Disclaimer: Still don't own anything but those poor words

Hi everyone, this is the sequel of 'Ten Minutes'

Enjoy,

So ;)


Eight Months…

By SoFrost

Catherine

The door slams shut, the sound is sharp, deafening like a gun shot, so loud that I'm startled; the low roar of Sara's car reaches my ears and still I can't move, like a statue. My eyes fall on the small rectangular, neatly wrapped, package resting on the table. My vision is blurred by the sizzling hot tears running down my face; sudden vertigo grips me and breathing becomes laborious. A violent nausea shakes me to the core and I run to the sink to empty my stomach; my throat burns up quickly at the contact of the hot acidic liquid coming out of my guts.

The smell coating me, which has become so familiar to me for the past months is now making me nauseated but my stomach is empty so I'm just dry coughing with disgust.

My midriff is wounded with the excessive and sudden effort; I stay bent over the sink in case of unexpected rising of bile. I guzzle water to wash out the bitter taste which is persisting in my mouth, then I splash some water over my face.

Tears double on my cheeks; the last ten minutes are replaying in head and I'm finally realising the magnitude of the situation.

Shit…

What have I done?

My thoughts rush into my mind making me dizzy, I feel like I was suffocating, it's like the walls were closing in on me so I run away as fast as possible; running from the house and getting back into my car and return to whence I came from. Twenty minutes later I'm drumming on a door which is keeping me away from what I need.

"Where's the fire?" the young brunette who opens the door asks. She's smiling smugly and her green eyes don't leave any doubt as to what she's thinking about right now.

I don't answer and just make my way inside, her smile widens and she closes the door behind me. I go straight to her kitchen and pour myself a glass of strong alcohol which I drink in one go. I drink another one and another one until the heat spreads in my entire body, then I let my eyes roam over her body.

Her flesh is firm, slightly athletic; a white sleeveless shirt moulds her chest bust perfectly, the colour contrasting with her olive skin; her grey pants put her forms to their advantage and in spite of her clothes I can define her body in every detail out of memory.

A myriad of emotions are raging in me and I don't want anything except shutting them all down, numbing myself not to feel anything; I drain two more glasses then cross the distance between us with determination. She's a bit surprised when I pin her against the nearest wall but she doesn't oppose any resistance. I kiss her with violence; I'm hurting and I want to hurt her; but above all I don't want to feel anything anymore; I want to forget, not to think; I want her to hurt me because right now physical violence is the only feeling I can dominate.

My hands caress her body aggressively, my nails are spading in her skin, leaving red traces behind; she tries to resist but I hold her firmly against the wall; when I bite her bottom lip she pushes me away.

"Wow, easy okay?" she frowns. I ignore her and push her against the wall once more, attaching my lips on her neck and biting her flesh hard. She grabs me roughly by the shoulders and pushes me away, anger firing from her eyes. "Fucking hell Cathy, what's up with you? Where are you just now?" she asks with confusion.

I get off her grasp with disdain and start leaving but she grabs my wrist to hold me back. "Listen, I need something raw, rough, violent even…if you can't deliver, then you're useless to me," I spit, pulling my wrist away and walking to the door.

I've barely opened the door that the hand of the brunette comes right above me and slams the door back onto its frame with blunt force, blocking me between her body and the massive wood.

"And where the fuck you think you're going?" her voice is cold and her anger blatant.

A predatory smile tugs at the corner of my lips, I've just got what I was looking for.

The next hours are full of brutal, painful and bellicose embraces. My flesh is wounded, covered with bruises, scratches and marks of every kind; I don't believe I've ever been that savage in my life before today. I've actually never felt such an eagerness to be physically hurting, only to shut the emotional pain eating at me from inside.

I should be worn out, just like the brunette lying sound asleep on the bed, yet I'm not. I feel empty; truth to be told I haven't felt anything earlier, nothing at all. Every orgasm has ripped my lower stomach apart deep into my guts with an incommensurable pain and yet I didn't feel anything apart that intense pain, no pleasure, not even a hint of satisfaction.

During all those past months I've convinced myself that the brunette was offering me something that I didn't have… now I've hit the reality wall bluntly and at great speed… no, truth to be told I'm just not able to pretend and keep the illusion up anymore, I can't buy my own lie any longer.

I'm disgusting myself… well more than usual anyway. I smile bitterly. Tonight I should have been sharing a nice romantic diner with Sara, go out with her… anything would have been good; instead of that I'm celebrating our three years anniversary by fucking my mistress; this young woman who I've been using for seven months. I think I've hit the bottom, no actually I think I have grabbed a shovel to dig further down just to do things properly.

I rise from the bed and get dressed at the first rays of dawn. I drive myself home in autopilot; when I'm there, I lock myself in and go to the bathroom; once inside I undress myself and let the sizzling hot spray hit my skin, hoping in vain that water will wash away the last months that have went by; hoping that at some point I'll feel good in my own skin.

Hot water isn't the only thing running down my cheeks.

xxxxx

Sara has been gone for ten days. I know that it's useless for me to call her, she won't answer. Just like she had told me, she has taken a leave of absence at work so I didn't even have a chance to see a glimpse of her at work. I dropped by her place, but the absence of her car in the parking lot let me know that she wasn't there either.

Let's be honest, I haven't really gone out of my way to try to reach her, but I found enough reason to justify my cowardice. I'm ashamed and I'm more than aware of the fact that I've been vile with her, that I'm a world class bitch, to put it midly. On the other hand I don't know what I want. I put myself in this mess, I threw everything away; now I have to assume the consequences of my actions and in order to do that I have to ask myself the questions I've put so much effort to avoid until now.

I'm taken away from my thoughts by the passenger door being opened and slammed shut as Lindsey gets into the car in a broody silence. She's not taking Sara's absence well; admittedly my evasive answers made all the progresses we had made vanished, now we are back to the silence game and her rebellious behaviour; only this time I can't even put it on her teenage angst, the only one at fault is me.

I don't want to think about it all, in fact the only reason I'm currently surviving is because I don't allow myself to think. I go to work, bury myself under tons of paperwork or I throw myself body and soul into the smallest investigation; then I take care of Linds and if she's not around I clean the house from top to bottom, then I numb myself with alcohol or take some sleeping pills; then I wake up and start a new cycle.

If I stop myself and think then I have to face what I already know. I'm empty, empty of any feelings, dead from inside; I ruined the best thing I had in my life after Linds, my relationship with Sara. I didn't have to lose her to realize the chance I had to have her in my life, or how much our relationship was unique and precious.

It's simple really, I'm decaying without her. Of course when I say that now it sounds hypocritical of me considering what I've put her through for those past months. And yet it's true, I'm nothing without her.

I've always found it funny that she and I got together as a couple regarding the animosity that has always been between us during so many years. Yet even though she's not perfect and our relationship isn't perfect, Sara as exceeded all my expectations, and by far at that.

As for myself, what have I done? I spent a lot of energy into ruining everything.

Good job Willows.

"How was your day?" I try to communicate with my daughter. She answers with a shrug of her shoulders then looks at the landscape going by her window.

We get back home, a home that is now empty, cold and lifeless; my personal hell.

The next hours will be a pure torture, Linds will lock herself in her room and I'll be pacing like a wild animal locked in a cage, trying my best to find something to do with myself. Then I'll stare at the phone for hours and will curse myself for not taking it and calling Sara. After that, Linds will ignore me the whole dinner we'll share until I bring her at Nancy's then I'll have a lame goodbye and an emotionless kiss on the cheek.

Not only have I destroyed the best relationship I've ever had, but I've destroyed the family I was building, the family I've always dreamt about.

xxxxx

"Good evening everyone, this meeting will be brief. Tonight we are going to welcome the CSI who will replace Sara…" Grissom starts but he doesn't get the chance to finish as the whole team speaks at the same time.

"Sara quit the team?" Nick asks incredulous.

"No way, she would have told us…"

"Yeah, Rick is right, she wouldn't go without at least say goodbye properly… she's not like that," Greg confirms. "We are her friends… even more, we are a family, she'd have said goodbye if she was leaving…"

Everybody puts their two cents on the table as to what is going on, and what could explain Sara's absence during the past three weeks: Ecklie finally found the reason he has always been looking for to fire her; something has happened to her and we are kept in the dark…

As for myself I'm under the impression that I've received a punch in the stomach. I ruined everything, granted, but I agree with the boys, she would have told me if she was leaving Vegas permanently, right? Maybe she's gone because I didn't call her, I didn't give her any sign regarding our relationship… but still she'd have told me she was leaving… or at the very least she'd have told Linds goodbye… but then again since Linds doesn't speak to me for all I know they could have said goodbye to one another without me knowing about it…

I feel nauseated as a billion questions and hypotheses are making my head spin. I force myself to stay compose and speak with authority.

"Everybody, calm down!" I interject. "Griss… what do you mean by 'replace Sara'?" I ask with my heart in my throat.

"I mean that her absence is going to be extended, she'll be working in another lab… before you ask, I don't know how much time, but I think we're speaking in months and not years. May everybody rest assure that she's still part of our team," there's a general sigh of relief; well almost general because personally I don't feel any better and I think that the boys wouldn't be as relieved if they knew everything was my fault.

"Then why replacing her?" Greg queries.

"Because if her absence is manageable during quiet times and that I have a complete faith in this team to accomplish miracles in case of rush; on a long run from a strategic point of view, we need to have someone more to help us, unless you prefer pulling double shift after double shift during the next months."

Gil has a point, we all know it. It's true, if we just have a lot of cases to deal with or just the one that is complicated and we can find ourselves making 48H days; it's exactly like the saying one person is missing and the whole team is emptied.

I listen to Grissom's introduction of the new member of the team with a distracted ear and wait for Gil to go back to his office. I follow him and close the door behind me when we are in the confine space, he barely looks at me above the rim of his glasses, he knows me well enough to know that his earlier explanation wasn't merely sufficient.

"Sara is coming back, right?" my voice is firm but I think it's obvious that I'm upset.

Gil sighs deeply which isn't a good omen, if everything was as fine as he suggested earlier he would have answered me right away without any hesitation. Right now, not only is he hesitating but I can read worry over his face.

"I hope so," he finally replies.

"What do you mean?" I come closer to his desk. "Gil?" I press him when he doesn't answer right away.

"She has requested a transfer to San Francisco."

A ton of concrete falls on my head, forcing me to sit down immediately. I think I'm going to be sick. "A permanent one?" I ask in a whisper.

"No, temporary… at least for now," he thinks aloud but doesn't add anything, however I can feel that he's holding back something.

"Gilbert, if you know something, speak right now without any mystery," I get angry.

I can count on the fingers of my two hands, the rare occasions on which I used his full name in the ten years we've known each other.

He sighs again and puts his glasses away before rubbing his face in a tired motion. "It's no surprise if I say that Sara is brilliant, it's a fact and everybody knows it…" he pauses. "Do you remember, during her second year here, she had doubts as to know whether she should stay in Vegas or not? The only thing I found to tell her was that Vegas was the best lab of the country. And you had to make see that I was the problem, me and my inability to show her that she was appreciated. You made me buy her a plant…"

"I remember…" of course I do, that time again I was partially responsible for her uneasiness. Maybe it was an earlier sign that I wasn't good for anything except hurting her.

"I think that the same thing is happening, only this time I doubt a plant will be enough. Yes Vegas is one of the best labs, but I don't think it'll be that hard for her to find a better offer; find a lab who appreciates for what she's really worth. I think I screwed up badly on this one…"

If even Grissom starts to curse then the situation is really worse than I thought.

"I didn't give her a promotion when she deserved it more than Nick at the time, and do you know why I didn't? I didn't do it because there were gossips about an affair between her and I, which was preposterous. But it was getting on my nerves so I thought that by giving Nick the promotion I'd prove my impartiality… yeah right, who was I kidding… and when I think about it those past few years I wasn't really fair with her either, I think she just got sick of it," he pinches the bridge of his nose.

"To be honest, I'm scared Catherine; scared not to know how to tell her that we all need her, no just because she's a good investigator, but first and foremost because more than a team we are a family and she is a part of it."

It's almost touching to see Griss like that, like a little boy who has lost his spider pet, so much that I don't dare telling him that this time I'm the one who has messed up.

"I'll tell her all this when she comes back and I'll do anything to convince her to stay with us."

"I think we're all going to do the same," I add, still a bit disoriented. "I'll be in my office if you need me," I announce before standing up and exiting the office.

I walk more or less steadily in the corridors, once in my office I lock myself in a draw the blinds before letting myself fall onto my chair and cry myself out.

I better start cleaning up my mess and fast.

xxxxx

Someone knocks on my door and I allow my visitor to come in without looking up from the report I'm writing.

"Miss Willows…" the soft voice of the new receptionist fills the room.

"Jenny," I reprimand her gently. Jenny is really nice and I think I'm scaring her a little bit. Well, I'll admit that for the past five weeks – since Sara's gone in fact, I've been moody, I've got my heart up my sleeves which mean that a little nothing can unleash the wild fury tamed in me. Yet, I've always told Jenny to call me by my name, this 'Miss Willows' always makes me grit my teeth. Yes, I'm old, I know it, I don't need any reminder of that fact, thank you. Add to that the fact that I'm not exactly taking care of myself lately, I think that I look even older than I am.

"Sorry," Jenny laughs shyly. "Catherine, there's someone for you at the front desk."

"Is it about a case?"

"Hum… no Ma'am, I think it's about a personal matter," I'm about to ask her something when she beats me to it. "And no, it's not your daughter nor about her," she smile.

"Very well, I'll be there in a minute, thank you Jenny," I return her smile. "Oh and Jenny, I beg you please, drop the Ma'am, it's Catherine," I try to put her at ease.

"I'll try to remember that," she blushes lightly before leaving.

I finish my line on my report then exit and lock my office. I wonder who could be at the front desk, I don't expect anyone and my friends seldom come to see me at work without a warning call. I get my answer fairly quickly as I round the corner of the corridor; an unspeakable rage invades me at the sight of my visitor.

Rule n°1, never to come without calling first; rule n°2 never, fucking ever, come at work whatever the reason. She knows it perfectly…

I walk with decisive and tensed strides, when I arrive at her level I hold myself from blowing up the face of the young woman waiting like a picket fence at the front desk. My expression oozes with aggressiveness, also she makes the wise choice not to say anything when I grab her elbow firmly and guide her with force outside until we reach the farthest point from the entrance in the parking lot.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I ask with an icy voice.

"Hey Andie, how are you? Fine, Cathy, thanks for asking," she mimics a conversation on a falsely light tone.

"Once again, what the hell are you doing here?"

She chuckles dryly. "What the hell am I doing here?" she echoes. "You must be kidding me right now," she spits.

"Spill it or get out of here and leave me the fuck alone."

"All right, I came here to talk, since you don't bother answering my calls or my messages."

"I don't have anything to say to you. Go home," I order before turning around and starting to go, she grabs my wrist in a painful hold which forces me to bite back the pain. "Let go of me," I growl.

"You fuck me like there's no tomorrow, and then you ignore me?" her words are delivered with anger. "I think you don't know who you're dealing with. I'm not a toy, nor a pet. As I said I came here to talk, so we're going to talk."

"Let go of me," I repeat on a threatening tone.

She laughs humourlessly. "Cathy… if there's something I can't stand it's people fucking around with me."

"You seem to have audition problems so I'll go slow," I reply with disdain. "I. Don't. Have. Anything. To. Say. To. You," I enunciate each word like she was intellectually slow. "Go home, and don't you ever come back here."

I have to keep a hold on my temper, the last thing I want is to make a scene with her on the lab parking lot. "Go home, Andrea."

The mention of her name makes her drop my wrist instantly. "I think there's a little misunderstanding between us," she chuckles bitterly. "You won, I'm going home, but it's in your interest to come by after your shift."

"Are you threatening me now?" if there's one thing I never allow to fly it is to have anyone pushing me around.

"No, just a friendly advise. Believe me, you don't want to piss me off anymore than I already am. If I have to come back every single day to get what I want then that's what I'll do. Needless to say that I'm curious to know what your co-workers would think about the detailed and extended tales of the different way I fuck you."

"Go home," I repeat myself, not wanting to lose my cool.

"See you later, babe," she smiles sweetly with satisfaction her hands up in surrender.

I watch her walking away to her car, in less than a minute she disappears in the traffic. My heart is racing in my chest; once more I feel nauseated, things are really turning sour.

The night after Sara's departure, I've decided to put an end to my affair with Andrea. Of course, rather than confront her about it I thought she'd get the message loud and clear by herself after five weeks of silence – considering we were seeing each other almost everyday, the message sounded quite clear to me; but that was without putting her temper in the equation, I remember that her hot-headed attitude, slightly brutal is one of the reasons why I picked her. Why? Because that's exactly what Sara isn't.

I know that she will put her threat in motion when it comes to talk about our encounters, and I don't have any doubt on the fact that she'll charge again until I actually confront her. I don't have a choice, or rather the one I have is rotten.

The least we can say is that I don't do things by halves, if I'm going to dig my self a hole, might as well aim to China.

xxxxx

"Cathy, what a lovely surprise," Andrea welcomes me with a fake enthusiasm when I enter her place.

She closes the door with a sigh and joins me in her living room.

"Do you want something to drink?" her tone is much calmer now. She pours herself a soda in a tall glass as if everything was normal.

"No, you want to talk, fine. I'm listening."

"All I want is to understand why you've been ignoring me for the past five weeks," she states.

"Sara knows everything, she's always known. She's gone."

She sighs. "I'm sorry," she says slowly; and the worse in it all is that she's genuine. "Listen, what I said earlier… I was really pissed…" she apologizes.

"It doesn't matter," I cut her off. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over between us. I don't want to see you again, nor do I want you to ever call me again," I announce without emotion, not leaving room for argument.

A flash of anger immediately darkens her green eyes; a mean rictus appears on her lips. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it you who were saying how much you wished we were together, that things were complicated but that you wished you had the strength to leave her for me; that I was driving you crazy and made you feel powerful things, and so on… so if I understand you right now… all this was nothing but bullshit, is that it?" her voice is hard and I can feel her temper creeping to the surface.

Andrea is the volcanic kind, she can lose her temper in less than three seconds, she has an immutable opinion on everything; she has a rather thick sense of humour and is very touchy, as in easily offended. I'm not saying that she doesn't have anything in her head, because she's a long way from being stupid, it's just that she stands on the ground that she's always right no matter what, which makes it hard when it comes to communication. She's the polar opposite of Sara and now that I think about it, it's hard to tell what attracted me to her in the first place.

No, actually, I know what, she's only a more sensitive version of Eddie – less violent too, of him and all the losers who came after her.

"I'm sorry, I have been unfair with you…"

"Wow, you must have eaten a fucking clown today," she chuckles without humour. She comes near me, rage pouring out of her while body, she only stops what she's in my personal space. "Unfair… that's a fucking understatement…" she's forcing herself not to shout. "Seven months… seven fucking months that you're fucking me over," she raises her hand suddenly, and barely manages to hold herself from crossing the line by closing her fist tightly and slowly, her breath shallow and filled with anger.

She hits her wall so suddenly that I'm startled. "Did you really have to treat me like this, fuck my head up, make me believe that there was something more between us? Did you?" she asks with vehemence.

My lack of response makes her angrier also she looks at me with ire. "I'm talking to you!" she presses me.

I still don't say anything, the truth is that I don't have anything to say that would excuse or even justify my behaviour with her. I used her being very aware of that fact. It's despicable and pathetic, I acted with her like Eddie and the ones after him have acted with me. and even if Andrea has her defaults, she certainly didn't deserve such a treatment.

She shakes her head and I notice the tremors running through her body, sign that she's putting a lot of effort to contain the fury boiling in her. "You're unbelievable," she snorts with despise and advances on me. "Get the fuck out of here and fast because I'm a hairbreadth away from losing it," she orders coldly.

I don't protest and start walking to the door. "I pity her, I don't know what she did to deserve you… you're nothing but a fucking manipulative bitch, insensitive and void of this appendage called a heart," she spits her venom one last time.

In normal circumstances I would have put her back in her place, I don't let anyone speaking to me the way she just did, but in that case I'm only getting what I deserved. Her words hurt, not because they are full of hatred and despise but because they are true; after all only the truth hurts.

"You can bet that I won't try to see you again… you're dead as far as I'm concerned," she growls. "Now, get the fuck out."

I forbid myself from crying; Karma's a bitch, I'm only getting what was coming to me. Yes, I used her and was well aware of that fact; yes, I was dishonest with her; yes I'm selfish, and yes I'm a manipulative and insensitive bitch; so no I don't have the right to complain nor cry when in fine I'm only having the truth spat on my face. I exit her place as fast as I can without looking back.

I'm starting to wonder when I let my conscience on the sidewalk and became that despicable and despising person. Maybe I should have taken the fact that I haven't been able to look at myself in the mirror for several months like a sure sign that I was taking the wrong path.

xxxxx

"Alright kitten, you know I love you, but it can't go on like this; you've been looking like a zombie for weeks, you don't take care of yourself; I'm worried about you, you know," says Nancy before serving me a mug of tea. "It has also been a while since I've last seen Sara… did you guys break up?" she asks in a whisper.

My throat immediately contracts itself and tears are already on the verge of spilling from my eyes; it's crazy, I'm crying everyday, and in spite of that I still have tears in stock.

"She's gone," I inform my sister.

Until now I had purposefully avoided Nancy, or rather I managed never to stay more that a few seconds with her and found plausible reasons to explain my lack of communication. But Nancy is patient and relentless, so instead of giving me a new opportunity to run, she invited herself to my house.

"Gone?" she brings me back to the present.

"Yes, she went to San Francisco," I confess weakly. "I really ruined everything this time."

She sighs deeply. "Cath, whatever happened between the two of you, try to find a common ground. You are good together, and she's right for you. She brought you that equilibrium you didn't have before. Relationship aren't easy, but I'm convinced that the one you're having with Sara is worth a great deal of effort from you. So, go to meet her, apologize or find a compromise. But don't let her go like that."

"I can't."

"Of course you can. I'll watch over Linds for as much time as you need, just go see her."

"No, Nance, I can't go see her…"

"Nothing's holding you back Cath so put your pride in your pocket, take your courage by both hands and…"

"I've been cheating on her for the last seven months of our relationship," I cut her off. She looks at me like I had just hit her. "Please, don't judge me, not now," I beg before she gets a chance to speak again.

She gives me a look saying that I should know her better than suggest that she'd ever do something like judging me. She's right though, she's always been there for me when I've hit rough patches; of all our siblings she's the one to have seen me at my lowest. I've always had a certain pride when I have a problem and if my brothers are like Nance – they'd never judge me, they have a tougher approach on life. When you're down on your knees, you don't complain, just stand back up and move on. It's a good thing because they gave me good bases to go on in life, but sometimes, like right now, I need someone to hold my hand.

"Did you fall in love with him?" she asks calmly. "Your affair," she adds.

"Her," I correct her without emotion. "And no."

"She was treating you in a special way… does she have something Sara doesn't have?" Nance continues.

"No, not really. Andrea is a version of Eddie with breasts and some restrain."

Nancy looks at me with evident confusion. I have always admired her ability to control her emotions. I know that had parts been reversed, if she was the one to have screwed up her relationship with the right person for her, I'd already have stuck my shoe in her rear. Even though, I do deserve a good kick in my ass, she knows that right now it's best to let me assume and deal with my own mess on my own for the moment; because I already know how stupid I've been, because I already feel miserable and under everything; on the other hand if I start moping around and wallowing when everything is my fault, then she'll have the right to kick me to the dust until I get a grip on myself.

"I don't get you," she says, she about to add something but decides against. "What do you want?"

"I don't know…"

She sighs deeply. "Kitten, I don't know what went through your head, and I don't know the details of your relationship with Sara… but I think you need to do a little introspection to know why you put so much effort into sabotaging your relationship with her and even more to figure out what you want," she states. "I'll always be there for you, but I can't help you find those answers."

I hate the perspective to face my mistakes, but Nancy's right I need to make a big introspection.

xxxxx

Four months.

I've been dying a little more every day for the past four months. Four months that I've been leaving Sara messages; four months that she hasn't answered any of them; four months that I've been sleeping on my couch because I can't stand to sleep in my bed without Sara by my side; four months that I'm barely surviving and that's only because I have Linds to think about; four months that I feel empty; four months that I'm suffocating at work, in my house; four months that my life doesn't have any sense anymore.

And right now it's been three hours that this report doesn't make any sense even though I've read it about ten times. I put my glasses down on my desk with frustration and rub my eyes before sighing deeply. I decide to take a break, so I stand up and exit my office.

As I'm walking through the corridor something strikes me as odd, so I stop my progression and make a full rotation, focusing to know what's off. My mind is running wild and my heart starts racing when I finally put my finger on the detail that is out of place.

Sara.

Her smell is floating in the air, as if she had just walked by. I can't be mistaking because I've been getting high with her smell; that smell impregnated in the shirt the left behind; that shirt which has been the red line of my life for those past months. I run to the break room, anticipation burning my veins.

She's back.

A smile splits my lips, only to vanish immediately when I find the break room empty, or rather void of any trace of Sara.

I'm startled when I feel a hand on my shoulder. "Hey, you're okay?" Warrick asks me with concern.

I don't bother answering before walking back to the protective bubble that my office has become, I can feel tears stinging my eyes, ready to fall. I don't know how long I'll be able to go on like that.

I hate myself so much for sabotaging everything, because Nancy was right, it was nothing more than a sabotage. At least I still have my eyes to cry, which seems to be the only thing that I can do lately.

I decide to stay in my office for the rest of the shift, I have a ton of paperwork to deal with for one and then I don't think I'll be able to deal with anyone right now.

I still haven't made any progress on the reading of my report which means that I've wasted almost two hours; I bury my face in my hands to shut down the world around me and focus just to remember the feeling of being in Sara's embrace, remember her tender kisses in my neck to soothe me, her caring voice, the comfort and the love radiating from a gesture as simple as a hug.

I hear my door being opened and closed, my anger immediately picks up.

"This isn't a windmill so politeness dictates to knock and wait for…" the words die on my lips when I'm afraid to be hallucinating.

I see Sara standing up in front of me, her hands in her pocket, her hair longer than it was when she left, her cheeks are slightly dug in and her skin complexion is pale for someone who's been in the sun for the past four months. I close my eyes when her smell invades my nostrils, for the first time in four months I feel myself breathing.

"Sorry," she says flatly.

I scrutinize her, unable to speak, and yet there's so many things I'd like to tell her. I'd also like to stand up and take her in my arms, but I can't, so I stay still like a stone, terrified at the thought that this could be nothing but a dream.

She licks her lips nervously before speaking again. "I came to see Grissom, I thought it'd be correct to let you know myself that I was back."

I nod silently.

She sighs and I think I detect a hint of frustration in her, her posture lets me know that she's angry. Maybe it's not what she was expecting. I know I've dreamt about this moment a thousand times and then it wasn't as tensed nor was it as cold.

"That's all I wanted to say," she adds and I can feel my heart contracting itself tightly in my chest at her words. "Have a nice shift."

"Thanks…" I whisper. "Thanks for coming," she lets me finish then disappears as fast as she had come.

I bury my head in my hands again. She's here, and yet I'm hurting just as much if not much more than when she was gone.

Four months that she's ignoring me – because I know from a verified source that she was in contact with the boys and Grissom, four months… and she doesn't have any more to say to me than a few icy words.

I think I had underestimated the depth of hell and limbos because I've just reached another low level.

xxxxx

Sara has been avoiding me ever since she came back three weeks ago; sure she greets me politely when we are all gathered at the beginning of the shift, but that's all. I also think that she has explicitly asked Grissom never to pair us up, and as a result I almost never see her. I didn't try to call her at her place; if I can stand the fact that she ignores me when there are states between us, it's another thing to have her ignoring me when we are in the same city and a few miles away from one another.

I'm being patient, I'm convincing myself that at some point or another she'll call me, that we'll have time to talk and fix things. In the meantime I'm thinking and trying to formulate all those things that have been poisoning me ever since she went away.

I try not to look at the obvious, not to think about the fact that maybe this is her way to make me understand that there's nothing left between us and that it won't ever change from now on.

I'm startled when my cell vibrates on the coffee table, I grab it and immediately look at the message on the screen: 'we need to talk, come over tomorrow, S.'

I swear I can hear the toll of the bell, that's not a good omen ever.

xxxxx

I couldn't sleep at all, also I arrive quite early at Sara's. I stay in front of her door, hesitant. A part of me thinks it's too early, she's probably still sleeping. But the other part of me can't wait anymore, besides if I wait any longer I might lose my nerve.

I take a deep breath and knock, I'm a bit surprised when the door opens almost immediately. Sara leaves the door open before going back inside; I come in and lock us in. Her apartment seems so familiar and yet so strange at the same time, it's been such a long time since I've been there.

"Do you want something to drink?" her voice is distant.

"Hum… water, please."

She nods but keeps watching me. "Might as well put yourself at ease, I think you're here for a moment."

I breathe in deeply and walk to the couch; I take off my jacket before sitting down. Sara comes back from her kitchen and put a bottle on her coffee table before sitting in the armchair on my left. We stare at each other in silence for a few minutes; I realize that maybe she's expecting me to speak first, maybe she doesn't have anything to say to me; or maybe she just doesn't want to make this easy for me in any way.

I've never been good at talking about what I'm feeling, being vulnerable; once on track I can talk for hours, but I need a little incentive, something I doubt I'll have tonight.

She sighs. "I've been cold and distant since I came back," she states, even though it's nothing that either of us didn't know. "I thought that all those months away from here, from you… had been enough for me to channel all my anger… and everything was fine… up until the point when I saw you, then everything came back to the surface…"

I can feel a golf ball lodging itself in my throat at those words, I forbid myself to cry, even though it's difficult at the moment. "I still needed time to calm down, because I knew that no matter what we'd have to talk, and I just can't listen when I'm pissed off; anyway, all this to explain why I kept my distance."

"I understand," I reply with a strangled voice.

She nods, her stare is grave, I don't believe I ever saw that dark shade of brown in her eyes which doesn't ease my nerves at all. "I suggest that we don't beat around the bush, so I'm going to get to the point directly," she announces firmly. "I admit that I'm partly responsible for what happened, I must have done something backwards; I may even have hurt you without wanting to; and my passivity regarding the whole situation wasn't the best behaviour to adopt. I apologize for everything I've done wrong…"

She sighs and continues "…but I've also thought a lot about it all and I came to the conclusion that you and I had stopped communicating for quite a long time before it all unravelled and that I would have preferred for you to tell me that something was wrong rather than go look elsewhere. Even more, those past months away from you made me understood that I need answers, I need to know your point of view on this matter; I need to know what pushed in her arms. So, take your time, but I think you owe me this at the very least, answers."

I start to rub my hands mechanically on my thighs, my palms are sweaty and my throat dry. I look around, not really knowing where to start.

Honesty is my only course of action so I may as well take the big dive; I've only been waiting for this moment for the past five months.

I rest my elbows on my thighs and bend over a bit to lean on them. "I had never felt anything like that before…" I start. "I had never felt anything that strong for anyone before you… I have never loved that much… and as euphoric as this feeling is, it's also scary…" I rub my forehead gently as if to help me think.

"Before you, I was with people who didn't really see me; who didn't really love me either. I was this nice object that you'd notice a moment before discarding it and moving on," I pause.

My policy has always been never to look back and always moving on, also I've never spoken of those insecurities with Sara before, or anyone else for that matter.

"I'm used to that kind of relationship, I can deal with it… but with you, everything was different. You're the first to have looked at me, really looked at me and taken interest in me for reasons other than physical ones. You're the only one who persevered to get through all my defences. You're the first to accept me as I am, with my past, my doubts, my fears… you're the first to love me not in spite of my defaults but because of them…"

I hate this, I hate to lay myself bare, exposing myself to hurt. I force myself not to think about it; I especially try not to think about the fact that that even if I give my heart and soul to Sara on a golden platter right now, nothing tells me that she won't break everything; not to be mean but because after everything I've done, she doesn't owe me anything and has the right to reject me.

I shake my head quickly not to let negative emotions overwhelm me. "I don't think you can realise the shock… the shock it has been for me to love that much and receive your love tenfold in return…"

I take a shaky breath and look at her a second. She's listening patiently, doesn't say anything and her expression is completely neutral.

"This love you gave me was too much… it disturbed me… making me feel so much at the same time… loving you to a point that it was unbearable; being hysterical when I didn't see you for a whole day…feeling like I was suffocating when you weren't there… going crazy because I couldn't figure what you were doing with me…everything was just too intense… I couldn't handle it, it was too powerful… too scary…too… just too much…"

I look away when I feel nauseated. I rub my hands together nervously before speaking again. "I'm not telling you that what I did was because I loved you too much… that's not what I'm saying… what I'm saying is that… I needed to get my markers…so… I found someone like Eddie and the others… because that's something I can handle…"

"So if I had treated you like an object everything would have been for the best?" she asks with genuine confusion.

"No… no… it's not that… the truth is that I didn't want to believe that you could love me like you did… love me for who I really am… cause I kept telling myself that I don't deserve you and that you deserve much better…it was just an overflow of all my fears… and my inability to accept everything that was happening to me then… so I chose the easy way rather than talk to you… I sabotaged our relationship…"

It's horrible and I know that I look pathetic, no, I am pathetic. But that's exactly what I felt, I was suffocating in an overdose of feeling, so much that it was driving me insane. It's crazy to think that to be loved as deeply as Sara loves me can be wonderful and at the same time draining and unbearable. What's more ironic in all this, it's the fact that even if I felt like dying when I received so much from Sara, I know that I can't live without that love.

"Are you still seeing her?"

"No… I put an end to it after you left…" I erase some of my tears with my palms. "I know that there's nothing to neither excuse nor justify what I've done… but I'm sorry, you deserve better; it was lower than everything… I'm sorry…" I look at her with tears in my eyes.

"You should have talked to me Cath…" she shakes her head and stand up to walk to the window. The small distance between us makes my blood turn cold. "I'm not going to pretend that I understand you now… I don't," my tears double at her words. "I've never been with someone like you either… someone who made me want to love so fully… so… much… someone who made me want to be a better version of myself…" she snorts with sadness. "I guess I'm really not shaped to either receive or give love…"

she blinks rapidly and takes a deep breath. "You've hurt me badly Cath…"

"I know… and I'm sorry about it…"

"I can't change the way I love you… even now…"

I stand up and get closer to her, not invading her personal space though. "I don't want you to change Sara… I know what I want… I don't want you to change… I want to be with you…"

She scrutinizes me, gauging my seriousness. Tears are rolling abundantly down her cheeks; an incommensurable rage roars inside me. I hate myself for choosing to run away from my issue instead of facing it; I hate myself for hurting Sara. There's nothing worse than to see the people you love hurting and to know that we're responsible for this pain.

"I won't lie, I want us to be together… but if it's not really what you want… if you can't handle it then I'd rather we call it quit, because I can't let you treat me like this… I've already had my fair share of being treated like a miserable thing that doesn't deserve any better…"

"I love you, and I want to be with you… and if you give me another chance, I promise I'll never do the same mistake again. I'll never hurt you like that again… I'm sorry sweetheart…"

She hesitates, minutes tick by or maybe it's an eternity but eventually she takes me in her arms and holds me tight against her. I hold her just as tightly, breathing her in until my lungs are full, letting the warmth of her body invade me and bringing mine back to life; my heart starts beating again in my chest; and at this very moment I wish time could stop.

I don't know how much time we stay there, crying in each other's arms but eventually we talk a little more; she exposes her terms regarding our reunion, or at least our try to get back together and I accept them all without any objection. To be honest if she asks me to go to hell bare feet and back, I'd do it in the blink of an eye, because life without her is hell anyway.

We hold each other again for long minutes then it's time for me to go home, and our parting, though temporary, breaks my heart. I take comfort from the fact that things have finally taken a positive turn.

xxxxx

I've never doubt that getting back together with Sara wouldn't be easy, that being said I realise that I had underestimated this task. We're taking things slowly, very slowly, that's how Sara wants it and I don't complain; but I don't feel like we were moving on at all at times.

Like right now for instance, we went out for dinner; the dinner in itself went well, and I notice that Sara is more and more at ease with me which is a great progress. Now that she has driven me back home and that we are on my front porch though, I can feel her reluctance and lack of trust spilling out of her again.

"Do you want to come in for a coffee?" I offer.

She grins softly, not a pleasant grin, just an apologetic one. "Thanks, but I think I better go."

It's been the same scene for the past two months. I woo her, I take things slowly and whenever it comes to spend time alone with her at my place our hers, she puts distance between us again. For every step we take forward we take four back. And just like every time she rejects me, I don't say anything, I just nod in acceptance and understanding. I don't push her, never insist, because I know that it's my fault we're here to start with.

"Thanks for the dinner," she says leaning in and kissing me tenderly on my cheek before walking back to her car.

I watch her, holding back my tears. I'm sure that eventually we'll manage to get back together. Everything has to be done again and those things take time.

The universe has quite a perverse sense of humour, I was suffocating with too much love from Sara before and now I'm dying from not receiving as much as before.

xxxxx

"Cath?" Sara frowns when she finds me on her doorstep. "Is everything okay?" she asks before letting me in.

"Not really, no," I answer honestly.

"Did something happen to Linds or…?" worry creeps in her voice.

"No, everything is fine, everyone is okay."

"Alright… what's the problem then?" she asks softly.

"Us."

She tenses immediately, I swear I can see a wall erecting itself around her; she grits her teeth as if to anticipate a punch.

"I know that we need to take things slowly, I'm not questioning that fact or trying to change it…" I start. "However, in spite of everything you've said, I can feel that you're restraining yourself; you don't really involve yourself… I mean… you said that you were ready for us to be together again, for us to work on our relationship… but those past three months, whenever it comes to get closer to one another, you reject me… and I know that I'm not allowed to complain, but… I've been thinking about it and maybe you don't really want to be with me anymore… as painful as that may be for me, I'd understand it if it was the case… I just… need to know… where we're standing you and me…"

She sighs and passes a hand over her face; it's only now that I notice her tired feature and the pale complexion of her skin; this situation is eating at me and maybe I'm not the only one in that case.

"I want to be with you Cath," she reassures me immediately and I breathe out in relief. On my way here I was sure that she would tell me that it was over between us.

"But?"

"But…" she pauses. "I know I'm the one making obstacle to our relationship; as soon as it comes to be in the intimacy of your house or my apartment… I push you away… I'm not doing this to hurt you or out of pleasure," she explains. "Something was shattered inside me when you…" she doesn't finish her sentence but I get the message loud and clear.

She looks away, and takes a deep breath before looking at me again. "This topic is closed and at rest as I said, I don't intend to ever come back on it, or to hold everything that happened against you because that'd taint our relationship… all I'm saying is that something in me is broken because of it and that's the reason why I can't convince myself that I can allow myself to be close to you again; that I can be vulnerable and in trust with you… and I've thought about this problem under every angle but try as I might, I can't tell you what you need to do, to say or what needs to happen to make this situation change…"

Ouch, that hurt…

"I understand," I reply with a strangled voice.

"I'm sorry…"

"No, please don't be… you shouldn't be sorry… I completely understand where you're coming from…" I nervously play with my car keys which never left my hand when I came up here. I can feel tears coming, sign that I need to get out of here and fast. "I just wanted… I needed to know… I think I'm going to go…" I whisper before turning to face the door, I'm about to go out when I look at her again. "I don't care how much time it'll take… I don't intend to give up… I love you and the only thing I want is to be with you," I tell her firmly before going out without giving her a chance to add anything else.

If I have to spend the rest of my life proving her that she can trust me, then that's what I'll do. I let her go once, eight months ago, a mistake I certainly don't intend to repeat.


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