Chapter 2

She didn't think anything could make her more nauseous then the sight of a bucket full of saliva. She was wrong. A car trunk full of liquefied human trumped saliva any day. If she wasn't already a vegetarian, she would have become one about two seconds after Grissom's "crackpot" analogy.

"Well, if that's where she was shot, there might be bullets and casings. I say we process the car in place. Let's get rolling." Sophia stated. Sara wondered if she realized that she spoke more like the CSI she had been than the detective she was now.

"Area is uncontrolled," Sara disagreed. "We need to get this back to the lab."

"Car condom." Grissom said with a smirk. Sophia looked confused at his seemingly nonsense comment. Sara grinned, knowing that he agreed with her analysis of the situation.

"I'll get the plastic wrap." As she opened the trunk of the SUV to retrieve a large roll of plastic, Grissom knelt down on the pavement to get a look at the underside of the car.

"What, exactly, is a car condom? I've never heard the term before." Sophia asked.

"Did you ever play any pranks as a teenager?" Grissom asked in return. Brushing his hands together to get rid of the small rocks that clung to them, he stood up.

"I might have TP'd a house or two," Sophia admitted.

"The idea of the car condom came from another common prank. We wrap the car in layers of plastic wrap. It makes a nice tight seal, and nothing gets through until we cut it off at the lab."

"My brother did that once, but he and his friends added a layer of honey as they wrapped up my neighbors car. He was grounded for weeks when my parents found out." Sara handed the roll of plastic to Grissom and began sealing the doors with bright orange stickers. Grissom watched her carefully, and wondered if he should respond, or leave her casual reference alone. It was the first time he ever remembered her voluntarily mentioning a member of her family. If it had been him in her place, he wouldn't want any questions, and decided only to focus on the task.

"Ready?" Finding the end of the plastic, he held it tightly in on hand as he passed the roll to Sara. They quickly developed a rhythm, passing the plastic back and forth, over and under, around and around until the entire car was completely enshrouded.

"So, who had to work this case?" Sara inquired.

"You." Even with the whole team back together, today had them stretched a little thin.

"Grissom, I'm already ... I mean there is ... can't I...?" She really did not want to go fishing around for evidence in what Catherine had dubbed 'man juice.'

"You can have Greg. Take the front of the car and give him the trunk. Unless you want the trunk."

"He's going to love this." She was relieved that she wouldn't have to do the worst of it. She didn't think she could smile big enough to suppress her gag reflex.

"It's a time honored tradition to give newbies the dirtiest jobs."

"What did you have to do when you started as a CSI?" Sara couldn't help asking.

"You don't want to know."

"Come on, Griss. Tell me."

"Have you thought about Friday?"

"What?" Thrown by the sudden change in conversation, it took her a minute to figure out what he was talking about.

"The Renaissance exhibit."

"Yes, I have. I..."

"The tow truck is here. You guys ready to head back to the lab?" Sophia queried. Grissom picked up his case and followed the two women to the SUV. Call it fate, timing, or The Powers That Be; someone was against him asking Sara on a date.

II

"Can we talk?" When Warrick gestured at the plain gold band on his finger, Catherine wanted to shake her head and continue with her analysis of the crime scene. She's already done that once today, though, and she can't do it to him again. Whatever else has happened, he's a friend. She couldn't avoid him any longer.

"Sure." She had to force herself to turn away from the table and give him her full attention. When he spoke of Nick, and life being short, she understood completely what he meant. If there was anyone who knew what it's like to live in the moment, it was Catherine. When she said that she was happy for him, she genuinely meant it. He deserved happiness, and someone to go home to at the end of shift.

"It also feels like you're not so happy for me." From someone else she might have been able to hide her true feelings, but not him. Maybe it was the fact that they both grew up in Vegas and were never blinded by the sparkle, but he understood her in ways that no one else did. It was one of the reasons that she had harbored the dream that someday they might be more than friends and coworkers.

"Warrick..." she took her time, searching for the right words. She owed him the truth. "You know, the thing that makes a fantasy great is the possibility that it might come true. And when you lose that possibility ... it just kind of sucks."

Without giving him a chance to respond, she returned to the aerial photo and wrote down the names of the cross streets on a pad of paper. Ripping the top sheet away, she muttered an excuse and left the room. Warrick rubbed the back of his ring with his thumb as he watched her leave.

Catherine stared the piece of paper in her hand as she walked down the hall, using it as a shield to keep from making eye contact with anyone. Her ruse worked until she rounded the hallway corner and ran straight into Jim Brass.

"Where's the fire?" he asked as he kept her from falling with a hand under her elbow.

"Sorry, Jim. I wasn't looking where I was going." It only took a glance to tell that it was something more than that, but Brass decided not to ask. If Catherine wanted to share, she would. "So, what has you in such a hurry that you're flying around corners and knocking poor defenseless people down?"

"I did not knock you down. Nor would anyone consider you defenseless." Calmer now, Catherine remembered the address she had written down. "Actually, I could use your help. Could you look up a location for me?"

"Certainly," Brass agreed. Nevermind that he had actually been on his way to an interview. The suspect could cool his jets for a few more minutes. "Let's go into my office." Side by side, they walked down the hall.

II

If Greg hadn't stopped at his office doorway to ask for a ride, Grissom probably would have forgotten about his promise to join Nick and Warrick for breakfast. In truth, he wasn't sure if he was ready to see Nick so soon after listening to the recovered audiotape. He felt as if the words he listened to repeatedly were now tattooed on his skin, and Nick would only have to look at him to know the truth. Walter Gordon had an accomplice; someone alive and walking around town.

"I have a few things to finish up. You should find someone else." With a nod Greg agreed, and disappeared down the hallway. Grissom stared at the pile of paperwork, and contemplated 'forgetting' about breakfast again.

"Are you coming?"

"Greg, I said that I..." Grissom looked up from his doorway and found Sara grinning at him.

"I know it's been a long shift, but I hope I don't look that bad," she joked.

"I'm sorry, Sara. I was lost in thought. Greg was here a minute ago, and I thought he had come back."

"Greg caught a ride with Brass. I was on my way to join them."

"You're going to breakfast?" He didn't know why he was surprised, but he was.

"Wouldn't miss it. How often do you get to celebrate the marriage of a friend? Plus, it's been too long since we've done breakfast as a team."

"It has been." Taking a deep breath, Grissom tried to push away his dark thoughts. Sara was right. Today was about celebrating. Warrick and the team deserved it, and he could pretend for a few hours that everything was good. Locking his desk drawer and ignoring the paperwork that was piled too high, Grissom joined Sara at the open doorway. He was about to walk past her when she stopped him with two fingers pressed gently against his upper arm.

"So, this thing on Friday; what time should I be ready?"

"Seven," Grissom replied without pausing. Sara smiled at him and he returned the grin. It looked like he wouldn't have to pretend to celebrate after all.

II

"Lindsey, I'm home." Catherine set her purse down on the table next to the door and slid out of her shoes. It had been one hell of a shift, both physically and emotionally. She had been glad of the excuse of taking her daughter to school to avoid the invitation of breakfast with the rest of the crew. It would have been too much, too soon.

"Linds, are you almost ready for school?" Carrying her shoes in her hand, she almost walked past the living room when a movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. She turned to find her daughter on the couch. She wasn't alone. Sitting on the couch, she was lip locked with a boy Catherine had never seen before.

"Interesting method of studying," Catherine remarked sarcastically.

"Mom." Lindsey untangled herself quickly. "I thought you'd be at work until later."

"Clearly."

"Yo, babe. I've gotta go. Catch you later, 'kay." A kiss to the cheek and the mystery boy was gone.

"Who is that, Lindsey? I haven't seen him around school." She struggled to keep her voice even, and her temper in cheek. She had made it very clear that there were to be no boys in the house when no adult was home. She wasn't naive enough to believe that Lindsey wouldn't break some rules, but this was too much.

"He doesn't go to school," Lindsey muttered.

"What?" He had looked a little older then Lindsey, but not that old.

"He doesn't go to school," Lindsey repeated. "He graduated in June."

"He what?" Catherine exclaimed.

"He graduated from school..."

"Yeah, I caught that part. What are you doing dating a guy who's already out of school? You just turned fourteen."

"We're not dating. Not really. We're just hanging out."

"Just hanging out? You were sitting in an empty house, playing tonsil hockey with a guy. That's not just hanging out. Where did you met this guy?'

"He's not 'this guy.' He has a name, you know. It's Frankie."

"Okay, how did you meet Frankie?"

"He's a friend of Jamie's brother."

"Jamie's brother, the dealer at the Palms?" She didn't like the sound of that.

"Yes."

"And does that mean that Frankie is also a dealer at the Palms?" This was sounding worse and worse.

"No. He's not eighteen for a couple more months. Right now he's a runner." Catherine rubbed her hand across her forehead.

"I don't like that. I want you to stop seeing him."

"Well that's too bad, because I'm not going to," Lindsey shouted as she ran out of the room and down the hallway.

"Yes, you will," Catherine followed her down the hall.

"I'll see who ever I damn well want to, and there's nothing you can do about it." Lindsey slammed the door of her bedroom behind her. Catherine reopened the door and stormed into the room.

"Not while you live under my roof. You are my daughter and if I say you can't see him, then that's it."

"I don't care what you say. I will see him."

"He's not good for you, Linds. Among other things, he's too old. Four years is a huge difference at your age," Catherine lectured.

"Yeah, like you're any kind of character judge. What happened to the last guys you've dated?" Catherine winced as Lindsey threw out the accusation. Her dating record was anything but stellar, and she already felt a little hypocritical without Lindsey's reminder.

"We're not talking about me, we're talking about you, and I'm telling you that you are not to see Frankie again." Leaving the room, Catherine closed the door behind her and crossed the hall into her own room. Sinking onto the bed, she let her head fall into her hands. What was she going to do?