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 smiled as he milled around the room. Sara had handled the awards ceremony remarkably well. With this last event over, the media attention which had focused on her these past few days would start to die off. That would relieve some of her stress. Things should only get better for her from here on out.
He gave compulsory greetings to the politicians and civic leaders in the crowd but kept an eye on Sara. She was standing with her parents, saying good-bye to various people as they left the ballroom. By the time he could join her, Sara's parents had already hugged her and left.
Catherine and Warrick reached her a moment before Grissom arrived.
"Your parents left?"
"Yeah. They offered to play tourist this afternoon while I get some sleep. We're going out to dinner tonight and over to Red Rock tomorrow. I think I'm just going to spend the whole weekend here. The hotel gave them a huge two-bedroom suite."
"Going to enjoy the life of luxury, huh? Might as well. Can't afford one of those suites on our salary. I'll bring over your clothes and stuff from my house later."
"That would be great, Cath."
"Give us a call if you need anything."
"Thanks, Warrick. Hey, Grissom. Guys, I'm going to go now, okay? See you later," she said, smiling at her supervisor. He nodded as she left.
"You should head home, Gil. You look beat," Catherine told him kindly.
"Later. I'm going to hang around for a bit longer. Talk to some people."
"Okay," she said suspiciously. Why was Grissom voluntarily staying at a social event? Something was up. "Call me if there's any trouble."
Giving her a smile, he walked over to talk to Dr. Robbins. Catherine and Warrick exchanged shrugs. Even compared to the rest of this week, a sociable Grissom was an oddity.
"Damn! Damn! Damn!"
Sara swore as she paced the room. Had Grissom asked her on a date? It seemed that way. After all this time, he finally decided to make a move and it was just before she was going to tell him to back off. The man had to have the worst timing in the world. Any other time, and Sara would have been elated. But she couldn't even deal with him as a friend now, let alone as a lover. She had to get her emotions under control; her temper was hurting him, but scarring her own soul.
This certainly complicated matters. Sara knew he would be hurt when she rebuked his offers of friendship. How was he going to react to having his romantic overtures rejected?
Wishing she had a cigarette, Sara marched over the mini-bar instead. Reaching inside, she grabbed the first bottle and took a swig. The whiskey burned down her throat and shocked her back to reality. What the hell was she doing? She hated whiskey. Why was she drinking it, alone, this early in the day? That wasn't a good sign. Damn.
Heading to the bathroom, she dumped the remainder of the bottle in the sink while searching for some mouthwash. Greeting Grissom smelling like a drunk could only make things worse. She was on her fourth rinse when the knock came.
For a moment she considered not answering. This was going to hurt him and she didn't want to do that. Letting out a sigh, she headed to the door. She was going to hurt him either way, and at least she'd be honest with him. She owed him that much.
Grissom realized something was wrong the moment she opened the door. Sara seemed almost frightened. She shook her head when he reached in to touch her. He followed her into the suite, sitting on one end of the couch while she settled into the far corner.
Watching her closely, he noticed she was holding her hands tightly. Even so, he could detect the trembling. Had something triggered another flashback? "Sara, are you okay?"
After a few moments, she took a deep breath and gave him a sad smile.
"Have you ever been in a position where, no matter what you do, no matter what you want, it's going to be painful?"
"Tell me what's wrong," he said tenderly.
"I wish I knew. Maybe I could fix it, then," she said. "I'm sorry, Grissom. I know I've been acting like a bitch around you, and I'm not sure why. You've been going out of your way to help me, and I've treated you like dirt. You don't deserve it and I am sorry."
He reached over to rest his hand on top of hers, but pulled back when she tensed. "It's normal, after what you've been through. I understand that. I can deal with it," he said gently.
"I'm sorry," she repeated, her voice low and desolate. "I can't. I can't live with that."
"What?" Grissom paled. She couldn't 'live' with it? What was she planning to do? No. She couldn't be that desperate. Ignoring her earlier rebuke, he reached over to grab her hand.
Sara looked up in confusion, the pain in his voice and expression obvious. She shook her head when she realized her mistake. That had sounded suicidal. Damn. She hurt him again.
"No. I didn't mean that. It came out wrong. Sorry," she said, giving him a smile. He didn't relax. "Grissom, I swear, that's not what I meant. I'd never do that to you. Please, believe me. I'd never hurt you that way," she said, rubbing her free hand over his.
"Then what did you mean?" His tone was harsh, but Sara understood he was still nervous. She was screwing this up.
"I can't deal with hurting you. I know I am, and I hate myself for it. That's what I can't stand to do any more. It's tearing me apart."
Grissom tried to remain calm. What was she talking about? Her talk about 'not living with it' scared him. The desolation in her voice was clear. Just how depressed was she?
"Hey, honey, it'll be okay. Whatever's wrong, we'll get through it. I'm here for you. I'm not going to leave you."
"God," she said, pulling away from him and dropping her head into her hands. Sara knew he was just trying to help, but he was setting himself up for more pain. He really did have terrible timing.
Grissom felt the panic rising. That wasn't a response he had expected. Well, she had reason not to trust him. He hadn't been there for her before. Seeing that words alone weren't going to comfort her, he slid next to her. Pulling her into a hug, he brushed his lips tenderly against her hair.
"Sara, I lo..."
"Don't! God, please, don't say it," she pleaded, jumping up to head to the window. When he started to follow, she held up her hands. "Stay. Just stay there, please. Don't do this to me, Grissom. Please. I can't deal with it, not now."
"What's wrong?" Grissom watched her nervously. She had wrapped her arms around herself and was leaning against the wall for support. He could see the tears rolling down her face.
"I don't know. I don't know and that scares the hell out of me," she said softly. Closing her eyes, she tried to fight back the tears. He really had been about to say it. This was going to hurt him worse than she thought. Still, if she didn't put some distance between them, neither would survive unscathed.
"Can I help?" Grissom slowly took a step in her direction. He didn't want to startle her, but he needed to be closer.
"I need you to do me a favor, but I think it's going to hurt you."
"I'll do anything. Just come sit down, okay?"
"I need you to back off, Grissom."
"I just want to help," he said, taking another step towards her.
"No. I need you to back off all the time. I need some space, some time alone."
"I don't understand."
This time, she reacted when he took another step, moving back to the couch. "Stay back! Dammit, stay back! Look, I don't know why, but you make me angry. I can't control it. It scares me and it hurts like hell when I realize what I've done to you. I need you to stay away from me until I get this under control! I just can't be near you now. Please. Don't do this to me."
Grissom watched her in confusion. Why was she doing this? Her comments and behavior scared him; it came out as anger.
"So what do you expect me do to? Just ignore you? Do you think I could do that?"
"You didn't have any trouble doing it the past year!" she spat out. Seeing the look of pain on his face, she sank to the floor. Leaning against the couch, she started to cry. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. This is what I'm talking about. I can't keep doing this."
He knelt beside her. What had he done? "Don't, Sara. It's my fault. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell." When she didn't pull back, he wrapped an arm around her. "You're right. I did ignore you. I'm sorry. I deserved that."
"And that's supposed to make it all right? God, I know I have no self-control right now, but I'd like to pretend I'm more mature than a little kid. You're right. You hurt me. But that doesn't give me the right to hurt you back. I can't do that to you. Don't you understand?"
"It doesn't bother me," he lied.
"It bothers me. I can't be that type of person, Grissom. This is tearing me up."
"Look, I know you're under a lot of stress right now. But this will blow over in time. You'll be back to your old self soon enough. I want to help. I can stand a few bruises to my ego."
She looked up at him and gave him a sad smile. He looked so desperate. Reaching over to caress his face, she let out a long sigh.
"You don't get it, do you? My 'old self' never got off that bus, Grissom. I don't know who did, or how much of the old 'me' is even left. Or how much will ever come back. But I do know that every time I hurt you, a little bit of the 'old me' dies. It's like I'm killing of a piece of my soul each time it happens. I can't continue doing it. Not just for you, but for me as well."
Grissom closed his eyes and reached up to clasp her hand. He hadn't realized how badly this had affected her. In five days, her entire world had been pulled out from under her.
"Please, if you want to help, just give me some time," Sara pleaded. "I don't want to hurt you. But if you don't pull back, we're both are going to get hurt. That's not something I can deal with now."
"Do you really think it'll help?" he whispered.
"It has to."
"Thanks," she said, pulling her hand back, but keeping a grip on his. His pain was so obvious; she tried to cheer him up. "Look, you don't have to treat me like a leper, just don't push. Give me some space, keep some distance. I don't know how long it'll take, but until I get some control, you just have to leave me alone."
"Tell me what to do. I'm not good at this stuff. Let me know if I'm 'pushing', okay? And let me know when I can get closer."
"I will. I meant what I said. This isn't about you; it's my problem. I need to work this out. Don't blame yourself. Hell, if you'd shown this interest last week ..."
"Don't rub it in."
"I'm not. Really. Can you be patient? I wouldn't blame you if weren't."
"I can wait," he said softly, standing up and pulling Sara with him. "I guess I owe you that much."
"Thanks," she said, walking towards the door. Taking her hint that the discussion was over, Grissom followed, but hesitated before leaving.
"Just promise me, one thing. Let me know, if there's anything you need. If I can do anything to help. Don't leave me out of this."
"Bye," Sara said. Once the door was closed, she sank back to the floor and started crying.
Catherine yawned deeply as she stepped off of the elevator, silently giving thanks that Sara would be spending the weekend with her parents. While she didn't resent helping her colleague, she was ready for a break. Between the press, the various public functions, running errands and a general lack of sleep, she was physically beat. Dealing with both Grissom and Sara's emotional states had left her mentally exhausted.
Catherine made a mental note to talk to Sara about her situation, doubting the younger woman was aware the lengths the lab would go to accommodate her recovery. She knew Sara hated the media attention, but it had made her a public relations prize the department would want to keep. Giving a silent groan when she realized it meant no one would be getting any vacation time in the immediate future, she started looking for the Sidle's suite.
Yawning again, Catherine shook her head. She was amazed at how stressed she felt, when she had just been outside observer to most of this.
Finding the correct door, she knocked softly. If Sara was asleep, she didn't want to disturb her. At least one of them should be getting some rest.
"Mr. Sidle. Hi. Catherine Willows from the Crime Lab. I brought some of Sara's things over," she said, shaking hands with the tall man who answered.
"Name's Rich. Come on in. She's still asleep. Coffee?"
"That would be great," the blonde said with a smile. While she could use the caffeine, Catherine was curious to learn more about the elder Sidles. They had only been introduced briefly that morning and she hadn't had a chance to talk to them afterwards.
"Jan, Catherine Willows is here. Sara told us she was staying with you. Thanks."
"It was no trouble."
"Of course it was."
Catherine smiled as she shook the woman's hand. It was clear Sara had gotten her no-nonsense approach, as well as her looks, from her mother.
"She told us all you and her other friends have done for her. I hope you know how much she appreciates it. Even if you do seem to be overly worried about certain things," the other woman said pointedly.
The blonde shrugged. She must have told them about the suicide concerns. Still, she wasn't going to apologize for being worried. "I'd like to think my friends would do the same for me under similar circumstances."
"I hope you never find out," Rich said softly, handing her a cup of coffee.
"Yeah. This has been rough on her. It's bad enough, what she had to go through, but the press have been hounding her."
"You don't have to tell us," Jan huffed. "We hadn't been off the plane 10 minutes before some reporter started following us around."
"Really?" Catherine tried to keep her voice neutral. Given the couple's earlier statements to the media, she wondered what they had said this time.
"It was that woman who talked to the little girl. Can you believe she broke into a hospital room to interview a child? Wanted to know what we thought of that little boy thinking Sara was his mother."
"What did you tell her?"
Rich grinned. It wasn't a pleasant sight. "Nothing that could be printed."
"She seemed to have trouble understanding when we said 'No comment'," Jan said, giving the CSI a wink. "We had to spell it out for her."
"In great detail."
"With small words, generally not exceeding four letters."
"Oh," Catherine laughed. Despite her earlier misgivings about Sara's parents, she found herself liking the eccentric couple. "Did she leave you alone after that?"
"She did seem to hurry off rather quickly."
A muffled scream erupted from the bedroom, causing Catherine to jerk, spilling some of her coffee. Rich merely looked at his watch, saying "A little over three hours" to his wife, who shrugged.
The CSI stared at them in shock. They didn't seem to be concerned about Sara. When neither made a move to check on their daughter, the blonde set down the coffee cup. Rich placed a restraining hand on her shoulder before she could get up.
"It's best to leave her alone," he said.
"Nightmares always leave her edgy. It's not good to bother her after one," he said.
"I think you know what we're talking about," his wife said, pointing to Catherine's busted lip.
"Oh. Yeah. That. I spooked her. My fault, actually"
"I doubt Sara would agree," Rich said, pointing to his nose. The blonde could tell it had been broken. "Did this when she was six. That bothered her more than the nightmare did."
"Six?" Catherine asked in shock. While lean, Sara's father was strongly built. It was hard to imagine an adult being able to hurt him, let alone a young girl.
"Sara's stronger than she looks," Jan said.
"And faster." Catherine couldn't help smiling briefly at the proud tone of voice he used as he moved to sit beside her. "It takes her a few minutes to get her composure back. It really is best to leave her alone until then. She doesn't like to be seen when she's that upset."
"I sometimes wonder if the reason she wants so much control over her life is because she has no control over her dreams," Jan added philosophically.
"You make it sound like she has nightmares all the time."
"Pretty often," Rich said sadly. "Ever since she was a little girl. Usually four or five a month."
"Wow. That doesn't sound good."
"Just a personality quirk. Doctors said nothing could be done about them. They aren't recurrent and they don't happen just before she falls asleep," Rich sighed. Catherine gave him a curious look. "If it's the same nightmare, you can train yourself to get over them. If they happen before you fall asleep, it's hypnagogic hallucinations and that's a sign of narcolepsy."
Catherine openly smiled at that. "I don't think anyone would ever accuse Sara of oversleeping."
"Ha! Do you have any idea what it was like raising an overly energetic kid who never slept more than five hours?" Jan asked dramatically. "Half the time we were afraid to go downstairs in the morning, wondering what she had gotten into while we were asleep."
Rich chuckled. "You have to admit, she did a pretty good job of repainting the foyer. For an 11-year-old."
"And she did reorganize our registration system one morning when she was 14. Of course, it took us five weeks to figure it out, but it was a better system."
"At least she wasn't a trouble maker," Catherine offered. Linds slept a good eight hours and she still had trouble keeping up with her. She couldn't imagine what Sara must have been like at that age.
"If you believe that one, I've got a bridge to sell you," Rick laughed. "Oh, we knew she wasn't going to join a cult or burn down the house. She was just a different type of trouble maker."
"Really?" Catherine leaned forward. This was getting interesting.
"Take when she wanted a telescope. Real expensive one. You know kids, always changing their minds. Well, we told her we would pay half if she saved up the other half, thinking she'd forget about it. Instead of just saving her allowance, she hired herself out to do her older brother's math homework. Was doing it for about six of his friends as well."
"Yeah. We didn't find out until there was a pop-quiz. They all failed it, even though they were getting perfect homework scores."
"When we confronted her about it, she said it didn't matter if any of them could do math or not," Jan added. "She said they were all too dumb to figure out that only one of them had to pay and the rest could have copied."
Catherine chuckled. Sara as a homework con-artist. Warrick and Nick would love this story.
At the sound of movement coming from the next room, Rich got up and poured another cup of coffee, adding an unhealthy dose of cream and sugar. He was halfway across the suite when Sara stalked out of the bedroom pulling on one of the hotel's plush robes. "Here, sweetheart," he said, handing her the cup, then pulling her into a hug. "You up for some company?"
Looking around, she gave Catherine a wave, before talking to her father in a low voice. The conversation went on for a short time, with the brunette leaning against him for support.
"Excuse me," Jan said, walking over wrap her arms around her daughter. Catherine studied the pattern on the coffee cup, resisting the urge to watch, but glad that she and her parents were that comfortable together.
After a few minutes, Sara leaned in to give her father's cheek a kiss and then to return her mother's hug. Wiping her eyes, she headed towards the bathroom, pausing to give Catherine another brief wave before disappearing into the room.
"She's still jumpy; going to soak for a bit. Try to relax some. She said she'd she you Sunday night at work," Rich said, apologetically. "More coffee?"
"No, thanks. I better get going. Have to fix dinner for my kid. It was nice meeting you. Sara has my cell number. Call me if you need anything."
Leaving the suite, Catherine made a mental note to apologize to Sara for judging her parents earlier.
Heading home, she gave a silent prayer that they would be able to help their daughter.
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