Warrick cringed as he drove up to the address Sara had sent him. She hadn't told him much, besides: 'Meet me here, Cath needs help.' He had immediately dropped everything he had been holding and sprinted over to his car, nearly forgetting his keys in the process. Walking up to the front desk he was greeted by an unfriendly-looking fellow, who seemed more interested in his computer screen than acts of service for the people of Vegas. The CSI cleared his throat impatiently, tapping his foot on the tile floor.
"Yeah?" the receptionist mumbled, his eyes never leaving the screen.
"I'm looking for someone," he announced.
"You and half of Vegas, buddy." The receptionist reached into a bag of chips on his desk and ungracefully stuffed a handful into his mouth, chewing so obnoxiously loud Warrick could swear he could see into his oesophagus. He reached into his pocket and pulled his ID out of it, slamming it down onto the wooden surface. The man visibly rolled his eyes.
"Not another one of you," he groaned. "Listen, I couldn't help the slutty redhead, nor the uptight brunette, so I doubt I can help you." Finally losing the last of his patience, Warrick reached over and turned the computer screen off before forcefully yelling: "The redhead; where is she?!" The receptionist lifted his hands in defence.
"Room 109." Warrick sighed deeply.
"Was that so hard?"
Warrick shook his head while moving in the direction of the aforementioned room as quickly as possible. He figured the score on TripAdvisor wouldn't be too high. Then again, this didn't seem like the kind of place that cared too much about customer service and all the more about anonymity and sound-proof walls. When he arrived at the correct door, he knocked on it twice, announcing: "Sara? Catherine? It's me." Within seconds, it opened, and a stressed-out-looking Sara Sidle ushered him inside, immediately telling him: "Don't touch anything." He nodded.
"Okay. What's going on?" His concern was growing by the minute, and it was very close to turning into worry. Sara bit her bottom lip, glancing over to a part of the room he couldn't see from where he was standing. A soft voice assured the brunette: "It's okay, Sara. Go help Grissom before he bursts a coronary." Warrick could recognise that voice out of thousands, through a blizzard if he had to. Catherine.
"You sure?" Sara asked, empathy visible on her face.
"Okay. Call me if you need anything, yeah?" With that, the brunette left the room.
Stepping further into the accommodation, Warrick had to hold back a gasp as the bed came into view. Catherine was sitting on top of the sheets. Her knees were pulled up to her chest, and her arms were wrapped around them, shielding her from the world. Warrick stepped closer. Her hair looked damp, and her skin was clean, but her dress screamed 'last night's outfit'. Kneeling in front of the bed, he laid a hand on top of the bedding. He wanted to touch her, to hold her until she felt everything would be okay, but he stopped himself.
"Cath," he whispered softly, "what happened?" The redhead shook her head, and replied in a softer, more defeated voice than he'd ever heard her: "Not here." Warrick took a moment to take a better look at his surroundings. The motel room was the epitome of sleazy, and the complete opposite of everything even remotely related to Catherine Willows.
"Okay," he agreed. "Do you want me to take you home?" She shook her head, trembling slightly. He didn't want to presume too much, but she probably didn't want Lindsey like this. "My place, then?" Catherine took a moment to consider the offer, before nodding. "Alright then." Warrick shrugged off his jacket and offered it to her, so she could feel somewhat more protected from whomever had caused all of this. As they approached his car, he pulled his phone out of his phone out of his jeans and scrolled through his contact list, silently thanking the powers that be that Catherine had used his phone a few weeks ago when her battery had died. After getting her settled, he dialled the number.
"You've reached Lily Flynn. Unfortunately, I cannot pick up right now, but please leave a message after the beep."
"Miss Flynn, this is Warrick Brown. I work with your daughter Catherine at the lab. She...really needs some uninterrupted rest, so if you could watch Lindsey today, that'd be great. Thank you," he fibbed. Once he had finished leaving her the message, he also texted her, praying that she'd receive it in time. If not, he'd just have to go pick up Willows junior himself, he decided. He pocketed his phone and got into the driver's side of his car, immediately looking over to the strawberry blonde to his right. She was staring out of the window, her hands lying limply in her lap. He had the sense to turn down his radio volume; he didn't think she would be feeling like blasting R&B right now. Warrick switched it to a station that was playing some mellow instrumental tune instead.
Thankfully, the drive to his place only took a few minutes, even with the Las Vegas traffic getting in their way. He parked the car in his allocated spot and killed the engine. The blonde to his side didn't move a muscle. His voice no louder than a whisper, he told her: "Time to get out of the car, Cath." Misty blue eyes gazed up at his, blinking slowly. "We're here," he clarified. She nodded. Warrick exited the vehicle and walked around to the passenger side, helping her out onto the asphalt of the parking lot. She followed him wordlessly up the stairs as she let her fingertips trail across the textured walls.
The inside of his apartment was an oasis of peace and quiet compared to the busy streets outside. Warrick guided Catherine inside and closed the door behind them, shutting everything and everyone out.
"Have you had breakfast yet?" It felt like such an unimportant question, but right now, it was the only thing that he felt he could ask the strawberry blonde without pushing her across boundaries that weren't his place to make her cross. Catherine shook her head.
"I'm not hungry," she stated softly. Warrick observed her for a moment. She was as pale as his mother's pristine white Christmas dinner tablecloth.
"I have some leftover smoothie from the morning in the fridge?" he offered as a compromise. The woman had to eat, one way or another. Hopefully, she'd accept the option of pureed fruit and yoghurt. "It's worth a shot," he added, tilting his head to the side. Catherine sighed in defeat.
Minutes later, they were both sitting on his sofa, and Catherine was sipping a glass filled with his pink-coloured breakfast, her mouthfuls tiny enough for a toddler. When the silence began to become deafening, he calmly asked: "What happened, Cath?" She could only shake her head, closing her eyes as tears threatened to roll down her cheeks. Her memory felt like a broken mirror: shards of light barely clinging to one another, forming an image that made no sense whatsoever to the casual observer. Instinctively, he moved closer to her, reaching out to wrap his arms around her frail frame. She instantly hid her form in his embrace, her cheek pressed against his chest.
"It's okay, baby," he soothed, immediately asking himself where that term of endearment had come from. She didn't seem to object, though, so he continued: "I've got you, Cath. You're safe here." Her entire body was trembling against him, and he could feel his shirt become wet with what could only be tears. Warrick's hand came to rest on her shoulder blade, stroking her skin tenderly. He silently vowed to catch the bastards who had hurt her so.
"Someone messed with my drink last night," she mumbled softly, her words nearly getting lost in the soft cotton of his shirt. At her statement, Warrick could feel his blood pressure increase by the dozens. "At the concert."
"But Nick was there with you, right?" He was about ready to strangle the Texan for letting this happen. Catherine gently shook her head.
"A cute girl was flirting with him. I told him to go dance with her." Who knew Catherine was such a good wingman? Warrick lightly caressed her back.
"Then what happened?"
"All I remember is waking up at that motel. I processed myself, then…"
"You what?" he interrupted.
"Well, I didn't have my kit, so I had to improvise, but, yeah. Sara's taking it to the lab. I know it can't be used in court, but I just need to know what happened." She was rambling slightly. It was endearing. "I couldn't really find anything," she continued, "so then I took a shower and called Sara."
"Why Sara?" Warrick couldn't help himself. He had to know: why not him? The brunette wasn't exactly her best friend.
"She's a woman." That made sense. The tiny bit of hurt he had felt for not being the first person she had called disappeared instantly. Now, all he wanted was to keep her safe. Brushing her hair behind her ear so he could see more of her face, he asked her: "How are you feeling now?" Catherine sighed.
"Sore. Tired. Dirty."
"How about a bath, then?" She smiled at him, wet streaks covering her cheeks.
"That'd be nice."
Warrick led her to his bathroom, thanking himself for picking yesterday to deep clean his entire apartment. While she soaked in the bath, he decided to make himself useful by changing the sheets on his bed, whilst trying not to think about how Catherine-freaking-Willows was currently bathing about ten feet away from him. He made another makeshift bed on his couch. He could use a nap himself, but he'd offer her his bed. It was the gentlemanly thing to do, right? Besides, making her take the couch after all she'd been through last night just felt wrong. Suddenly he realised all she had on her was her purse. Walking over to his closet, he pulled a small bundle out of the back.
"Hey Cath?" he asked, raising his voice so she could hear him through the closed bathroom door. "I've got some clean clothes for you, if you want?"
"What are you doing with women's clothing?" her clear voice inquired.
"I got a set of pyjamas for Tina," he admitted, "but I never got the chance to give them to her." He felt a headache arise at the thought of his now ex-wife. That was one of the worst decisions he'd ever made, one he couldn't revert. "I'll leave them on the bed for you," he continued. "I'll be in the living room." Warrick dropped the bundle of silk onto the crisp sheets before returning to the sofa, switching the TV to the local news. Minutes later soft footsteps led towards him. Catherine walked into the room, looking slightly more relaxed than before. The navy sleepwear was a little too big for her, but she looked gorgeous still.
"I made my bed for you," he stated, accompanied by a wave towards the general direction of the bedroom.
"What about you?" she asked, chewing on her lip.
"I'll manage here," he said with a smile.
"Okay." The hesitation was visible on her face. Warrick got up from where he was sitting and made his way over to her. Touching her elbow with his fingertips, he asked: "What's wrong, Cath?"
"I don't want to be alone," she whispered, gazing at the floor.
"Do you want me to join you?" he asked. The strawberry blonde nodded wordlessly. He smiled gently. "Okay then."
Together, they walked into his bedroom, and he let her pick a side. She curled up into a near foetal position, facing the middle of the bed while he laid down on his back, one arm behind his head. Warrick had stripped down to his undershirt and had pulled on some soft pyjama pants. He could tell by her quickened breathing that she wasn't anywhere close to falling asleep, but she desperately needed to rest. Deciding to take his chances, he murmured: "Come here."
"Huh?" He could still make out the blue of her irises in the gentle gleam of the sunlight behind his curtains.
"Come here," he repeated, opening his arms to her. After a few seconds which felt like hours to him, Catherine shifted until she was settled against his torso. Now, he could feel her limbs get heavier on top of his chest.
"G'night," he whispered.
"Night," she replied, his response more of a whispered yawn than anything else. He closed his eyes. They would figure everything else out in the morning. For now, they slept.