A/N: SHE LIVES! Hello, my beauties! I can't believe it, I'm actually back! It only took me waaaaaaayyy too freaking long, but I actually finished an update!

I wanted to give a special thanks to everyone who kept reading and reviewing and everyone who private messaged me their support during this incredibly long absence! With any luck, my newfound inspiration will be in long supply and we will all live to see many an update once more! Also, big shout out to kwmadhouse7 for her ongoing support!

I would recommend everyone reread at least the last chapter before this one since its been so very long between updates, but of course its up to you!

-Thing That Constitutes A Page Break-

Closing the door after Sara, Catherine was sorely tempted to crawl back into bed and never leave. But she knew she couldn't. Instead, she showered, dressed in sweats and sat down to her computer. Logging on to her Facebook, she clicked the button to send a private message.

'I'd like to see you before you leave town. Message me.'

Looking up, she found her daughter standing in the doorway. She gave a tired smile. "Hey, baby."

"Hey, Mom."

Seeing the shoulder bag strapped across her daughter's chest, she asked, "Heading over to Ally's?"

Lindsey nodded.

"Text me if you go anywhere else, okay?"

"Sure. Hey, Mom?"

Catherine raised her eyebrows.

"You're not getting cold feet, are you? About Sara?"

The redhead worried her lip. "I don't know, why?"

Lindsey shrugged. "I just…I really like her. I don't want either of you to get hurt, and if you don't want to be with her, I get it, but I've seen you guys together and…she's good for you. I want you to be happy with someone again and Sara…she really cares about you, you know?"

Catherine nodded, touched and a little surprised by her daughter's insightful comments. She's growing up, Catherine realized. "And it really doesn't bother you? That she's a woman?"

Lindsey gave her an odd look. "Of course not. You always taught me that it doesn't matter who you love- as long as you love with all your heart. Does it bother you?"

Catherine frowned and then looked to her lap. "Honestly? It did, at first."


The older woman shook her head. "I don't know. I think…I guess its just hard to think you know yourself- to be so sure you're one way, and then find out you're another. When you're sixteen, you're just really discovering who you are for the first time, Linds. Its okay to make mistakes and experiment. But when you're forty-five?"

"You mean forty-four and three quarters?"

Catherine smiled. "Its just harder to admit your mistakes."

Lindsey looked thoughtful at that. "I don't know, Mom. Maybe it wasn't a mistake. Maybe you are who you are until you're ready to be something different. And it doesn't matter how old you are. When you're ready; you're ready."

Catherine Willows thought about that and was once again struck by how grown up her daughter seemed. She held out her arms and Lindsey walked into them. "I love you, smart girl." She kissed the blonde's temple.

"I love you too, Mom." Lindsey squeezed her mother tight. When she pulled back, they were both a little teary-eyed. "I'll see you later?"

Catherine nodded and sniffed. "You bet."

When Lindsey had gone, Catherine set about cleaning the house, making a shopping list- anything to keep herself occupied. Entering the laundry room, she looked around and was met with a sea of Sara's clothes, sheets, and towels. She had completely forgotten they were there and apparently so had Sara. Sighing, she moved to empty the dryer and changed the loads over. Carrying a load of clean clothes to an empty basket, she inhaled deeply- trying to smell Sara on them. But all she got was the scent of dryer sheets. Annoyed with herself, she punched the buttons on the washer with unnecessary vigor and stomped out of the room. Going back to her computer, she checked her Facebook. Nothing.

Even more frustrated and with nothing else to do, she went upstairs, intending to get another couple hours of sleep. She had just lay down when the phone rang. It was her sister, calling to confirm lunch on Wednesday and to tell her that Jeremy had heard back from UNLV about his lacrosse scholarship.

"How are you doing, Cathy? You sound tired."

"Yeah, you know, fine…tired, but fine…"

By the time she'd hung up, Catherine no longer felt like sleeping. Getting up and straightening her wrinkled top, she returned to her computer. One new message in her inbox- and it had just come in.

'I'm free until 6, where should we meet?'

Catherine quickly typed in her address and added, 'As soon as you can.'

Sighing, she ran a hand through her hair and then hurried upstairs to change.

Half an hour later and downstairs again, she was dressed in black jeans and a simple gray top. She hoped her light make-up and uncurled hair gave her an unstudied, casual look. She was prowling the living room like something caged, rehearsing in her mind what she was going to say. She was just coming to the conclusion that she might have to wing it, when the doorbell rang. Padding deliberately down the hall, she tried to remain calm. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and met with curious blue-green eyes.


"Hey, Cathy."

After a moment, Catherine pulled the door back, "Come on in…"

Julie came stepped inside with hunched shoulders and her hands in the pockets of her vest. She looked around, "Nice house- you own it?"

Catherine smiled tightly, "Paid off for two years now. Would you like a drink? Coffee's made."

Julie shook her head, "No, thanks. I don't drink caffeine."

"Water? Orange juice?"

"I'm fine."

Catherine nodded and swept a hand toward the living room. She followed Julie in and sat down on the sofa. Julie sat on the edge of an armchair.

"So…" Catherine let the word hang in the air. There was an awkward silence and Julie stared at her expectantly. She was sorely tempted to break in to small talk- discuss the weather, work; anything, but she wouldn't allow herself to put what off what needed to be said for a moment longer. She took a deep breath, held it, and let it go. "Julie…I owe you an apology. I think we both know its long overdue, and it may not change much, but still. I owe you an apology."

Julie seemed faintly surprised. "I thought you called me here because you were angry about last night."

Catherine nodded her head. "I did. And I am. But last night wouldn't have happened if I had apologized a long time ago."

For a moment, Julie seemed speechless. Then her expression changed. "What exactly are you apologizing for?"

Deep breaths, Catherine, deep breaths. "For leaving without an explanation. For leaving you there. I know it was a long time ago and maybe it doesn't matter anymore but-"

"Doesn't matter anymore?" Julie's eyes were like ice. "Cathy, you left me there! Alone! For two years, I was completely alone! I freaked, I cracked- I was ostracized. Nobody would talk to me, everyone blamed me for the disappearance of America's Sweetheart! You were gone and I was alone. I thought you loved me. I thought what we had meant something. I thought we would always be together. I thought-"

"You thought, you thought! We were sixteen!" Catherine clenched her teeth, "Sixteen!" she repeated. "We didn't know shit! Stuck in that town! We were kids!"

"I would have taken you away from there! I would have found us a place. We could have made it, Cathy! That love was a forever kind of love!"

About to vehemently deny it out of instinct, Catherine suddenly stopped short. A realization welled up inside her. A forever kind of love? A wave of clarity rushed over her and she shut her eyes. "No, it wasn't. Not for me." A forever kind of love? "Not the way you wanted." She blinked tears away. "I'm sorry, Jules."

Julie faltered. "I thought you loved me."

Catherine met her eyes. "I did."


"But I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to be who you wanted. I wasn't ready for how much you loved me."

Julie clenched her jaw. "You could have just said that. I would have waited. You didn't have to leave."

"I didn't know how! I was afraid! I was a kid!"

"So was I! But I could have said it to your face."

Catherine glared.

Julie glared.

Catherine broke first. "Jules, we wouldn't have made it."

"You don't know that."

The redhead nodded, "I do."


"Because the way I felt about you? It was new, it was exciting. But it was puppy love- first love. It wasn't forever love. I didn't realize it until just now, but what I felt for you wouldn't have lasted. I know that now. It wasn't like what I feel for-"

"Sara." Julie finished. She wilted back into her chair.

Catherine hesitated and then nodded. "She loves me, Jules. And I love her. It took me a long time to find it and come to terms with it, but this…this is the real thing."

Silence stretched.

"I'm sorry I hurt you, Julie. But we've both got to let it go. Its in the past."

Julie nodded. She stood and looked at the photos on the mantelpiece. "Is this your daughter?" She stood in front of an old picture day photo of Lindsey. "She looks just like you."

Catherine stood next to her. "Lindsey. She's sixteen now."

Julie snorted, "What a terrible age."

Catherine thought about it and smiled. "You know, I think she's going to come through it just fine. She's got a good head on her shoulders."

Julie looked at her watch. "I'd better get going. My plane is at eight. If I hurry, I can get out to the desert for a few more shots." She mimed taking a photo.

"You're not staying for the reception tomorrow morning?"

The blonde shook her head and sighed. "I don't give a shit about those people." She looked up. "I came here for you, Cathy." She shrugged at the stunned look on Catherine's face. "After I saw you with Sara, I booked an earlier flight home. I know when I'm beat."

Catherine smiled weakly. "Thanks." She wanted to hug her former love in that moment, but she held back. Instead, she walked Julie to the door and held it open. "Give me a call if you're ever in Vegas again?"

The blonde's expression said she didn't think that was likely to happen, but she nodded, "Sure…Have a nice life, Cathy."

"You too, Jules." Catherine didn't watch Julie go to her car, she didn't wait until she'd pulled away. She closed the door and leaned against it, sighing with relief. A weight she'd carried for most of her life silently lifted. She shut her eyes and smiled.

-End O Chapter-

A little short I know, but that was a good stopping point. What did you guys think? I know I've been a naughty updater, but a few supportive reviews would definitely not go amiss! Until next time!