Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Note: See Part One; some character history in this chapter is probably fanon. I say probably because I haven't been able to confirm it yet. It's nothing too radical to upset any canon based storylines. You may not even notice it. A huge thank you for the reviews and comments. I wasn't sure what the reactions to this piece would be, so I'm happy they were overwhelming supportive. stareagle, your review was pretty much right on the money. Thank you.

The Irony of It All

by e-dog

Part Five: You can't help but laugh.

The locker room is empty. Eerie quiet engulfs you, leaving you alone with your thoughts. "Alone" being the operative word there. You are alone. With your thoughts. You'd rather be stuffed into a blender filled with photographic fixer solution and rusty nails. Now that would be heaven compared to the dark catacombs of your mind. Unfortunately, all you have left is your mind and your thoughts. The last 24 hours replaying in your head.

Go to Grissom, she said. You have a mess to fix, she said. She also pointed out your innate ability to put yourself into very difficult situations, limiting your choices and mobility. Still, nothing she said outweighed the moment she touched you. Skin melting into skin as she caressed your cheek with baby soft hands. She was right. You didn't make things easy for anyone.

Grissom has decided he needs more than a break from you. He needs to get away from you. He didn't say it so harshly, of course, but it was finally clear to him that your heart was not completely his. He believed you when you said you loved him. He said he never doubted that at all. He knew that you loved him. What he told you was, "You just need time to figure out what you want, dear. I think we both need time for that."

He's been requested to take a sabbatical, his great entomology knowledge ready to be passed down to avid youths of the college variety. You can't help but laugh. When you had met Grissom all those years, he was on loan to your school. A small stint at your local college. You were first in line to sign up for his class and the last student to leave each day. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now he's up and off to start that cycle all over again. You can't help but wonder who the "new girl" will be. Yes, you know this cynical line of thinking is unhealthy, but that's what you were back then. The lonely, smart, needy student he happily took under his wing and nurtured into a genius. Well, maybe not a genius, but his teachings brought you pretty damn close. You have no doubt he could do it again.

Okay, stop it. Grissom is not that cruel. You're just bitter.

Still, you can't help but laugh. How did you sucker yourself into believing hero worship was love? How did you convince him of the same thing?

Well, it was love. At some point, you fell in love with him. You fell in love and it was good. Good for a while, at least. Maybe it wasn't meant-to-be love or anything like that, but you were in love with him and he with you. Now you just love him and that's all. You love him the way you should have from the very beginning. It's just love.

Needless to say, you messed up. You really messed up. On top of that, you still don't know what you want.

You sit on the hard, cold bench and twiddle your thumbs and wonder why you haven't gone home yet. Shift is over. It's been over for a while and you should go home, but maybe you know what's at home waiting for you. Some wine for drinking. Shaded windows to block out all signs of life. Maybe you would like that, but maybe that's not what you need. What you need is a friend.

"You look like you could use a drink," he says, his voice a bit dank, even for him. You wonder if everything is alright at home with Tina.

You turn to Warrick, watching him dig in his locker for his belongings. He glances at you, his eyes heavy but his lips flirt on the edge of smiling and you accept his invitation. "Yeah, maybe just one drink."

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

You surprise yourself sometimes. The beer you have ordered is still full. Not a drop has touched your lips, but oh, have your lips done some talking! Who knew that drunken monologues could be spoken without the aid of alcohol?

"I got lost somewhere along the way. I mean, I know what you've probably heard around the lab. It's not true. In fact, after the way I've acted, I can't imagine she would even want to keep up this little bit of a friendship we have. She's probably lost all respect for me.

It's just. . .I was lonely, Warrick. I had been for some time and when he came to me, I couldn't say no. I tell myself that I let him in that night because I was worried. I tell myself that I was trying to help him, but really, I think I was trying to help me. I wanted to feel loved. I wanted to feel wanted. I kept thinking about my wants and I never really thought about his.

With her, though, it was different. Sure, I wanted to be around her, but my concern for her well-being trumped all of my other desires. I won't lie. My concern did fuel my need for her, but she always came first. When it was just the two of us, she always came first. . ."

You don't really know what you said next, maybe Warrick doesn't know either, but he listens to you. He listens to you and you can't help but feel he understands you. In some strange way, he truly understands you.

"I always figured you had a thing for him," Warrick muses, sipping his beer gingerly. "Just never thought you'd act on it."

You smile, "He had pretty much shut me down and I had accepted it. Trust me, we didn't think so either."

You take the first sip of beer and it tastes bittersweet. It tastes like loss. You can't drink anymore.

"You know, I think we all love her. We love her in our own way," Warrick half smiles, putting his drink down. "I think Greg likes her for, well, her beauty. She's a beautiful woman, inside and out. She mothers him, I think. Nick, well, they've always been close. From the beginning. As for me, let's just say there was this flicker, this chance. I really wanted to but. . .the man who would've taken her home and ravished her all night long, he didn't exist anymore. I had grown up a little since my wild days. Not to mention, she was my immediate supervisor at the time."

You both laugh, considering you didn't seem to mind the rules surrounding subordinates and their superiors when you kissed Grissom. This also sheds a little light on the Warrick situation. At one point, they both thought they had something...then came the mysterious wedding. The fantasy was lost. Maybe Warrick understands you because he looked a gift horse in the mouth. Maybe he wants to keep you from making the same mistake.

You sigh heavily, "I don't know what I'm doing."

"Does anyone really know?" he counters thoughtfully, tipping up his glass to finish off the last drops. He sets it down and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He waves his hand for another. His eyes seem to grow distant as he repeats, "No one really ever knows, Sara."

You chuckle nervously and confess, "I'm scared."

He agrees, "She is a scary woman."

"I'm scared I'll mess this up. I've already messed this up."

"The worst she can do is say no," he shrugs. "After that, then you know."

You nod, before joking lightly, "Hey, when did you become Dr. Phil?"

"When I got married," he smiles back, then adds, "And, hey, I just call 'em like I see 'em."

You sort of groan at the thought of talking with Catherine again. You don't know how to face her now that you are officially single and Grissom free. You had grown accustomed to the fact that she didn't know about you. She's going to treat you differently now, you know this.

However, talking with Catherine is really not the worst of it. You put your head in your hands and mumble, "What really sucks is that everyone at the lab now knows a little bit of something about my love life."

Warrick laughs, "Hey, we all know a little bit of something about everyone, or at least we think we know. All depends which one of us accidently says the wrong thing. Then, all hell breaks lose."

You nod, knowing Nick is a prime example of that fact. Something still nags you though. You look up and state, "You're not mad at me."

"Should I be?" Warrick asks, his brow furrowing in confusion.

You shrug, "I've been getting. . .mixed reactions to the whole Grissom thing. Cath didn't seem too surprised. Nick tried to lecture me and you. . .you don't seem to care either."

Warrick purses his lips together, playing with the label on his drink. Finally, he holds up his hand and shows off his wedding band. "Did I ever tell you how this happened?"

You smile, "Like me, you kept most of those details to yourself, Warrick. I don't think anyone at the lab really knows how it happened."

"She knows," Warrick says resignedly. You know which 'she' he is addressing. "She wasn't too happy about it, actually. Not at first. I told her that what happened to Nick made me think. Life's too short, Sara."

You think about what he's just said, but still look up confused.

He half laughs, explaining, "Tina and I had been dating a few months. Barely enough time to get to know one another. The marriage happened in one of those blurry, drunken love moments, you know? This is longest relationship I've ever had and you know what? I love her. I guess what I'm saying is. . .life really is too short. You can't spend all your time playing by the rules. You gotta take what you want before you can't have it anymore."

You seem to understand now why Warrick doesn't care about your relationship with Grissom. He took a chance with Tina fearful that a happily-ever-after marriage would never happen for him. He took a chance on Tina while burning other relationships in the process. You aren't the only one who has shut others out to be with your significant other. You and Warrick have more in common than you thought.

You smile sardonically, tipping your glass toward his, "Live for the day. To hell with the consequences."

"Exactly," he smiles back, clinking his glass to yours. You both take long swigs of the amber liquid. He puts his drink down and talks with a soft, far off voice. It's as if this voice is only meant for you. "I made a decision. I didn't think about the future. I didn't think about what others would think of me. I just did it. I think I burned some bridges along the way, but I can't say I regret that. You did that with Grissom."

You nod, "Yeah, I did."

"So, what's different with Catherine?" he poses.

You pause. What is different with Catherine? You finish off your drink, then smile, "Thanks, Warrick. I needed this."

"That's what friends are for," he smiles back.

You go to stand up, then fall back down into your seat. You feel waves of your conversation with Nick wash over you. Friends. Loyalty. Communication. Warrick is looking at you curiously, as you turn back to him and say, "We are friends, Warrick. I don't want to hear stuff about you through the grapevine. The next time you decide to go get married, you can tell me. We don't have to keep secrets from each other."

"Sara," he sighs.

"I mean it, Warrick," you smile softly. You grab his hand, "Nick and Greg didn't know me because I wouldn't let them know me. We need to start talking again. Really talking, all of us."

He sees your shy smile and he chuckles, but his tightening grip on your hand tells you he's grateful for the invitation. He misses all of you too. He bites his lower lip, before countering, "Okay. Okay, I can do that if you can. But the next time you make it happen with one our co-workers, you can tell me." Then he adds cheekily, "Which I have a good feeling is going to happen again very soon."

You blush involuntarily which makes him laugh again. Before you can say anything, he waves at you to get moving, "Go get her, girl."

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

So you have found yourself, once again, outside Catherine's home. The engine is running. You've been obsessively checking the time every thirty seconds. Drinks with Warrick ran longer than expected. Catherine could very well be asleep by now, resting up for the next shift. This may not be the best time to. . .to what, exactly? Say I love you? Officially announce your break-up with Grissom?

No, probably not the best time.

Of course, that begs the question, when is the best time? Considering how your other relationships have somewhat self destructed, now or never should be the ultimate attitude, right? Look at recent events.

Greg had to snoop around the lab to get any dirt on you because you had stopped talking to him.

Nick spread a rumor about you because you had neglected to keep an eye on him. You neglected to check up on him.

Today was the first time you and Warrick had exchanged more than two sentences that didn't involve forensics!

Oh, and then there's Catherine. The only reason you have any kind of relationship with her is because you finally initiated one. Sure, it was driven by undeniable feelings consisting of a mixture of love and concern, but you had finally woken up and seen the world outside of you and Grissom.

You woke up. You exit your vehicle because now is the best time. Yes, now is the best time for so many reasons.

It took her phone call. It took her call for help to pull you out of the haze and you have to thank her for that. You have to say thanks because you suddenly remembered there were others in your life that you cared about. You remembered that others cared about you and then you couldn't stop remembering. You had to take care of her. You had to be her friend. You had to help her through it all because it was the only way to stay awake.

Awake. Is she even awake? Will she hear the doorbell as you stand here waiting? No answer. Maybe she isn't even here. You turn on your heel and go to walk away, but you stop when you hear the latch on the door give way. You turn back just in time to see her door swing open and there she is. You smirk thinking you could get used to this sight, a sleepy Catherine wrapped up in a robe, hair slightly mused. Unfortunately, she's not as amused as you are.

"Christ, Sara, do you know what time it is?" she mutters, shielding her eyes from the midday sun.

You check your watch and relay, "It's nearly noon. Lunch time for all those normal folks who have daytime jobs."

"Yeah, well, we don't have daytime jobs." she reminds you coldly. She's definitely a grouch first waking up, isn't she?

"I know, I know, I just had to see you," you say, stepping forward. You add solemnly, "It couldn't wait."

Her expression unchanged, she opens the door wider to let you in. She's mumbling to herself as she ushers you toward the couch, then she disappears upstairs to those unknown chambers above you.

You sit on the couch, sinking into the cushions and that's when you notice. The house is clean. No. It's spotless. The complete opposite of how it was the last time you were here. The wood furniture shines and the brass fixtures sparkle. You suspect a maid service has been through here, the slight stench of heavy duty cleaners lingering in the air, but does that matter? The house is clean and that means Catherine is doing more than just moping around wallowing in self pity.

You snuggle between the pillows and her scent is all over everything because naturally this all belongs to her. You shut your eyes, a pleasant weariness settling over you. You really do like it here.

You hear a creak and your eyes snap open and she's on the stairs, leaning on the rail. She's in sweats and a tank top and she's decidedly more awake as she half grins at you. You think she might have teased her hair a bit, because it doesn't look like bed head anymore, but it's not perfect yet either. She scolds lightly, "You wake me up so you can crash on my couch?"

You would like to move and show how energized you still are, but alas, your tired limbs like the comfy surroundings and refuse to budge. You suppress a yawn and say, "It's a nice couch."

She gracefully finishes her descent, snags a blanket off a rocking chair along the way as she walks over to you. She goes to cover you up and you say in quiet protest, "No...I'm not tired, Cath. I want to talk to you."

Your yawn betrays you and she can only glance at you sidelong, her brows rising ever so slightly in skepticism. She points at your feet and orders, "Shoes off."

"But. . .," you object.

"Shoes. Off," she repeats, her tone sending chills down your spine. So, this must be what Lindsey feels like when she's scolded. You immediately remove your boots, praying no mysterious odors are escaping the dark depths of your footwear. She kicks at your feet with a socked foot of her own, indicating she wants you to lay out on the couch. So you do and then she covers you with the blanket.

"Get some rest, Sara. I know you don't get enough sleep."

How is it she knows so much about you? You tug at the blanket some, bringing it up to your chin before calling out sleepily, "Catherine?"

"Hmm?" she replies, turning back to you. She kneels down next to the couch to look you better in the eyes.

"Thanks," you half smile.

"Oh, you can crash here anytime, Sara," she shrugs.

"No, I mean, thank you," you repeat. "For. . .for putting up with me."

She just smiles and nods, "Yeah, you should thank me for that."

You laugh lightly, then close your eyes because sleep is now inevitable. You feel her fingers run through your hair once, before she pulls away from the couch completely and softly walks away. Before you know it, you're fast asleep.

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

She's in the kitchen when you wake.

You sleepily shuffle toward her and the fresh scent of coffee. She's holding a full mug when you reach her and you smile into the cup as you take the first sip. Perfect. The aroma immediately energizes you and you open your eyes completely. She's left your sight, taking a seat at the table with her own cup o' joe and a newspaper. Reluctantly, you join her, a coldness falling over the whole room. You feel nothing good can come of this.

"Are you okay?" she asks. Her question is deadpan, once again giving you no verbal clues to her emotional state.

"Sure, I guess," you answer quietly. This already feels like an interrogation. Not good.

"Is he okay?"

Her question makes you wonder about the consequences of answering truthfully. Grissom and Cath were good friends before you showed up and they still are. Telling her how Grissom is really doing could result in a verbal or physical assault. Something you'd like to avoid. Still, you can't very well lie to her about any of it. You're finished with holding secrets. You purse your lips, then answer, "He's dealing. I hurt him, but he's dealing."

Her first flickers of emotion shine in her eyes when she asks, "Has he hurt you?"

You nearly perform a double take, "Hurt me?"

"Yes, has he ever hurt you? It's a simple question, Sara," she pushes.

"Uh, no, not that I . . .," you stumble over your words, her hard stare crumbling your heart. You sigh heavily, "No, Cath. He didn't hurt me. He may have ignored me at times, but he never intentionally hurt me."

Catherine nods at you, analyzing your answer in her head. She sips some coffee before inquiring, "You do understand why I ask you this, right?"

You'd like to say, yes. Unfortunately, you haven't a clue, so you shake your head no.

"Remember how I told you that I was questioning the relationships in my life?" she reminds you. You nod this time. She continues, "That included you, Sara."

"What was there to question?" you say, leaning forward in your seat. "I've always been willing to help you."

"Hey, I know that now," she says, a hint of a smile on her lips. Her expression grows solemn again when she explains, "When Sam died, I was lost. I just didn't know where to go or what to do. Then you showed up. I don't know how or why you were there, but you were there. I'm not sure what I would've done with myself if you hadn't. With everything that had happened, it was you who kept me afloat."

You don't know if she's thanking you or just pointing out a coincidence. You fiddle with the handle on your mug and say softly, "I wanted to help you."

"Why?" she asks sharply. "Why you? Why did you suddenly want to help me? Was it pity? Sympathy?"

"No," you shake your head.

"Then why, Sara?" she asks softly this time. Her voice is gentler now, "I could understand your wanting to drive me home that night. The night Sam died, I'm not sure allowing myself behind the wheel of any vehicle would've been smart. What I didn't understand was the sudden interest in me after that. Getting breakfast after shift, talking to me about your secret affair with Gil. Making me talk about the attack. All of that just seemed so out of character. . .it seemed so . . .."

"I was afraid," you interrupt her. "I was afraid you wouldn't want my help anymore. I was afraid you wouldn't want any help whatsoever. I didn't want to see you self-destruct. Not that I thought you were weak, but I could see you weren't handling it well. I did what I thought I had to."

"You still haven't told me why," she points out coyly. You go to protest, but she holds up a hand, "No, I believe you when you say you were afraid. It's just, I know that's not the whole truth."

"What do you want from me?" you ask, already emotionally spent for today. "What more can I say? That I did it out of love? Because I . . ."

You stop, realizing what words left your mouth and your jaw tenses. Catherine's mouth is slowly turning up into a knowing smile. She doesn't seem shocked by your omission. In fact, it's pretty damn obvious that was the answer she was expecting. You're not sure what to make of that. How could she have known you loved her? Were you that obvious?

"You said you were attracted to me, Sara. You told me I was 'the other guy'," Catherine informs you, her tone halfway between teasing and sympathetic. "From there, I just put the pieces together."

"Oh," you say, feeling silly. You don't really remember much of that conversation you shared with her yesterday. You remember the shock of Grissom's call. You remember the way you felt when she caressed your cheek. You hope you aren't blushing. You probably are, but you can at least hope you aren't. You laugh uncomfortably, "I guess there's not much more for me to confess."

"No," Catherine agrees, then begins to look a bit curious herself. Her eyes seem to shine with an unspoken hope as she asks quietly, "So, you love me?"

You nod, "Yeah, I do."

"While you still love Grissom?" she says, tilting her head to the side inquisitively. You don't know what to say because she's sort of right. She gives you another knowing smile, "Sara, while you are pathetically cute, I can't do this."

"You can't do this. . .," you repeat somewhat confounded. She was actually considering a 'this'? Then you ask dumbly, "Did you just call me cute?"

She's laughs, shaking her head at you. "Pathetically cute. You forgot the pathetic part."

"Right, pathetic," you amend, a sorrowfulness entering your heart now that you realize she will never be yours. She doesn't want to be yours. Now that you're here, you have to try. Now that all secrets are exposed, you can't give up that easily. "Cath, I need you."

She shakes her head again. "No, Sara. You need someone to lick your wounds and I won't be that temporary adhesive that holds you together until Gil decides he wants you back. I'm done with flings and one night stands. I need assurance."

She's got it all wrong, you want to say, but you don't have to say anything at all. Her eyes betray her. She wants what you want, you know it. She's just afraid you'll hurt her and you don't blame her for her cautiousness. Hell, you wouldn't want you right now, considering. It's just you know you'll go crazy thinking about her. You know she wants you and Grissom isn't here to cloud your mind. You'll go crazy thinking about her, knowing she wants you and that she won't let you have her. You'll go crazy. . .

"Sara, " she calls you. You look at her again. "I can't thank you enough for your friendship over the last few weeks. It's just, I can't give you more than that. I'm sorry."

"It's okay, Cath. I get it. It's okay," you say. It's the truth. It is okay. This whole arrangement is okay, as long as she is still in your life somehow. However, you are not okay. Your soul is not okay. You rub the back of your neck and confess, "It just hurts more than I thought it would."

"You loved him. Love hurts, darling," she says softly. Then she laughs sardonically at some inside joke you don't understand as she says, "Trust me. Love hurts."

You think she might be referring to you. You don't know why. Call it a selfish thought, but you can feel the waves of disappointment being directed at you. Love hurts. It hurts when people like you can't figure out where your heart belongs. Love hurts when you don't understand the meaning of the word.

"It wasn't the right kind of love," you frown.

She repeats, "You still loved him."

You look at her, locking onto her eyes and your soul begins to heal, slowly. You know, now, it'll take time to fix whatever you had with Grissom. It'll take time for her to trust her whole heart to you. It'll take time for you to rebuild all of your relationships again and time is suddenly your new best friend.

Suddenly, you feel that everything will be okay. If you try hard enough to keep the relationships you have, it will work out. Of course, your friends must do the same. You think Nick and Warrick are willing. Greg has no intention of ever abandoning you. You're fairly confident that Grissom would never cut all ties with you either. So that just leaves Catherine.

You ask her, "Are we okay, Catherine?"

She tilts her head to the side again, a hand running lazily through her hair as she ponders your question. After two long excruciating seconds, she replies, "Yeah, I think we're okay."

Suddenly, you can breathe again.

The End