DISCLAIMER: Not mine. No money made. C.S.I. and C and S belong to CBS & Mr. Bruckheimer, while I belong to myself, as does this little story.
TIMEFRAME: late Season Three.
ARCHIVING: NT and P&P only.
Crash and Yearn
By Nique Bartok
I hadn't planned on pulling any overtime this morning, but as cases go, shift has officially ended over an hour ago and I am still here. Right now all I want is a shower and breakfast after I drive Lindsey to school, that is. I called Nancy and asked her to drop Lindsey off at the lab; running as late as I am, I wouldn't make it home and to my sister's place in between without Lindsey being late for her lessons.
At this moment, my daughter is somewhere with Greg, although they're not in the DNA lab where she was 'helping' him to run samples an hour ago. One of the techs from dayshift tells me that they were headed over to the adjacent building with the garages to deliver some DNA results and as I smile in reply, he wishes me a good day in addition.
They really are in the garage labs where somebody is obviously in the middle of taking apart a car; Greg and Lindsey both are looking at the rubble of machinery with interest. I would be hard-pressed to tell whose expression is more rapt. But as soon as Lindsey sees me, she runs over and nearly tackles me to the ground with a hug, smiling excitedly.
"Mommy, when can I drive a car?" she asks, nearly jumping up and down with all the energy that the discovery of something new always seems to give her.
I suppress the impulsive reply of 'never'. My girl's been in enough car trouble for a lifetime, or two. And while I know that I'll have to let her drive some hopefully still very distant day, today is not the day I want to think about that. "Not until you can look over the steering wheel," I answer her, my tone making clear that this is a discussion we won't be having for another couple of years. She shrugs and heads back towards the half dismantled car, clearly fascinated by all the components.
"I have to pick up my things, I'll be right back to drive you to school, okay?" I call after her and she turns and nods at me, trying to do it in a very serious and grown-up fashion, but actually she is still completely fascinated with the car. I know that my expression softens at the display and I can't help thinking that my morning just got a little bit better. I walk over to Greg who stands smiling sheepishly, his hands in his lab coat pockets.
"Greg, can you watch her for a few more moments?" I ask him with the most disarming smile I can muster at this hour. "I only need to change real quick and grab Lindsey's bag."
"Sure thing," he says amiably and I know he already stayed longer than he had to because of my daughter.
"They should pay you some extra for this," I suggest, and I am only half joking. He waves it off, but I can see that my acknowledgement pleases him.
"She's a sweet kid, Catherine. I don't mind watching her," he says and smiles at me. He turns his face, offering a cheek to me. "But if you want to kiss me for it "
He's kidding and we both know it. I playfully hold his gaze and shake my head at him, enjoying how his eyes subconsciously follow my every movement. My body language is open while I talk to him. I am still smiling at his antics when I see Sara coming out of the back of the garage. That explains Greg's earlier rapture far better than the car.
Shift has been over for nearly two hours already, but of course Sara is still here, working on that car. And probably she isn't going to go home any time soon, either. The standards she sets are unfair, and I think they're not healthy. Some of us do have a life outside work, and we're no lesser investigators only because Sara Sidle is living at the lab.
She looks between me and Greg now, and I can tell she doesn't like our interplay. But it's not like I care much what she thinks. I don't like Sara.
"Hey Lindsey," Sara says, nodding at my daughter, and I am thinking whether she has to have that intense and intimidating look going on even when she is talking to a kid. She can't be that inept, now can she?
Lindsey seems unfazed by it, however. "Hey Sara," she says and ambles over to where Sara is cleaning up the remnants of her latest car adventure. I am irrationally angry with Lindsey for a moment for not being more angry at Sara, but so easily forgiving instead. Sara closed that case, denying me closure and denying it Lindsey, too. Some part of me still thinks that she did it because she wanted to punish me for something, for what I've been, or just to get some superiority over me. I know she worked hard on the case, but perhaps she got some kind of satisfaction out of it, too: out of seeing me like that. I've certainly treated her like she did, and I don't think I was wrong.
"Sara, what is that?" Lindsey is interested in the power tools now. I observe Sara's awkward body language, how she is shifting her weight and pulling up her shoulders. Her posture screams uncertainty at how to tread around Lindsey. Serves her right. My girl is not even a teen and already better with people. And she's smart, too.
There's no denying that Sara is smart. Frighteningly smart, in fact. Nobody else in this place went to Harvard, not even Grissom did and until Sara showed up I thought that he was as smart as it gets. And then Sara came, right into my territory, into my crew, into my comfort zone, with those frightening grades and endless legs. She never even tried to be sociable or charming, probably thinking she doesn't need it. That her work is good enough to excuse any attitude. And although I hate to admit it, she may be right. On good days, I can admit to myself that Sara is probably a hell of a lot smarter than I am. But today is not one of those days.
Today, as I walk over to the main building to change, is a day where I enjoy to see that here, with my kid, she is out of her depth. And I enjoy the memory of how she looked at me earlier, angry that I was flirting Greg, Greg who usually is all over her.
I walk off with a smile, but it's not a nice one.
Lindsey makes me feel inept as she watches me, but she doesn't make me feel it intentionally, not like Catherine would. Perhaps she's too young to do that. I look at her and try to imagine her grown up, a second Catherine of sorts. Hopefully not.
I don't like Catherine.
For her, it was probably an intuitive thing at first sight. She disliked me from the moment I sat foot in the lab.
The same instant dislike probably was there on my part, too, even though I am trying to tell me that it is because she never gave me a chance. But it is not about giving me a chance or not, it is about what she is. Her whole being.
She is beautiful, there's no use in trying to deny that, and I don't blame her for it, most of the time. I blame her for using it, though. She is dressing up for crime scenes and suspects, for God's sake. And even though it may get us a confession faster at times, I still think it is cheap, and not professional. Not professional for a CSI.
If I am really honest, I can admit to myself that it also unnerves me because it is something that I cannot do. I'm not too good with people, especially not with people whom I don't know well and whom I have to talk to on a simple, superficial level.
Catherine can come across warm and flirtatious and cordial and caring, no matter what time of day, and whether she just met someone or has know them for years. She is most likely unparalleled at it. What stings is that she is so well aware of her ability. Sometimes I wonder if she sleeps in make-up, as well, hair curled, and wearing a perfectly styled nightgown. She is always very aware of how she looks. I think there's really no use in dressing up for the job we do, but she does it anyway. Although, even if you put her in a tanktop, it still looks a whole lot different on her than it would look on me. She just has this air about her it's everything combined: her looks, and her damn certainty about them, knowing how she can affect others and expecting with an implicitness that can infuriate me enough to make me want to hit something at times that everyone will notice her. And most of all, it annoys me that she is right about that. Everyone looks up when she walks into a room and looks a bit happier than they did before. I don't like her at all, but even I can't deny that she is good with people when she wants to be.
Sometimes I think about what she must have been like as a dancer. I think it is a question everyone in the office has asked themselves at one point or other, the guys a bit more often than the rest of us. The thing is, I can picture the part where she is flirting and sexy and has every man drooling over her. Hell, I see that happen most every day. But I just can't see the part where she is making herself the object of somebody's fantasy. I just can't imagine her agreeing to that. Not when she's not completely in control.
The need for control is another thing that annoys me about her, especially since she doesn't have to fight for it; she simply gets it, with her subtle smiles and little looks that say that she knows they'll do whatever she wants before she even asks for it. I'm surprised nobody else is calling her on it, but she has a way with the people around the lab, her way, making it look caring and maternal while it is really about her. Catherine, if you ask around, is the secret surrogate mother of the entire graveyard shift, and she acts like it having Lindsey probably gives her the right to mother everyone else, too, or at least she thinks so. Perhaps it is the mother thing, too, I don't know, but thinking about her as some guy fantasy is just wrong, and disrespectful. Even I can't do that, and I don't even like her.
Some days I think that her only purpose of being is to rub in all the things I am not good at. Being charming, and easygoing, and warm. And likeable. I always feel a bit like Gulliver in the country of the little people I come across intimidating, or sometimes cold and harsh, even if I don't want to at all. I've tried to change it at times, even though it makes me feel awkward. I also won't attempt it when she is around. I can perfectly picture her smirk and it wouldn't be a nice one if she ever caught me wanting to improve in one of her domains and finding me failing.
I'm better with people who are not so much about people. Like Grissom, although that is leading nowhere fast. I thought it would be a good idea for a while, but now I am not so sure. The appealing thing about him was and is that I know I can relate to him by science and talk.
But there isn't really any need for romance, if I'm honest. Ever since he turned down my dinner invitation, I am becoming more certain of what to do, or rather what not to do about us, even if he isn't. We would not be good at romance. I can't really imagine us in any kind of passionate embrace. Passionate talks about evidence, yes. Anytime. But passionate embraces? I've tried to picture that, only to find that I really can't. I'm not very much about romance and passion anyway, and he isn't, either, and for a while I thought that this would make us a good match, romantically. I've since come to accept that common interests and a similar mindset are not enough to form a romantic relationship. It wouldn't be any different from what we have now, apart from some more friendly, and more exclusive, closeness.
I haven't really talked to him about all that because I know he would be embarrassed, and then I would probably be embarrassed, too. I'm not good with making people talk about feelings. I'm not like Catherine who does that even when she doesn't care at all. She says three words, and it sounds nice and flirtatious already like she just did talking with Greg. I don't like that. I think that Greg is the only man in the lab who really and genuinely has a thing for me. In the beginning, I thought he was kidding me, but by now I think that he really likes me, perhaps to an extent that I don't even get yet. And that I could not respond to he's not my type, romantically speaking, and I think I'm just not the type for romance, period. But his chauvinist little compliments here and there make me feel a bit less like an intimidating brain on legs and a bit more like a woman. I wouldn't admit to it at gunpoint though, just like I wouldn't admit that I hate it when Catherine flirts with him, especially in front of me, demonstrating that even with him, she's better than me.
Lindsey watches me as I take the tools apart and carefully place them back in their boxes. She is reaching out a hand to help me here and there. I let her. She asks about their names and functions, and I tell her. I wonder what Catherine would think of this, Lindsey being so friendly and normal with me, after all she tried to paint me as the reason for her little girl's every nightmare after I had to close Eddie's case.
Speaking of Catherine, how long can it take her to change? I hope she comes back to pick up Lindsey soon. The tools are almost all cleaned up and I have no idea what to talk about with Lindsey after that.
Everyone from dayshift who I am crossing paths with on my way to the locker room is greeting me, and I notice that most of them even greet me by name, including the techs. About nearly everyone of them I know a few personal details, making a bit of small talk here and there how's the husband, how are the kids doing at school, did you finally propose to the girlfriend?
By the time I enter the locker room, I've made at least half a dozen of people smile. I can make just about anyone smile if I set my mind to it. People skills are one of my fortes, and I find myself smiling, too, as I change out of my work clothes.
A small voice in my head is telling me that I need this bit of confirmation, too. To be reminded of my strengths. That, while I may not be as intellectual or as much into the science aspects of forensics as Gil or Sara are, I do have a better grasp on people, making them open up to me, getting them to tell me what I want to hear, unraveling what makes them tick. I have good instincts.
Gil would probably deny that there even is such as thing as gut instinct. Perhaps Sara would, too. - But being a CSI doesn't only require a sharp mind in an intellectual sense. In many ways, the schoolbook science I learned during my studies has helped me a lot less in the field than the knowledge about the most basic human instincts that working as a dancer gave me.
The job as a CSI is about science just as much as it is about good instincts: about being able to let the mind wander, about guessing at other people's motives and passions about emotional intelligence. And I have that.
I know that I am a good investigator and that I am lead CSI for a reason. But there are days when looking at Sara solving a case with her near maniacal dedication makes me feel as if my position, and I worked hard to be where I am, isn't as safe anymore as I thought it was.
Her expression, especially when she's in the middle of a case, frightens me at times, not because of the intensity, or not only because of that, but also because I cannot read her. I don't understand what makes her tick how so much passion can be about work, and about work only. I don't know what fuels her. Everyone else, I have a grasp on. Some of them only and I'll admit that simply because I charmed them into it. I know some of their history, I know what kind of people they are. But with Sara, I don't have that kind of leverage. I've tried, and for purely tactical reasons after a while, to pin her down as a person, as someone I could predict, only to find out that I can't. And it is unnerving because it makes her more threatening.
Ever since she came here, work has turned into a constant challenge. On good days, I thrive on that challenge. On exhausting days, like today, I feel nothing but stressed out, and I resent her for it. It is an unfair competition, not because I fear it, but because I have to multitask where she has the luxury to focus all of her energy on a case.
She doesn't have a kid to raise, and without a partner at that. I don't ever want to imagine my life without Lindsey in it, but the simple fact that she is there makes work already come second. For Sara, work always comes first. She is not more resourceful as I said, am priding myself on having not just a scientific perspective on my work, but also a psychological and an intuitive one, perspectives that require an emotional intelligence I know Sara doesn't have like I do. But even if she is not more resourceful, she still has her resources at a more flexible availability. Sara is never late for work because of some forgotten homework or scraped knees and overtime is not an issue for her because nobody else is depending on her. Nobody is waiting for her to make dinner, tell a bed time story and snuggle before light-out time.
That thought makes me smile. I am glad that someone is waiting for me. Right now, in the garages.
Checking my reflection in the metallic surface of my locker door, I make sure I look good enough to face the morning. I smile at myself, reassured that I don't look like the overtime I pulled, but as I smile, I can't help but notice that the laugh lines around my lips have become yet more pronounced and I am uncomfortably reminded of the fact that I am older than most of my shift colleagues.
The men don't really compare to my situation, age measures them in different intervals. But there is, again, Sara to compare to.
She is younger. On mornings like this, when I feel every other minute, my body protesting the lack of sleep, I am painfully aware of her youthfulness. Sara makes me feel old next to the guys. I think she doesn't know it, but that is the worst for me.
Deciding that I look as good as I can, and that it's still a whole lot better than most people do, I reach for Lindsey's schoolbag and exit the locker room.
Deep down, I am relieved that Sara is clumsy with social interaction, or perhaps clumsy is the wrong word perhaps she simply doesn't care. Either way, she does not come across as a people person, she is awkward at non-work-related small talk around the office, and I am glad about that. Glad that she is exuding this intimidating, forbidding kind of aura that marks her as inept at easy conversation. Because if she were outgoing and charming as well, I'd feel completely pushed away. It's bad enough as it is.
I'm at least as good a CSI as she is, but sometimes I can't help thinking that a lot of it is experience. Experience that she is gaining on me every day.
My thoughts are interrupted by a loud rolling thunder and then the building is shaking. There is the eerie, piercing sound of splintering glass, and before my mind has even processed what is going on, my feet are already carrying me outside. Everyone else around the labs and offices probably starts running, too, but I don't really notice it.
I have a gut feeling that something is very, very wrong on a personal level.
Exiting the main building, I don't even notice that I stop running when I come to a halt in front of the garage buildings. Or what's left of their ground floor. Something inside of me is still running, or perhaps it is just my heart that's beating so frantically.
Feeling as if I am trapped in a nightmare, desperate to wake up but with the wake up call just out of reach, I stare at the scene in front of me through the dust and the smoke.
Only when I want to cover my mouth with my hand reflexively, the smoke having made me cough, I realize that I still have Lindsey's schoolbag clutched in my hands.
With that detail, thought returns. And I am using every thought I have to reason with me that she made it out of there, that she will be running up to me every moment, asking me to hurry with driving her to school, but deep down I know that she won't. I can feel it.
I still know that I am beginning to shake violently, but I can't hear anything around me anymore. I guess there are hands and voices, but I am not sure.
I can't breathe.
There is a deafening roar coming from above, and then the ceiling starts caving in. Without even thinking, I throw myself over Lindsey, tackling her to the ground. Greg is in the other corner of the room, I barely see him turn toward us before the debris rains. "Fuck!" I swear and the last thing I think is how I really shouldn't be swearing in front of a kid before things grow black.
The next thing I am aware of is a shrill voice muffled against my chest. "Mommy! Mommy! The water "
It's dark. Something warm is buried underneath me.
The ceiling falling down on us. I'm stuck in the debris. With her.
I'm dizzy, feeling around me, and there's something moist across my forehead. The smell tells me it's blood, even in the dark, but most of all my back hurts badly. We're in some sort of little caved-out nook in the debris, half shielded by what has to be the dismantled car roof, and I suppose given the circumstances, I should be grateful for that. I am trying to sit up but bump my head, it's not as spacious in here as I would like it to be. I'm crouching instead and turning, drawing a panicking Lindsey into my lap.
She's trashing wildly, and with worry, I feel more than hear the debris above us move. Grabbing her forearms, I am holding her still.
She cries out. "You're hurting me."
Struggling to hold her still, I am trying to talk to her. "I'm sorry," I say. "But we can't really move a lot, or very fast in here. We have to wait until the rescue team gets us out, okay? If we move, the debris could come loose around us again, and " I swallow the word 'kill'. "...and it could hit us both real bad. Okay?"
She's crying now, whimpering, but she's not lashing out with her arms and legs anymore, just shaking with what has to be shock. "The water the water "
"Shh " I awkwardly stroke her head in the dark, wondering what she is thinking. Thinking about her keeps me from panicking, and that's a good thing I can't even say what frightens me more, being buried in here, or being buried in here with a kid. Catherine's kid.
"There is no water here," I try to tell her, confused as to what she means by that. Then it strikes me she is getting flashbacks from the car accident where she nearly drowned. Damn. Of course she would be panicking. "There can be no water," I try to tell her calmly. I will explain it to her with science. I'm not good with kids, but I am good with science. "Do you remember how we were in the room before?" I ask her. "There was no water, right?"
Her body has stilled now, she is thinking. "Right," she then agrees hesitantly.
I have to keep her from trashing or we will be buried alive, or not so alive, in here. "Let's look at this scientifically," I suggest, spinning the conversation further, thankful that she is calmer and listening now.
"Scientifically?" she asks.
"Science is not going to lie," I state.
"A heart is not going to lie, either," Lindsey pipes up. "That's what Mommy says."
This one throws me a bit. I never really imagined Catherine as a mother, I realize, much less one who teaches ethical values to someone. I always envisioned her more as an antithesis sent to show me just where I am lacking.
I try to argue the case Lindsey's way. "Does your heart tell you that there is water?"
"No, but I am scared it will come," she admits.
"Aha." I am trying to think of how she might be thinking. If I didn't have a headache from the dizziness already, this would give me one. But I have to keep her calm, and I don't really want to hold her down again and have her tell me that I am hurting her. "So now we bring in the science, too. Where does water come from?"
"The tap," Lindsey answers immediately, and by her tone it is clear that she thinks I wouldn't have needed to ask that.
"Where else from?" I continue asking.
"The sky." She says after a moment. "When it rains."
"Is there something else?" I ask. "We have to make sure we have all the evidence."
She is focused now, trembling less and I can tell that she enjoys this science game I just made up. "Rivers," she then adds to the list. "And lakes."
Thinking seems to calm her, I can feel that, and I understand it. It calms me, too. And calming her calms me, which is weird because I really am not good with kids.
"So is there a tap around here?" I ask her. "Can you hear one running?"
Lindsey listens for a moment, instinctively cowering closer. "No."
"Good," I say. "That means we can exclude that. - Does it rain?"
"No," she replies immediately. "We're under a roof!"
If the entire building caved in, there won't be any roof left. I have no idea how high the debris is piled above us. Also, somewhere in this rumble not far from us must be car components with still enough gas around to be ticking bombs. The thought causes panic to rise up my spine and I clamp down on it. I can't think about that now. Instead I ask, "Is there any river near the lab building? Can you remember?"
I can feel a small gust of air against my face as she shakes her head in the darkness. "No, there is none."
"Hmm " I pretend to be thinking hard. "So, looking at this evidence, what would you say?" I am trying not to think about that the explosion may very well have blown open some water conducts in the walls. There are a lot of taps in the garage, and also, there is gas and the last thing we need is any of that trickling through in here and Lindsey panicking. If the debris caves in, we're toast, and I know it. We're lucky we have space enough to be half sitting up as we are.
"No water," she concludes and I can hear that she is relieved. "If it only weren't so dark," she then says forlornly, huddling closer to me.
"Yeah, that's bad," I say, while actually I am relived it is dark. Seeing underneath what we are stuck wouldn't calm us, and also, Lindsey might see just how scared I am. There is silence for a minute. Then Lindsey suggests, "Perhaps looking at evidence with the heart and also with science is good?"
"Yes, I think you are right," I agree after a moment and I am thinking that she is smart, and smart with people.
We both breathe in the dark and I think that the air still being more or less cool indicates that we have some kind of air flow through the debris, meaning we at least won't have to worry about oxygen any time soon.
Lindsey shifts against me. "Sara?" Her voice is small suddenly. "My arm hurts."
Lindsey is in there. Under there. With Sara, of all people.
The rescue team is still setting up parameter and even though I know how these things work I want to yell at them. I already did, until Warrick pulled me away. I'm out of my mind with worries. Scratch that. I am panicking. Don't they understand that it's my little girl in there? My baby. Images flash through my mind, one scenario worse than the next. Out of the corner of my eye I see Greg getting patched up where the medics have built up a small moveable center and I try not to think about what they're preparing for. For a moment, I find myself wishing that it was Greg in there with Lindsey because she knows him and trusts him.
He said that the last thing he saw was Sara covering Lindsey, and then both of them going down. I wonder if they both made it, if they're both still in there, perhaps unconscious, and find myself thinking that if Sara was on top, perhaps she didn't make it, but Lindsey still might. And then I find myself ashamed of my relief at that thought. If Sara really threw herself over Lindsey, she may very well be the reason Lindsey makes it at all. If only my baby makes it.
And then I am mad that Lindsey wasn't standing next to Greg, Greg who is out here and has only a few scrapes and bruises. I want to blame him, I asked him to watch her after all, and I want to blame Sara and her damn power tools that had Lindsey so intrigued. I blame myself. Why didn't I take Lindsey with me to the locker room? Why didn't she stay close to Greg, and why only did she have to go and ask Sara about those godforsaken tools? Now she's in there, under there, and God knows what happened. She doesn't even really know Sara. She will be so scared.
I'd much rather it was Nick or Warrick in there with her. She knows them both, at least Warrick, a lot better than Sara, and what's more, I know them. I trust them. I understand them. I can predict how they would react in a given situation. With Sara, it's wild guessing. I don't know her. The only thing speaking in her favor is that she is a woman, and that the image of my little girl stuck somewhere in the dark with a man, however much I like or trust him, is just wrong on a purely instinctive level.
Even with Grissom, but he probably wouldn't know what to talk about with a little girl to ease her fears anyway. I doubt he would be able to make her feel safe.
I wish it was me in there with her. I could calm her. I would keep her safe.
Although there is one thing that Sara can do while I can't she is younger and much more athletic if it should come to the worst. I never knew how Darwinist I could be, but I am running on primal instincts here. That's my baby girl in there, under all this murderous debris, and she's with a colleague I don't even really know. With every other woman, I'd rely on some maternal instinct that would make her take care of a child in danger, instinctively, but with Sara, I don't know.
Wild images run through my mind and the things I daily get to see in my job make my frightened visions get worse by the minute. What if Sara is unconscious and Lindsey is panicking, buried underneath a woman she barely knows? Or what if Lindsey is unconscious and Sara is panicking? Would Sara panic? Somehow I don't think so. That's a tiny bout of reassurance at best, but I am clinging to every straw.
Sara is dogged, I am reasoning, and damnably determined, and she is frighteningly dedicated to what she does, all that what usually ticks me off about her, but it might pay off in Lindsey's favor. Sara is honorable in a really annoying way, I reason, and that thought is strangely calming. She may not know what to do, really, and we may not like each other, but I think that in a situation of danger, she'd be calmer than most of the guys, even if it was only out of sheer arrogance and ambition. She would be single-mindedly pursuing the goal of getting out of there without thinking about herself at all, no panic or tears. She's not very emotional anyway. Perhaps she'd only do it to impress us, or to show us how aloof she is and how she doesn't need anyone of us, but she would try really hard. Harder than most. In that light, I suppose it's a lot better that Lindsey's in there with Sara than with Grissom or Greg. Or on her own.
I don't know if Sara knows any more than Grissom what to say to a scared pre-teen girl. But Lindsey will know what to say. She is so good with people. She's my girl. I feel myself tearing up again, another round of violent sobs shaking my body. I've never felt so helpless in my life.
I don't know how much time has passed. My cell phone was on the lab table, I never wear a wrist watch when I take apart a car, and my pager got crashed when I first threw myself over Lindsey and onto the floor.
There's been muted noises from far away for quite a while now, from what must be a rescue team, but shouting didn't get any reaction from outside, and I don't want to try again now. It only caused fright and panic, for both of us.
Tearing off the lower half of my tanktop with nothing but a Swiss pocketknife in the dark and with not much room to maneuver has been awkward, but I managed to only cut myself once. Of course, Lindsey now wants a pocketknife, too, pointing out how useful it is in dangerous situations, and before I know it, I promise her to get her a nice small one when we get out of this. Not one as big and with as many dangerous tools as mine, though, and certainly not with a corkscrew. Still, I can't help thinking that Catherine will probably kill me for it either way.
Lindsey and I have done the heart and science thing again, thinking about how her heart knows that her mother loves her very, very much, but that the scientist in her knows how the people from the rescue team have to be very, very careful in reaching us so the debris doesn't cave in on us, and that Catherine loves her little girl so much that she won't allow them to do bad work.
I won't allow it, either.
We checked again for water, twice.
Wrapping her arm, I had no idea what story to make up about it so I just stuck to the truth, telling her what happens to bones during a fracture, trying to make it less scary and mysterious. Knowing what was going on seemed to calm her. She asked about casts, and how the healing inside the bone works. And after I had explained that as well as I could, she made me promise to sign her cast once we get out of here. That girl really is good with people. She doesn't even know me that well, but she is instinctively providing that kind of seemingly caring conversation that Catherine is so good at. And I think with Lindsey, it's genuine. Also, she seems to be pretty smart, and a scientist at heart to boot. I find myself liking her and I wonder if Catherine will let me baby-sit her the next time Lindsey is at the lab, although she might not let her near me again, ever. It seems that whenever I am around Lindsey, chaos ensues.
Lindsey doesn't seem to think so, though. She's resting against me now, snuggling into me and I am surprised to feel my heart swell with affection and protectiveness. Is this how being a mother feels like? God, then I can't even imagine what Catherine must be going through right now. Somehow I can't think of her as the self-absorbed, patronizing, control-obsessed bitch anymore. Not when I know that she feels something like this for someone.
I'm thinking about the others, hoping that Greg made it out okay. Part of me can't help but grin at the irony of him and me being the exclusive participants in two explosions within months. If fate has a message for me, I'd rather not read it into this.
It's different this time, though. This is damn real debris, lots of it, and Lindsey is with me. Also, Catherine didn't cause it.
I hope I didn't cause it, either Catherine would kill me. I know that because I am getting an inkling of what she must feel for her little girl. Nervously, I am going over my actions in the garage prior to the crash did I leave anything dangerous or explosive laying around? No, I finally conclude, it can't have been me. It came from above. Who the fuck had explosives on the second floor? It's supposed to be just storage and spare parts up there. Not spare C4. I have no idea what happened, or how big the catastrophe even is. Sooner or later, Lindsey is bound to become impatient or even claustrophobic. I know I am close to that already, and kids have high energy. They're supposed to run around and play ball games in the park, aren't they?
But instead of growing impatient, Lindsey yawns. "I'm getting tired." She's huddling closer. Her movement pushes my raw bare skin more tightly into the debris in my back, and tears of pain are springing to my eyes. Again, I am glad that it is dark and that Lindsey can't see it. But even though my back hurts, I am glad that she is holding onto me.
"Tell me a story," she requests.
"I'm not good with stories," I fend her off immediately. Something is nagging at me, and then I realize what is wrong. She shouldn't be tired now. She should be wide awake and at school. The air has been getting staler and warmer and I, too, have to suppress a yawn now. Panic makes goosebumps run up along my arms. My breathing turns shallow in pure reflex. We're running out of oxygen.
"What are you good at?" Lindsey asks, oblivious of my fright.
"Uh math?" I suggest, still thinking about the air.
"Then tell me a story with math," she says and I have to smile at her persistence. She is so much like her mother in that regard. It's endearing on Lindsey. "But make it a funny one!" she says, her tone breaking no argument. Math doesn't seem to be her favorite subject. Again, she reminds me of Catherine, only that with Lindsey, I find the tone charming.
I can't tell her about us running out of oxygen and since she is smart I am afraid she will start asking why she is getting tired so soon again after getting up, and why it is getting warmer in here. Perhaps it would be good if she rested for a while, and it might save air, too.
I have no idea what stories pre-teen kids like to hear these days, though. I decide to forego the scary Krishna slanted Indian goddess myths my mother told me when I was a kid and try to think of something that would combine math with Disney. "Uh Once upon a time," I say in my best fairy tale voice even though I don't think I have one. "Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Math and it was huge kingdom because all the numbers lived there there was a king called King Five. Of course, everyone knows how the Fives are the kings because they look so big and royal "
The rescue team is moving so slowly, I want to shout at them. But I can't. I have no voice left, from yelling and from crying. Grissom and Warrick both haven't left yet. Greg has been sent home, patched up as he was. Grissom made him leave. He wanted to stay, even though it was obvious that he was in shock. He was probably getting flashbacks from the last lab explosion, his teeth shattering as he insisted on staying. It made me cry more. Warrick promised him we'd call him first with any news, and then sat him into a cab.
The explosion came from the floor above, that much they know by now, and a big part of the ceiling above the scene is missing. It's a whole lot of debris, although it is not even covering all of the garages, but that is because it is piled high. It really must have hit them head on. It's instable, I overheard that, and they have to tread very carefully. Every time a piece comes loose with a loud clatter, I jerk.
The rescue team has established that the rest of the building is safe for now, no danger of further cave-ins, even though they evacuated the two top floors overhead. They don't know what caused the explosion yet but I've heard arson being mentioned, and if that's true I want to rip the arsonist to shreds with my bare hands.
After the first couple of hours, I ask Grissom to work the scene above with the dayshift crew because him sitting here next to me with that stony expression on his face only makes me more nervous. I know that he feels as helpless as I do and that he wants to support me, but right now, he's more of a help when he puts his investigating abilities into action on this explosion.
Warrick is still here though, he has been keeping people away from me, and right now he's off in search of some coffee. Even if it won't be one of Greg's luxury brands. I hiccup on another set of tears.
The rescue team leader told me it looks good half an hour ago, but I've caught them talking about how it might be getting difficult with the air in there. It seems as if a lot of dust came down with the explosion, which also means they won't hear us, and we can't hear them.
Warrick gently shoves a cup of coffee into my hand, resting an arm around my shoulders. My body is apathetic, I don't even react to the touch as I sip the coffee automatically. It is probably hot and I am burning my tongue with it, but I can't feel it right now.
I think about the first cup of coffee Lindsey ever brewed for me when she wanted to make me a surprise Sunday breakfast. She was barely six years old, and the coffee was the most awful I've ever had and I loved every sip of it.
Somehow that makes me think of Sara again, and I can't help thinking that Sara would have drunk that coffee, too. I've seen the coffee Sara can drink when she really needs one.
I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my baby girl is in there with a woman I hardly know anything about. Lindsey never saw her that much, and never out of the lab. Sara has never been at my place. All the others have, including Greg and Archie, even though it was only to deliver something.
A shout from the rescue squad shakes me out of my thoughts. "I think we've got something!"
I make up more stories about the pompous, ignorant King Five with his fat belly falling out of his ermine coat, and about the vain Princess of Nine who wanted more circles than just one, and about the dashing Knight of Seven with the sword who fell in love with the Princess of Nine, circles or not. I am surprising myself. I never thought I would know how to do something like this. And what surprises me even more is that Lindsey seems to enjoy it.
"What is an ermine?" Lindsey asks sleepily, snuggling against my stomach and this time, I accept the rush of tenderness I feel unconditionally.
"It's an animal, and its fur was only used for royal clothes," I explain. "And the fur was very rare, and it was white, with small black dots."
"Like Dalmatians?" she asks and for a moment I wonder where she learned that word, but then I realize that she probably watched the Glenn Close movie. I suddenly have an image in my head of Lindsey and Catherine curled up on a couch, watching that movie, and I am all the more determined to get Lindsey out of here as unharmed as possible.
"Yes, like Dalmatians," I reply. "Only more furry. And so King Five, since he was a Five, had five royal Dalmatians because he thought they were going well with his outfit, and he walked them every day, in his furry royal ermine coat, even when it was raining which made the laundry service people in the royal palace not very happy "
Lindsey giggles. I can feel her smile against my chest. And I have to smile, too. "He should know that he can't go out like that, it means more work for the laundry people," she points out and I wonder where that innate sense of responsibility comes from, and how Catherine may have taught it to her. I didn't expect that.
"It's their job," I explain. "But you are right They were not amused, because the ermine was pretty rare, and pretty hard to clean and they had to put in unpaid overtime." I am thinking that this palace begins to sound a lot like the lab. Unpaid overtime and all. "But since King Five was really a bit stupid and a bit pompous, he didn't think about that. So, one day "
I never knew I could talk that much apiece, much less make up whole fairly tales out of numbers, with intrigues and danger and quests. And Dalmatians.
A long while later, deep breathing against my stomach alerts me to the fact that Lindsey has fallen asleep.
I will have to try and stay awake to communicate with the rescue team. I think I hear noises coming closer but that might be wishful imagination on my part. I stroke my fingers across Lindsey's forehead and make sure that there is no pressure on her injured arm. I am thinking that perhaps she won't wake up again. That perhaps, she won't see her mother again and that thought is the final straw. I am crying.
"We've got them!" The yell of rescue squad leader is triumphant. I want to race through the perimeter, but Warrick keeps me back again, and he also holds me up as I start panicking again when two of the medics pass by us with an oxygen tank.
It's twenty more painful minutes that I am pacing along the perimeter until they have cleared the debris enough to get to them.
They lift Lindsey out first. My girl. I am crying again. She is conscious, talking to the firemen even. I find myself crying harder. Her face is streaked with dirt, and she is blinking into the light a bit uncomfortably, but other than that, she looks fine, apart from a stark black makeshift bandage slung around her left forearm. The color looks harsh on her small pale frame and then Warrick can't stop me anymore and I rush past the tape towards her and I am crying and holding on to her and I know I will never ever let go of her again.
Long minutes later, I manage to loosen my embrace enough to look her at her. She has been crying into my shirt, but right now she seems calmer than I am. Perhaps it is the shock. "Are you okay?" I hear myself asking over and over again, making sure with my hands that there really is no other injury.
"It was dark. Sara told me stories, and then I fell asleep," Lindsey says. "Then I woke up again and they gave me air oxygen. And Sara says my arm is probably broken, but that it is a clean fracture."
Her reply gives me pause, and I blink, looking at her, wondering if my baby girl grew up a year or two in there, alone with Sara in the dark.
It's only then that I remember Sara. I look up over Lindsey's head from where I still hold her tightly against me; as tightly as I can without pressing against her injured arm. I look over at the scene and I see Sara being set onto her feet by two of the rescue people. I am surprised at how glad I am that she seems to be okay. She looks pale and exhausted and there is some blood stuck to the right side of her face, but the gash seems to be superficial since it isn't bleeding anymore.
Her tanktop is torn awkwardly, only half of it is left, barely covering her bra, and suddenly I know what the black bandage on Lindsey's arm is. There goes that dogged dedication of hers. I can't help staring at Sara, trying to understand what she has done. My brain is grasping it, but my body still isn't. Also, I've never really seen that much of Sara, and with the staring, I also can't help but notice how strong and toned her body is. And I am thinking: that body shielded my daughter.
Sara still exudes the broody, confident attitude that she always has around her, and suddenly it doesn't seem brash or arrogant anymore, but very reassuring and reliable, and I feel a rush of gratitude. She looks like a knight after a battle, that's the first image coming to my mind, and it looks good on her. When I can make myself stop holding onto Lindsey so tightly for just a moment, I'll go over there and hug her, too; and I will thank her, and perhaps I'll just have to get down onto my knees to do that. Forget about my pride, and that I don't like her, because right now I don't even know why I resent her.
I'd do anything for Lindsey. And Sara apparently did, too.
My back is stuck to the debris I was leaning against. Well, fuck. It hurts like hell when they peel me off it and lift me out into the open and I think I must still have a pound's worth or two of dirt and stone embedded into my skin. I am only able to hold myself upright for a few moments, then my legs are beginning to shake uncontrollably. I am stumbling, but I am still able to figure out why; the blood circulation must have been near cut off from having had Lindsey sprawled over my thighs for so long. I wonder how I didn't notice that sooner, but then the blood flow starts to kick in again and I can still think that it hurts like hell before my legs give way under me and I fall.
Two of the firemen grasp me by my arms, one left and one right, and drag me over to the medics in between them. They can't really carry me because that would mean touching my back, and truth is it already hurts a lot where they only brush against it with their gloves now. A doctor is directing the firemen to set me down on a backless footstool, making me think that my back injury must look really bad to have her react that quickly, and she sets to examining the damage.
I am looking around for Lindsey, and I see her snuggled tightly against Catherine, smothered in a protective hold, and I can see Catherine's relief in the gesture, and I can feel it a little bit too, and Lindsey's as well.
And I know I will never say anything about Catherine going to bed in make-up and being all about appearances again because I know that she has never been more beautiful than she is right now, and she's completely worn down and totally oblivious of what she looks like, holding onto Lindsey with all that she is. Everything about her is radiating warmth and affection.
For a moment I envy Lindsey because she can go home to be held like that.
They walk over to the medics now, to where I am, and I wince when the doctor tending to me starts to disinfect my back. From how much it stings, I can only guess how awful it must look.
"Does it hurt?" Lindsey asks, immediately taking my hand.
"Just a bit," I say, thinking that strangely, I would have admitted to Lindsey just how much it hurts, but I don't want to appear weak in front of Catherine.
"Don't forget you have to sign my cast," Lindsey reminds me.
"Of course not, I promised," I say, feeling incredibly happy simply because she is okay. She walks off with another medic, and I expect Catherine to follow suit immediately, but she lingers behind.
"She's a great kid," I say, still looking after Lindsey, before I can think of how that may sound to Catherine, but Catherine looks at Lindsey as well and there is that expression on her face again that is so full of tenderness and caring that it just makes me want to weep. "Yes," she agrees quietly when I already wonder whether she has heard me at all, and then she turns towards me.
"Sara," she says, and there are tears in her voice and a wild array of emotions. When I look up at her I can't help thinking how beautiful she is in this very moment, with her hair awry, her face tired and swollen from what has to have been hours of fitful crying. Her make-up is streaked all over her face, up close I see the blackish lines of mascara trailing down her cheeks, but her eyes are unbelievably blue right now. Her entire expression is raw and unguarded. "How are you?"
"You don't have to be nice to me now," I say gruffly, uncomfortable with her allowing so much vulnerability to show in front of me. This unsettles our dynamics; I can't lash out at her in response if she suddenly lowers her defenses because I would never kick someone who is down. "I'm okay," I ward her off. "You don't owe me. Anyone would have done the same." Really, the last thing I need is Catherine being friendly with me now because she thinks she has to. I don't want any leverage like that over her, it's disrespectful and unfair, not to mention it would embarrass me out of my mind.
"You probably saved my daughter's life," she says slowly and she crouches down to be at eye level with me, but wait, no, she is kneeling. "And for that, I am forever indebted to you." She waits until I look at her which is sort of hard to do because for some reason, I am very embarrassed already. And then she simply says, "Thank you." And she looks at me in a way that bores right through me, into the heart of me, and I can't breathe.
When I can think clearly again, Catherine is with Lindsey, talking to the medics. And I have to smile because Lindsey is very disappointed that she has to get x-rayed first before she can have her cast.
I really like Lindsey.
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