed nothing had been amended or accomplished by doing so. Sara was still pissed. Catherine was still bitter. She turned the ignition, but the engine stalled. She tried again, but nothing. She groaned, "What now?"

She popped the hood, jumped out of the vehicle and took a peek inside. It was funny. She could take a car apart and look for evidence easily, but right now, everything looked completely foreign. She pretended to inspect it by touching or prodding various knobs but any solution eluded her. Well, this was just great. She was going to have to bother Sara once more. She couldn't just sleep in the car all night. She left the hood up and began to walk towards the complex. Then she saw Sara burst out the door, approaching her fast. Catherine's eyes widened when she saw the young woman had a gun aimed directly at her. Before Catherine could utter a word, Sara fired.

In that split second, it all came flooding back. The fights. The cases. Ecklie's comment.

She's a loose cannon with a gun. She's a loose cannon. With a gun. Sara. Gun. Sara had pointed a gun at her and the weapon had been discharged.

Another bullet fired.

Catherine could've sworn she heard angelic music and the Good Lord calling her name. Then reality hit her. She could smell the asphalt. She was lying face down on the hot, sticky asphalt. Not realizing her instincts had taken over, she had fallen to the ground faster than gravity would allow so she could avoid the bullet. Now it became clear that she had fended off any injury and she was alive.

"Catherine! Cath, are you alright?"

Was that Sara? Then Catherine finally noticed something else. Her heart pounding in her chest with such force, she thought it was going to explode. She looked up at the sound of the voice and it was Sara. She was holding her gun, staring down at Catherine with frantic eyes and breathing heavily. She repeated, "Cath, are you alright?"

"You tried to shoot me!" Catherine mumbled, completely dumbfounded.

At that, the worry left Sara and she broke into a grin. She knelt down, offering a hand to help Catherine up. Only she couldn't manage to wipe that smile off her face. Catherine glared at her, "You think that's funny? Jesus, Sara! I thought. . ."

"That I wanted to kill you?" Sara suggested, as she got herself under control. She could understand why Catherine would feel the way she did.

Catherine was now up on her knees, still feeling her heart rate slowing down. "Well, with you charging out of there like a mad woman, what was I supposed to think?"

"Okay, I'll admit it. I've had dreams of killing you," Sara said nonchalantly. The look of alarm on Catherine's face almost made her laugh again. Instead, she managed to not smile and shrugged, "I was joking, Cath."

"That was a horrible joke."

"Sorry. Look. I'll show you."

Sara helped Catherine to her feet and turned her around to face the real reason for the confusion. There was a lifeless form on the ground next to the car. The headlights shone on him, his blood glistening in the light. There was a knife just out of reach of his left hand. The point appeared to be so sharp, it threatened to cut through the tarmac. Catherine finally realized what Sara had been shooting at. It wasn't her.

It was this man.

They slowly approached him. He wasn't moving and a quick check for his pulse confirmed he was dead. Catherine blinked a few times, then faced Sara, "I had no idea he was there. You saved my life."

"I'm just glad I made it back out in time," Sara admitted, running a hand through her hair. Sara had been determined to just plop down on her bed and forget this day ever happened. Then she heard the faint sound of engine trouble. Maybe it was Catherine, maybe it wasn't. Either way, she just wanted to sleep. But a nagging voice told her to check and make sure. She looked out the window and saw Catherine looking under the hood. Then she saw the dark figure slowly making his way across the lot. Catherine was completely oblivious. All Sara could do was act. In a flash, she grabbed her gun, ran out of the building and fired. It all happened so fast. She made it just in time.

"I'm sorry if I scared you," Sara apologized, but added meekly, "But did you really think that I would. . .?"

"For a second, yes. Yes, I did," Catherine admitted as they rose from the ground and backed away from the predator. Catherine could see the distress wash over Sara's face at the answer. It was painful to see. Catherine placed a reassuring hand on the younger woman's shoulder and added with the hint of a smile, "But only for a second."

It was then, the realness of the situation became evident. That man nearly had his way and if it weren't for Sara, who knew if Catherine would've seen the next day. As if thinking the same thing, both women embraced each other. Mostly out of gratitude, on Catherine's part. The embrace brought relief to Sara. Sara could only imagine the anguish she would feel if Catherine had ended up a victim in their morgue. After the day they just had, neither one thought they would end up here. Suddenly, their very public squabble was nothing but a formality. Realizing how long they had been hugging each other, they quickly pulled apart, both exchanging embarrassed smiles and putting a considerable amount of space between them.

Catherine sighed and began, "I didn't really thank you. . ."

"Don't worry about it," Sara said quickly, then got down to business. "You wanna call this in?"

"Uh, yeah. I'll call Brass now," Catherine followed Sara's lead and returned to work mode. However, she paused thinking back to Ecklie. She smiled, then turned to Sara, "Hey."

"Yeah?" Sara looked up at her.

"I'm glad you carry a gun," Catherine winked. She realized her comment was rather cryptic and Sara's perplexed expression further proved that.

"I'll take that as a compliment, I guess," Sara half-laughed, her eyes squinting in amusement.

"I'll explain later. Over coffee?" Catherine suggested. Her voice was hopeful and her heart nearly stopped waiting on an answer. If Sara said yes, then maybe their relationship would take a turn for the better. If she said no. . .

Sara smiled genuinely and replied, "Yeah, I would like that."

The End