Title:  Coming in Last

Author:  Harper

Email: Xfjnky2@yahoo.com

Rating:  R

Fandom:  CSI

Summary:  Catherine never gets things right the first time…

Disclaimer:  I don’t own them.  CBS and a Bruckheimer have that honor.  I’m not making any money, and this is just for fun.

A/N:  This is un-beta’d.  I needed to finish something, because I’ve been doing a lot of writing without endings, but hopefully it’ll be okay, even if it is short.  If you’d like to send feedback, I’d love to receive it.  I’ll be at Xfjnky2@yahoo.com.

If she thinks about home and why she left it, she’s glad she’s here.

If she thinks about here and why she stays, she’s not sure.  She thinks she’s built a life here, has friends and a job and a purpose in life, but sometimes she misses seeing stars at night and smelling something other than car exhaust and trash.

She’s got a daughter and she loves her, seems to be motherhood personified, but never thought she’d have a dead ex-husband who cheated on her with half of the western seaboard and more than one stint in rehab under her belt.  Maybe she used to think she’d never get away from her childhood home, and had childhood nightmares of a quaint little house with a white picket fence, two kids, three dogs and a cat, and a closet full of soft cotton sundresses covered in flowers.

Now she wonders if that would be all that bad.  To live somewhere where the air was clean and her house was surrounded by thick green grass instead of broken black pavement, where her kid could run around and play and not worry about stepping on a shattered shard of glass or the rusty debris of urban progress.  Where she could have a silky chocolate lab who slept out under a tree older than the last three generations of her family combined, who only raised his head to see who was in the truck coming up the road because they usually didn’t have visitors.  Not because he was going to get up and go see, because it was hot enough to blister the pads on the bottoms of his feet, and he was too tired to worry about it anyway.  Not that it would matter, really, because bad things didn’t happen to people who lived in nice houses.

She thinks maybe it would be all that bad.  Pictures a desk with a hokey little calendar on it, and a computer screen in front of her where she surfed the internet and played solitaire, the timed version, and smiled up at her boss when he came in and wondered if she’d ever get out of there and be something more than an insurance salesman’s secretary.  Not that it was a bad thing to be, but because she’d always seen herself doing something different.  Had been told she was bound for bigger and better things, but hadn’t had the guts to pick up and leave the familiar in search of them.

Not that life as a stripper could ever be classified as better, no matter what universe she was in.  It was powerful and heady and she fucking loved every single second of it, until the high wore off and she looked at herself in the mirror backstage, all smooth skin and gorgeous breasts and a body everybody in the place wanted to fuck, but with eyes ten years too old and a grimace that never seemed to go away when people weren’t looking.  Not when she had to find some new, hidden place to shoot up so she wouldn’t get fired, even though her boss knew from the glassy eyes and the absent expression.  Things he’d ignore for her, so long as she’d get down on her knees.

And then she was pregnant, and it didn’t even matter that abortion was legal because she wasn’t getting one.  She’d protest for the rights of other women to get them, but just the thought caused her to curl up with guilt, and she spent a week and a half screaming and crying and sweating and puking every single second of the day until the urge to get high was one tenth of one percent less than it had been before.  Then she’d packed up her bags and moved out of the apartment she shared with Eddie, telling herself she could make it.

She couldn’t make it, because no one was going to hire her, and Eddie was there with his slick charm and his pretty eyes begging her to come back.  And so she did, but she didn’t fall back into the same old trap.  She took “Intro to American Lit” her second trimester because she was bored and because Eddie paid for it so she’d be out of the house long enough for him to have some peace and quiet and time to himself.  She took her final three weeks before she delivered, and when Lindsay was three months old, she went back.  The next door neighbor, who was 64 years old and who’d always thought Catherine was a sweet girl watched over Lindsay, because she sure as hell wasn’t leaving the baby with Eddie.

When Lindsay turned one, she was a sophomore, and she took on a night job with the Las Vegas Police Department in their Records Department until she saw a flier up asking for applicants to the Crime Scene Investigation Unit.  Catherine had taken “Intro to Forensics” the semester before, was in “Investigation of Fires and Explosions” that semester, and wanted the job so bad she could taste it.  So, she turned in her resume, and when she had her interview, she was confident and cool and calm and collected, and she told them everything but how she’d always loved puzzles, though she didn’t know why.

She got the job, and it didn’t matter to her that she and Eddie were getting a divorce because she’d never really loved him in the first place.  With him gone, though, she had to work more to stay in school and pay for the nanny, and she doesn’t remember much about Lindsay being two or three or four and sometimes she hates herself for it.  Not too much, though, because she made both of their lives better, and she’s not going to regret that.

After she got her degree, she took a few master’s level classes, but by then the call of the mystery was too much and she just didn’t have time to take any more.  She was working all the time, and when she wasn’t, she was trying to make up for the years when she was more of a stranger than she was a mother.  In a few years she was a senior CSI, and she liked her job and she liked working with Grissom and was comfortable with the new people, and she’d built her world.  Built the bigger and better everyone’d always told her she should have, but it didn’t taste as good as she’d like.

She was lonely, a condition she’d never thought would be an affliction to touch her.  But she’d spent the last seven years trying to fix how badly she’d fucked up the first thirty, and cleaning up a mess that big didn’t leave time for much else.  All her friends from the old days were gone, with a good riddance and a thanks for all your help, and she had work and she had playgroup mommies to bond with and she’d always have Lindsay, but it wasn’t enough.

Maybe she should have widened her scope, but she took a look around and saw who was there and who she thought might be able to help her forget she was lonely, at least for a little while.  There was Grissom, but it’d never work.  She was chaos and he was order, and if she didn’t kill him after the first month, he’d kill her.  Probably never be able to figure out it was him, either, and she didn’t want to wind up on the bad side of a bug man with more brains than social skills.  Nick and Greg were out.  Both too young and boyish, even though Nick was probably only a few years younger than herself.  But, she was looking for a companion and not a puppy dog, and neither one of them fit the bill.  Then, of course, there was Warrick.  Beautiful and tortured and graceful enough to let her know he’d be phenomenal in bed, with exotic golden eyes and silky smooth skin and an easy self-confidence she found more than appealing.

“What’re you thinking, Cat?”

The sleepy voice and the soft lips brushing against the line of her neck pulled her from her musings, and Catherine looked down, chin burying in a sea of soft, dark curls.

“Just thinking about life,” she replied, voice scratchy and tired, strained from spending three hours trying not to scream out her pleasure and wake her kid.  “About how things turn out.”

For a second, all motion stopped.  “Thinking about us?”

The voice was small and a little scared, and Catherine smiled.  “Yeah, thinking about us.”

When Sara looked up, her eyes were dark black pools, full of emotions she didn’t want to show.  “What did you come up with?” she asked shyly, hesitantly, still unsure of her place in the brand new and exciting role she’d landed.

“Just that sometimes you find just what you need in the last place you’d ever think to look,” Catherine said slowly, voice honeyed contentment and satisfaction, and Sara melted again, sinking into the warm body beside her, another day gone without finding everything jerked away from her just as suddenly as it was given.

It felt good, and Catherine smiled again and hugged the lanky body taking up half her bed.  She wondered why it’d taken her so long to figure it out, but then remembered she never had been one to get things right the first try anyway.  And it didn’t really matter, mostly, because things never started where they were supposed to, but somehow ended up just right and she thought that maybe this time wouldn’t be any different.

Or at least that’s what she hoped.

The End

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