AN: I do not own CSI. Just a little fic about how it's never too late to learn from the past.

Learning

Peace and quiet, Catherine Willows thought as she picked up her new book and stared at the entwined couple on the cover, just the thing I need to escape my reality and live in hers. She was quite content as she turned to the first page and began to read. She didn't even make it past the first sentence.

BANG!

Catherine jumped to her feet, the book falling to the floor, looking wildly about the room for the source of the noise. She relaxed and cringed when she heard the two thuds that told her that her daughter had just kicked off her shoes. One the one hand, Lindsey was home. On the other, there was now a shoe-shaped dent in her wall.

"Lindsey! What did I tell you about-" she stopped talking and watched as her sixteen-year-old bolted for the stairs. Catherine heard another door slam.

"Excellent," Catherine muttered, picking up her fallen book and setting it on the coffee table. She had thought that Lindsey was passed the door-slamming stage. Evidently, she had been wrong. Silently, she debated her options. She could either bite the bullet and take a chance knocking on her teenager's door, or she could wait until Lindsey cooled down enough to have a conversation at a volume that wouldn't result in deafness. With a sigh, she started up the stairs. She was never one to take the easy road. She could afford hearing aids.

But when Catherine neared her daughter's door, she did not hear loud music or Lindsey's frustrated cries of "I hate everything!" She heard a sob. Catherine froze. Lindsey crying was far worse than Lindsey yelling. She hated seeing Lindsey cry. Steeling herself, she gently knocked on the door.

"Lindsey? Are you alright, Sweetie?" she called softly. There was no answer. Just another sob. Gingerly, Catherine reached for the knob and opened the door. Lindsey was sitting on her bed, hugging her pillow close to her as she cried. Catherine's heart broke.

"What happened, Sweetheart?" she asked, sitting on the bed next to her daughter and putting an arm around her.

"Why are boys so stupid?" Lindsey whimpered, burying her head in her mother's shoulder. Ah. Boy trouble. Catherine gently caressed her daughter's head.

"Because it's more advantageous to the species if women are the smart ones," Catherine quipped, delighting in Lindsey's shaky laugh, "What happened, Linds?"

"Shane broke up with me," Lindsey admitted, wiping her eyes, "Only he told Breanne Johnson before me," she spat bitterly. Anger coursed through Catherine's body. She wanted to tear that boy limb from limb. She knew how painful it was to have a relationship end that way. Heck, her marriage ended that way.

"Lindsey, I'm so sorry," Catherine managed to get out, "I know how it hurts."

"I can't believe I liked him," Lindsey murmured.

"I know how that feels," Catherine muttered.

"Did you feel that way about Dad?" Lindsey asked, looking up at her. Catherine sighed.

"I was so mad at you father," Catherine admitted, choosing her words carefully, "And many times, I asked myself, 'What were you thinking?', but hey, something good came out of that relationship. And you know something, Linds? Something good comes out of all relationships, even the ones that fail. Trust me."

"Like what?" Lindsey asked in confusion, "I don't see anything good that came out of it. He was such a jerk, not just for the way he ended on it, but…other things..."

"Like?" Catherine prodded, not knowing if she would like the answer.

"Er…well…He wanted to…but I said 'no' and er…then he was making out with Breanne Johnson," Lindsey explained, averting her eyes a little. Catherine felt her blood boil again.

"He broke up with you because you wouldn't have sex with him?" she asked, barely resisting the urge to pay the freak a visit. Lindsey nodded.

"You're better off without him, Linds," Catherine stated baldly, "And I am so proud of you for sticking to your principles. Being in a relationship has no meaning if the one you're with doesn't respect you. Trust me, I know. I've been down that road so many times and it's just sickening…" her voice was strained, thinking back to the men in her life that treated her like crap. There was Eddie (although she would never tell her daughter that), Chris, and that Novak character.

"Are there any good guys, Mom?" Lindsey asked, looking up at her mother.

"Sure there are," Catherine affirmed, "But everyone makes mistakes before they get things right. I've made tonnes. I just hope that you don't end up making my mistakes."

"I'll do my best, Mom. I guess I already made one," Lindsey shrugged and smiled encouragingly at her. Catherine smiled back, but shook her head.

"No Linds. He made the mistake," she said.

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Catherine just finished filling Lindsey's plate full of spaghetti, Lindsey's favourite dish, when there was a knock on the door. Catherine sighed and moved to answer it. Upon opening the door, she found a boy about Lindsey's age with short, dark hair and glasses framing his bright blue eyes. Catherine immediately recognized him as Justin Tyler, Lindsey's best friend in elementary school.

"Hullo, Ms. Willows, is Lindsey home?" he asked.

"Just a sec, Justin," Catherine said, "Lindsey!" Lindsey bounded up to the door and smiled widely when she saw her friend.

"Hey, Justin! What are you doing here?" Lindsey asked.

"Well, uh, you…uh…left your Science text in the library and I thought I'd drop it off," he explained, holding the book out to her and offering her a small smile. Catherine, who had been silently observing the pair, was suddenly reminded of a moment eleven years ago, not unlike this one.

"What do you want for dinner, Munchkin?" Catherine asked, tickling her small daughter.

"Spaghetti!" five-year-old Lindsey exclaimed, looking up at her mother with puppy-dog eyes.

"I suppose so," Catherine relented after making a show of deciding to follow her giggling daughter's demands. Then the doorbell rang, interrupting the pair. Wondering who could be calling on them, Catherine got up to answer it and came face to face with Gil Grissom, her best friend and co-worker.

"Hi," Catherine said softly, "What are you doing here, Gil?" she asked.

"Um, you…uh…left your kit in my office. I was just dropping it off," he explained, shooting her a small smile. Catherine took her Crime Scene kit, set it on the floor and looked up into his dark, blue eyes, knowing that the kit was not his real reason for stopping by.

"Thank you, Gil," she said, "Now, what's your real reason for stopping by?" she asked. From the look on his face, he had not expected to get caught.

"I wanted to see how you were. It can't have been easy to see Ed like that," he admitted, unsure of himself.

"We're okay," Catherine answered. For a moment, the two stood awkwardly in the doorway, neither speaking. Then he turned to leave. Catherine couldn't ignore the twinge of sadness that she felt as she watched him go. It was almost like she had missed the moment that could have made her life whole. She brushed it off and went to make dinner.

Catherine watched history repeat as Lindsey and Justin stood in awkward silence, every so often hazarding shy glances at each other. When Justin turned to walk away, Catherine felt that she couldn't just sit idly by while Lindsey made the same mistake she did all those years ago.

"Would you like to stay for supper, Justin?" Catherine asked, smiling knowingly at the young boy, "I believe I made a little too much pasta," she said, hazarding a quick look at Lindsey. Instead of scowling in embarrassment, Lindsey looked a little hopeful.

"That'd be great, Ms. Willows," Justin replied politely, stepping inside.

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"Are you okay?" Gil Grissom asked her as he leaned on the doorframe to her office the next day. Catherine looked up at her oldest friend. In his face, she could still see that he held the same concern for her that he had had that day eleven years ago. That hadn't changed, but so much else had.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Catherine said. Gil nodded and hovered awkwardly in the doorway.

"Okay," he said, turning to go.

"Gil!" Catherine called him back. He turned and tentatively entered the office.

"Yes, Catherine?" he asked. She got to her feet and approached him.

"We learn from our mistakes, right?" she asked, though she already knew the answer. He nodded.

"That's what makes us human. Why?" he asked. She smiled at her friend.

"Because I'm learning from mine," she told him. His confusion only made her smile wider. She reached up and hugged him.

"Thank you for being here," she whispered. Gil's eyes widened as the familiarity of the situation took hold. He remembered the last time they hugged like this.

Gil sat on the edge of the hospital bed trying to calm himself before his surgery.

"Hey," Catherine's voice caused him to snap his head up to look at her.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, trying hard not to seem scared or nervous.

"I just wanted to see you," she told him, "And I didn't want you to go in without wishing you good luck."

He smiled, got to his feet, and walked towards her. Only she would actually tell him the real reason for her visit. He probably would have made some excuse as to why he was there. He took a deep breath and said:

"Thank you. For being here."

She put her arms around his neck and hugged him. He was struck by how right it felt, being in her arms. He felt so much stronger. Suddenly the surgery didn't seem so bad.

She kissed him on the cheek as she pulled back. When she looked up at him, she saw a smile that had long since been absent on his face. Then she felt his hands on her hips. She looked up at him with questioning eyes.

"You hugged me once and I let you go and I really, really shouldn't have," he explained, "Now I'm learning from my mistakes."

"Quick learner," she commented in a whisper. He leaned in and kissed her, and was hardly surprised at all to find that kissing Catherine Willows felt even more right than just hugging her.

The End

Well? What do you guys think? Review please?