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

Shadows of the Present
By Elizabeth Carter

It was said rain was supposed to wash away all the dirt - the grunge and general crap of the world and make it anew.

Yeah, that was the saying.

It was just raining.

It was a rare commodity in Sin City, rare as the million dollar jackpot winner that stayed alive long after they left Vegas. And it continued to rain shift after shift. Sara sucked in a breath of air. This place was just getting to her, dragging up too many memories of the past. It was like she told Hodges the other night, Crazy is, as crazy does.

Grissom had gone to track down someone who could open the drawers, Sara remained in the nurse's station studying the different photographs of Adam Trent that she had found. It was a strange discovery to have made in the station, but considering what she was unraveling about Nurse Joanne McKay it might not be all that strange. Lipstick on a pair of boxer shorts, the same shade and hue as found on the butt of a cigarette started to paint a very ugly picture of the nurse. It was a picture involving Robbie and Adam both.

She heard behind her a very slight sound; Sara had surmised that it was Grissom returning with someone with the keys. The expression on the little boy's face in the photo was the same expression a very young Californian girl possessed so many years ago.

The shadowed figure was not so benign as her supervisor.

Adam must have felt fortune favoring him. The tall dark-haired young woman was without her bow-legged innocuous guardian. His blue eyes never left her form, watching her every movement. She was so beautiful, so young. Like all the others he had taken. The others he had taught a karmic lesson to, the lesson he would teach her. Robbie was gone, he had been a tether against the anger, and a passive, beautiful shield against his mother. Now he had nothing. And nothing was going to stop him.

"Hey." The shadow had a voice. It wasn't the voice Sara expected. She froze for a moment, spun around, and placed the photo she had been looking at on the counter behind her. She glanced at the doorway on the right looking for Grissom but he must have exited the hallway and out through a door. Sara's eyes reverted back to Trent, watching him as he shut the door to the station, a barely audible click of the lock sliding into place was as a sonic boom.

"Are you a spiritual person?" Adam's voice was gravel against gravel.

"Sometimes." Sara kept her voice even, neutral. Her heart was hammering hard against her chest, it was anything but neutral.

"Do you believe that everything happens for a reason? That bad things are there to teach us a karmic lesson?" Trent continued to move slowly toward Sara.

Still trying to contain control on some level Sara backed away casually, reaching behind her, grabbing a syringe from the counter top.

"You know, maybe all our problems can be cured by tuning in to a higher frequency." Trent continued to taunt Sara, his head turned from side to side like a vulture. "There's this one guy I read, he believes that illness, anxiety and fear all occur when people are vibrating at ten thousand cycles a second."

Sara found her head nodding if only to keep him talking, keep him focused on something else, if only long enough to gage a way to escape, Trent… Adam moved closer toward Sara, drawn to her as he was his other prey. His eyes darkened as arousal ripped through him, warming his stomach. A familiar flutter burned in his groin. He couldn't get an erection but the burn still lingered. As with all his other prey, he watched as the female moved, away, moved to fight. It's what he hungered for.

Sara had trained for this moment, the PD's self-defense courses had trained her to take any advantage to escape. With a flick of the thumb the syringe was uncapped. Swift, sure, Sara moved as a feline, the hypo her claws as she went to jab it into Adam's throat.

It was a shock. The defense courses fell aside useless next to the power and will of a man soaked in dementia. The power of the mad overpowered her. Trent with laughable ease grabbed Sara, spun her around holding her tight against him, her back pressing tightly into his front.

Sara's only weapon, the syringe fell harmlessly to the floor. But Sara was not about to give up, she elbowed Trent in the gut, hard. He only grunted. His spindly arms were as pythons, holding fast the struggling prey. The harder Sara fought, the stronger Adam seemed to become. They both fell hard against the floor.

Sara wasn't going to give up. The techniques she had been trained to use weren't working against a pain-numb perp. Wrist turn outs, arm locks were easily deflected, leaving Sara vulnerable.

Trent, had managed to get Sara in to a joint lock, her arm twisted behind her in a way it was not meant to be twisted, An old familiar excruciating pain, screeched though Sara's body, the strength in her legs giving out. Trent's proficiency came from the orderlies who used the maneuver to subdue him. He knew each moment the hold was sustained, the more damage he was doing to his victim. She could easily become incapacitated if he could hold it long enough.

Sara scuffled against Adam fearing what he wanted to do to her. She could feel his erection pushing against him. Fear took over, rage took control. Driving her elbow into his chest did little to deter him. The lock on her arm pinned Sara to him, giving him Adam the chance he needed to withdraw a sharpened piece of hardened clay and jab it hard into Sara's throat enough to puncture the flesh.

Trent's voice nothing more than a hiss, in her ear, "If they could just get up to a hundred thousand cycles per second they'd be in the realm of sound, light and spirit, and everything would be just fine. Right?"

'Keep him talking - I need to keep him talking…' "Yeah." She could feel her pulse beat against the clay shard. His hand trembled, scraping her skin. Sara didn't hear the faint voices of Grissom and the orderly as they neared the station. All she could hear was the thundering of Adam's heart, the growl of his breath as he spoke.

"You know what I think?" Trent increased the pressure on Sara's arm causing her to whimper despite her pleas to her own willpower she not let herself surrender to the fear. "I think I'm just vibrating at the wrong frequency."

Sara fought against him, the pain, the fear poured into adrenalin fueling her body with power. Resisting the hold he had her in. It only caused him to increase the pressure, sending new waves of pain to control her.

"Don't –"Adam snarled, he only needed to twist a little and the arm would break.

"It's okay." Sara breathed out. She knew from her father that right now she had to submit. The child in Sara wouldn't fight, not now. Not until she could fake him out, get his guard down. The jiggling of keys gave her hope. If she could stall Trent long enough for help to subdue him, she might live long enough to run.

"Do you think I'm smart?" Trent hissed.

Sara's eyes fell on Grissom, his own alarm reflected clearly in his blue eyes. Once more she tried to move, tried to fight him off, the pressure on her joints had weakened her considerably, but desperation begged the young woman to fight. "Yeah." Sara said even as she tried to buck away from her captor.


Sara only nodded, watching Grissom as he moved to the side allowing him to look into the widow of the darkened nurses' station.

"Oh, dear God!" Grissom's mouth opened and closed, panic filling him.

Trent's control was wavering, he was crying now. "Do you think I'm right?"

"Open the door." Grissom pleaded with the orderly.

The shard cut deeper into Sara's neck. "I do," she managed to whisper out of a tight throat.

"You do?" Trent wasn't falling for it; Sara could feel it, feel death so close. She had to fight, to be free struggling again she felt Trent's grip on her twist, her voice, her will betrayed her, she couldn't help the small yelp that fell from her lips. Freedom was so close. And so far. Tears started to slide from her eyes, but she wasn't going to plead. She would remain detached, she knew from her father, it would only cause him to further the pain. The orderly fumbling with the keys, his own panic made Trent desperate, the shard pressed deeper. It was all a matter of time.

"I can't. I don't have the right key." The orderly was almost hyperventilating desperately shifting through the keys to find the right one.

Grissom became very quiet, "Just open it" He didn't take his eyes off of Sara, dreading he would lose her. She was going to die and he was so close but completely helpless to get to her.

The search for the key became more and more frantic. He had already gone through the ring twice a third time would still yield the same results. The orderly simply didn't have the right key to open the door.

Only now did Trent turn and notice that Grissom was just outside the door desperate to get in. Sara had stopped struggling, her own dark eyes staring at Grissom. If she was going to die she would do so looking into the eyes of someone who cared for her.

"Please open the door." Grissom begged, his voice so low the orderly had to strain to hear it.

Adam snarled at the newcomer, his words such that neither Grissom nor Sara knew who he was speaking to. "Don't you move a muscle." his lips dripped with sudden jealousy and renewed rage. "I will grind you, you bitch. You hear me?"

Sara could only nod, her eyes quickly averted their gaze down at the floor. Only now did she even become aware of the alarms and flashing lights. She dared glance up in hopes of seeing the door to life open. Pain lanced in stealing her sight for a moment in white hot flashes.

"Do not look at them!" Trent screamed.


"Keep your eyes on the floor!"

Over and over the scene played in Sara's mind, unrelenting and unyielding. The rain washing away the filth of the city couldn't wash the touch of Adam Trent from her mind, from her body. The rain that brought life to the desert couldn't renew the lost feeling drifting into Sara's soul. Adam, the hospital, the scent of lies, all of it, penetrated her, violating her mind.

Crazy people make me feel crazy.

She's a loose cannon with a gun.

Crazy is as crazy does.

It smells like lies.

It would be better for both of them

The rain, the shower, cold drops, scalding touch.

"Sara!" the sound of her name from that voice ricocheted off her heart.

A shadow hovered over her, the slight squeak of a faucet being turned off. The harsh hot rain gave up, the fog… no not fog, steam, thick and still burning hovered vomiting out a sleek form of perfection. The burning stopped. Confused Sara looked up to try to understand why the scalding rain had stopped.

"Oh Sara, Sara what have you done?" Catherine's soft voice wrapped Sara in a blanket of compassion that the young woman had not known for a long time. "Sara, sweetheart." Immediately Catherine knelt by the young woman, mindless of the wetness seeping through the knees of her jeans from the shower stall's floor

"He was going to kill me. If they could just get up to a hundred thousand cycles per second they'd be in the realm of sound, light and spirit, and everything would be just fine. He… he… he…"

"I know." Catherine lied softly, she wasn't quite sure what had happened at the mental facility, only that Sara had been attacked. Catherine thought it might have been something very minor if Grissom allowed Sara to remain. That assumption obviously was very wrong. "I know." She took Sara's naked form into her arms holding her. The redheaded-blonde was utterly shocked the younger woman had been able to endure the scalding water of the shower. Her flesh was raw, bright red and oh so tender. First, if not second degree burns marred the flesh. It would take a while to heal. "I've got you." Catherine uttered just holding Sara.


She was held.

She could cry because the steam, the shower's mark, the water in her hair would disguise it all. Catherine said nothing, she only held the quivering shaking form of the lost young woman.

A noise behind them caused Catherine's head to snap up but not Sara's. Looking sharply at Ecklie who had just entered the locker room the fierceness in Willows reared its protective head.

'Not now.' she mouthed.

Ecklie embarrassed in discovering the scene promptly fled the co-ed locker room. Of course hearing Grissom's report on the attack and all the events leading up to it, Conrad Ecklie was sure to find someway to blame Sidle for the incident. The lab was wagering just how the vendetta against Graveyard shift would play out. One by one Ecklie was trying to divide and conquer the greatest team in the labs had seen in generations of CSIs.

Catherine didn't care, what Ecklie thought at the moment. Her priority lay in her arms sobbing and broken.

"Sara, honey come on lets get you off this floor. You're badly burned, you have to let me help you. Will you do that?" The coaxing tone wafted in feather soft. All Sara could do was to nod her sodden head.

Gingerly Catherine helped the lanky young woman to her feet, guided her over to the bench. Laying one of her own towels down on the bench, Catherine started to get out the first aid kit she kept in her locker. Being of very fair skin, there were times when the harsh sun of Nevada was particularly cruel to Catherine Willows. Aloe and silver-water ointment soothed the nastiest of sun burns. It was what she would use now to cool the vicious scalding Sara's body had endured.

"I'm cold." Sara whimpered. To prove it, goosebumps covered her skin.

"You were under hot water, you burned yourself pretty badly. The coldness is only temporary. Because of the sudden and drastic temperature drop. We have to be very careful not to damage you further."

Sara's teeth started to chatter, as she folded her long form tightly into a pure defensive posture, her body recalled all too well.

Compassion purred alive within Catherine's breaking heart for this woman who sought to cleanse her body from the violence with the brutality of a scalding shower. The coolness of the aloe-vera cream brought a gasp of soothing pleasure from Sara's quivering lips. Ever so cautiously, a hand so tender, a lover's hand well practiced at soothing aches Catherine started to work the cream into Sara's still red skin.

"You shouldn't blister. We caught this in time," the tone in Catherine's voice was that of a mother soothing her babe. There was no chastising, no harshness, only tenderness.

"Why?" Sara uttered so softly that Catherine wasn't sure the brunette had spoken at all.

"I don't know, its why we're CSIs because of the evil people do."

"No." Sara shook her head and turned her raw body to take a hold of Catherine's hand into hers. "You, this… why? This isn't you not to me. This clearly isn't what we do."

"Yes it is. It can be," Catherine offered. "It should have been, it is now, and it will be Sara. Do you remember about a month back? You said, '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.'? And I told you that 'She's right here.'?"

At Sara's nodded Catherine continued. "That person is right here, Sara. I'm right here. That's why. This can be us, Sara."

"Shadows of the present."

Catherine frowned at the queer comment but Sara wouldn't elaborate on it. "You're getting more Grissom-ish since I was moved to Swing."

Sara smiled at that. "There is no balance any more. You used to be able to counter-balance the haiku master with your sharp views."

Sharp, an adjective Catherine knew her counterpart meant in all the levels of its definition. Instead of blithely commenting Catherine resumed her first-aid treatment on the tender reddened skin. Several lingering moments drifted by until Catherine was completely satisfied she had tendered care to every inch of Sara's body.

"You want to talk about it?"

Sara shook her head

"Okay." Catherine leveled her face to Sara's own so she might be able to kiss the forehead, instinctively feeling Sara's need for sheer gentleness, compassion and yes even love.

"I'm going to take you home, you need to feel safe, babe."

Sara offered no resistance and no argument. This set off screaming alarm bells in the redheaded-blonde. Sara should be protesting, denying she was hurt, denying her pain so she could go back to work. It did not happen.

Going to her own locker, Catherine took out a pair of sweat-pants and an overly large tee-shirt. Typically the woman would not wear such things but she liked to put them on after a work out in the gym. Freshly laundered the soft material wouldn't agitate Sara's tender flesh as a pair of jeans might. Once more Willows adopted the role of mother and dressed Sara in the clothing, as she would have Lindsey.

Her utter compliance had Catherine in panic mode. Not once had Sara offered resistance as Catherine dressed her, or quickly escorted her out of the CSI labs, into the Denali and on to the loft where Sara lived. There was no voice of resistance given when Catherine asked which floor Sara lived on or for the keys to get in.

Catherine was becoming pissed.

Oh no, not at Sara, but at Grissom for not insisting Sara go home, for not being the man he was supposed to be. She knew how much in love with Sara Grissom really was. It had all come out during the Debbie Marlin case. It showed in all his actions, in the words spoken and not spoken over crackers, milk and peanut butter. Where was the man now?

He had charged to Sara's rescue when the woman had gone high and to the right over the Andrew and June Melton case when she had been suspended for two weeks. Ecklie wanted her gone, fired, and sent Grissom to do so. With hindsight, now knowing her past, Catherine supported her former boss's actions.

And now, once again she disapproved of them, he had abandoned Sara to her fears.

"I saw Mackay in the window, Trent was distracted with her, terrified more by her than the on duty uniform," Sara's sudden voice shocked Catherine so that the redhead gave the younger woman her full attention. "I elbowed him in the chest, pushed him away. Got to my feet, I heard rather than saw Adam hit the desk, I heard his screams 'You! You, go away!' I just ran, I bolted and ran down the hall ignoring everyone, everything else. I slammed into to the window covered by metal mesh. I had to get as far away as I could. If I could have I would have gone out the window and into the rain. A mother is supposed to protect her child not bring pain and suffering." Sara spoke softly. "Love is supposed to be something revered not perverted."

Not knowing the full context of the story, Catherine felt a little displaced in the narrative. She had nothing to connect it to. But clearly Adam Trent had her on the floor, a window indicated separation from safety. She needed to know more, and Catherine wasn't about to wait for Grissom's edited version. She wanted the truth. Prompting Sara to talk about it was going to be a challenge.

Feeling abnormally insecure, Sara curled up on the couch, wincing as her body recoiled in the self-delivered pain. Catherine sat on the black leather sofa, scooting herself closer to the woman. Using a throw-pillow Catherine urged the younger woman to lie down, resting her head on her out-stretched legs.

And yet once again Sara managed to surprise her. Softly, a sound above a whisper Sara began to recount what had happened to her at the hospital. It was almost a confession, or rather like a witness statement. Catherine knew her friend, yes her friend had to let this out, she had to vent, had to release the fear. It was safe now, the work done, the case solved, now it what lay left was the scraps of life to pick up so the healing could begin.

Adam Trent was a victim just like Laura Sidle. Just like Laura, Adam lashed out, the only way left to him, by wreaking their wrath on the weaker, the more vulnerable. They were to be blamed yes for their crimes, for the tortures they visited upon others, and pitied because of the torture they themselves suffered. Unable to cope with the trauma, unable to get help the humane part of them had died, walled itself up behind such thick walls all was left was the anger, the blame the need to lash back at something.

All those woman, all those young girls, Adam Trent had brutally raped, because his mother raped him. She had turned him into a monster.

All those beatings, and ignored cries, the cruel words, Laura Sidle had brutally lashed out at her children because her husband had tortured her. He had turned her into a monster.

The rain wouldn't wash the taint away. The dire need to feel clean, to feel free crushed Sara in a vice of desperation.

Sara had fallen asleep on Catherine's lap, leaving the red-head stunned. She knew what it was to feel that fear. She had faced her own would-be death when she had been attacked over a video game system at a crime scene. More than anyone at the labs - save for Nick who had a gun pointed at him twice – she knew how terrifying it was to feel another human's malice and not know if they would take your life from you.

"I will never think less of you Sara, for feeling so scared, for crying. I did the same thing, Warrick was there to catch me, I'm here to catch you." Softly Catherine stroked Sara's hair as she would the fur of kitten.

Catherine shifted the weight of Sara's head off her lap and made to move, but was caught short by a hand snatching her wrist. "Don't go."

"I won't go anywhere. I'll stay right here." Catherine resumed her earlier stroking, the petting of soft hair had always eased Lindsey's nightmares, the fears that stalked her at night, and it calmed Sara now.

Just as it was in the coffee shop so many weeks ago.

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 let 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, for the lost woman she found naked under scalding water in the locker room.

The images of a little girl beaten, raped and haunted would live forever in Catherine's mind, in her heart. In that same place lived the image of Sara huddled, weeping as hot water burned her skin into a raw angry red.

The child that Sara was, wasn't protected until it was too late, it was almost too late to protect the woman. It was no wonder Sara broke, all the memories flooding back so quickly, the rain wouldn't wash the memories away and so Sara thought to burn them away.

Just as it had been before it was now up to Catherine to take the pain away, because Sara trusted her.

"I promised then, I'll promise now Sara. I'm right here for you. I'm always going to be here for you, Sara.. I'm not the person I used to be, the person you thought I was. And I won't be like your father. I never knew my words cut you so much. Burned you so much. I'm not Adam Trent, or Mackay. I'm Catherine." Leaning almost doubled over the red-head-blonde placed a soft kiss on the still tender flesh.

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

When those hated memories resurface for Sara after every single domestic abuse case CSI investigated how many scalding showers did this body suffer?

'What are you doing to yourself, baby? You can't take the memories away by doing this to yourself. It's not a cleansing. Oh Sara you're smarter than this. It doesn't help, it won't make it go away. It won't stop the pain of memory. "

Even as Sara snuggled into Catherine's arms, the blonde-redhead vowed to watch over the young woman, a woman who came to mean a great deal more to Catherine than she would have ever expected. It wasn't yet romantic love, but it was a love.

The End

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