Disclaimer: Not mine, yada, yada. Don't sue. Feel free to hire me, though!
Summary: A story of survival.
A/N: I don't really like writing angst. But, sometimes an idea gets in my head, and…well, I worry about myself! _________________________________________________________________________
It was interesting, really.
Sara was trying to sit back and examine it all in as clinical a fashion as possible.
Life had been really strange (so far).
There had been very few tears shed when she was a young child. They annoyed her parents. Besides, as she once told Grissom, she had no idea the life she was leading was something worth crying about. It was just the way that people lived, wasn't it? But later, when she found out the truth about what was normal versus her own life, that's when the tears started to fall on a regular basis. And they didn't come out of self-pity for what she had been through. No, they came because she missed what she no longer had. As difficult as it had been, she missed her family. They were all she knew.
For quite some time after her mother was taken away, whenever Sara was alone, all she seemed to do was cry. She was no longer a regular person. She was a person people spent an inordinate amount of time whispering about. The whispers got back to her, mainly because she had incredible hearing and a knack for inadvertent eavesdropping. But what they whispered about was never something they spoke of directly to her face. Because, Sara Sidle: The Victim, was also Sara Sidle: Somewhat of A Freak. A walking time bomb who carried some violent, murderous gene that could be set off at any moment. And no one wanted to be the detonator.
Sara didn't feel any differently than she always had, but maybe they were right.
And, of course, that was another thing to cry about: her own broken sense of self.
And then, the tears dried up.
One day, she decided they were holding her back. They made her feel useless and weak and she just had too much to do to prove that she was strong and in control.
Oh, there had been that one time, when she told Grissom about her past. And, at that moment, the tears were the result of an overdose of feelings, long suppressed. That, and the fact that he now knew she was broken. That had been a problem. The one person whose opinion meant more to her than anyone else's, knew it all now. And she had never really wanted him to. She wanted to be strong, confident Sara Sidle. Not that scared girl in the foster home, crying into her pillow. But, it was what it was. And she sucked it up and went on with her life, without his real support, at the time. Yes, he did ask her how she was, more often than he ever had before (which she hated), but his spare time seemed to be spent in the company of the non-broken, blonder, member of their team. And Sara had to face facts. Whatever potential she once thought they had, had probably been wishful thinking on her part.
Of course, she was wrong. She found that out later. But, she had been proud of the way she acted at the time. Proud of her courage during a challenging time when old memories were being forced to the surface, and a new way of thinking about life was becoming a necessity.
And, from that point on, she reinforced her commitment to saving her tears for victims. Not for herself.
She was not a victim.
Until she became one, once again.
But, even then…she didn't cry.
Even after Natalie. _______________________________________________________________________________
There were moments when things felt right: that moment in the Medevac, when she opened her eyes. She expected…well, she didn't know what she expected really. She wasn't entirely sure she believed in an afterlife, but as she was forcing her eyelids open, she kind of thought she was dead and waking up into…another world. Instead, she found herself focusing on…Grissom. Right there besides her, holding her hand and looking at her as if she was all that existed in the universe. And she felt life again. Life…and more.
He wasn't an "I love you" kind of man. She knew he loved her, to a degree. But what degree was beyond her. They had a very, very odd relationship, she decided just a few weeks before. Like that old song said, "no promises, no demands"…but hardly a battlefield. No, if anything, it was just the opposite. And she liked it that way. But, there were…so many questions, and she wasn't about to push for answers.
But in that moment, the look Grissom gave her told her just what he felt. Those blue, blue eyes and that soft—oh, so soft, smile that lit up his face when he realized she was awake and looking at him. For a moment, she wanted to mouth "for me?" But then she realized, yes, it was for her. He loved her. To the nth degree. She had her most important answer.
And those were the type of moments that felt real. His waiting on her as she recovered, bringing her unnatural amounts of Jello to eat, in spite of the fact that there was nothing wrong with her stomach. His clumsy attempts at hairdressing, until she told him to just leave it and let her hair go curly. His tender changing of the dressings on her face, with just a hint of moisture glazing his eyes, every time he uncovered one of the deep scratches left over from her "ordeal."
And then there was the proposal. And true happiness. And a pressing need to shed real tears of very real joy.
But, no. She couldn't even do that.
Because, at the same time that some things were going so right, everything else was really wrong.
The only trouble about not shedding tears was the fact that they didn't evaporate. No, while she wasn't shedding them, she was definitely storing them. Deep in her gut. She pictured a big, empty fish tank-like contraption being filled one drop at a time. And she knew this because the container became heavier with each passing day.
Work was not the same. No. She felt as if she were thrown into a strange town, with strange people, doing a job she knew and loved, but it had all changed. And when she wasn't alone with Gil, she hurt so much. So very, very much. For everyone.
And then one day, she didn't.
She didn't hurt for them at all.
She went out with Ronnie on a case of domestic abuse and she felt nothing but a sort of disdain for the victim. A pattern was there and it would only be broken when someone died. That was the truth of the matter.
And Ronnie was calling her on it, and she didn't care. People had thought far less of her in her life. If this airhead thought she was being callous, fuck her.
And then there was Hannah.
The first time she met her, she felt so much for this little child genius. So much responsibility, owning a brain that would put most adult's to shame, while being trapped in an immature body, with immature emotions. Being…somewhat of a freak.
But, this time, Sara's well of empathy was not so easy to tap. As she approached the girl—to tell her about her brother's death—to tell her the only person she had left to love in this world was dead—she felt victorious for a moment. And when the child in Hannah came out, and spilled out her pain on that lawn and in Sara's arms…Sara felt something snap.
Her own sense of self.
She had spent years trying to rediscover who she was. And now, she had no clue. But whoever this person was—this non-crying, non-feeling automaton—she was not someone she liked. And she was not someone she wanted around the man she loved. __________________________________________________________________________
Her phone vibrated against her hip. Again.
In the cab, on the way to the airport, the tear tank reached its capacity. In a way, she was relieved. That whole lack of breathing and weight on her soul thing was a mite uncomfortable. Felt good to have some moisture on her cheeks as the dry wind of the desert town bid her goodbye.
And then she thought of the words, "good bye," and the tear production went into overdrive--on the plane, on the cab ride to the hotel in San Francisco…as she checked in (to the point where the front desk personnel inquired about her health more than once, and they probably weren't thinking about her physical state).
And the tears just got worse in her room--through her shower, through getting dressed in one of Gil's warm flannel pajama tops and especially through the placing of her pictures on the nightstand. One of herself and Grissom, one of her and Grissom and Bruno. And one just of Gil, barefoot and sitting on the couch, reading.
Funny. She took three pictures with her. And one pajama. And only two outfits.
A few toiletries and that was that.
But the pictures were more of a necessity than anything else.
The phone vibrated in the pocket of her pajama pants again.
She looked at the screen and ignored it.
And continued to do so, every day, for the next month.
And then one day, when her tear tank had finally dwindled down to nothing, she heard her phone ring, and decided to answer.
"Hello," she said.
"Sara?" the voice on the other end was so shocked not to hear the brief voice mail announcement he had become accustomed to, that Sara could almost picture the look on his face. It made her lips curl up in an unaccustomed smile.
"Well, it's about time! Where have you been? I've called you every day since you left. You know that."
"I know. I'm sorry. I just…I haven't really talked to anyone except…."
"Him. Yes. I heard. Not from him, but from Brass. The Great One doesn't share. And, to tell the truth, I didn't actually believe Brass, either. I mean, has he really called you? Has he bothered?"
"No, I'm so mad at him, Sara. I'm not kidding. I know you think I joke around all the time, and, well, I guess I do. And I know I never had any chance with you. You made that clear from like the first week we met. But, well…you're still one of my top three female-type people of all time. And that's only because Mom and Nana Olaf got there first. But, did you have to pick this loser from all the people who were slobbering over you? And, if you had to leave him, couldn't you just turn to one of us to help you out of whatever it was you were feeling?"
She took a deep breath. She was annoyed but understood his overreaction. And, maybe it was time to let someone into the inner circle.
"Greg…listen. I…" she took another deep breath and started over again. "It's not his fault. Grissom will never, ever open up to you guys. That's just not him. He's not going to tell you how he feels or if he misses me, or even tell you about how I'm doing. It's not that he's unaware that you might be curious, but…well, frankly…he thinks if he can handle my absence, my friends should automatically be able to, even if they have had no contact from me. He's just so intensely private and this really was a shock to him."
She listened to the sounds of silence for a while.
"You're wrong," Greg finally said. "He did tell us. Once."
"Told you what?"
"That you were the only one he ever loved. That's when he was talking about Natalie. We were all in the layout room and he was kind of talking to himself, really. He just dropped that bombshell and ran off following a hunch in his head. I guess we must have looked like a bunch of dorks, with our jaws hitting the floor and all."
Sara laughed. "Grissom only told me that "everyone knew.' He didn't give me any details. Claimed he didn't really remember exactly what he said. The only one, huh?" The thought gave her a beautifully warm feeling inside. "Well, you know, he's…different with me. And I guess maybe I'm different with him. Don't be mad at him. Please. It's not his fault at all. It was all my decision. I just had…have…some things to work out."
"Why hasn't he come to get you? I would move heaven and earth to get you back Sara—if you were mine, that is."
"I told him not to."
"And he listened?"
"And you don't mind?"
She smiled. "I just need some time to myself. When I left—well, I didn't want anyone seeing me like that anymore. But, it's not like he's really leaving me alone. He's with me every single day."
"Metaphoric relationships are for the birds, Sara."
"No, I mean, he reaches out every day. Every single day since I left. He spent hours on the phone with me the day I left, just letting me cry into his ear. Didn't try to guilt me into coming home. Didn't tell me to stop crying. The only thing he wanted to hear was that my 'goodbye' was not a real goodbye, and that—when I was ready—I'd come back to him. And that just made me cry some more. But, at the end of that marathon conversation, he got his promise."
"Whoopee for him," Greg said dryly, but she could tell she was winning him over.
Sara smiled again. "He texts me or leaves messages when he can't reach me. Every single day. Shakespeare quotes, mostly. I don't think he's quite caught on that I don't really like Shakespeare all that much, but it doesn't matter. It means something to him, and every day, it's some new message… He's trying so hard, Greg. This is all unfamiliar territory to him. And he doesn't know how to reach out to others. So, do me a favor and just keep an eye on him for a bit longer? Please?"
There was more silence, and then the gentle voice gave her a reluctant answer.
"Well, I don't agree with the way he's handling things but maybe he doesn't suck quite as much as I thought he did. I'll watch the big guy for you. Only for you."
"I'm sorry I didn't listen enough, Sara. If there was anything I could have done…"
"There wasn't. There are just a few more things I have to deal with, by myself. Not you, or Gil or anyone can help. But, I thank you for trying. And I really miss you all. I'll be back. Pestering you before you know it."
"You better. Or I'll take it out on your old man. And, answer your phone more often!"
She got off the phone not knowing why she had avoided his calls all month. She sighed. It was just another thing she'd have to address in therapy. ________________________________________________________________________________
Her therapist had convinced her that she had trust issues with everyone who was not Grissom. And she should learn to open up to those who had not earned her distrust. It sounded good at the time, so she talked to Greg on a regular basis. And, a few months later, she was very glad she had resumed telephone communications with the guy. Not only for his crazy way of keeping her posted on the things that went on in their lives, the things that Gil was trying to spare her from but…
"Grissom…walking pneumonia. No signs of the boogie-woogie flu, however." She read the text message and immediately called home.
"Sara!" he croaked out.
"I'm going to kill him. Or fire him. Which would be worse?"
"He's only looking out for my best interests."
"Mhhhhhmmm," he grunted into the phone before letting out a huge sneeze.
"You sound bad. I think…maybe it's time to come home."
"No. I'll be fine. I have soup. And I'm not even working. Ask your little spy."
"Sara," he said in his best "I'm changing the subject now' tone of voice. "Did I text you your quote for the day yet?"
"Okay. Sit back and I'll read it to you, instead," he said, and she could just picture him fidgeting around for his big volume of Shakespeare. She smiled. This, this was why she loved him so much. He was old fashioned and traditional and hokey and romantic and all of it was demonstrated by his very personal method of "counting the ways…."
"No," Sara said. "Rest your voice. Lay back and I'll talk to you for a while, okay?"
"But your quote…"
"You can send me two tomorrow. Now, just be quiet and listen…"
And she told him a very long story about the latest visit to her mother. And the several hours of therapy required after said visit. And she talked about visiting her father's grave, and San Francisco and the weather. And then she quietly listened to his heavy, congested breathing as he fell asleep mid-conversation. And she dozed off herself, dreaming of holding his warm, fevered body close to her own. When she woke up, she missed him so badly, it hurt.
Later that day, she talked to her therapist and doubled up on their sessions.
"Shall I compare thee, to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate."
She couldn't help herself. She laughed. Long and hard.
The silence on the other end was deafening.
Sara got herself under control.
Grissom cleared his throat. "Is there something particularly funny about this sonnet?"
"Yes. I'm sorry but…temperate? Me? Gris…I think it's time to come home."
"Yeah. It's time for me to come home. You've finally run out of Shakespeare quotes that even remotely apply to me and it's time to come home."
"Well, as much as I like that idea…."
"Stop quoting Shakespeare," she said.
"I thought you liked…"
"I love the idea of you sitting on the couch every day, or in bed, putting your glasses on, opening a page you've already bookmarked…calling me up and carefully reading these words you consider so beautiful…trying to express what's in your heart. Your doing that has…it's kept me going. It really has. But do me a favor?"
"Tell me you love me."
"I love you. You know I do," he said, and she could feel the urgency in his voice. It was that important to him to have her understand that fact.
She did. "And do you miss me?" She asked.
"Every moment of every day."
"Tell me to come home."
"I can't do that," he said, sadly.
"Yes, you can."
"No, Sara. I can't do that. That's something you have to decide yourself."
"Do you want me home?"
There was a long silence, followed by a barely whispered "yes."
"I asked Greg to do me a favor."
Of course he did. Brass would probably have to clear it with him before approaching the Big Wigs for permission. She should have spoken to Brass directly.
"I couldn't ask you, you know."
"Greg really … was less connected. At least, on the surface."
"I know that, too. So, did you get the answer you were looking for?"
"I think I did. She will never be fit to stand trial."
"So I've heard."
"And she had a complete psychotic break," his silence on the other end informed her that he knew that, too. "Greg said she was in another world, really. Just kind of singing and talking to herself."
The sound of Grissom breathing heavily brought her out of her thoughts.
"I don't know what I expected, Gil. I guess I wanted her to take her crimes personally. I expected Greg to walk in and still find her ranting about me, or you or Ernie or anyone. Instead, she's just a sick soul who is lost inside herself forever."
"And this helped you…how?"
"It depersonalized what she did. Natalie wasn't one broken soul recognizing me as another, and trying to symbolically kill herself. It had nothing to do with me. She didn't even care when I pointed out the foster child connection and the fact that I lost my father, too. All she cared about was herself and lashing out at anyone who she felt a grudge against, for however small a reason. She was killing people because they used bleach! And I knew this, but somehow, I was the one taking it all too personally. It just didn't seem to make any sense unless there was a big reason behind it all. She took my life--a life that had become better than it ever was--and turned it upside down. There just had to be a reason. And there wasn't. And I couldn't even hate her because it would feel like hating one of my "own kind.' It just didn't seem right. "
"And now it does?"
"Now, hating her is not a priority. Not hating myself is. And I think I did just that. I hated myself for becoming a victim again, even if I truly had no choice in the matter. And I hated myself for having a fucked up past. And for considering myself somehow less of a person because of it. And, acting that way and thinking, somehow, that I would taint everyone who meant anything to me just by being in their presence. I mean, that's some messed up thinking there, Gil.
Anyway, after I got off the phone with Greg, I took a drive to this kind of deserted stretch of beach. I planned to go out there and just scream every obscenity known to man. Just get it all out of my system. But I went out there and saw how beautifully clear the water was, and how the sun was sparkling across its surface and…all the little pieces that were making me feel confused just seemed to fall in their proper places again. And I was able to focus on what is important in my life. What is real. And I just felt good. No swearing involved." She laughed, then simply stated, "I don't feel broken anymore. I don't feel like a victim."
"Maybe Greg deserves a raise," Grissom said, quietly.
"Maybe he does."
"And maybe you should come home," he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice.
"I think I definitely should."
"No. Wait. I've changed my mind."
"You have?" She said, disappointment not even beginning to cover what she was feeling.
"Yeah. I'm coming to get you. We'll pack up your past together and then rent a car and come home, okay?"
It was more than okay.
Later that day, for the first time in nearly half a year, Sara walked up to Gil and stared into his blue, blue eyes as he put his hands on either side of her face and gave her that oh, so soft, smile that told her just how cherished she was. This time, the "for me?" thought never entered her mind.
She put her arms around his waist. He was thinner. His hair was slightly grayer. His beard…was back.
And she snuggled her head into that warm space between his neck and his shoulder and took in a deep breath. This was Gil. This was who she belonged to.
She felt his hands move to her back, slowly and gently running them up and down, rediscovering the feel of her. He was so warm. Always so warm.
And she heard his soft voice whispering her name as if it were a sacred mantra.
So much better than Shakespeare, although she'd never tell him that.
She felt the warmth of her own tears as they silently landed onto the cotton of his shirt.
And she no longer had any qualms about shedding them, or sharing them.
The End. _________________________________________________________________ A/N #2:
When Geekfiction had their elemental challenge, I actually started (well, nearly finished, really) three different stories before deciding that the first one is the one I wanted to submit. I decided to go ahead and complete the other two. While they didn't really fit the challenge, I kind of liked them so…why not? (another one is on the way, sooner or later. Just need to write/polish a bit more).
Dedicated to: Jorja Fox/Sara Sidle, who I miss more and more every week. The crime show with heart has just become another show since she's been gone and this is an open love-letter-ish fic for both the actor and the character who have earned my admiration as real women with heart, soul and courage.