A/N: Okay, so final chapter up! Once again, thank you for all the fantastic reviews! You guys are too good to me and I only half way deserve it. ;) Anyway, I hope you like it and I hope it makes you smile.
This is, of course, dedicated to my lovely ever after, who always get me through the day. A million kisses to you, angel!
Okay, read on!
Catherine shrugged into her denim jacket then grabbed her purse before slamming her locker shut. She didn't care that they still had a half hour left of shift. She had finished her assignment, and she needed this day to be over.
The red-haired woman turned to the door just as Lindsey catapulted into her arms. Her eyes locked with her sister's over the girl's shoulder, searching for an explanation.
"I thought you might need a bit of cheering up, so we came to you."
Catherine nodded her appreciation.
Lindsey leaned back, "Were Sara and Warrick on that plane, Mommy?"
The tears caught in her throat once more as the now familiar pain in her chest wracked through her body. Nancy waved her goodbye, "I'll leave you two to it."
Catherine set her daughter down and took her hand, "Let's go to my office, baby."
When they had closed the door and taken seats on the sofa, Catherine brushed a stray lock behind Lindsey's ear.
"They were on the plane, weren't they?" The girl wiped at her eyes with one hand.
Catherine nodded, her eyes beginning to sting. "Yeah, they were, sweetie. I'm so, so sorry."
Catherine thought back to two months ago, to the first time the three of them went out together. Sara had looked like a cornered cat and Lindsey hadn't been much better. She had tried to encourage them to get to know each other; it had been the first big test in their relationship.
"Linds? Why don't you tell Sara about the play."
There was a painful sigh. "Every year," she droned, "my school puts on a play."
"Come on, Linds, tell her all of it."
Shoulders sagged. "This year, its Bye-Bye Birdie."
Sara bobbed her head. "My high school did that when I was a little older than you."
"Really? Well, usually only eighth graders get lead parts. But me and a bunch of my friends tried out anyway."
"That was brave."
"I guess. They were looking for girls that can sing and dance. And I've been taking ballet and jazz classes since I was four. I never did singing lessons, but I like to sing."
"So, you got a part?"
"Yeah, I got the part of Kim."
"Isn't that like…the lead?"
"Yeah," Lindsey breathed, somewhat less than ecstatic.
"And that's bad?"
"Well, I'm excited about it, but none of my friends got a part. And now they are all mad at me. Katie Hamm is my best friend and she won't even talk to me anymore. And Jessica Alvarez told the entire school I'm a showoff."
"Well, screw them."
The brunette's eyes grew wide and she quickly covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh, I mean, umm…"
Lindsey doubled over in laughter.
"What Sara meant to say is that you shouldn't worry so much about what other people think. Don't be afraid to be an individual. Right?"
"Oh, yeah, that's exactly what I meant."
"Mom, seriously: Chill. Out. So Sara," Lindsey took the woman's hand, "will you come see me in my play?"
Sara, taken off guard, looked to the girl's mother. Seeing her victorious grin, the younger woman relaxed. "Sure, that would be great. That would be really great."
When Catherine came out of her daze, she wiped away tears she hadn't known were running down her cheeks. Her arms were heavy with the dead weight of her sleeping daughter. She wished she could carry her to the car the way she had when she was little, just let her sleep away the trials of the day.
"Linds," she shook the girl's shoulder lightly, but she didn't stir. "Lindsey, wake up, baby. Time to go home."
Bleary blue eyes looked up from a tear-stained face. "Mom?"
"Do you think Sara and Warrick knew they were going to die?"
Catherine took a ragged breath. "I don't know, sweetie. I'm guessing it all happened really fast."
"Is that what the evidence said?"
Catherine nodded. "They probably never saw it coming."
Catherine stood up and offered a hand to her daughter who took it and pulled herself up.
"Can I please miss school today, Mom? I don't feel like explaining to everyone why I'm so sad."
"Sure, baby. Why don't we curl up in bed with some hot chocolate and have a quiet day?"
"That's a good idea." The girl nodded.
As the mother and daughter turned into the reception area, a voice called out, "Hey, Catherine."
Catherine turned around. There was Nick, looking lost and exhausted and behind him, Greg and Grissom with equally weary expressions. "Hey," she said, without much conviction.
Nick looked from Lindsey to her mother. "Look, Cath. The three of us were going to drive up to McCarran for one last search in the wreckage. Do you want to ride along?"
Catherine smiled, tight-lipped. "Thanks, but I'll pass. I've had all I can manage, I'm just going to take Lindsey home and lay low for the day."
The men nodded their understanding.
"Listen, Catherine, you know if you need anything," Greg began, but the woman held up a hand.
"I know who to call. Thanks, guys. We should go, and if you want to beat morning rush hour, you need to head out too."
Catherine headed towards the main doors and the rising dawn, one hand in her daughter's, the other clutching her bag. Her eyes were downcast. She could hear the footsteps of the three men behind her and she didn't want them to see the despair on her face that would undoubtedly bring words of pity and meaningless reassurance raining down. She didn't want that, she didn't want anything. What she wanted was nothing. She didn't want to feel or think, she wanted it to go numb. How was it possible to feel so empty inside and still have so much pain in her heart that it threatened to burst?
Suddenly she felt a sharp tug on her arm. She turned to see her daughter stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes wide and unblinking as she stared off into the distance. "Sara," she whispered.
"I know, baby, its hard to take in, but we just have to-"
"No, Mom," the girl said, extending her arm and pointing, "Sara."
Her heart thudded in her chest. "Sara?" she questioned, turning. At the far side of the lot a tall brunette was getting out of a taxi cab, a backpack over one shoulder. It couldn't be...could it?
"SARA!" Lindsey cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled.
The brunette looked up from where she was bent, paying the driver, and waved a hand at Lindsey, a wide grin on her face.
"Sara…" Catherine gasped for air as the flood of relief hit her senses like a stampede of wild horses. And then she had dropped her bag and her daughter's hand and she was running. "SARA!"
Grissom, Greg, and Nick stopped abruptly, all thinking the exact same thought. Sara?
Catherine kicked her sandals off and ran faster, speeding up as she approached the younger woman, rather than slowing down. Realizing this, Sara had just enough time to drop her pack before she had two arms full of Catherine. The redhead threw her arms around Sara's neck and leapt up, wrapping her legs around the taller woman's torso.
Sara couldn't stop grinning. She knew the whole team was watching and she just didn't care. She circled her arms around the other woman, holding on tight.
For her part, Catherine was a royal mess, she could barely speak, "You're alive," she gasped, tears filling her eyes, "oh, thank God, you're alive." She hugged Sara's neck, and then caressed her face with one hand, laughing and crying at the same time. She brushed a stray hair out of her face and then leant in close. But when her lips were just centimeters from her lover's, she sat back.
"Wait a minute," her eyes narrowed. She released her hold on the brunette, and as soon as her feet touched the ground she took a step back. "You're alive?" Her arms were crossed in front of her, her jaw was set, and her tone had a definite edge.
Sara gulped. "Uh…"
"How can you possibly be alive?"
"About that, see-"
"No, I don't think you understand- you cannot be alive. Can. Not. So, unless you have been resurrected recently, Sidle, you are going to explain here and now why I have been sifting through plane wreckage all night, searching for your corpse!" Sara had never seen Catherine so irate. Ever.
She put her hands up in surrender. "Honey, don't be mad." She spoke in the tone of voice used on cornered animals. "Warrick and I changed our flight. After the crash at McCarran, our flight was canceled, so we took the bus all night to get here."
"Right. So you did know about the crash?" Catherine tilted her head, disbelieving. Her cheeks were flushed with the anger threatening to boil over.
"And you knew I'd be on the case and you knew we'd probably assume you were on the plane." Catherine's voice was deadly calm.
Sara bit her lip. "That would be…correct."
"Do you see what is wrong with this picture? Because unless I'm mistaken, I am your girlfriend." Catherine spoke slowly, like she was explaining something complicated to a small child. "So, we should be on same page about most things. Even the little things like WHETHER YOU'RE ALIVE OR NOT! That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it ranks pretty high up there for me!"
"Baby," Sara began, but she was cut off by a waving finger.
"No, do not 'baby' me! You don't get to be the nice, responsible girlfriend here. Of the two of us, which one spent the night thinking the other was scattered in pieces on a cement runway? Oh, yeah! That would be ME! Is it that hard to pick up phone, Sara?" This last sentence came out as more of a plea than anything else.
"I tried! My cell died and Warrick left his in the hotel and there is absolutely no service in the desert- you don't know how many phones I borrowed. The first time we got coverage was in Reno, and that was only an hour away, so Warrick said we should just show up at the lab, since it was the kind of news that was better in person anyway."
Catherine closed her eyes and tried to breathe evenly. "Sara, there are at least ten stops on the bus route between LA and Vegas. Were all the payphones broken too?"
Sara froze. Shit. How could I…? She smiled nervously. "Uh…oops?"
Catherine put her face in her hands, trying to regain control as the events of the evening came rushing back full force. "I thought you were dead." Her voice was not much above a whisper.
Sara took a hesitant step toward the older woman. "I know, baby, I'm so sorry."
"You don't seem to get it- I thought you were dead! No goodbye, no warning, just taken away from me." Her eyes began to fill as her voice got caught in her throat. "I was so scared, Sara. I thought you were gone forever and all I could think about was everything we didn't do, everything we didn't say. I felt so lost without you. You weren't there, you were dead, and I…I…" Her voice betrayed her and she began to sob and hiccup.
Sara reached into her back pocket and produced a very nearly clean napkin. With it she dried her lover's tears, then returned it to her pocket and wrapped her arms around a now defenseless Catherine who continued to cry into her shoulder. "Shh," she comforted, "its okay. It's over and I'm right here."
After a moment, Catherine looked up with liquid eyes, "I needed you," she whispered, "and you weren't there. I've never needed anyone like that. I just wanted to be in your arms one more time, hear your voice. I love you, Sara. I always will."
Sara beamed a wide and sparkling smile. "I love you too." She brought the other woman's lips to hers and kissed her fiercely. "And I always will."
Catherine pulled herself flush against the taller woman, but frowned when her hip bone collided with something hard in the region of Sara's front pants pocket. Her eyes went wide, "Please tell me that's not what I think it is."
"Hmm?" Sara looked down. Realizing what Catherine was referring to, Sara was hit with a sudden and brilliant idea. Warrick had said to seize the moment, hadn't he? She stepped back and reached into her pocket. She offered the velvet box to Catherine.
The older woman smiled and took it, expecting to see earrings or a pendant, she gasped when she flipped the top open.
"Not unless you think its an engagement ring."
Catherine's head snapped up. "En…gagement?" she spluttered over the word.
Sara nodded, stepping closer to the other woman.
"I know its only been two months, and for most people that isn't a lot of time. But for us…Cath, I love you, and I don't want waste another day without you. I wake up every morning wanting to spend the rest of my life with you and I was sort of hoping you felt the same." Losing her nerve, her eyes met with pavement. "If its too soon, I understand, but I just wanted you to know that that's where I am."
Catherine tilted Sara's head up and searched her eyes. "Are you sure?"
"Have I ever done something without weighing all the benefits and consequences?"
Catherine smiled, "Not as far as I know."
The smile eased Sara's fears. "So will you, Catherine? Will you marry me?"
For the first time in many years, Catherine Willows giggled. And then she nodded. "Yes. Absolutely." As the last syllable left her lips, they were met with Sara's urgent, passionate kiss. As the lip lock continued, Sara deftly slid the ring onto her fiancee's finger, then brought her hands to that same fiancee's face.
After a minute, a young voice offered, "Um…not to break up the party here, but I just wanted to remind you that you are making out in a very public place. Really, I don't care, I've seen you swapping spit like a thousand times and I don't think one more will kill me. But I think these guys are a bit umm…surprised."
Sara and Catherine broke apart, only just remembering they had an audience. When they turned, they both had to hide their laughter. Warrick off to one side was grinning broadly, but it was the other three team members with equal expressions of shock and disbelief that drew laughter from the women.
Nick tried to make sense of it first. "So…you two…you with her and the two of you together and…really?"
"Really, really." Sara smiled.
Grissom shook his head, "Wait, I'm confused. So…you're not dating Warrick? Because you are in fact dating…Sara?"
"Your powers of deduction amaze me," Catherine smirked, "but in case you missed it, we're not dating; we're engaged." She flashed the evidential ring.
"Whoa, whoa, time out." Greg held out his arms as if to physically slow down the conversation. "Catherine's gay?" He looked around. "Did anyone else see that coming?"
Catherine stood on her tiptoes and whispered in Sara's ear. The brunette nodded and spoke. "Would anyone like discuss this over breakfast?"
Several heads bobbed.
"Great. So lets meet at the diner in half an hour? Our treat?"
The heads nodded again.
"Good, see you then." Sara shouldered her bag and then each woman took hold of one of Lindsey's hands and began heading towards Catherine's car.
"Why do we need a half hour?" The girl wanted to know. "The diner is like a block away, isn't it?
"Yes," Sara said, "But your school is 'like' five miles away."
"School? What? Wait, Mom, you said I didn't have to go!" Lindsey dug her heels in.
"That's when we thought Sara was dead. But now she's not and you are going to school."
"Yeah, but I'm still totally traumatized. This could give me long term psychological damage."
"So would us making out in front of the buses when school gets out so all your friends can see, now come on."
"Okay, geez, I'm going!" The blonde girl ran ahead of the two women, racing for the car.
The two women walked shoulder to shoulder, grinning, when something occured to the brunette. "Hey, Cath?"
"Why is no one surprised that I'm gay?"
"What do you mean?"
"Like Greg was surprised that you would be into women, but not surprised about me."
Catherine took her betrothed's hand and kissed it. "Face it, Sar. You just…look gay."
Sara sighed dramatically. "What does that mean?"
"I don't know, its just this sort of attitude you give off."
"You know what? Forget I even asked."
As they got in the car and drove off into the sunrise, they had a single moment of serenity and happiness. Joining hands, the music mirroring the colors of the sky, it was absolutely perfect until the dulcet tones of reality hit them.
"What is this violin crap we're listening to?"
"Watch your mouth, Lindsey."
"You're not my mom yet, Sara."
"Don't talk back to Sara."
"Yeah, don't talk back to me!"
"Sara, please act your age."
"She started it!"
"I don't care who started it, you're the adult."
Sara turned around in her seat and stuck her tongue out at the girl.
The small blonde rolled her eyes. "Do I really have to go to school?"
"Yes, you do."
"Oh, Cath, remind me to pick up some milk before I head home."
"I thought maybe you'd stay over tonight?"
"Yeah! Slumber party!"
"Linds, you will be staying with Nana or Aunt Nancy, this is a grown up kind of slumber party."
Silence. And then, "Eww." She made a gagging sound. "I am so totally scarred for life."
The two women laughed, staring into each other's eyes for a brief second. This was their life, their story, and no matter what came their way, they would handle it together. And live. Lovely. Ever. After.
Well? What do you think? Did it make you smile? Because if it did, you should feel obligated to review. After all, who wouldn't want to review such a wonderful story? Hey, I'm just being honest. Besides, my lady love likes it and obviously she has great taste ;) so it has to be good.
Okay, so that's all for now, folks, thank you so much for reading, and make sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming work!