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.
After breakfast and their shopping expedition, Nick dropped Sara off back at the lab. Staring at her dashboard clock, she found herself surprised that it had only been slightly more than a week since the accident occurred. This time on the previous Monday she had been utterly unaware that her life was about to be completely turned around.
Refusing to dwell on that subject, she mentally reviewed the seminar she had attended last week. She didn't know when she'd be able to return to the field, but she wanted to stay up-to-date until then. Her silent summation was disrupted as she neared the turn-off for her apartment.
The site of the accident had been turned into a shrine. Flowers, gifts and crosses were piled in the median strip and messages had been scrawled on the pavement. Further up the road, Sara could still see the traces the burning wreckage had left on the blacktop.
Closing her eyes, she gripped the steering wheel as she started to tremble. After a few moments, she was able to get her breathing under control. Though still jumpy, Sara was glad at how subtle the reaction had been.
A bitter laugh escaped from her clenched teeth. She decided that being happy about having a mild panic attack probably wasn't a good indicator of the state of either your life or your mental health. Still, she hoped Philip would agree that it was encouraging that she hadn't had a full flashback.
She pulled back into traffic and headed home slowly. Deciding it would be best not to tempt fate at this point, she mentally mapped out alternate routes between the lab and her apartment during the brief journey. Circling the complex twice, she searched for any signs of reporters. Convinced it was safe, Sara finally pulled into the parking lot. She couldn't face the press now; she was still too tense.
Grabbing her purchases and the bag of accumulated laundry, she warily crossed the parking lot, angry that she felt the need to be on the look-out for hidden camera crews. The greetings from neighbors she wouldn't have recognized on the street was disconcerting enough. Finally reaching her apartment, she set her packages down on the breakfast bar.
Heading into the bedroom closet, she found an empty box and placed the various awards and plaques into it before setting it in a back corner. While those citations would serve as a career-maker, Sara didn't care if she never saw them again. She wouldn't have accepted them if it wasn't for the fact that refusing would have made the lab look bad.
Going back into the living room, she started looking around. She had only been gone a week, but something seemed off to her. She turned her attention to her home.
'Dwelling,' she corrected herself. 'Home' implied more than a place where one slept and showered.
As she scanned the small rooms, she realized she hadn't given much thought to the place since the case involving the shut-in, Donna Marks. Seeing the frightening similarities between their lives, Sara had vowed to change her life by actually getting one.
But, despite her best intentions, she found that was harder to do than she had imagined. A life wasn't something you just picked up. It had to be made, one piece at a time. Sara had learned she wasn't completely sure how to do it.
The outward trappings had been easy enough: she had gotten rid of the carryout menus and catalogs. She spent more time with her friends, but still most of the people she knew could be traced back to work somehow. Then, after the disaster that was Hank, she had started to slip back into her old habits. Their familiarity offered a form of security that she needed at that time.
Switching into investigative mood, Sara imagined how her apartment would appear to an outsider. The slightly desiccated plants and thin coating of dust showed the place had been empty for a short time. Aside from the need for a light dusting, the place was clean, if not overly neat. The clutter by the computer attested to that fact.
The bookcase held a small collection of books and journals, nearly all dealing with forensics. The police scanner, while quiet now, fit in well with the printed materials. A few framed photographs, mainly from her childhood, were scattered around the apartment, along with a couple of paintings.
A flashing light on the answering machine showed another 36 new messages, but Sara recognized that as an anomaly caused by her sudden fame. Normally, it would be empty. The stack of CDs merely showed she had eclectic tastes in music.
Overall, it was the abode of a workaholic. There was nothing to show that she had any life or interests outside of her work. Very little in the apartment gave any insight into her personality. Giving herself a mental kick, she hoped that was because she had never placed the time or effort into it and not that she lacked a personality to display.
Letting out a weary breath, Sara vowed, again, to make amends. She couldn't keep on living this way. Placing the plants in the sink to soak, she made her first foray into her new life and started working on her initial bonsai. Eventually satisfied with her pruning and finally getting the plant to sit in its shallow pot, she moved on to quickly clean the apartment.
Yawning deeply, she decided to rest before going through her mail and messages. Even if she managed to sleep for more than a few hours, she would still have a block of time to kill before she could go into work. Free time was a new experience for her; she wasn't sure how to spend it without turning to work. There were only so many chores to keep her busy. She debated what other hobbies to pick up as she drifted to sleep, glad that at least she was making progress.
Any hopes of rest were shattered by the nightmare. Today, she barely got two hours of sleep before waking up in a cold sweat. Swearing loudly, she staggered into the shower, bumping into the doorframe in exhaustion. Normally, she didn't need much sleep, and could go days on much less than she had been getting this past week. Now, she found she was tired all the time, but attributed it to the stress.
Singing softly, she tried working the tension out, letting the hot water massage her muscles. After a few minutes, she reached for the soap, but kept dropping it. She couldn't stop the mild trembling in her hands. Swearing again, she kicked the soap in disgust, sending it rocketing around the enclosure.
Closing her eyes, Sara tried to regain some of the calm she had found. Relying on habit, she reached for the washcloth and started wiping at her face, but opened her eyes at the harsh feel of the material. Letting out another loud curse, she dropped the washcloth and fought to keep her stomach calm.
The material was still held traces of dried blood from her last shower, immediately after the accident. She had left so quickly, she hadn't bothered to drop into the laundry hamper. The still-warm blood had soaked through her clothes and dried in a brownish stain on her skin.
Trying to swear and sing at the same time, she frantically tried to push the images out of her mind. She didn't need another damned flashback. How the hell could she visit the accident scene and not have one, but not stand her own shower, she wondered bitterly.
Sara started cupping water in her hands and repeatedly washing her face with her bare hands, her tears blending into the water.
When she eventually exited the bathroom, her breath still ragged, Sara made her way into the kitchen. She was still edgy from the combination of the nightmare and flashback. Opening the refrigerator door, her stomach renewed its objections. The smell indicated something in there should have been thrown away in the past week. At least a trip to the grocery store and cleaning out the appliance would give her something to do later, she thought darkly.
Looking through the cabinets for something to eat, she paused when she found the forgotten bottle. Hank had liked to drink an occasional rum and coke. The nearly full fifth of liquor had sat ignored since their breakup.
Yawning deeply, she knew she needed to rest. Taking the bottle with her, she walked over to grab the container of sleeping pills Philip had given her. Falling asleep wasn't the trouble, though; it was keeping the nightmares away. Those pills wouldn't do anything to prevent them. Alcohol, on the other hand, was another story.
Sara had never been a very heavy drinker, even in college, but as far as she could remember she had never been plagued by nightmares after falling asleep drunk. While hardly scientific, the correlation wasn't lost on her.
Grabbing a glass from the cabinet, she walked over to the sink and filled it part way with water. Opening the bottle of rum, she eyed it carefully before pouring. Taking the glass of water, she watched as the alcohol drained down the sink.
That idea had been so tempting it shook Sara to her core. She had never understood before what could drive someone to purposefully slowly poison themselves to the point of destruction. Now she did. It frightened her that she was tempted to actually give in. She might be able to fight off the urge to drink now, but she knew it was going to get harder to resist turning to something if she wasn't able to relieve the stress soon.
Getting rid of the temptation was her safest option.
She wasn't going to let this destroy the rest of her life. She had too much to look forward to. Her thoughts turned automatically to Grissom and she smiled sadly. Hopefully, he'd be a part of her future. She'd hurt him enough already; if she could help it, she wouldn't do anything else that would cause him pain, including self-destructive behavior.
The truth was she was afraid of losing him. In the back of her mind, Sara wondered how long it would take before he pulled away. Part of it was past experience. He had a habit of backing away when things became intense, even though he had been steadfast through this.
Mostly, though, she was still afraid of how he would react when he found out what had happened on the bus. Would he still care once he knew she had left Hunter behind? Swearing again, she tried to push that thought away. Logically, she knew there was nothing else she could have done for the boy, but the thought of how her friends would react still bothered her.
She knew it was an irrational fear. Nick and Philip both knew the truth about what had happened, and neither had treated her as a pariah. But Nick was loyal to a fault and Kane was trained to be impartial. Would Grissom react the same way?
As much as it pained her to admit it, Sara knew she didn't completely trust him. He had been too inconsistent in his treatment of her since she had moved to Las Vegas. While she hoped he would still be there when she resolved her troubles, she also had her doubts about him. This was one time she really wanted to be wrong.
Continuing her quest for food, she settled on a bag of microwave popcorn. It was hardly nutritious, but she didn't think her stomach would stand another trip to the fridge right now and she was in no condition to go to the store. She wasn't especially hungry - another strange fact she attributed to the stress - but she knew she had to eat. She had already lost a few pounds. One disadvantage of her thin frame was even the small change in mass was noticeable.
It was bad enough that her parents, who had never pushed her to eat as a child, had commented on her lack of appetite. It probably was amusing to an outsider seeing the graying couple trying to entice their grown daughter into eating a little more.
Sara smiled at the memory. Her parents had been so supportive of her over the weekend. They had kept her out of the city most of the time, not even giving her a chance to return her phone messages. Instead, they had grabbed some food and heading out into the desert. As odd as it seemed, she found the desolate beauty just what she needed. Without the constant fear of running into some journalist or well-meaning stranger, Sara had finally been able to relax some. While she had constant nightmares, she had been able to catch several catnaps while her parents drove across the desert.
Feeling guilty, Sara made a note to see when she could take a vacation to visit her family. She had let their past differences blind her to the fact they were very loving. She should have called them at the beginning for help. Well, if there was any good side to this mess, she decided, it was that she had become even closer to them.
Deciding to wind down some before attempting to sleep again, Sara wandered over to her couch and turned on the television. Flipping through the channels, she froze when a familiar young face was plastered on the afternoon news.
"... reports indicate a mechanical troubles may have been responsible for last Monday's school bus accident which killed 10 people. In related news, all the injured children, except 8-year-old Teresa Hernandez, have been released from the hospital. Doctors confirmed that Hernandez has been downgraded to critical condition and has been moved to an intensive care unit."
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