DISCLAIMER: CSI is the property of CBS and Jerry Bruckheimer.
WARNING: This story deals with the subject of child abuse.
DEDICATED: to my own heart, sweetheart my wife.
ARCHIVE: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Nesting Dolls and all prior seasons.

Shadows of the Past
By Elizabeth Carter

The page deeply annoyed Grissom, galvanizing him into action. Winding his way through the rabbit warren of glass labs, Grissom navigated his way to the one place he had no desire to go. Conrad Ecklie's office. Once there he was a little more than surprised to see both Catherine and Ecklie sitting so close to one another. Ecklie's arm was even resting comfortably on the back of Willow's chair and her body language gave no hint this was distressing to her.

"Okay, here's what I wanted to show you. The facts just don't match up." Catherine commented pointing to a few columns of data in the files they were examining.

"You wanted to talk to me about Sara?" the tone of Grissom's voice was one of challenge, causing both Catherine and Ecklie to look up from the piles of paperwork before them.

To her credit Catherine looked as if she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar for allowing Conrad to sit so very close to her. Ecklie however had an altogether different reaction. He lazily removed his arm from around the blonde's back in almost a 'Matrix' like 'bullet-time' slow motion. As if to rub his closeness to Grissom's former CSI in his face.

"I haven't received her disciplinary action. What's the holdup?" Ecklie tried sounding superior and omnipotent in front of a man who was his scientific better. And he knew it. Still Ecklie felt an almost orgasmic glow from holding his new power over Gil's head.

"Well, I'm not firing her." Grissom waved the matter aside. Did they truly expect them to do more than what had been done? Sara had been suspended for a week without pay for insubordination. That was enough for Grissom.

"What action are you taking?" There was a new challenge in Catherine's voice. A slap on the wrist hardly compared to the liberties Sidle had taken in the halls and with the assistant director.

"I've taken it." Grissom frowned at Catherine's question. It stymied him why she and Conrad were so close all of a sudden; they were practically in an embrace when he had come into the office. It felt as a betrayal to all Graveyard, to the 'team' that Catherine was playing Ecklie's games with such ease.

"I thought I was clear." Conrad wiped his mouth with his fingers, staring down the most talented supervisor the lab's had. Ecklie knew the only reason he was assistant director and not Gil was, that the entomologist was so inept at politics. Conrad was masterful at them, he had to be, as he wasn't a scientist. Conrad was almost in tantrum mode that Sidle wasn't going to be fired. He'd see about that. Of course he'd have to play it just right so it wouldn't look like retaliation. But Ecklie was king at playing the political and more devious moves. He got where he was today by playing them.

"You were." Grissom said with a dismissive tone. He would never see Conrad Ecklie as his superior. "Now let me 'be' clear. Sara's behavior is a 'direct' result of 'my' management."

"So, I should fire you?" Ecklie smirked, delighting in the fantasy for a moment. In one swoop he could rid himself not only of Grissom but Sidle as well, do a little house-cleaning in the lab. Make it in his image.

"But you won't." Grissom's voice became more than a challenge it was an order. Both knew how futile it would be to try and convince the director Cavallo to remove Gil Grissom PhD from CSI. After all Ecklie was only the assistant director. He could justify Sidle's removal but not Grissom's.

Ecklie shuddered slightly in his disappointment, " Look, Gil ... I've been there. We're human. We get attached to people, we try to fix their problems. It doesn't work." Sophia might have turned him down, but now an opportunity with Willows had presented itself. Conrad had a thing for wilful blondes.

"She's a great criminalist, Conrad. And I need her." Grissom deflected Ecklie's words with something neither Catherine nor Ecklie could dismiss. Sara was one of the best criminalist in the country.

"I'm sure you do." Ecklie implied that something a little more was going on between Grissom and Sidle, something he could never achieved with Sophia. "You know what?" He was standing now, gathering his folders. "She's a loose cannon with a gun. And she's all yours."

Grissom remained ever mute as he watched the man he loathed, the man who had failed his way to the top pass by him. Once Conrad Ecklie was gone the gaze turned to Catherine. Her own fiery blue eyes never left Grissom during the whole of the conversation. She didn't even pretend to mask her disappointment that yet again Sara had wormed her way out of punishment.

'And she says I use my sexuality to manipulate what I want from men. —' What she said was, "You took action? With Sara, your favorite CSI? " Catherine scoffed now they were alone in the Ecklie's office. "What sort of action?" the tone in her voice relinquished no room for interpretation, Catherine of course insinuated the action had all been of the sexual nature.

Grissom ground his teeth, before he answered. "Remind me Catherine, who it was that used the DNA lab to establish her own paternity, an action that got a high profile case kicked? Who threatened to kill a suspect, and though followed protocol with a questionable liquid, blew up the lab because of a failure to insure that a hotplate was inactive?"

"Fine, I get your point."

"Do you?" Grissom sat down. " When I brought Sara in, I did it because if I.A. got a hold of the true facts of Holly Gribbs' death and why she was alone on a scene, Warwick would have been fired. You begged the sheriff for twelve hours so that Ecklie wouldn't run with Nick's questionable murder charge. Nick would have been instantly dismissed and possibly up for murder if you hadn't gone out on a limb for him and against Ecklie and the sheriff. I wonder if it had been Sara in that position, if you would have done the same for her or you would have allowed Ecklie to have her arrested ? Which we both know is an automatic dismissal even if she was found innocent.

"And despite my orders you became insubordinate and ran with the rape case against Eddie. You were there for Greg both after the lab was blown up and when he was held at gun point, just like you were with Nicky and Warrick time and again. You even came to me when I was incarcerated on a contempt charge in Paul Millander's courtroom, as well as for my surgery."

"What is your point Gil?"

"You once made sure I made peace with Sara. I even got her a plant for the occasion. You said I had to do something before it goes away. Before she goes away. This is what I don't understand you work well with her when you do, and you two are unstoppable----"

"So this is what some sort of sing Sara's praises session? I don't want to hear it." Catherine motioned her counterpart off with a wave of her left hand.

"You resent her don't you for what happened when Eddie was killed? And since no one could be charged with his murder, you're making Sara pay. It's been what two years and you're still making Sara pay for Eddie's murder, especially after Lindsey misbehaves. As if it's Sara's fault Eddie was out playing around with his new child-girlfriend instead of being a father to your daughter. You've always spouted 'play politic'… Seeing how close you and Ecklie are now, I shouldn't be surprised you whisper in his ear to fire her; maybe to shine a little more as a new supervisor to set yourself apart from me. Fine, if you're comfortable with that, Catherine, go for it. However despite who you to take to bed, you and Ecklie won't get rid of her. Sara didn't do anything you haven't done. I heard about the argument in the hallway, it was almost a mirror of the one you had with her when Eddie was killed, only now it was her temper that got the better of her."

"You want me to cut her slack?" Catherine was still indignant.

"No more than I've cut for you. I'm not asking anything of you, Catherine. I don't think it would do any good. You complement the guys on a good job, you go out and have a beer with them, dinner, breakfast.... but Sara you exclude her from almost everything. Why are you so threatened by her?" Grissom tilted his head to the side, "Maybe it's something you should ask of yourself. On a proverbial level only, but your bed-partners might need a little evaluation."

Catherine could only stare after the man as he left the room. Her first reaction was to snarl something about Sara being spoiled, every time she didn't get her way she would threaten to leave the lab. Did it matter she was a brilliant CSI? That she was an astute pupil, a woman working extremely hard in the boys club. She blew out a gust of air. Grissom had a point, Catherine had issues with the other woman. Beautiful, young, talented and brilliant. Catherine was no slouch herself, her mind was razor sharp, her eye for observation extremely keen. What was it then, that set her off against Sara almost immediately?

Catherine had to go to night school at WLVSU while Sara had a Rhodes Scholarship to Harvard for her Bachelors and then had gone to Berkeley for her Masters. Of course Sara had to work to get those scholarships, but none the less 'Little Miss California', didn't have the life Catherine had. Or her screwed childhood, parents yelling at one another all the time, Sam Braun always in the shadows waiting for the divorce. Sara was a child of hippies, how tough was that?

It suddenly struck Catherine to handle Sara Sidle, she would do so as if the younger woman were a case.

With her new rank as supervisor with a crime lab, Catherine had privileges to her that would have otherwise been out of her reach, such was the case of going over Sara's file, a request Ecklie obliged if only on the pretense to discover something to use against Grissom to have Sidle terminated. In addition Catherine exercised her new authority to request a thorough background check, with any and all police records on one Sara Sidle.

Function: CSI level three
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 107 lbs
DoB: September 16, 1971
PoB: Tamales Bay, CA
Education: B.S. in Physics, Harvard
Special Skills: Materials and element analysis
Marital Status: Single

The rest of the personal file was astounding. Apparently Grissom wasn't the only supervisor to give Sara high marks in yearly proficiency evaluations and testing. Because personal files were so thorough for those in law enforcement, Sara's academic transcripts were included. There was almost a Mary-Jane aspect to them, Catherine thought as she leafed through them. Sara was A-honor roll from high school in to college with early admissions. Sidle was on the Dean's list semester after semester, scholarship after scholarship, Phi Beta Kappa, valedictorian at Harvard. The SAT scores were even in the file which were the highest Catherine had ever seen in the academia circles for quite some time. Sara held both a Bachelors in physics and forensic science. She was, in a word, brilliant.

"Science nerd, indeed." Catherine said as she tossed aside all that represented Sara's academic career. Digging further, Willows found the majority of Sara's evaluations from supervisors from San Diego, Los Angeles to Vegas, to be almost impossibly marked with several outstandings with only a few 'needs improvement' in the area of prioritizing.

Her solve rate rivalled Grissom's own. "How in the hell did Nicky beat her out of the last promotion? His solve rate isn't as near as high as hers. He doesn't have the same number of outstandings, commissions, citations..... he even has a few more disciplinary actions, though not that many more. Still Grissom had to be on cocaine to have passed Sara....." Catherine rolled her eyes. "Of course, if he'd given it to her everyone assumes it is because she flung herself at him."

Still Catherine felt a little outraged that once again the 'All Boys Club' had pushed a woman aside because of sex. A male gives a woman a promotion it could only be for one reason, she fucked him. So it was better to give it to the less deserving male for one's reputation to remain sterling. "Explains the near DUI," Catherine said reading about the report. All though Sara was never charged with the offence it was in her record as a need to see a P.E.A.P councillor as a pre-emptive strike against burnout.

The councillor offered a brief overview of the confidential sessions, 'Sara Sidle has a problem with authority. She is self-destructive, however she does not suffer from alcohol or substance abuse. She looks for validation in inappropriate places. It is recommended she not be allowed the continuous seventy hour weekly shifts, or she will suffer 'burn out'

"Burn out is right." Catherine continued to comment to herself. "See, I knew Sara needed the break. She needs to cool off. You can't work like that and not have it affect you. Grissom, Greg, fuck Billy, David, and even Archie were on my ass for not backing Sara up against Ecklie. But I wasn't wrong. She needs time away from here. Even the guys think I'm right or they would have said something for Sara. They didn't. "Catherine's body stiffened for the moment, hating the feeling she needed to justify her actions. The actions were just they weren't fair, but they were just.

"Ecklie's right the sort of person Sara is, she shouldn't be in this lab. She berates witnesses, disrespects the people she works with, she lucks her way out of a DUI. She has a half a dozen complaints in her jacket. And if Grissom kicks back reports on her performance like Ecklie says he does, there'd probably be a dozen more–" Catherine shook her head as if to clear away the cobwebs. Overlapping Ecklie's voice in her head was Grissom's. "My own file is just as tarnished. Hell I threatened to kill Pink-Hair Lady and I of course blew the lab up. Sara just blew up."

Digging further inside Sara's personal folder Catherine discovered there were in fact very few disciplinary and complaints documented by the department, or the PD. Ecklie made it sound as if Sara had a mound of them. He exaggerated then. Catherine didn't know if she was disappointed or relieved to find the truth.

'Father: Matt Sidle deceased in nineteen-eight-four.' the blonde frowned as her mind calculated the mathematics of the years between then and now. 'Sara couldn't have been more than what thirteen at the time. Two years older than Lindsey when Eddie died. Laura Sidle —unavailable? What does that mean unavailable?'

Of course the easy way to answer the question was to ask Sara. That wasn't going to be possible. Catherine was treading a very thin line as it was, looking into Sara's file, claiming to do so on the pretense of supervisor's privilege to know her personnel.

"I'm doing this with the best intentions." Catherine told herself for the umpteenth time. 'But some of the worst things imaginable had been done with the best intentions,' her heart told her as her blue eyes fell upon the photo of Sara's slightly smiling face. It was a ghost of a smile, a rival for the Mona Lisa but it was there.

Being the investigator that she was Catherine set about the next phase of discovering just who Sara Sidle was. Working with the LexisNexis Total Research System database Catherine logged onto the site that would allow for her to look up information on any case brought before the Federal or State courts. She typed in search for terms: Matthew Sidle, Laura Sidle, Sara Sidle, California 1984

It didn't take long for the system to kick out:


Skimming the document Catherine found her breath catching in her throat.

Laura Sidle murdered Matthew Sidle in a child's bedroom, cast-off on the bedroom wall is indicative the victim was stabbed to death with a large knife. The only witness to the crime is the daughter Sara Sidle: age thirteen.

'Medical examinations report the minor suffered extensive abuse from a very early age. SARS kit reports positive for chronic rape. Several broken bones including spiral breaks of the right and left ulna and radius bones, left humerus, tibia and both clavicles by blunt force trauma… greater trochanter and sternum, several broken ribs which prior medical records report had been done by the father kicking the child. Age of the breaks indicates they range from eight to three years old.

Catherine could almost see a five year old girl being grabbed by her father, her arm twisted until both bones in her forearm snapped, broken hip bones, ribs, the sternum, being smashed into a wall until the child passed out. Shouting, yelling. Blood smeared on the walls and floors from a child beaten with a belt until her skin was so raw it was hamburger.

The list went on and on: every finger on Sara's hands had been broken between the first and second knuckle. Stretched tendons and heavy bruising to major muscle masses. Old lacerations, several concussions. And on and on Catherine read the enormous grocery list of suffering the young Sara Sidle had survived.

'At the time of removal Sara suffers from malnutrition by severe starvation, five broken ribs to the right side of the body, trauma to the external oblique, pronator teres, deltoid, pectoralis major and minor, upper, middle and lower trapezius, latissimus dorsi. Much deeper bruises indicate damage was covert. Physicians report that oranges wrapped in a towel and placed in a cloth bag such as a pillow case would bruise the muscles without leaving a mark on the skin.'

The DA remanded Laura into a psychiatric facility due to the fact the murder of Matthew was under extreme duress. Her list of injuries were just as long as that of her daughter. She served her first seven months at the hospital for evaluation, the rest of the life sentence was in a woman's correctional facility. The constant fighting, and torture had shattered the woman to the point where she could take nothing more and killed the threat. The charges would have been lessened had Laura not turned her own abuse on her daughter as well. However the possibility of parole was open because the nature of the motive for the murder.

Catherine hit another button allowing her to see photos of the crime scene, of Laura and a very young very gaunt Sara. The expression on the girls' face broke Catherine's heart.

'God she has the same haunted look in her eyes every time we have domestic abuse cases.'

Wiping her eyes, Catherine forced herself to read a statement taken from the thirteen year old child: 'Sure there are lots of fights, yelling, and trips to the hospital. But what difference does it make? This is the way that everybody lives.'

"Oh Sara. No it isn't! You shouldn't have to have lived like that. Suffer like that."

What happened in the hallway not a week ago passed through Catherine's memory as well, this time acting as an accuser.

"Look, all I am asking is to have a black-and-white do regular welfare checks." Sara's long legs took quick strides along the path of the hallways.

"Did the wife ask for help?" Catherine retorted.

"Well, that's kind of hard to do when you don't speak English and you're a sex slave. I'm sure she doesn't know her rights." Sara's voice became insistent

Catherine let out a heavy 'I'm losing patience' sigh, "You can't arrest someone for marrying the wrong person."

"You would know."

For her part Catherine allowed that one to slide. it was the truth after all. Eddie Willows had definitely been the wrong person. "If the guy's an abuser, if he killed his first wife, we will build a case and we will nail him."

"And in the meantime, he can just keep using her as a punching bag." Sara's voice became demanding, pushing the limits.

"Sara, I was there -- there wasn't a mark on her."

"Not that we could see, Catherine."

Catherine didn't want to hear the near pleading in the woman's voice that begged the proof for which Sara had first hand knowledge. They stopped walking, neither saw the skulking figure of Conrad Ecklie as he made his way out of a lab heading for them. For a moment Catherine thought she saw a deep haunted look in the dark brown eyes.

"You know ... every time we get a case with a hint of domestic violence or abuse, you go off the deep end. What is your problem?" Catherine snarled, deciding to make a mark in the sand daring Sara to step over it, knowing full well the younger woman would take the bait. How she enjoyed putting the younger upstart in her place. The haunted look flashed once more, then it was replaced by righteous anger.

"Yeah, I probably do, and you let your sexuality cloud your judgement about men, and I'm gonna go over your head."

Over and over again, came the words…

"And in the meantime, he can just keep using her as a punching bag."

"Sara, I was there -- there wasn't a mark on her."

"Not that we could see, Catherine."

"…There wasn't a mark on her… using her as punching bag… not that we could see, Catherine… there are lots of fights, yelling, and trips to the hospital. But what difference does it make? This is the way that everybody lives."

Unable to take the echoes of voices anymore, Catherine closed the lid of her lap top, the flap of the file before bolting from her office, as if the voices haunted her office only.

It didn't help.

The voices lingered, in her mind mocking her as she wended her way past the techs, past Nick and Warrick. Past Grissom's office the break room, past the scornful looks directed to her from Greg and Mia. The voices spiralled until they became a heartbeat in her skull.

"…There wasn't a mark on her… using her as punching bag… not that we could see, Catherine… there are lots of fights, yelling, and trips to the hospital. But what difference does it make? This is the way that everybody lives." The voices ebbed into a song overlapped by the list of abuses Sara endured as a child, the beatings by both parents, by those that should have loved her. Raped by her own father.

"…There wasn't a mark on her… using her as punching bag… not that we could see, Catherine… there are lots of fights, yelling, and trips to the hospital. But what difference does it make? This is the way that everybody lives."

Catherine came to rest at her Denali. Her back pressed against the metal of the SUV, her arms folded over her chest, her eyes cast down upon the bits of gravel on the asphalt. "I'm guessing no one did welfare checks on your family. Someone saw you, saw your mother, said they didn't see any bruises. You were a kid, didn't know your rights and believed the life you were living was the way things were everywhere. God no wonder you fight so hard for these cases. We are the victim's last voice. No one was your voice, so now you scream to be heard. And still some people don't listen. People who should listen, turn a deaf ear, just because its you."

Catherine didn't bother to wipe the tears falling from her face. She was loathed to admit and yet she had to, that if Nick or Warrick insisted in welfare checks, insisted there was abuse even if none were visible, Catherine would have listened. She would have heard their words, and requested the checks, she would have insisted June Melton have an intervention to protect her from her louse of a husband.

In the kitchen of Andrew Melton, Catherine could only stare at the chain and padlock around the refrigerator door. She couldn't believe it. All the kitchen cupboards were also padlocked. The man locked up locks up his food, locks his wife out. and for what? To protect his investment? Weight goes up. Value goes down. June was a sex slave. Control her food, control her destiny, Catherine still didn't know. The phone had, had its cord removed so that June couldn't call for help.

'…I'm sure she doesn't know her rights… all I am asking is to have a black-and-white do regular welfare checks… using her as punching bag… not that we could see, Catherine… there are lots of fights, yelling, and trips to the hospital. But what difference does it make? This is the way that everybody lives.'

Sara had been right from the start. Catherine dismissed her, just because it was Sara. Just because the young woman had gone high and to the right over the case.

"I owe you an apology, Sara. And a lot more than that." Catherine could not have told you when she had gotten into her truck or when she had started the ignition. She heard echoes of the past only. "When the spirit moves you Sara, in your case I'd say never. Since when do you care about your looks?" How many more barbs had Catherine slung at Sara? "I always move first, always throwing the first shot. A bully always beat the snot out of the science nerds, made the boys terrified and attracted all at the same time."

Personality traits hadn't changed much since high school days. Catherine was still very much the intimidator, the dominator using her sexuality to gain whatever she wanted. It was no wonder Sara believed that Catherine's sexuality was clouding her judgement about men. It was pretty much the truth.

'All the words, all the glares, the snide remarks and hurtful things, I might as well have pushed her down a flight of stairs, I would have done less damage to her if the fall caused her neck to break.'

On automatic pilot Catherine found herself outside the apartment building Sara lived in. Though she had never been there, herself, Catherine knew the address from Sara's file, finding it wasn't that difficult. What was difficult was mustering enough courage to enter the foyer. The difficulty increased with the idea of taking the elevator to the loft, the top floor of the seven story building.

How long Catherine stood staring at the building she didn't know. It was as if the CSI had stepped into a void in the space time quantum. And so it came as quite a surprise to her when she heard the rumble of a Harley roar up to the building. It was more of a surprise to see who was under the helmet.

Sara noticed Catherine almost immediately. She was dressed in boot cut low waist black jeans, a matching scoop neck tank top that accentuated her curves in all the right places she was breath taking. Sara steeled herself for whatever the blonde was about to say.

Her long legs quickly consumed the distance across the avenue in an almost military gait. "If you came here to hear me apologize, you've wasted your time. I'm not going to. You go back and report to your new best friend. I'm on private time, so I can tell you go to—"

"Sara." Catherine moved forward, her head shaking. "I didn't come her to hear 'you' say you're sorry. But I did come for an apology."

This baffled the younger woman, "So?" she said with a sideways glance, "this is what then? 'Sorry Sara you're fired after all.' Ecklie doesn't have enough balls to do himself, so he sends his new lackey to do it for him."

Catherine looked down to the shine of her boots. "I resent that. I'm not his lackey."

Sara shot her a 'whatever,' look of disbelief. "Yeah, okay. Sure." Sara started to walk away from the SUV. "What do you want then Catherine?"

"I said I'm here for an apology. From me. I was out of line."

"Why are you trying to play with my head?"

"I'm not playing Sara. I had some time to think....over a lot of things. Over what happened in that hallway and why. I'm a CSI, a good one and I couldn't put the pieces together. If it had been Nicky, 'Rick even with Grissom, I would have. And I would have been - more aware - more understanding. With you I didn't do that, I just pushed you."

Sara didn't say a word. Her jaw worked tightly, teeth grinding. "You're just being who you are Catherine. You like your male colleagues, but not the female verity. I get it. Just because our reproductive organs are on the inside doesn't mean we have to become buddies. I get that too. Give me a little credit I got that the first month I was here. Only I'm too fucking obtuse to think that when on the off times you are amiable to me, you actually mean it and we might just forge a friendship." Sara's eyes became dark, "I should know better."

Catherine sighed with a heavy heart. She didn't expect this to be easy. Right about now of course she would be nailing Sara back with a few snide comments. It was just so easy to nail her. So easy to hurt her. Truth be told, Catherine was at a loss how she might handle someone whose emotions ran so very deep. Sara was intensely discreet about her past, and Catherine could understand why, and respected it.

"I know we have a difficult relationship, Sara and that lies mostly on my shoulders. Can we go inside and talk?"

"What if I say no?" Sara crossed her arms staring Catherine down. "This is my home, and you don't have Ecklie skulking around to back you up. You're pretty powerless with no audience."

"You want to fight don't you?" Catherine challenged.

"It's how we communicate."

"It doesn't have to be. Sara, I'm here with an olive branch. Now it's up to you."

"This is how I see it. I accept your 'olive branch' start thinking hey this could work out as a friendship after all, then when I'm not expecting it, you come up and hit me with some snappy comment and I start thinking the same thing all over again. For what? Why do you do it? To destroy me ego? To fill me with guilt? To make me hate myself so much I will run away just to be free of you? Just so you can question the quality of my work. What is the point of extending that branch Catherine when we'll be back where we started in the basement level of civility in a matter of weeks. Tell you what, I'll accept the 'olive branch' when the spirit moves me, but in my case that will be never."

"That's what happened to you growing up isn't it?" Catherine tried a new tactic. "Just when you started to think you were safe, that your father wouldn't hurt you, or your mother the pain would start all over again."

Sara froze.

"I know you were hurt. How badly you were hurt." Catherine said. "I know you suffered more than any child should. I know you saw your mother beaten so badly that it broke her spirit and the only thing she could do was to…"

Sara turned slowly, facing Catherine. Reflected in the dark brown orbs was hurt, betrayal and fear. "Grissom told you." Her words were hollow, a haunted look etched itself upon her face.

"No." Catherine moved for Sara reaching for the younger woman's arm, but when Sara automatically flinched, Catherine dropped her hand, with her own broken heart because she knew why Sara pulled back. She expected to be hit. "No, he said nothing. I won't lie to you, I looked it up, I had to know why - why domestic abuse cases hit you hard. I had to understand." Catherine stepped closer to Sara, "Please, can we go someplace sit, talk. That's all."

Sara slowly nodded.

They didn't go to her apartment. Instead Sara took Catherine to a little out of the way coffee shop, a contemporary of Starbucks around the corner from her home. A neutral place. It was one thing to have Grissom in her house, but Sara wasn't ready to have Catherine there yet.

"So now that you know you want to play nice and be my friend." Sara kept the tone out of her voice that would have marked the statement a question.

"I want to say I'm sorry." Catherine answered. She was being pulled into the dark orbs of chocolate. So haunted, so hurt, so lost. A pain resonated there, an ache that Catherine herself had put there. "I'm sorry for the little girl who thought it was normal to be beaten and raped. I'm sorry for the adult who lost so much. I'm sorry for the CSI whose colleague never cut her any slack and didn't reach out like she should have. I'm sorry for everything. I'm sorry I can't take it back. I'm sorry I'm not the friend I should have been."

Sara remained silent, in truth she didn't know what to think. What to do. A part of her felt resentful that the only reason Catherine was making the gesture now was because she had found out about the past. The only reason Catherine even tried to understand her was because no doubt Grissom put her up to it.

"If I can make peace with my mother, I suppose I can make peace with you. Beside if I don't, there is no question in my mind, I'll be transferred to a different county if I'm lucky, if not fired."

"You still think that I would have you fired?"

Sara didn't answer.

Catherine didn't speak either. How could she when this morning she questioned Gil about what action he had taken against Sara. The only reason she wanted blood was because it WAS Sara.

"Yes, I would have stood up for Warrick or Nick. One of the first days I took over Warrick stepped over the line, I had to be his supervisor and talk to him about it, but if Ecklie wanted more action I would have fought for him. I admit if it had been you - I would have done nothing. I did nothing after hearing Ecklie suspended you and wanted you fired." Catherine looked away. "The guys in the lab asked me what I was going to do about it, what they could do about it. I said you needed a break that you needed to cool off so I wasn't going to do a damn thing."

"I expect no less." Sara commented dryly. "I would have been astonished if you did anything in my favor."

"You're convinced I hate you."

"I've had years of practice to understand hate, Catherine. You're a lot like my father only you use your mouth instead of your fists. It's effective. I start questioning my worth, my intelligence, my looks.

Catherine's eyes started glistening with the tears of the truth she knew lay in those words.

"But hey abused kids sometimes seek out abusers because we're so long accustomed to the adrenaline rush that comes with the pain, in a sick way we seek it out in some self-destructive way. It's probably why I bait you. I wait for your cruel words, because the pain is familiar. I know it. I understand it. You have the power Catherine and you know it, and you know how to use it. You could give that Lady Heather a run for her money."

Sara watched the smaller woman for a moment. "You want me to forgive you? Okay you're forgiven. That's easy. I did it with my father all the time, he'd be sorry, Mom and I would forgive him, then days later he would start again."

"No." Catherine shook her head. "This won't be like that." Sara still flinched when Catherine reached for her, but she allowed the touch. "Not for me, and I promise you Sara it won't be for you either. Sorry for me is a forever thing. I won't promise you won't piss me off."

Sara smiled at that

"But I do promise that I won't lose my temper, not like before." Catherine's voice was strong determined and begged to be heard. "And I promise you, I'll be in your corner the next time that weasel prowls the corridors looking for one of us to fuck up. Ecklie will never threaten you again, Sara."

"Thank you." the brunette's voice was gracious. "Catherine—what you found out, who else knows?"

"Just me... and from what you said when you thought Grissom betrayed your confidences I'm guessing that he knows."

Sara nodded.

"No one else will know, not from me."

"I hated being known as 'the girl whose father was stabbed to death'. I don't want everyone back at the lab to look at me with pity in their eyes. I want to be me, the 'me' they know I am, not some poster child for domestic violence. I don't want the looks, the whispers."

"You won't be." Catherine repeated her vow of silence on the subject. "No one knows, Sara."

Sara looked at the hand that covered hers, her free hand covered Catherine's her thumb tracing back over the blonde's knuckles. "One of the best things between us, was the day you took me out for a beer after that… thing with Hank. I miss the person I got to know that day."

"She's right here." Catherine bit her lip, moving now closer to Sara, folding the younger woman in her arms. "That person is right here, Sara. I'm right here."

Wounds heal.
Hearts can be mended
New hope inspired.
New beginnings can herald a genuine relationship.

This was a new chance for them now. And Catherine wasn't about to allow it to slip through her fingers. Not this time. Things would be made right, it was a promise Catherine made for herself, for that lost child she saw in the photos. The images of a little girl beaten, raped and haunted would live forever in Catherine's mind, in her heart. The child that Sara was, wasn't protected until it was too late, it was almost too late to protect the woman. But Catherine intended to do so, more now than ever before because it was she who put the majority of the pain there. And it would be up to her to take it away.

"I promise."

The End

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