DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters or CSI. I am just letting them out of the box for a while.
SPOILERS: It takes place post-Nesting Dolls and contains spoilers for many other episodes. This story is, at times, quite dark and deals with Sara's childhood abuse.
WARNING: This story deals with the subject of child abuse and its aftermath.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
No Matter How Far You Go
Sara made her way to Catherine's office, mindful of the stares she was receiving . She suppressed a smile. She would never have wanted the techs to see her in her leathers, but she didn't have much of a choice. 'At least Greg isn't in yet. He would definitely have something to say about my outfit. After he regained consciousness, that is.'
Through the door to Catherine's office, Sara could see the senior CSI rubbing her eyes with a defeated set to her shoulders. Sara leaned against the doorjamb nervously and watched Catherine for a moment before saying, "Catherine? Is everything OK? Is Lindsey alright?"
Catherine looked up at the sound of Sara's voice and that was when her brain stopped working. She was staring, she knew, but she couldn't seem to make her body move or her mouth work. Standing in front of her was a vision in black leather and Catherine couldn't reconcile the Sara with whom she was familiar and the bombshell she was seeing.
Seeing Catherine staring at her blankly, Sara started to get nervous about what was going on. Something was clearly wrong. "Cath-"
Sara was interrupted by a voice behind her.
"Step inside and have a seat, Sidle," Ecklie said officiously.
Sara turned around to see Ecklie's rat-like face entirely too close to her own. There was a wicked gleam in Ecklie's eye that gave Sara a bad feeling about the reason she had been called into work. "What's this about?"
"Get inside and sit down," Ecklie ordered.
Sara glanced between Ecklie, who looked far too eager to get her in a small room, and Catherine, who suddenly found her desk blotter to be extremely interesting. Sara cautiously walked into Catherine's office, put her motorcycle helmet on the couch and sat down in a chair opposite Catherine. Sara studied Catherine as the blonde woman studied her desk. Sara was confused. Thirty seconds ago, Catherine was staring at her, gaping like a dying fish, and now she wouldn't even look Sara in the eye.
The silence in the room was only broken by the squeaking of Ecklie's shoes as he paced. Although quiet was usually her friend, Sara was getting more and more concerned as the time slipped by. "Is someone going to tell me what's going on?"
Catherine took a deep breath, looked at Sara and slowly began to speak, "Sara, earlier today we got some DNA results from a case with a partial match to you. There were seven alleles in common, so it must be a first generation relative of yours a father or a brother."
Sara slipped further inside herself with every word she heard Catherine say. She had been trying to escape her past for more than twenty years, but, no matter how far she went, it always caught up to her. She had just started to feel better about life and her place in it. She was focusing on her work, she and Catherine had been getting along and her newfound friendship with Lindsey was such an unexpected joy that it seemed too good to be true.
Catherine's voice brought Sara out of her reverie. "Yeah?"
"Look, Sidle, we know your father's dead, but you do have a brother, don't you?"
Sara's eyes snapped to Ecklie, who looked at her with a smug smile on his face while he waited for an answer to his question. She also spared a glance at Catherine, who averted her eyes. This unspoken communication confirmed that Catherine did, indeed, know Sara's father was deceased. Sara wondered how much else Catherine knew and how she knew it..
"Do you have a brother, Sidle?" Ecklie asked again impatiently.
"What's his name?" Catherine asked gently.
"Eric," Sara answered, keeping her eyes down and fidgeting slightly. "Eric Sidle. He's nine years older than I am."
Catherine spoke softly as she continued asking questions. "Do you know where he is?"
"Have you seen him recently?"
"Did you even know he was in Vegas?" Catherine continued to quietly question Sara, hoping the young woman would look at her, but Sara kept her focus on her hands as she nervously fidgeted.
"When was that last time you did see him?"
Sara took a deep breath and sighed, "Umm June .1980, I think."
Ecklie snorted disbelievingly and said, "You expect us to believe you haven't seen your own brother in twenty-five years?"
"I don't expect you to believe anything, Ecklie," Sara said shortly.
Catherine stepped in, giving Ecklie a look of warning, and asked, "Sara, do you have a picture of him, even an old one? Anything that might help us find him?"
"No. I don't," Sara paused, preparing to ask a question she instinctively already knew the answer to. "What did he do?" she asked in a quiet voice.
Catherine didn't want to answer the question, knowing how sexual assault cases affected Sara, but the young woman deserved to know the truth. "Kidnapping and sexual assault of a minor, an eight year old girl."
Sara nodded absently, still looking at her hands.
"You don't seem surprised, Sara," Catherine said softly.
Sara shook her head and said, "I'm not. What is her name?"
"Karen Thompson," Catherine answered, understanding why Sara wanted to know.
"Is she going to be alright?"
"She's in pretty bad shape, but the doctors think she'll pull through."
Catherine opened her mouth to ask if Sara was all right when Ecklie crossed to Sara and smiled cruelly saying, "That's some gene pool you've got there, Sidle."
Catherine saw Sara's body grow unnaturally still at the comment. Catherine stared at Ecklie in open-mouthed shock. Catherine looked back to Sara and noticed a slight tremble in the brunette's body. Catherine was about to reach out when she heard Sara emit a tortured whisper.
"Are we done here?"
"For now," Ecklie replied, satisfied that his barb had hit home.
Sara immediately rose, keeping her head down, and left the room as quickly as possible, slamming the door behind her.
The moment Sara was gone, Catherine turned on Ecklie, furious.
"What the hell was that, Conrad? I know you don't like Sara, but to say something so reprehensible is below even you. Sara has no control over the actions of her brother and to even suggest ."
"Sara Sidle is a danger to this lab and the people in it. She's not going to get a free pass anymore just because she's Grissom's pet. There is a lot about her you don't know, Willows, and the sooner you realize that she has no place here, the better off you will be."
Catherine could only watch Ecklie leave and wonder what she didn't know about Sara that could possibly be dangerous. She collapsed on the couch with her head in her hands, thinking how simple things had seemed before Mia paged her with those damn test results.
She was worried about Sara. Ecklie's words had clearly upset the younger woman and Catherine hoped Sara wouldn't do anything rash. As Catherine glanced toward her door, she saw Sara's helmet still on the couch.
"Damn it," Catherine said as she grabbed the helmet and headed to the parking lot, hoping Sara wasn't upset enough to try to ride without her headgear. Catherine ran to the front doors hoping to catch Sara, but as she stepped outside she saw Sara speeding off.
'That's some gene pool you've got there, Sidle.'
Sara left Catherine's office as quickly as possible. Her head was spinning with the reality of the events of the last fifteen minutes and everything that they would mean to her future. Her brother's reappearance was completely unexpected. She had been happy to forget she even had a brother. He left the moment he graduated high school and never looked back, leaving Sara the lone focus for her parents' 'attention'. But at least she was no longer the focus of his.
Closing her eyes tightly, Sara closed the door on that thought as she plowed through the front doors of the lab, almost knocking over Warrick in the process. She reached her bike, intent on leaving, when she realized she had left her helmet on the couch in Catherine's office. 'There is no way I'm going back in there.'
Breaking her own steadfast rule, Sara got on her bike and took off.
Catherine watched Sara leave, holding the now useless helmet in her hands. She was so focused on her worry for Sara, she didn't notice anyone behind her until she was startled by a hand on her shoulder.
"Jesus, Warrick! I swear to God, I am going to make you wear a bell or something."
"Sorry," Warrick said.
"No, it's okay."
"Sara practically closed-lined me on her way out of here. What's going on?"
"Too much," Catherine said with a sigh. "Find Nick and meet me in my office. There's been a development in the Thompson case."
Walking down the hall, Catherine flipped open her cell phone and called Sara. As she expected, Sara didn't pick up.
"Sara. It's Catherine. Have you lost your mind? You just sped out of here without your helmet. I know that you know how dangerous that is." Calming down, Catherine's voice softened, "Call me when you get this, please. I need to know that you are OK."
A few minutes later, Catherine, Warrick and Nick were sitting in Catherine's office.
"OK, Mia got a hit on the DNA I collected from the rape kit, but it's a delicate situation and we need to keep this within the team for now. Understood?"
Seeing both men nod in agreement, Catherine continued, "There were seven alleles in common with someone in the Compliance database. Our perp is the brother of this person."
Nick and Warrick exchanged surprised looks before Nick asked, "Who is it, Catherine?"
Catherine sighed as she answered, "Sara."
Warrick let out a low whistle and Nick mumbled, "Shit."
"So you understand why we need to keep this to ourselves for a while. I spoke with Sara and she doesn't know where he is, but she could tell us his name is Eric Sidle and is nine years older than she is, so that would put him at about 43 or 44. Warrick, check the DMV and see if you can put a face to the name. Nick, check hotel registries and rental car companies."
As the men stood to get back to work, Warrick asked, "Who else knows about this?"
"Well, I guess I have to tell Grissom when he comes in, otherwise it's the three of us, Mia and," Catherine paused, knowing how the guys would react, "Ecklie."
Catherine heard the expected groans, and said, "I know, I know, but he was there when Mia gave me the results."
"He is going to try to bury her with this, Catherine," Nick said, sharing a concerned look with Warrick.
"Not if I can help it. Let me worry about that, let's just try to close this case quickly and quietly."
After the guys left, Catherine sat at her desk thinking about Sara. Her relationship with Sara had been rocky from the start. Fighting had been the one constant that defined their interactions. Sara was so much like Grissom with her stoic, analytical attitude with respect to evidence. That façade only broke when one of two things happened either when Sara connected too closely with a specific victim or when Catherine and Sara got into an argument. The times Sara identified too closely with a victim invariably involved a battered woman or child, but, sadly, the arguments could be about something as ridiculous as the damn coffeemaker in the break room.
Catherine never consciously tried to argue with Sara, but it seemed like a default setting she couldn't change. Catherine could admit privately that she liked the fire she saw in Sara when they would argue. Being the cause of that fire stirred something in Catherine's soul. Suddenly, her mind was filled with the image of Sara standing in her doorway, dressed in leather, looking like ---
'Whoa, stop right there, Red. That's not somewhere you want to go,' Catherine thought to herself. Shaking her head, she pulled a file and tried to concentrate on paperwork until Grissom came in. She was not looking forward to the conversation she had to have with the man.
Sara wanted nothing more than to hit the road, ride as far into the mountains as she could get and just keep going. Running had always been her specialty.
Before long, though, sanity reasserted itself and Sara knew she didn't have any business riding anywhere in her state of mind. The best-case scenario was getting a $150 ticket for violating Nevada's mandatory helmet law. The worst-case scenario was her brain splattered all over the pavement. Once that would have actually been an attractive option for Sara, but not anymore, so she cautiously made her way home.
After putting her bike away, she let herself into her apartment, got a beer and collapsed on the couch. Her mind was racing. She needed time. She needed to think.
Grabbing the phone, she left a message for Grissom saying she wouldn't be in to work that night. That done, she paced around her apartment trying to wrap her mind around everything that had happened.
That's some gene pool you've got there Sidle
Do you think there's a murder gene?
Some people are just born bad.
Warrick's words during the investigation of the snuff film repeated in her head over and over, alternating with her own question to Grissom and Ecklie's parting shot this afternoon, like a broken record she had heard all her life.
Sara's family legacy was one of violence and anger. She saw it in herself everyday, no matter how hard she tried to overcome it. She saw it every time she crossed the line with suspects, co-workers and supervisors. She knew a beast was inside her, waiting for the day when her defenses broke down to such an extent that she lost all control.
Was she genetically predisposed to some havoc inducing, violent episode and end up like the rest of her family dead or doing time? How could she trust herself around other people? Could she trust herself not to hurt the people she cared about? When an image of Lindsey popped into Sara's head, she stopped pacing and dropped onto the couch.
Could she trust herself around Lindsey or was she doomed to repeat the history of her parents or, God forbid, her brother, and somehow hurt the girl that had come to mean so much to her? She never wanted to hurt anyone like she had been hurt, but was that desire enough to keep her from causing harm. She knew the statistics. People who had been hit as kids were far more likely to inflict pain on the children around them. 'Not that Catherine's going to let me anywhere near Lindsey now. And I don't blame her. Maybe she shouldn't be close to me. Maybe I was born bad.'
Sara had certainly heard that sentiment enough growing up to believe it was true. She went into the kitchen for another beer, wishing she had something stronger.
At around 10:30 and still not having heard from Sara, Catherine went looking for Grissom, knowing he would already be in his office. She wanted to talk to him before Sara came in for her shift. She found him feeding some odorous concoction to his hissing cockroaches.
"Grissom, we need to talk."
Grissom didn't bother to look up from his six legged friends and said, "OK."
Catherine ignored the lack of eye contact. After all, Grissom was just being Grissom. "Is Sara here yet?"
"She's not coming in tonight."
"She left a message and said she wasn't coming in," Grissom said, wondering why Catherine didn't understand him the first time.
"What did she say exactly?"
"She said, 'Grissom, it's Sara. I'm not coming in tonight'," Grissom said, looking at Catherine for the first time since she entered his office. Noting the nervous and slightly distressed look on Catherine's face, Grissom asked, "Why? What's going on?"
Catherine sighed and told him everything that had happened over the last few hours. She ended by telling him about questioning Sara in her office.
"Then that asshole Ecklie made a remark about her 'gene pool' and Sara took off like something was chasing her."
"Her gene pool?" Grissom asked carefully.
"Yeah, and he was talking about more than her brother," Catherine probed, taking Grissom's careful response as an indictor that there was more going on than she knew.
Grissom looked at Catherine while he digested this new information before saying, "What did he tell you?"
"At first, that we could exclude her father because he was dead."
"Did he say how he knew?"
"Oh yeah," Catherine said with her trademark sarcasm, "'I know everything, Catherine. Information is out there on all of us. You just have to know where to look.' I wonder what little tidbits of information he has about you or me."
"What else did he say?"
"You said, 'At first' he told you Sara's father was dead, which implies he told you something else later."
"He said she was dangerous."
Grissom regarded Catherine with a cocked eyebrow, but said nothing.
Catherine looked at the various and slightly gruesome specimens Grissom has around his office as she contemplated how to ask the question that had been bothering her since Ecklie left her office.
"Is there something I should know, Gil?"
"About Sara," Catherine responded with an exasperated sigh.
"Why do you want to know?"
"She and Lindsey have been spending a lot of time together."
"And is there something about Sara that I should know?"
"Are you asking me if she would hurt Lindsey?" Grissom asked, surprised.
"God, NO! Of course not," Catherine shook her head in confusion. "At least, I don't think so. It just seems like there is so much going on with her. Even before this business with her brother she was I don't know. I'd like to be able to help her, but I can't if I don't know what going on."
"It's not my place to tell you."
"Yeah, but will she?"
Grissom studied Catherine for a moment before saying, "You've known Sara for five years. You two have never gotten along. What's changed?"
"She's been helping Lindsey. They have been doing things together after school going to movies, bookstores. Today they went to the planetarium. I think they've been good for each other. Sara seems like a different person with Linds." Catherine shrugged helplessly. "I guess I'm starting to see Sara differently. I like her, Gil."
" and a little child shall lead them," Grissom said with a ghost of a smile.
"So, you'll help me," Catherine said hopefully.
"No, Catherine. I won't break Sara's confidence, anymore than I would break yours. If you want to know about Sara's history, you have to ask her," Grissom said with finality.
"Yeah, well, that's easier said than done. She's like the damn Sphinx."
"True, but, remember, ancient Egyptians believed that a person could only achieve a deeper understanding of life by confronting the challenges that the Sphinx posed."
Catherine found Nick and Warrick in the A/V lab. "What did you find, guys?"
"We got a hit from the DMV in Montana," Nick said, entering a few keystrokes into the computer, displaying a copy of Eric Sidle's driver's license on the large A/V screen.
Catherine looked at the picture, struck by the physical similarities between this man and Sara. She saw the same hair color, nose and slender features as her co-worker. They even had the same eyes. "Wow."
"Yeah," Warrick agreed. "He's definitely her brother."
"All the foreign hairs on the vic and at the dumpsite match the seminal contribution," Nick said. "So he's our guy."
"The construction site had a security camera at the main gate, but it only takes stills-- one every ten seconds," Warrick explained, putting an image of a red car on the screen next to the driver's license. "It did get one of a car on the way in. You can't see the driver, but the car is a Honda Accord. There's no car registered in his name, so we're thinking a rental. Vega's running it down."
Catherine ran her hands through her hair as she asked, "Do we have anything that doesn't point to Eric Sidle?"
Nick and Warrick looked at each other gravely, before Warrick answered, "No."
"Ok, thanks guys. Page me if Vega gets back to you on the car," Catherine said, turning to leave.
"How is Sara?" Nick asked, causing Catherine to turn around.
"I don't know, Nick. She called in for her shift tonight."
"Well, has anybody called her?"
"I left her a message a few hours ago and I'm sure Grissom is trying right now."
After Catherine left, Nick stared at the images on the screen and said, "This is a shitty deal, man."
With a nod, Warrick agreed.
Sara had drifted into a fitful sleep, aided by entirely too much alcohol. She had just enough to drink to quiet her mind, but not enough that she would miss a phone call or a page. It was a delicate balance she had perfected over the last six months.
When the phone rang, she looked at the clock and saw that it was 11pm. Knowing it could only be Grissom, who would have undoubtedly already spoken to Catherine, she decided to let the machine pick up. She listened as her typically uninteresting greeting played and waited for Grissom's voice.
'Sara, it's Grissom. I spoke with Catherine earlier and I wanted to see how you were doing. Well call me if you need to.'
Sara closed her eyes. While she knew Catherine would have to tell Grissom, a small part of her hoped she wouldn't. The hesitation and uncertainty in Grissom's voice spoke volumes. The casual observer wouldn't notice, but he was clearly uncomfortable around Sara since they had spoken in her apartment.
Her relationship with Grissom had never been easy, but it had been constant. Sometimes the only constant she had in Vegas, and that now seemed to be slipping through her fingers. Sara needed to talk to someone someone objective.
She grabbed the phone and punched in a familiar set of numbers, needing to talk to the only person who knew everything about her -- the only person who understood. Clutching the receiver as if her life depended on it, she listened to the ringing phone until a voice answered.
"You've reached Josephine Foster. I am on assignment in the field. Leave a message and I'll catch up with you when I get back."
Sara almost hung up in frustration, but waited for the tone before saying, "Jo, it's Sara. I need," Sara paused as her voice broke, "I need to talk to you. Call me as soon as you can. Please." Sara hung up and tried to drift off to sleep.
At 12:30 in the morning, Catherine found herself headed to Sara's apartment. With no word from Sara for several hours, Catherine was more worried than she cared to admit about the young woman. 'I'll just drive by and make sure she's alive, at least.'
Catherine glanced at the passenger seat of the Tahoe that held Sara's helmet. Catherine didn't know why she was bringing the thing home with her, although she had a sneaking suspicion she would need some leverage with the brunette and Catherine was not above holding the helmet hostage if it got Sara to talk to her.
As she pulled onto Sara's street she could see light coming from Sara's windows. She breathed a small sigh of relief at the sign of activity. The longer she watched, she thought she could see shadows moving around in the apartment. Finally, Sara's form came into view. Catherine was captivated as the lithe form leaned against the window with arms crossed, gazing out into nothingness.
Satisfied Sara was safe, at least physically, Catherine headed to Nancy's to get Lindsey. The impulse to go back and knock on Sara's door was strong, but Catherine resisted. She wasn't at all certain that she would be welcome. 'Of course, that doesn't stop me from lurking underneath her window like some stalker,' she chastised herself.
Driving home, Catherine thought about her conversation with Grissom. When she had compared Sara to the Sphinx, she hadn't been thinking of the metaphysical points Grissom had made. She had, in fact, been thinking more practically. The Sphinx sat buried the sand for thousands of years until it was excavated. Only then did anyone become aware of the hidden passages and secret rooms that lay underneath the silent and imposing figure.
Catherine felt as though she was just beginning to brush away centuries of sand and was anxious to know exactly what treasures were hidden beneath.
Sara jerked awake, breathing heavily, the bitter taste of adrenaline in her mouth. Random images from her nightmare still floated through her mind. She shakily got to her feet and removed her sweat-soaked sleepwear. Stumbling to the bathroom, she turned on the shower and stepped in. She needed to rinse away the residue of perspiration and fear that clung to her like smoke.
Feeling a little more refreshed, she dried off and dressed. Not anxious to return to bed, Sara made her way into the living room. Her nightmares had returned with a crushing ferocity. Images of her parents and brother mixed with images of the victims that still haunted her. Victims for whom she had failed to bring justice. Or peace. Victims like Pamela Adler. Victims like Kaye Shelton. Victims like Lindsey.
She wandered over to the living room window and leaned against the sill, gazing into the cover of darkness. The setting of the sun always brought Sara comfort. It was only at night that Sara truly felt at ease. 'I should have been a vampire', Sara thought wryly. Glancing at the clock, Sara pushed away from the window and retreated to the bedroom. As she changed the sweat-drenched sheets on her bed, she thought about the phone call she made earlier to her friend Jo.
Harvard had brought many changes and new experiences for a young Sara Sidle. The most significant of those was the friendship of her randomly assigned roommate, Josephine Foster. Sara found her southern charm and quick wit immediately attractive. When combined with the stunning intelligence Sara later discovered, Jo's allure was irresistible. The power of Jo's personality was as potent as any drug and Sara soon found herself coming out of her self-imposed shell. They discovered first love together and, after an achingly romantic night watching the city lights shimmer as they were reflected off the Charles River, they became lovers. Sara had never felt so free and happy.
Together they waded through the minefields of Sara's past and forged an impenetrable bond. Four years later, degrees in hand, they went in separate directions, Sara back to California and Jo to Quantico. Even after the romance faded and died, as time and distance dictated, they were left with the kind of friendship that few possessed. It was a 'drop everything' friendship. It was the kind of friendship that had Sara on a plane from San Francisco to Asheville after a 3am phone call from a grieving Jo when her mother finally succumbed to breast cancer. It was the kind of friendship that had Jo on a plane from Virginia to San Francisco after Sara's first and only visit to her mother in the Central California Women's Facility.
With thoughts of Jo to calm her, Sara slipped under fresh sheets and closed her eyes.
"So how was the planetarium?"
"It was really cool," Lindsey said around a forkful of waffles. "Sara even said after dinner tomorrow, if it was clear enough, we could go in the backyard and try to pick out the constellations."
"That sounds like fun."
"I'm sure Sara would show you how if you asked."
"What are you guys going to do today?"
"Not sure. You have everything for tomorrow, right? For dinner?"
"Yes, Lindsey, for the twelfth time, I have everything for dinner."
Catherine sipped her coffee as she watched her daughter eat, pondering how to talk to Lindsey about Sara's situation. Catherine had debated whether to mention anything about it at all, but decided to give Lindsey the very basic version. Sara was bound to still be upset, but wouldn't talk about it. Catherine wanted to explain things to Lindsey so the girl didn't unknowingly say something to upset Sara.
"When you see Sara today, she might be a little sad."
"Well, there's a case I'm working on and we think her brother may be involved somehow."
"Did he do something or just see something?"
"He did something, we think."
"Like Daddy used to do things?" Lindsey asked quietly, staring down at the table.
Catherine stared at her daughter, at a complete loss. Catherine had no idea Lindsey knew anything about Eddie's criminal activities. "Lindsey..." Catherine started.
"I'm not a kid anymore, Mom. And I'm not stupid," Lindsey said, raising her head to look Catherine in the eye. "I know Daddy did some bad things. I know that he hurt you sometimes."
"But, I mean, he was still my dad, you know. And I still love him. Do you think that's how Sara feels?" Lindsey finished quietly.
"I...um...I don't know, Lindsey. Maybe," Catherine stammered, still floored by how much Lindsey knew about her father's true nature. Deciding not to pursue Eddie for the moment, Catherine went on, "Sara probably won't bring it up with you and I don't think you should ask about it, but maybe you can think of something extra nice to do for her today. She's having a rough time."
"I can help her," Lindsey said with certainty.
"I don't know yet, but she's my friend and that's what friends do. Help each other."
Sara woke up around noon with a pounding headache. She stumbled into the bathroom and swallowed four Aleve while studiously avoiding her reflection in the mirror. She got into the shower and let the hot spray pound her skin. The events of yesterday flooded her mind again and she wondered how she was going to be able to work her shift knowing that, by now, the whole lab would have heard about her brother. They might know about everything. 'Ecklie sure does. How did that happen, anyway? Grissom wouldn't have said anything. He must have done some digging on his own. I wonder how much he told Catherine.' Sara leaned her forehead against the cold tile with a grimace, trying to decide what to do.
The impulse to quit her job and start over again somewhere else was strong. With a good recommendation from Grissom, Sara was sure she could get a job almost anywhere. Maybe Jo could see if there was an opening at the Bureau. She could take off, never look back and try to start again, but this time she wouldn't let anyone in. She would do what she had planned on doing here in Las Vegas. Keep to herself, keep all relationships professional and never tell anyone anything.
The thought of leaving saddened Sara. Things had actually been looking up before yesterday. Things at work were getting better, the time she was spending with Lindsey was always a bright spot in a sometimes shitty day and she and Catherine had even managed a few conversations without pissing each other off. Although they would never be as close as Sara wanted them to be, she had begun to think they could, at least, become friends, but now everything was fucked up. Again.
When the water turned cold, Sara toweled off, threw on some sweats and went into the living room to clean up from the night before. She gathered up her empties and put them in to be recycled. Settling in at her desk she noticed the message light blinking on her answering machine. 'Grissom must have called again while I was in the shower.'
She pushed play and waited for the next installment of Grissom: Uncomfortable Man. Instead she heard Lindsey's voice coming through the tiny speaker.
"Hey Sara .it's um Lindsey. I was calling to tell you .I can't see you today .I um .was supposed to do something with Aunt Nancy and I .forgot .Sorry. Bye."
Sara didn't need to be an investigator to know that Lindsey was lying.
Sara stared at the telephone for what seemed like hours before reaching out a shaking hand and pressing the delete button. 'Even Lindsey doesn't want anything to do with me.'
Sara felt her knees give out under the weight of the last eighteen hours. Her tears fell unabated as the sorrow of losing her young friend broke through the last of Sara's defenses. She curled into herself on the couch as a word from her past came roaring to the front of her mind.
Catherine was at her desk pretending to do paperwork. She thought about calling Sara, but knew she would be with Lindsey and didn't want to disturb their time together.
Sara was a puzzle that was continually changing. When she thought she had a handle on the mercurial woman, something would happen and her perception of Sara was forced to change. "What are the knowns?" Catherine asked herself . 'Sara is deeply affected by domestic violence and rape cases. She also hinted that her father was abusive. Her father is now dead. Her brother is the prime suspect in the rape of an eight year old.'
"Where is her mother?" Catherine asked herself.
Catherine had no trouble conjuring an image of Sara when she was about Lindsey's age, seeing a gangly girl all arms and legs with her nose stuck in a book. 'What happened to you, Sara?'
A knock on the door brought Catherine back to reality. Vega opened the door and said, "Uniforms found a red Accord abandoned behind a strip club."
Catherine grabbed her kit and headed out.
Several hours later, Sara picked herself up off the couch. Her stomach was making itself known, so she headed into the kitchen. Heating up some polenta, she thought about what to do next. She knew she needed to go to work. Sitting in her apartment staring at the same four walls for another night was not an option.
She resigned herself to facing everyone at the lab. She would just have to put her blinders on, ignore all the looks and focus on her work. It was the one thing that never let her down. She would focus on things she could control and ignore the rest. With a plan in mind, she sat down to eat.
Catherine delivered her evidence bindles to trace and DNA. She had processed the abandoned car believed to have been used by Eric Sidle in the kidnapping and assault of Karen Thompson. The car had been impounded pending further investigation. If the samples and prints she had just taken matched the ones she already had in the case, one of them would process the car further.
Before finding Nick and Warrick, Catherine went into her office to call Lindsey. Since things had gotten better with the preteen, Catherine had religiously called Lindsey before the girl went to bed. The phone call and the extra time the two were able to spend together in the mornings, made Catherine feel closer to her daughter than she had in a long time. She smiled as she waited for Nancy to answer the phone.
"Hey, Nance. How's it going?"
"You owe me, sister of mine."
"Owe you? Owe you for what?"
"Ask your daughter," was Nancy's amused reply as she handed the phone to Lindsey.
"Hey, baby. How was your day?"
"Really? Wow," Catherine said, smiling at the joy in her daughter's voice. "What did you and Sara end up doing?"
"Actually, I called Sara and cancelled."
"You cancelled? Why, Lindsey?"
"Well, I was thinking about what you said this morning, so I asked Aunt Nancy to take me shopping. I wanted to surprise Sara and get her something she would like. I thought maybe it would cheer her up."
"That's thoughtful, Lindsey," Catherine said hesitantly. "But did you tell Sara why you weren't going meet her?"
"Yeah, Mom," Lindsey said with a healthy amount of sarcasm. "Cause the surprise is so much better when the person knows what you're gonna do."
"Nobody likes a comedian, daughter."
"Well, Mother, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if she knew, now would it?"
"Alright," Catherine said rubbing her forehead in frustration. "What did she say when you talked to her?"
"I, sort of, just left a message," Lindsey replied sheepishly.
"Saying what?" Catherine asked impatiently.
"That I was supposed to do something with Aunt Nancy and I forgot about it."
The more Lindsey said, the more concerned Catherine became about how Sara would have interpreted Lindsey's phone call. Given Sara's less than optimistic view, she would probably think of it as some sort of rejection.
"Lindsey, you are a terrible liar. You know that."
"Yes, you are."
"I am not," Lindsey replied indignantly before blurting out, "You never knew about ---"
"About what?" Catherine asked after Lindsey stopped in mid-sentence.
"Yeah, well, we'll talk about that nothing later. I need to get back to work. Brush your teeth and go to bed. I love you."
"You too," Lindsey said, preparing to hang up.
As she started to disconnect her phone, Catherine thought back to what Nancy had said. "Lindsey, wait!"
"Why do I owe your Aunt Nancy?"
There was a pause before Lindsey answered hesitantly, "Oh. That. Well...um...Sara's present may have cost a little more than I thought it would."
"How much more?" Catherine asked suspiciously.
"Wow," Lindsey said, yawning as loudly as she could. "I am really tired. I need to get to bed. Goodnight , Mom."
"Lindsey? LINDSEY?" Catherine looked at the phone in her hand with disbelief. "She hung up on me."
Knowing she would interrogate her daughter in the morning, Catherine directed her thoughts toward Sara. Catherine knew Sara would absolutely have known Lindsey was lying about why she had cancelled their standing date. Catherine was equally sure Sara was thinking the worst.
Vowing to talk to Sara and explain, Catherine went looking for Nick and Warrick.
Finding them in A/V lab huddled over a computer, Catherine announced herself by saying, "Hey guys, did you find something?"
Nick shared a worried glance with Warrick and said, "Yeah, we think so."
"Well, from the looks on your faces, I'm guessing its not good news."
"No," Warrick answered.
Nick took a deep breath and began, "Something's been bothering me about this case. It seemed familiar somehow, but I couldn't put my finger on it. But when I was talking to my mom this morning it hit me. The last time I was in Dallas, about six months ago, I remember my parents talking about this kidnapping case, right? I asked my mom to do some digging and she sent me the police reports. A ten year old girl, taken from a public playground and dumped at a construction site in West Dallas."
He handed Catherine the police report as he continued, "I sent the DNA report to Mia and she confirmed a match to our suspect."
"Oh, God," Catherine whispered as she looked at the report.
"That's not all," Warrick said, regret coloring his voice, "We did a national search on unsolved cases and came up with twelve more over the last ten years." Warrick called up a map of the United States and displayed it on the view screen. "Two in Oregon, two in Washington State, one in North Dakota, one in Indiana, one in Kentucky, two in Louisiana, one in New Mexico, one in Arizona and one in Utah. All young girls between the ages of seven and twelve. All snatched from parks or playgrounds. All dumped at a construction site."
"With one in Texas and one here, that makes fourteen. We have asked for copies of the reports, but my gut tells me they will all come back to him," Nick finished, displaying the now familiar picture of Eric Sidle super-imposed over the map that now sported blinking red dots where the crimes had occurred.
"Jesus," was Catherine's only response to the gravity of what had just been explained to her.
The three investigators stared at the picture in silent shock until a sound from the door drew their attention.
Sara pulled into the CSI parking lot at about 10pm. She was a few hours early for her shift, but knew she would have plenty of work to do, since she had called in the night before.
With one final deep breath, Sara got out the car and strode towards the entrance. The receptionist glanced up as she entered and gave her a small nod of acknowledgement. She headed straight for the locker room to change, pointedly ignoring everyone she passed. As she opened the door to the locker room, she felt it hit something and heard a muffled grunt from the other side of the door. As she peered around she saw Mia rubbing her shoulder.
"Sorry about that. I didn't know " Sara trailed off helplessly.
"No problem. I like a little excitement to start off my day," Mia replied.
"Well, glad to help," Sara said as she crossed to her locker and opened it.
"You doing OK, Sara?" Mia asked.
Sara tensed. Mia knew. 'Of course she knows. She probably ran the DNA.' Sara realized this would be the first of many conversations like this she would have today.
"I'm fine." Sara said shortly, hoping the curt answer had closed the subject.
Mia nodded and said, "OK. I finished the report on the saliva from the cigarette butt at your B&E. It's in your box."
"Thanks," Sara said as she heard Mia open the door and leave the room. Sara leaned against her locker and took a deep breath, grateful she had crossed the first hurdle in dealing with her co-workers. She quickly changed and headed for her favorite layout room.
As she passed the A/V lab, she glanced in and saw an enlargement of a driver's license on the screen and froze. Although she hadn't seen him in twenty-five years, she would have known him anywhere.
"Eric," she whispered to herself.
The hushed tone drew the attention of the three people in the room.
Sara stared at the photo, noticing the similarities to her own appearance, knowing the two of them were bound by more than genetics. Sara lost herself in the implications of their sameness, in more ways than just physical, when she heard her name being called.
"Sara.....Sara," Catherine called trying to get the young woman's attention.
Dragging her attention away from the screen, Sara focused pained eyes on Catherine who said softly, "Sara, you shouldn't be in here. You can't be near this case."
Catherine watched as her words triggered the veil of cold disinterest that fell over Sara's eyes, effectively shutting Sara in and the rest of the world out. Catherine's stomach fell at the sight.
Sara composed herself enough to say, "Right. Sorry." Then she turned on her heel and walked out of the room.
The trio silently watched Sara's exit with sympathetic eyes, wondering how much of the conversation Sara had heard.
"I'll be back," Catherine said as she left, intent on finding Sara.
Sara found herself in the garage, which was the farthest possible place from the A/V lab. She put her hands on the work counter and bowed her head as she tried to compose herself. She had been prepared to face the idea of her brother, but to confront his likeness was not something she had thought about. Breathing deeply, she tried to rebuild her all too fragile mental walls.
'Maybe I'm not ready to be here after all.'
Sara jumped at the intrusive voice before collecting herself and turning around.
"Hey, Greg," she said wearily.
"Are you OK?" he asked tentatively.
Sara regarded him with suspicion before saying carefully, "I'm fine, Greg."
Greg seemed to be looking anywhere but at Sara as he said, "OK, if you're sure."
"OK," Greg said, looking Sara in the eye for the first time.
That was when Sara knew. He had 'the look'.
"How did you hear?"
"Um...Ecklie was talking to Hodges when I went to check on some trace evidence from a smash and grab last night."
"Hodges," Sara said with a defeated sigh. "I'm sure he's loving this. Does everybody know?"
"I think so," Greg admitted sadly. "Sara - "
Greg was cut off by the sound of Sara's pager. Sara checked it said, "They want me at reception."
After she had turned to leave, Greg said, "You know if you need --"
Sara cut him off saying, "I know, Greg. Thanks."
Making her way down the hall, Sara noticed that almost everyone she passed slowed down slightly and gave an almost suspicious glance. Squaring her shoulders and lifting her chin, Sara determinedly ignored them all. She was passing the break room when Catherine caught up to her.
Sara stopped and tried to control her breathing as she said, "Not now, Catherine."
"Sara, I just want to talk to you. Please," Catherine said, unconsciously echoing the words she had used in Sara's apartment the day she first started to look at Sara as a friend.
"I said, not now."
"Sara," Catherine said as she reached for Sara's hand.
Sara stepped back to avoid the contact. "I can't, Catherine," Sara said through clenched teeth.
A voice from behind Sara interrupted them, saying, "Sara Sidle. Federal agent. Get down on your knees and put your hands behind your head."
Catherine saw Sara's body sag as she looked over the brunette's shoulder to see and imposing redhead standing at the end of the hall. Looking back at Sara, she was surprised to see a relieved smile on the woman's face as she turned around and said, "God, if I had a nickel for every time I heard you say that...."
The husky timber of Sara's voice sent a pleasant and unexpected chill down Catherine's spine as she heard the equally inviting voice of the newcomer.
"...you wouldn't need this job."
Catherine watched as Sara's entire body seemed to relax before crossing to the woman and enveloping her in a desperate hug.
All Sara wanted to do was get away from Catherine. Her soul was screaming. She knew she couldn't take another second of any of this when the sweetest sound she had heard in a long time floated over her shoulder.
"Sara Sidle. Federal agent. Get down on your knees and put your hands behind your head."
Smiling and turning to see the face of her savior, Sara replied to the familiar greeting as she always had. "God, if I had a nickel for every time I heard you say that...."
Hearing the usual conclusion to their unusual greeting, '...you wouldn't need this job.', Sara nearly cried with relief as she threw herself into the comforting embrace of her best friend.
"Hey, darlin'," Jo whispered in Sara's ear as she held her tight. Feeling the body in her arms begin to tremble, Jo reluctantly pulled away slightly and ran a hand through Sara's hair. She looked at Sara with worried eyes as she asked, "What is it?"
Sara just shook her head and, with tears in her eyes, said, "You have the most amazing timing."
Jo brought a hand to Sara's cheek and wiped away the tears that had fallen and said, "Come on, let's get you out of here."
Sara nodded as Jo put a gentle arm around Sara's shoulders and guided her out of the lab.
Catherine watched them leave with an unsettling feeling in her stomach. She walked to her office, sat down at her desk and tried to process what she had just seen. Her mind was trying, and failing, to wrap itself around the scene she had witnessed in the hallway.
She had never seen Sara that physically demonstrative with anyone. In her mind's eye, she saw the redheaded stranger run a gentle hand through Sara's hair and across her delicate cheek. Thinking of the tender scene caused a burning sensation in the pit of her stomach that Catherine quickly identified as jealousy.
The thought brought Catherine up short. How could she be jealous? Her mind seemed to be on overload as more images from the last several weeks flitted through her consciousness. Her pleasure when she and Sara had gently teased each other. Her sudden need to protect the younger woman. The way her heart lifted those few times she had seen Sara genuinely smile. The sheer joy in Sara's face after she had been riding her motorcycle. The way her hand felt in Sara's the day Catherine had seen the injuries she herself had unknowingly caused. The vision of Sara in leather standing in the doorway to her office. All these images coalesced into one thought.
'I am falling for Sara.'
A second thought quickly followed the first.
'Who the hell was that woman?'
Sara spent the entire ride staring out the window. The stress of facing her co-workers and seeing Eric's picture on the big screen, combined with the emotional release of Jo showing up at the exact moment she needed her, had left Sara utterly spent. Glancing at her friend's profile as Jo maneuvered through late night traffic on the strip, Sara voiced the question she had been asking herself for the last half hour, "What are you doing here?"
Jo looked at Sara and replied simply, "You called."
Sara nodded in acceptance and returned her attention to the window, thanking whatever higher power was responsible for putting the woman next to her in her life. A few minutes later, Sara was pulled from her reverie by a question.
"Where are we going to eat?"
Sara looked at Jo and blinked at the non sequitur. "What?"
"Food. You know, a meal? That thing that everyone, but you, partakes of on a regular basis."
"I'm not hun--"
"Well, I am and you definitely look like you could use a meal. Then again, you always look like you could use a meal," Jo said with a smile. "So where are we going?"
Sara shook her head and smiled, "Take a left up here. Dagostino's will be on the right."
"Do they have something besides tofu?"
"According to Lindsey, they have the best burger she has ever tasted. Of course, she's only eleven...."
"Hey, if kids know anything, it's good burgers," Jo replied, not missing the flash of pain in Sara's eyes when she mentioned the girl.
At the end of her shift, a distracted Catherine was walking past the break room on her way out of the building when she heard a crash. Stepping in to find out what was going on, she found an enraged Jacqui leaning over Hodges as he cowered on the couch.
"I swear to God, Hodges, if you don't shut the fuck up, I am going to rip your testicles out through your throat."
Wincing at the image that statement conjured, Catherine asked, "What's going on?"
"Hodges won't stop running his mouth about Sara."
"I just think everyone has the right to know what kind of people are working here," Hodges whined as he stood up and straightened his lab coat.
Catherine held a hand out to stop Jacqui, who was clearly about to throttle the annoying man. "What kind of people might that be, Hodges?"
"Everyone knows about Sidle's brother. And, as they say, the apples don't fall very far from the tree. I wonder what else she's hiding? I mean, what kind of misshapen upbringing creates a pedophile? You know there are studies that indicate siblings..."
Before Hodges could finish his sentence, he was shoved back onto the couch and Catherine was hovering above him shaking with anger. "Hodges, you are a small, sniveling, inconsequential man. Sara's personal life is not fodder for you to gossip about. Sara Sidle is a dedicated investigator who has more integrity in her pinkie than you will ever have in your pitiful life. If I hear you've said one more word about her to anyone, I will personally make sure you are thrown out of here on your ass. Now, get back to your lab and do your job while you still have it."
Catherine stepped out of Hodges personal space and watched him scurry out of the room as she tried to calm her breathing. She sat on the couch with a sigh and ran a hand through her hair. "So much for keeping this quiet," she said to herself.
"Well, that should shut him up for a while."
Suddenly, Catherine remembered she wasn't alone in the room. She looked up at Jacqui who was pouring them both a cup of coffee. She smiled gratefully as she accepted the mug of liquid caffeine.
"He's been talking to anyone who will listen for two days."
"How did he even find out? The only people who knew were my team, Mia and..." Catherine let out a groan as the evidence clicked into place. She should have known Ecklie wouldn't pass up the chance to take another shot at Sara. "Shit."
"Yeah, he and Ecklie have a little mutual admiration society going."
"So, everyone knows?"
"Well, I think the day shift janitor might still be out of the loop, but some of us are still trying to keep it on the down low. Mostly because we really like Sara, but Hodges is like a little old lady."
"Thanks for looking out for her, Jacqui."
"That Lindsey's a smart girl. You should keep her around," Jo said as she surveyed the remains of her burger.
"Yeah, well, there's not much chance of that," Sara said staring at her salad.
"I don't even know where to start."
"OK, well when we talked a few weeks ago you seemed pretty positive. You were jazzed about your new bike, which I can't wait to see, by the way. You were having fun with Lindsey and you had even been maintaining peaceful relations with Catherine the Great. What changed?" Jo asked as she sipped her coffee.
"Catherine caught a case. A little girl, Karen Thompson, kidnapped from a playground, raped and dumped," Sara said as she was staring out the window.
Jo waited patiently for Sara to continue. When it was apparent Sara needed prodding she said, "OK, but that sounds like something we both see on a sadly regular basis."
"The DNA came back a partial match to me," Sara said, finally looking at Jo. She watched Jo process the information until she came up with the only possible conclusion.
"Have they found him?"
"I don't think so."
"What do you mean?" Sara said, once again avoiding Jo's eyes.
"I know you Sara. As terrible as that is, it's not enough for an early morning phone call."
Sara rubbed her forehead in frustration and said, "Where's that waitress? I need a drink."
"No, you don't."
"Yes, I do."
"NO, you don't. You need to talk to me. Something's been building for months, maybe longer."
"How do you know that?"
"That something's been building?"
"Let's see. Sara, we've known each for going on eighteen years now. And since we left Harvard we have spoken at least every week to ten days on the phone, right?"
At Sara's answering nod, Jo continued, "And how many times have we spoken in the last, say, six months?"
"Two or three," Sara grudgingly answered.
Jo nodded in agreement, "And when was the only other time in eighteen years that that has happened?"
"Before I left San Francisco."
"And why did you leave San Francisco?"
"I needed a change," Sara mumbled evasively.
"You can't keep running, Sara," Jo said softly.
"But I do it so well," Sara replied with a half-hearted smile.
"Tell me what happened. All of it."
"I told you. Eric "
"No. Not what's happening now. When did it start?"
When Sara's brow furrowed in concentration, obviously trying to remember when thing started to go south, Jo laughed, "Don't think so hard, Sara. You'll hurt yourself."
"I'm trying to answer your question, smartass!"
"Don't think, Sara. Tell me the first thing that pops into your head. When did it start?"
"There was this case," Sara said immediately, a picture of Howard Delhomme popping into her head. "A girl disappeared. Julie Waters. There was a lot of publicity. It was a career case. Catherine took it right out from under me."
"The perp only wanted to talk to her. 'The pretty one', he said. I guess she didn't think I could do it. And Grissom let her take it, so he didn't think I could do it either. At some point Catherine asked me about my father. Whether he ever told me I was pretty or smart. I didn't know what to say. I actually hadn't thought about him in a long time."
"And that's what started the ball rolling?"
"I think so. The dreams came back, so I started drinking more to make them stop. I handled it for a while."
"Everything just seemed to snowball. I lost a promotion. Almost got a DUI. Ecklie broke up the team. He sent Catherine and the guys to swing shift. We were a team for four years and then, because of the whim of a sycophant who failed his way up to lab supervisor, that was all gone. That was when I pulled the foster care case. A five-year old boy tossed out like garbage. I ended up finding two other kids locked in a basement. They probably hadn't eaten in days, maybe longer."
"And that got you thinking about Laura."
"I can't imagine that helped your dreams any."
"No, I wasn't getting more than a few hours sleep a night. Not long after that I fought with Catherine in the hallway over a domestic violence case. I knew this woman was being abused, but she didn't believe me. I said some pretty awful things to her. Ecklie overheard it all and I got suspended."
Jo couldn't hold back a laugh and said, "Damn, you never do anything halfway, do you, Squared?"
Sara rolled her eyes at the sentiment and the nickname, "I'm glad you find my misery so entertaining."
"Come on, you know I didn't mean it like that. Then what?"
"Grissom came to the apartment. He wanted to know why I was so angry. I ended up telling him."
Jo's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Everything?"
Sara took a sip of her now cold coffee and shook her head, "No, mostly about the stabbing."
"Still, that's a big step."
Sara shrugged noncommittally. "I shouldn't have told him. Things are different now. The way he looks at me..."
"Did you feel better after telling him?"
"Actually, I did. I mean, it sucked at the time, but afterward I felt better. I'd been pushing it down for so long, you know. I mean, you were the last person I actually told, so...."
Jo nodded, deciding to change tactics, "So, given everything that happened, what had you in such good spirits when we talked a few weeks ago?"
"I told you that I ran into Lindsey one day on the street and gave her a ride," Sara said, unconsciously playing down what really happened that day. "We started talking. I like her. She's a good kid."
Jo looked at Sara speculatively for a moment and asked, "What's so special about her?"
"What do you mean?"
"Sara, you've never been...how can I put this delicately...in your element around children," Jo said with a teasing smile, "so why Lindsey?"
"She reminds me of me, I guess," Sara answered with a shrug. "I told you her father was murdered a few years ago."
"I've always felt like I let her down -- not being able to close the case. So it felt good to try to help her."
"And Catherine? Do you feel like you let her down too?"
"You know I do."
"And that's why she didn't trust you with the Waters case? Why she didn't believe this woman you fought about was being abused?"
"How did she react to you spending time with Lindsey?"
"Not well. We had a run-in in the locker room. She thought I was messing with Lindsey's head. She ended up pushing me into the lockers--"
"She pushed you?" Jo asked in a voice as hard as steel.
"Take it easy," Sara said trying to diffuse Jo's temper. "She thought she was protecting her daughter."
"I don't care what she thought, Sara. She had no right to raise a hand to you."
"I know that. She knows that. She apologized, a number of times, and as far as I am concerned the subject is closed, OK?" Sara said, not wanting the incident to mar Jo's perception of Catherine.
Jo looked at Sara for a moment before reluctantly letting the subject go, "OK."
"Anyway," Sara continued slowly, "once she understood why I was spending time with Lindsey, we actually started to get along. I think we were actually becoming friends."
"Which is good, but not what you really want," Jo said, well aware of Sara's deeper feelings for the older CSI.
"Yeah, well, as they are so fond of saying in your part of the country, 'That dog won't hunt'," Sara teased with a smirk.
"You needn't besmirch my beloved Southern colloquialisms, Sara. That's just uncalled for."
"I'm pretty sure Californians aren't Yankees."
"Is California below the Mason-Dixon line?"
"I think some parts of it are," Sara smiled, enjoying the familiar conversation.
"You're still a Yankee," Jo grumbled good-naturedly. "Why 'were'?" Jo continued, getting back to the subject at hand.
"You said you 'were' becoming friends. Why would that change?"
Sara sighed and ran a hand through her hair in frustration, "She knows about Eric now. For all I know, she knows about everything."
"SO, it changes everything."
"It doesn't have to, Sara."
"Yes, it does!"
"It didn't change anything for me."
"That was different."
"Because we were in love with each other. Catherine doesn't see me like that. She never will. She doesn't have any reason to trust me with her daughter or anything else, especially not now."
"Sara, her knowing about Eric or Laura or your father doesn't make you a different person, it just let's her see you more clearly."
"Exactly," Sara mumbled.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Bullshit. Tell me what you mean, Sara."
"I am just like them, Jo," Sara said in a small voice. "What happens when I lose it one day and I hurt someone? What if I hurt Lindsey?"
"Sara, you are not like them. You could never be anything like them."
"You don't know that. How is it even possible to be raised by people like that, to see what I've seen, and be anything approaching normal? Look at Eric. What he did. Do you honestly think that doesn't have anything to do with what happened to us? They made him what he is. They made us both. Perfect little replicas in their fucked up image. It's just a matter of time before I do something to live down to the family name."
Jo roughly pushed her coffee cup aside. "Look at me."
When Sara didn't respond, Jo repeated the request more forcefully, "Look at me, Sara." Once she knew she had Sara's full attention, Jo consciously lowered her voice to avoid being overheard by the other people in the restaurant. "I'll make you a deal right now. You look in the eye and tell me that you honestly think you could do the things that your parents did, that your brother did and I'll believe you. You look me in the eye and tell me you could lock a child in the trunk of a car while you went shopping. You look me in the eye and tell me you could break a child's ribs and burn a child with incense. You look me in the eye and tell me could invite people into your home and watch while they rape defenseless children. Look me in the eye and tell me you could gut and emasculate a man in front of your own child. If you can look me in the eye and tell me any of that, I'll believe you. I'll believe you and I'll give you my service weapon right now so you can end it here."
Wiping her own tears away she took Sara's shaking hands in her own and continued gently, "But I know you can't. You can't say any of that, because you are not capable of any of those things."
"I get so angry," Sara said through her tears. "It scares me how angry I can get."
"Everybody gets angry, Sara, but I know you, darlin'. You have the most gentle soul I have ever known. You are brilliant and caring and so determined to bring peace to victims in this world you work yourself half to death most of the time. You don't sleep, you don't eat, you work yourself to exhaustion to give people you've only just met a chance to find closure and a way to move on with their lives. If you can do that for perfect strangers, why can't you do that for yourself? You have to find your future, Sara, because the past isn't going to change. You are here. Anybody else would be a basket case, staring at the walls of a padded cell somewhere. You have to stop being ashamed of what happened and be proud that you came through it at all. Be proud of your strength."
"I think I might be a basket case, actually," Sara said, half-smiling through her tears.
"Yeah, but you're a fully functioning basket case, so it's OK," Jo laughed, handing Sara a napkin to wipe her tears while keeping one for herself. "Sara, when you think of your family, you only need to think of me, my brothers and my parents. Momma loved you like you were her own. She wanted nothing more than to see you happy. You know that, don't you?" Seeing Sara's tearful nod, Jo continued, "You know, I talked to Daddy. I told him you were having some trouble and I was coming to see you. He said to tell you that no matter what happens, you'll always have our family to come back to. He also wants to know when you're coming home to kick his ass on the skeet range."
Hearing a genuine laugh from Sara, Jo leaned back in her seat and let out a sigh. "All this brilliant insight has left me positively drained. What do you say you take me home and put me to bed?"
Sara rubbed her red eyes, laughed and said, "That sounds like a plan."
Jo left a pile of bills on the table and extended her hand, helping Sara to her feet. "Is your couch comfortable?"
"Good. I wouldn't want you to wake up with a sore back."
"Why do I have to sleep on the couch?" Sara asked indignantly.
"Because, I am the guest," Jo said, looping a strong arm around Sara's neck, "and because what is supposed to be your guest room is undoubtedly filled with magazines dedicated to how things died."
Catherine sat on the back porch sipping her morning coffee. She definitely needed some caffeine. After picking Lindsey up at Nancy's, Catherine spent most of the night pacing, her realization about her feelings for Sara occupying her mind.
The thought of being with a woman was nothing new. You can't be a dancer in Vegas, or anywhere else for that matter, and not have the occasional tryst with a co-worker. The question was, now that she knew how she felt about Sara, how was she to know Sara felt the same way or was even open to a relationship with a woman. Although by the body language she saw in the hallway last night, Sara was very close to that tall redhead. 'Yep. Definitely jealous.', she thought to herself.
The biggest hurdle was the fact that she and Sara had spent so many years at odds with each other. Was it possible to turn all that negative energy between them into a positive force? Thinking back over the last month, Catherine answered her own question with a resounding yes. With Lindsey as a common thread, they were able to put aside much of their history and begin a tentative friendship, but Catherine's current case was threatening their newfound goodwill.
Sara had retreated from everyone, it seemed, and Catherine certainly understood why. She knew from experience how unpleasant it was for your personal life to become grist for the lab's rumor mill. For someone as private as Sara, it would be a nightmare. 'Speaking of nightmares', Catherine almost felt as though some past events were replaying themselves with the two of them taking the opposite roles. Not that long ago, Sara had quietly suggested Catherine shouldn't be handling evidence in Eddie's case and today Catherine had said nearly the same thing to Sara. Catherine could only hope that Sara handled this similar situation better than she herself had at the time. She still regretted how she treated Sara during the investigation of Eddie's death. 'Not that I ever apologized.'
Catherine's musings were interrupted by Lindsey's voice.
"I cleaned my room."
"I cleaned my room. What else should I do?"
"You're volunteering to clean?" Catherine asked incredulously.
"Well, I don't want Sara to know we live in a pigsty."
Catherine raised an eyebrow, but let the pigsty comment go. "Lindsey, last night an old friend of Sara's surprised her with a visit, so I'm not sure she's going to make it tonight."
"But, she promised."
"I know, honey, but sometimes "
"Her friend can come with her, can't she?"
Catherine's stomach clenched, as the thought of watching the two women together all evening caused a surge of jealousy. "I don't know, Linds."
"Come on, Mom. We have plenty of food. Can we call and at least offer? I've been looking forward to this for days. I have her present all ready," Lindsey pleaded.
Catherine let out a sigh and said, "You can call her, but if she needs to spend time with her friend, don't give her a hard time about it."
"Thanks, Mom," Lindsey said over her shoulder as she ran in the house to call Sara.
The phone ringing pulled Jo out of a pleasant dream. On automatic she reached over to the nightstand and answered groggily, "Foster."
"Um, I was looking for Sara. Sara Sidle?" Lindsey said tentatively.
Jo took a second to look around, before she shook off the cobwebs and remembered where she was. "Right. OK, hang on a second."
Putting the phone down, Jo stumbled into the living room and saw an empty couch. Looking in the kitchen she found a note.
Went to the store for something edible for breakfast. Be back soon.
Heading back into the bedroom, she picked up the phone, "You still there?"
"She's not here. She ran out to the store."
"Do you know when she'll be back?"
"Actually, I don't. Sorry."
"Are you her old friend?"
"Well, I'm not that old, but yes. My name is Jo," the woman said with amusement. "Are you Lindsey?"
"Yeah," was Lindsey's confused answer. "How do you know who I am?"
"Sara told me all about you."
"She did?" Lindsey asked sounding pleased.
"What did she say about me?"
Jo smiled at the girl's curiosity, "Well, let's see. She told me that you're pretty and very smart. I also happen to know you have excellent taste in hamburgers."
"I don't eat red meat anymore."
Jo groaned and mumbled, "Oh, God not another one."
"They do terrible things to the animals," Lindsey justified.
"I'm sure they do, sweetie. Did you want me to tell Sara something for you?"
"Well, I was calling to see if Sara was still coming over for dinner. My mom said that since you surprised Sara, she might not be able to come, but she promised, so has to. And I was calling to say that you can come too, if you want."
"That's very generous of you Lindsey, thank you," Jo said, thoroughly charmed by Lindsey. "I would be happy to come."
"Are you sure it's alright with your mom?" Jo checked, wanting to know if Sara's impression of Catherine's distrust could be correct.
"Yeah, it's fine," Lindsey replied rolling her eyes. "Seven o'clock, OK?"
"We'll be there."
Jo hung up the phone, anxious to meet Sara's young friend. She was even more interested in meeting Catherine. She wanted to get a feel for the woman Sara had been pining after for almost five years. 'And there is still the matter of what happened in the locker room.'
Catherine walked into the living room just in time to see her daughter roll her eyes in response to whatever she had heard. After Lindsey hung up the phone, Catherine said, "What did Sara say?"
"Oh. Sara wasn't there. That was Jo. They'll be here at seven."
Catherine forced a smile and said, "Great." Catherine wondered how she would react if she found out that Sara and this 'Jo' were more than friends. "You clean up in here and I'll take the upstairs," Catherine said as she headed for the staircase. "Oh, and while you're cleaning, you can think about how to tell me about that 'nothing' from our phone call last night." Heading up the stairs, Catherine smiled as she heard Lindsey groan.
Jo looked up from her laptop and took off her reading glasses as the door opened. Sara pushed the door open with her shoulder and came in carrying several grocery bags.
"Hey. I got breakfast."
"What are you working on?"
"Final report. I just wrapped up a case in Reno. I was actually planning on swinging down and seeing you before I got your call."
Sara looked at Jo before quietly saying, "Thanks for coming. Your didn't have to."
"Yes, I did," Jo said evenly. "I'm your best friend, Sara. And you're mine. I have no doubt about where you would be if I needed you. So, yes, I did have to come."
"Not a problem." Jo watched Sara turn and head into the kitchen. Shutting down her laptop, she followed and hopped up on the counter. "Do you have any plans for today?" Jo asked as Sara bent down to put the milk in the refrigerator.
Jo watched as Sara paused for a moment before she straightened and said, "I don't think so. I mean, I was supposed to do something, but that's probably off."
Jo nodded knowing Sara was talking about her dinner plans with Catherine and Lindsey. "Why is it off?"
Sara sighed and hung her head, "I was supposed to have dinner with Lindsey and Catherine, but I doubt the offer's still open. Lindsey cancelled our regular time yesterday afternoon. I'm pretty sure Catherine told her to because of everything."
"Well, Lindsey was definitely lying about why she couldn't meet me yesterday."
"How do you know?"
"The same way you know when I am lying."
"She's that bad at it?"
"I think she's actually a little better at it than I am," Sara said with a grin.
"Yeah? You know, Squared, I have never understood how you can shut someone out with the best of them, but lying outright to someone, you can't do for beans."
"I know," Sara shrugged "Was there something you wanted to do today?"
"As a matter of fact, I have dinner plans."
"You do?" Sara asked, both surprised and disappointed.
"Yep. I was invited to dinner with two lovely ladies."
"Two? You've only been in town for, like, ten hours, and you spent six of those sleeping. How"
"Ah, the ugly head of jealousy. Easy, Squared. The truth is, Lindsey called this morning to make sure you were still coming tonight. Mine was strictly a pity invitation. Apparently, you made a promise and she expects you to keep it."
"I checked. According to Lindsey, Catherine is looking forward to it," Jo said, stretching the truth with the hope that she wouldn't be proven wrong.
"Really?" Sara asked, staring down at the counter.
The hope is Sara's voice nearly broke Jo's heart. She hopped off the counter, put an arm around Sara's waist and gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead. "Really."
With that, Jo left the kitchen to finish her report.
Several hours later, Catherine stared at her bed. It was covered in various combinations of clothing. She couldn't settle on what to wear for dinner. Understated and relaxed? Bold and sexy? Something in between? She only knew she wanted to look better than Jo. 'Sad, Red, very sad. You're trying to outshine someone you have never even met.'
"What are you doing?"
Turning to look at her daughter, Catherine replied as nonchalantly as possible, "Trying to decide what to wear."
"Why? You see Sara everyday."
"Yeah, but I still want to look nice," Catherine said, knowing she wasn't being entirely honest with her daughter, but until Catherine knew what was going on between her and Sara, there was no reason to say anything.
"OK," Lindsey said, looking at her mother suspiciously. "I'll be in my room."
Catherine could have sworn she heard her daughter call her weird.
Sara was in her bedroom staring blankly into her closet.
"Is something growing in there?"
Sara looked at Jo over her shoulder. "What?"
"You've been standing there for fifteen minutes."
"Oh. I'm just trying to figure out " Sara trailed off.
"What to wear?" Jo filled in helpfully.
"Yeah," Sara sighed. "I mean, I've never been to their house before and, I don't know I just "
Jo laughed and said, "I love it when you're befuddled."
"I am not befuddled. And who uses that word in real life anyway?"
"I do. I like unusual words. They make me happy. Convivial, even."
"Hurry up," Jo said as she left the room. "I'm hungry."
"You know the food will be vegetarian, right?" Sara called after her friend and laughed when she heard Jo curse.
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