Staring – by Sara's Girl

Catherine/Wendy (casual suggestion of Nick/Greg)

AN - This is just the first thing that came into my head and I wrote it in my lunch hour, sorry if it's rubbish. I didn't feel like leaping straight into the action but if anyone likes this I am happy to continue it and maybe we'll get somewhere. Let me know. Sorry about Nick. It's an affliction...

At 2am, an oppressive silence cloaked the lab. This particular corridor was empty, save for one slight figure, still under the harsh strip lighting. It seemed that everyone was occupied in some important and absorbing task, and she was no exception.

Catherine was watching. Again. Of course, watching was part of her job and she knew she was good at it, one of the best. She had a natural talent for observation, and she was well aware it was a talent that had helped her get to where she was today. She remembered it like it was yesterday, discussing cases with Jimmy Tadero, back when she used to dance.

"Hey, Jimmy! What's the case of the week?"

She smiled at the memory. She could see what others did not, and he had recognised that. Ten years later, not much had changed. Not really. She wore a different costume now, and she knew she turned heads for another reason. Respect had been hard-won, but then she had always respected herself anyway. She was still watching, though, and more than that now.

Now, Catherine was staring. She didn't know what it was about her; only that eyes, once drawn, could not be torn away. Eyes flicking over neatly tied, shiny dark hair, delicate fingers easing themselves into gloves with a snap, the swish of a labcoat as she turned. The way she moved transfixed Catherine. The way she could be gliding across the floor of the DNA lab with a dancer's grace one minute; and the next stumble over nothing, losing her balance only for a second, resting a hand on the counter top and glancing around, darting eyes, hoping no one had noticed. These moments drew a smile from Catherine that she did not quite know how to explain, but it felt warm, and the laugh she suppressed made something flicker in the pit of her stomach.

She hid from sight as she watched, but she also wanted those searching dark eyes on her. She did not want to compromise the validity of her observation, though, by allowing the observed to become aware of that fact. Catherine knew she was starting to understand, but she did not like to make a move before she had all of the puzzle pieces in their correct places. Evidence was key, as in all things.

It had been there, of course, from the beginning, though she had understood even less then than she did now. The smile the new DNA tech had given her. Talking about hugging. An invitation, apropos of nothing.

"Hey, how about lunch tomorrow? Just you and me."

Catherine had been cold, dismissive, she knew that. It wasn't her fault, she told herself. She had not expected to walk into the lab and find this woman standing in front of her and with simple words and a smile, challenge everything she thought she knew about herself. No. She had expected efficiency personified, someone unassuming, neat, a fade-into-the-background type. Why, after knowing Greg as he was, she did not know. Perhaps it was the name. Catherine knew, she knew, she should not judge ahead of time, but she heard Wendy and saw dull. When the reality had been a sparkling, confident beauty with creamy skin and a warm smile, she had been unprepared, to say the least.

The brush-off had been necessary, in that moment, so that she might keep the calm, cool Catherine Willows gloss on things, and get out of the room as quickly as possible. Because this was something new, and unexpected. The only thing she knew for sure was that no man had ever made her feel this way. So unsure of herself, so lost for words, so…drawn in. The feeling had not gone away as she had first hoped, and it was not long before the staring had really started in earnest. She couldn't help it. She was caught, and it took all of her self-control not to stop what she was doing every time the new DNA tech passed her by, and follow her. It wouldn't matter where she was going, or why, Catherine just liked to watch her.

Like she was doing now. And she knew she didn't have long, because she had already been standing here for several minutes. The window of time when she could watch, unseen, was closing fast and it was getting more and more likely that Wendy would look up from her work. She would only have to crane her neck slightly to see Catherine, and then of course she would wonder why she was being stared at. It was all very well, but Catherine knew she did not have a valid excuse, she did not even have any results to pick up from DNA. She would have to think up something on the spot, if – as often happened – the tech smiled warmly and waved her in. And she really couldn't think of anything this time.

There were only so many times she could stumble over her words and ask her where she got her hair cut, or if she had a pen, or if she had seen Hodges. It was embarrassing. Not to mention that her observation was then ruined, and she would have to start all over again.

Catherine sighed, watching her yank a fresh sheet of results from the printer. Caught her breath as the tech narrowed intelligent dark eyes and pursed full lips, contemplating. The thought crept in, unbidden, as it had many times before.

I wonder how she kisses.

Catherine imagined, when she allowed herself to, that those lips would be warm. That they would feel gentle in a way a man's rarely did, but also that they would be insistent. She did not think that Wendy would kiss in a passive way, she was a strong, confident woman. She knew who she was, and that was part of what Catherine liked about her. Not that she thought of it often.

More like constantly. It was becoming a distraction, and more unnerving was the fact that Catherine had not dated in months. She had offers, sure, when did she not, but she seemed to have lost her taste for it. The fact that her slide in interest seemed to directly correspond with the amount of time she spent staring at a certain DNA tech had not escaped her notice.

But what to do? There were few things Catherine hated more than feeling unsure. It was the not knowing that did her in. She liked to know, even if she ended up with an answer she didn't much care for. She wondered anew, what she was waiting for. The answer was always the same. She was not yet sure what question she wanted to ask.

She blinked. The other woman had set the printout down now and was facing away from her, looking down at something on the tabletop, hands on her hips. She looked deep in thought, and Catherine seemed to lose all of hers as she noticed the way the coarse blue fabric stretched under the friction of gloved hands, pulling across the smooth swell of her behind, making her subtle curves jump out. Making Catherine's mouth turn, inexplicably, dry.

And she needed to look away now, she needed to...

"You ok, Catherine?"

The voice at her side made her jump, and she swallowed hard, shaking her hair back and taking just a second to affix that trademark calm, knowing smile to her face. She could say something about a case right now, she was sure she could. What was it, again? Someone had died, but she could not remember who or why.

Finding herself staring into the dark brown eyes of Nick Stokes, she relaxed a little. Let out the breath she had been holding. Because Nick was...Nick. Not a naturally suspicious kind of guy.

"Fine," she replied brightly, remembering he had asked her a question.

"Good. We're needed in the morgue." He paused. "Our vic's grown a second head."

"Second...right. Great. I'll be right with you," she said absently, concentrating so hard on not looking back into the DNA lab that she feared her neck might snap. The lights were suddenly hurting her eyes.

Then Nick was laughing warmly and shaking his head, and he had her attention. What was so funny, she did not know, but she kept her face impassive and arched one eyebrow inquiringly. She hoped.

"Did you hear a word I said just then?"

Catherine frowned. Of course she did,

"Thought not. Anyway, here's something for you to...ah...mull over. Staring at lab rats is all well and good, but look where it got me."

He was grinning now, unbearably smug. Stepping away from her slowly, walking backwards. She wasn't really registering his words until he was lifting his left hand to her eye level, tapping on his wedding band and winking at her. Winking at her. Nick Stokes. She could not process it. Until he was out of sight.

Like a compass turning to face North, she swivelled back to gaze into the DNA lab once more. Smiled with something like relief as her eyes fell once more on the dark-haired tech, leaning down to pick something up from the floor. The question she was searching for was on the tip of her tongue when something else chased it away, realisation gripping her at last.

Staring at lab rats. Of course Nick knew. Shit.

To be continued…maybe?