Picking up the Pieces
Rated: T

Summary: Catherine/Warrick – How Warrick's marriage could have been dealt with during "Bang Bang" and "Way to Go".

You aren't normally the type of person to carry around a load of guilt and anger. Not since you stopped letting your habit control your life. But today, these past few days actually, have been different. You don't blame yourself for the fact that Brass is lying in a coma; you know there was nothing you could have done to prevent it. No, this guilt trip started before that.

"I hope you enjoy spending it alone," she spits into the phone.

You stare at the small screen in front of you, trying not to notice the other occupants of the room watching you as you watch your wife shrug dejectedly towards the camera. You want to call her back and mock her for her bald face lies. After all, who plans a birthday party in a casino for a gambling addict? But then as part of your brain goes back to scanning the security footage for Willie, lightening strikes and you realize that she doesn't know.

You've never talked to your wife about why you avoid the casinos whenever possible. She had no way of knowing that it's not out of boredom with the flash and flare as is the case for most Vegas natives. All she knows is that on the rare Wednesday's that you aren't pulling double shifts you leave her to play poker with Nick, Greg, Archie, Bobbie, and sometimes even David or Grissom.

You feel the specter of guilt that's been lingering since you hurled accusations at Tina growing, pushing to the foreground. Your hand drifts down to pull your phone from your pocket when you spot Him on one of the other screens. You point to the image in front of you and watch in horror as all hell breaks loose. Hostage situations never end well.

If it had ended there, that would have been bad enough. The guilt of falsely accusing your wife, of forcing your marriage to become another statistic, of wondering if you might have spotted the suspect sooner if you'd been fully focused, weighing on you for who knows how long. But fate had had more in store for you that day.

Everyone is clustered around Brass's room; sitting or standing, staring at the monitors watching them beep, waiting for him to wake up again. You know you should be worried about your friend, but you can't block Tina out of your thoughts. The second time you get up to pace agitatedly away from your friends, Catherine comes with you.

"Does anyone else want coffee?" she asks the room at large.

There's no response but you head towards the cafeteria anyways, knowing that it's an excuse to take a little longer, and you're grateful that you're no longer walking alone. For once Catherine doesn't seem interested in talking, in prying into the details of what's bothering you. Though you're pretty sure she knows it's not just Brass.

You have to take the elevator down two floors to reach your destination and as the doors close the two of you in alone Catherine folds into you, her head crashing onto your shoulder. You wrap your arm around her shoulders and squeeze. The chasm that has existed between the two of you since you put on your wedding ring disappears for a moment. But then the elevator bumps to a stop and the space between you slides back as surely as the doors in front of you do.

You walk into the cafeteria as two separate people once more. You're standing next to the coffee station with a cup in each hand, waiting for Catherine when you spot her. Surprised, you check your watch and realize that you've been in the hospital or working your case for several hours now and it is quite reasonable for Tina to be here, in this cafeteria, taking a break.

She's sitting all alone and your first instinct is to go to her, but then Catherine nudges your shoulder and the contact reminds you why you're here. That thought leads to anger, because your wife has been in the hospital longer than you have and she hasn't come to check on you or your friends. You suppress the fact that there's no reason for her to know this either, until Catherine follows your gaze and makes the connection.

"Do you want to go talk to her?" she asks awkwardly.

Embarrassed to have put her in this sort of situation, you never planned to introduce her to Tina and you have no idea how Catherine's made the connection, you mumble something along the lines of, "I should."

She starts to step forward, but you stop her by turning your back to Tina, blocking Catherine's path. "Here, why don't you take these back to everyone else…You don't need to…"

The eyes looking up at you are wide, deep with emotion and understanding, much like the day she found out about your marriage, though the pain is better hidden. You want to kiss her, and in this moment it truly is only out of gratitude and friendship, but you don't because if you can see Tina then she can see you and you've already screwed things up enough recently. Instead, you hug Catherine briefly and as you pull back you whisper, "Thank you."

You watch Catherine begin to walk away before turning back to your wife. Only she is no longer alone. The man sitting next to her, chair pulled close enough so they are touching, is the man whose face haunts your marriage. Her laughter is the sound you hear in your dreams as the prison bars slam shut separating you from what you really want, because you are old-fashioned enough to want to work to hold to the commitment you made to Tina and to a God you've never quite stopped believing in. But suddenly reality snaps back into place, and there is no movie moment where her head lifts and you lock eyes across the room to let her know she's been found out.

Instead the clarity comes within you alone and in your anger you can finally focus on your friend lying nearly motionless in a hospital bed two floors above you. You move decisively, catching Catherine at the elevator and returning to your family.

And so the first wave of guilt had passed, but the anger remained. Anger is more your style. You learned long ago how to carry it deep inside you, how to hide it from your grandmother's watchful eyes. Most days you would've gone to the gym or the shooting range and released your anger on an inanimate object, something that couldn't get hurt in the crossfire. But these days have been anything but normal.

It's the middle of the day as you pull into Catherine's driveway after a silent drive back from the hospital. Brass has awoken briefly and he is stable for the moment and while Grissom, and probably Sara, aren't going anywhere for a while, everyone else had decided that a change of clothes and some sleep were in order. Catherine cracks open her door and shifts to leave but something stops her.

Without turning to look at you, she asks, "Would you like to come in for a little while?"

The tension coiling between you as she hovers, awaiting your answer, reminds you why you avoid being alone with her after hours, and you can't help but think that maybe you aren't so different from Grissom; you're so invested in what you have that you're afraid to risk it for the next step. It was the reason you turned to Tina after all.

You know you should go home and face the music, but you're tired and angry and you've just lived through another nightmare that only the people you work with will ever understand. The desire not to be home alone wins out and you open your door. You walk around to help Catherine out of the car and follow her into the empty house.

"Coffee?" she asks as she heads for the kitchen without waiting for an answer.

You collapse into the couch without pointing out that coffee is probably the last thing either of you needs. It is the routine of the motions she needs as she putters around the kitchen; the sounds comforting and familiar regardless of who's making them. The clatter of something shattering breaks the calm and you run for the kitchen.

"Cath?" you call.

You round the corner into the kitchen and skid to a stop. Catherine is standing in front of the sink, hands clutching the counter, glass coffee pot shattered at her feet. You pick your way over to her and lay a hand on her shoulder. The face she turns your way is streaked with tears and the hand she lifts to wipe them away is trembling.

"This is," she begins. "They said he's going to be fine."

A sob breaks free on her final word and as she collapses into you, you slide your arms around her waist and lift her up, away from the glass and turn. You try to put her down and step back before the moment of comfort becomes something more, but her arms have found their way around your neck and she does not want to let go. She's weeping into your shoulder in a display of emotions the likes of which you haven't seen since Eddie's death, and because you need this as much as she does you shift your hold, one arm under her legs, the other supporting her shoulders and carry her back to the couch.

"Ssh, it's okay. Brass is going to be okay," you whisper against her ear as you walk.

You stumble to the couch and lower yourself into a corner; her back against an arm rest, her legs stretched out across your lap. You hold Catherine tightly as tears begin to travel down your cheeks to mix with hers and you allow your bodies the release you'd both denied yourselves at the hospital.

Gratitude, anger, and pain mixed together with exhaustion and desire make for a heady combination, but the exhaustion had been strongest. Now when you think about it you realize that certain things had become inevitable the moment you walked into her home, but at the time you hadn't planned for them to happen, at least not consciously.

It isn't the hand playing in your hair that wakes you. Nor is it the hand trailing down your chest. What wakes you is the nip of teeth on your neck and the smooth, wet slide of tongue that follows. You don't remember falling asleep, but you must have dozed off because you have no idea when Catherine managed to shift herself so that she is settled solidly in your lap. Something in the set of your body alerts her to your waking because she is already looking up at you when you turn your gaze down to her. You can't resist the myriad of emotions hiding behind the sleepy desire in her eyes and you lean down and capture her lips with yours.

This is it; your moment has finally come. The first meeting of lips is soft and sweet, comfortable. Mouths open. Tongues tangle. Barely acknowledged emotions bubble to the surface. As the kiss deepens, your arms warp around her and pull her chest flush against yours. She swings her leg around so that she is now straddling your lap. The thought that you're too old for couch sex flits across your mind, but it's quickly brushed away by the feeling of Catherine's hand slipping under your shirt and across bare skin. Your left hand lifts from her hips to slide across her cheek and push her hair away from you, while holding her closer.

But then she freezes and you can't figure out why her hands are being pulled out from under your shirt and rising to remove your hands from her. Then she takes your left hand and holds it up between you, rubbing her thumb over your wedding ring.

"I…we…" you begin to stammer excuses as you move to slide the unwanted reminder off your finger.

Again she stops you.

"You had a fight?"

You nod.

"You accused her of cheating and she got defensive?"

"And then I told her not to bother coming home. Cath, how did you…" You sigh, realizing exactly how she knows. She's lived through it before.

She places a light kiss on your palm before sliding off your lap and stepping away from the couch. "You should go."

You scrub your hands over your face; feel the cool slide of the metal of your ring against your skin. You place your hands on your knees and prepare to stand, but you can't take your eyes off the band of gold that now defines you. They say the first year is often the hardest on newly weds and you wonder, as you have many times, if maybe you should stick it out a little longer. But sitting here, on Catherine's couch, her taste lingering on your lips, the ghost of her hands haunting you, you finally decide that it's not worth it.

You push yourself from the couch and head for the door. She's not far behind you, and you stop with your hand on the doorknob and turn back to her. You want to explain to her, to assure her that things will work themselves out, that you've finally made the right decision. You reach out and trail your fingertips down her cheek. The words you want to sound strong and sure, come out in a raspy whisper, "Cath…I…"

She shakes her head firmly and cuts you off. "No. Not like this. I will not let you make the same mistake twice."

You pull in a deep breath and square your shoulders as you open the door. Just outside the door you turn back to her once more, but this time no words come. The look on her face is one you haven't seen much in the past year. A speculative look that you used to see when you'd catch her studying you in the quiet moments when she thought you weren't paying attention. It's a measuring look, as if she's been waiting for years, trying to decide if you're really the man she wants you to be.

It seems to be a day for decisions as she closes her eyes and nods sharply to herself. Her eyes blink open and she speaks, "Go home Warrick. Straighten this out. I'll still be here tomorrow and you still owe me dinner."

The sound of the door shutting releases you and you step towards your car. Decisions have been made; lines drawn. It's time to face the world and move on, because giving up, giving in, is the cowards way out.

In the end it's not the guilt or the anger that forces your hand. It's the desire to live your life honestly, to honor the way you were raised. And you're glad. A year ago your best friend almost died as you watched, despite your efforts to save him, and in the aftermath you made a mistake and married a stranger. Two days ago another friend almost died and you've realized that now is the time to fix things, your second chance, time for picking up the pieces.

The End