DISCLAIMER: CSI is in no way mine, though I wish it was there would have been no GSR.
WARNING: This story contains mention of self harm and suicide.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Sofrost for the beta.
Mackenzie Taylor was, apparently, a happy, healthy 24 your old university student. Attending the UNLV, majoring in English literature. Working part time in a coffee house around the corner from her campus. Her family, friends, colleagues, employers and professors didn't know that she harboured a terrible secret. A secret so bad, or at least she thought, that the last way out she could run away from it was to kill herself. Mackenzie, or Mac as she was known to everyone, was the victim of a terrible rape nine years ago when she was on holiday with her family. She never told anyone except her diary. It described in great detail the torment that she went through at the hands of a sadistic rapist at the age of fifteen. She told how she was grabbed off the beach and dragged into an unused life guard shed just off the beach and subjected to four hours of derogation and abuse. He finally let her go with a warning, that if she ever told anyone he would come after her and her family. Being fifteen and scared she went home, got cleaned up and tried to get on with her life. Leaving her diary as the only witness to the horrific trauma she went through. Unfortunately she couldn't get on with her life and that was how she came into my life.
At some point during the conversation with Brass I had move away from Catherine's front porch. The whole conversation got me agitated and I start to pace. Pacing is how I try to calm myself down. Usually helps but talking to Brass, pacing a hole in Catherine's porch isn't helping as it usually does. Sometime during the conversation I leave the porch and start walking down the street. When Brass had finished telling me all the information they had collected about Mackenzie he tells me not to worry about it, her parents had been informed and her body had been signed over to them. Closing my cell phone, I stop in my tracks. Shutting my eyes I tilt my head up towards the sky and inhale deeply. When I open my eyes again I finally take in my surroundings. It was then that I had realise how far I have strayed from Catherine's house. I turn and head back in the direction that I had come from. Thankfully my feet took notice of the direction I had walked even if my brain hadn't. Stepping onto the front porch I check the time on my phone. I silently pray that Catherine would still be asleep, but I don't have high hopes of it. I have been out of the house for forty-five minutes. I know that she would panic if she awoke to find me missing.
I gently push open the front door and call to her. Hearing no reply I close the door behind me and head off into the front room. I notice immediately that the couch is empty. Damn, she's awake and I'm in a whole world of trouble. Checking the kitchen I find it empty and the back yard is the same. Taking a deep breath I head for the foot of the stairs.
"Catherine? Are you up there?" I listen intently. When I get no reply I swallow down my fear that I've pissed her off and start the climb. For a regular home stair case it's one hell of a trek. I don't know if I'm just imagining it but I'm sure there wasn't this many stairs when I went up them last night or when I came down them this morning. Finally reaching the top of the stairs I look down the hall way. All the doors are open, and I'm sure they were closed when I left my room this morning. I feel my heart rate increase when I remember that I left the front door unlocked and unguarded. I instinctively reach for my gun; groping the empty space by my hip, I remember that I don't have it. It's in my room at the other end of the hall. Shit.
I creep closer to the first open door and peak in, it's Lindsay's room. A quick glance tells me that nothing has been disturbed. Stepping further into the room I'm happy that everything is where it should be. Leaving Lindsay's room I move across the hall and hug the wall, moving quietly to Catherine's room. Looking in nothing seems out of place. I take a quick look into her bathroom. I release a breath that I hadn't realised that I had been holding in. Everything looks fine in Catherine's room and bathroom. I stop briefly at her bed and sit down. A wave of dizziness sweeps over me. I wait on her bed until my equilibrium returns, breathing in and out steadily. When it passes and I feel able to, I go back out into the hall and head for my room. Hugging the wall again I glance into the main bathroom as I pass. I continue on past but suddenly stop dead in my tracks. I go back to the bathroom door. Laying face down on the cold tile floor is Catherine.
Kneeling by her side I gently feel her neck for a pulse, thankfully I find it. Air rapidly escapes my lungs in relief as I check her over, looking for any obvious signs of injury. As I gently massage her neck and skull, looking for any sign that she's been hurt, she moans softly and stirs.
"Cath, please keep still. I'm trying to assess your injuries. I think someone may have been in the house and attacked you. Please try not to move." I'm scared that if she has some kind of head or spinal injury she could make it worse if she tries to move. I'm thankful for the first aid courses I've been on, the training instinctively kicks in. I should have called 911 though, once I'm certain that she's fine I will. Fear drives me to make sure that she's ok; I can't loose the most precious thing in my life. I know I tried to end my life, but that was before. Before I knew that she loved me. Deep in concentration her voice startles me.
"Sara? Where the hell were you? What happened?" She asks groggily from her position on the floor. Relief floods my senses at hearing her voice. I feel tears prick my eyes and a lump form in my throat. Coughing slightly to try and clear my throat, I answer her.
"Yeah it's me, Cath. Brass called to give me an update about a case I was working so I stepped outside so we didn't wake you. I think someone came in the house. I moved away from the door but I didn't lock it. I'm sorry, Cath, it's my fault. I should have...." I tell her in a rush, but she cuts me off mid-ramble.
"Sara, shut up and help me up." She laughs lightly. "There's no one in the house, I fainted when I was looking for you."
"But....." I start but she just cuts me off again. Maybe I should get her to the hospital if she's passing out. I briefly wonder if her passing out might be a sign of something more serious.
"Just help me up. Have you lain on this floor recently? It's cold and hard." She laughs moving to her knees holding onto my forearms for support. For the first time since I came into the bathroom I can see the whole of her face. She stays there looking at me as I run my eyes over face continuing my assessment of her injuries. Thankfully she doesn't look like she's going to bruise but all that could change in the next couple of hours. I really want to get her to the hospital. Suddenly she launches herself at me, slapping every bit of me she could. Trying to stop her we fall back until my back is flush against the floor with her on top of me still hitting me. I wrap my arms around her and pull her to me, trying to restrict her range. Finally she stops hitting me and I'm shocked to feel tears raining down onto my neck as she starts to calm down. I'm too shocked from her attacking me to form actual words so I just wrap my arms tightly around her and let her cry herself out. Quietly I feel my own tears joining hers.
After a while, when both our tears have stopped and the gut wrenching sobs coming from Cath have subsided. I break the silence that has descended in the bathroom.
"Cath?" I ask quietly, scared that I might set her off again. I've no idea why she attacked me like that, but it scared me. Not Cath attacking me but whatever the reason behind her assault was.
"You were right about this floor." I joke, hoping she'll get the hint and want to move. She raises her head from my neck and looks me straight in the eye. I can't quite place what I see there but it shocks me to the core and the lump returns to my throat, making it difficult to breathe or speak.
"Yeah, it's cold and hard. Isn't it?" She asks in a whisper. I nod my head to agree with her. "Come on let's get you off this floor and into your room, ok?" I nod again not really trusting my voice at the moment. When she looked at me her eyes were awash with her unshed tears. I could see into the depths of her soul. I can see her fragile, closely guarded heart. All the cracks that had been made there by selfish uncaring people who were only out to get what they wanted from her, not caring whether or not they left her broken. I never want to be the person to do that.
As we get up from the cold tiled floor I decide that I'm going to do whatever it takes to not break her heart. I don't want to be one of those people. I don't want to be just another crack on her heart. I want to be the one to help her heal; I want her to be the one to heal me. I'm willing to let her in. I know it won't be easy but I want to try, I'm ready and willing to try. As we help each other into the spare room I decide to take the bull by the horns, so to speak.
"Cath, when's Lindsay come back?" I ask quietly trying to keep my voice neutral.
"Um, she's back in a couple of days. Why? Are you that anxious to take me out?" She says laughing as we both sit on the edge of the bed.
"Yeah, no, um....a bit of both." I admit quietly. "Look the reason I'm asking is, no matter what she says I still want, no, I need you in my life. Even if we are just friends. I still want to do all the things that friends do. Even with Lindsay, she's an amazing kid, Cath. Such an amazing kid, she's growing up to be a credit to you. I love spending time with her, even if it's just doing her homework with her. As stupid as it sounds I love being friends with her too." I stop to take a deep breath and try to steady my voice. At some point Cath had slipped her hand into mine, she gently squeezed my fingers letting me know that she was listening. "I just don't want anything to change. You guys have helped me on the road to healing; I want to return the favour."
"Sara, there's no favour to be returned. You've helped us both so much, you have no idea. Lindsay is doing so much better at school. She's no longer fighting, her grades have picked up and she's my little girl again." She says smiling at me with tears rolling down her cheeks. "It's like when we both needed you, you were finally able there. Thinking back on it now, even when you were investigating Eddie's murder you were still there for us both. You saw things from my point of view and Lindsay's point of view. That was something special, I'm still mad at Gil for giving you the case but I'm also grateful. If you came to give us comfort then, I don't think I would have been able to accept it and you." She stares at me and for a moment her eyes narrow in concentration. "Did you manage to get any sleep earlier? You still look tired."
"I got some sleep, not a lot, it was more like dozing, really." I confess sheepishly looking down at our joined hands, amazed at how perfect her small slender finger look intertwined with my longer ones. "But I'm not tired, honest." And like the traitorous wretch my body is, I yawn. A full yawn, with a small spine popping stretch thrown in for good measure. Once my ears have fully popped and I can hear Cath giggling beside me. Something clicks in my head and I realise that she's laughing at me, so I launch myself at her. Straddling her thighs I push her back on the bed and tickle her.
"God, Sara, stop my sides can't take it." She wheezes holding onto my elbows trying to stop me.
"Nope, you laughed at me. Just because I yawned, you thought that was funny?" I reply no letting up my assault on her sensitive sides and stomach.
"No, it was cute. You looked cute, that's why I giggled. Honest, you looked so adorable. Please stop tickling me, I can't take it anymore." She gasps underneath me. Taking pity on her I move to lie beside her on the bed. Immediately she rolls onto her side and snuggles into me. Instinctively I wrap my arm around her shoulders, drawing her closer to me. I love the feel of her in my arms; it feels 'right.' It feels like this is where I belong.
"What case was it Brass called you about?" She asks after she gets her breath back. Not wanting to lie, but not really ready to have this conversation, I try to body swerve it.
"It was something and nothing. Actually, you know what, I am feeling tired. Do you mind?" I ask moving up to the head of the bed.
"Oh right, sure. I'll just leave you to get some rest." She says moving to get up. As she sits on the edge of the bed, I suddenly feel very cold without her body beside me.
"Catherine? Would you mind staying with me?" I ask hesitantly. "It's just; I feel better knowing that you're nearby." I say quietly too embarrassed to meet her eyes.
She walks to the head of the bed and forces my eyes up to meet hers. "Never be ashamed to ask for help Sara, ok? Of course I'll stay with you while you rest." She says laying back down beside me. Settling back down on top of the covers I lie on my side facing her. She wraps her arm around my shoulders, encouraging me to move closer. Resting my head on her shoulder and draping my arm over her stomach I drift off into a dreamless slumber.
Waking up a little while later, I'm secretly pleased that Cath is still with me. Although I don't think she really had much choice in the matter anyway. Sometime during my sleep I migrated from beside her to laying half on top of her. I have my head on her shoulder, my arm wrapped tightly around her waist and my leg is slung over both of hers. I snuggle in tighter to her as she runs her fingers through my hair; I never knew such a simple action could be so calming.
"Want to talk about it?"
"What?" I'm amazed that she knew I was awake but confused about what she's asking me. There are plenty things I could tell her, given time.
"The phone call that took you out of the house and why you were so frantic when you came back in?" She asks quietly, as though she doesn't want to scare me off.
"I told you why I freaked out. I had left the front door unlocked; I came in and found you passed out on the bathroom floor. Have you ever walked in on someone passed out on the floor? It's easy to misinterpret the situation and think the worst." I tell her sitting up and moving away from her embrace. I turn to look at her. Remembering my earlier thoughts of getting her to the hospital to get her checked out. "Why did you pass out? Are you sick? Do you need to see a doctor?" I ask placing my hand on her forehead to feel for a temperature.
"Sara, I'm fine, honest. I think I was just overcome with emotion. When I woke up and you weren't there I went to look for you. I had checked all of the downstairs and you weren't there so I came upstairs. I guess watching the PD clearing a scene has taught me a lot." She chuckles. "I came up here and went through each of the rooms. The bathroom was the last place I looked. I think subconsciously I was scared to look in there, cos when it came to it I was shaking with fear. I knocked on the door and called to you but there was no answer. I'm sorry Sara, I assumed the worst." She says taking my hand in hers and turning it over to study the stitches in my wrist. "I thought you had tried to kill yourself again while I was asleep. When I opened up the door and you weren't there, I guess the relief was a bit too much and I passed out."
She lets go of my hand and covers her eyes as she starts to cry. Guilt and shame floods through me as tears fall through her fingers. I wrap my arms around her and whisper words of sincere apologies to her. I hadn't really realised how much I had hurt her. I had no idea how she really felt for me up until three days ago, I thought she loathed me. That she couldn't stand the sight of me. I never dreamed that she might feel the same, that she'd feel for me what I feel for her. I let her cry herself out on my shoulder, and I quietly join her. The last few days seem to have been nothing but tears and sleeping for us.
"You never told me what Brass called about." She sniffs. Trust Cath to go back to a subject I'm not really ready to talk about. Taking a deep breath I plunge in, knowing that this time it won't go away if I ignore it. I see this as my chance to start opening up to her, to start trusting her. Taking a deep breath I begin to explain.
"The day I tried to kill myself I was working on a DB found in an abandoned railway arch." I stop as the memory of Mackenzie washes over me. The sight of her body laying on the soiled mattress. The vile stench that hung in the air. "Her name was Mackenzie Taylor. She was only 24 years old when she died, when she killed herself. It was seeing the....peace on her face that helped me make up my mind. You see I was jealous of her. She had managed to do what I had wanted to do for years, and failed. She had managed to leave behind her pain and her demons." I stop to look into her face and I see questions there. Questions I think I know. After another deep breath to steal myself against her reaction, I continue. "I left her, Cath. I logged a call with dispatch, told them that I had been taken away on a personal matter and that they needed to send another CSI, and then I left her. I just couldn't stay there any longer. Not when all I was feeling was jealousy. It was unprofessional. I never pitied her, I hated her, I wanted what she had and I decided to get it."
"Oh, Sara." She gasps. When I look at her, her face is awash with tears. Looking into her eyes, I'm surprised that all I see is understanding. I thought that she would hate me.
"You don't hate me for being selfish and abandoning her? For being unprofessional?" I ask, unable to believe that she isn't angry at me for abandoning a suspected crime scene.
"No, I don't." She says softly. For some reason her understanding unsettles me.
"You should." I shout, startling her and myself. I move away from her and start pacing the floor. "You should hate me, I hate me. I couldn't even do my job. I left her there. I was jealous of her, a victim, and I left her there. Does that seem professional to you?"
"Sara, what could you do? She was already dead and you knew why. It wasn't like we were hunting her killed." Cath says, her voice is calm and reassuring. "There was nothing else you could do for her. You followed procedure; you did nothing to be ashamed of." I stand staring out of the window, letting her words sink in. I hear her get up from the bed and move to stand behind me. "Sara, I don't want to push things but, you don't just see that someone has killed themselves and then decide to do it yourself. Have you....have you felt like that before?" She asks placing her hand on my shoulder. I hear her take a deep breath, and then she asks, "Sara, have you ever tried to kill yourself before?"
"Yes." I answer her honestly. I expect her to stare at me with pity in her eyes, maybe look at me like I'm crazy or something, but when I sneak a look at her from the corner of my eye, she has tears rolling down her cheeks.
"Oh, Sara." Before I can even do or say anything, she has wrapped her arms me. "Oh, Sara, why would you want to do something like that?"
"I have my reasons, Cath." I whisper into her hair. "I live with a perpetual and maybe an unrational fear that my past will come back to me. That I one day I could be the perpetrator for hurt, pain and everything that I hate. You've seen what I'm like when I have a nightmare? I have that playing in my head all the damn time. I can control it when I'm awake, but sometimes I can feel him coming out of me. It's so tiring trying to be in control all the time when I see everything over and over again, playing in my mind like a broken projector." I tell her holding on a little tighter than before.
"What do you see, Sara? What haunts you?" She asks, turning her eyes to me. Looking into the depths of her eyes I see nothing but concern and curiosity. I find myself getting lost in her eyes I almost forget what we're talking about. Suddenly a shrill noise coming from the hallway, breaks my search of her soul and eyes. It takes me a second to recognise the noise.
"Cath, that's your phone." I tell her sighing with disappointment. "Don't you think you should answer it?"
"What? Oh yeah, I guess I had better." She says stepping away from me and heading towards the bedroom door.
Saved by the bell, I guess.
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