Author's Note: This was originally written for the LJ community, summerbits. Each author had to write seven fics, ranging from 500-1000 words, about the various characters in the CSI verse. Thank you to Prin for explaining to me the concept of Indian summers – and thus letting me stick with my original idea. This takes place after "Feeling the Heat."
As always, reviews are wonderful.
Stuck in the Backseat
By Duckie Nicks
She tried all week to not judge like everyone else had. An absent-minded father's mistake, Catherine told herself. There was no punishment greater than losing a child, and she'd made mistakes with Lindsay so who was she to judge, etc. The rest of the world wanted them to rot in jail, but she didn't want to crucify them.
Cath doesn't think she's as disgusted as she should be. As she grabs her purse from her locker, her eyes rake over the picture of Lindsay taped to the inside of the door. She asks herself if she would end her child's life if Lindsay had a disease like Tay-Sachs. And the answer comes to the mother before she mentally finishes the question: no. Never.
Closing her locker door, she heads out to her car, and not for the first time, Catherine hates her job. Hates that she has lost count of overheated babies. Despises that these cases make her ask questions about her own parenting skills. She doesn't know any other parents who do things like that.
The CSI passes her co-workers as she walks through the corridors. Some of them smile at her, and she is amazed at how young some of them look. Youthful and happy and maybe just a little naïve. Cath gives a few of them a sad smile in return; they won't seem this innocent in a few years time.
Just by looking at some of them, she can tell that they're new. Knows that anyone at this job long enough, anyone who has survived working an Indian summer day, looks older than they are.
Catherine isn't sure she was ever that young looking. She didn't need to put a dead infant in a body bag to lose her innocence. That part of her disappeared a long time ago. Perhaps she'd never really been as youthful and happy as these people are now…
But her dark thoughts are temporarily interrupted as the sunlight hits her face. Her eyes take a moment to adjust to the change. And she makes a mental note to lecture Lindsay about wearing sun block when she gets home.
Yet the short reprieve doesn't last. As she closes her car door shut, the stale hot air hits her. She chokes on it, finds it hard to breathe, and she knows why she cannot feel disgust for that family.
Her eyes instinctively flick to the rear view mirror – as if the little baby is sitting in her back seat.
Was this what it was like for him?
She closes her eyes, doesn't want to think about it, about that poor child. But this is where here mind has been since the beginning. Catherine had investigated the crime, but she hadn't really left the backseat of that car.
Out of curiosity, she pushes the temperature gage on her SUV. 135 and rising, and she can feel her breathing deepen. It's harder for her lungs to expel the air now than when she first got in the car. She'll have to turn the engine on soon, she knows, or it'll be too late. But Catherine wants one last look at the twelfth child this year to die in this way.
The sweat pools behind her knees, under her breasts, along her collarbone. It's uncomfortable, gross, and she no longer wonders, but knows this is what that baby felt. And the disgust she'd been waiting for hits her full force.
Catherine relishes it for a moment. Heat and anger wrap around her tightly like a fleece blanket. Maybe there is still some innocence left. Then taking one last look at the backseat, she starts the car and drives away.