Rating: R for subject matter
Spoilers: No real spoilers.
Archive: Please ask first!
Disclaimer: Obviously, I don't own anything related to CSI. If I did, I'd be on a tropical beach right now.
Author's Note: The chapter titles are opening lines from Emily Dickinson poems. Thanks to Burked and all the others who previewed this for me.
Summary: After viewing a horrific accident, Sara makes some hard decisions about her life. Obviously, a Sara-centered story, but with lots of friendship and a little bit of G/S at the end.
Chapter 18 - Departed to the judgment
Catherine headed straight to Grissom's office, not surprised that he and Nick were quickly following her. "What's going on?" Grissom asked harshly after closing the door.
"Philip's taking Sara to his office to talk. He thought it would be better to get her there without an audience. It would be better if no one found out about that... incident... in the Drying Room unless Sara tells them herself," Catherine said, sighing deeply as she sank into a chair. She turned to look at Nick expectantly. Grissom mimicked the action.
Nick froze under their glares. He knew they were concerned about Sara and wanted to know what had happened. But he wouldn't betray her trust. He didn't believe for a minute that she had hurt that boy and he wasn't going to tell anyone Sara thought she had.
"She's upset," he finally said, when he realized he couldn't get away without an explanation.
"Dammit, Nick! I know she's upset! She's been upset since this happened! What happened?" Grissom demanded.
"Gil, don't," Catherine said. She understood Nick's dilemma. "She'll tell you when she's ready. Let Sara set the pace for this."
Grissom gave her a shocked look. "You expect me to ignore this?"
"Yes," she said softly. "Well, no. Don't ignore it. Just don't push it. Gil, she has to deal with this on her schedule. Sara has to know she can trust us. If Nick tells what happened in there, she'll hesitate to open up again."
Sitting down, Grissom ran his hands through his hair. Catherine was right. "Nick," he said slowly, carefully licking his lips. "Is there anything you can add without betraying Sara's confidence?"
Nick gave him a sad smile. As much as the man could be distant, everybody knew he cared for Sara. This would be hard on him.
"Like I said, she's upset. Really upset. I really didn't follow everything she said, but she's," he paused, as he searched for the right term, "questioning what she did. Sara thinks, maybe, she could have done more. She wasn't making a lot of sense."
"Here," Grissom said, passing the morning edition of the Las Vegas Tribune to him.
After a few minutes, Nick put the paper down. "Oh, man," was all he said. Now he understood Sara's concerns. If she left without checking for a pulse, it was no wonder she was beating herself up over this.
"There's nothing she could have done, either," Grissom said. "Lacerated liver and spleen. There was no chance of controlling the bleeding, even if they could have gotten him to a hospital."
"Does Sara know?" Nick asked.
"No. Not unless Philip's told her," he said.
"She needs to know," the younger man said urgently, offering no further explanation.
Warrick weaved his way through the parking lot, wondering what had prompted the resurgence in media attention. There had been almost no reporters out here when he left earlier. Ignoring the questions thrown his way, he headed into the lab. He found Grissom sitting in his darkened office, resting his head in his hands.
"Hey, man. You see the parking lot? Madhouse out there," he said, noticing how tense his supervisor was. "Where's Sara? Everything okay?"
"No, Warrick, everything is not okay," Grissom said wearily, tossing the newspaper towards him. "On top of that," he pointed to the article, "Sara is 'upset'. She's talking to Kane, now."
The younger man just raised an eyebrow quizzically at the sarcastic tone used. He didn't take Grissom's mood personally. Warrick recognized he was fighting a migraine. Scanning the article quickly, he gave his head a sympathetic shake. "Sara see this?" he asked.
"I don't think so. I don't know what happened Warrick. There was some sort of incident. Nick knows what happened, but he's not talking," Grissom said.
"Why don't you go home? You need to sleep. I'll drive," he offered.
Grissom shook his head. "I'm waiting until I hear from Philip. I need to know what's going on."
When Warrick made no move to leave, the older man turned to give him a pointed look. "Nick is reviewing the evidence for a trial. Go help Catherine. She's going over the effects from your Henderson murder," he said firmly.
Warrick took the hint his boss wanted to be alone and found Catherine in the Layout Room. "What happened?" he asked, moving to stand beside her and leaning in close.
"Not sure, Warrick. Found Nick holding Sara on the floor of the Drying Room. God, I've never seen her like that. Hell, if I hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn't have believed it," she whispered to him.
"Nick say anything?"
"Just that she was upset," she said, rolling her eyes at the obviousness of the statement. "Said she wasn't making a lot of sense."
Warrick examined the evidence Catherine had spread out on the table. Sara's been working this. Checking to see what was missing, he headed to the Drying Room. Realizing what he was doing, Catherine followed him.
"Damn," he said softly, holding up the rest of Wang's effects. "Right next to Sara's clothes. Flashback?" he queried.
"Could be. Whoa. Smell that?" Catherine asked.
"The smoke. Yeah. And smell is the most powerful memory trigger," he said.
Gathering the remaining evidence, the pair returned to the Layout Room to finish the examination. Each silently reconstructed what Sara must have gone through.
Shift ended, but none of the CSIs left the building. After grabbing coffee in the break room, they made their way to Grissom's office. He didn't welcome them, but made no move to chase them off. Catherine set a cup of coffee on his desk, before leaning against a wall.
All four jumped when the phone eventually rang. The one-sided conversation revealed little information. "Grissom ... I'll be right there ... Right ... I'll ask ... Thanks."
"Gil?" Catherine asked as soon as he moved to put the phone down.
"I have a meeting with the sheriff. About Sara. Philip wants to know if it's okay for Sara to stay with you again. Until tonight?"
"Of course! How's Sara?" she asked.
"I don't know," Grissom said, heading quickly for the door. "That's what I'm going to find out."
"She's not responding."
"What's her temperature?" a doctor asked.
"It's climbed up to 102.6," an older nurse told him.
"White cell count?" another doctor queried.
"Up to 12,000," she answered.
"Not good. Let's try a stronger antibiotic; switch her to Ancef. Intravenous feed, 10 milligrams, q.i.d.," the first doctor said. "I'll go tell her parents."
Grissom hurried to Mobley's office. Sara was sitting in a chair, her legs pulled up on the seat, her head resting against her knees. She gave him a weak smile when he called her name then turned to stare at the wall. Philip directed him to another chair before he could go to her. Mobley and Conrad Ecklie were already seated.
"Gil, come in. Let's talk," the sheriff said sadly.
Heading back to his office, Grissom found the rest of the team still waiting impatiently. He raised his hands when all three began asking questions as the same time.
"Sara's talking to the sheriff. She'll be here in a few minutes," he said, rubbing his eyes.
"As of now, Sara is no longer working cases," he said without further preamble, collapsing into his chair. "She's having flashbacks. Philip wants her kept away from anything that could trigger additional ones. This doesn't go beyond this office, either," he said, the warning clear in his voice. "Sara wanted you to know why she's not working cases, but no one else has to know."
"Is she on leave? People are going to ask," Catherine pointed out.
"No. She'll be working on a special project. Sara insisted she wanted to do something and Philip agreed she could do this," Grissom said. "Sara will be reviewing the cold cases. She won't be reviewing the evidence, per se, but the procedures. Since she has the top solve-rate, she'll be looking for things that may have been missed or could have been done better. She'll be writing a general report on procedures and individual recommendations for each of the CSIs. Don't give her a hard time over this," he added firmly.
"Good idea, actually," Nick said, supportively. "I know I won't mind having her critiquing my work. I could use some of those Sidle secrets."
"Yeah," Warrick agreed. "If she can help get everyone's solve-rates up, that'll be good for the lab. This Kane's idea?"
Grissom actually smiled at that. "Ecklie's, believe it or not. He's wanted to do something like this for a while, but could never justify pulling someone out of the field to do it. You can still go to Sara if you have questions, but use some common sense. Don't go to her with cases about kids or accidents, things like that," he added.
"How long will Sara be working this project?" Catherine asked.
"She'll start by going over the open cases from the past year. If needed, she'll go back another couple years. If she needs more time, she'll start reviewing lab procedures," he said. "There's no guarantee she'll ever be able to go back in the field. We'll have to wait and see."
"Is there anything we can do to help?" Nick asked.
"Don't push. If Sara wants to talk, be supportive. Let her know she has friends. Don't be surprised if she loses her temper easily. Philip is sending down some literature for what we can expect," Grissom said.
The team fell into an uneasy silence until they heard Sara coming down the hallway. Nick opened Grissom's office door to pull her in and give her a hug. She blushed, but returned the hug. "Sorry, Nicky. Didn't mean to freak on you," she said shyly. "Hope I didn't worry you guys."
"Don't worry about it," Warrick said, giving her a hug.
"You ready to get some sleep?" Catherine asked gently.
"I need to go by my place first. Need some clothes, get my mail, water my plants," she said.
"There's a press mob out there again, Sara. Did you see the paper?" the blonde asked cautiously.
"Kane told me," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Sara, let Cath get your stuff for you," Nick said. "I'll go pick up some bagels and we can all meet back at my place for a group breakfast."
"Sounds like a plan to me, Sara. Let me have your keys," Catherine urged gently.
After a minute's hesitation, the brunette let out a sigh and turned over her keys. "Guys, thanks. Warrick, can I catch a ride with you?"
"Sure," he smiled.
"Give me a minute and I'll be ready," she said, leaving the room.
If anyone noticed she refused to look at Grissom, no one mentioned it.
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