DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

A Way to Cope
By Kristina K


With a shaky hand, Sara lit up a cigarette. The first smoke she inhaled smothered her lungs and she gagged for a moment, coughing the smoke out. She took a few deep breaths and wiped her teary eyes with the back of her hand. Looking at the cigarette stick between her fingers, Sara clenched her jaw and then brought the cigarette back to her lips; it made a little crackling sound as it burned down with her inhale.

At the floor next to her feet stood a half empty bottle of bourbon and an unused Styrofoam cup. She drank the liquor straight from the bottle.

Far away from the prying eyes, she found a spot in the back of the lab, a storage place of sorts, under the old office desk. She could have gone home, locked up her door and not come out for days. She would have if only she could calm down enough to stop shaking. Warrick was the first to offer to drive her back home, and then everybody else from the lab. She thanked them all with a smile saying how she's fine. It was no big deal. All is well that ends well. All in the day's work, and the rest of that crap. And maybe she wasn't lying, because after it all went down, she remained cool and calm.

She stayed behind, helped release the scene and then went back to the lab. It was only after she was left alone in the evidence room to sort through the stack of photographs taken of the victims that she felt herself crack. It started as a shudder, the kind you get when a cold breeze brushes past your exposed skin. Then her breath seemed to get shallow and a rush of cold sweat damped her brow. Looking down at the photographs, her vision blurred and she realized it was the tears. They burned her eyes, and when she blinked, they poured down her cheeks, hot and unstoppable.

She almost died today. The Death had its scythe an inch away from her throat and it swung it so hard and so fast that she could feel the sharpness of it from the wind it made against her neck.

They were all so shocked; she could see it on their faces. The guy had her in a headlock; her back against his chest, pinning her down on her knees while the barrel of his gun embedded itself into her temple. It felt cold and hard. It smelt like gunpowder. He screamed at them to get back or he will blow her brain all over the asphalt. Catherine was clutching her chest. Grissom dug his fingernails into the roof of a squad car for balance. Police officers all around them had their guns drawn and set on the mark.

Brass was closest to her. He held the guy at the gunpoint. She could see the rage and desperation in his eyes when he realized that he must obey the assailant's orders. She could tell he was fighting with the urge to pull the trigger and blow the son of a bitch away, but it meant getting her in danger as well. So he followed protocol and slowly let his handgun slide out of his palm and rotate around his index finger until it was face down. With his one arm up in defeat and the other slowly lowering the gun to the ground, Sara noticed the look Brass gave her: a firm, reassuring glance as to say, "Everything is going to be fine, Sara. Just remain calm."

Sara felt herself starting to black out from the tightness of the guys grip and she instinctively brought her hands up to his forearm to try and loosen the hold. He jerked her to the side and she winced in pain as he forced the gun harder against the side of her head.

With the corner of her eye, Sara saw a flash of white, and a moment later, her captor's head flew to the back and she felt a splash of something wet and sticky against her face. His grip loosened and he fell to the ground behind her. She heard the sound of metal hit the pavement and she knew that it was over. The guy was dead.

She dropped the cigarette to the floor and stubbed it out with her foot. As she reached over to take another gulp from the bottle she heard the door to the storage room open and close. It was completely silent for a moment and then the sound of footsteps – measured and calm – started to work their way towards her. Sara placed the bottle back down and pulled another cigarette from the pack. Just when the footsteps closed in and then a pair of legs appeared in front of her, Sara leaned into the flame and lit up again.

Sofia slightly hitched up her pant legs and then squatted down under the desk, coming in the level with Sara's bloodshot eyes. She studied her for a brief moment; the disheveled look, tearstained cheeks, heaving chest and chewed up lips. Sofia stopped her eyes at the cigarette Sara tried to keep from falling out of her trembling fingers and then reached over and took it slowly from her hand. Crushing the freshly lit cigarette against the floor, Sofia nodded towards the liquor bottle by Sara's side.

"Where did you get that?"

Sara blinked and exhaled slowly, "Grissom." She saw the look in Sofia's eyes, "I took it from his office. He doesn't know."

"Was it full when you took it?"

Sara tilted the bottle and inspected the liquid inside with a tired smile, "Pretty much," she said. "I'd offer you, but…" she shrugged, "You don't drink this stuff, do ya?"

"Neither should you, Sara." Sofia tried to keep her voice from the accusatory tone but she must have failed because Sara's eyes became dark.

"I almost died!"

Sofia nodded in sympathy and offered, "Still, it's not the way."

"It is. My way."

"Sara…" Sofia breathed out worryingly.

"I realized," Sara continued, "If that sniper fired its shot only a millisecond earlier, the bullet would have ended in my scull. Or what if it had missed and the guy lost it and blew a hole in my head? Or…"


The tears started to fall down Sara's face again, "I had his blood on me! I know what it smells like. I know what it tastes like. It took me half an hour to try to get that sticky feeling off my face and I can still feel it on me. I'm not supposed to gag at the sight and smell of blood. It's in my job description. But I can't help myself. I'm freaking out. Booze seems to help."

Sofia felt her own eyes sting with tears at the sight of the distraught young woman in front of her. She swallowed them down and reached for Sara. "Hardly."

"How would you know?"

"I wasn't there," Sofia said with remorse in her voice more than evident. As if she could have stopped it all from happening if she was there. "And when I heard it over the radio… When they said your name, my heart stopped beating. I had a feeling I was gonna die."

Sofia reached for Sara's hand and placed it against the bare skin of her chest under the collar of her shirt. Sara's heart sped up its beat from the feeling of Sofia's steady pulse against her palm.

"But it's still beating, isn't it?"

"Yes," Sara confirmed in a whisper.

"And this," Sofia leaned in, her lips hovering only an inch away from Sara's, "is what helps the best."

Sara responded to the kiss with an inaudible gasp, feeling Sofia's heartbeat racing now, matching her own. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, taking in the other woman's scent and overflowing her senses with it. It smothered all other scents; the taste of her erased all other tastes she remembered from before.

When Sofia broke the kiss and looked at Sara's face she found a hint of surprise and a whole lot of relief in her eyes. She was sure that Sara could see the same in hers.

"Come." Sofia gently tugged on Sara's arm. "Let me take you home, help you unwind."

The End

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