Hi again. I should probably explain that I'm going to use extracts and scenes from episodes, but they won't be used in the proper order. I will just use them as I need them :)

Also, those astute Roald Dahl fans may notice a Matilda reference

x x x x

"Did your father ever tell you that you were pretty?" Catherine flicked her eyes across the table towards her colleague.

If Sara had thought about it before she opened her mouth she would have lied, but unfortunately the word slipped out before she could recall it.

"No."

Catherine looked up sharply, narrowing her eyes. That was not the answer she had been expecting. Concentrating entirely on the other woman now, she tried again.

"Did he ever tell you that you were smart?"

"I'm smart, you're dumb; I'm big, you're small; I'm right, you're wrong. And there's nothing you can do about it."

The voice played in her mind like an old record; taunted by her own memories.

"No."

Catherine tried fruitlessly to catch her gaze, but the brunette was purposefully refusing to let that happen.

"He wasn't around much when you were growing up, huh?" She guessed softly at last.

Finally, Sara did look up but her expression remained defensive and unreadable.

"No, he wasn't." She agreed quietly after a long minute, dropping her eyes back into her lap.

In an unprecedented act, Catherine reached across the gap between them and placed a comforting hand on her friend's arm. Unfortunately, the gesture wasn't quite received in the way it was intended. Sara flinched violently at the contact, flashing her scared eyes up to Cath's face.

Before the older woman had a chance to question the unexpected behaviour, Sara was on her feet and already stumbling to the door, hurriedly mumbling a made-up excuse on her way.

Catherine watched her go, a mixture of concern and confusion flooding her features. She briefly considered following the girl, but by the time she made it to the hallway, there was no one in sight.

X x x

She needed space. Space to clear her head.

So, naturally, she went to the one place in the lab that she could breathe easy.

Her lab.

And that was where Warrick found her two hours later, hunkered over her laptop pretending to work.

"Hey, there you are." He hummed, sauntering in uninvited. "We've been looking for you."

She stilled her hands over the keys, slowly lifting her eyes to his face.

"We?"

"Yeah, me and Greg." He frowned. "We're waiting for you in the layout room to go over the Wilson case."

"Oh, right." She relaxed a little as she pushed herself away from the desk and gathered her things together into a pile to transport downstairs.

"I tried to page you." Warrick continued, taking half the stack of paperwork from her before she dropped it.

"Yeah, sorry. I thought it was …" she stopped herself, sending him a shy smile. "Never mind."

X x x

Once situated in the layout room, surrounded by stacks of documentation and enough evidence to fill a warehouse, the CSIs camped down with a pot of Greg's special coffee.

"So, who are you avoiding?" Rick asked after a long silence, quirking a curious eyebrow at the young woman.

"No one." She smirked to herself.

"Who's avoiding who?" Greg asked, puzzled.

"I'm not avoiding anybody." Sara reiterated. "I was just…"

Luckily for her, the feeble excuse resting on the tip of her tongue was never heard as they were interrupted by the crackling of the intercom.

"Visitor at reception for Sara Sidle" The harsh voice echoed.

Pursing her lips, Sara put down the notes she was reading and straightened up.

"Excuse me." She mumbled, brushing past the boys into the hall. She didn't know who could be visiting her at work, or why; but she was grateful for the reprieve either way.

Although, as she soon realised when she set eyes on her guest from down the corridor, her relief may be short-lived.

"Your date missing you already?" Greg called after her teasingly.

Warrick poked his head into the hall, watching as Sara wandered into the reception and promptly disappeared outside with her visitor. They did, however, stay in his line of sight long enough for him to get a brief glimpse of the other person.

"Nah, it's a woman." He said, coming back into the room and resuming his work.

"Really?" Greg smirked, wiggling his eyebrows playfully; earning him a smack on the arm from his older colleague.

X x x

Since their stunted conversation earlier, Catherine had not been able to find Sara for dust, and she got the distinctive feeling that that was exactly what the elusive young brunette wanted.

She had never really given much thought to Sara's past, but she supposed it made sense. If she was raised by a single mother, it might explain her feminist approach to life. Perhaps her mother's relationship history wasn't great, which could explain Sara's hairpin-trigger temper around abusive males.

She was speculating, of course. Then again, that was all they had ever done regarding Sara's life, since she kept so much under wraps.

What she didn't yet understand was Sara's reaction to her comforting touch. After all, she had touched Sara like that before.
Hadn't she?

Catherine had always been tactile around the boys – it came naturally to her. But around Sara she had always held back a bit. Had she really been that distant that a single contact could shock the girl so much she had to flee the room?

The only other explanation, of course, was that she was missing something.

Which is why she was currently scouring the lab for the AWOL CSI.

X x x

She flinched, pinching the bridge of her nose delicately.

Cracking her eyes open, she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror. She looked like hell.

Worse still, she looked like she'd just been punched.

Behind her, the door to the women's bathroom opened and out of instinctive panic she dropped her hand in an attempt to look normal; before realising how utterly stupid that was.

Catherine took barely two steps into the bathroom and stopped dead in her tracks, her face falling in horror.

"Oh God!" She gasped, lunging towards the sink. "What the hell happened?"

Sara winced, realising how pointless any explanation would be. Her lips, hands and arms were covered in blood from her attempts to staunch her nosebleed.

"Sara, what happened?" Catherine repeated forcefully, landing at her side and gripping her blood-stained arms with surprising strength.

"I'm okay." The younger woman said instantly, although it sounded weak even to her own ears.

"You're bleeding!" Catherine pointed out, rather unnecessarily. Ignoring the meek protest from the injured party, she gently pried Sara's hand away from her face to see the damage. Blood was pouring from her nose, which was sporting a nasty bruise between her eyes.

Not allowing for any complaint, the blonde gripped Sara firmly by the shoulders and guided her onto the floor so she was leaning against the wall.

Sara sighed, resigning herself to being under her supervisor's care for the time-being. She scrunched her eyes closed against the pain. She had felt this before, but it had been so long, she'd almost forgotten how much it stung. When she re-opened them again, Catherine was crouched directly in front of her brandishing a clean, damp piece of tissue. She pressed it forcefully against her face, tipping the woman's head back.

"Hold it there." She instructed firmly. Sara did as ordered, well aware of the futility of offering any argument right now.

Leaving her on the floor, Catherine washed her hands and rinsed away the blood that had dripped into the porcelein bowl.

"What happened?" She asked again, hoping to get a little more this time.

"It just started bleeding, it's fine." Sara murmured. Cath sighed, resting her hands on her hips.

"Sara, you look like a raccoon!" She pointed out bluntly. "Someone hit you."

"No!" The younger CSI looked up sharply, causing a shot of pain to run through her head.

Feeling pity, Cath crouched down and placed a hand on her shoulder to keep her still.

"Honey, I want to help you." She tried a different tack. "But you have to tell me the truth."

"I am." Sara swallowed, carefully retracting her hand. The bleeding was easing now, although she'd bet that she still looked a wreck. "No one hit me."

"Then what happened?" Sara looked away stubbornly, refusing to answer. "Sara, come on…"

"It's fine." She insisted firmly, pushing herself to her feet despite the rush of pain to her head caused by the sudden movement.

Catherine followed suit, stalking across the small space to where Sara was leaning against the counter, staring forlornly at her reflection in the mirror.

"Did you hit your head?" Cath asked at last, getting only a quiet mumble in response. "Sara, did you hit your head on something? Or someone?" She added pointedly. "Tell me."

Eventually relenting, Sara nodded carefully.

"Do you have a headache?"

"Yeah."

"Dizzy? Nauseous?"

"Yes to both." Sara continued through gritted teeth, letting her eyes drift closed again. Beside her, she heard Catherine emit a sigh and her heart sank at the sound. Whatever it meant, she knew that she wasn't going to like it.

"Alright, I'm taking you to hospital." Cat said, confirming the brunette's fears.

"No!" She yelped, snapping her eyes open again.

"Sara, you might have concussion." Cath pointed out, attempting to grasp her arm. Unfortunately for her, Sara's reflexes were still quicker despite her injured state and she managed to duck out of the grip and escape to the door before Catherine could grab her.

"Sara!" she hollered, throwing her hands out in frustration. "Damnit!"

X x x

Keeping her head ducked, Sara moved as fast as she could without drawing undue attention to herself and quickly slid into the locker room.

Blissfully, it was empty and she shut the door behind her for extra privacy as she whipped her bloodstained shirt off.

She could breathe a sigh of relief for now. As soon as she cleaned herself up and sorted her makeup, she could make her excuses and leave early. She knew Grissom wouldn't question it. That was one of the good things about his lack of interest in other people's lives.

But her relief wouldn't last long. Sooner or later Catherine would catch up with her and one way or another she was going to have to explain why she looked like she'd been hit.

Preferably without admitting that she had.

And aside from the Willows fury, she still had the little problem of having to make amends with Kirsty.

Right now, to be honest, she didn't know what was concerning her more: what Catherine would do if she found out the truth, or what Kirsty will do when she finds out that someone else knows.