A/N: Starting with a bit of Catherine for season two =) I hope you will all continue to enjoy these stories as much as the others! I have to admit, I'm feeling the pressure! Hope I don't let you down.

Spoilers for episode 2x1, Burked.


Sam said it wasn't in the cards.

And the certainty in his tone made me believe it.

Yet… I couldn't help but imagine what my life would be like if the deck had been stacked a different way.

I'd be a Braun. Probably with more money than I knew what to do with. My mother would be taken care of. Lindsey would probably go to a better school. I'd have the time and resources to give her everything she wanted. I probably wouldn't have to work. Not if I didn't want to.

My life could have been a whole lot different.

But then…

I wouldn't be a CSI. I would have never gotten the push to explore the challenging field in college, and would have never started crashing down barriers in what was still considered a male-dominated field. I'd never have met Grissom. Or Jim, or Warrick or Nick.

Yes, my life would have been a whole lot different.

And call me crazy, but I prefer the life I have.

After Sam and I had dinner on the strip, I met with Nick for a before-shift drink. He was still scratching away on the chigger bites he'd gotten from the crime scene, and bent down several times, head disappearing underneath the bar, to itch at them.

"I thought you got ointment for those things," I teased.

"Yeah, well, it's not working very well," he said, emerging once again.

"What did Grissom recommend?"

"Nail polish, of all things," Nick said with disbelief.

"Did you try it? He is the bug expert."

Nick paused.

"No."

"Well, lucky for you, Nicky, I've been trying to keep a manicure from chipping," I laughed, pulling a clear bottle of polish from my purse.

They must have really itched from how fast Nick snatched the bottle from my hand and began painting his bites right then and there at the bar. When he was satisfied, he leaned back and took the first few sips of his drink.

"So how are you doing with the whole Braun case?" he asked. "I know you're a friend of the family."

"All right, I guess," I said honestly, sighing. "I've known Sam my whole life. It… sucks… that he has to go through this."

"Losing two sons at once," Nick agreed. "How exactly do you know them?"

"Sam and my mother had a thing," I said, emphasizing the last word as Nick raised his eyebrows. "Don't get too excited, it's ancient history. Like, I wasn't-even-a-year-old ancient."

"Well," Nick said seriously. "I'm sorry."

I covered my hands with his.

"Thanks, Nicky," I said sincerely.

"So did you hear this garbage about Warrick's evaluation being on a roller coaster?" he said, switching to a lighter topic.

"Say what?"

"Yeah, he just told me," he said. "Ridiculous. If Grissom gave Warrick all outstandings just because he rode some ride with him, and Sara got all outstandings because, well, she's Sara… I'm gonna be so pissed…"

"Nicky, I'm sure you did just fine on your eval."

"I did," he admitted. "But still…"

He went on for several more minutes and I half-listened, but with a big grin on my face.

Yes, if you'd ask me, I'd say the cards stacked themselves just right.