DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a companion piece to Falling, I don't think it matters which order you read them in, but if it helps to know, I wrote Sara's side of things in Falling first.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To mbarduk[at]yahoo.co.uk
It's a subtle sound. Purposeful but not intrusive. With its lifts and falls metered out perfectly in time. Recognisable instantly or maybe that's only because you have come to listen out for it in the lab. You wait for your day to begin with the echo of that sound. Strange that it went unnoticed before when now you can't start your day properly without hearing that indicative sound first. You wonder what you did before you knew, you marvel at the blind way you went about your interactions with people, never conscious of the background. And now the background is all you can think about. Listening out for that sound is an unconscious habit you don't remember beginning but now that you have, you find that it is a hard habit to break. You reflect that you don't want to break out of it and this leads you to question again who you were before this began to happen to you.
Or more accurately why hadn't it happened to you sooner?
The need in you to hear things others cannot hear, see what they have no idea is right before their eyes. It's all about perception. The one with the control is the one who can understand what is before them. You may not have all the answers yet but you are on the path to understanding the dynamic that's developed between the two of you. And you think you are a few steps ahead of her as it is you who listens for her footsteps every day, not the other way around.
Why else would you care so much?
And you do care. Oh you tell yourself it's professional courtesy when you call into the lab to check she is all right, after the latest case has left her solemn and introspective once she's gone from the interview room. You convince yourself that you are simply looking out for one of your own, the unspoken code amongst detective and CSI. No less a bond than the honour you sometimes encounter amongst thieves. But it's more than that what you feel for her. It's tangible, malleable. It's waiting to hear her walk into the lab and knowing by the way she carries herself which shoes she is wearing that day, even though you wouldn't have caught a glimpse of her yet. It's remembering the way she takes her coffee so you can surprise her in that nonchalant way you do when you offer her a cup and she finds it tastes exactly as she likes it. Sweet and black, so the sugar offsets the inherent bitterness of the dark bean. And you wonder if you can do the same for the bitterness she holds inside her that is plain to see on her face only no-ones seems to understand it but you.
They all think it's just part of what makes her her, as though if they took a strand of her hair and held it under the microscope they'd see in her genetic makeup that she's always been this way. Focused and stoic, determined and slightly obsessive, alone but apparently at ease with the emptiness. But you can see past the exterior, it's what makes you such a damn good cop, and you see all the things that shroud her true self. You know how to look past the mask of dedication she wears every day to what's really hidden underneath. A scared animal trapped in a cage that would rather bite the hand that feeds them than let that same hand hurt them again.
You wonder if she's always been like this. Why you were the first to notice that there is something inherently wrong with an attractive young woman spending every available moment ensconced in a lab with no natural sources of light. Who didn't talk about her life outside of work because for her work is her life, there is nothing outside it. She has no frame of reference outside these pristine walls. The glass she looks away from when she passes it, fearful of the reflection she would see if she stopped to look. You know the reasons why you became a CSI, how easy a decision it had been in the end to give in to the inevitable and follow in your mother's footsteps when you became a detective, but you wonder what drove her to this profession. Although the work satisfies such a brilliant analytical mind, sometimes where the evidence leads her you see a bolt of pain cross her eyes. Her cool exterior slips a moment and you think you see the un-asked question in her chocolate eyes why?
It's a question you have been asking of yourself a lot lately, although in reference to something quite different than when you see it pass through her mind. You lay awake at night recalling your interactions with her from the day that is laying itself to rest, and you ask why did this happen to you? Why should it be you who sees what the others don't? Why do you have to be the one to question what secrets she is keeping buried under those layers of avoidance and sarcasm that have become her raison d'être? Why does your heart have to be the one to ache when you hear her walking away from you at the end of shift? Another malignant case solved and shelved, another reason for her to withdraw further from the real world into what she knows and trusts, but what ultimately, you think, leaves her empty and lifeless inside.
You ask yourself why, not because you think there is an answer but because you are fearful that you can't be what she needs. That you will somehow let her down when she finally allows you into her life. When that masks starts to fall and she lets you see the person who has always been hiding underneath, you think that you will do something wrong without meaning to, it will just happen. You'll say the wrong thing, push too hard or not hard enough and it will be over. The light you so want to make shine in her eyes shall be permanently extinguished and it shall be all your fault.
It's subtle, purposeful but not intrusive how she has found her way into your life. How she has made you listen out for her footsteps every day and examine relationships from your past that you thought were just a phase. You see the things that no-one else sees about her, a part of you knowing that is because she wants you to be the one that looks. And even though you fear you cannot be all that she needs, you hope that you are at least what she wants.
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