DISCLAIMER: Jerry Bruckheimer, CBS and various others own CSI, not me. I just played in their sandpit for a while.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Set during the Season 5 Episode: Nesting Dolls. Part of the Nina Simone Suite. Sequel to 'How Deep it Goes'
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Human Kindness
By Celievamp


Catherine sat in her office, staring out into the empty corridor. The argument with Sara still fired her blood. She had no idea what to do about the other woman. Mia had been casting her dark looks all day and both Warrick and Greg had obliquely (and in Greg's case not so obliquely) questioned her decision not to appeal to Ecklie over the CSI's suspension.

"Sara's always been there for anyone who needs her. She's always had my

back. So what if she flew off the handle a little?"

Now she'd had the chance to cool down a little she could begin to countenance Greg's point of view. She'd done and said far worse in her time – occasionally to Sara herself. On this occasion, it was only her good fortune and Sara's bad luck that the exchange in the hallway had happened in Ecklie's hearing.

Their part in the Svetlana Melton case was just about done and dusted. Sara's instincts had pretty much been on the money. Andrew Melton had killed his wife because she was becoming too independent of him, too 'American'. Melton believed that he was not so much her husband as her owner and Svetlana had had enough. The kicker for Catherine was the photo showing Svetlana wearing a locket: the same one that Melton's new wife June now wore. As Catherine had commented: "A recycled love token. Now, that's tacky… but it's cause for a warrant."

The locket had traces of Svetlana's blood on it. After spending the night in jail on a phoney abuse charge Melton had snapped. She had embarrassed him. Melton had murdered her in the beauty shop where she worked and paid off one of the owners Vlad to dispose of her body. He went looking for Svetlana and he beat her to death and took back the only thing of value – the locket.

Vlad had readily admitted to dumping the bodies. The girl was already dead – there was nothing he could do.

"America is land of opportunity. Her death should be a total loss? Andrew Melton is very good tipper."

The first body in the dump was that of an illegal immigrant, smuggled into the country in luggage who had suffocated en-route. "Again – girl already dead. Nothing I can do," Vlad had said.

Catherine realised that Sarah's instincts about Melton had been spot on from the beginning and whatever else she had said in the heat of the moment, she deserved credit for that. She just hoped that the young CSI didn't do something stupid like resign before Catherine could talk Ecklie out of firing her. She would probably still have to serve a suspension and have a note on her permanent employment record, but that would be it. Catherine had her own share of second chances. Perhaps it was time to pay it forward.

Sara realised that she was numb. It wasn't the alcohol, which she had barely touched; it wasn't the argument with Catherine and Ecklie's spite. It was this case; there were just too many emotional resonances for her.

Once she would have been able to work through them, but not any more. In opening herself up to Mia, she had opened up to a lot of other things as well, including her past. As if sensing her train of thought, Mia reached over and caressed the back of her hand. "It's going to be okay, you know."

Before she had chance to answer her, someone knocked on the door. She glanced at Mia who just shrugged. Sara turned off the stereo – she couldn't have said what CD was playing for a million dollars anyway – and went to answer the door. To her surprise, it was Grissom.

"Well if you're here, it can't be good," she sighed.

"Can I come in?" he asked.

She stood aside to let him in. He paused when he saw Mia curled up on the couch, an open book in her lap.

"Oh… I'm sorry, I didn't realise…" he said.

"It's okay," she smiled. "Come in and sit down. If you want to talk to Sara alone I can…" she caught sight of Sara's frown and subsided.

"I'd rather you stay for this," Sara said. "If you're okay with that, Grissom." She lifted her beer bottle at him. "At least you can see I'm not home drinking alone…"

"We both know that's not your problem," Grissom said. "I… er, I spoke to Catherine."

"Ecklie?" Sara asked. Catherine's opinion of her was old news. No need to rerun that. And Ecklie held all the cards.

"He wants me to fire you."

"I figured," Sara said bitterly. She sighed. Mia rested her hand on Sara's knee, squeezing it gently. Sara smiled and laid her hand on top of Mia's. At least she wasn't alone in this – this time. The expression on Grissom's face was… interesting. Belatedly she remembered her duties as a hostess. "Can I get you anything?"

"Sure. An explanation." Of course, being Grissom, he wouldn't have asked for anything as simple as a beer or a soda.

"I… lost my temper," Sara said. It was the only explanation she had. Grissom sat down in the armchair near her desk.

"That seems to be happening quite a bit. Do you know why?" Grissom looked at her the same way he looked at a suspect. She wasn't going to play that game.

"What difference does it make?" Sara asked. "I'm still fired."

"It makes a difference to me," Grissom said, almost gently.

Mia's fingers tightened on hers again. Sara remembered how it had felt to open up to Mia to tell her things about herself, her past that no one else knew. If she lost this job, she would lose Mia. It was worth a shot, just to preserve that.

"I have a problem with authority. I choose… men who are emotionally unavailable. I deny my true feelings about things... about people. I'm self destructive. All of the above."

Grissom cocked his head. "Have you ever gone a week without a rationalisation?" he asked. Sara bridled at one of his usual gnomic responses but before she had chance to speak Grissom actually explained himself. "It's from 'The Big Chill'. One of the characters explaining a basic fact of life – that rationalisations are more important to us than sex even."

"I am not rationalising anything," Sara said, her brow furrowed. "I crossed the line with Catherine and I was insubordinate to Ecklie."

"Why?" Grissom asked.

Sara sensed that Mia was also interested in the answer to that one. She just wished she had one for them. As usual she fell back on denial. "Leave it alone," she warned.

"Sara…" Mia said softly. "I think you need to talk this through. What you told me…"

"Sara… whatever this is, it's starting to affect your work…" Grissom said softly.

"What do you want from me?" It burst from her, louder and more desperate sounding than she had ever intended. They stared at her and she stared back, suddenly fighting to draw breath against the tears that came from nowhere.

"I want to know why you're so angry," Grissom said.

Sara had always thought that catharsis was over-rated. Now for the second time in as many days she found herself telling the story of how her life had imploded twenty years ago. Mia was a comforting presence at her side. Grissom leant forward, arms resting on his knees, his expression intent. There was no judgement in his gaze and for that she was glad.

"It's funny… the things that you remember and the things that you don't, you know. There was a smell of iron in the air. Cast-off on the bedroom wall. There was this young cop puking his guts. I remember the woman who took me to foster care. I can't remember her name. Which is strange, you know, 'cause I couldn't let go of her hand."

"Well, the mind has filters," Grissom said gently.

"I do remember the looks. I became the girl whose father was stabbed to death. Do you think there's a murder gene?"

"I don't believe that genes are a predictor of violent behaviour," Grissom started to say but Sara's mind had already moved on.

"You wouldn't know that in my house. The fights, the yelling, the trips to the hospital. I thought it was the way that everybody lived. When my mother killed my father, I found out that it wasn't." She couldn't hold it back any longer, starting to cry in earnest, her head turning to Mia who held her in her arms, rocking her gently. Grissom reached out to touch her leg, resting his hand on her thigh for a moment in a gesture of solidarity.

"He'll want you to fire me. Catherine will insist on it," Sara whispered.

"It's not going to happen, Sara," Grissom said. "I'll tell them the truth: your behaviour is as a direct result of my management. If they want to fire you, they'll have to fire me."

"They won't do that," Mia said.

Grissom shook his head. "No, Ecklie would never do that. You are a great criminalist, Sara. And I need you." He glanced at Mia. "We both do."

He left shortly after, promising to ring her as soon as he had talked to Ecklie. Sara cuddled into Mia's side, silent tears still rolling down her cheeks. She shivered every now and then. Mia reached behind her for the comforter that lay along the back of the couch and drew it around Sara. There was a frown line between Sara's brows and she realised that the older woman probably had a tension headache – hardly surprising after the day she'd had. Silently, she encouraged Sara to lay full length on the couch, and drew her bare feet into her lap, gently massaging them, checking Sara's expression every now and then to see if she was beginning to relax. After about ten minutes she realised to her satisfaction that Sara was asleep.

The door buzzer sounded about half an hour later. Sara stirred but did not fully waken. Mia eased out from under her and went to answer it before whoever it was rang again. To her surprise it was Catherine Willows.

Catherine looked equally surprised to see her there. "I came to talk to Sara," she said. "I wanted…"

"I don't think that's a good idea," Mia cut her off. "Sara's had enough for one day. She's sleeping right now. And to be honest, Miss Willows, you're the last person she needs to see. Well, apart from maybe Ecklie of course." She was unable to keep the venom from her voice. "Good bye."

She shut the door on her, silently revelling in the look of surprise on the older woman's face.


The End


Nina Simone - I Think It's Going To Rain Today (1968) Randy Newman from "And Piano"

Broken windows and empty hallways
A pale dead moon in the sky streaked with gray
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Scarecrows dressed in the latest styles
With frozen smiles to chase love away
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

Lonely, lonely
Tin can at my feet
Think I'll kick it down the street
That's the way to treat a friend

Bright before me the signs implore me
To help the needy and show them the way
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it's going to rain today

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