Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Note: Trying out another pairing. Again. ;)

Summary: He intertwined his fingers with hers, squeezed them gently and suddenly wished she would look at him like that everyday. Catherine/Vartann; Post Viva Las Vegas

As Luck Would Have It

by e-dog

It just by chance he found her there, standing alone.

To say that this was random was clearly an understatement. It was a gas station of all places! A grungy one at that, but one that was close to his home and on the way.

She was just standing there, her arms folded and lips frozen in an injurious frown. The vending machine opposite her was a mite old, but as long as it still took coins, the owner was never going to replace it.

He wasn't quite sure what to do, which seemed silly. Indecisiveness was not a quality most people used to describe him. Come to think of it, it wasn't a term anyone used to describe her either, yet it seemed she was having a hard time deciding on what item to purchase.

He looked around, as if he were being watched, but this particular station was just as becalmed as ever. He walked up slowly, studying her face just to make sure he wasn't mistaking her for another short blond with a dancer's figure.

No, it was her and she was completely oblivious to her surroundings.

He stopped next to her, cleared his throat and commented, "I hear those Slim Jims are pretty good."

Startled, she jumped away from him a few inches, lowered her shades to get a good look at him, then laughed to show her abashment. She shook her head. "Vartann."

Okay. She wanted to stay formal. That was okay. "CSI Willows. Didn't I just see you? Working a case?"

She picked up on his feigned ignorance quickly and decided to play along. Why not? It looked like she had time to kill. She pretended to think about it for a moment, then said, "You might have. Midwestern guy wakes up next to his dead hooker? Claims he never killed her?"

Vartann gave her his customary nod. The kind where he tilted his head off to the right ever so slightly, his eyes squinting as if in deep thought. "Yeah, yeah. Sounds familiar. Urine on the floor?"

Having enough of the game, but clearly still amused, Catherine smiled. "Yeah, you got it."

It was only at that point he could hear the sadness in her voice. It was deeply scathing to his own ears. He wondered what in the world could've happened to make her so unhappy, considering he had last seen her just mere hours ago.

He pointed at the vending machine and asked, "Are you gonna get something?"

"No. I was looking at the cigarettes," she sighed. Then added quickly, glancing at him over her sunglasses. "Just looking. I don't smoke anymore."

He never knew that she had. They were practically strangers, come to think of it.

He spied her car next to the pumps. His car sitting on the opposite side. Well, maybe now was the time to learn more about the investigator he was consistently paired up with. He turned back to her and suggested, "How about something better than cigarettes?"

She flashed him a knowing smile. "Alcohol?"

He smiled back. "Alcohol."

So, that was how they ended up here. That was why he was listening to her story about that "son-of-a-bitch Chris Bezich and the slut sitting on his desk", instead of vegging on his couch dozing during the latest Maury. He knew he shouldn't feel gratified at the change in his routine, especially not at Catherine's expense, but he still felt good just the same.

Being officers of the law, they knew the rules and even though the next shift was hours away, they switched to water after the first pitcher was empty almost immediately.

"I don't even know what I expected."

He frowned at her statement just as she closed her eyes. She looked tired, so he reached over and rubbed her shoulder lightly. She began to smile at the gentle massage and opened her eyes lazily to look at him. He told her softly, "You expected to be loved. You expected to be respected. I think every woman expects that from a man."

She patted his hand still resting on her shoulder, her eyes meeting his to show her appreciation. He gave her another encouraging smile. Boldly, he intertwined his fingers with hers, squeezed them gently and suddenly wished she would look at him like that everyday.

Catherine squeezed back, prolonging their hand holding. "Look, you didn't have to be here, so thank you, De . . ."

She stopped short, suddenly looking very confused.

Vartann wanted nothing more than to make everything alright again. He scooted closer to her, saying softly, "Catherine?"

This broke her out of the haze.

"I'm sorry. It's just," Catherine replied, giving him an inquisitive grin. "I don't know your name. I was going to say 'thanks, Detective', but somehow that doesn't feel appropriate."

He was motionless for a moment, almost speechless. All this time they had been working together and they never formally exchanged names. He cleared his throat. "I'm Tony."

"Thanks for listening, Tony."

"Anytime, Catherine."

Maybe saying 'thank you' just wasn't enough, because before he could stop her, her lips had fastened to his. It was innocuous enough, quick and sweet. Clearly a kiss being shared between two adults where the only intention was to express comfort and gratitude. He knew the reasons why, but couldn't fight the empty ache that readily replaced her absent lips.

He walked her to her car, just like any gentlemen would do and shut the door after she got in. Watching her speed away, he began to feel. It wasn't any particular emotion or anything. It could've been a mix of things. All he knew was that he was feeling for what had to be the first time in ages. He felt something.

He shoved his hands in his pockets, kicked at the dirt below his feet and walked leisurely to his car. Luck had been shining down on him today, there was no doubt. He would be damned to let a woman like that slip through his fingers.

Besides, there were only so many dingy gas stations in Vegas where a guy could casually run into a beautiful stranger.

The End