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: 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.
Grissom scowled as he approached the lab. Numerous reporters began yelling questions even before he drew near. The double dose of Sara's encounter with the photographer and the Hernandez girl's revelation about what had happened on the bus had refueled the media attention.
So far, they had managed to keep her ... situation ... under wraps. Her being pulled from the field could be presented as a reward of sorts. But the ruse would only work as long as no one questioned her behavior. As it was, it would only be a matter of time before the other lab personnel became suspicious.
He swore silently at this latest complication. If the press continued to hound Sara, eventually she'd lose control in front of them or they would find out she was under a psychologist's care. Either could be fatal to her career.
In most jobs, taking a leave due to stress wouldn't pose a problem. But their work relied heavily on reputation. While evidence never lied, people did. If a defense attorney ever learned about this, Sara would be attacked as being unstable during a trial. Any work she did would immediately be called into question.
Grissom knew that returning to the field was Sara's goal. She was willing to take whatever actions were needed to restore her state of mind in order to accomplish it. If she lost that motivation, it could be devastating for her. So much of her life centered around her work.
Shifting the bags of evidence protectively away from the crowd, he gave a simple "No comment" as he entered the building. While he knew he should give a more definitive answer, Grissom didn't feel comfortable saying any more without knowing exactly what had happened. Seeing Catherine leaving the A/V lab, he called her into his office.
"What exactly did Sara say to that photographer? The press is going crazy out there."
"Sara, stressed, jumped by a guy who was more interested in making money than helping a bunch of hurt kids. Do I really need me to spell it out for you?"
Grissom let out a loud sigh as he glared at the blonde. The fact she wouldn't actually tell him what Sara had said was all he needed to know. Catherine wasn't shy; it had to be something bad enough that she thought it would bother him. That fact wasn't helping his nerves.
"This isn't good. They could use this to cause her problems," he finally said.
"Wouldn't worry about it. Sara's gold right now. Public loves her. The media can't turn this against her without making themselves look bad."
"I hope you're right."
Catherine watched her friend carefully. He was obviously tense and hadn't hid the concern in his voice. She couldn't recall a time when he had ever willingly exposed himself to personal pain. Despite repeatedly being on the receiving end of Sara's temper, he'd yet to back away. The uncharacteristic behavior pleasantly surprised her.
Fear was a great motivator.
Hopefully, this would be a lesson for him. Grissom would never really be happy until he lowered the walls he'd built around him. He was doing so to help Sara. If all went well, they would be closer than ever.
She didn't want to think about what would happen if it didn't go well. Could he possibly withdraw further into his own world without losing a grip on the outside world?
Giving herself a mental shake, she pushed those thoughts down. They still had a job to do. If she knew her friend, work would be the one thing that would help break his bad mood.
"You have something in DNA? Greg's been bouncing off the walls looking for you."
He raised a curious eyebrow. "No. I have things in Trace," he said, suddenly smiling as he made the connection. "He thinks I'm going to apologize to him."
"Any particular reason?"
"Sara told him I would."
"Oh. Of course. That explains everything."
"Sara's upset I told him not to bother her."
Catherine smiled at his confused expression. He honestly had no idea what he had done wrong. "And you're surprised why?"
He remained silent for a moment before staring at his hands. "I don't know. Making her upset seems to be my specialty lately," he said sadly.
"Gil, you're treating her differently. You've never said anything to Greg before."
"Sara's never been like this before!"
"And I'm sure she loved you reminding her of it," Catherine said softly.
Grissom snapped his head up suddenly before grunting. Of course, Sara wouldn't want him treating her like she was fragile. "I didn't say it in front of her, Catherine! Give me some credit. I had the door closed. She was in the hallway while I talked to Greg."
Catherine smiled as he quickly looked up to check the hallway outside his door. She hid behind her hand when he glared at her.
"You eaten yet? I've got to talk to Bobby. You drop off your evidence, then let's see if Sara wants some lunch."
"And I'd apologize to Greg if I were you. You know Sara's going to check. It'll make his day," she laughed at his expression.
"Great. Just what we need. A more excited Greg."
Sara swore as she threw the pencil across the room. That was the third time in less than an hour that she had broken the pencil point due to her shaking hands. Dropping her head onto the desk, she tried to suppress the tremors.
Common sense told her she should just switch to a pen, but she had always used a pencil while laying out complicated database designs. It allowed her to concentrate on defining relationships between tables without worrying about being neat.
So much in her life had changed in the past few days. She desperately wanted to hold onto one old behavior, irrational as it was. Unfortunately, graphite wasn't as sturdy as her resolve.
Sara intended to pursue her review with as much determination and dedication that she would give a murder investigation. She had to. While no one had come right out and said it, she knew her future was at stake. Even if she was physically able to return to work, she needed to convince Kane and her supervisors that she was mentally able as well. Completing this review in a professional manner would help.
Tossing writing instruments around wouldn't.
Taking a deep breath, she started to get up to retrieve the pencil when she saw Catherine and Grissom in the doorway. She couldn't tell if they were more concerned or frightened. Sara waved them in as she crossed the small room to pick the pencil up.
"Come on in."
Neither of her colleagues moved for a moment. It wasn't until Sara moved back behind her desk that she realized they were still outside. "It's safe. They confiscated my gun."
"Well, in that case," Catherine said lightly, giving Grissom a subtle push into the room. "Nice office."
Sara snorted. The "office" was little more than an overgrown closet used by Human Resources to conduct interviews. The small desk, three chairs and a lateral file cabinet practically filled the room.
Catherine smiled as she walked over to the file cabinet. Sara had retrieved the flowers sent by her old advisor. That was interesting, considering she'd shown no interest in any of the other gifts she'd received. "From an old teacher, huh?" she teased, shooting Grissom a questioning look. He looked back in confusion. Did Catherine think he'd sent the flowers? Should he have?
"My grad school advisor. Jimmy Kahill."
Catherine walked over to take a seat. Sara was tense when they entered; this conversation didn't seem to be helping her relax. "Everything okay?"
"Sure. Pencil keeps breaking, that's all."
"Do you need a pen?" Grissom regretted asking the question even before she shot him an angry look. Sara was perfectly capable of getting a pen if she needed or wanted one. He could see her fighting to remain calm before she answered. It didn't work well.
"No. Pencil's fine," she snapped.
"Hey, Greg's running out to pick up some pizzas. Why don't you come down and join us?" Catherine said quickly. She had tried to stop Grissom from heading into the office when they heard her swearing. One of these days, he might actually learn that he was embarrassing Sara by confronting her after her outbreaks.
Sara stole a quick glance at Grissom before turning to Catherine. "No thanks. I'm not too hungry."
"Then you're a little hungry. You can eat a little," Grissom said firmly. He wanted to be friendly, but found it difficult to keep his temper. He knew she wasn't to blame, that he hadn't slept enough in the past few days, that his migraine had left him tense. But none of that made her outbursts any less painful.
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm not in a good mood."
"Could be low blood sugar. Come eat something."
Sara finally turned to look at him. He didn't sound angry, but she could see the stress in his posture. Stress she had caused. He didn't deserve her treatment, but Grissom seemed to have a knack for triggering her temper lately.
"Look, I appreciate this. Really, guys, I do. But you don't have to do this. You're acting like you think I'm going to jump off the roof or something."
Her tone may have been flippant, but their reactions weren't. Catherine blushed and turned away quickly, but Grissom actually paled to the point she worried he'd faint. He stared at her desperately, the pain clear in his eyes.
"God, you actually think ... you think I'd ..." Sara tried to keep her voice calm. "I was just joking." How messed up did they think she was? How messed up was she?
"No," Grissom whispered. "No," he repeated in a firm tone. "No, I don't. That's not something to joke about, Sara."
"Sorry. It's either joke or cry. And I'm damned tired of crying," she said, fighting to keep the tears away. Now she understood why he was being so kind to her. It would have taken a major event for him to abandon his normally reclusive ways. Sara jumped when Grissom pulled her from the chair.
"Let's eat," he said, leading her from the room, his tone leaving no room for argument. A still-stunned Catherine quickly moved to join them. Once downstairs, Grissom released his grip on Sara's arm, but stayed close, as if to prevent her from bolting.
Entering the break room, Sara took an empty seat beside Warrick. Grissom was forced to sit at the other end of the table. He tried to calm his pulse down as she clearly avoided looking his way. After a quick lunch, he left the room without saying a word.
Sara closed her eyes briefly when he stormed out. She didn't know what to say. Despite his statement to the contrary, she knew he really was concerned about her mental state. That thought scared her more than anything else. She knew she wasn't in a position to accurately judge her own state of mind.
She knew she wasn't in complete control, but hadn't realized it was so bad that her friends thought she was suicidal. It certainly explained all the extra attention they had been giving her. It was touching, if a bit overwhelming.
It also made her feel guilty. Her friends didn't need that type of pain. But how do you reassure someone that you're not suicidal? Just saying so wouldn't be very convincing. Bringing her emotional outbursts under control would probably help, but that was something she had little control over at the moment.
Finishing off her one slice of pizza, she headed back to her office. Once Grissom calmed down, she needed to apologize to him. Again. He didn't deserve the abuse she was throwing at him, but he always seemed to be the one who triggered her anger. And he stayed around for more.
A sad smile crossed her face as Sara thought of all he had done for her since the accident. Less than a week ago, she would have cherished that kind of attention from Grissom. But not at this cost. He must be in terrible pain, and she couldn't bear to be the source of it.
Her dark mood lifted somewhat when she entered the room. Sitting on her desk were a dozen brand-new sharpened pencils.
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