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.
Scanning the parking lot, Nick was surprised to see the reporters had left, before he remembered that the funeral for one of the dead children was being held that morning. While he sympathized for the family, he was grateful the media had moved on to easier targets. Sara needed the break.
Shooting his friend a concerned and confused look, he could see that she was tired. Normally, she didn't show outward signs until she had spent days with little rest working on a case. Her visible lack of energy was especially odd considering she wasn't working a case, let alone overtime, and she had just had a weekend off.
Even stranger was the apparent nonchalance Sara seemed to be showing over Grissom's abrupt behavior changes. Nick had expected her to be hurt by their boss's sudden distance. If she was, he couldn't detect it. Giving her another look, he wondered if she had become immune to his constant attitude changes, or if she had become that good at hiding the pain.
Sliding on her sunglasses, Sara tried to ignore her friend's glare. She silently cursed her miscalculation. She realized too late that the others were misinterpreting Grissom's backing off and now they thought he was being heartless. Unfortunately, she wasn't sure how to handle this latest complication.
She knew Grissom was hurt and could use support, rather than condemnation. But she also knew he was the one person at the lab who valued his privacy more than she did her own. Sara wasn't sure how to explain to the others that everything was fine without revealing a very private and painful conversation.
She was hoping Nick wouldn't pursue the topic, when he leaned in to nudge her shoulder. "You okay?"
"Yeah," she said, forcing her voice to hold a confidence she didn't feel.
"Look, Sara, you don't have to ..."
"I'm fine!" Seeing him jump at her bark, Sara took a deep breath before continuing in a calmer tone. "Everything's okay, Nick. You worry too much."
He gave her a disbelieving look as they climbed into his truck. Sara tried to calm down, wondering why her friends were suddenly making such a big deal over something which wasn't bothering her. No one had said anything in the past when Grissom had avoided her.
'Because they think I'm suicidal,' she reminded herself bitterly. While touching that her friends were concerned, it also irked her that they thought she would ever go to that extreme. She decided it was time to try and get that concern under control.
"So, what're the odds?" Sara asked brightly.
"What odds?" Nick asked in return, pulling out of the parking spot and heading towards Tropicana Boulevard.
"In the office pool? The 'Sara-cidal' pool? What's the favorite? Jumping? Gun? Slit wrists? Drugs?"
Sara hid her smile as Nick swore, hitting the curb as pulled onto the road.
"You know, statistically speaking, drugs are your best bet. It's the preferred method used by women in this country."
"Well, it is. Is there a time frame as well?"
"What the hell kind of question is that?" Nick bellowed, turning to give her an open-mouth stare.
"Watch the road! I really, really don't want to die!" Sara yelled back, then giving him a grin. "Besides, I doubt 'Caused co-worker to wreck on the way to breakfast' would be one of the choices in the pool."
"There's no damn pool! We're not taking bets on it! Who the hell even told you we were worried?"
"You did, just now," she smirked, raising her eyebrows when he realized he had been set up.
"Dammit!" He continued to swear under his breath, giving Sara an evil look when she chuckled.
She decided to give him a break when he started pounding the steering wheel in frustration. "Don't worry, Nicky. Grissom and Cath slipped up the other day. I made a crack about jumping off the roof, and I think I nearly gave them heart attacks," she said kindly.
"That's nothing to joke about!"
"So I've been told," she said dryly. "But it's not something you guys need to worry about. Honestly. I'd never kill myself."
"I know that! I said so!" She gave her friend a smile for his vote of confidence, but couldn't resist teasing him more.
"Was that before or after my performance in the Drying Room?"
"Doesn't matter! Look, Sar, I know you. You're not the type to give up. I know you're going to pull through. Dammit! I said you'd get upset if you found out. I told him so."
"Him who?" She turned to stare at Nick when he didn't answer immediately. She really wanted to know who had started this. It didn't seem like something Grissom would do, but if so, she really needed to find a way to reassure him. "Look, you know I'm going to get it out of you. Make it easy on yourself."
"Warrick started it."
"He did some research."
Sara rolled her eyes at Nick's attempt to avoid the conversation. "Keep going."
"A lot of other people who were heroes - and you are one darlin'; stop trying to deny it - and had all that press attention, well, they ended up killing themselves. We just wanted to make sure you're okay. 'Cause even the ones who didn't kill themselves, well, a bunch turned to substance abuse."
She nodded. "Yeah. Okay. I can understand that."
"Dammit, Nick, watch the road or let me drive! I meant what I said earlier! You guys have really got to stop analyzing everything I say."
"Nick, be honest. Do you believe me when I say I'm not suicidal? Honestly?"
He gave her a brief glance. "Yeah, Sar. I believe you."
She smiled at the firmness of his answer.
"Then stop treating everything I do or say like it's some kind of omen!"
"I guess we're coming on a bit strong, huh?"
"God, Nick, you have no idea."
"Just trying to help."
Hearing the hurt quality in his voice, she gave him a sad smile. "I know. You guys have been great. Really, all that you guys have done, it means a lot to me. It's just, well, I, I know I'm screwed up," she said softly. "I don't think it's permanent and I really hope it's not that bad. But I'm not really in a position to be a good judge, you know? And then you guys act like you think I'm suicidal. It scares the hell out of me."
"Sorry. Never realized how it would seem to you. We're just worried," he said kindly.
"Given my mood swings lately, I'd be more worried 'about me' than 'for me'," she snorted.
"I do both."
Sara tried to give him a dirty look, but couldn't resist his teasing smile. Shaking her head, she gave him a brief grin before turning to look out the side window.
"This whole thing, it's a mess. It royally screws up your life. You lose all sense of who you are and what you had. It's like nothing you knew before is the same. If someone was having troubles, and I mean serious troubles, before it started, then, yeah, I can see where something like this could push them over the edge."
She flashed him a reassuring look. "But you don't have to worry about me, though. My problems weren't that bad."
Nick snapped his head around in surprise, but kept his voice gentle. "What kind of troubles were you having?"
When she blushed, it confirmed his suspicion that she hadn't meant to acknowledge that something had been bothering her before the accident.
"Nothing, really," she said grudgingly. "Really, Nick. It's just, well, I thought, just thought, about maybe leaving the lab. It wasn't like I had made plans or anything. I was just considering it."
Sara sighed, wondering how she had get herself up for this conversation. Cursing her lack of self-control, again, she watched her colleague. Now that she had let that bombshell slip, she doubted Nick would let it drop without an explanation.
"I started thinking about it after the explosion at the lab. I was lucky. If I had been a little closer, I could have been seriously messed up. It was a wake up call. Well, I guess it really made me start thinking about my life. Actually, about my serious lack of one."
"You unhappy here?"
"That's just it. I'm not, not really. I'm not saying that some things couldn't be better, but I like my job. It's just that sometimes it felt like it was all I had."
Nick gave her a concerned look, wondering if she was aware she had just used the past tense.
"I guess I wanted more, but I really don't know what it is that I wanted. Or what was keeping me from it. If it was the job, then I had no idea what I wanted to do instead. If it wasn't the job, then leaving wouldn't help and I'd lose something I liked. So, either way, leaving didn't seem like a good idea at the time. Guess you're stuck with me," she said with a lop-sided grin.
Drumming his fingers nervously against the steering wheel, he didn't return the smile, but debated how to proceed. Nick could think of a lot of reasons why Sara wasn't happy at work and could trace most of them back to one person. She probably wouldn't appreciate his bringing it up, but he wanted to reassure her.
"Never knew that. But don't you go blaming yourself. We both know that Gri ..."
"Don't go there."
"I'm just sayin' ..."
"Drop it, Nick! Now," she said harshly, before closing her eyes and silently counting to 10. She knew her friend meant well, but this conversation was heading into dangerous territory. While Grissom wasn't the friendliest in the past, he was doing what she needed right now. How to convince the others of that was a problem, though.
Earlier, she had debated telling Catherine the truth. She was probably his closest friend in the lab and could talk to him better than the others. But she had decided it was more important to protect his privacy, than tell the blonde. Now, seeing her colleague's reaction, she knew she had to take some sort of action.
"Look, I'm not going to blame others for my problems. I live my own life. Any decisions I've made - good or bad - I'm the one responsible for them, no one else."
"That doesn't excuse his ..."
"I said don't go there! Look, I really do appreciate all the help from you guys, but this is something I have to fix myself. I want to get back to my old life and I don't need a baby-sitter all the time. It's getting to be a bit too much. Grissom knows that. I'm not upset with him."
Nick gave her a questioning look. "Really?"
"Really. I mean it. It's good that he's backed off. It'll help," she offered, hoping Nick would buy the partial truth. "I don't want anyone, anyone giving him any grief. 'Cause if you thought I was going to get pissed off when I found out about the suicide, then you can't imagine how I'm going to be if I hear that anyone said anything to him. I'm serious."
"Okay. If you say so."
"I do. It's all right, Nick. Trust me," she said, smiling when he nodded. Looking out the window, she did a quick double-take. "Hey, we passed the diner."
"Miles ago. Great powers of observation there, Sar. Guess that's why you're our top CSI," he said with an evil smile. "After all you put me through this morning, you're treating me to a real breakfast. I want steak."
"Fair enough. I can probably get a free one. Perk of being a hero," she laughed wryly.
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