I don't own CSI

Chapter 23

My butt is wet and the cold air has managed to work its way under my skin and straight to my organs. Logically, I know it's not possible for me to feel that my kidneys are cold, but logic isn't my main driving force right now. Catherine showed up about two minutes ago. Coincidentally, that's about the exact same time that Mom pushed herself out of my hold and stormed off further into the cemetery. She saw Catherine and suddenly decided she didn't want to be in anyone's presence anymore, mine included this time.

Catherine is holding her right hand out to me, offering me some assistance in getting off this cold wet ground. My kidneys tell me I should take her offered hand, but I can't quite manage to get up right now. I'm still trying to figure out all that occurred within the last one hundred and twenty seconds of my life.

Mom isn't crying in my arms anymore. She isn't clinging to me like I am the only thing grounding her onto this earth. She's not whispering apologies to me through labored breaths about my childhood. Somehow, the mere presence of Catherine gave Mom enough strength back that she could push away from me, push me away from her, stop her tears and get up like she had never fallen apart in the first place.

"Come on," Catherine still has her hand held out for me to take. "You can't be comfortable in those wet clothes."

"What the hell happened?" I decide to ask instead of continuing to try and force my brain into coming up with answers it just doesn't have right now.

Catherine shrugs, not looking nearly as confident about the situation as I hoped she would be. So, instead of asking any more questions, I reach out and take her hand and then let her pull me up from the ground. I look around us, waiting to see if Mom is going to jump out from somewhere and let us know that she really didn't mean to shove me to the ground and run off in a dramatic display that seems bizarrely fitting to this whole messed up situation.

"You shouldn't go chase her down," Catherine says as she wraps her jacket around me.

I shake my head a little. "I don't want to." I wouldn't know what to do once I caught up with her. I don't think there's anything that I can do. Catherine's supposed to chase her, not me. Isn't that why I bothered to call her out here in the first place? I've gotten stuck in a situation I can't handle, and I guess it's my turn to follow in my mother's footsteps and run away. "I think I'd just like to get back to Nikki."

Catherine gives me an understanding nod and tells me, "Nikki's waiting in the car." Looks like she's just going to let me run away.

"It's time for us to go home," I pull Catherine's jacket closer to my body, taking comfort in it for more reasons than just the extra warmth. "Mom will come back to Las Vegas when she's ready. She wouldn't abandon her work obligations."

"Mel don't," Catherine gives me only a slightly disapproving look and I know I should just nod and not let whatever bitter emotion is building inside of me to take control, but I'm suddenly feeling very angry about something and I only know that blaming Mom for whatever it is makes me feel slightly better.

"Don't what?" I step away from Catherine so that I don't have to look directly into her blue eyes. Seeing her disapproval right now just might be enough to get me to shut up and think about what I'm angry about. I don't feel like thinking. "Mom has lost her mind, Catherine. She's acting like a child."

"No," Catherine gives a slight shake of her head. "Mel, she's acting like someone who's in pain and is hurting."

"Okay," I say softly, probably not even loud enough for Catherine to hear me. "Fine. But as much as she is or isn't hurting right now, we still need to get back to Las Vegas. The world doesn't stop spinning because we're a family in crisis."

When I finally look at Catherine again, I can tell she's searching for something to tell me that will keep me in this cemetery full of empathy for my mother who just forcefully pushed me away from her. There's nothing she can say, though. It's hard to fight the truth.

If Mr. Grissom called Mom and Catherine to get them back to Las Vegas then he needs them there for a good reason. I'm sure even he knows it would be in bad taste to call them back after he got all tongue happy with my mother. He never really struck me as the type of guy that would bring them back on an emotional whim.

"I'm going to find her." Catherine straightens up her stance. This isn't the Catherine that I know as my second mother. This is the CSI Catherine that comes out to play when the other Catherine can't take control of a situation. "Go to Nikki and then go back to the hotel. Pick up Lindsey and then check us out."

"Are you going to meet us there?" It's a useless question. She's going to grab Mom then they're going to drive back to Vegas and then straight into work.

"Call us when you get back home."

I unwrap Catherine's jacket from around me then hand it back over to her. She puts it on and when her gaze meets mine again, I suddenly feel like I've done something incredibly bad. I made a decision and I think it was the wrong one.

"Go on," Catherine softly tells me. "I'll take care of your mother."

Yeah, I've screwed something up. I've done something wrong. Mom's the one who pushed me away from her and then stormed off. She's the one that ran away, and Catherine's the one that told me not to go after her. With the few options laid out to me and the anger already building inside, what the fuck was I supposed to do? What is it I did do? They told me they had to go back to Las Vegas for work. That was the plan before I reminded anyone of it.

"What just went wrong here, Catherine?" I want to understand. I don't want to make mistakes and then not make up for them or not try and correct them.

"You haven't done anything, Melinda." Catherine doesn't use my full name often. That must mean, that despite her words, I did do something wrong.

I feel completely defeated. I've lost. I'm being sent home. I should go to the car and tell Nikki what's happened. We should get back to Las Vegas and continue on with the lives we've all left. I can go back to school and drown in my studies. Nikki can go back to work and continue having sex with other people. Lindsey can do her paintings and everything can be perfect again as it's all falling apart.

It'll be like I haven't done anything at all. It'll be exactly like Catherine just said: 'You haven't done anything'. If Mom and I don't walk out of here together, then I don't know why I even bothered to take her here in the first place.

"Go on," Catherine tells me again.

I shake my head. "No."

"Melinda, don't be difficult."

"You should go back to Vegas, Catherine." I take a quick look around, already anticipating the difficulty I might run into while trying to find my mother. "I'm the one that brought Mom out and I should be the one to bring her back."

"Mel..."

"Don't," I wave her concern away. "I'm a big girl now, Catherine." I try and offer her a smile that isn't too weak, that doesn't expose the bits of me that make me look broken.

"You called me." It's not a gentle reminder, and it makes it perfectly clear that Catherine will always see my broken pieces no matter how hard I try to hide them.

"I did," It'd be pretty stupid of me to try and deny that now. "I called you for Mom," I admit. "I wanted you to make it all better, but you can't."

Catherine takes a step away from me and looks at me like I've just slapped her across the face. In a way, perhaps I have. I know I have. But, all I have left right now is my honesty. We can't keep up the lies any longer. "I thought I called you out here for Mom," I correct my earlier statement. "But she didn't need you Cath." I look down as I kick at the coagulated dirt. "She needs me," I whisper. "I'm the one that needs you. This whole time," I sigh, "this whole fucking time she just needed me and I keep shoving other people out in front of me towards her hoping they can handle the shit that I can't."

Somehow I manage not to jump out of my skin when Catherine's hands cup my face and force me to look at her. "I love your mother, more than anything." She's crying and I know that I'm responsible for it. "But, I've always known that I was…I'm not enough to help her." Her thumbs caress my cheeks and then her hands drop away, and she moves away from me.

Suddenly, I'm reminded of those few short days ago when Catherine was standing across from me admitting to me that she was worn down and worn out. She was going to leave it up to me to help my mother, and so fast forward to the here and now and all I've managed to do is make Catherine use up all the strength she didn't have left to give, but gave to me anyway.

Her back is turned to me now, and I don't know what she's thinking or even really what she's doing, but I close the physical barrier between us and wrap my arms around her. I pull her to my body and will my body heat to warm up all the bits of her that are cold and tired. "I've let you down, Mom," I softly admit.

Her body begins to shake and I know that she's crying, so I tighten my arms around her. "Go home," I tell her. "Do what you need to do; I'll get Sara."

Catherine's hands rise and wipe at her face, her tears still being hidden from me. "You haven't let me down," she finally protests, it coming too late for me to rightfully believe.

"No," I sigh, "I have, and I'm sorry." I close my eyes, doing my best to force away my own tears. Now isn't a good time for them. "I've been stumbling over one bad decision after another hoping I'd eventually stumble into something…better." I laugh self-deprecatingly. "It's not getting better."

Catherine laughs with me. "Welcome to adulthood," she says as she turns around in my arms.

"Can I resign my commission?" I ask, as I put some distance between us and let my arms drop away from holding her up.

"It's a lifelong appointment," she tells me. "I haven't figured out a way to give it up yet."

"Fuck," I mutter, "that sucks."

Silence rests between us for a moment while we each blatantly stare at each other. I don't know what Catherine's looking at or for, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't know what I'm seeking to find from within her either. But, we can't stand here forever. My mother is out here somewhere, upset and lonely and it's my responsibility to find her. It's my responsibility to help her the best I can, because whether it's fair or not, I'm the only one that can do it. I'm the only one she'll let do it.

"Are you two alright?" Nikki's voice calls from behind me. "Where's Sara?" I guess she got tired of waiting in the car.

Finally, I turn away from Catherine and face the woman who's, for the most part, been needlessly drug out into this whole mess. "She ran off," I say as I move closer to her. "I'm about to go looking for her."

"Do you need help?" She immediately offers.

Despite everything that's just happened, I want to tell Niki that I do want her help. I want to beg her to not leave me alone to deal with my mother on my own anymore. I want her to take me from this graveyard and drive me back to Las Vegas. I want her to be my ticket out of this…like she's always been.

Before I can open my mouth to say anything, Catherine steps up beside me and places her hand on my arm. My eyes turn to her, and I can tell she's giving me permission to back out. She's letting me know that if I ask Nikki for help then she's not going to hold anything against me. She doesn't expect me to do this all on my own, and if this whole situation was etched in little black and white lines without any of the gray that's colored its insides, then I'd take Catherine's permission and run with it. But, the pieces are all gray now, and there's hardly any black and white left.

For me, I know I need to do this alone. I need to make peace with my mother. I need this, Sara needs this. "You need to go back to Las Vegas." I step out of Catherine's hold only so that I can move closer to Nik. "I need to finish here with my mother."

Nikki looks confused, and it's understandable why she would feel that way. She's been left out of the loop on this whole conversation. She doesn't know what's going on, and I'm not entirely sure she ever really did. She was just doing what she could because that's what she's always done for me.

Looking in her eyes now, kind of makes me wonder when it'll really be her turn for me to be completely in her corner. When will I be able to make all the sacrifices for her instead of it constantly being the other way around?

"I'll see you both in Vegas." I step away from them both. I won't offer any goodbye hugs because I know that the moment I step into their arms, I'll let them drag me off with them. I'll let them aid me in running away and shielding me from these particular realities of my life.

Nikki tries to take a step towards me, but Catherine intercepts her by taking a hold of her hand. Nikki looks at her, trying to decipher the situation, and eventually backs off. She trusts Cath, she always has. "Call me," she orders.

"Of course." I wink at her, trying to let her know that things probably aren't as dire as they may currently appear.

Cath and I share another look before they both turn away and then leave me alone in this stupid, cemetery alone. I take a look around, hoping to get some kind of unearthly sense of where my mother might have run away to but I guess my psychic powers don't exist, because I have no clue where she might be and have no gut feeling of which direction to head in.

It'd take me less time to catch up to Cath and Nik then it would for me to seek out my little runaway. But, since I've already chosen to make things much more difficult than necessary, I force myself to not follow in Cath's and Nik's foot steps. Instead, I choose a direction that seems good enough, take in a deep breath, and then start walking, with my mother's name drifting off the edges of my tongue.