Title: Riding the Roller Coaster
Author:
CSIGeekFan
Rating: k+ (some mild language)
Disclaimer: CBS, et all own CSI. I just play with the characters for fun.
Summary: Sara returns to Vegas for a little while. In anticipation of 10x1.
Author's Note: Reviews are welcome and appreciated, especially concrit. I sincerely hope you enjoy.

X X X

"Look, Conrad, I don't want a temp. I need someone permanent," Catherine Willows stated, taking a seat behind her desk, as Conrad Ecklie walked in behind and quietly closed the door.

"I understand. But the process takes time, so you need to be patient. In the meanwhile, I have someone coming in to consult," Ecklie replied, taking a seat across from her.

Pinching the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger, she had to admit that he had a point. She had been complaining lately. In fact, since Riley took the job offer in Houston, Catherine had been grossly understaffed, leaving everyone on edge. She and Nick might have the experience, with Greg not far behind, but Ray still needed to be brought up through the ranks.

"All right," she acquiesced. "You said you had someone that might be able to help?"

"Yes," Conrad stated, and Catherine felt needles go up her spine when he smiled. Flipping open his cell, he punched a number and murmured, "Could you send her to Catherine's office?"

This didn't bode well. Whoever it was already waited in the lobby. Catherine sat up straight with a feeling of being ambushed.

As a woman approached her door, Catherine gaped, until her lips turned up a little at the ends and she leaned back in her chair, laughing. This was her temp?

"Hello, Catherine," Sara Sidle said, leaning against the door frame like she hadn't a care in the world.

X X X

They hadn't had a chance to talk – not really talk – since Sara had arrived. The 419 they'd been called out on had turned from ugly to worse, leaving everyone exhausted at the end of two double-shifts. Eventually, though, with only paperwork left to complete, Catherine had walked into the break room where Sara lay sprawled on the couch while Nick and Greg spoke in low tones as to not wake the sleeping brunette.

"Call it a day," Catherine said.

"I was telling Greg we ought to go get a beer," Nick said, leaning back in his chair. Then he glanced at Sara, grinned, and loudly announced, "Although, the princess over there isn't used to the hours, apparently."

He and Greg – punchy with fatigue – chuckled when Sara rolled onto her back and glared up at them.

While she might want to get home to her daughter, Catherine liked the idea of unwinding a little first. Smiling, she said, "Sounds good."

"Great," Greg said, bundling out of his chair with the grace of an elephant. As he headed for the door, he said, "I'll go let Ray know."

X X X

Sitting in a bar just off the strip, Catherine idly sipped her drink and watched Sara and Nick sway to the music on the small dance floor. She looks good, Catherine thought, watching as Nick gave her a good dip and pulled a laughing brunette to an upright position once again.

Sitting up straight, she watched as they approached, Nick letting Sara slide into the booth first.

"Why?" Catherine asked. She hadn't really meant to ask, but the filter between her mouth and brain had stopped functioning after the first drink.

Baffled, Sara asked, " 'Why' what?"

"Why are you here?"

Catherine fully expected Sara to clam up. Shut down. That was her history – her MO. So, it surprised her when Sara shrugged and replied, "I have some business to take care of. Family business."

Wow. At least one full sentence. Since she was on a roll, Catherine waited a heartbeat before asking, "You have family here?"

"Not here. The bay area. San Francisco. I just happened to be in California when Conrad called Gil. Since he's unavailable, Conrad asked if I could step in."

Catherine noted how Sara had ducked her head a little when she spoke, breaking eye contact. Of course, that brought up the other question. "Where is our fearless leader?"

This time, Sara snorted a laugh and grinned before replying, "Chasing a bug. Apparently, it might be an undiscovered species."

"Really?" Ray asked, his eyes lighting up as he sat straighter and joined in the conversation. "What kind?"

"I'd tell you if I knew," Sara replied, her grin turning rueful. "However, I only understood three things out of the entire two minute conversation we had before disappearing into the jungle. One, it's a beetle. Two, it's pretty – at least to Gil. And three, he was acting like a ten-year-old on a roller coaster."

She didn't add that six months ago she would've relished hearing about his bugs, but she'd gotten to the point of threatening to squash one.

"He just took off?" Nick asked, his eyebrows shooting straight up.

Once again, Sara snorted a laugh. Actually, when he'd left she'd felt relieved. It was wonderful spending part of her time with the man, back when they lived in Vegas. Living with him twenty four hours a day, seven days a week in very close quarters had turned into something else. For example, there was the whole not making the bed thing. How hard was it to just pull the sheets and covers up in the morning? Not to mention the fact that he forgot to pick up supplies on an alarmingly regular basis.

"I had things to take care of myself," Sara eventually replied, not adding that her mother had passed away over a year before and she'd been putting off dealing with the estate. "So it worked out."

And I really needed to get a job, she mused. I need something to keep me busy for awhile.

"What are you planning to do once we hire the replacement?" Greg asked, looking at her hopefully. She knew that look. He wanted her to return. Permanently. And it wasn't going to happen.

"I'll probably consult now and again," she said, picking up her cocktail and taking a sip. The sweet, fruity drink hit her tongue and she sighed. Eventually they'd settle somewhere; probably somewhere Gil could teach. He really did love educating people.

Another source of irritation as of late.

"We'll figure it out as we go," Sara said with a shrug. No need to tell them her darling husband could be an annoying pain in the ass. They'd all experienced it. Just not to the degree she had, and definitely not on a twenty-four hour a day basis.

Eventually, the glasses sat empty, and one by one they all headed out, leaving Sara and Catherine to the last.

Settling back into her seat and in no hurry to leave, Sara eyed the older blond and smiled. Without the boys there to buffer Catherine, she wondered just how long she had until the questioning really started.

It surprised her when Catherine's first question came with a true look of concern.

"Are you sure you're okay?" the older woman asked. "You left for valid reasons; ones I can understand." She hesitated before adding, "And you didn't come with Grissom. If the two of you are having problems…"

"No," Sara replied, lightly chuckling. "We're fine. But when he opted to head out into the jungle, I agreed wholeheartedly. He knows I'm here and handling some family business – something I would prefer to do alone. Plus, if he opened his mouth one more time I was liable to stuff it with the toothpaste cap he can't manage to actually get on the tube."

That got a throaty laugh from the blond.

"You know you're always welcome here, right?" Catherine eventually asked, and then took another sip.

"Yeah, I know," Sara replied. "But I meant it. I'll consult for now, but not for too long. The road that got me here isn't one I want to keep following."

"So you're saying we're a stop on the tour?" Catherine quipped, with a grin.

"No, I'm just saying too much of a roller coaster without an occasional break can make anyone hurl."