DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of the characters, sorry for treading on any toes, I do it only for my sanity.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Watching my little one eat a gorgeous, melting ice-cream cone, searching for a wet one to clean her hands and face, I looked up and saw the ghost train. Had an idea, that started off nice, finished up a little deep, but basically happy :)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
WARNING: Mention of non-consensual sex.

Bittersweet Ghosts
By Debbie

LVPD's CSI graveyard shift plus one were enjoying a well-earned trip to the local carnival.

Lindsey Willows loved these trips with her mom and her mom's work colleagues, to her young mind they were nowhere near frequent enough. Although Catherine Willows worked many long hours, often leaving her daughter with her sister, Lindsey was safe and secure in the knowledge that she was loved and cherished by a large extended 'family', including 5 honorary uncles and 2 honorary aunts. Today, at the carnival, only Jim and Jacquie were missing.

The sun was high and hot, and the love and enjoyment was palpable within the happy group. Grabbing her mom's hand on the right and Warrick's hand on the left she laughed out loud and free as they swung her high in the air between them both, happy. The group had met earlier for ice-cream and coffees, then watched the parade, and then migrated towards the funfair.

Walking through the gates, 7 pairs of eyes scanned the scene eagerly, each with their favorite destination in mind. Grissom, being the fearless leader he was, got his mind into gear first. Grabbing Nick and Greg by an arm each, he dragged them away, shouting excitedly, "Come on you two, I feel a little Grissom initiation ritual coming on."

Looking back at the other 3 CSI's he winked and shared a knowing smile with each of them. They of course had already taken his initiation ritual and had had the pleasure of sharing his love of roller-coasters and therefore knew just what Nick and Greg were about to endure.

Lindsey glanced around and spotted her favorite ride nearby too, the ghost train. Grabbing Warrick's hand she begged, "Come on Uncle Rick, take me on the ghost train. Please?" Then, turning to her mom and Sara, she added, "You two can take the next car. Come on."

The three adults were dragged towards the ghost train line without preamble. Catherine looked towards Sara and saw that she looked absolutely horrified at the prospect. She groaned inwardly, surely it wasn't the thought of sharing a car with the older CSI that caused her fear; Catherine had thought the two women were finally getting over their earlier spats and becoming really good friends. She grinned, "Come on Sara, I promise I won't bite, and I promise I'll stop the ghostees getting you."

Warrick and Lindsey giggled, and Sara managed a rueful smile. What none of Graveyard knew was that Sara, unusually for someone who worked at night, had a deep dread of the dark. She grinned back at Catherine, determined not to spoil Lindsey's treat, she put her own fears to one side and climbed into the ride car carefully.

However, as soon as they entered the doors into the eerie black at the start of the ride, and she heard the playful shrieks of Lindsey in front, some of her courage disappeared. Unfortunately, her dread was a very real fear. Throwing caution to the wind, she did the only thing open to her, she grabbed Catherine's hand tightly to her lap.

Catherine gasped as her hand was grabbed tightly, almost to the point of pain. About to say something sarcastic in response, her words stuck dead in her throat; Sara was physically shaking with fear. Glancing at her younger colleague, she noticed as they passed by a flashing ghoul, that her normally flushed healthy cheeks were as white as a new sheet.

Worried for her friend, Catherine hugged the brunette to her and whispered, "What's wrong, Sara? You're ok, just hold me, I'm here."

Sara couldn't answer, all her long hidden fears were coming to the surface. Maybe it was the fact that she had been so happy just a few moments earlier, that she had felt safe enough to let her guard down, whatever the reason, her fears hadn't risen this near to the surface in years; she was scared.

Catherine just held her tight and soothed as best she could, knowing that whatever the problem was, the ride would be over soon enough. Her hand still held in a death grip by Sara, she caressed the knuckles gently with her other hand and tried once again to coax an answer out of Sara, "Tell me Sar. I might be able to help. Is it the dark?"

Suddenly, deep racking sobs came from the woman at Catherine's side. Fearfully, the blonde woman peered into the darkness ahead, looking for the exit doors. Seeing no obvious exit doors, she turned face on to Sara and tilted her chin up to look deep into the ebony eyes, "Sara, we're nearly out, I promise you. Please tell me what hurts you so much?"

Feeling the waves of worry and compassion from Catherine, Sara's long held dam of secrecy burst its banks, she murmured, "I was 15 Cath, and *she* just left me there to rot, 15."

Shocked to her core at Sara's words, Catherine groaned when she saw the car in front exit into day-light. She knew there was no way Sara would want the others to see her like this, and that there would be no way they could finish this conversation. Yet, her instincts told her that Sara needed to talk this through, and probably now, now that she had started, was as good a time as any. She made a decision, hoping that Sara could cope with the dark a little longer, as they crested into daylight, she shouted to Warrick and Lindsey, "We're going around again, see you at the candy floss stall."

Stroking Sara's hair gently and holding her close, she whispered, "Hope this is ok, Sara. Tell me. Tell me everything."

Laying her head on Catherine's shoulder, Sara let the words and memories surface once more, finding that the support from the older woman was making the memory not quite so bad.

"I was 15 and had just realized that I liked girls more than boys, but I never had anyone to talk to about it. Then I met this older girl who seemed perfect. She was beautiful, friendly, and listened; I mean really listened to me. I told her about my crushes on women and that I fantasized about kissing women. She told me those thoughts were fine and that I should do what my heart told me to do. So, I did. I found myself a girlfriend."

Sara's words were quiet but sure and she occasionally glanced at Catherine's face. The dark made her expression hard to read but Sara felt only understanding, and so she continued. She knew that she had to tell her story quick, and for some reason today she wanted this woman to know her secrets.

"One night, after seeing Emily home and sharing a very nice kiss, this older girl was waiting for me. She dragged me into the nearby forest and began to call me names and punch me. Oh God, Catherine, the filth she called me still burns deep. Anyway, this went on for ages, and then... and then..."

Catherine shivered. Almost afraid to hear the rest of Sara's tale she held her breath and waited, barely believing the words that Sara uttered; how could somebody be so hateful to a girl? Still caressing the sleek hair, she crooned, "Go on, Sara."

"And then... she threw me on the ground and ripped my underwear off. I can see the anger in her eyes now, boring into me as she demanded, 'Is this what you want, Sidle?'"

Sara's voice hitched with her next words and a sob racked her throat, "Then she rammed her hand inside me, Cath. I'd never... you know... I was a ... Jeez, it hurt so damn much."

"Oh, Sara," breathed Catherine, tightening her embrace on the woman. Sara snuggled closer against her, and Catherine could feel the tears from Sara's eyes dampening the front of her shirt.

Sara's words became angry as the memory engulfed her once more, "She rode me like an animal, all the time insisting in a coying sweet voice that she loved me and that my eyes had begged for this for weeks. I sobbed and sobbed and screamed for help but nobody came. When she'd finished, and yes Cath, before you ask, I came. To my utter shame, I fucking came on her hand. When she'd finished, she stood looking down at me with a sick happy grin on her face, and she laughed. Said if I ever reported her, she'd do it again and the next time she would kill me. Said that, she'd just say I was asking for it, and direct people to Emily as evidence that I did."

Sobbing openly now, Sara held on tight to a quietly crying Catherine, and whispered, almost as an after thought, "Want to know why I hate the dark so much? To emphasize her right to my silence, she locked me in a small woodcutters shed, no windows, no air, and just left me. 48 hours I was in that damn "box" before I managed to get out. And do you know what, Cat? Until this day, I've never told anyone what actually happened to me. Never."

The secret Sara Sidle had kept hidden for 18 years, the secret that was behind her entry into crime scene investigation, the secret that made her work twice as hard on any rape case, had taken precisely 5 minutes to be released into the safe understanding of one Catherine Willows, supposed enemy but now trusted friend. The woman who now soothed Sara with whispered words and gentle kisses to the top of her head, "It's ok, babe. It wasn't your fault. We'll get through this. I promise you that. Don't worry, I'm here."

Seeing daylight filtering through the exit doors, Sara looked up into the clear blue eyes of her confidante, and shared a watery smile, "Thank you, Cat. Thank you."

After her experience of 18 years ago, Sara had driven her desire for women deep into her subconscious, pursuing men in an attempt to ward off ever having to experience anything so terrible again. Now, staring into the eyes that held only love for her, she realized that the desire had never disappeared it had just gone away for a time, until the right woman was there to unlock the door and set it free once again. Stunned by her thoughts, she locked eyes with Catherine and whispered a question, "Catherine?"

Catherine read the look correctly and answered with her eyes, shrugging.

The car exited into bright sunshine just as Sara leaned in towards Catherine's lips, but before any contact was made, the brunette stopped herself and pulled away with a deep blush gracing her features. Catherine chuckled and jumped out of the car. Looking back over her shoulder at the motionless Sara, sitting with a stunned expression on her face, Catherine held out her hand and took a hold of Sara's. Pulling her out of the car, she teased cheekily, "Come on Sidle, I think we'll go try out the tunnel of love."

The End

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