DISCLAIMER: CSI and all characters are the property of CBS and Bruckheimer.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For Ralst, even though it's not the pairing she would want. A psychological look into Sara Sidle.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Slight mention of events in Season Five.
The End of the Affair
"Did you ever love me, Sara?" The question came out before she could think about it, censor it, but it was the question she had been wanting to ask for weeks, months even, so she let it hang there in the space between them.
The brunette swung to face her blonde lover, stunned. "You're asking me that? Really?"
The blonde shrugged, the casualness of the gesture at odds with the tension vibrating the air between the two women. "I want to know."
"You " Her head shaking, "You You cheated on me " she said, amazed at the need to recount such recent, painful, history, "with that womanizing man-whore ex of yoursand you you get to question my feelings for you? You have some nerve."
The blonde didn't back down, but sadness tinted her words as she asked, "Do you even want to know why I slept with him? And did you ever wonder why I hid it so badly?"
"I really don't care," Sara retorted.
The shorter woman kept speaking, ignoring the other's response. "I slept with him to see if you would notice, if you would reaction, if you would care "
"Well, I'm leaving. Are you happy now? Satisfied? Did you find out what you needed to?" The brunette turned back to her packing, shoving clothes into the duffel as fast as she could, to hasten the end of the conversation.
"Just answer my question: Did you ever love me?"
Her hands stilled in their labor as she stared at the wall in front of her, her back to her soon-to-be-former lover hiding the sadness in her eyes. "How can you ask me that?"
"Because you didn't show it and you sure as hell never said it."
There was a pleading note to the blonde's voice as she explained herself. "I, I let you in, Sara, all the way. I opened my life, my home, and even my daughter's life, to you. I shared everything with you, all my feelings, my hopes, my fears, my ugly ugly past I was an open book in this relationship. What were you?"
"So this is my fault? You slept with him because of me?"
"I spent the last six months trying to gain access to the impenetrable fortress that is Sara Sidle and I've gotten exactly nowhere. I don't know you any better now that we're sleeping together than I did when we were at each other's throats. I don't feel intimate with you." Sara's short snort of laughter pushed her to try to explain further, "not emotionally. I know your body. Nothing else. We're not close, we're fuck buddies. So yeah, I got frustrated. I got tired of giving and not getting anything back."
"And you have so much intimacy with Chris? And what the fuck was all the time we spent together? That was nothing to you?"
"You never let me in. I wanted to know you, all of you, and after months of dating, I never knew you. You're a stranger in my bed."
"Fuck you, Catherine. I gave too; I gave you my love and my trust, and you just pissed it away."
It was Catherine's turn to snort in derision. "Trust? TRUST? What trust? When did you trust me? When did you tell me anything about your life that I couldn't read on your fucking resume?" Sara's silence spoke volumes and the frustrated blonde struck out at the wall beside her, smacking her hand loudly against the wall. "You never trusted me. This may be over, but you don't get to pretend everything was great until I screwed it up. You know and I know what went down here and you don't get the luxury of believing that lie."
With a final shake of her head and sigh of frustration, she left the brunette to her packing.
The first week after Sara moved out was torturous for Catherine; where once she was the object of warm smiles and 'accidental' touches in the break room, now Sara seemed to look straight through her if they happened to be in the same room, which didn't happen very often. Worse, she had to suffer in silence and alone. Nobody had known about their affair, even though Sara had basically been living with Catherine for the last two months, and as much as she wanted to confide in someone, she knew that it wouldn't be fair to Sara to expose their relationship. Nor did she want to try to explain to any of their colleagues about the passionate, complicated, crazy, troubled relationship or the reasons for its demise. And she suffered alone, because when she saw Sara, it was obvious that the brunette was not feeling the same agony of separation. Sara looked remarkably put together every time she came into work, earning the praises of Greg and even, once, a whispered 'damn' from Warrick for a particularly nice suit and low-cut blouse that, had they still been together, Catherine would have shredded by the end of shift.
But that agony, Catherine realized, was nothing compared to the next week, after Grissom's startling announcement that Sara had taken the next week off 'for personal reasons.' Because at least when Sara was ignoring her at work, she could at least watch her from a distance and notice how stressed each case made her or whether she ate during shift. Several times she even picked up her phone to call before realizing that that interaction was denied her as well.
After two exhausting weeks of watching, waiting, and wishing, Catherine collapsed into her bed not long after Lindsey, determined to get a good night's sleep. She was woken a short time later by an odd yet familiar sound. Laying absolutely still and straining to identify the sounds, Catherine finally put a name to the sound: Sara. It was the sound of Sara moving quietly through the house, taking off her work boots and slipping them in the closet, tip-toeing up the stairs and avoiding that one squeaky step, and, at last, sliding through the merest crack of the bedroom door.
Catherine didn't believe it was actually her, was sure it was a dream or mirage or wistful thinking, until a weight settled in on the other side of the bed, Sara's side of the bed. Better able to trust the fear than the hope that she felt, Catherine kept her back turned and her tone was harsh as she broke the silence, "It's been two weeks, Sara."
"I've been thinking about what you said," came her quiet, thoughtful reply. Catherine recognized the tone in her voice, it was the low, contemplative tone she used to tell bad news to victims, to reason with Lindsey when she was being unreasonable, to talk Catherine out of a blind rage, the one that meant she was choosing her words carefully and thinking about every one she said. So Catherine let the long silence stretch because she knew Sara was preparing herself for something, even though the silence made her more and more nervous. And when she finally began to speak, Catherine kept quiet, even though all the questions she wanted to ask threatened to overwhelm her at times.
"In foster care, you don't make waves. If you talk too much or act emotional or want too much attention, you go back to the group home faster. You learn fast that the people who take you in don't want problems or emotional attachments. They want well-behaved children and a check at the end of every month."
"The kids, they all had their own stories, you could see it in their eyes, but nobody wanted to share the humiliations. The stories were all variations on a theme anyway. So you stayed quiet, kept your head down, and hoped against all hope that someone would want to keep you, make you part of their family. And even if that happened, you didn't trust it, because you had had a family before all the judges and courts and advocates and that hadn't lasted either."
During this quiet, almost whispered recitation, Catherine had slowly rolled over to see, framed by the thin glow from the streetlight, Sara's hunched shoulders as she sat, her own back turned, fingers steepled between her knees. Sara had paused, seemingly find the words or the strength to continue, and Catherine swung herself around and wrapped her arms around Sara's waist, her legs on either side of Sara's. For a long moment, she sat, unmoving and stiff, but then one hand covered Catherine's and linked their fingers against Sara's stomach.
"When I was ten, my mother stabbed my father to death. It was 1979, before The Burning Bed and widespread interest in the concept of spousal abuse. Back then, it was a domestic dispute, or as the cops who used to come to our houses used to call it, 'an argument.' They'd ignore the bruises and the blood and tell my parents to stop arguing because it was disturbing the neighbors and that if they had to come back again, they'd arrest them both. And then my father would beat my mother, sometimes until she was unconscious, for making him look bad."
"Then one night, after the cops left, she got to a knife before he got to her." Sara's fingers tightened their hold on Catherine's hand then, and Catherine risked a light kiss on her neck. "It all came out in trial and she got a lighter sentence, manslaughter, instead of murder. Served the minimum and I was only fifteen when she got out, but I was never returned to her care. She was never quite right after that night. She died when I was Harvard and I never even arranged a funeral."
Catherine felt Sara draw in a deep, shaky breath and continue on a different topic. "I'm not saying I forgive you, but I think I understand. I can never be what you want and what you need." Sara started to pull her hand away, maybe to stand, but Catherine tightened her hold and kept the slim body tight against hers. "I can't, I just can't, I'm sorry "
Sara's body was shaking, not with tears, but from reaction to what had obviously been her own emotional journey of the past two weeks, and Catherine spoke at last, whispered words against the chilled skin. "What I want is you. What I need is you. And you can. I know you can, even if you don't know yourself." She felt Sara shake her head, trying to deny the possibility of another way. "Trust me. We'll figure it out."
"I should go," Sara said after another one of her long pauses.
"Stay," Catherine commanded gently, "sleep." Knowing Sara was about to protest, she played the one card she knew would reach her. "I'll sleep better if you are here. And Lindsey will be happy to see you in the morning."
With her nod of acquiescence, Catherine drew the still-shaking body down to the bed and held tight until the shaking subsided. Into the quiet, she said, "I love you." After a pause, there was a quiet reply" "I love you too."
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