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 21 - I'll tell you how the sun rose
Sara rejoined her colleagues, who had been watching from a polite distance. Mobley surprised her by suggesting the group stop for something to eat before heading to the lab. She agreed; since she was limited to a 40-hour work schedule there was nothing to be gained by going to the lab early.
She grinned ruefully as her friends automatically formed a protective cordon around her as they exited the cathedral, but was grateful once outside. Repeated questions about the exchange with the photographer surprised her. Grissom moved in closer when she tensed under the barrage from the press.
Once in the car, Catherine gave her a concerned look. "Holding up okay?"
"Yeah," Sara said, holding her hands tightly so the blonde wouldn't notice the tremors. "Really. Felt good telling that guy off."
"I can't believe that you did that," Catherine said, adding a laugh at the brunette's shocked look. "He deserved it, but I can't believe you said that in a church. Don't you go to hell for something like that?"
"Cath, I already qualify as a tour guide," she joked darkly, shrugging when Catherine winced.
Sara remained silent for the rest of the drive and later at the restaurant, where the others split a selection of appetizers. She finally ate some stuffed mushrooms Grissom kept offering, hoping he would relax. He looked as tense as she felt.
A sad smile crossed her lips as she watched him. Grissom confused her in ways no one else could. It was always a guessing game trying to figure out when he would switch from being forward to withdrawing. But he'd yet to pull back, even after the number of times she snapped at him. He actually seemed more eager to help the more she pushed him away.
Sara wondered briefly what his reaction would be if she asked him to sleep with her now. The one time she asked rhetorically had shocked him. He'd probably agree now, just out of fear of what her reaction would be if he refused. She nearly laughed at the mental image.
As tempting as it was to turn to him, she didn't want to think of how she'd react when he eventually pulled back. She couldn't risk becoming dependent on his support, only to suddenly lose it. She needed to regain her composure without him.
Despite Kane's assurances, Sara worried about her current state of mind. She had no control and that was frightening. Her moods switched faster than she thought possible. For the first time as an adult, Sara felt like she had no say in the direction her life was heading.
As the group broke up, she asked Nick for a lift. Once they were on the road, she gave him an embarrassed smile. "Nicky, I really am sorry about last night. I never meant to fall apart on you like that."
Nick eyed her carefully. She seemed tense. Well, Sara was never big on talking about her personal life. And this was bigger than deciding where to go on vacation, or in Sara's case, to actually take one.
"Glad to know that wasn't a planned event," he said lightly. Sara flashed him a brief grin. "Look, Sara, it wasn't your fault. You can't go around blaming yourself for things you have no control over. 'Cause it won't change a thing and it sure as hell doesn't help anyone."
She nodded her head. "I know that. I do. Philip showed me the autopsy report. I couldn't have helped him. But I think I'll always wonder. Whether he really was dead then. Doesn't matter what the report says."
Nick gave her a confused look as they pulled into the parking lot. She stopped him before he could head towards the garage. "I'm not hiding from them any more, Nick," she said, jerking her thumb at the reporters.
"If you're sure," he said, watching her nod. He grabbed her arm before she could move out of the SUV. "Sara, why don't you believe he was dead? 'Cause that little girl - Teresa - she said the same thing. He died. She was further away, not even touching the body, and she knew he died. Why are you doubting yourself?"
Sara stared at Nick in astonishment. She had never thought about that. Eventually, she shrugged her shoulders, shaking her head in defeat.
"I don't know, Nick. I don't even trust my own memories from the accident. I keep remembering details, but I don't know which of them are real. It's like a movie. I'm watching it happen, not living it. Except movies don't have smells or touch. It feels unreal. Weird," she said. "Thanks. For listening."
"Any time, sugar. You know, I don't bite. You can talk to me whenever you want," he offered.
"I know. I'll probably have to," she sighed heavily.
"I'll try not to take that personally," he quipped.
She grinned, giving him a quick eye roll. "Part of my recovery. Kane told me I have to open up more."
"Something wrong with that? 'Fraid of us?" he teased.
"No! Maybe you should be, though. You saw how bad I got in the Drying Room. That was me in my 'don't tell anyone' mood," she shot back.
He joined her in laughing as they crossed the parking lot. Sara looked up in time to see Grissom sneak back into the building. He had been watching them.
Nick gave her a friendly shove with his elbow. "He's worried, you know. He'd help if you let him."
"You gonna let him?"
"I don't know. I'm confused enough already. He makes it worse. When I get near him, I don't know whether I should kiss him or hit him," she said, blushing when she realized what she had let slip. Nick wrapped an arm around her, laughing.
"That's good, 'cause you make him feel the same way."
Sara gave him a dirty look, playfully shrugging his arm away as they entered the building. She didn't even bother to acknowledge the reporters asking questions. Heading into the break room, she found the rest of the team sipping coffee. Grissom looked up and slid her a cup across the table. She took it with a smile and went to examine the latest scattering of flower arrangements. Moving through the cards perfunctorily, she stopped when one of the names caught her eye. She smiled as she slipped the card into her pocket.
"Old flame?" Catherine asked.
"Old advisor. From grad school. Haven't heard from him in years," she said, taking a seat at the table.
Greg's over-energetic entrance stopped Catherine from asking any more questions. "Sara! I go away for a couple days and you go make yourself famous! Course, I did have bragging rights on the plane about how we're, well you know," he said playfully, confused by the multiple glares he received.
"Okay. Your parents stopped by. They were able to catch an earlier flight. Definitely, definitely cool folks. They liked me," he said, waggling his eyebrows knowingly.
"No surprise. We rarely agree on anything," Sara answered dryly.
"Well, they said to give them a call if you need anything, otherwise they'll see you tomorrow at the ceremony," he said, waiting until she made eye contact. "Sunflower."
A small round of laughter escaped from around the room.
"My mother was in labor with me for 39 hours. My dad never left her side, even after she broke three bones in his hand. They can call me anything they want, Greg. You can't."
The remaining laughter died quickly at the coldness in Sara's voice.
Greg blushed, wondering what was wrong. "Sorry, Sara. I thought it was a nickname," he said contritely.
Hearing the pained quality of his voice, she looked up to see the embarrassed looks. Her emotional roulette wheel just landed on 'bitch' again. Damn. Closing her eyes and mentally counting to 10, she answered. "It is. I really hate it. Sorry." She got up to dump her coffee out and grab a bottle of water from the fridge, fighting to keep her hands from shaking.
"I don't know, Sara, I think 'Sunflower' suits you," Nick teased, trying to lift her spirits. Warrick quickly agreed.
"I swear to God the first person who says I'm seedy ..."
"Nah. Tall, bright, beautiful. That's you," Greg said apologetically.
"Grissom, I'm going to go get started. See you guys later," she said, hurrying out of the room.
"What's going on guys?" Greg asked in a concerned voice. Grissom merely indicated he should head back to his lab.
After handing out the team's assignments, he went to find the lab tech. Turning down his music, Grissom directed Greg to his office. "Leave Sara alone," he said as soon as he closed the door. "She's under a lot of stress right now."
"I'm sorry, boss. I was just joking," Greg offered.
"I know, Greg. But this isn't a joke. Not for Sara. It's bothering her. She's a bit more short-tempered than usual. Don't aggravate her. Okay?"
"Sure," he said, leaving when Grissom pointed to the door. Both men were surprised to find Sara waiting in the hallway.
"Did he yell at you?" she asked with out preamble.
"Nah, no more than usual," Greg said with a smile. Sara didn't return it, but gave her supervisor a harsh look.
"He'll apologize later, Greg," she said, entering the room, closing the door on the startled technician.
"Sara, I ..."
"Don't Grissom. Don't treat me like I'm going to go postal. Greg's been bothering me ever since I got here. You never said anything to him before," she said hotly.
"Sorry. You're right. I should have yelled at Greg years ago," he said with a smile. She closed her eyes briefly, before collapsing in a chair, shaking her head. Sara flashed him a fleeting grin. "You need anything?"
"New business cards, obviously," she laughed ruefully. "Need to change the name to 'Sybil'. Only fair to give people advanced warning."
"I meant for your review," he chuckled. She handed him a list of files she would need. "This is a good project, Sara. You can help everyone. Don't feel like you're wasting your time," he said seriously.
"I know," she said honestly. "I'll be taking off this weekend. To spend with my parents."
"That's fine. As long as you're working this project, you set your own schedule. If you want, you can work days."
"That's one way of avoiding my moods," she said, wondering if it sounded as flippant as she hoped.
"I've survived them this long," he said gently. "I don't know what ... other ... things ... you need to schedule. If working days helps, do it."
She gave him a measured look. So Kane hadn't revealed her treatment plan. "I'm supposed to go to a support group. For accident survivors. Kane said it might help. They met in the evenings. I can catch it before shift," she said. He gave her a smile, but she could tell he was nervous. "You're not getting rid of me, Grissom. I'm going to be back."
They gave each other reassuring smiles, but both wondered whether her goal was obtainable.
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