New story. Hopefully no one here hates me for posting this before finishing all the other stories I've promised to get back to, which I will, but this seemed more important. NOTE: This story is being written almost in real time as it follows the storylines and structure of season 12 (the current season in the US). This may contain spoilers for some readers.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Don't fight it. Stay in control. Hide your fear. Hold back your tears. Get DNA. Forget the hand gripped around your neck. Remain focused. He can't win. I won't let him win. I refuse to be another one of his victims. I've got to plan this, time this, just right. I've got to make it out alive for more than myself.

"What do you think of me now, you little bitch," he snarled at me, his blade to my throat.

I could taste the metal as I tried not to gulp or gasp for breath, afraid the knife would pierce my skin.

He tightened his grip around my throat and I felt myself losing more oxygen than I wanted to at this point. I thought if I could breathe a little longer, I could still nurse the idea that the team would find me. Now, I'd be lucky if they ever find my body.

He jerked me around and thrust the back of my head against the ground. I groaned and squirmed, unable to free myself from his hold. He had me pinned against the dusty, muddy, cracked and chipped concrete floor and my chances of survival dwindled with every bit of force he used.

"Careful, Miss Willows. As a CSI and casino owner, you wouldn't want to hurt yourself," he grinned like a mad man before he started to cackle like one as well.

"Let's see what we've got to work with," he continued as he looked me over a few times. "You're of a certain age now. You really should have a check up."

As he clenched and unclenched his fist around my neck, he ran the knife along the front of my body.

"What's this," he asked as his knife caressed one of my breasts. "Oh, this is a problem. We're going to need to do some surgery here."

I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to take a deep breath between his mini-strangling sessions to control myself. I wasn't going to give in and grant him the power he desired. He needed to be powerless in order for me to make it out of here relatively unscathed.

"I hear breast cancer is the worst. There are so many ways it can effect women. As your doctor, I'm just looking out for you. ...So, what do you think? Should we cut our girl open and take a look inside?"

I squeezed my eyes shut tightly enough for a few tears to escape. He climbed completely on top of me and kept his hand around my neck, but reduced the amount of pressure he applied. Instead of strangling me, he used his position to restrain me.

"On the count of three," he said. "One...two-"

"Ah! God."

"Oops," his grin widened. "I couldn't wait for three."

He had slashed the knife vertically from my collarbone to my bra in one swift movement. I couldn't control my breathing, my heart rate erratic as I grunted, groaned, and tried to ignore the burning pain in my chest. Blood trickled down my chest and seeped into my bra, down my shirt, and made my new injury undeniable.

A few more tears strayed from my eyes and, grinning, he moved on to something else that caught his interest. He lifted up my shirt to the under wire in my bra and looked down at my exposed skin with eyes as wide a saucers.

"What about this stomach? Anything wrong with it?"

"No," I yelled through gritted teeth as I still struggled to control myself mentally as well as physically.

"Well, how would you know if no one's cut you open for a little peek?"

He playfully ran the knife in various patterns on my stomach as I bucked and thrashed around underneath him. Unfortunately, nothing I did prevented him from slicing my stomach from left to right and ending the torture by slowly penetrating my abdomen.

I screamed and clenched my fists beneath his knees, those knees serving as restraints for my arms. When I opened my eyes, everything was out of focus and surrounded by white clouds. I could tell I was about to pass out from the pain.

Suddenly, I heard a loud thud and yelling coming from across the room. Through my warped vision, I saw my attacker look over his shoulder in the direction I remember him dragging into the place before he went all slasher movie on me.

"Get away from her. Now," a muffled voice yelled as they approached the two of us.

"Get away from her, Pete," a lower, steadier voice warned.

I started to feel numb from the pain, my vision slowly starting to return to normal, never really achieving full normalcy, but enough to make out what was going on in front of me.

I turned to where Pete, my attacker, was looking and saw Sara Sidle and Jim Brass with police backup inching toward us with stern expressions.

Pete sadistically chuckled before he twisted the knife and plunged it a tiny bit further into my abdomen. I yelped and tried to free my arms from under the weight of his knees. Without hesitation, Sara fired her gun and the next thing I heard was a grunt from Pete as he lurched forward. I looked up at him to see him on his way down, heading straight for me.

Quickly, I yanked my arms out from under him and placed my hands firmly on his chest to keep him from falling on top of me. With all the strength I had left, I pushed him aside and let his body fall next to me. I took several deep breaths as I tried not to shriek with rage, sorrow, and frustration.

I felt a hand touch the side of my head as I stared at Pete and watched the life drain out of him, his final breath taken as he saw me survive his thwarted attack. I didn't want to be touched, but the hand gently stroking my hair was non-threatening and familiar. As I started to cry, I turned back to see Sara kneeling beside me, her gun nowhere near her. I took a deep breath as I whimpered, her face full of sympathy.

"It's okay, Cat," she whispered, her brunette locks dangling in front of my eyes. "It's over."

I reached my shaky hand out and grabbed hers. We never broke eye contact as she squeezed my hand, reassuring me I wasn't alone.

Sirens sounded as they raced to our location, the red and white lights blinding even as I lay on the ground. I slowly exhaled as a way of trying to relax, knowing that worrying wouldn't help me recover any sooner.

When I arrived at the lab, I couldn't escape the looks. I hated the looks. Everyone stared at me with wide eyes as I walked past and wondered how I felt, why I was back at work so soon, and if I was okay. I didn't want to answer any of those questions and wanted even less to have anyone ask them.

Suddenly, someone rushed out of a lab and into the hallway. They ran right in front of me and I jerked to a stop to avoid crashing into them, which caused one of my stitches to pop.

"Ah," I placed a hand over my stomach and cringed.

"Sorry," the hurried lab rat quickly apologized while scurrying away.

I tried to take a deep breath as I felt a small amount of blood seep through my shirt I started to walk again and kept my teeth gritted through the discomfort. As I lowered my hand and exposed the part of my shirt that had started to absorb blood, Sara drifted out of a lab and looked both ways down the hall. When she saw me inching along, she quickly made her way to me.

"Hey, Cat, what are you doing here," she asked with sincere concern as she gently touched my arm and looked over my shirt.

"I'm fine," I answered as she ushered me into the nearest lab.

"That wasn't the question," she sternly said as she helped me onto a stool and looked me straight in the eyes with a glimmer of anger and disappointment.

I sighed as I rolled my eyes and leaned against the counter. She grabbed the hem of my shirt and lifted it up to my bra.

"You should still be on bed rest at home, taking it easy. It's only been four weeks," she said as she further inspected the damage.

"I know."

She went to one of the cupboards and grabbed antiseptic and gauze.

"I couldn't do it anymore," I continued.

She made eye contact with me for a few seconds before she returned her focus on fixing up my wound.

"Lindsey kept offering to help me even though she had class. I didn't want to be babied. The house is lonely when I'm the only one there, bored to tears because I can't do anything. My mom came over unannounced and thought the best remedy to my problems would be to annoy me. Lou..." I sighed. "And Lou is an entirely different story."

She looked up at me again as she applied pressure on my wound.


"Hold this for me," she said as she slowly started to make her way back to the cupboard.

I took control and pressed the gauze to my stomach as Sara grabbed medical tape from the cupboard.

"I'm taking you home," she came back to me and gently taped me up.

"You don't have to do that. I can take care of myself."

"Right, that's why you busted a stitch today. You were taking care of yourself."

I rolled my eyes.

"I'll be fine. I can stay here an-and I'll...stick to desk work."

"That's not going to happen," she lightly laughed.

"Oh, you're the boss of me?"

"If that's who I have to be to keep you from hurting yourself," she informed me between glances.

"Well, you can't make me leave with you," I firmly stated.

"You think so?"

"I know it."

She held out her arm and I gripped my right hand around her forearm. I used her for support as I slowly got to my feet, which was her intention when she physically reached out to me.

"Then let me prove you wrong," she said as she wrapped her arm around my waist and dragged me out of the room with her.

"Didn't I say one of the reasons I didn't want to stay at home was because I didn't want to be babied," I tried to squirm my way out of her hold.

She squeezed my hip and pulled me closer to her, which made it that much harder to get away without busting another stitch.

"The only place you're going is home," she said as she escorted me out of the building.

I sighed and rolled my eyes as Sara walked me through the parking lot.

"Why do you care so much? It's not like I'm going to do any field work!"

"One of your stitches popped open because you moved too quickly to avoid someone. Field work or not, you can't handle being on your feet too often."

"I can handle it," I bitterly defended myself.

"Okay, you can handle it, but your body can't. That's not a risk I'm willing to take."

I scoffed.

"You're not my mother."

"No, I'm your friend. As your friend, I'm going to make sure you're okay."

"I'm fine."

"You're not."

I shook my head as we got to her personal car.

"Get in," she softly said as she let go of me.

I stared at her for a moment and she made eye contact with me. What we weren't saying to each other, spoke volumes.

I finally looked away and opened the passenger side door. I carefully got into the car and took a deep breath. I had a few more challenges ahead of me and I wasn't sure how I'd make it through the obstacle course.

Sara walked around the front of the car and slid into the driver's side seat. She started the car and looked at me before she drove out of the parking lot. The ride was short and quiet and I didn't know what to expect. Sara and I hadn't talked since I was attacked and her trips to visit me in the hospital were a blur. I knew, though, that she took a lot of heat from Ecklie after she shot my attacker, but I didn't see her complaining. I didn't know what had happened after she went back to work, but I had heard a few things from Greg when he stopped by my hospital room the day the doctors released me.

As we pulled into my driveway, I stared at my house with disappointment.

"Hey," she started as she grabbed my wrist. "If you want, I can stay with you for about an hour."

"No, you've got to get back to work."

"I'm due for a break."

I stared straight into her eyes and felt her gaining power over me. I couldn't argue with her so I nodded and got out of the car. Sara followed after me and in less than a minute, we were walking through the front door.

I let her in as she pulled out her cell phone and typed away.

"Who are you texting," I asked out of curiosity.

"Greg. I'm letting him know that I'm going on break."

"Okay," I responded as I headed toward the stairs, Sara only a step behind me the entire way.

"Hey," she started after she looked up from her phone. "Wouldn't it be easier to stay down here?"

"If easier means I'll be stuck sleeping on the couch, I don't care about what's easier."

She smiled.

"I can help you up the stairs before I leave. Why don't we relax in the living room, in front of a TV."

"Sara Sidle likes TV. Didn't see that one coming," I smirked.

She rolled her eyes with a smile.

"Ha ha. Very funny," she sarcastically said as she gently tugged me by the arm into the living room.

I plopped onto the couch after she gracefully fell onto it and grabbed the remote. She flipped through several channels and attempted to relax. I could feel her muscles sliding deeper into the couch and watched as she tapped her feet again the hardwood floor.

She slowly released a sigh and looked at me.

"I know I'm probably going to get hit for saying this, but...if you want to talk about what happened-"

"No, I quickly answered. "It was nice of you to take me home and fix me up, but if you thought that meant I'd talk about it, you should leave."

"Okay," she calmly said as she nestled herself into the couch.

I furrowed my brow and stared at her for a moment.

"What are you doing," I blurted out of frustration and confusion.

She turned her head and looked at me for a silent beat.

"You said if I thought you were going to talk about that night, I should leave. You never said I couldn't stay if I wasn't expecting you to talk. I didn't expect you to."

She kept eye contact with me for a few more seconds before she looked back at the television.

I sighed and tried to focus on the television myself, but after a couple beats, I gulped and took a deep breath.

"I saw him at the casino," I started.

She turned to me again and paid close attention, waiting with anticipation for the rest of my confession.

"I didn't think too much of him at the time. I really only worried that he might try to steal from the Eclipse. When I left, I didn't notice the car following me until I was a few blocks from home. I turned around and headed back to the casino. He still followed me. I knew something was wrong so I tried to play it off like I forgot something. I tried to get to Jerry, you know...the guy I have running the place..."

I looked at her in time to see her nod. She wouldn't take her eyes off me.

I took another deep breath as I vividly recalled what happened next.

"Shelly, I need to see Jerry now," I started to panic in front of the receptionist.

"I'm sorry, Catherine, but he's not answering his phone. He must be on the floor."

"Then call his cell phone."


"Just do it! …Please," I desperately begged.

I turned to my left to look out onto the casino floor and saw the guy again. He seemed in search of something until his eyes locked on mine. My heart pounded louder than any sound I'd ever heard as he stared me down with vicious intent. In his dark eyes and resemblance to the devil in his crooked grin, I feared my suddenly doomed fate.

I sighed out of frustration, but more so out of fear before I rushed off to find Jerry. I raced past plenty of gamblers, lust-struck couples, and a world-wind of colors. I couldn't process much except for the fact that I didn't have my service weapon on me and hardly any other form of protection to use.

I ducked in and out of heavy crowds as casino rush hour rocketed into its busiest time of the night, circling around the entire building. I never saw Jerry.

When I looked behind me to see if he was still following me, I didn't see anything more than young kids spending loads of money on games they thought they could beat in their drunken stupor. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I sighed out of relief and slowly turned back around as opened my eyes and heard a slot machine ding close by. The second I turned around, though, I deeply regretted it as I stood face to face with the man who had been stalking me.

A crowd of cheering winners passing by served as the perfect cover as he swiftly, and undetectably yanked me out of the casino. I couldn't breathe as he squeezed my lower abdomen and hurriedly hauled me into his beat up truck. It didn't matter how much of a struggle I put up. Nothing seemed to work and before I knew it, I was bound in the tightly spaced backseat.

He reached behind his seat and blindfolded me. I didn't have any sense of time and had no idea where he was taking me, but I figured it was where he took all of his victims. That's when I saw myself as one of them, one of his victims.

At some point, we pulled over and my fear rose to a whole new level. I'd never been so scared in my life until that moment of utter silence with the exception of doors opening and closing, assuming I was in the middle of nowhere with no way for the team to find me.

I grunted as he grabbed me, pulling me out of the truck. Still blindfolded, he tossed me around until we were in some tiny space. He hastily ripped away the blindfold and I saw wooden walls and a poorly lit space.

"It smelled like a barn," I continued to explain to Sara. "But I could tell plenty of chemicals had been used there."

She instinctively reached out and placed her hand on my lower thigh. I slowly took a deep breath and tried to keep myself grounded while reliving the event in my mind.

"There's...there's something I didn't tell the officers. ...I couldn't."

She furrowed her brow and cocked her head to one side.

"What is it?"

I looked up and met her eyes. As I stared into those brown pools of concern and sympathy, I realized I didn't want to tell her and change her view about me. I didn't want to admit a moment of weakness. I needed to stay on top, have control, especially after my demotion.

I shook my head and slid away from her touch. She frowned and dismissed the situation.

My phone suddenly buzzed and I jumped. As I quickly calmed down, I looked up at Sara to see if she noticed my reaction and she did. I sighed and looked down at the caller ID. My eyes grew wide when I read the name.

"Hey," I shakily answered, trying to not to show my hand to Sara. "Uh, now's not a good time. ...I know and I told you, I'm fine."

I looked over at Sara again to make sure she wasn't suspicious of the conversation. She had a peaked interest, but I couldn't read her beyond that.

"No! There's no need for you to come here. I'll be okay."

Sara silently excused herself and headed toward the kitchen. I watched her disappear around the corner and relaxed a bit before I became less careful with my words.

"Look, I'm sorry I didn't call you back, but I told you...I'm busy and now, with what happened...I'm not ready to commit to anything, okay? ...No, it's not that. I had a great time, but...No, he's got nothing to do with it. ...I'm one hundred percent sure. ...Listen," I said as I looked over my shoulder to make sure Sara was still in the kitchen. "I can't do this with you right now. In fact, I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I know I definitely wasn't thinking straight."

"I don't care what you can and can't deal with right now as far as we go," he started. "I want to see you. I need to see you."

"I can't. ...I've got to go. I'll call you later. ...This time I really will call you later. ...Bye."

I blew out a sigh after I hung up.

"I'm sensing trouble," Sara flatly said as she towered over me with two glasses of water.

"That was...Lou. He just wanted to check up on me."

"I thought he went to see you at the hospital?"

"Yeah. He's just...playing the role of the extremely concerned boyfriend. He heard about my surprise visit to the lab, somebody must have told him and now he's worried I'm pushing myself too hard."

"Well, I agree."

I scoffed and rolled my eyes.

"But I'm not going to hassle you about it. ...I trust you."

My eyes darted up to meet hers once again. Her eyes told me she spoke the truth.

Guilt washed over me and felt myself drowning, but I kept my mouth shut.

"Something wrong," she asked as I stared at the floor in shame.

" Just thinking," I lied. "What are we watching?"

She squinted her eyes as she clearly attempted to read me.

"I think it's a re-run," she slowly said as she continued to look me over. "Either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Charmed."

"Wow," I tried to keep the conversation light and keep the subject changed. "For someone I didn't peg as a T.V. person, you sure know a few shows."

"I only know them because of my goddaughter. I can't really tell them apart, though."

"You have a goddaughter," I asked, sincerely baffled.

"Yeah, in San Francisco. My best friend's kid."

"And you're bad with kids?"

"It's not like I see her all the time. Plus, she's eleven so when I first started working here in Vegas, I truly didn't know the first thing about kids. She was only a year old then."

"And now?"

"I can honestly say I know a lot more about adolescent girls than I wanted to, but I love my goddaughter," she smiled.

I smiled back.

"That's exactly how I felt with Lindsey."

I looked at the screen and watched for a few moments before I spoke again.

" long do you plan on keeping me company," I changed the subject again.

"As long as I need to without getting fired."

"You should probably go."

She whipped around and stared at me with a puzzled expression.

"I'll be okay," I faintly smiled.

She still looked at me with disbelief.

"You trust me...right," I asked.

She took a deep breath and got to her feet.

"Okay. I'll see you later...and it better not be at the lab," she warned as she headed toward the front door.

I smiled and lightly chuckled.

"I promise the next time you see me, I'll still be here."

"Good. If you need anything, call me, okay?"

"Okay," I softly said, accompanied by a small nod.

She walked out as she looked back at me, smiling. Her smile was infectious so I continued to smile back, even as the door closed behind her. I took a deep breath and released it in a sigh before I picked up my phone again. I opened the call history and looked over the name of the last caller. It wasn't Lou. Not by a long shot.

I closed my eyes and laid back. I gently rested my head on the couch cushion and thought, How am I going to do this?